Minus 52ºC and passengers have to push their plane: Just another day in the Russian Arctic

November 27, 2014

Minus 52ºC and passengers have to push their plane: Just another day in the Russian Arctic

Men pushing aircraft

Fearing the UTair service to regional capital Krasnoyarsk could be delayed, many of the 70 passengers used brute strength to free the 30-ton Tupolev 134. Picture: Ivan Ivanov

The Siberian Times:

When their plane literally froze on the ground at Igarka airport, above the Arctic Circle, there was no need to panic. Fearing the UTair service to regional capital Krasnoyarsk could be delayed, many of the 70 passengers used brute strength to free the 30-ton Tupolev 134. ….. 

Vladimir Artemenko, technical director of Katekavia, which ran the flight jointly with UTair, said that the plane was technically serviceable, but the chilly temperatures led it to freeze up.

The airport’s tractor could not move the Tu-134 because its brake pads were frozen. ‘When people pushed the plane, the wheel cranked out, and then the aircraft could continue to move,’ he explained.

The plane later took off and landed safely in Krasnoyarsk. Most of the passengers were oil and gas workers on their way home after a stint in the Arctic production flields. Reports of the incident led to worldwide praise for the stoic Siberians for their ‘can-do chutzpah’, in the words of Agence France Presse. ‘Siberians are so tough that for them pushing a frozen plane along a runway is a piece of cake,’ added Russian daily newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

But the authorities were not amused.

igarska to Krasnoyarsk

igarka to Krasnoyarsk

The amusement did not extend to some officials, however. West Siberian transport prosecutor’s aide Oksana Gorbunova rebuked the plane movers. ‘Passengers were asked to leave the plane and go to the bus standing nearby,’ she said. ‘After that, some of them voluntarily left the bus and went to the plane, trying to assist in moving it using physical force.

‘Naturally, the plane was moved by the truck, because people physically could not do it. It looks like a joke. It would be funny if it could not have dire consequences: people could damage the casing and flaps of the aircraft.’

Airport chief Maxim Aksyonov claimed: ‘Most likely, the plane’s passengers, oil workers, decided to do a kind of ‘selfie’. It was a good joke and it became a big thing on the Internet.’

However, one of the ‘hero’ passengers told Life News insisted the passengers did push the plane. ‘We were on the bus that took us on the plane when we were asked to help the tractor,’ he said. ‘Before that, we had already spent one day at the airport, waiting for our departure.

‘We pushed it a short distance – about five metres, maybe more. I worked for four years on shifts, but do not recall that we pushed the plane previously.’

Video below:


Status of German women directors degraded to be “quota directors”

November 27, 2014

German companies have a reputation for excellence. But this is being sacrificed for the sake of political correctness. Currently every woman company director in Germany can be assumed to be of exceptional competence. When a new quota law goes into force in 2016, every woman director in Germany will be nothing more than a “quota employee”.

Discrimination to fight discrimination is an invitation to failure. I do not find any case of “affirmative action” – which is a euphemism for introducing a new, institutionalised and unjust discrimination ostensibly to correct the effects of some other unjust discrimination – which has actually achieved its objective. No program of enforced quotas has yet succeeded in achieving a condition where the “affirmative action” becomes unnecessary because the original injustice has been eliminated. Quotas or confiscation and rationing, enforced by the state and based on irrelevant criteria, remain a favourite tool of those with socialistic aspirations. But not only don’t they work, they also perpetuate the “injustice” that they are intended to correct.

Fifty years of quotas for the “scheduled castes” in India have only become entrenched and have been counter-productive. Rather than ensuring that the lot of the “disadvantaged” groups have improved such that they can compete fairly for jobs or education places, the “affirmative action” has instead ensured that competence and ability have been removed as requirements for selection. Even worse, the “system” is self-perpetuating and encourages the reduction of standards. Those who were to be helped now only need to be the “best of a bad lot” to be selected. Instead of raising standards, “affirmative action” allows and enables lower standards to become “acceptable”. To be classified as a “scheduled caste” has now become a path to privilege.

The experience  in the US with reservation of places in education and in the work-place for minorities has been no different. Even after over 25 years of “affirmative action” the SAT scores of African-Americans admitted to the top US universities remains significantly lower than the average of all those admitted. But this is only to be expected. Effectively the SAT scores to be targeted by aspirants for admission have been reduced for those qualifying for the privilege. Aiming high has no longer any value. Reserving jobs for women or Latinos or other “disadvantaged” minorities has only succeeded in lowering standards but – what is worst – also in making these lower standards acceptable. The quotas for the employing of ethnic Malays in Malaysia has removed any incentive for such “quota employees” to excel at anything other than being Malay. Quota students or quota employees are not burdened by requirements of superior performance or competence – let alone any expectations of excellence.

