DEN HAAG, June 15 -- Investigators will next week announce criminal proceedings against suspects in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 five years ago, allegedly by pro-Russian separatists.
MH17 was shot out of the sky over territory held by separatists in eastern Ukraine as it flew from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board. There were 38 Australians, one New Zealander, 193 Dutch, 43 Malaysians and 12 Indonesians were aboard, as well as 10 British passengers. The other passengers were from Germany, Belgium, the Philippines and Canada.
Dutch prosecutors said yesterday a multinational investigation team would present its latest findings to media and families on June 19. A spokesman for the national Dutch prosecution service declined to specify what would be announced. Citing anonymous sources reported that the public prosecution service had decided to launch a case against several MH17 suspects. Also reported that criminal proceedings will be announced against individual suspects. No suspects were named in the reports.
The Joint Investigation Team, which seeks to try the suspects under Dutch law, has said the missile system came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.
Investigators had said their next step would be to identify individual culprits and to attempt to put them on trial.
Dutch officials have said Russia has refused to cooperate. Russia is not expected to surrender any potential suspects who may be on its territory and authorities have said individuals could be tried in absentia. The Joint Investigation Team was formed in 2014 by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine to investigate collaboratively. The Netherlands and Australia hold Russia legally responsible. Moscow denies all involvement and maintains that it does not support, financially or with equipment, pro-Russian rebels fighting Ukrainian government troops.
BANGKOK, June 14 -- Nok Airlines Plc, the operator of Nok Air low-cost airline, has appointed Wutthiphum Jurangkool chief executive officer and executive director.
Acting CEO Pravej Ongartsittigul said the board of directors made the decision on Thursday and the appointment took effect on Friday, he added. Mr Pravej was the acting CEO since August last year. The board also appointed him as chairman of the executive committee starting Friday, he added. Mr Wutthiphum represents the Jurangkool family, the major shareholders' group of the airline. He served as director and executive at SE-Education Plc, a publisher and bookstore operator, and Aira Capital Plc, a holding company.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand on Monday renewed the operating licence for the airline for 10 years. Nok Air chairman Prasert Bunsumpun said the executive appointment and licence renewal would help ensure employees and clients the company could continue its operation. Nok Air board in April has approved the management to seek a 3-billion-baht loan to improve cash flow of the carrier.
The carrier's losses deepened over the past 18 months 304.2 million baht in the first quarter of this year from 26.9 million in the same period last year and 2.8 billion baht for all of 2018 compared 1.8 billion in the previous year. Its major shareholders are the Jurangkool family (67.4%) and flag carrier Thai Airways International Plc (15.9%). NOK shares climbed 0.04 baht to 2.30 baht at 12pm on Friday in thin trade.
PARIS, June 11 -– A man died in Paris after his electric scooter collided with a lorry, sources said on Tuesday (June 11), the first such fatality involving the increasingly-popular devices in the French capital as concern grows over their safety.
The 25-year-old was riding the scooter in the bustling Goutte d’Or neighbourhood in the north of the city when the accident happened late Monday. He was rushed to hospital where he died of his injuries, the Paris emergency services said. The lorry driver has been detained with prosecutors opening an investigation into “involuntary homicide”. A source close to the case, who asked not to be named, said the lorry driver had priority on the road at the time. It was the first deadly accident involving an electric scooter within the city limits, police and the mayor’s office confirmed. According to press reports, an 81-year-old man died in April in Levallois-Perret outside Paris, days after being knocked over by an electric scooter.
Just a year after they first appeared on the Paris streets, mushrooming electric scooters have become a gigantic headache for the Paris authorities who are now rushing to implement some kind of framework for their use. Monday’s deadly accident has “underlined the need to emphasise the elementary rules that users must respect,” deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said. “The police need to act to penalise users who, for example, cross a red light,” he said. Mayor Anne Hidalgo had on Thursday announced a ban on parking electric scooters on the pavement and said their speed on roads should be limited to 20kmh. Paris has already introduced fines of €135 (S$209) for riding electric scooters on the pavement. Fans have embraced scooters as a quick and cheap way to get around, since the "dockless" devices are unlocked with a phone app and can be left anywhere when a ride is finished.
