Thais embrace military rule

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Thailand’s latest constitutional referendum was held today. And the coupe leaders got the blessing that they wanted. The constitution has muted public support.

There are links from AOB to news reports on the vote.

But here is a local Thai commentator. Sadly. He is right.

Nattakorn Devakula @KhunPleum on twitter:

“Thailand’s democratically elected government was originally overthrown in September 2006. The referendum today completes that mission.

It has taken 2 coups, 2 manufactured popular upheavals, 2 main political party dissolutions, 2 overturning of election results…a slow massage of the populous’ thinking paradigm to eventually reach this point.

The Meechai draft is one of the worse constitutions ever written in the history of the country, yet it passed with flying colors.

The military now can handpick at least the next two Prime Ministers after Prayut. Effectively the Thai people, who voted this round, handed our own asses over to the top brass of out of either fear, indifference, ignorance, or worst the simple willingness to be governed under a military regime.

It is going to take an extreme undertaking to alter this new constitution because the way it is written it cannot be amended under the current political architecture. The passing of this drafts lengthens the regime’s hold on power but as a bi-product it immediately turns the political superstructure into a brittle one.

The resistance now perceives that a rejection of the regime is itself one of the very few viable avenues of change. From now, it will be a slow but bumpy ride, with an abrupt ending.

We live in a country where the majority just voted away majority rule. Thank you my fellow citizens for an even more ridiculous answer to an already ridiculous question.”

EK521 crashes at DXB today – all 300 passengers and crew survive

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(Updated on 4th and 5th August and 6 September)

The GCAA has released a preliminary report to the ICAO and made it public:

EK521 preliminary report issued by GCAA

Emirates flight 521 from Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) crashed on landing at DXB at 12.37pm today (3 August).

Remarkably all 282 passengers and 18 crew were safely evacuated before fire burned out the fuselage. A great job by the cabin crew and airport rescue teams.

Windshear was reported on all runways at the time of landing.

There is still much speculation about the cause. There are many updates on twitter under the hashtag #EK521

The airframe was a thirteen year old Boeing 777-300, registration A6-EMW.

There was some confusion over the souls on board number after Emirates initially messaged that the flight had 275 passengers and crew.

Avherald.com notes that “a passenger in the aft cabin reported, that the approach was normal, there had been no announcements or indications of anything abnormal. Then there was a heavy impact, oxygen masks came down, the aircraft skidded shaking violently and immediately filling with smoke and came to a stop. All doors were opened, it appeared however not all of them were used for evacuation.”

Avherald again – “Another passenger reported that the captain made an announcement they would land at Dubai and the weather was fine, nothing appeared to be amiss. Suddenly the aircraft hit the ground tail/belly first, at the same time the right hand engine caught fire, and the aircraft skidded to a halt, smoke filled the cabin, only at this time the passengers realised the seriousness of the situation. The accident came entirely out of the blue.”

These are consistent reports. There were earlier comments that the pilot had warned passengers of landing gear problems. This is suspected to be a mishearing of “cabin crew – take your seats for landing.”

The ATC recording suggests a normal approach with no priority requested or emergency declared. The first officer was making the radio calls; the captain would therefore be the pilot flying.

Tower advised EK521 to on landing to vacate at taxiway M9 and cleared the aircraft to land.

The crew appear to have then attempted a go-around and the tower instructed the aircraft to climb to 4000 feet.

The aircraft however did not climb, but after retracting the gear touched down on the runway and slid to a rest at the end of 12L.

A few seconds later tower instructs the next arrival to go around and alerts emergency services.

All occupants evacuated via slides; 13 passengers received minor injuries, 10 were taken to hospitals, 3 were treated at the airport. The aircraft burned. A firefighter attending to the aircraft lost his life.

The airline reported: “Emirates can confirm that an incident happened at Dubai International Airport on 3rd August 2016 at about 12.45pm local time.”

Rightly there has been a great deal of praise for the cabin crew.