It should be obvious by now that I believe that quotas based on having an irrelevant characteristic are counter-productive and contribute to equalising standards only by lowering them. Even when quotas try to bring in minimum qualification requirements, it is inevitable that the criterion becomes being “just good enough” and not “to be best”. The use of quotas automatically and inevitably downgrades the quest for excellence. It is settling for the mediocre.

So I am not very impressed by the new German law which will now force the largest companies to have women constituting 30% of their supervisory boards from 2016.. Again the justification is that it will be a trigger for social change and anyway that there are enough women who are qualified. That misses the point. Women directors for these companies have now been effectively degraded to become quota directors – even where they are there for their competence. They can no longer claim to be the “best available” even if they are. Angela Merkel has had to give in to the socialists on this point. Forty percent of the German cabinet is women. Angela Merkel herself is there because she was the “best” for the job. But note that many of her female cabinet colleagues are there not because of their competence or excellence but only to fill an unwritten quota. Other countries are also considering quotas for women directors – not least in “politically correct” Sweden. For example, I observe when I watch Swedish TV – which is very politically correct – that it is easy to discern when a female presenter or a news reporter has been selected to fill some gender quota rather than for her excellence.

But why stop at women quotas? Why not quotas also for other minorities and abandon excellence or competence? Why should women be more privileged than some other disadvantaged minority? Is the disadvantage suffered by women more important to correct than the disadvantage suffered by a gay person? or an immigrant? Perhaps there will come a day when a German Supervisory Board will have to be at least 30% female, 10% gay, 5% transgender and 15% of immigrant origin! That will be the time when I shall sell any German stocks that I might have.

As an investor in any company I would prefer that the Directors be the best available and affordable and not “just good enough” to fill a compulsory quota.

Juncker’s Christmas present for Europe: used goods in an imaginary wrapping

November 27, 2014

Jean-Claude Juncker announced – with great fanfare – a Christmas present for Europe yesterday. It was a €315 billion investment plan which would generate 1.3 million new jobs.  Sleight of hand is what he is good at as he has proved during his time as Prime Minister of Luxembourg. Do one thing and call it something else. Provide and attract users for clever schemes for tax evasion but call it tax avoidance.

Yesterday’s announcements don’t surprise. They don’t provide any credit for Juncker, the European Commission or the European Parliament. They do confirm for me that the “old” dream of a new European hegemony – mainly shared by French and German and some Italian politicians – is crippling the EU.  Trying to recreate the past with another Holy Roman Empire or a Fourth Reich will only lead to a spurt for separatism and further internal conflicts.

Right now European companies are awash with money which is not being invested. It is not being invested because the political environment does not provide any confidence that a return can be earned. Angela Merkel is seen as being forced to accept wasteful spending because of her grand coalition with the socialists. German energy policy is in a shambles and Germans pay the highest electricity prices in Europe. Even reductions in oil price don’t get passed on to the consumer because the Energiewende has locked the country into an era of high prices to support the unsupportable shift to renewables. The German economy has been stagnating since the coalition assumed office. Francois Hollande is desperately trying to spend more money that France does not have. Northern Italy is being held down by spending in southern parts. In Sweden a new Red/Green minority coalition depends upon support from the far left (a euphemism for old communists) and is busy stopping infrastructure development projects to keep the Greens happy and planning a splurge of public spending to keep the far left happy.

And then comes Juncker with his claim that Europe would have an early Christmas. The European Fund for Strategic Investment (EFSI) is the brainchild of the EU Commissioners and will keep them happy and the bureaucracy growing in a time of “austerity”. And the idiot EU parliament approved it.

Juncker's EFSI

Juncker’s EFSI

The fund is supposed to stimulate infrastructure projects (road, rail, energy, IT, …) but it needs new legislation in each country and will cause a competition between the countries to get their share of the new EU pig-trough. But his €315 billion turns out not to be €315 billion. It is just €21 billion. Oh, and by the way, even this is not real. It is not any new money but just an arithmetic subterfuge. It is just reallocated from other  areas of the EU budget. And if the massive leveraging to get private investment to produce the rest of the €294 billion does not materialise – as it won’t – then the European taxpayer has to pick up the tab. Those few investors who come in will be protected – by taxpayers money – and will lead to further exploitation of EU money by the few. As wih most such grand EU spending schemes new scams will be developed. A few developers and the EU bureaucrats will enrich themselves. And the EU taxpayers will pay – and continue to pay.

