VW has no plans for plugin hybrids in the US as it

first_imgChevrolet CorvetteMoving up from the 10th-place slot last year is the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette. While we’ve all been ogling the new mid-engine Corvette, it’s easy to forget what a performance bargain the current-generation ‘Vette is. From the base trim to the Grand Sport to the bonkers ZR1, the Corvette is an American icon.My preference is for the Grand Sport, which strikes a perfect balance between everyday drivability and canyon-carving performance. The 6.2-liter V8 puts out 460 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. You can get it with a seven-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission, but the kicker is the borrowed chassis and aero parts from the beefier Z06. Like I said, perfect balance. The Corvette is made in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Volkswagen’s ID Crozz looks electrifying in red 2020 BMW M340i review: A dash of M makes everything better 68 Photos 36 Photos 2020 Hyundai Palisade review: Posh enough to make Genesis jealous 2020 Kia Telluride review: Kia’s new SUV has big style and bigger value 2019 GMC Sierra Denali review: So close to greatness 2019 Acura MDX adds new features and an A-Spec model Jeep CherokeeKeeping its top-of-the-list placement, the Jeep Cherokee is 2019’s most American-made car. Refreshed for 2019, the compact crossover now features more tech, better cargo space and a slightly tweaked look. It’s available in no fewer the nine trims, including the off-road specific Trailhawk and a fancy-pants Trailhawk Elite.For 2019, the Cherokee gets a new 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine with 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, though naturally aspirated I4 and V6 choices are also available. Regardless of engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission gets the power to the pavement — or dirt as the case may be. The Cherokee is made in Belvidere, Illinois. 26 Photos 49 Photos Acura MDXMoving up one slot to sixth place on the American Made Index is the non-hybrid variant of the Acura MDX. With its SH-AWD system, the MDX is one of the better handling midsize luxury crossovers, and for 2019 the company gives us the A-Spec treatment with a new front fascia and side skirts, 20-inch wheels, wider exhaust tips, unique gauges, a new steering wheel, carbon fiber trim and various Alcantara interior touches.However, both the standard and A-Spec models get a 3.5-liter V6 engine, rated for 290 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque going through a nine-speed automatic transmission. The Acura MDX is made in East Liberty, Ohio.  2019 Honda Ridgeline review: Light duty, heavy punch 71 Photos Tags 2019 Acura RDX A-Spec: Sharp handling, sharper looks 2019 Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison: An off-road animal 18 Photos Share your voice 2019 Honda Ridgeline: The commuter’s pickup truck 69 Photos 81 Photos Volkswagen Acura RDXThe third-generation Acura RDX squeaks into the top ten list with larger proportions, plenty of interior space and better handling than its predecessor. Forward collision warning with collision mitigation braking, adaptive cruise control that works even in low-speed traffic, lane-keeping steering assist and road departure mitigation are all standard across the board. Like its MDX counterpart, the RDX is available with the A-Spec styling package.The RDX sports a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine. Output is stated at 273 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, and it’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The new RDX is built in East Liberty, Ohio. General Motors Chevrolet Honda Jeep Acura 2019 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport loves to hustle Honda PassportThe Honda Passport is a new (well, reborn) entry to both the Honda lineup and the American Made Index. This midsize crossover comes to the fray with great driving dynamics and plenty of tech like the standard Honda Sensing suite of active safety features. An available 8-inch touchscreen gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as a Wi-Fi hotspot.Under the hood is the stalwart 3.5-liter V6 producing 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. However unlike the Ridgeline, the Passport sends that power through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Having said that, just like the Ridgeline, this is the only powertrain available. The Honda Passport is built in Lincoln, Alabama.center_img 2019 Honda Pilot Elite: A smoother, tech-rich crossover SUV 2019 Honda Odyssey offers plenty of room and features for families GMC CanyonIf you’re looking for a slightly fancier version of the Colorado that’s more focused on luxe than dirt, check out the GMC Canyon. The top Denali trim gets standard heated and ventilated front seats as well as a heated steering wheel. Maximum payload capability is 1,665 pounds while max towing is a fairly healthy 7,600 pounds.The Canyon is available with the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, 3.6-liter V6 or 2.8-liter diesel as the Chevrolet Colorado. It’s also built in Wentzville, Missouri. Electric Cars Hybrids Comment More From Roadshow 2019 Honda Passport: A well-rounded midsize offering 2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison: A tougher off-roader 1 Honda OdysseyThe feature-rich Honda Odyssey minivan also retains its number-two slot from last year’s list. While the 2019 model doesn’t see any changes from last, it’s still a darn good choice for families on the go with reconfigurable seats, Wi-Fi and an excellent rear-seat entertainment system. The Cabin Watch video system lets parents keep an eye on their little darlings without turning around in their seats, while Cabin Talk amplifies their voice so no yelling is required.The Odyssey is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 rated for 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Most trims get a nine-speed automatic but the top Touring and Elite trims now use a 10-speed automatic with stop-start technology. The Honda Odyssey is made in Lincoln, Alabama. 