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Scair travel

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

What with my business and personal travel requirements I’m what you might call frequent flyer’ so I’m more than familiar with all the trials and tribulations of air travel in the 21st century. ‘Take your shoes off’, ‘Empty your pockets’, ‘Put everything in the tray and walk through the metal detector’, ‘Hand over your nail scissors’, ‘Leave your laptop on the conveyor belt’….the rules go on and on.  Oh, I know most of them are safety requirements but nonetheless they are disruptive and annoying to the majority of genuine travellers being massively inconvenienced by an infinitesimally tiny minority of crazy people want to blow up planes.

Most of us feel distinctly uncomfortable having to relinquish out expensive smartphones, laptops, watches and other valuables into those trays.  We try and keep a beady eye on our belongings as they pass along the conveyor belt but we are often distracted by questions from security staff and sometimes a long queue means we lose sight of them; so it came as no surprise to read recently that thieves are now specifically targeting those trays, pilfering high-end items whilst their owners are otherwise occupied.  

One security guard, working in a London airport told a  HYPERLINK "" t "_blank" Daily Mail reporter that items are stolen from security trays on a daily basis. "The trays often emerge quicker than the person going through the body scanner. Passengers get caught in a backlog and there's nobody to watch for thieves.”  

He said thieves take anything from laptops to wallets and even once stole a widow's holdall containing her husband's ashes.  The security officer, who did not want to be named, revealed in most cases, the culprits have bought a seat on a cheap flight with the sole intention of accessing security areas.  "They tend to be middle-aged men who work in groups. They prey on passengers in the early morning, when people are half-asleep, or at peak times when they're stressed, and target families who are likely to be distracted by children."

Despite immediately watching CCTV and contacting police after a complaint is made, charges often aren't brought because passengers are in too much of a hurry to catch their flights. One student had her £1,000 laptop – containing important documents for her dissertation – stolen from a security tray at London City Airport, last month.  Fernanda Ardiles, who had travelled back to see her parents in the capital for Easter, had got held up in long delays while her bag went through the scanner. 

When she eventually reached the end of the conveyor belt she was horrified to discover her MacBook Air was missing.  Even worse, when she reported it to staff she was told they would contact her once they had reviewed the CCTV.  She told the  HYPERLINK "" t "_blank" Guardian: "After three days of emails I finally got hold of the terminal manager who said there was nothing he could do, but pass it on for investigation.  "They behaved as though this is a minor irritation, as though it is no big deal”.

As for those cut-price airlines, I advise anyone to read the small print very carefully before flying with them as they may be a false economy in the long run.  Budget carriers like Ryanair often make you pay for ‘extras’ which most people consider standard – a printed ticket and boarding card, in-flight food, on-line booking, hand-luggage, the list goes on.  Here’s a sample from Ryanair’s ‘optional extras’

Extra legroom seats (row 1, 2 and 16-17) –  €15.00 / £15.00 
Front seats (rows 2 – 5) – €13.01 / £13.01
Standard Seats (rows 6-15 and 18-33) – €4.00 / £4.00 
Boarding card re-issue fee – €20 / £20
Priority boarding from (per person/per one way flight) – from €5.00 / £5.00 (An increased charge is applicable for priority boarding on selected routes.)
Airport check-in fee – €55 / £55
Booking fee at the airport – €20 / £20
Therapeutic oxygen reservation fee – €55 / £55
Missed departure fee – €100 / £100
Hold fare fee – €3.00/£3.00 

Add to that the fact that the low-cost carriers save money by utilising smaller airports where landing fees are much cheaper, meaning that you, the passenger, will end up paying more to travel on to your actual destination, and you might find it would have been cheaper to fork out more up front to fly with one of the major players.

And last but not least, in our own neck of the woods, our Gabs-Johannesburg route has been served by both Air Botswana and SA Express and which one you end up with is largely a case of convenience of flight times.  Now I have written in the past of the vagaries and whimsy of SA Express when it concerns their scheduled flights.  They think nothing of simply cancelling a flight with no notice whatsoever simply because they failed to fill enough seats, leaving passengers stranded and often missing flight connections at O.R. Tambo. 

Add to that the fact that their Gaborone operation is remote-controlled from Johannesburg so often you will find a flight has ‘closed’ even though it is sitting on the tarmac at SSKA with the doors still open and the steps still in place.  Your ticket and your physical presence mean nothing to the local staff who are powerless to override the computerised system to allow you to board – little wonder many of their flights are under-occupied!

So it was with a mixture of relief and shock to learn last month that the carrier has now been officially grounded by the South African civil Aviation Authority, not for bad service but for an abysmal safety record.  In a statement the SACAA stated it had ‘grounded the state-owned carrier SA Express with immediate effect. The SACAA has also suspended certificates of airworthiness for nine of 21 of SA Express’s aircraft. It means the carrier can no longer operate as an airline.

The agency said SA Express would have to reapply and be issued with an air operating certificate and an approval for the aircraft maintenance organisation and certificates of airworthiness for the grounded aircraft Earlier in May, two SA Express flights had to abort after take-off with technical problems. In one incident, one of the engines allegedly exploded.  The SACAA’s action follows an audit at the airline and its maintenance organisation that had uncovered severe cases of non-compliance that posed serious safety risks.

The agency said.  “While the SACAA does not make the details of its audit findings public, it can, however, be revealed that there were 17 findings, of which five are categorised as Level 1 findings in civil aviation terms,   “A Level 1 category finding can be described as a severe non-compliance or non-conformance that poses a very serious safety risk to the public.” A spokesman for SA Express said the carrier undertook to accommodate passengers on other airlines and refund tickets.

In a further scandalous irony, the ruling came on the same day as Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan announced he had appointed a new board at the carrier after the suspension of several executive managers on allegations of corruption.  An audit found, among other irregularities, that SA Express paid R5.7m to the Gupta-linked Trillian Capital for advisory services and to raise capital. It’s suddenly occurred to me that there’s only one letter difference in the words ‘flight’ and fright’.  I think I’m beginning to understand why!

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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