Juncker sees himself as Santa Claus. But as Pope Francis said a couple of days ago, Europe is becoming “haggard”. Not that the Roman Catholic Church has much to crow about but with Juncker at the helm it could become an expensive Christmas for Europe. He faces a no-confidence motion today but I don’t hold out any great hopes that he will be rejected by a compliant and self-serving European Parliament.

The EU has become just another cult.

Prey-predator relationships 30,000 years ago

November 26, 2014

New research at the paleolithic Předmostí I archaeological site near Brno in the Czech Republic provides a fascinating picture of the prey-predator relationships of that time.

Thirty thousand years ago, humans had domesticated dogs, they hunted mammoths, bison, musk ox and reindeer. They probably did not herd reindeer extensively in central Europe (but they did in the far north as the ice sheets retreated), but they may have occasionally followed reindeer herds. Mammoth meat clearly had a high value and was not fed to their dogs who – instead – had to make do with reindeer or musk ox meat – presumably controlled and provided by their human owners. But the dogs were probably an important participant in human hunts. Lions preyed primarily on musk oxen and reindeer but not on mammoth or much else. Other predators such as wolves, wolverines and bears ate mammoth (human leavings perhaps), rhinos, horse and bison. That lions and humans hunted musk oxen but not so much bison suggests that the musk ox was a little less aggressive (more stupid?) and easier to hunt than bison.

Simplified prey-predator relationships for prehistoric humans and large mammals in Předmostí I 30,000 years ago, deduced from stable isotopic data. Illustration: Hervé Bocherens with credits to: Wooly mammoth, wooly rhino, horse & cave lion: Mauricio Antón/DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060099, Muskox: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Reindeer: Alexandre Buisse; Wolf: Santiago Atienza; Wolverine: Matthias Kabel; Brown bear: Jean-Noël Lafargue; Dogs: Margo Peron; Bison: Michael Gäbler; Prehistoric man: Hervé Bocherens.

Simplified prey-predator relationships for prehistoric humans and large mammals in Předmostí I 30,000 years ago, deduced from stable isotopic data. Illustration: Hervé Bocherens with credits to: Wooly mammoth, wooly rhino, horse & cave lion: Mauricio Antón/DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060099, Muskox: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Reindeer: Alexandre Buisse; Wolf: Santiago Atienza; Wolverine: Matthias Kabel; Brown bear: Jean-Noël Lafargue; Dogs: Margo Peron; Bison: Michael Gäbler; Prehistoric man: Hervé Bocherens.



Antarctic sea ice much thicker than expected

November 25, 2014

The British Antarctic Survey has issued a press release regarding the use of a robot submarine which has been measuring the thickness of Antarctic sea ice. The submarine can operate at upto 30m depth and maps the sea ice from underneath. They found that, on average, the thickness of the ice beneath sea level was much greater than previously thought at 1.4 to 5.5m, with the thickest sea ice measured at 16m. They also encountered a lot of highly deformed ice, where one block had ridden over another, increasing the overall draft.

“We suggest that thick ice in the near-coastal and interior pack may be under-represented in existing in situ assessments of Antarctic sea ice and hence, on average, Antarctic sea ice may be thicker than previously thought.”

No doubt some will contort their theories and themselves to show how increased sea ice thickness and greatly increased ice cover in the Antarctic are perfectly consistent with global warming. I am inclined to the much more parsimonious explanation that increased freezing is always a sign of cooling.

The first detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice have been developed using an underwater robot. Scientists from the UK, USA and Australia say the new technology provides accurate ice thickness measurements from areas that were previously too difficult to access. …

Now, with the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) known as SeaBED, scientists have an invaluable new tool to fill this gap.

While most oceanographic survey instruments look down at the seafloor, SeaBED was fitted with an upward-looking sonar in order to measure and map the underside of sea ice floes. The AUV operated at a depth of 20 to 30 meters and was driven in a lawnmower pattern. These lines of data were merged to form high-resolution 3D bathymetric surveys of the underside of the ice.