2019 GMC Canyon: A fancier Colorado Honda RidgelineAgain keeping the status quo, the Honda Ridgeline maintains third place on the American Made Index. This crossover-that-looks-like-a-truck provides a better ride than a traditional pickup and gets an awesome lockable trunk right in the floor of the bed. And it doesn’t do the truck stuff too badly, either, as it’s able to carry 1,860 pounds of payload and tow 3,500 pounds.The Ridgeline is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 good for 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. That is channeled through a six-speed automatic transmission with available all-wheel drive. It’s built in Lincoln, Alabama. Share your voice 52 Photos Tags Volkswagen,Enlarge ImageIt’s all in a day’s work for the Jeep Cherokee, the most American-made car in 2019. Jeep With high trade tensions looming and increasing talk of tariffs, more and more consumers are looking to buy American. Cars.com has released its annual American Made Index, showcasing companies that use the most American-sourced parts and labor in their vehicles. The results may surprise you.Cars.com analyzed more than 100 US-built vehicles for five key data points: manufacturing location, parts sourcing, US employment, engine sourcing and transmission sourcing. You might think something like the Ford F-150 would top the list, but it drops from its No. 5 spot for 2018 and out of the top 10 completely. Even the first-place holder, the Jeep Cherokee, is a pretty global product. It’s a Jeep, sure, but that brand is part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, an Italian-owned business.Cars.com surveyed 1,000 people and found that half are concerned about automotive import tariffs, with 41% saying they are unsure if tariffs would make them more likely to buy American. Either way, we’re big fans of all the vehicles on this list. These days, buying American doesn’t necessarily mean sticking with a US-based automaker. Chevrolet ColoradoMaking its debut in the top 10 is the Chevrolet Colorado. Shown here in the tough ZR2 Bison off-road spec, the Chevy Colorado is an excellent truck and one of the two midsize pickups you can get with a diesel engine. Adding to the ZR2’s two-inch lift and front and rear locking differentials, the Bison gets beefier skid plates (trust me, that’s a good thing), steel bumpers and integrated recovery points. Heck, you can even get a snorkel.Base models get a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with a six-speed manual transmission, but a more popular choice is the 3.6-liter V6 gas engine with 308 horsepower and 275 pound-feet of torque, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Meanwhile, the 2.8-liter diesel pumps out 186 horsepower and a delicious 369 pound-feet of twist and is mated to a six-speed automatic. The Chevy Colorado is built in Wentzville, Missouri. More From Roadshow 2019 Jeep Cherokee can handle the rough stuff Honda PilotDropping down to seventh place for 2019 is the Honda Pilot. Like its two-row Passport sibling, the three-row Pilot offers parent-focused technology like Cabin Talk as well as myriad standard driver-assistance features through the Honda Sensing tech suite. Honda’s largest crossover offers up nearly 84 cubic feet of cargo space. Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 engine shows up again, making a serviceable 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Touring and Elite trims get a nine-speed automatic transmission while lower trims have to make do with a six-speed auto. The Honda Pilot is made in Lincoln, Alabama. 10 Photos 4 The ID Crozz, shown in concept form, will be the first of VW’s new EVs to come to the US market. Volkswagen A few years ago, it seemed like every automaker was talking about plans to bring plug-in hybrid (PHEV) cars to market. After all, they seemed like a good compromise, offering short-range electric mobility for the city, while packing a gas engine to assuage any range anxiety about battery life. But for Volkswagen, plug-in hybrids are a thing of the past: The automaker will focus on all-electric cars and has no plans for any PHEVs in the US market.”It’s a bridging technology,” between internal-combustion and full-electric cars, Matthew Renna, Volkswagen North America Region’s vice president of e-mobility, told journalists in Chicago on Thursday. “It’s very cost-prohibitive to have two different powertrains on one platform.”It’s important to note that Renna’s statement applies only to the VW brand in the US. He said that other Volkswagen Group brands, such as Porsche, could still sell PHEVs, and that Europe or other markets might also pursue the technology.Volkswagen has made no secret of the fact that its future involves launching a range of battery-electric cars on its new MEB platform. The cars, which so far have been called the ID family, will be built at multiple factories around the world, including at an expanded facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The first ID-family electrics should arrive at the end of next year as VW aims to make EVs cars, “For millions, not millionaires,” Renna said.To that end, Renna promised that Volkswagen will sell the electric cars in all 50 US states. Some affordable EVs have launched only in so-called ZEV states — California and other states with specific mandates requiring the sale of electric cars — or regions with existing high EV sales. But VW intends to offer the new models as widely as possible.”The plan is to sell nationwide,” Renna said. “The goal is a nationwide roll-out ASAP.” Comments Car Industry 12 Photoslast_img read more

Who will win ICC World Cup Captains pick their favourites ahead of