Video from inside the plane during the evacuation shows many passengers trying to open the hatracks to save their carry on bags and some taking bags with them as they leave the plane.

There has been some dreadful abuse of these passengers on social media.

This was a flight from Trivandrum. Many passengers would be coming to Dubai as labourers. Some would not have flown before. Some would have not fully understood the saftey video.

There was no way they were going to leave their hand baggage behind, and the crew wisely recognised this and got everyone off, with their bags, far faster than they would have if they had tried to enforce the no bags rule.

On PPRUNE (the pilot rumour network) this from an eye witness (a pilot on the ground at the time):

“They touched down hard then aborted the landing which lead to a go around. They were in the process of a go-around (configuration) but it sank back on the runway. Maybe that’s why the landing gear appears to be up as it skidded on the ground. It most probably sank/fell back onto the runway due to extreme weather (temperature, low pressure/the gear doors opening/then closing i.e: increased drag) and that the B773 performance struggles at that those conditions.”

Another: “My mate is with flydubai and he saw the crash live :
Yeah I was crossing runway behind it as it landed ….front row seat … they landed hard, aborted , go around, gear up … not enough power and it sank back into the runway ….”

Here is a transcript of the ATC

EK521 ATC

It really could have been so very much worse.

There has now been extended disruption at DXB. The airport re-opened with single runway operations at 18.30 local last evening (3rd). Passengers and airplanes are in the wrong place, connections have been missed and there are long and frustrating delays.

But out of adversity comes a silver lining – and the trusty Gulf News has managed to turn near disaster into triumph. An article that probably had to be written but let’s hope that investigators address two hull losses in four months and buildings that in recent months have burned badly.

Dubai triumphs again.

Peter Lemme at www.satcom.guru has produced this detailed analysis of the ADS-B data from EK521. Worth a read. This will all be reviewed in detail as part of the investigation.

ADS-B telemetry from EK521

His analysis is very detailed – but sensible avoids reaching conclusions. An interim report from the investigators is expected within the month.

NDTV has Images Of The Emirates Plane That Burst Into Flames In Dubai

 

A Birmingham legend – Dennis Amiss

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Dennis Amiss was my cricketing hero in the late 1960s and 1970s. A Warwickshire man through and through.

Dad sometimes used to get home early from work and we would head off to Edgbaston for the evening session of a country game. I was still at primary school in Bourneville. I wanted to bat like Bob Barber – except he was a leftie. And I wanted to bowl like David Brown.

Dennis Amiss was just breaking into the Warwickshire team starting as a middle order batsman before moving to opener.

He broke into the Warwickshire side alongside the likes of Bob Barber, MJK Smith, AC Smith, David Brown and Tom Cartwright. Later he played alongside Rohan Kanhai and Alvin Kallicharran.

His England career included playing against some of the fastest bowlers in the world. In 1974/5 he was part of the England tour to Australia terrorised by Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson. There were no helmets then.

He also played against the West Indian pace attack with rather more success than against the Aussies.

His Test debut was: England v West Indies at The Oval, Aug 18-22, 1966
His Last Test: England v Australia at Manchester, Jul 7-12, 1977

Two great innings stand out against the West Indies; 262 not out to save the 1973-74 Kingston Test and 203 at The Oval in 1976. Both supplied ample evidence that Dennis Amiss lacked neither courage nor technique against fast bowling.

In that Oval match Michael Holding took 14 wickets in an attack completed by Andy Roberts, Wayne Daniel and Van Holder.

Of Amiss’s 11 Test hundreds, eight exceeded 150, a higher proportion even than that of Don Bradman. His power, timing and placement through extra cover and midwicket, his two great scoring areas, could sometimes make him uncontrollable.

Sadly Amiss’s dismal record against Australia denied him acceptance as a top-ranking England batsman. Starting with a pair, at Old Trafford in 1968, and later running into Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson at their fastest, he made seven ducks in 21 innings against them, averaging 15.25.

He did well in the early days of limited-overs internationals, scoring England’s first ODI century and averaging 47.

