More carmakers caught in headlights of VW engine-rigging scandal

More carmakers caught in headlights of VW engine-rigging scandal
Volkswagen has admitted it installed illegal software into 11 million 2.0 liter and 3.0 liter diesel engines worldwide (AFP Photo/Josh Edelson)

Volkswagen emissions scandal

Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts

Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 commercial jet.

QZ8501 (AirAsia)

Leaders see horror of French Alps crash as probe gathers pace

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Fast bike tracks easily earn back their investment, say Dutch economists

DutchNews, April 17, 2018

King WIllem-Alexander checks out a new bike path in Nijmegen last year.
Photo: Bas de Meijer / Hollandse Hoogte 

Specialised bike paths aimed at commuters might be expensive but they can earn back their cost three times over, according to a cost-benefit analysis published in economics magazine ESB

Hundreds of kilometres of dedicated ‘bike highways’ which often link towns together and are closed to all other forms of transport, have been built in the Netherlands in recent years. 

However, the ambition to cover the country in a bike highway network is being tempered because of the cost and the lack of insight into other benefits, the magazine said. 

Now economists have researched the impact of bike highways and found that not only do they improve the comfort and safety of cyclists, they can encourage others to switch from cars to bikes as well. 

The research focused on a 14.4 kilometre stretch of road between Hellevoetsluis and Spijkenisse and calculated what impact a dedicated bike highway would have instead. 

‘Building it and maintenance would cost €5.7m but the benefits to society would reach €15.5m, so you would earn the investment back in five years,’ Ernst Bos of Wageningen Economic Research told the Volkskrant

Faster 

The new bike route would cut journey times because average speeds would be 5kph faster, the researchers said. 

They also put a financial value on comfort and safety and the enjoyment of nature. In addition, if just 1.4% of motorists decided to cycle instead, car numbers on the same road would be cut by 1,056. 

The new government has allocated €100m to boost the number of dedicated bike lanes.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Faced with global warming, aviation aims to turn green

Yahoo – AFP, Pierre-Henry DESHAYES, April 8, 2018

A computer generated image of the hybrid-electric regional aircraft being developed
by Zunum Aero, a start-up partly financed by US aeronautics group Boeing that could
enter service as soon as in 2022. (AFP Photo)

Oslo (AFP) - Will we someday be able to fly without the guilt of causing environmental damage? A handful of firms and regulators hope that the electric revolution in cars will also take to the skies, helping the industry cope with an expected boom in travel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Many people say that we must get rid of air transport because we will never be able to deal with emissions and noise, but this is an outdated approach," said Norwegian Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen, who recently hosted an aviation conference in Oslo.

Norway, the largest oil and gas producer in western Europe, is paradoxically a pioneer in the field of electric transport. The Nordic nation aims for all new vehicle registrations to be zero emission by 2025 and launched a first electric ferry in early 2015.

After land and water, the northern kingdom is now turning to the sky with the goal of electrifying all short haul flights in just over 20 years.

"In my mind, there is no doubt: by 2040 Norway will be operating totally electric," said Dag Falk-Petersen, head of the country's public airport operator, Avinor.

Tesla of the skies?

Air transportation's impact on global warming is estimated at around five percent through CO2 emissions and other substances, including nitrogen oxide and water vapour.

As the number of air passengers is expected to almost double by 2036 to 7.8 billion per year, according to the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) projections, aviation's impact is on a course to increase substantially if nothing is done.

Meanwhile, the airline industry aims to cut its CO2 emissions in half by 2050 from 2005 levels.

Zunum Aero hopes that cheaper operating costs will entice airlines to
go electric (AFP Photo)

While the international umbrella group Climate Action Network (CAN) says these goals are unrealistic, some airlines are beginning to look at electric-powered aircraft as an answer.

The small regional carrier Wideroe Airlines, operating in Norway's far north, plans to renew its fleet of twin-engine Bombardier Dash 8 planes with electric-powered aircraft by 2030.

"Aircraft producers see that they have to do it because otherwise there will be a new Tesla taking their positions," said Falk-Petersen, referring to how the upstart US electric car manufacturer has shaken up the traditional automobile industry.

Both of the major manufacturers of large passenger aircraft, Airbus and Boeing, are exploring the viability of electric planes.