SeaBed vehicle recovery Photo P. Kimball / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


The yellow SeaBED robot, which is approximately two meters long and weighs nearly 200 kilograms, has a twin-hull design that gives the robot enhanced stability for low-speed photographic surveys. …….. 
The research was carried out by scientists at the Institute of Antarctic and Marine Science (Australia), Antarctic Climate and Ecosystem Cooperative Research Centre (Australia), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (USA) and British Antarctic Survey (UK).

Live Science:

Not only is the amount of sea ice increasing each year, but an underwater robot now shows the ice is also much thicker than was previously thought, a new study reports.

The discovery adds to the ongoing mystery of Antarctica’s expanding sea ice. According to climate models, the region’s sea ice should be shrinking each year because of global warming. Instead, satellite observations show the ice is expanding, and the continent’s sea ice has set new records for the past three winters. At the same time, Antarctica’s ice sheet (the glacial ice on land) is melting and retreating. …….

The findings were published today (Nov. 24) in the journal Nature Geoscience. ….. 

The sea ice growth around Antarctica has averaged about 1.2 percent to 1.8 percent per decade between 1979 and 2012, according to the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report. The increases are concentrated primarily in the Ross Sea in western Antarctica. Sea ice in the nearby Bellingshausen and Amundsen seas has significantly decreased. Researchers suspect these regional differences could result from stronger winds or increased meltwater from the Antarctic ice sheet, or a combination of both factors.

Are shale oil and low prices the beginning of the end of the OPEC cartel?

November 24, 2014

Currently US crude is at just above $76 per barrel and Brent oil is at about $80. OPEC members are meeting this week in Vienna and it is thought that cuts to oil production of between 0.5 million and 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) are possible. The drop in oil prices since June (from around $110 per barrel is due to a glut which in turn is due to over production, large quantities of US shale oil becoming available and simultaneously a reduced demand from China and others. Saudi Arabia is conspicuous by not having made any significant production cuts so far. This could be due to one of 3 reasons:

  1. Saudi Arabia is testing the breaking point for some of the shale oil producers since some of the smaller shale wells probably have a break-even level of around $60-70 per barrel, or
  2. Saudi Arabia and the US are targeting Russia and Iran whose economies are vulnerable and very dependent on the oil price (and the Russians alone would lose some $100 billion in oil revenues per year), or
  3. Saudi Arabia is tired of bearing the brunt of the production cuts and is forcing some of the smaller OPEC producers to take their share of the pain of production cuts.

If cuts of less than 0.5 million barrels per day are made it is thought that the prices are headed down to about $60 per barrel. One analyst estimates that a cut of 2 million bpd is needed to get back up to $80 per barrel. Something in between will be – well – something in between.

I just don’t like cartels and especially when they are state sponsored cartels. So far shale oil production is just from the US, and the OPEC strangle-hold on oil price has yet to be broken. But, over time, I expect this cartel to weaken as other countries produce oil and gas from shale. I remain of the opinion that the OPEC cartel has – no doubt – enriched the oil producing countries but has only done so at the expense of the rate of development of non-producers. OPEC has done the global economy a disservice by holding back the developing countries and the strongest correlation in geopolitics is the link between energy consumption and development (not just GDP but also virtually every development parameter).

It may cause some short term turbulence but in the long run it will be a “good thing” even if oil price were to collapse to below $50 per barrel. Some producers will be hard hit but the net result for the global economy will be positive. So I shall be quite happy if OPEC cannot reach agreement on how much oil production to cut or if they make just a small cut. It is time for some of the the developing countries to get a break from the oil price extortion which has been in place since 1973. The sooner the OPEC cartel is rendered obsolete the better.


Some commodity fund managers believe oil prices could slide to $60 per barrel if OPEC does not agree a significant output cut when it meets in Vienna this week. Brent crude futures have fallen by a third since June, touching a four-year low of $76.76 a barrel on Nov. 14. They could tumble further if OPEC does not agree to cut at least one million barrels per day (bpd), according to some commodity fund managers’ forecasts. ….. 

Yet fund managers and brokerage analysts are divided over whether OPEC will reach an agreement on cutting output. Bathe put the likelihood at no more than 50 percent. Oil prices have been falling since the summer due to abundant supply, partly from U.S. shale oil, and because of low demand growth, particularly in Europe and Asia. As a result, some investors believe a small cut of around 500,000 bpd would not be enough to calm the markets. Doug King, chief investment officer of RCMA Capital, sees Brent falling to $70 per barrel even with a cut of one million bpd.

“With this, I would expect lower prices in the first half of 2015,” he said. If OPEC fails to agree a cut, prices will drop “further and quite quickly”, with U.S. crude possibly sliding to $60, he said. U.S. crude closed at $76.51 on Friday, with Brent just above $80. ……..