Amiss played in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket in the late 1970s in Australia; during the 1978 World Series Cricket tournament, he became the first player to wear a batting helmet regularly.

Amiss was banned from Test cricket for three years for taking part in the first ‘rebel’ tour of South Africa in 1982. Maybe my biggest disappointment with his career choices although financially it probably made some sense for him. 1970s England cricketers were not paid or sponsored as they are now.

The above interview gives a nice friendly overview of his career.

And I found this great blog on Amiss’ remarkable 262 at Kingston.

THE GREATEST REARGUARD IN TEST HISTORY (……………THAT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF)

Voting no to the junta’s constitution

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Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s analysis of the 7 August 2016 constitutional referendum is sound.

The military government has pulled out every trick to encourage a yes vote. At the same time it has done all it can to silence any no vote campaigning, especially in the north; the heartlands of Puea Thai.

The junta desperately wants a yes vote. They will argue that a yes vote legitimises their 2014 coup and everything that has happened since.

The junta has also been deliberately vague about what happens in the event of a no vote on the 7th.

Whatever the vote; the military will still be in charge. And that is the trouble with the referendum. A yes vote legitimises military rule under a constitution for many years to come. A no vote leaves the military in charge; and they can play the game of drafting another constitution; and taking as long as they wish to do it.

Here is Pavin’s oped in the Japan Times.

Japan Times – Opinion

Thais are being encouraged to cast their vote in an Aug. 7 referendum that could approve a new constitution and therefore legitimize the military government. The referendum is the first step, which requires public participation after more than two years of military rule. In 2014, the army staged a coup overthrowing the elected government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and vowed to make Thailand more democratic and corruption-free.

The military then laid out the so-called road map to democracy and appointed cronies to draft the constitution. The outcome is similar to the one witnessed in Myanmar, with the Tatmadaw, or the Myanmar Armed Forces, taking charge of political reforms with an attempt to preserve a degree of political power for itself. Today, the Tatmadaw holds up to 25 percent of the parliamentary seats. In the Thai case, representatives of the army will sit in the Senate, which will serve as an instrument of the old power, to counterbalance future civilian governments.

The referendum is crucial for the survival of the military regime under the premiership of Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha. If approved, the constitution will add a layer of legitimacy on the coup makers. More importantly, it will give a green light to future steps taken by the junta to complete the road map. This explains why the government is compelled to ensure a positive outcome of the referendum.

Achieving the kind of outcome the military wants won’t be easy. The current draft of the constitution has been criticized as undemocratic and designed to protect the political interests of the military and its allies. For example, it empowers key institutions, including the Constitutional Court and the National Anti-Corruption Commission, to challenge elected governments. In 2008, the Constitutional Court was responsible for removing two elected governments backed by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was perceived as a threat to the traditional elites.

The constitution will also allow independent candidates to run in the next elections. More autonomous parliamentary members would help break the domination of the Lower House by powerful political parties like that of Thaksin. Therefore, it is likely that future governments would be politically vulnerable, wobbly coalitions, leaving them susceptible to manipulation by the traditional elites. On top of this, as indicated in the new constitution, prime ministers would not need to be elected politicians. This would pave the way for old generals to reach the premiership through a non-elective channel.

If the constitution is rejected, it will raise serious questions about the legitimacy of the military government. Pro-democracy activists and academics have called for the resignation of Prayuth should the constitution be disapproved and the junta should open up of the constitutional drafting process for public involvement. So far, Prayuth has shown determination to stay in power no matter what.

The referendum comes at a critical period in Thai politics. Already, one of the Constitutional Drafting Committee members, Norachit Singhaseni, replied to a foreign journalist who asked about the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej that “Thais would spend at least a year in mourning.” Although he said nothing about the referendum being postponed, in reality his death would virtually put all activities in Thailand on hold.

Bhumibol has been sick and in and out of the hospital since 2009. The approaching end of the Bhumibol era was primarily responsible for the coup of 2014. Military elites were anxious about Thailand’s future without the charismatic king, and for them the coup was a response to this anxiety.