Airbus aims to develop a hybrid model called E-Fan X, and has teamed up with British engine maker Rolls Royce and German industrial group Siemens. The first flight is planned for 2020.

"One of the biggest challenges is electricity storage," Glenn Llewellyn, general manager for electrification at Airbus, told AFP.

As with cars, the performance of batteries is a critical element, with the added problem that they are heavier than fuel and carrying them into the air is the most-energy intensive part of the flight.

"But at the same time battery technology is probably the technology in the world which has the most investment. So it will evolve," added Llewellyn.

'Any place in the world'

Zunum Aero, a start-up partly financed by US aeronautics group Boeing, meanwhile plans to bring a 12-seat hybrid plane to the market by 2022.

"The price that we're targeting is very much in line with the current aircraft but the operation cost is just a fraction, it's literally 60 to 70 percent lower than an equivalent aircraft in operation right now," said the startup's founder Matt Knapp.

The expected lower operating costs of electric planes, both due to cheap electricity and simpler motors, means that the highly competitive airline industry could end up adopting them quickly.

Airbus offered several years ago updated aircraft with 15 percent fuel savings, and as jet fuel is a major cost for airlines, they quickly placed orders for thousands as they tried to get ahead of rivals.

The transition to electric could also provide another advantage: they are much quieter, meaning they may win exceptions to restrictions imposed due to noise near residential areas.

Combined with the fact that electric planes don't need such long runways, they could be used at some smaller airports close to city centres.

Avinor said switching to electric would also help airlines avoid any climate change related penalties that regulators could impose, such as higher taxes and flying restrictions.

Norway sees itself as a good test bed for electric planes.

"There are a lot of issues to deal with, with icy conditions, with heavy winds," says Widero CEO Stein Nilsen.

"But if we can do that here in Norway, I'm certain that this air plane will cope with any conditions in any place in the world."

Related Article:


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Despite shortage of space and staff, no stop to distribution centre growth

DutchNews, March 26, 2018

Photo: Depositphotos.com

New distribution centres covering a record of nearly two million m2 – the equivalent of 400 football fields – were built in the Netherlands in 2017 and still more are planned along the country’s motorways, according to research by broadcaster NOS

Many large international companies are queuing up to distribute their products through the Netherlands despite the shortage of land and people to staff them, NOS said.There are currently 53,000 unfilled distribution centre jobs available. 

NOS contacted commercial brokers association NVM Business as well as a number of leading commercial property firms for its report. ‘We are seeing for the first time that  developers are building distribution centres on spec before they have any tenant or buyer in mind,’ said Liesbeth Kramer of NVM Business. ‘Demand is enormous.’ 

Total space covered by distribution centres in the Netherlands has increased by 40% to more than 30 million m2 in the past 10 years. The most are located in Noord-Brabant province, followed by Limburg. 

‘All major high streets from London to Paris  and Germany’s Ruhr region are stocked by warehouses in the southern part of the Netherlands,’ said Joost Uwents, CEO of Belgo-Dutch developer WDP, which is the largest in the Netherlands. 

Uwents, who is a Belgian national, is full of praise for the Dutch government which has supported the logistics sector in a big way. He cites major improvements to the road infrastructure around Rotterdam and Eindhoven as will as upgrades in the rail and inland waterway structures. 

Tax 

The Dutch tax regime – unlike that in in other countries  – also benefits distribution activities as VAT is added only on final delivery of goods, said Richard Elich of property developer David Hart Group. 

And even though the southern part of the country is generally preferred for distribution centres, the parent of Spanish fashion group Zara opted for Lelystad for its new distribution centre.  ‘Quite simply, they settled there because the could get both space and staff,’ Uwents said.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Ride-hailing apps run Indonesian tuk-tuks off road

Yahoo - AFP, Mackenzie Smith, March 25, 2018

Ride-hailing apps like the Grab motorcyle-taxi seen here are denting the fortunes
of traditional three-wheeled bajaj taxis in Indonesia (AFP Photo/BAY ISMOYO)

Auto-rickshaw driver Zainuddin used to make decent money navigating Jakarta's congested roads and narrow alleyways.

But now US-based Uber, Google-backed Go-Jek and Singapore's Grab are locked in a race for ride-hailing app supremacy in Southeast Asia's biggest economy, denting the fortunes of traditional three-wheeled bajaj taxis that once ruled Indonesia's roads.