first_imgThe ICC World Cup 2019 has well and truly begun. The different captains addressed a press conference ahead of the campaign and answered a host of questions. The biggest question which was asked, revolved around the side which would go ahead and win the World Cup. While the captains conceded that it would be a very closely contested tournament, they all pretty much believed that England is the favourites. This is what the different captains had to stay at the press conference: Captains pose with the ICC Cricket World CupICCAaron Finch, Australia captainThe Australian captain welcomed both David Warner and Steve Smith back in the fold and believed his side is very confident about defending their title.”I think, England has been in great form over the last couple of years and along with India, they’ve probably been the standout performers. So you’d have to say England are definitely the favourites.”Virat Kohli, India captain: Virat KohliHannah Peters/Getty Images”The way I look at it, there’s always going to be a huge fan-base for us anywhere we play in the world. But I have to agree with Aaron, I think England is probably – in their conditions – the strongest side in this tournament.He further added, “But I also agree with Morgs, that all ten teams are well balanced and strong. The fact that this is a tournament where we have to play everyone once, makes it all the more challenging. I think that’s going to be the best thing about this tournament, I see this as probably one of the most competitive World Cups that people are going to see.”Eoin Morgan, England captainEngland skipper Eoin Morgan said, “I don’t think anyone is head and shoulders above anyone else. These are the ten best teams in the world, it will be extraordinarily competitive and some quality cricket will be played so we are really looking forward to it.””Every captain sitting here would lose their left leg to play in a World Cup final at the home of cricket. It’s something every one of us would have dreamed of as a kid. We are as best prepared as we can be. We just want to play that first game now,” Morgan added.Faf du Plessis, South captainThe South African captain wants to be the first skipper to lead his side to the finals of this marquee event and wants his side to play with a lot of freedom on the day. He also believed that the bowlers of the different sides hold the key and they might well be the difference at the end of the day.”We are all really excited to try out this new tournament, to play every once I think is great. The way we use our resources will be vital, but every team has match winning bowlers that will have a big say in the successes of the side.””I think the bowlers will win it, the teams still in it towards the end of the tournament will be the teams that have done really well with the ball,” du Plessis said.Sarfaraz Ahmed, Pakistan captainThe Pakistan skipper sounded confident about his side being able to replicate the performance of the 2017 Champions Trophy.”All the teams are really balanced. I think people are going to watch some great cricket. Since winning the World Cup in 1992, making the final in 1999 here in England and the Champions Trophy in 2017, we are confident we will do well,” Sarfaraz said.Kane Williamson, New Zealand captainBack in 2015, New Zealand stumbled in the final against Australia, but the skipper is hopeful that his side can lay their hands on the coveted trophy this time. “There are a few guys in the squad from the last World Cup, which is great. But four years in between means there are a lot of new players. There have been talks about rankings, favourites, underdogs but what stands out is how balanced it is. Which means anything can happen on the day, which is so exciting,” Williamson said.Jason Holder, West Indies captainWest Indies are widely tipped to be the team to watch out for and the skipper believes this format allows his side to give it their best shot.”It is a very exciting format. In the past, you could play five or six games, and that could be it. To play every side is great for us. We worked hard in the qualifiers to get here, which means we are in the top ten in the world, we want to play them all and give ourselves a shot. The team that wins will definitely deserve it.”Dimuth Karunaratne, Sri Lanka captainSri Lanka appointed a new skipper in Dimuth Karunaratne just before the World Cup and the captain believes his side is in good shape since they came early to acclimatise to the conditions. “We have great experience in England, we came here early to get used to the conditions and we are in good shape, hoping to do our best. It is not going to be easy though. We are confident and we will take each game at a time.”Gulbadin Naib, Afghanistan captainPerhaps the most exciting team in the competition, Afghanistan can be giant slayers on any particular day and the new skipper wants his side to enjoy themselves in front of packed houses.”We are excited to be here, in front of the cricket world and to play the best teams. To represent Afghanistan in the World Cup feels great and we are looking forward to it. There will be a huge audience at home in all the different provinces. Cricket is not just a sport now, in Afghanistan it has become something else.”Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladesh captainWith a good mix of youth and experience, Bangladesh looks like a settled unit and can be a threat in this format and this is what their captain Mashrafe Mortaza is banking on.”We have got a great bunch of boys, a good mix of seniors and juniors coming on. Cricket is a game that anyone on their day can beat anybody. If we start well we can hang in there. We are confident that we will do well, but a lot depends on the start,” Mortaza said.last_img read more

Nissan exchairman Carlos Ghosn formally charged in financial misconduct case

first_imgCarlos Ghosn, Chairman of NissanNissanTokyo prosecutors on Monday indicted former Nissan Motor chairman Carlos Ghosn for under-reporting his earnings over five years leading to March 2015 and issued an arrest warrant for additional charges.Ghosn, 64, was arrested in Tokyo on November 19 for allegedly failing to report 5 billion yen ($44 million) of his salary to the authorities, reports Efe news.Ghosn, whose detention period was to end on Monday, has also been issued with an arrest warrant for further charges, according to the prosecutors’ documents.Nissan was also indicted in the case, with documents saying that the company had also committed irregularities in its financial statements.Former Nissan Representative Director Greg Kelly was also indicted for conspiring with Ghosn and has been re-arrested.According to one of the documents, between 2011 and 2015, Ghosn reported half of what was agreed with Nissan. However, discrepancies over the three subsequent years are much greater.Ghosn remains the chairman and CEO of Renault, which has an alliance with Nissan.He was removed from the Mitsubishi chairman post, the third company in the two-decade-long alliance.According to the reports, the payment amount not declared by Ghosn was part of compensation he was to receive after leaving the company.last_img read more