The military elites have since striven to maintain their political interests by working closely with other allies in the monarchy network. Because Bhumibol has for many decades remained at the top of the political structure in Thailand, his departure will leave a gigantic vacuum that could bring instability to those in the network. The hope for the heir apparent to gain the same reverence and respect from the public is dim. It is widely assumed that the crown prince will be a less able monarch than his father.

A series of photos released last week by the German tabloid Bild showing Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn at the Munich Airport, clad in a tank top half-shirt barely covering massive yakuza-style tattoo stickers, shocked the Thai public, particularly the royalists. The anxiety they felt prior to the 2014 coup could be reinforced by the recent episode in Germany; they might fear that the new reign could end in disaster. Therefore, with the unpredictability of the next reign, the military has sought to transfer the royal prerogatives, strengthened by Bhumibol, to the judiciary. The military is assigning the judicial institution a role of the ultimate arbitrator in politics.

The transfer of power in this way is largely known as the making of the “deep state.” It transforms the judiciary into a supreme institution that can intervene in politics when deemed necessary, as the king has occasionally done in the past. Defending this constitution means, in part, empowering the legal hands to redefine Thai politics for the benefit of the elites. For the military, the referendum is a matter of great importance.

The future of Thailand is not bright. The military will need to revise the constitution for a third time if it is not approved in the referendum. But the process will prolong the existence of the junta despite intensifying pressure both domestically and internationally. Worse, if it is accepted, Thai democratization will be delayed. The military’s footprints are seen clearly in the constitution. And with an unproven new king on the throne, the military will not want to withdraw itself too quickly from politics.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

Dubai looking spectacular on film


Over the last 5 years, Dubai Film has collaborated with companies like Shotover Camera Systems and Aerial Filmworks to develop the very best technology in the world for Aerial Filmmaking.

Dubai Film has compiled this film from some of Joseph Hutson’s aerial operation over the last 5 years in Dubai with the Shotover P1, Shotover K1, Shotover F1, Cineflex Ultra, Inspire 1, and even some handheld.

To see some of the full-length projects for which Dubai Film was responsible for shooting aerials, see the following:

Burj Khalifa Pinnacle BASE Jump – 4K
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iD4qs…

Emirates: #HelloJetman
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VPvK…

Dream Jump – Dubai 4K
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fhskv…

The Breitling Wingwalkers Soar above Dubai
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xT2l…

Camera Operator: Joseph Hutson
Helicopter Pilots: Andy Nettleton, Andrew Masterson
Excitor Pilot: Nasser Al Neyadi
1st AC: Joel E. Schaeffer
Rigging: Michael Dix. Andy Gribble, Joel E. Schaeffer
Drone Pilot: Ahmad Al Amlah
Producers: Irene Proimos, Marta Espinosa Gironella Gayton
Editor: Joseph Hutson
Executive Producer: Omar Obaid Eisa
Music: “Believe” by Hi-Finesse

Not bad…not bad at all!

Over-reacting to Flydubai safety reports

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The Guardian’s front page today screams (as much as the Guardian ever screams) “Pilots warn of safety fears at budget airline.”

The Guardian has seen 413 air safety reports written by Flydubai flightdeck crew following in a two-month period. These appear to be written earlier this year in the time around the fatal crash of FZ981 at Rostov-on-Don.

A number of the ASRs make reference to the Rostov crash. This inevitably was traumatic for many crew members and no doubt added to stress and fatigue factors at that time.

Of the 413 reports some 40 describe concerns about fatigue. Less than 10%.

Fatigue at FZ is probably less of an issue than at other Middle East carriers. Crews are basically home every day. Yes they are working night or day shifts. These shifts can be long and require some difficult flying. But crews are not away from home; jet-lagged after crossing multiple time-zones; sleepless and then having to fly home 24 hours later.