"Our income has fallen between 70 and 80 percent since ride-hailing apps came on the scene," said Zainuddin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

There were some 14,000 bajaj on Indonesia's roads by 2015, according to the latest official figures.

By contrast, Go-Jek alone claims 900,000 drivers and some 15 million weekly active users. It launched in 2010.

Google and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund Temasek have announced investments in Go-Jek, which has been valued at as much as $5 billion although it's little known outside Asia.

Southeast Asia's ride-hailing market more than doubled in two years to some $5 billion in 2017 and it's expected to reach $20 billion by 2025, with Indonesia set to account for some 40 percent of it, according to research done by Google and Temasek.

Go-Jek, which also reportedly won funding from Chinese internet giant Tencent, has said it is mulling an initial public offering as it looks to grow in Indonesia and beyond.

That could inflate its army of motorcycle taxis, private cars and other services -- from massage and house cleaning to grocery shopping and package deliveries -- all available at users' fingertips.

Dragging behind its regional rivals, Uber is reportedly selling parts of its Southeast Asian operations to rival Grab in exchange for a stake in the Singaporean company.

No more haggling

The ride-hailing trio offer fixed-price rides that take haggling out of the equation, a welcome change for former bajaj customer Tetty Iskandar.

"I haven't taken a bajaj in years," said the 35-year-old housewife, who used to ride the three-wheelers to go grocery shopping.

"You had to bargain with the drivers to get cheap fares. And you would already have done bargaining a lot in the market. Sometimes I felt so tired and just wanted to get home."

The vast archipelago of some 260 million people has a relatively low per-capita car ownership rate.

For some, sitting in a tuk-tuk as it teeters and rumbles over Jakarta's roads offers
a connection to an older way of life (AFP Photo/BAY ISMOYO)

And vehicle owners often choose to leave their ride at home, opting instead for a fixed-price motorcycle that can zip through Jakarta's epic traffic congestion -- at a bargain-basement prices.

That is threatening bajaj -- not to mention regular cabs and ubiquitous motorbike taxis known as ojek -- which arrived in Indonesia during the 1970s.

The motorised rickshaw quickly made inroads under its namesake company, which hailed from India.

The name bajaj is now inked into Jakarta's lexicon after supplanting traditional bicycle taxis.

A distinctive blue model of the vehicle is still a common sight and while pollution-spewing older models are outlawed, some still ply the narrow alleyways of Indonesia's sprawling capital.

Government efforts to reduce traffic snarls by reintroducing bicycle taxis could further chip away at the market share of bajaj, which cannot operate on highways and certain busy streets.

'Nostalgic feeling'

Still, bajaj backers point out that the little tuk-tuks are safer than motorcycles which have higher injury and fatality rates.

"They are still a very useful means of transport when you have to go through small alleys and roads in Jakarta," said Danang Parikesit, president of the think tank Indonesia Transportation Society.

For some, sitting in a tuk-tuk as it teeters and rumbles over Jakarta's roads offers a connection to an older way of life.

"Riding bajaj has a unique sensation, a nostalgic feeling," said faithful customer Budiyanto.

In central Jakarta, bajaj line a curb, their drivers smoking or sleeping as swarms of motorbike drivers sporting Go-Jek or Grab windbreakers zip by on their way to collect customers.

Even if they wanted to switch to ride-hailing apps, it's too late for some older drivers.

"I cannot shift to an app-based motorcycle taxi because of my age," said driver Sutardi.

"Companies require that their drivers not be over 60."

Despite the threat of technology, some insist bajaj have a future, especially among customers who don't want to get soaked on the back of a motorbike or while waiting for a hired car during the months-long rainy season.

"Customers don't like to get wet," tuk-tuk driver Zainuddin said.

"It's not good for people when the rain comes, but bajaj drivers will be happy."


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Schiphol test runs food service at departure gate

DutchNews, March 14, 2018

The La Place cafe at Schiphol airport. Photo: La Place

Schiphol is the first airport in Europe to give a trial run to a food delivery service to passengers at the departure gate, the Amsterdam airport said in a statement on Wednesday. 

The meal delivery service which includes pizzas, hamburgers, salads and sushi is now available at Schiphol’s D and E departure piers. Passengers can make their selection from Kebaya or the Street Food Market using the Deliveroo app or website. Delivery – by scooter – takes 15 minutes and costs €2.50. 