India flood toll hits 324

first_imgIndian passengers travel in a truck to a safer place as flood waters ravaged the National Highway 47 in Ernakulam district of Kochi, in the Indian state of Kerala, on 17 August 2018. Troop reinforcements stepped up desperate rescue attempts in India`s flood-stricken Kerala state on 17 August after more than 100 bodies were found in a day and a half, taking the crisis death toll to at least 164. Photo: AFPThe death toll from floods that have triggered landslides and sent torrents sweeping through villages in the Indian state of Kerala trebled Friday to 324, authorities said, amid warnings of worse weather to come.Hundreds of troops and local fishermen are staging desperate rescue attempts with helicopters and boats across the southern state, which draws international tourists to its tropical hills and beaches.Kerala has been battered by record monsoon rainfall this year and is “facing the worst floods in 100 years”, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a Twitter statement, adding that 324 lives had been lost so far.With thousands still trapped, power and communication lines down and fresh alerts of further torrential rain, authorities warned of more trouble ahead and further deaths to come.”We are deploying more boats and army to ramp up rescue operations,” senior state government official P.H. Kurian told AFPMore than 30 military helicopters and 320 boats are attempting rescues across Kerala.Authorities said thousands of people have been taken to safety so far but 6,000 more are still waiting for rescue.India residents stand on the shore as Periyar river flooded following monsoon rains at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on 16 August, 2018. Photo: AFPHelicopters have also been dropping emergency food and water supplies, while special trains carrying drinking water have been sent to Kerala.According to India’s weather bureau, since the beginning of June more than 321 centimetres (126 inches) of rain has fallen on the hilly central Kerala district of Idukki, which is now virtually cut off from the rest of the state.With no end in sight to the deluge, people all over the state of 33 million people have made panic-stricken appeals on social media for help, saying they cannot make contact with rescue services.”My family and neighbouring families are in trouble,” wrote Ajo Varghese, a resident of the coastal city of Alappuzha, in a Facebook post that quickly went viral.”No water and food. Not able to communicate from afternoon. Mobile phones are not reachable… Please help,” he added.- ‘Extremely grave’ -Other messages have been sent from people trapped inside temples and hospitals as well as their homes.The Kerala government has said it faces an “extremely grave” crisis and state chief minister Vijayan warned of a new wave of rainfall hitting the battered region over the weekend. Strong winds have also been predicted for Saturday and Sunday.Indian navy and rescue personnel evacuate local residents in a boat at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on 16 August, 2018. Photo: AFPThe gates of dozens of dams and reservoirs across the state have been opened as water levels reach danger levels, inundating many other villages.North and central Kerala have been worst-hit by the floods with the international airport in the main city of Kochi shut until at least 26 August.At least 220,000 people displaced from across the state are taking shelter in more than 1,500 relief camps.On top of tourist cancellations, Kerala’s valuable rubber industry has been badly hit by the floods.The government says 10,000 kilometres (6,000 miles) of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged, along with thousands of homes.News reports said electricity supplies to more than half the state have been cut. The state power company said that only one million people were affected, however.The home ministry announced meanwhile that 868 people have been reported dead in seven Indian states including Kerala since the start of the monsoon in June.last_img

US Company Turned Blind Eye To Wild Behavior On Iraq Base

first_img Share Associated PressThis undated photo obtained by the Associated Press shows an Iraqi bodyguard hired by Sallyport Global to protect VIPs. When a Toyota SUV was stolen from Balad air base, he became the chief suspect and was linked to a dangerous Iran-backed militia and was viewed by investigators as “a hard-core recruit to become a terrorist who poses a serious threat to all personnel on this base.”WASHINGTON (AP) — The two American investigators felt a sense of foreboding that Sunday as they headed to an emergency meeting with their boss on the Iraqi air base. But they didn’t expect to be surrounded by armed guards, disarmed, detained against their will — and fired without explanation.It was March 12 — less than two months ago. Robert Cole and Kristie King were in Iraq working as investigators for Sallyport Global, a U.S. company that was paid nearly $700 million in federal contracts to secure Balad Air Base, home to a squadron of F-16 fighter jets as part of the U.S.-led coalition to annihilate the Islamic State.Cole and King had spent more than a year together in Iraq investigating all manner of misconduct at Balad and beyond.They’d uncovered evidence that Sallyport employees were involved in sex trafficking, they said. Staff on base routinely flew in smuggled alcohol in such high volumes that a plane once seesawed on the tarmac under the weight. Rogue militia stole enormous generators off the base using flatbed trucks and a 60-foot crane, driving past Sallyport security guards.Managers repeatedly shut down Cole and King’s investigations and failed to report their findings to the U.S. government that was footing the bill, the investigators said.Right before they were fired, Cole and King had opened an investigation into allegations of timesheet fraud among Sallyport employees. In a call with Sallyport lawyers, they said, they were advised to keep two sets of books about potential crimes and contract violations.