The other air safety reports also refer to incidents where, it is claimed:

One pilot’s “dangerous” flying technique was criticised by an angry colleague who expressed serious concerns following a particularly harsh “bounced” landing.
A pilot conceded his plane had become uncontrollable and increased speed sharply during a period of severe turbulence.
A senior member of crew was reprimanded after falling asleep in business class during a flight – and nodding off again after he was woken.
A pilot complained his aircraft was unstable because 2,800kg of truffles had been placed in the wrong cargo compartment.

Other reports refer to drunk passengers; bird strikes; laser use; sick passengers or crew or concerns with atc or ground procedures at destination airfields.

There is a huge danger of over-reacting to these reports which the Guardian released last night.

Here is some of the less considered responses on twitter.

Probably best not to use budget airline FlyDubai judging by Grauniad’s front page. 🇬🇧✈️#FlyDubai#airlines#travel

Want to fly #FlyDubai think twice as airline pilots complain of dangerous fatigue in leaked documents #airlinesafety

Worrying news on front of tomorrow’s @guardian re: #FlyDubai pilot exhaustion. Tired/overworked flight crew are a serious risk to air travel

‘Over-tired’ FlyDubai pilots flag concerns about working ‘too many hours’

Pilots at this budget airline say they’re being forced to fly dangerously long hours

I have read through many of the ASRs. The flight crew come out of them pretty well. Sensible; practical and not afraid to say when things are wrong.

What did strike me is the range and complexity of issues the crews have to deal with; particularly across such a diverse network including airfields with (how to be polite) less than first class facilities and unreliable atc.

Remember the Flydubai network includes places and airfields that many people have neither heard of or could find on a map.

The villain in many of the fatigue reports does appear to be the airline’s Network Control Centre and the pressure they put on flight deck crews to complete flights. I suspect the NCC will be criticised in the final Rostov report for encouraging the crew to hold at Rostov rather than divert.

The Guardian report is here:

Airline pilots complain of dangerous fatigue in leaked documents

Flydubai’s response is here:

Flydubai’s response to the leaked air safety reports

The Guardian has published as selection of the ASRs here:

Flydubai flight records – the leaked documents

It is also worth noting that every airline has a mechanism for reporting safety concerns. There is little that is unusual about the Flydubai ASRs.

The good news is that pilots are completing ASRs and clearly assume that they will be read and maybe even acted upon.

The NCC pressures are probably similar to those at any other LCC where it is important to try to get the fleet back to its home base at the end of each day to avoid network disruption.

As an insight into airline operations it is interesting. Any suggestion that flyDubai does not take safety seriously would be erroneous and a misleading conclusion from these reports.

 

Tattoogate

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May 2014 after the coup

The big story uniting Germany and Thailand this week has been “Tattoogate.”

This involves Thailand’s Crown Prince being photographed at Munich Airport showing extensive torso and arm tattoos underneath the smallest of crop tops. The pictures were released by the Bild newspaper last Thursday.

The Crown Prince had with him an entourage of staff, his new wife, a poodle and the crew of his flight.

The report also noted that the Prince has acquired a substantial Bavarian home.

Alerted to the pictures ny ex Reuters colleague, Andrew MacGregor Marshall, posted the pictures and a link to the Bild story on his facebook page.

Andrew works in Australia, no longer with Reuters. Andrew was working in Hong Kong last week.

His Thai wife, Noppawan Bunluesilp (“Ploy”), is also a journalist – ex Reuters and NBC. She was visiting her family in Bangkok, together with their three year old son. Andrew has been unable to return to Thailand since 2011.

At dawn on Friday morning twenty Thai police raided K. Ploy’s family home. Ploy, her three year old son and her father were taken to the Crime Investigation Bureau head office in Bangkok and detained for eight hours. The police examined her computer and mobile phone.

The police made it clear that the raid was the result of Andrew posting the Crown Prince pictures on his personal facebook account.

Pol Lt Gen Thitirat Nongharnpitak, commander of the Central Investigation Bureau in Bangkok, said the photos of the Crown Prince were altered and were ‘deemed inappropriate.’