If the trial is successful, it will continue beyond March, the statement said.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Google guru Page tests flying taxis in New Zealand

Yahoo – AFP, 13 March 2018

In this handout picture received on March 13, 2018 from New Zealand based
aviation company Zephyr Airworks shows a "Cora" electric powered air taxi in flight

Self-piloted flying taxis are being tested in New Zealand as part of a project backed by Google co-founder Larry Page that supporters say will revolutionise personal transport.

New Zealand regulators on Tuesday approved plans for Zephyr Airworks, a subsidiary of Page's company Kitty Hawk, to develop and test the futuristic air taxis.

Known as Cora, the electric aircraft has a dozen lift fans on its wings, making it capable of vertical take-off and landing like a helicopter.

But developers say it is much quieter, meaning it could transport passengers in urban areas using rooftops and car parks as landing pads.

"We are offering a pollution free, emission free vehicle that flies dependably, we think this is the logical next step in the evolution of transportation," Zephyr chief executive Fred Reid said.

The Cora prototype being tested in New Zealand's South Island uses three on-board computers to calculate its flight path and is capable of carrying two passengers.

It has a range of 100 kilometres (62 miles) and can fly at 150 kmh at an altitude of up to 900 metres (3,000 feet).

Zephyr said using the air taxi would be a simple experience for passengers, similar to taking a ride-share in a car.

"You wouldn't have to know anything about flying a plane. Cora could fly for you," it said in a promotional video.

"And it would be all-electric, helping to build a sustainable world."

It said Cora took eight years to design but then developers needed a suitable environment to safely test the new technology.

They settled on New Zealand because of its uncongested airspace and rigorous regulatory environment, with Reid saying local officials had embraced the idea.

"We had no idea what to expect," he said.

"They could have laughed us out of the room. We were pitching something that sounded like science fiction."

Cora has been given an experimental airworthiness certificate from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority.

Trialling the flying taxi service will reportedly take six years, with operations based around the city of Christchurch.

"This aircraft represents the evolution of the transport eco system to one that responds to a global challenge around traffic and congestion, and is kinder to the planet," Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel said.


Thursday, March 8, 2018

Amsterdam freight train link to China will cover 11,000 km and take 16 days

DutchNews, March 7, 2018


Amsterdam will have a freight train connection with China starting on Thursday. The rail link to Yiwu China from the port’s Amerikahaven is 11,000 km long and will take 16 days to traverse, Trouw said on Wednesday. 

The route passes through Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazachstan and then on to China. Rotterdam has had a dedicated China rail link for two years. 

Chinese president Xi Jinping is investing €400bn in strengthening rail ties to Western Europe to reduce reliance on ocean shipping.  The link – called the One Belt, One Road – follows Marco Polo’s old Silk Road which moved people and goods between the two regions for centuries. 

The train is being operated by Nunner Logistics of Helmond which expects it to be carrying baby and children’s clothing, alcoholic drinks, car parts and luxury textiles to China and largely clothing on the return trip. The container train making the journey will be at least 630 metres long.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

German court paves way for diesel driving bans

Yahoo – AFP, Andrea HENTSCHEL with Michelle FITZPATRICK in Frankfurt, February 27, 2018

Environmental activists, seen here last week in front of Germany's Federal
Administrative Court, have won a major ruling that will allow cities to impose bans
on older, more polluting diesel vehicles in order to combat air pollution. (AFP
Photo/Sebastian Willnow)

Leipzig (Germany) (AFP) - A top German court on Tuesday ruled that cities can impose diesel driving bans to combat air pollution, a landmark decision that plunges millions of car owners into uncertainty.

The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig found that local authorities can legally ban older, dirty diesels from certain zones as part of their efforts to improve air quality -- a drastic move that could reshape inner-city travel and upend the auto industry.

The court did not impose any bans itself, leaving that up to city and municipal authorities.

The judges did however urge them to "exercise proportionality" and said any curbs should be introduced gradually and allow for certain exemptions.

While the legal battle centred around the smog-clogged cities of Stuttgart and Duesseldorf, it could have far-reaching repercussions in Europe's biggest economy.

The ruling is a major blow to the government and the nation's mighty automakers who have long opposed driving bans, fearing outrage from diesel owners whose vehicles could plummet in value.