The market has been awash with conspiracy theories as to why Saudi Arabia has not already intervened. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman hinted at “a global oil war under way pitting the United States and Saudi Arabia on one side against Russia and Iran on the other”. Hepworth argued that Saudi Arabia appeared pretty happy with current pricing levels and suggested they were waiting to see where the cut-off point for U.S. production was. “Time is on their side, they can afford to wait,” he said, stressing he was talking months, not years, but added if oil fell below $70 that waiting time “shrinks to weeks”.

Tom Nelson, of Investec Global Energy Fund, said he believed Saudi Arabia had allowed the price to fall to incentivise smaller OPEC producers, which often rely on the biggest producer to intervene, to join Riyadh in cutting output. “They (the Saudis) want to cut but they don’t want to cut alone,” Nelson said, adding that a cut of between one million and 1.5 million bpd should be sufficient to balance the market.

“The market really wants to see that OPEC is still functioning … if there is a small cut, with an accompanying statement of coherence from OPEC that presents a united front, and talks about seeing demand recovery, and some moderation of supply growth, then Brent could move up to $80-$90.”

“Those Indian women in their flying machines…”

November 24, 2014
Baroness de Laroche

SEMAINE D’AVIATION DE TOURAINE (30 avril – 5 mai 1910) Madame DE LAROCHE, Collection of Dave Lam, (via earlyaviators.com)

Those magnificent ladies in their flying machines,
they go up tiddly up up,
they go down tiddly down down. (with apologies)

There are almost more than 3 times as many commercially active, women pilots in India compared to the global average.

The Wright brothers first flew a powered flight in December 1903. They had much support – and financing – from their sister Katharine Wright and she first joined them in exhibition flights in 1909.

But it was a young French actress, Elise Raymonde Deroche (who called herself the Baroness Raymonde de Laroche), perhaps inspired by Katharine, who was the first woman to fly solo in 1909 and the first to be awarded a pilot’s licence in 1910. Though some others flew solo flights earlier, the first American woman to gain a pilot’s licence was Harriett Quimby in 1911.

Amy Johnson of England was the first woman to fly solo from Croydon, London to Darwin in Australia in her Gypsy Moth in 1930. Amelia Earhart of the US was then the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932.

Women were involved in military flying already from WW 1.

In World War I, Helene Dutrieu of France and Princess Eugenie Shakhovskaya of Russia both served as reconnaissance pilots.

The first military woman to fly combat missions did so in Turkey in 1937. Sabiha Gokcen participated in the Thrace and Aegean exercises, and in the same year joined the “Dersim Operation.” During the Seyh Riza Rebellion, she facilitated the land operation by bombing Dersim and its surroundings.

In the Soviet Union in World War II, women flew combat missions in three predominately female regiments. The 588th Air Regiment (later the 46th Taman Guards Bomber Regiment) flew night bomber missions in the PO2 biplane. The 587th Bomber Regiment (later the 125th M. M. Raskova Borisov Guards Bomber Regiment) flew bombing missions in the PE2 airplane. The 586th Fighter Regiment flew air defense missions in the YAK-1 aircraft.

Fighter pilot Lily Litvak of the 586th regiment shot down 12 German aircraft and shared the credit for two others. Regiment mate Katya Budanova shot down even more aircraft but the exact number is unknown. They were both killed in action in 1943.

Originally a navigator and a Gold Star Hero of the Soviet Union, Marina Raskova used her influence to propose and gain approval for the formation of the female regiments. She was the first commander of the 587th Bomber Regiment, and she was killed ferrying her aircraft to the front lines. Galina Brok-Beltsova, one of the navigators in Raskova’s regiment, attended our conference last year and we anticipate having her attend this year’s conference.

Rose Clement served as a Navigator in the US Navy during World War II. These women navigators were the first US military women to be aircrew, to wear wings, and to receive flight pay (half their base pay). They were generally assigned as navigator instructors, in pairs at various bases around the country, after satisfactory completion of celestial navigation training.

In Britain in November 1939, Pauline Gower proposed and was granted permission to form the Women’s Section of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), which would ferry aircraft from the DeHaviland factory to RAF training bases. She was the first woman to be allowed into, let alone fly, a Royal Air Force plane.