Thitirat said that Andrew Marshall, together with two Thais, produced pictures and disseminated misinformation via social media and the investigation found that about 30 people were involved, the commissioner said.

No evidence has been produced to support this claim.

According to Agence France-Presse, the commander of Thailand’s Central Investigation Bureau, Thitirat Nongharnpitak, told reporters the pictures were doctored, saying “the culprit is Andrew MacGregor Marshall who has violated lèse-majesté laws for several years.”

A spokeswoman for the Axel Springer SE (the owners of Bild newspaper) clarified: “BILD has verified the authenticity of the photos. The reader-reporter is not Andrew McGregor Marshall. ”

Of course no Thai based newspaper or journalist will dare to say that the pictures are real. Nor will the Thai police withdraw their assertion that the pictures are fake.

They are real.

But what does it matter? How are these pictures inappropriate or insulting to the Crown Prince. They are pictures of him dressed as he wished to dress. And it is not the first time he has been photographed at Munich Airport.

He has to have known that even at a private part of the airfield there would be enough staff or public with mobile phones or cameras ready to take a picture or what was clearly a celebrity arrival.

K. Ploy and her family were released without charge after about eight hours. They are now in Scotland. It is likely that their detention was meant to encourage Andrew Marshall to back off from his reporting on Thailand. That is unlikely to happen.

At some time soon Thailand will be a major global news story as the country manages a traumatic succession. The army wants to control that succession. The media want nothing more than to report events from the country openly and honestly.

New Mandala has three articles on #tattoogate

Royal ink – by Paul Handley

Magic families by Christine Gray

A crown prince and German affairs by Pavin Chachavalpongpun

 

EIU expects constitutional “no” vote in Thai referendum

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Concerns raised over referendum aftermath

Economist Intelligence Unit – 25 July 2016

Event

On July 20th the Platform of Concerned Citizens (PCC), a civil society group consisting of 16 organisations and 117 individuals, released a five-point statement which included calls for open debate on the draft constitution and the disclosure of a contingency plan should the proposed charter not pass a referendum.

Analysis

The PCC’s statement comes amid mounting unease among political actors over the preparedness of the country for the referendum and its aftermath should it fail to be approved by the public. So far the military government has not publicly set out a process to continue the planned transition back to democracy following a possible “no” vote, other than to state that a new constitution draft would be written, a point re–emphasised by the prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, at a press conference on July 21st. However, the junta has previously stated that it could revert to one of Thailand’s previous constitutions should the charter not pass a referendum.

The Economist intelligence Unit believes that the junta will outline a shorter time frame for a new constitution to be drafted than the previous 20-month schedule and use a previous charter as a basis. We expect the inclusion of a public-consultation mechanism in the process, in an effort to reduce popular opposition to the prolonged transition; the PCC’s recent statement called for more stakeholders to be included in the drafting process. However, this may take a form other than a referendum, such as a representative advisory committee.

The junta will not be averse to extending the transition process, as this would allow it more time to attempt to convince the Thai public that it offers more effective economic and political governance than recent elected administrations. However, there is no indication that it has gained political legitimacy in the eyes of the public and will therefore probably have to negotiate larger and more frequent protests, as more citizens become convinced that the junta will not give up control voluntarily. Additionally, the possibility of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death occurring while the junta is in power represents a downside risk to the transition back to democracy: the military government may use this as justification for extending its rule under the pretext of ensuring political stability.

Impact on the forecast

We still expect a “no” vote in the August 7th referendum. The constitution-drafting process will be reinitiated and the military will remain in complete control of government until at least early 2018.

NewLeaf – but for how long?

FlairAirlines_NewLeaf_620
Canada has never really been more than a two airline country. In the past Air Canada basically gobbled up any domestic competition – Canadian, Wardair. Many tried.

Charter airlines came and went with predictable regularity.

Westjet changed that. With (initially) a west Canada focus unlike Montreal based Air Canada. Westjet has become big enough to have permanence.