Eager to reassure them, the government was at pains to stress nothing would change right away and that bans were not inevitable.

"Driving bans can be avoided, and my goal is and will remain that they do not come into force," said Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks.

Chancelor Angela Merkel also weighed in, saying the ruling concerned only "individual cities".

"It's really not about the entire country and all car owners," she said.

But the outcome marks a huge victory for the environmentalist group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), which sued Stuttgart and Duesseldorf to force them to take action against the toxic nitrogen oxides and fine particles emitted by older diesel engines.

German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, left, said cities could reduce air
pollution without banning older diesel vehicles (AFP Photo/Bernd von Jutrczenka)

'Great day for clean air'

Lower-level judges had already backed their demand for driving bans, but the states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia appealed, arguing such curbs should be decided at the federal level.

Judges at the nation's top administrative court again sided with the environmental campaigners.

"It's a great day for clean air in Germany," said DUH chief Juergen Resch.

Almost immediately after the verdict, the port city of Hamburg became the first to announce plans for a diesel driving ban on two busy roads from late April, with exceptions for residents, ambulances, city services and delivery vehicles.

The head of Germany's VDA auto industry federation warned however against "a patchwork" of local measures that would confuse drivers and urged the government to take the lead in drawing up uniform regulations.

Analysts at EY consultancy said only the latest diesel models that adhere to the strictest Euro 6 standards would escape the potential driving restrictions, leaving some 10 million older diesels eligible for bans.

Mounting pressure

Concerns over the harmful effects of diesel have soared since Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to installing cheating devices in millions of cars that allowed them to secretly spew far more nitrogen oxide (NOx) than legally allowed, and other carmakers soon came under suspicion too.

The poisonous gases have been linked to respiratory illnesses and heart problems, leading to thousands of premature deaths each year.

The sales of new diesel cars in Europe (AFP Photo/Sophie RAMIS)

Some 70 German cities including Munich, Stuttgart and Cologne recorded average nitrogen dioxide levels above EU thresholds in 2017, according to the Federal Environment Agency.

Industry giants such as Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler have responded to "dieselgate" by offering software upgrades and trade-ins for newer and cleaner models, but have resisted costly hardware fixes.

DUH chief Resch however said Tuesday's ruling could finally put real pressure on automakers to retrofit older engines with properly functioning emissions controls.

"I now expect the auto industry to deliver," he said.

Markus Lewe, president of the Association of German Cities, urged Berlin to do more to push the auto industry to clean up its act.

"Cities don't want driving bans," he said.

The government, long accused of going too easy on an industry that employs some 800,000 people, last year offered to create a billion-euro fund, partly paid for by industry, to improve public transport and upgrade fleets to electric buses.

Such measures are intended at least as much to placate local officials as well as those in Brussels -- where Germany and a slew of other EU member states risk legal action after sailing past a deadline to reduce air pollution.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

VW suspends chief lobbyist over emission tests on monkeys

Yahoo – AFP, Frank ZELLER, January 30, 2018

Outrage mounts over VW's use of monkeys and humans in experiments to study
the effects of diesel exhaust fumes (AFP Photo/PATRICK PLEUL)

Berlin (AFP) - Germany's scandal-hit auto giant Volkswagen on Tuesday suspended its chief lobbyist Thomas Steg as outrage mounted over monkey and human experiments to study the effects of diesel exhaust fumes.

CEO Matthias Mueller said VW had "taken first consequences" from the tests on monkeys and put on leave Steg, the general representative for external relations and government affairs, who had "taken full responsibility".

The New York Times reported last week that US researchers in 2014 locked 10 monkeys into airtight chambers and made them breathe in diesel exhaust from a VW Beetle while the animals were watching TV cartoons.

Separately, it emerged that a research group funded by VW, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and BMW had ordered a study in Germany measuring the effects of inhaling nitrogen dioxide on 25 human volunteers.

The scandal follows VW's admission in 2015 that it had manipulated 11 million diesel cars worldwide, equipping them with cheating software to make them seem less polluting than they were.

Mueller on Monday labelled the animal testing "wrong ... unethical and repulsive", reported Spiegel Online.

And Steg had vowed in the top-selling Bild daily that "what happened should never have happened, I regret it very much".

