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Three dead after blast on oil tanker in Russian Caspian port

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

Three people were killed and two were injured on Tuesday (June 11) after a blast on an oil tanker caused a fire while it was pumping oil in the Russian Caspian port of Makhachkala, Russia’s Transport Ministry said.

Russian news agency RIA said five got injured, citing the Russian Ministry of Health.

“By this moment fire spreading in lower holds and compartments has been stopped. Engine room is still on fire. High temperature complicating fire-fighting. That is why the operation is running slow,” said Martin Mammayev, head of Deputy of Dagestan Ministry of Emergencies.

The fire occurred on the VF-Tanker 16 vessel, which is owned by the Volga shipping agency, part of the UCL Holding transport group’s shipping division.

“We cannot see what is burning yet. We suggest it could be electric cables, engine units, etc. There is no danger of oil, fuel or other such liquids spilling,” Mammayev said.

Transneft oil company said that the oil transfer has been suspended because of the incident. (REUTERS)

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At least 11 dead, scores injured in Afghanistan landmine explosion

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Ambulance transferring victims to a hospital | Courtesy: Image grabbed from Reuters video

At least 11 pilgrims including seven children were killed and on Monday (July 15) when their vehicle set off a landmine in southern Afghanistan, local government and health officials said.

The blast happened in the Khakrez district of Kandahar province at around midday, said Hayatullah Hayat, a spokesman for Kandahar’s governor.

A senior health official said 22 children and eight women were among another 33 women and children who were critically wounded.

The victims were going to a pilgrimage to a shrine that houses the tomb of Sufi Shah Agha, a companion and relative of the Prophet Mohammad.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the blast. Taliban fighters say they use roadside bombs and landmines to attack security forces, but civilians are frequently hurt or killed.

In Balkh province in the north, two children were killed in a landmine explosion on Sunday (July 14), officials said.

Years of conflict have left Afghanistan strewn with landmines, which are often picked up by curious children.

Last year, at least 1,415 Afghan civilians were killed or injured by landmines and unexploded munitions. Children made up one-third of overall casualties, and 80 percent of those from unexploded munitions, according to the United Nations Mine Action Service. (REUTERS)

(Production: Ismail Sameem, Hameed Farzad)

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Lawmakers call Trump’s attack as attempt to distract from his policies

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Four minority U.S. congresswomen, known as the “the squad”, accused President Donald Trump of trying to sow division and distract attention from what they characterized as failed policies on immigration, health care and taxation on Monday (July 15).

“This president does not know how to make the argument that Americans do not deserve health care. He does not know how to defend his policies. So, what he does is attack us personally and that is what this is all about,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York – Democrat) said.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts – Democrat) urged the public to “not take the bait” following Trump’s Twitter messages on Sunday (July 14) that said the lawmakers should go back to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

All four of the first-term House members are U.S. citizens and all but one were born in the United States.

The president’s remarks were widely derided and some, though not many, of his fellow Republicans spoke out against them.

Trump did not identify the lawmakers by name in his Sunday tweets, but he appeared to refer to representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

“This is not the first, nor will it be the last time we hear disgusting, bigoted language from the president,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Michigan- Democrat) said.

Omar said Trump’s remarks were rooted in the “agenda of white nationalists.”

Tlaib and Omar repeated their calls for Trump to be impeached. (REUTERS)

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It’s not a bird – it’s the ‘Hexa’ personal plane

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

A Texas company aims to sell short recreational flights later this year in a one-seater electric aircraft it has designed that can be controlled by a joystick without requiring a pilot’s license.

It is one of the startups vying with aerospace giants Boeing Co and Airbus to develop electric “vertical takeoff and landing” aircraft, which typically have multiple spinning rotors to produce lift. Many models resemble unmanned aerial drones, only much larger and with seats for passengers.

LIFT Aircraft may end up being the first to sell pleasure rides in such a vehicle, in part because it says the aircraft is light enough to be considered an “ultralight” vehicle by the Federal Aviation Authority.

It has no relationship to the ride-sharing app, Lyft.

Ultralight vehicles, a category that includes hang gliders, can be flown by someone without a license under FAA rules. LIFT says its 18-rotor Hexa aircraft weighs around 426 pounds (196 kg), including floats to allow it to bob on water and a parachute for emergencies. All told, LIFT says the FAA has validated the company’s interpretation of the ultra-light regulations for the Hexa.

“We really envision a future where anyone can fly,” Matt Chasen, LIFT’s founder, said in an interview. “We truly are on the cusp of a revolution in aviation and it’s being brought about by the electrification of aircraft. Much like electric cars are going to be the future of driving, electric aircraft are going to be the future of flying.”

Chasen is planning to sell rides near cities around the United States later this year.

Customers would first spend time learning the controls in a simulator before climbing into a Hexa to fly for up to 15 minutes, the maximum amount of time that can be safely allowed by the batteries.

The aircraft can fly at speeds of up to 55 knots (63 miles per hour), the maximum allowed for ultralight aircraft under FAA rules.

An onboard computer system, similar to the “geofencing” technology used in aerial drones, will prevent the aircraft from flying outside a proscribed area over open land or water, and will allow for remote control from the ground. And should a need arise, engineers will be able to take over the craft from land. The FAA bans ultralight aircraft from flying over built-up areas and they can only be used for sport or recreation, meaning they are not viable as a form of commuter transit.

“Depending on the time scale that you’re looking at, no, 10 to 20 years, we’ll all be using these things,” Colin Guinn, an expert in drone technology, who’s also an associate of Chasten’s, told Reuters.

(Production by: Dan Fastenberg, Jonathan Allen and Kevin Fogarty)

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