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Monday, May 21, 2018

New Report Finds Risks Associated With Maintaining Airlines Outside The U.S.


Roland and I travel a lot overseas, and sometimes we wind up on funky internal airlines in places like Mali, India, Vietnam, Morocco, Hungary, Argentina, Thailand... We pray to the maintenance gods that everything was done competently and tell ourselves that it was all done under U.S. or U.K. supervision, knowing full well that it wasn't and wondering about how many corners were cut. Today I got a memo from the Transport Workers Union of America (AFL-CIO) in DC. The title is above, The subtitle is no less assuring: Ridge Global Report Says Safety and Security Concerns of Commercial Aviation Better Addressed When Repair and Maintenance is Performed in the U.S. The report itself is called Risks Associated With Foreign Repair Stations.
Airline passengers may be less safe when the plane they are flying on has been repaired or maintained in a foreign country. That is among the conclusions of a risk-based report by Ridge Global, a firm founded by former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on risks associated with the use of foreign repair stations by the U.S. airline industry.

The Transport Workers of America contracted with Gov. Ridge’s firm, Ridge Global, LLC, to assess the safety and security risks associated with foreign-based repair and overhaul facilities. The Transport Workers Union represents more than 140,000 workers in the airline, rail, subway, bus, utility and service industries.

Nearly 50-percent of maintenance work done by air carriers registered in the United States, including the major airlines, is conducted outside the United States. The facilities in foreign countries where commercial aircraft are repaired and maintained, however, are not as secure as those in the United States, the report states. Protections against unauthorized access are not as strong, and employee background checks are not as thorough, as those in the United States.

“Both conditions increase risks related to situations that could be more easily exploited by terrorists or individuals with harmful intent,” the Ridge Global report states.

“The Ridge Global Report exposes significant flaws in the mechanical maintenance practices of the United States airline industry,” TWU International President John Samuelsen, said. “Major air carriers’ lust for profits has driven them to fix planes on foreign soil, which has compromised the safety and security of America’s air travelers. It’s the dangerous dirty secret of America’s airlines, and the U.S. government must act to end this danger.”

“There are obvious disparities between domestic and foreign oversight and repair of commercial airlines,” said Gov. Ridge. “While there have thankfully been few U.S. aviation incidents in recent years, even one is too many, and so it is important travelers are aware how airplanes they fly on each day are maintained. Given the absence of direct oversight by the FAA and the differences described in our report, the qualifications of those responsible for oversight and those maintaining and repairing the aircraft in foreign countries cannot be viewed as meeting the same rigorous standards of inspection and repair as required in the U.S.”

The mechanics that do this critically important work at facilities located overseas, are not subject to the same intense scrutiny by government regulators, or held to the same high standards as mechanics in America, the report states.

One of the most significant disparities in terms of regulatory oversight deals with drug and alcohol testing requirements. Testing is mandated in the U.S. Employment and privacy laws in many foreign countries prevent such testing. Another contrast involves the inspection process itself. FAA domestic inspections can be random and without notice. That approach is prohibited in foreign countries.

“Foreign repair stations present risks that domestic ones do not,” the report further states. “These risks are due in part, to how laws and regulations are applied. We concluded that the safety and security concerns of commercial aviation are better addressed when the repair and maintenance is done in the United States.”
"Republican outsourcing in the Age of Trump" would have been another possible title, I guess. A tad too provocative, maybe?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Trump Slump Is Costing The U.S. Thousands Of Jobs And Billions Of Dollars In The Tourism Industry





I started traveling out of the U.S. while I was still a kid. I was just a teenager when my girlfriend and I decided to hitchhike from Long Island to the North Pole. We only got as far as Montreal... but we loved it. The following summer my pal Bob and I hitchhiked to Mexico City. Fantastic. And when I graduated from college, it was only $100 to fly to Luxembourg if you stopped for at least a night in Iceland. My girlfriend and I met a couple of teachers on the plane who were planning a week-long excursion, driving around the island and we joined them. Then we went to Luxembourg, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco and England. The travel bug was not sated. When Margin went back to the U.S. to finish school, I set off in my VW van across Europe, adding Austria, Hungary what was then Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal to the list of countries I had been through-- before settling down in Holland for a few years-- and taking vacations in Sweden, Finland, Greece, France and Morocco. Since then I'vebeen to over 100 countries. I still love travel. Roland and I just got back from Thailand and we brought our friend David-- his first trip there-- who got attacked by a monkey who broke his shoulder and fractured a bunch of toes. Here's the culprit:


The Thai monkey that got David


The Thais are way too polite to bring up Trump. Even the ones we revery friendly with never mentioned Señor Trumpanzee. But, Thailand is crawling with Europeans who aren't polite in that way at all. Everywhere we went Europeans asked us, "How could you?" We explained to a Danish woman on a Chao Phraya water "bus" that California's results were 8,753,788 (61.73%) to 4,483,810 (31.62%) and she couldn't stop talking about how almost 4 and a half million Californians could vote for Trump. (David, who hadn't been attacked by the monkey yet, wanted to throw her into the Chao Phraya. But, generally speaking, everyone we met who wasn't a Thai, had something negative to say about Trump. It wasn't unlike-- just more intense-- than it was when Nixon and Bush were presidents. I just read that the the negative feelings in Haiti were so intense that the U.S. was U.S. had to shut down the embassy in Port-au-Prince. Trump is in Davos-- and Swiss people are protesting and letting him know he isn't welcome. "[D]emonstrators marched through the Swiss city chanting 'Trump not welcome,' with some carrying banners and placards reading 'dump the Trump' and 'Switzerland is hosting Nazis,' an AFP reporter said, putting the turnout at over 1,000." Thousand more people marched in Zurich and Lausanne... 'Trump is the incarnation of sexism, racism, exploitation and corruption,'" said one demonstrator. So what? Trump doesn't care.

But the U.S. tourism does. Travel + Leisure reported that "The United Nations World Tourism Organization announced last week that Spain overtook the United States as the second-most visited destination in the world (France remains number one) in 2017. The U.S. welcomed 72.9 million foreign visitors last year-- down about four percent from the previous year’s 75.9 million." Katherine Lugar, CEO of American Hotel & Lodging Association, pointed out that "Fewer visitors means fewer hotel stays, fewer meals eaten in our restaurants, fewer goods purchased in our retail stores, and fewer visits to our national attractions. It also means fewer American jobs and a loss to our economy."
The Pew Research Center found that unfavorable views of the U.S. in 37 countries increased 13 percent in the six months that Trump was in office. In response to a New York Times post, Europeans “overwhelmingly cited the Trump administration and its policies as reasons for avoiding or canceling trips to the United States,” according to the paper.
The Trump Slump in American tourism has cost our country 40,000 jobs and $4.6 billion. The U.S. News and World Review reported on Tuesday that on their list of best countries the U.S. has slipped to the #8 spot and they attribute it to Trump. His first year in the White House rattled the world confidence. Ian Bremmer, president of the political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group explained recently that the most prominent causes for global insecurity stem from Trumpanzee's move away from global leadership, and China's eagerness to fill the perceived vacuum.
The United States slips in this year's U.S. News Best Countries ranking, dropping to the No. 8 spot after falling one position from its 2017 ranking. Switzerland, an island of stable prosperity in a world of turmoil, remains the Best Country, according to a global survey of more than 21,000 persons.

The reasons for America's drop-- the second straight year its ranking dipped-- are fueled by the world's perceptions of the country becoming less progressive and trustworthy, more politically unstable and a president who after just a year in office is far more unpopular than any other head of state or company CEO.

As in 2017, Canada remains the No. 2 in the survey. Germany, as it was in 2016, is perceived as the most powerful country in Europe-- surpassing the U.K. to place at No. 3 overall, while the U.K. drops to No. 4. Japan rounds out the top five, the highest finish for a nation in Asia, a region which survey respondents increasingly believe holds many of the keys to the world's future. At No. 6 is Sweden and Australia moves up to the No. 7 position, surpassing the U.S.

...The Best Countries rankings come just days after Trump celebrates his first year as U.S. president. The U.S. is still seen as the most powerful nation. In many ways, however, the results reflect 12 months of ongoing signs of the decline of America's standing in the world. In this sense, a noticeable "Trump Effect" is taking hold of the U.S.
Here's the 2018 ranked list of 20 best countries:

1- Switzerland
2- Canada
3- Germany
4- U.K.
5- Japan
6- Sweden
7- Australia
8- Trumpland
9- France

10- Netherlands
11- Denmark
12- Norway
13- New Zealand
14- Finland
15- Italy
16- Singapore
17- Austria
18- Luxembourg
19- Spain
20- China

Trump's favorite country, Russia, is #26 and at the very bottom of the list, at #80, is Algeria. By the way, I've been to every country on the list and I don't agree with the evaluation at all. I hate Switzerland and the U.S., despite Trump is still the best.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Finally Found It... The Huts Of Mali


After Trumpanzee's comments about "shithole countries" and "African huts," I searched and searched through my Mali and Senegal pictures looking for huts. I finally found one (above, in remote Dogon country where not many people have ever heard of the U.S.) but most of these photos-- of Roland, primarily in Timbuktu and Djenne-- had no huts. There were fishing huts on an island near Mopti in the Delta that the Bozos used, but I can't find any photos. And there are no huts in Dakar in Senegal or in Bamako in Mali. Sorry, Señor Trumpanzee.