Though women have been involved in flying from the very early days of flight, they only constitute about 6% of all licensed pilots and only about 3% of active airline pilots according to The International Society of Women Airline Pilots. But for some reason over 11% of commercial pilots on Indian airlines are now women (and over 14% among the newly qualified pilots).


Sarla Thakral image iwpa

The first Indian woman to gain a licence was Sarla Thakral in 1936. Prem Mathur was the first woman to gain a commercial licence in 1947 and she flew on domestic airlines but was only allowed as co-pilot. It was only in 1956 that Indian Airlines had Durba Bannerjee as its first woman pilot. The Indian Women Pilots Association was formed in 1967. And by 1985, Saudamini Deshmukh had led the first all-woman flight crew on a domestic commercial flight. In 2008, Sonica Chhabra became the first Indian woman to qualify as a Pilot Examiner.

But the Indian Air Force lags far behind. It was only in 1994 – 80 years after WW1 started – that 3 women were first inducted – reluctantly – as pilots into the Air Force. The first missions ever flown in a combat zone by a woman pilot was during the Kargil conflict in 1999. They are still not permitted as pilots of Indian combat jets though the first combat mission ever flown by a woman was back in 1937. The staid bureaucrats of the Ministry of Defence and the still old fashioned leadership of the Air Force are apparently very disturbed by the very idea of women wielding power. The current Air Chief Marshall Arup Raha recently displayed his rather fossilised thinking. He apparently classes pregnancy as a “health problem”!

TOI, March 13th, 2014.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, answering questions in Kanpur on Tuesday, said the capabilities of women “air warriors” in his force was never in doubt but biological and natural constraints precluded them from flying fighters.

“As far as flying fighter planes is concerned, it’s a very challenging job. Women are by nature not physically suited for flying fighters for long hours, especially when they are pregnant or have other health problems,” said ACM Raha, as per news reports.

Defence minister A K Antony, in turn, told Parliament just last month that two studies – by the integrated defence staff HQ in 2006 and a high-level tri-Service committee in 2011 – had both rejected induction of women in combat duties. A serving major-general said, “As a society, we are not ready for our women in combat roles. What if they are taken PoWs?”

Indian commercial airlines clearly don’t have the same fears of women as the Indian Air Force. In the world of commercial airlines, Indian women are progressing much faster than their colleagues abroad.  Why this should be is not very clear though it has been suggested that the availability of family support may make it easier for Indian women to cope with time away from home.

TOI 24th November, 2014.

Almost 600 of the 5,050 pilots in Indian airlines are women, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). At 11.6%, this is way above the 3% global average estimated by the International Society of Women Airline Pilots.

India is also seeing a steady rise in women pilots annually. The last five years saw 4,267 commercial pilots’ licences being issued, of which 628 or 14.7% went to women. 

A direct outcome of this trend is that Indian carriers are employing more women pilots. The Jet Group, for instance, had 152 women pilots in October 2011; today it has 194 — the highest in India. “There has been steady growth of about 10% year on year in the number of women pilots joining the airline,” says a Jet official referring to Jet Airways and JetLite. The official adds that 30.5% of their 13,674 employees are women.

At IndiGo, 11% of pilots are women. “That number is definitely growing. Of the pilots that joined from April 2014, 16.5% are women,” says an IndiGo official. Overall, 43% of the airline’s 8,200-strong workforce is women. SpiceJet and GoAir also reported that the number of women pilots is on the rise. The merged Air India-Indian Airlines has the second largest number of women pilots at 171, and often has an all-women crew operating its longest non-stop flights to the US.

Is Backdoor Regin the US/Israeli successor to the Stuxnet virus?

November 24, 2014

A sophisticated, spying virus, most probably developed by one or more nation states, has been discovered by Symantec. It has been in use since at least 2008 and targets have been in at least 10 countries (mainly in Russia and Saudi Arabia). The virus called Backdoor Regin is a modular tool and is designed to be loaded in multiple stages which is an architecture similar to that used by the Duqu/Stuxnet family of threats. Symantec has released a white paper on Backdoor Regin. Some analysts see industrial targets as the logical next stage after the targeting of state organisations such as by Stuxnet. Backdoor Regin seems to be targeted at businesses and telecom ssytems. Symantec warns that “many components of Regin remain undiscovered and additional functionality and versions may exist.”


Confirmed Regin infections by sector – Symantec


An advanced spying tool, Regin displays a degree of technical competence rarely seen and has been used in spying operations against governments, infrastructure operators, businesses, researchers, and private individuals. 