VW's image has been tarnished by the emissions cheating scandal (AFP Photo/
JOHN MACDOUGALL)

He admitted that he had been informed in advance of the US monkey experiment but insisted he prevented a plan to carry these tests out on humans.

The German government has called a special meeting with the affected car companies to ask them to explain themselves.

In Brussels, European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the EU was "shocked" and took note of Berlin's vow to investigate the matter, adding that "we hope that they will".

Greenpeace slammed "a fraudulent auto industry and an idle German government" behind the scandal and called Steg a "scapegoat". The NGO said nitrogen dioxide emitted by diesel vehicles led to 10,000 premature deaths in Germany each year.

The EU Commission has summoned Germany and eight other EU countries to explain how they plan to lower toxic emissions to meet the bloc's air quality standards if they want to avoid action before the European Court of Justice.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has strongly condemned the latest controversy to engulf the nation's powerful auto industry.

"These tests on monkeys or even humans are in no way ethically justified," said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert on Monday.

"The indignation felt by many people is completely understandable."

No harm?

All three German carmakers have scrambled to distance themselves from the research body in question -- the now defunct European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT) -- and promised to launch internal investigations.

CEO Matthias Mueller labelled the testing "wrong ... unethical and repulsive"
 (AFP Photo/Tobias SCHWARZ)

Mueller said that "we are in the process of scrutinising the work of the EUGT, which was dissolved in 2017, and drawing all the necessary conclusions from it.

"Mr. Steg has declared he was taking full responsibility. I respect that," he said.

Steg had, in his comments to Bild, also addressed the German tests conducted in an institute in Aachen in 2013 and 2014, stressing that the volunteers had been exposed to "much lower levels than those found in many workplaces" and that no-one suffered any harm.

Although it was the EUGT that commissioned both tests, the organisation itself was financed by the trio of car giants hoping its research would defend diesel's green reputation.

The car companies decided in late 2016 to dissolve the EUGT, which shut its doors last year.

Amid the controversy, Berlin's Tageszeitung daily said that "while these experiments are doubtless scandalous, the bigger scandal is the experiment the car industry has been conducting on the wider population for decades".

"While the monkeys and human volunteers only had to inhale exhaust fumes for a few hours, people with the misfortune to walk along arterial roads have been breathing in levels of nitrogen oxide far higher than EU limits for years."

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

German carmakers under fire for tests on humans, monkeys

Yahoo – AFP, Michelle FITZPATRICK, 29 January 2018

Volkswagen is back under a diesel cloud following reports it helped finance tests
of car exhaust fumes that used monkeys and humans

German carmakers came under fire Monday following revelations they helped finance experiments that saw humans and monkeys exposed to diesel fumes that have been linked to asthma, lung diseases and heart attacks.

The disclosures sparked widespread outrage, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel who strongly condemned the latest controversy to engulf the nation's powerful but scandal-tainted auto industry.

"These tests on monkeys or even humans are in no way ethically justified," said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert.

"The indignation felt by many people is completely understandable."

Earlier Monday the Sueddeutsche and Stuttgarter Zeitung dailies reported that a research group funded by Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW had ordered a study in Germany measuring the effects of inhaling nitrogen oxide gases on 25 healthy human beings.

The revelation came just days after the New York Times wrote that the same organisation carried out tests on monkeys in the United States in 2014.

According to the NYT article, the researchers locked 10 monkeys into airtight chambers and made them breathe in diesel exhausts from a VW Beetle while watching cartoons.

Volkswagen apologised for the animal testing at the weekend, saying the group "distances itself clearly from all forms of animal abuse".

Special meeting

The German government has called a special meeting with the affected car companies to ask them to explain themselves, said acting transport minister Christian Schmidt.

"This has once again damaged trust in the auto industry," he said.

It was VW's admission in 2015 that it had manipulated 11 million diesel cars with cheating software to make them seems less polluting than they were that brought close scrutiny to the industry, which had long touted diesels as better for the environment than gasoline-powered engines.

All three German carmakers scrambled to distance themselves from the research body in question -- the now defunct European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT) -- and promised to launch internal investigations.

"We are appalled by the extent of the studies and their implementation," a Daimler spokesman told AFP.

"The BMW Group did not participate in the mentioned studies," the luxury carmaker said in a statement, while VW said the EUGT was set up to be an "independent" research body.