Porter grew out of Toronto’s downtown airport but is hugely limited by its island based airport with restricted flying hours and turboprops only.

Along comes NewLeaf, the latest air carrier to take to Canada’s skies. The inaugural flight takes off today from Hamilton International Airport to Moncton.

Except that NewLeaf is not an airline. It is a ticket reseller that tries to look like an airline. Kelowna-based Flair Airlines is providing the aircraft and crew.

NewLeaf finally gained approval to fly its 18 routes in March, and resumed ticket sales last month. The airline, considered to be an ultra-low-cost carrier, is hoping to win over Canadians with domestic ticket prices much lower than those of the country’s top carriers.

But with those cheap fares comes a full slate of ancillary fees.

So what does NewLeaf look like.

NewLeaf launches with 12 destinations, all of which are smaller airports: Halifax; Moncton; Hamilton; Winnipeg; Regina; Saskatoon; Edmonton: Kelowna, B.C.; Kamloops; Fort St. John, B.C.; Abbotsford, B.C.; and Victoria.

In what may be an airline first (dont encourage others?) NewLeaf will charge for a large carry-on bag, a fee none of the major Canadian airlines have dared introduce. A small personal item is allowed; basically the size of a laptop case.

Interestingly, the airline charges less for a checked bag. (Carry-on luggage slows down the boarding process, the website explains.)

There may be some logic to that.

Like most airlines nowadays you will pay for advance seat selection; printing your boarding pass at the airport will cost you $10, as opposed to doing so for free at home.

Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and snacks will all be available for purchase during flights.

NewLeaf is flying Boeing 737-400s owned and operated by Kelowna-based Flair Airlines.

NewLeaf avoids any capital or hardware costs but reports of unpaid consultant fees and incomplete arrangements for landing fees have raised concerns on NewLeaf’s viability.

How Russia trashed the Olympic movement

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It is a farce. You train for years. You work. You sacrifice. You compete.

You reach your goal of an Olympic final. Only to be competing against a Russian whose performance has been enhanced by a state-sponsored program of drug abuse.

And what does the IOC do. A slap on the wrist will survive.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was aware Russia ran a state-sponsored doping programme in which the head of that nation’s WADA-accredited lab was a central figure as long ago as the first week of July 2013.

The head of the corrupted lab, Grigory Rodchenkov (right), had been arrested in 2011 for alleged involvement in a doping ring, along with his sister.

Rodchenkov was privately freed to go back to work at the Moscow lab head to oversee the systematic doping corruption of major events including the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi in Russia.

The Sochi Olympics was corrupted on an industrial scale.

Now, after two investigations by the world anti-doping agency (WADA) have shown Russian state-sponsored doping to be a fact the IOC has said Russia was good to compete at Rio.

Two weeks ago the second WADA report was released. The review, led by the highly respected Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, found that the country’s government, security services and sporting authorities colluded to hide widespread doping across “a vast majority” of winter and summer sports.

The IOC labelled the findings “a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sports and on the Olympics.”

Here is McLaren’s summary report in PDF format:

RICHARD H. MCLAREN INDEPENDENT PERSON WADA INVESTIGATION OF SOCHI ALLEGATIONS

McLaren admitted that his report, which had taken 57 days to produce, was only a “thin slice” of what might be out there – there are likely other nations with doping programs but the Russian program and its relevance to the Sochi Games were the most high profile abuse of sport.

The central finding of McLaren’s investigation was that Russian athletes “from the vast majority of summer and winter Olympic sports” had benefited from what he called “the Disappearing Positive Methodology” which had become state policy after the country’s poor medal count during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

The report found that all organs of the state were involved, including the Russian sports ministry, the Russian security service the FSB, and the Centre of Sports Preparation of National Teams of Russia (CSP).

The Russians were effectively robbing athletes from all over the world who of their Olympic dreams and even of such basic things as access to funding for training and development.

Last month Russia’s track and field stars were banned from the Rio Olympic Games by the IAAF, the governing body of athletics.