An advanced piece of malware, known as Regin, has been used in systematic spying campaigns against a range of international targets since at least 2008. A back door-type Trojan, Regin is a complex piece of malware whose structure displays a degree of technical competence rarely seen. Customizable with an extensive range of capabilities depending on the target, it provides its controllers with a powerful framework for mass surveillance and has been used in spying operations against government organizations, infrastructure operators, businesses, researchers, and private individuals.

It is likely that its development took months, if not years, to complete and its authors have gone to great lengths to cover its tracks. Its capabilities and the level of resources behind Regin indicate that it is one of the main cyberespionage tools used by a nation state.

The Stuxnet family was developed by the US and Israel and targeted the centrifuges at the Iranian nuclear fuel enrichment facility. Here too the second stage was deployed only after years of undetected operation with Stage 1.

Stuxnet, a joint U.S.-Israel project, is known for reportedly destroying roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges by causing them to spin out of control. …

(The worm was reportedly tested at Israel’s Dimona nuclear facility.) 

Only after years of undetected infiltration did the U.S. and Israel unleash the second variation to attack the centrifuges themselves and self-replicate to all sorts of computers. And the first version of Stuxnet was only detected with the knowledge of the second. ….. 

The target countries reported by Symantec suggest to me that like Stuxnet, the Backdoor Regin spying tool is a US / Israeli development.

Regin uses a modular approach, giving flexibility to the threat operators as they can load custom features tailored to individual targets when required. Some custom payloads are very advanced and exhibit a high degree of expertise in specialist sectors, further evidence of the level of resources available to Regin’s authors.

There are dozens of Regin payloads. The threat’s standard capabilities include several Remote Access Trojan (RAT) features, such as capturing screenshots, taking control of the mouse’s point-and-click functions, stealing passwords, monitoring network traffic, and recovering deleted files. 

More specific and advanced payload modules were also discovered, such as a Microsoft IIS web server traffic monitor and a traffic sniffer of the administration of mobile telephone base station controllers.


Confirmed Regin Infections by Country — Symantec

Regin is a highly-complex threat which has been used in systematic data collection or intelligence gathering campaigns. The development and operation of this malware would have required a significant investment of time and resources, indicating that a nation state is responsible. Its design makes it highly suited for persistent, long term surveillance operations against targets.

The discovery of Regin highlights how significant investments continue to be made into the development of tools for use in intelligence gathering. Symantec believes that many components of Regin remain undiscovered and additional functionality and versions may exist.  Additional analysis continues and Symantec will post any updates on future discoveries


The Little Ice Age was real and it was global

November 22, 2014

Global warmists like to pretend sometimes that the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period were not real or that they were just some local phenomena. The usually point to the lack of data from the southern hemisphere to support their claims. They certainly don’t like to admit that global cooling or warming events could have been caused by solar effects which were perhaps connected to the level of solar activity (as indicated by sunspots). New work at the University of Gloucestershire shows that not only was the Little Ice Age real but that it was present in both hemispheres. And that it was probably due to solar effects

AlphaGalileo reports:

UK researchers show Little Ice Age was global, wit.h implications for current Global Warming

Under embargo until 20 November 2014 00:01 GMT

A team of UK researchers has shed new light on the climate of the Little Ice Age, and rekindled debate over the role of the sun in climate change. The new study, which involved detailed scientific examination of a peat bog in southern South America, indicates that the most extreme climate episodes of the Little Ice Age were felt not just in Europe and North America, which is well known, but apparently globally. The research has implications for current concerns over ‘Global Warming’.

Climate sceptics and believers of Global Warming have long argued about whether the Little Ice Age (from c. early 15th to 19th Centuries) was global, its causes, and how much influence the sun has had on global climate, both during the Little Ice Age and in recent decades. This new study helps clarify those debates.

The team of researchers, from the Universities of Gloucestershire, Aberdeen and Plymouth, conducted studies on past climate through detailed laboratory examination of peat from a bog near Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. They used exactly the same laboratory methods as have been developed for peat bogs in Europe. Two principal techniques were used to reconstruct past climates over the past 3000 years: at close intervals throughout a vertical column of peat, the researchers investigated the degree of peat decomposition, which is directly related to climate, and also examined the peat matrix to reveal the changing amounts of different plants that previously grew on the bog.

The data show that the most extreme cold phases of the Little Ice Age—in the mid-15th and then again in the early 18th centuries—were synchronous in Europe and South America. There is one stark difference: while in continental north-west Europe, bogs became wetter, in Tierra del Fuego, the bog became drier—in both cases probably a result of a dramatic equator-ward shift of moisture-bearing winds.

