First U.S.-built A320 Takes Flight

First U.S.-built A320 Takes Flight

MOBILE, AL., August 15, 2017: The first Airbus A320 aircraft to be produced at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile, Alabama, has flown for the first time. The A320 took off from the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley this morning. The flight lasted approximately four hours, during which tests were performed on systems, engines and structural performance.

The Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility can produce three members of the A320 Family: the A319, A320 and A321. Thus far, the 36 aircraft delivered since operations began in 2015 have been A321s, making today’s flight another milestone for the U.S.-based production facility.

The founding member of the best-selling Airbus single-aisle family, the A320 entered airline service in April 1988 and rapidly established itself as the industry standard for passenger comfort and economy on short to medium-haul sectors. Typically seating 150 passengers in two classes, or up to 180 in a high-density layout for charter and low-cost operations, the A320 is in widespread service around the world, flying routes ranging from short commuter sectors to coast-to-coast U.S. flights. The A320 family is the world’s best-selling single aisle product line with 13,241 orders and 7,696 aircraft delivered to 297 customers worldwide (data as of July 31, 2017).

Be sure to check out Airbus in the U.S. on Facebook and Twitter for more photos.

About Airbus 

Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2016, it generated revenues of €67 billion and employed a workforce of around 134,000 worldwide. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners from 100 to more than 600 seats. Airbus is also a European leader providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as Europe’s number one space enterprise and the world’s second largest space business. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.


Source  :  Airbus Website

Education minister puts focus on teacher training in overhaul of system

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Teerakiat has been fierce critic of rigid bureaucracy and lack of strategy.


EDUCATION Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin has focused on “knowledge quality” of teachers and students as priorities in the ongoing education reform.

The task of institutional reform of the Education Ministry, meanwhile, has been left to an independent committee chaired by Charas Suwanwela, professor emeritus at Chulalongkorn University’s School of Medicine.

That committee is made up of 25 well-known figure, with none of whom come from the ministry. It is expected to propose enacting a series of new education laws and regulations within a year.

Teerakiat, who has not minced words about his frustration with the Education Ministry’s rigid bureaucracy and lack of strategic thinking, told The Nation in an interview that actions were also being taken through the invocation of Article 44 of the interim constitution to deal with corruption cases to minimise “damages and destruction” to the school system.

But Teerakiat’s main focus is sustaining improvements in teacher quality and by extension also students’ – a process which he sees as dismantling top-down centralised directives and giving each teacher room to manage his or her |professional develop-ment and acquire knowledge.

“The objective is to have teachers acquire additional or new skills they think they need and to spend more time in classrooms teaching students” as opposed to outside activities or doing research, the minister said.

The realignment is complemented by a single standard examination for teachers, and the introduction of a career path system.

The initiative involved overhauling the Bt20-billion teachers’ development budget which “no one has known much about”, he said, and allocated responsibility to regional education zones to select and introduce new development courses.

Each teacher will be given a coupon worth Bt10,000 annually to spend on any one of hundreds of available courses. Abour 310,000 teachers of the 400,000 designated have applied. They can pick and choose the courses as they wish. “We empowered the teachers,” said Teerakiat.

A new website allows teachers to rate courses they have taken.

He welcomed criticism of some of the courses as evidence of transparency and a way to “let the market decide” what is best.

Another initiative for improving teaching quality is to allow outside professionals fill in teaching positions where there are shortages. Teerakiat said 500 graduates had applied in the first round of vetting, many of whom had overseas degrees in engineering, English or medicine.

The education minister has also made a big push on improving English learning by setting up 12 regional centres to organise teacher training “boot camps” to improve instructors’ capabilities, which then can be passed on to students.

The number of centres will expand soon to 18 in order to meet the stated target of 40,000 trained teachers.

Teachers of English are subject to an assessment based on the Common European Frame of Reference (CEFR).

The ministry has also raised the time spent on English-language classes for Grades 1 to 3 to five hours weekly.



Source  :  The Nation

Yingluck verdict tipped to have lasting impact

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politics August 21, 2017 01:00


Country braced for historic verdict against former PM.

WHILE THE political scene after the upcoming court judgement in the case against former PM Yingluck Shinawatra may not be suddenly affected due to suppression by the junta, the verdict itself could be a reminder to future governments to not “cross the line”, say political figures and observers.

The country is anxiously holding its breath to see if chaos arises after the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders delivers its verdict on Yingluck in the rice-pledging scheme on Friday.

Pheu Thai Party former minister Chaturon Chaisang said it was hard to comment on the case since legal processes against Yingluck had not strictly followed the rule of law.