“One for the government to see and one for the government not to see,” King told The Associated Press.In a statement to the AP, Sallyport said it follows all contracting rules at the base, home to the F-16s that are a key to the fight against the Islamic State.“Sallyport has a strong record of providing security and life support services in challenging war zones like Iraq and plays a major but unheralded role in the war against ISIS,” Chief Operating Officer Matt Stuckart wrote. “The company takes any suggestion of wrongdoing at Balad very seriously.”More than 150 documents obtained by AP, as well as interviews with more than a half-dozen former or current Sallyport employees, show how a contractor ran amok after being hired for lucrative and essential combat support operations. The investigators and other witnesses describe grave security breaches and illegal schemes that went unreported until the government asked about them.The point behind requiring contractors to employ their own investigators was to limit the waste and corruption that has marred federal security contracting going back to the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.The Pentagon’s own auditors, who were frequently on the base 50 miles north of Baghdad, were not told of the serious problems until early this year, a potential violation of law. The Pentagon auditors’ reports, obtained by the AP, detail dozens of more minor infractions. That gap illustrates the limits of U.S. oversight for billions of dollars in contracts run by companies that have cashed in on the fight to protect Americans from extremism.The Defense Department declined to comment.The morning of March 12, King had gone to church and was still carrying her Bible when she and Cole walked into the office foyer for the meeting with the boss. To their astonishment, they were immediately surrounded by armed security guards and forced to turn over the 9 mm pistols they both routinely carried on the job.The boss, David Saffold, informed them they were being fired but wouldn’t say why.“We knew too much,” King told AP in an interview at her home in Amarillo, Texas. “They want to cover it up and move on because it’s a huge amount of money.”____BODYGUARD OR TERRORIST?In 2004, Rob Cole was a retired California police officer and licensed private investigator when he decided to go to Iraq for a series of contracting jobs. Like many U.S. contractors working in hazardous regions, he went because the work paid a lot more than he could make back home.Americans have been at Balad on and off since 2003. Sallyport’s parent company, Michael Baker International, announced in 2014 its subsidiaries had been awarded $838 million for work on the base.Cole’s first job at Balad was cut short in June 2014, a month after he arrived, when the Islamic State group began sweeping across Iraq and Syria. The extremists ultimately made it to the gates of Balad, which was evacuated.When the Americans went back, they found a looted base largely under the control of Iranian-backed Shiite militias that were supporting the Iraqi government, according to former employees. A former senior manager told the AP that Sallyport reached an understanding with the militias that they would not enter the flight and residential areas. He declined to be named because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter and didn’t want to be blacklisted from future jobs.Cole, now 62, returned to Balad in May 2015, as Sallyport was preparing for the arrival of American F-16s sold to the Iraqi government. Sallyport’s mission, along with its parent company, was to keep the base operating smoothly, train the Iraqis, and most importantly maintain security on the base, where thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of contractors work.The federal contract required investigations into potential crimes and violations involving the company’s work at Balad. That was Cole and King’s assignment.“They wanted someone to be competent enough to process an investigation, if there was a crime, or if someone turned up dead,” King said. “The way it was put to me: If someone turned up with a knife in their back, who are you going to call?”From the start, it was clear that much was awry on the base. Despite the urgency of fighting IS, the delivery of the F-16s had been delayed by months amid security concerns. It would be catastrophic if IS seized the base and its multimillion-dollar jets.On July 13, 2015, four F-16s flew in from Arizona, the first of 36 fighter jets that the U.S. planned to deliver.Brett McGurk, then the U.S. deputy envoy for the international coalition against IS, hailed the arrival in a tweet .“After years of preparation & training in the U.S., Iraqi pilots today landed the 1st squadron of Iraqi F16s in #Iraq,” he wrote.The first security breach came in less than 24 hours: A long black skid mark on the tarmac was reported. It stopped about 45 yards from the nose of one of the fighter jets. A truck had plowed through a rope barrier in the “no-go” zone, where lethal force is authorized to protect the planes. For more than 10 minutes, no one even responded as the vehicle drove away, according to reports citing surveillance video.That turned out not to be a terrorist. But Cole says the out-of-control truck was a harbinger. He noted the lax protection for the F-16s in his report and forwarded it to the chief of security, Steve Asher. Under the requirements of the contract, Cole’s report should have then made its way to the Pentagon. But he says Asher kept a lid on the incident.Three months later, in October 2015, Cole reported another security breach, the theft of a Toyota SUV that Sallyport had assigned to bodyguards to drive VIPs around the base. Cole eventually uncovered a plot by three Iraqi Sallyport staff working with a dangerous Iran-backed militia, known as Kataib Imam Ali.The Shiite militia was an ongoing headache, politically connected and operating outside the law, with sidelines in theft and gunrunning. It has ties to the leader of the umbrella militia Popular Mobilization Forces, which is on the U.S. list of designated terrorists.To Cole’s astonishment, the prime suspect threatened to join the militia during his interrogation. He was a Sallyport bodyguard. In fact, the investigators later found a photo of him on his Facebook page, dressed in black militia garb and a patch indicating his allegiance to the group.He is “viewed by the Investigations Unit as a hard-core recruit to become a terrorist who poses a serious threat to all personnel on this base,” Cole wrote in another report.The Toyota was recovered within a few days, but Cole was ordered off the case. In an interview with AP, the former senior manager defended the company’s order, saying negotiations with the militias were highly sensitive and had to be handled with Iraqi cooperation. Still, the suspect was supposed to be banned from the base, and Cole later saw the man walking around freely.