These extreme times coincide with periods when it is known that the sun was unusually quiet. In the late 17th to mid-18th centuries it had very few sunspots—fewer even than during the run of recent cold winters in Europe, which other UK scientists have linked to a relatively quiet sun.

Professor Frank Chambers, Head of the University of Gloucestershire’s Centre for Environmental Change and Quaternary Research, who led the writing of the Fast-Track Research Report, said:

“Both sceptics and adherents of Global Warming might draw succour from this work. Our study is significant because, while there are various different estimates for the start and end of the Little Ice Age in different regions of the world, our data show that the most extreme phases occurred at the same time in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. These extreme episodes were abrupt global events. They were probably related to sudden, equator-ward shifts of the Westerlies in the Southern Hemisphere, and the Atlantic depression tracks in the Northern Hemisphere. The same shifts seem to have happened abruptly before, such as c. 2800 years ago, when the same synchronous but opposite response is shown in bogs in Northwest Europe compared with southern South America.

“It seems that the sun’s quiescence was responsible for the most extreme phases of the Little Ice Age, implying that solar variability sometimes plays a significant role in climate change. A change in solar activity may also, for example, have contributed to the post Little Ice Age rise in global temperatures in the first half of the 20th Century. However, solar variability alone cannot explain the post-1970 global temperature trends, especially the global temperature rise in the last three decades of the 20th Century, which has been attributed by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Professor Chambers concluded: “I must stress that our research findings are only interpretable for the period from 3000 years ago to the end of the Little Ice Age. That is the period upon which our research is focused. However, in light of our substantiation of the effects of ‘grand solar minima’ upon past global climates, it could be speculated that the current pausing of ‘Global Warming’, which is frequently referenced by those sceptical of climate projections by the IPCC, might relate at least in part to a countervailing effect of reduced solar activity, as shown in the recent sunspot cycle.”

A phrase for Cosby? – “a darker shade of black”

November 22, 2014

The richness of a language lies not only in the number of words it commands but also in the manner in which they can be modified or combined to convey some nuance of meaning and which nuance is then understood as intended.  The modification of or combining of words can be by following existing rules or current conventions of usage and even by the breaking of current conventions. A new modification or word combination only becomes part of the language if

  1. the intended meaning is successfully conveyed, and
  2. the usage of the new word(s)/usage spreads.

Thus while reading about the collapse of the House of Cosby as story follows story about his predatory behaviour with younger girls, the words of one of my favourite songs from the 60s came to mind – Procol Harum’s “A whiter shade of pale”  which was a thinly disguised song about a drunken seduction.

And so it was that later,
As the miller told his tale,
That her face, at first just ghostly,
Turned a whiter shade of pale.

What the word combination “a whiter shade of pale” conveys depends on how it is interpreted in the recipient’s mind. Part of the impact of this song at that time lay in the strange and psychedelic pictures that that particular phrase conjured up. And it triggered for me the thought that Bill Cosby’s past behaviour was proving to be “a darker shade of black”.

And so it was that later,
As the facade began to crack,
that the soul of William Cosby,
showed as a darker shade of black.

Both these phrases use the powerful linguistic trick of invoking something impossible – a state beyond some absolute limit.  The listener/reader gets the point. (Strictly it ought to be “a paler shade of white” since paler than white should be impossible while whiter than pale is not). Other variants of the same linguistic form could be:

  • a blacker shade of dark
  • better than the best
  • worse than the worst
  • greater than the infinite
  • harder than diamond
  • softer than a feather
  • faster than lightning
  • stronger than steel
  • over the top
  • under the bottom
  • hotter than hell
  • colder than space
  • before the beginning
  • after the end
  • rounder than a sphere …….

Equally powerful is the use of antonyms, with one as an adjective for another but which serves to emphasise rather than negate some characteristic.

  • Infinitely small
  • Expanding infinity
  • The living dead
  • An evil goodness
  • A brilliant darkness
  • Surreptitious refulgence
  • A tumultuous lethargy
  • Brawny erudition
  • A restive calm
  • Relaxed turbulence
  • Solicitous indifference
  • An awakening ignorance
  • A concentrated diffusion
  • A historical future
  • A caring predator
  • Robust fragility
  • Enlightened disillusion …..

In the case of Bill Cosby, he is now being engulfed by his past and is surrounded by an expanding halo of an aggressive, licentious and debauched history.


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