The proceedings had contained many “irregularities” due to the junta’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s direct order to particularly scrutinise the damage caused by the rice-pledging scheme and add evidence after the case had started, he said.

Whatever the ruling, he said it should not politically affect Yingluck and Pheu Thai any further, adding: “We have already been curbed in the political arena by existing laws, in line with the will of the powers-that-be.”

A former Democrat Party MP, Warong Dechgitvigrom, a key critic of Yingluck’s project, said he was optimistic about the ruling, saying it should help create more awareness among future governments on the consequences of corrupt actions.

“Pheu Thai will portray itself as a victim as always,” Warong said. “It’s not wrong to help the poor but it is wrong to seek an advantage from policymaking. Any government, including that of the Democrat Party, has to be subjected to scrutiny.”

A key figure in the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, Weng Tochirakarn, said Yingluck’s case could discourage future governments from coming up with new policies, fearing that they could break law in the process.

What has happened to Yingluck was one example of bureaucracy usurping the role of the judiciary and politicians, Weng said.

“Yingluck declared the rice-pledging scheme in Parliament, followed it and did not touch a baht involved in the case, yet she has become a defendant,” he added.

People’s Democratic Reform Foundation President Suthep Thaugsuban, while choosing not to hypothesis about future scenarios, insisted that he believed in the standards of justice in Thai courts.

Satithorn Thananithichot, a researcher in politics at the King Prajadhipok’s Institute, believed the ruling should not affect the opinions of “political fans”. What mattered instead, said Satithorn, was how people not usually interested in politics viewed it.

“If the ruling is negative, an affected political party may use it to gain legitimacy and draw attention to itself,” Satithorn said. “But if the ruling comes out clear and fair enough, any ripple should be automatically settled.”

Independent academic Sirote Klampai-boon said he feared the legal case against Yingluck could create a precedent for politics and the judiciary in the future.

The prosecutors’ reasoning that the rice-pledging scheme lacked the support of academics or the involvement of the constitutionally independent auditor could indicate some “political irregularities” in the preparation and management of the case, Sirote said. “If this should become a legal standard, damage will be done to the judicial process.

“Meanwhile, if this standardises future politics, damage will fall upon our society,” Sirote said.

Super Poll results released yesterday showed that most people did not expect the ruling to improve the ailing political scene.

Of 1,309 people questioned nationwide from August 11-18, 49 per cent said post-ruling politics were likely to remain as bad, 54 per cent were concerned about possible upcoming conflicts, and 79 per cent said that the current authorities should take action to ensure public order.

However, business leaders did not appear to be as worried about the impact of the court verdict.

Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Board of Trade of Thailand and Thai Chamber of Commerce, said the private sector had confidence in the outlook for the economy as the government had laid out a strategic development plan and many reform committees had been recently created to carry out reforms.

Stanley Kang, chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand, said the public may be worried about conflict arising from the court verdict but such political events would not have much effect on the economy. Politics and the economy do not correlate strongly with each other, he said.

Source  :  The Nation

Farmers still need income support, says Kittiratt

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politics August 21, 2017 01:00


KITTIRATT NA RANONG, former deputy premier and finance minister of the previous Yingluck government, yesterday told a Thammasat University seminar that he should have spent more time explaining the merits of the rice-pledging scheme while in office.

At the seminar, titled “What are the other options if not the rice-pledging scheme?” Kittiratt insisted the rice-pledging scheme was a sound policy aimed at helping low-income farmers and their 15 million family members nationwide.

Kittiratt was speaking at the event as former premier Yingluck awaits a Supreme Court verdict on Friday about alleged negligence of official duty while overseeing the rice-pledging scheme, which prosecutors charge resulted in corruption and massive financial damage to the state. “If I could go back in time, I would have spent much less time on other works but would have focussed on explaining this [rice-pledging] scheme so as to fight the current political narrative,” he said.

According to the former finance minister, Thailand was capable of allocating financial resources to help low-income earners in both urban and rural farm areas. He quipped that the country also had financial resources to buy military hardware such as submarines, as all decisions rested with the ruling leadership.

Farmers and their families total 15 million people and account for 23 per cent of Thailand’s overall population, so the government needs to ensure that their livelihoods are improved, Kittiratt said.

The Yungluck rice-pledging policy was not the first time that such programmes, including income guarantees and related measures, had targeted farmers, he said. These approaches had been used for the past three decades and were also vulnerable to problems. For example, it was difficult to prove whether farmers actually planted rice fields if they had already successfully registered to get state compensation under an income guarantee programme.