Despite a mountain of hard evidence about a long-standing, wide-ranging endemic doping problem across Russian sport, the IOC decided not to put a blanket ban on Russia at Rio 2016.

The IOC has said that rather than ban Russia from the Rio games, the governing bodies of each individual sport should decide on Russia’s participation.

The McLaren report revealed that hundreds of Russian sportsmen and women were provided with banned performance-enhancing drugs over many years.

This was often done by coaches, with the support of governing bodies, and in the knowledge of senior figures meant to prevent doping – including officials at the Russian sports ministry, the Russian anti-doping agency, and the WADA lab controlled by Rodchenkov.

Not only were the sportspeople allowed to dope, and encouraged to dope, but they were also protected if they tested positive; their samples were corruptly recorded as clean. And, in some cases, athletes who were clean had their clean samples tainted to become positive so that favoured dirty athletes were given preferential access to certain major sports events instead of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russia continues to regard the doping evidence as western politically-driven propaganda, ignoring the fact that every key source was a Russian sick of institutional cheating.

Russia’s state-run doping programme included supplying banned performance-enhancing substances to at least 15 medal winners and substituting tainted urine samples with clean ones during the Games so that they passed doping tests.

In evidence to WADA Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory from 2005-15, claimed he helped dozens of Russian athletes with a cocktail of banned substances including metenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone which he mixed with alcohol. To improve the absorption of the steroids and shorten the detection window, he dissolved the drugs in Chivas whisky for male athletes and Martini vermouth for women.

Among those Rodchenkov claims to have helped cheat were the bobsleigher Alexander Zubkov, who won two golds in Sochi; the cross-country skier Alexander Legkov, who won gold and silver; and Alexander Tretiakov, who won gold in the skeleton competition. Rodchenkov also claimed the women’s ice hockey team, who were knocked out in the quarter-finals, were doping throughout the Games.

Rodchenkov said Russian anti-doping experts and members of the FSB, the Russian intelligence service, secretly replaced urine samples containing banned substances of medal winners with clean urine. To do this they set up a shadow laboratory in Sochi, having found a way to break into supposedly tamper-proof bottles.

In a development that could have come out of the pages of a John le Carré novel, the Russians set up a secret shadow laboratory – room 124 – at the official drug-testing site. During the night, when no one else was around, tainted samples from Russian athletes would be passed through a small hole in the floor to this shadow laboratory, where they were replaced with clean urine from athletes collected months earlier. The elaborate procedure allowed Russian athletes to continue taking banned substances during the Games, given them an advantage over their rivals.

Just bizarre.

Predictably, the Russians topped the medal table in Sochi with 33 medals, including 13 golds, a stark improvement on the previous Winter Olympics in Vancouver where they finished only 11th with 15 medals. None of their athletes were caught doping in Sochi. However Rodchenkov said that as many as 100 dirty urine samples were expunged during the Games.

Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, calls the allegation “a continuation of the information attack on Russian sport”. He told the agency Tass: “The system of organisation of the Olympic Games was completely transparent. Everything was under the control of international experts, from the collection of samples to their analysis.”

The IOC leverages billions in broadcasting and sponsorship revenue from the five rings. Thomas Bach, the IOC president is close to Putin.

Complacency and compromise are the IOC solution. Principles and values. No thank you.

The Russian doping program was undertaken in a spirit of absolute cynicism in total contravention of the supposed ideals of the Olympics.

 

For scale and cynicism the Russian system, for now, stands alone. That is why it would have been right to make an example of it, even if that resulted in a very high price for some athletes just a fortnight before the Games.

Having unambiguously nailed the IOC’s colours to the mast of anti-doping, this last Olmpic value has been thrown to the wind. The IOC has shown itself to be morally bankrupt. It should be ashamed. And so should anyone involved in Russian sport.

Stop blaming others. Russia cheated. Russians stole medals. Russia needs to clean up its sport and its athletes. Then she can compete under the real Olympic values.