ANKARA, June 10 -- Turkey criticized Iceland on Monday over "disrespectful" treatment of its national football team at the capital Reykjavik airport.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry issued a diplomatic note to Iceland via the Norwegian embassy to protest the "disrespectful" and "violent" behaviors against Turkish footballers during the passport control and demanded extra security measures for the players. Turkey's national football team arrived in Iceland late Sunday for UEFA EURO 2020 qualifications. The team was kept waiting for around three hours at passport control on Sunday night and their bags were repeatedly searched, reported state-run Anadolu Agency. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in his Twitter the treatment at the Iceland airport was "unacceptable" on diplomatic and humanitarian levels. Presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin condemned the incident. Fahrettin Altun, communications director at the Turkish presidency, also said the treatment was "not in line with diplomatic courtesy or sportsmanlike conduct." Turkey will play Iceland for UEFA EURO 2020 qualifications Group H match on Tuesday.
WASHINGTON, June 8 -- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said Friday it will open the International Space Station for commercial space travel from next year.
The program is aimed at opening the orbiting outpost to the private sector and shifting the U.S. space agency's resources to returning American astronauts to the Moon by 2024, a major goal of President Donald Trump's administration. However, the program carries a hefty price tag. Travelers will need to pay an estimated $58 million for a round-trip ticket, with accommodation running at about $35,000 a night, for trips of up to 30 days, according to NASA officials. NASA will offer two privately funded trips to the space station a year to begin with, with transport to be provided by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or Space X, and Boeing Co., two U.S. companies that are developing capsules capable of carrying humans.
Russia's space agency has brought a number of private citizens to the station. In March, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence pledged to return American astronauts to the Moon by 2024 -- four years earlier than planned given increased competition in space from rivals such as Russia and China. The last people to walk on the Moon were American astronauts from the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
NEW YORK, June 6 -- Uber Technologies is testing a helicopter service in New York City, according to documents outlining the program obtained by Bloomberg.
Passengers will be able to use the Uber app to book a flight through the service, called Uber Copter, the documents show. Tests flights took off from a Manhattan heliport near Wall Street to John F. Kennedy International Airport. After Bloomberg asked Uber for comment on Wednesday, the New York Times published a story about the programme. It says customers will be able to book flights starting July 9 in New York City and that the average ride will cost US$200 to US$225 (S$273 to S$307) a person. Mr Eric Allison, the head of Uber's flight business, told the Times that the company plans to eventually offer helicopter rides in other cities. A spokesman for Uber declined to comment.
Helicopters have been whisking travellers from Manhattan to nearby airports for decades. Now, a startup called Blade Urban Air Mobility even lets customers book using an app. It currently offers regular flights from Manhattan to three airports six days a week for as little as US$195. "There may be no greater validation of Blade's strategy than Uber entering the urban air mobility market in New York City," said Blade's chief executive officer Rob Wiesenthal. As Uber geared up last month for America's largest initial public offering since 2014, the company emphasised its investment in various modes of transportation. In addition to the world's largest ride-hailing service for cars, it operates self-driving vehicles, electric bicycles, scooter rentals and now helicopters. Next week, Uber will host a conference about flying urban transport in Washington. When Uber Copter arrives next month, it will only be available to members of the company's loyalty programme who qualify for the top two tiers, Platinum and Diamond, said a person familiar with the plans. The rides can be booked on demand or up to five days ahead of time, said the person, who asked not to be identified. Each helicopter can accommodate five passengers, and like Uber car rides, prices will fluctuate based on demand and other factors.