He said the Yingluck government therefore turned to the massive rice-pledging scheme, since it required evidence of rice paddies to get state benefits under the programme.

Defending the high pledging price, Kittiratt said farmers need to be compensated significantly. Even with the high pledging price for rice offered by the government, farmers’ income was still less than that of people working in urban areas, he said. Under the pledging programme, the government paid about double the market price for rice.

Kittiratt said the National Economic and Social Development Board had sent a letter to the Yingluck government confirming that farmers’ income had improved because of the rice-pledging scheme. “The scheme was not aimed at benefits for the prime minister, as it was designed as part of the Pheu Thai party’s election campaign. When it was said the state suffered a big financial loss [due to the high pledging price], that could be called an accounting loss. But in terms of public policy, it could be said that the state revenue is just lower than the state expenditure.

“In other words, farmers get higher income from the scheme [even though the state had to set a budget to cover the price difference]. The benefit is that farmers have more income so they have purchasing power to boost the economy, and in the end the overall benefits are greater than the subsidy budget,” he said.


Source  :  The Nation

Over 1,400 Islamic State militants in Tal Afar: Military

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Baghdad ( More than 1400 Islamic State militants with Arab and foreign nationalities are in Tal Afar town, according to the Joint Operations Command.

In remarks on Sunday, Brig.Gen. Yehia Rasool, spokesperson of the Iraqi military, said most of the militants in Tal Afar are from Arab countries. Few people of the locals are involved with the group. He also indicated crackdown on the militants to prevent them flee toward Syria.

Safe passageways were allowed by troops so civilians can flee the town, he said adding that many people were displaced over the past few days.

Rasool denied fierce resistance by the group, explaining that the battles are taking place in open areas since fighting inside the town will be hard. Military troops destroyed the enemy’s defense lines and killed.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced in a televised speech on Sunday the beginning of offensive to recapture the town, which has been held by the militants since 2014, when the extremist group first emerged to proclaim its self-styled ‘caliphate’.

Tal Afar is one of the important strongholds still held by IS in Nineveh since August 2014, when the militants occupied a third of Iraq to proclaim its self-styled “caliphate”.


Source  :  Iraqi News

Five IS militants killed while sneaking into western Anbar

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Anbar ( Five Islamic State militants were killed while infiltrating into western Anbar, Jazeera Operations Command said.

“Security troops managed to kill five militants in Houran region,” Maj.Gen. Qassim al-Mohammadi told Baghdad Today website on Sunday.”The militants were trying to sneak into al-Baghdadi town in western Anbar.”

On Saturday, three militants were reportedly killed as shelling targeted an IS headquarter in al-Shishan district in Annah town. On Friday, Seven militants were killed as an air raid targeted their havens while escaping from Qaim town, western Anbar, towards the Syrian borders.

Fighter jets from the Iraqi army and the international coalition regularly pound IS locations in the province.

Anbar’s western towns of Anah, Qaim and Rawa are still held by the extremist group since 2014, when it occupied one third of Iraq to proclaim a self-styled Islamic Caliphate. Iraqi troops were able to return life back to normal in the biggest cities of Anbar including Fallujah, Ramadi and others after recapturing them.

In late July, a military source was quoted saying that Lt.Gen Abdul-Amir Yarallah, commander of the Nineveh Operations, ordered to besiege IS havens in western Anbar preparing to invade them.

Iraqi fighter jets reportedly dropped millions of leaflets to inform locals residents that liberation offensives for the province were nearing.


Source  :  Iraqi News


Five civilians killed, injured in IED blast western Baghdad

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Baghdad ( Five civilians were killed and injured as an IED exploded in western Baghdad, a security source was quoted saying.

“A bomb exploded near stores at al-Hamamiyat- al-Taji region, north of Baghdad, leaving a civilian killed and four others wounded,” a source told Baghdad Today website on Sunday.

On Saturday, a university professor and a soldier were killed, while another one was wounded in two IED blasts that took place in western Baghdad.

Violence in the country has surged further with the emergence of Islamic State Sunni extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Security members, paramilitary groups and civilians are targeted by bombings and armed attacks since the Iraqi government launched a wide-scale campaign to retake IS-occupied areas in 2016.

More than 500 Iraqis were killed and injured during July due to violence and armed conflicts, according to a monthly count by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).

While most of of the explosions attacks went without a claim of responsibility, Islamic State has claimed several incidents.

Security observers believe that even after IS’s main havens across Iraqi provinces are conquered, the group may still constitute a security threat through sleeper cells and lone wolf attacks.


Source  :  Iraqi News