Economist 2/12/15

  1. Heather Cho is probably pondering that as she faces a year behind bars for her extraordinary melt-down over a packet of poorly-presented macadamia nuts last December. Ms Cho, at the time an executive at Korean Air, threw a member of cabin crew off one of the carrier’s flights, which was taxiing onto the runway at New York’s JFK airport, bound for Seoul, after they served her the legume in a paper bag, rather than on a plate. Such was her displeasure, that Ms Cho forced the pilot to turn back to the gate and turf the hapless steward from the plane. This, it was decided, was tantamount to changing a flight’s course, which is a criminal offence.Ms Cho was also found guilty of committing acts of violence against a crew member, forcing him to kneel and hitting him with a service manual. Another executive was also jailed for assisting with a cover up.
  2. COMMERCIAL airlines have a remarkably good safety record, especially in recent years. Global airlines set all-time records for safety in 2011 and 2012, according to Ascend, a consultancy.But a series of accidents in Asia in recent months—notably crashes of Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and TransAsia Airways planes—have led to whispers that perhaps Asian airlines don’t have quite the same dedication to safety.The accident rate in the International Air Transport Association’s Asia-Pacific region was higher than in North America and Europe in 2013, the most recent year for which complete data are available. But as my colleague noted last month, we are still talking about vanishingly low chances of any given flyer being involved in a fatal accident. In short: some Asian airlines may be slightly less safe than other Asian airlines, or than North American or European airlines. But they are still incredibly safe.
  3. Since coming to office in 2008 Mr Boris Johnson has tried to make London a better city for cycling.But on February 4th Transport for London, the city’s road and rail authority, signed off on two “cycle superhighways” that will be the mayor’s most visible legacy to his city.The mayor oversaw the introduction of a bike-hiring scheme, which was started by his predecessor but quickly became known as the “Boris bike”. He pushed for bright blue cycle paths on some busy roads.The new superhighways ought to be much safer than London’s existing cycle lanes. A raised pavement will keep cyclists away from cars and lorries.Cycling was once a means of transport for the poor. But it has become an important marker of an affluent world city, argues Isabel Dedring, the deputy mayor for transport.
  4.   India’s capital, Delhi is the most polluted city on Earth.If India were to start belching out as much carbon as China does now, it would be adding an extra America’s-worth of emissions to the atmosphere every year. The good news is that India has some advantages over China.India has fewer smokestacks and a bigger services sector. Its bureaucrats do not have to meet targets for economic growth, which in China encourage local officials to favour output over cleaner water or purer air. India still has much to do. Smoke from cooking fires claims about 1m lives a year. Fewer than one in ten coal-fired power stations scrubs its flue gases of sulphur compounds. Too many laws are weak or poorly enforced. The Pollution Control Board controls nothing. India has plans to clean up. It ended subsidies on diesel last year, so firms have less reason to run inefficient, polluting generators and vehicles. Next to go should be subsidies on paraffin. The dirtiest power plants must close.
  5. THE stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is the world’s most complex and costly industrial clean-up. The first three of Fukushima Dai-ichi’s six reactors melted down in March 2011 and the fourth was damaged. TEPCO’s early guess was that decommissioning would take 30-40 years. Dale Klein, a former chairman of America’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says that the schedule for decommissioning the plant is pure supposition until engineers figure out how to remove all the fuel. One victory for engineers is with reactor four. Late last year the last of 1,535 highly toxic fuel rods was plucked from the spent-fuel pool a year ahead of schedule.Solutions create new problems. Water is pumped in to keep melted uranium at the bottom of reactors one, two and three from overheating. A purification system, known on-site as the “seven samurai”, is struggling to keep up with the flow of contaminated water being produced.Even when the worst nuclides are filtered out, TEPCO will face huge opposition with plans to dump the water into the Pacific.TEPCO is attempting to freeze the ground in a huge ring around the four damaged reactors to prevent toxins from reaching the groundwater and flowing into the sea.The cost for this so far: ¥32 billion ($272m).

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