___GUMMY BEARS SOAKED IN VODKAThe longer Cole was on the base, the more he suspected that management was turning a blind eye to criminal activity.On the books, Balad is a dry base, where alcohol is restricted. But in reality the booze was everywhere and everyone knew it. Finding out how it got there led to more troubling questions.A Sallyport employee who worked in the air terminal reported in late 2015 that co-workers were involved in a smuggling scheme. They were bringing in cases and cases of water bottles filled with liquor that they’d sneaked onto planes flying in from Baghdad.According to investigative documents and people who watched the smuggling in action, three empty suitcases would routinely be loaded onto a flight to Baghdad. Each time, the bags came back with plastic water bottles filled with liquor. When they were unloaded, the bags were not searched but taken directly outside to be picked up — a serious security risk in a war zone.“You could be putting a bomb in there,” said one former employee who witnessed the smuggling. “You’ve got people just going rogue.” He spoke only on condition of anonymity because he didn’t want to imperil his new job with a different overseas contractor.Steve Anderson, who worked on flight logistics, says he was pressured to sign off on faked flight manifests that omitted passenger names and falsified the weight of cargo to cover for the alcohol smuggling and other infractions — a violation of international flight regulations. The planes were getting so weighed down he was worried about flight safety.“They were playing Russian roulette with the passengers’ lives — including mine,” Anderson said.Once, he watched a plane that was being unloaded tip nose-forward on its wheels onto the tarmac because it was so overloaded.“I could hear the people inside the aircraft yelling. I never seen anything like that in my entire life,” he recalled. “It was like a seesaw.”Then out came the telltale bags that he watched get shepherded around security.When Anderson aired his concerns to management and refused to sign the falsified manifests, his boss said he didn’t want to hear about any more problems.“He said, ‘If you don’t like the job that you’re doing maybe you ought to find somewhere else to work.’”Anderson went on a medical leave and was told his position had been filled when he sought to return.Rumors of the alcohol smuggling reached Cole and King separately. Informants told them that flight line staff, who directed airplanes on the runways and handled cargo, were showing up drunk. In one instance they had passed around a bowlful of gummy bears soaked in vodka .The investigators got a tip that the bootleggers were working out of two hotels in Baghdad.Thinking they were undercover, King and an Iraqi investigator on the team went to one of the hotels, the al-Burhan, five minutes from Baghdad’s airport. She said informants told them the smuggling was run by the hotel manager and a number of Sallyport employees.During their interviews, they discovered an even more alarming scheme.The hotel had been running a prostitution ring, and Sallyport employees were among the customers, informants said. Four Ethiopian women who had worked as prostitutes at the hotel were later hired in housekeeping by Sallyport, and were still sending money back to a pimp in the al Burhan.The evidence suggested, the investigators told the AP, that Sallyport managers had either knowingly or unwittingly abetted human trafficking involving vulnerable female immigrants in a war zone, a revelation the company would be required to report to the U.S. government under federal law.In the hotel’s courtyard, a prime smuggling suspect, who was a Sallyport employee, angrily confronted King and said that a senior manager at the headquarters in Virginia, Roy Hernandez, had tipped him off about the investigation.On Feb. 15, 2016, Cole and King were ordered by Sallyport’s Balad program manager, Kim Poole, to shut down the investigations into both the bootlegging and the prostitution on Hernandez’s instructions, according to the investigators.The following day, Sallyport sent out an email to staff warning that they might be audited over trafficking and noting that they were required to report violations.But Stuckart says the prostitution allegations were not substantiated.“It is absurd to suggest that the company would shut down an inquiry into a matter of such gravity,” he said.More than a year later, two of the Ethiopian women were still working on the base, Cole said, and the alcohol smuggling had started back up, according to a report obtained by AP dated May 28, 2016.