The documents on Uber's test flights show that it shuttled two groups of riders on April 11. The rides, from Manhattan to JFK and back, took five passengers each way. The documents list the names of Uber employees on the manifest. According to the documents, passengers are to be greeted with, "Hello, welcome to Uber Copter".
PALO ALTO, June 4 -- Elon Musk made interesting new comments about the upcoming Tesla Pickup truck, including a first hint at the starting price, which he aims to keep under $50,000, and some of the functionality.
Tesla’s CEO has previously sought suggestions for features to add to the Tesla truck under development and he revealed some planned features, like an option for 400 to 500 miles of range, Dual Motor All-wheel-drive powertrain with dynamic suspension, as well as ‘300,000 lbs of towing capacity’. During an appearance on Ride the Lighting podcast this weekend, Musk made some new comments about the upcoming electric pickup truck.
He confirmed that Tesla is aiming to keep the starting price under $50,000:
“We don’t want it to be really expensive. I think it got to start at less than $50,000 – it’s got to be like $49,000 starting price max. Ideally less. It just can’t be unaffordable. It’s got to be something that’s affordable. There will be versions of the truck that will be more expensive, but you’ve got to be able to get a really great truck for $49,000 or less.”
Based on previous comments, it sounds like the design of the Tesla pickup truck is going to be quite special. Musk added about the design during the podcast:
“It’s got to have incredible functionally from a load carrying standpoint, look amazing – but it won’t look like a normal truck. It’s going to look pretty sci-fi. That means that it’s not going to be for everyone- like if somebody just wants to have a truck that looks like trucks have looked like for the last 20 to 40 years, it’s probably isn’t for them.”
He confirmed that the cryptic teaser image released earlier this year was actually the front of the Tesla pickup truck:
"People have been trying to interpret the image ever since it was released at the launch of the Model Y and it resulted in many interesting theories. We gathered some of the renderings that came out of it."
The CEO reiterated that it’s going to be a “Blade Runner-like” truck design – something he has been saying for a while now, but it’s hard to know exactly what he means. He anticipates that some people will think that “it doesn’t look like a truck.” Musk compared the disruptive design to the transition between the horse and carriage and the automobile.
As for the capabilities of the Tesla pickup truck, the CEO is aiming for high standards:
“It’s going to be a truck that is more capable than other trucks. The goal is to be a better truck than a Ford F-150 in terms of truck-like functionality and be a better sports car than a standard [Porsche] 911. That’s the aspiration.”
UTRECHT, May 31 -- The motorcycle club Hells Angels are now banned in the Netherlands, a court in Utrecht has ruled.
They say that Hells Angels are a criminal group and have a violent culture and this should and will be banned. For the first time ever the motorcycle club ‘Hells Angels’ have been banned completely. According to NOS, the Netherlands is the first country to do this. In many other countries, the Hells Angels group are part-banned, but they are not banned entirely. The Public Prosecution Service said that ‘there is a culture of violence within the club that endangers society and the rule of law’ and the judge agreed. The court feels that the Hells Angels are a threat to public order and that members see themselves as above the law. This will end from now on.
What/who are the Hells Angels?
The Hells Angels are one of the largest motorcycle gangs in the world and are found in many countries. They have been associated with violent and organised crime (such as trafficking and drug dealing). They are distinguishable by their military-style patches on their jackets and also ride Harley Davidson’s. Members of the Hell’s Angels are usually white males, which is allegedly one of the criteria in order to be a part of the club (something which they dispute). The Hells Angels have been active in the Netherlands for around 40 years.
Influence in the Netherlands
According to reports, there have been a number of incidents involving the Hells Angels. One of these is a huge dispute where shots were fired with The Mongols motorcycle club in a Van der Valk hotel in Rotterdam, back in 2016. A cafe (the base of Bandidos motorcycle club) was also burnt out in 2015, luckily family and children managed to escape onto the roof.