Although it was the EUGT that commissioned both tests, the organisation itself was financed by the trio of car giants hoping its research would defend diesel's green reputation -- and the valuable tax breaks that go with it.

The car companies decided in late 2016 to dissolve the EUGT, which shut its doors last year.

'No significant effects'

The tests involving 25 human volunteers were carried out at a university hospital in the German city of Aachen in 2013 and 2014.

As part of the study, the participants were exposed for several hours to different levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) -- the most toxic form of nitrogen oxide and commonly found in diesel exhausts.

The researchers detected "no significant effects", according to a summary of the study.

But Thomas Kraus, the head of the relevant department at the university hospital in Aachen, told German media the findings were limited as they weren't representative of the wider population and didn't take into account general air pollution.

The institute separately released a statement stressing the study had been approved by the university hospital's ethics commission and was not linked to any diesel emissions testing.

The study was about improving "workplace safety" for people like truck drivers, mechanics or welders, it said, adding that the levels of NO2 inhaled by the test subjects were "well below those found in many workplaces in Germany".

The World Health Organization says on its website there is "growing evidence" that nitrogen dioxide exposure "can increase symptoms of bronchitis and asthma, as well as lead to respiratory infections and reduced lung function and growth."

Exposure is "linked to premature mortality... from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases," it states.

'Absurd'

The premier of Lower Saxony, whose state is home to VW's Wolfsburg headquarters and is one of the group's biggest shareholders, echoed Berlin's repudiation of the tests.

The experiments are "absurd and disgusting" said Stephan Weil, whose state holds two seats on VW's supervisory board.

He reminded the VW group that it "must meet all ethical requirements".

The latest scandal "will have a lasting impact on the public's trust in the auto industry," predicted analyst Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of the Center for Automotive Research.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Turkish passenger plane skids off runway onto seaside cliff

Yahoo – AFP, 14 January 2018

The Pegasus Airlines flight had taken off smoothly from the capital Ankara bound
for Trabzon, where the accident occurred as the plane was landing late Saturday

A plane with 168 people aboard skidded off a runway onto a seaside cliff after landing at an airport in northern Turkey at the weekend, but no one was injured in what one passenger called a "miracle".

The Pegasus Airlines flight had taken off smoothly from the capital Ankara bound for Trabzon, where the accident occurred as the plane was landing late Saturday.

Dramatic images from CNN Turk broadcaster showed the plane lying on the cliffside, its nose just metres (feet) from the waters of the Black Sea and its wheels stuck in mud.

"There was panic, people shouting, screaming," one of the passengers, Fatma Gordu, told state-run Anadolu news agency.

"When they told us to leave from the rear exit, everyone tried to push ahead of everyone else. It was a terrible situation."

She said they could smell fuel and feared that a fire would break out. "That is why we were scared," she said, adding that there were pregnant women and children on board.

Passenger Yuksel Gordu said it was a "miracle" they were saved. "We could have burned, it could have exploded, we could have fallen into the sea... Every time I think about it, I feel I might go crazy," she said.

Images from the Dogan news agency showed smoke emanating from the trapped plane and an engine that appeared to have fallen into the water.

According to the agency, the plane was 25 metres (80 feet) away from the sea.

Pegasus Airlines confirmed in a statement Sunday there were no injuries among the 162 passengers, two pilots and four flight attendants.

Pegasus Airlines confirmed in a statement Sunday there were no injuries 
among the 162 passengers, two pilots and four flight attendants

The cause of the incident was unknown but an investigation is under way, the Trabzon governor's office said. A crisis centre for the incident was set up at the airport.

"The plane will be removed while all measures have been taken for other work and procedures. These will be carried out step-by-step," Trabzon governor Yucel Yavuz told Anadolu.

He added that a small number of people asked to go to hospital but did not give further detail.

The Trabzon public prosecutor has launched a separate criminal probe. Dogan agency said the prosecutor would seek statements from the six crew onboard.

The airport was temporarily shut before reopening early Sunday, while an operation to remove the plane continued.

Professor Atakan Aksoy from Karadeniz Technical University's civil engineering department said that the construction of a second runway needed to be "accelerated".

"These kinds of accidents can happen due to the narrow ground surface in the northern part of the airport and because it is near a cliff," he told Dogan agency.