___“IT WAS MIND-BLOWING”Late last year, it became clear that little had changed after the earlier security breaches. On Nov. 15, Cole got a report that three large generators had been stolen from the base for a total loss of $1 million.According to surveillance videos, just before 2 a.m., militia had driven two flatbed trucks and a crane onto the base, driving right past the security gate. Cole estimates the crane, when extended, was at least 60 feet tall. After successfully loading the three generators and partially covering them with burlap, the militia drove off the base unchallenged. The episode lasted three hours.Cole said they passed within about ten feet of the Sallyport security guard force. “Nobody reported anything. It was a disaster and it was covered up. That is absolutely covered up,” he said. “What if the intent was not to steal but to commit a terrorist act?”According to Sallyport’s Stuckart, the theft occurred when the Iraqi base commander “granted local militia members access to the base” and said the generators weren’t located in his company’s security zone. “Sallyport had no authority to keep these militia members from taking the generators.”It was after that incident that a Defense Department auditor, who normally concerned himself with bin tagging, trash collection and the accounting minutiae of base life, began asking questions.Cole and King had kept all their reports in an investigative log. They had also flagged the important cases to management and they had assumed that the company informed the government.It became clear from the auditor’s question that he knew nothing about it. “When we finally got the idea that they were hiding all of the stuff from the U.S. government, it was mind-blowing,” said King.By then, clouds were looming for Cole and King. They had begun yet another investigation into timesheet fraud after getting a tip that Sallyport employees were systematically collecting salaries but not working.They say the company stalled the investigation, ordered every step to be approved by its lawyers and finally told Cole and King in a conference call to keep two sets of books.The implication for Cole was that they should omit from the government’s copy anything that would “be controversial and would reveal any failure or embarrassing detail.” The lawyers explained that that information was covered under attorney-client privilege. The two investigators, sitting together on the other end of the call, looked at each other in disbelief and shook their heads“We realized right away that that’s fraud, probably a crime, and we weren’t going to be a part of it,” Cole said.Shortly after they notified Sallyport that they wanted to interview managers who were suspects, their boss, Saffold, asked them to come to his office. It was Sunday morning, and King left church early.At an interview in his family home in Georgia, Cole recalled the fine sand that stuck to his sweat as he walked across the base to the meeting. Saffold ordered armed guards to take their pistols and detain the two at their work stations. King burst into tears, and the guards apparently thought better of restraining her when she said she wanted to bring her Bible back to her quarters, the investigators say.Cole and King said their termination paperwork was signed by the human resources manager they were investigating as part of the timesheet fraud.In an interview in Amarillo, Texas, where King has returned to work as a sheriff’s deputy, she expressed regrets.“It hurts me that I had to leave and not correct issues that were occurring, and it hurts me that they want to cover them up,” she said. “It’s so painful to me, it makes me lose sleep at night. Something’s wrong and did not get right.”___Hinnant contributed from Paris. Susannah George in Baghdad and Jack Gillum in Washington contributed. Follow Butler on Twitter at https://twitter.com/desmondbutler and Hinnant at https://twitter.com/lhinnant .___Online: Read documents about Sallyport’s activities in Iraq at http://apne.ws/2p87fqZ .____Have a tip on government contracting? Contact the authors securely at https://www.ap.org/tipslast_img read more

Which came first the head or the brain

first_img(Phys.org) —A fundamental question in the evolution of animal body plans, is where did the head come from? In animals with a clear axis of right-left symmetry, the bilaterians, the head is where the brain is, at the anterior pole of the body. Little is known about the possible ancestor of bilaterians. Fortunately their sister group from that same progenitor, the cnidarians, can be studied in parallel today to give some clues. Cnidarians are creatures like jellyfish, hydra, and sea anemone which possess rudimentary nerve nets, but no clear brain. They all have just a single orifice to the external world, which basically does it all. In a recent paper published in PLOS Biology, researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway compared gene expression patterns in sea anemone (Nematostella vectensis, Nv) with that from a variety of bilaterian animals. They found that the head-forming region of bilaterians is actually derived from the aboral, the opposite-oral, side of the ancestral body plan. Pioneering developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert, is often credited with having observed: “It is not birth, marriage, or death, but gastrulation which is truly the most important time in your life.” Almost all animals undergo a similar gastrulation process early in their development. The point where the cells first invaginate during gastrulation, the blastopore, uniquely defines an embryonic axis. After this stage however, all bets are off—attempts to define phyla according to hardline criteria, like blastopore = anus, are invariably met by counterexample where it instead becomes the mouth. Gene expression, while not always constrained into single contiguous areas, therefore provides a baggage-free way to assign homology across species.Wolpert’s concept of positional information in development has been largely vindicated by the discovery of hox gene codes in a wide variety of animals. While hox genes are the critical regulators of axial patterning, in most bilaterians they are not expressed in the anterior head-forming region. The researchers focused instead on the genes six3 and FoxQ2, transcription factors which have been shown to regulate anterior-posterior development. Six3 knockouts in mice, for example, fail to develop a forebrain. In humans six3 regulates forebrain and eye development.Sea anemone, like Nematosella, are curious creatures. As larvae they swim about with their aboral pole forward. As adults they plunge this region into the sea floor, and permanently anchor themselves in. Their bodies then undergo various changes but their oral pole remains intact for feeding. By using knockdown and rescue experiments in Nemostella, the researchers were able to show that six3 is required for the development of the aboral region, and