KUALA LUMPUR, MAY 31 -- The Malaysian government wants strong evidence to show that Russia is responsible for the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 tragedy in 2014, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
"They are accusing Russia, but where is the evidence? "We know the missile that brought down the plane is a Russian-type missile, but it could also be made in Ukraine. "You need strong evidence to show it was fired by the Russians. "It could be by the rebels in Ukraine, it could be Ukrainian government because they too have the same missile,” he said during a dialogue and media conference with the Japanese Foreign Correspondent Club (FCCJ) here on Thursday (May 30).
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia accepted the investigation report by Holland but only up the point where the plane was brought down by a missile made by Russia. He said while the government agreed that the plane was brought down by a Russian missile, it could not be ascertained that the missile was launched by Russia. The Russians were a military people and they would know that MH17 was a passenger plane, he added. "I don’t think very highly disciplined party is responsible for launching the missile,” he said. The Prime Minister said Malaysia should also have been involved in the examining the black box as the plane belonged to Malaysia and there were Malaysians passengers. "We may not have the expertise, but we can buy the expertise. For some reasons, Malaysia was not allowed to check the black box to see what happened. "We don’t know why we were excluded from the examination but from the very beginning, we see too much politics in it, and the idea was not to find out how this happened but seemed to be concentrated on trying to pin it on the Russians. "This is not a neutral kind of examination,” said Dr Mahathir.
Had a neutral party examined and made the conclusion, Malaysia would be willing to accept the findings but here we have parties with political interests in the matter, he added. Flight MH17, which departed from Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam on its way to Kuala Lumpur, was shot before crashing near Torez in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, about 40km from the Russian border on July 17, 2014. The incident killed 298 people, including 15 crew members. Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) said the team was convinced that a BUK TELAR missile was used to down MH17, and that it originated from the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade (53rd Brigade), which is a unit of the Russian Army in Kursk in the Russian Federation.
AMSTERDAM, May 28 -- The working week in the Netherlands has begun with travel chaos. Public transport staff are staging a 24-hour strike which has brought almost all rail, tram, bus and ferry services to a standstill.
As a result, Amsterdam Schiphol airport has instructed airlines to cancel dozens of flights – including many to and from the UK. The airport, which is normally well served by public transport from across the Netherlands and beyond, is fearing traffic gridlock as passengers switch to taxis or Uber. It is telling the public: “Do not travel to Schiphol unless absolutely necessary. “We expect high congestion on the roads to and from the airport.” Flybe has cancelled multiple services from Southampton, Birmingham, Manchester, Exeter and East Midlands to the Dutch airport. Four EasyJet flights linking Gatwick with Amsterdam have been grounded, with passengers told: “Amsterdam airport authorities have asked all airlines to reduce the number of flights arriving and departing at Amsterdam Schipol airport. ”This is in order to minimise the amount of passengers travelling to and from the airport. We understand that this is a frustrating situation.”
The airline added: “In accordance with EU261 regulations, customers will not be entitled to claim for compensation as a result of the industrial action.” All Eurostar services from London St Pancras to Rotterdam and Amsterdam have been cancelled for the day. Passengers have been offered the option of travelling to Brussels, switch to an alternative day or get a full refund. Public transport workers are stopping work as part of a dispute over pension arrangements, and are demanding that retirement age remains at 66.
NS, the national train operator, said: “We regrettably advise passengers not to travel by train. “As a result of industrial action across the entire public transport sector, there are very limited or no train services throughout the country today. “Where possible we will run trains. However this will be limited and unpredictable.” The operator hopes to run a limited rail service, four times an hour, between Schiphol airport and Amsterdam Centraal station from 5am to 9pm. Reports suggest that Uber’s surge pricing is increasing fares by 2.5 times. Staff employed by some local bus operators in Utrecht and some other small cities and towns are not striking. The Dutch motoring organisation, the ANWB, has called for commuters to work from home on Tuesday or, if that is not possible, to carshare. NS is warning that rail services will be hit knock-on effects on Wednesday as a result of the industrial action.