the expression of further regulatory genes. This suggests that the region distal from the cnidarian mouth parallels development of the bilaterian head. The researchers also looked at the expression of the forkhead domain protein foxQ2, which functions downstream of six3. Forkhead box genes are an important class of transcription factors which frequently lack the signature homeodomains and zinc-finger regions common to other transcription factors. Instead they have a unique DNA-binding region that has the shape of a winged helix. The forkhead gene, fox2p, in humans has recently garnered a lot of media attention for its apparent role in neural development, and in even more esoteric functions like speech development. FoxQ2 is known to be a well-conserved marker for the most anterior tip of a variety of bilaterians including sea urchines, drosophila, and cephalochordates. The researchers established that before gastrulation in cnidarians, foxQ2a was expressed in the aboral pole, and in a small number cells resembling neurons. Afterwards the expression of this “ring gene” was excluded from a central spot. In conclusion, the expression of genes for anemone head development, away from the mouth region, suggests that head development came first and was a separate event from mouth development. Secondarily, the head and a coalescing brain appear to have merged to become a centralized control center. Where does our head come from? Explore further This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. © 2013 Phys.org Journal information: PLoS Biology Citation: Which came first the head or the brain? (2013, March 28) retrieved 18 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2013-03-brain_1.html More information: Sinigaglia C, Busengdal H, Leclère L, Technau U, Rentzsch F (2013) The Bilaterian Head Patterning Gene six3/6 Controls Aboral Domain Development in a Cnidarian. PLoS Biol 11(2): e1001488. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001488AbstractThe origin of the bilaterian head is a fundamental question for the evolution of animal body plans. The head of bilaterians develops at the anterior end of their primary body axis and is the site where the brain is located. Cnidarians, the sister group to bilaterians, lack brain-like structures and it is not clear whether the oral, the aboral, or none of the ends of the cnidarian primary body axis corresponds to the anterior domain of bilaterians. In order to understand the evolutionary origin of head development, we analysed the function of conserved genetic regulators of bilaterian anterior development in the sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. We show that orthologs of the bilaterian anterior developmental genes six3/6, foxQ2, and irx have dynamic expression patterns in the aboral region of Nematostella. Functional analyses reveal that NvSix3/6 acts upstream of NvFoxQ2a as a key regulator of the development of a broad aboral territory in Nematostella. NvSix3/6 initiates an autoregulatory feedback loop involving positive and negative regulators of FGF signalling, which subsequently results in the downregulation of NvSix3/6 and NvFoxQ2a in a small domain at the aboral pole, from which the apical organ develops. We show that signalling by NvFGFa1 is specifically required for the development of the apical organ, whereas NvSix3/6 has an earlier and broader function in the specification of the aboral territory. Our functional and gene expression data suggest that the head-forming region of bilaterians is derived from the aboral domain of the cnidarian-bilaterian ancestor.Synopsys: www.plosbiology.org/article/in … journal.pbio.1001484last_img read more

Bengal Heritage Foundation to commemorate Dwarkanath Tagores death anniversary in London

first_imgKolkata: The Bengal Heritage Foundation is organising a function at Kensal Green Cemetery, London on Saturday to commemorate the death anniversary of Prince Dwarkanath Tagore.A close friend of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and King Louis Phillipe of France, Tagore was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London.A bust of Dwarkanath and a plaque containing his contribution will be unveiled to honour the entrepreneur, philanthropist and the first successful businessman, who took up Indo-British trade. Also Read – Rain batters Kolkata, cripples normal lifeThe function will be organized jointly by the British Council, iLEAD College (Kolkata), Friends of Kensal Green (London) and London Sharad Utsav (London).Sourav Niyogi of Bengal Heritage Foundation noted: “Very few Indians are aware of Prince Dwarkanath Tagore’s tomb in London. From coal to banking to trading, he successfully set the foundation of an industrial Bengal and internationalisation of India. Our effort is a humble tribute to this great son of Bengal and to keep his heritage alive for the future generations. As a first step, the monument has been cleaned after 28 years using Thermatech technology using conservation principles.” Also Read – Speeding Jaguar crashes into Mercedes car in Kolkata, 2 pedestrians killedThe Kensal Green Cemetery stands on a land of 72-acre and there are over 65,000 graves.Dwarkanath (1794-1846) was the first Bengali merchant-entrepreneur to set up an Indo-British business partnership (Carr, Tagore and Co.) that traded in salt, sugar, tea, coal, indigo and steam navigation. Tagore was a visionary, who believed in multi-racial collaboration with the British.Tagore was a signatory to the anti-Sati petition along with Rammohun Roy, who died in Bristol in 1833 and lies buried there. Tagore visited Britain twice in 1842 and 1845 and was a personal friend of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and King Louis Phillipe of France. Feted by literary giants Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray and many others, Tagore was granted the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh in a public ceremony in August 1842 for his ‘anxious desire to promote happiness and prosperity of his fellowcountrymen’.He died at Brown’s Hotel in London on August 1, 1846 and was buried without ceremony three days later.Queen Victoria and Prince Albert sent four carriages for the funeral.last_img read more