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Volkswagen switched to MMSC

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Greater Noida: A huge change was noticed by Indian motor sport after Volkwagen walked out of the JK Tyre Racing Championship and joined the Madras Motor Sports Club (MMSC) which is supported by MRF tyres.

The German vehicle manufacturer said the switch was to synergise all their existing motor sport associations with the Chennai-based MRF.

“We, as a group, already have an association with MRF that is now going on for several years with the Skoda Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) programme, which is huge. In addition to that, MRF is also a racing tyre supplier for Volkswagen Racing UK,” Volkswagen Motorsport India head Sirish Vissa said.

Volkswagen Group and MRF have a working relationship outside India with factory-supported Skoda Fabias running on MRF rubber in the APRC. Czech automobile maker Skoda is a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen.

“When we were looking at where we are going in the future with our motor sport activities, it made a lot more sense to draw on the synergies that exist like the existing relationship with MRF and sort of piggy bank on that and make something bigger out of it. That is the reason why we are going with MRF,” added the 43-year-old.

Vissa said that leaving JK Tyres was a big loss as they had developed a strong bond which lasted for six years. It was in 2010 that Volkswagen entered the Indian motor sports scene with the Polo R Cup, also adding the Vento Cup last year.

“JK have been a fantastic partner. Without them we wouldn’t have gotten the programme to where it is now. So definitely it is a big loss for us to walk away from this existing relationship. But at the same time we are trying to draw on the synergies that exist and are already working very closely with our new partners,” he added.

The one-make touring car series will this year be held at the Kari Motor Speedway (Coimbatore), Buddh International Circuit (Greater Noida) and the Madras Motor Race Track (Chennai).

Earlier, the championship winner of the Vento Cup would have moved on to the JK Tyre Racing Series which features FB02 cars, powered by 1.2 litre BMW bike engines. But now the winner will get a drive in the MRF Challenge Formula 1600 the victor of which will progress to the elite Formula 2000.

“Now the 2015 junior champion (Polo Cup) will get a Vento Cup drive this year, like before. The winner of the Vento Cup last year will get a 1600 drive. Essentially, there is not a night and day difference. Now, there is an additional progression path for the winner because if he wins the 1600 championship then he will automatically be given a drive in the 2-litre from MRF,” said the Bengaluru-born.

Significantly, the change in tyres is big in motor sports and, hence, will also affect the German car makers, who will have to adjust their Polos and Ventos to the new characteristics of the MRF Tyres.

“MRF tyres have different characteristics so we are re-working our entire suspension package for the car. So it will be dampers, new spring rates to get the handling the way we want it,” concluded Vissa.(IANS)(image: mashable.com)

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Satirical Weekly Charlie Hebdo Mocks Chancellor Angela Merkel in First German Edition, almost 2 Years after Islamist Militants attacked its top Editorial Staff in Paris

The magazine is known in France for ridiculing political and religious leaders

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The first issues of the German version of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo are for sale at a newsstand in Berlin, Dec. 1, 2016. VOA

The first German edition of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo hit the news stands on Thursday, with a front page lampooning Chancellor Angela Merkel, almost two years after Islamist militants attacked its top editorial staff in Paris.

The magazine also picked on another symbol of post-war German might — Europe’s biggest carmaker Volkswagen, still struggling to recover from its diesel emissions scandal.

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“VW backs Merkel,” reads the headline, with a picture showing a VW mechanic fixing 62-year-old Merkel on a hydraulic lift, saying: “A new exhaust pipe and you’ll run for another four years.”

Merkel announced last month she would stand for a fourth term in elections next year.

Launch posters showed Merkel sitting on the toilet reading the magazine, with the slogan: “Charlie Hebdo. It’s liberating.”

The magazine, known in France for ridiculing political and religious leaders, became a symbol for the freedom of expression after two militants broke into an editorial meeting at its Paris office in Jan. 2015 and killed 12 people.

The Islamists accused the magazine of blasphemy for printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

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Some German customers said they were buying the magazine as a gesture of solidarity.

“For me, this is more a feeling that I support this and I want it to continue now that it has just started,” said Tim Wuennemann.

An initial run of 200,000 will be printed in Germany — twice the circulation of the country’s current best-known satirical magazine, Titanic. Some of its contents will be original, some translated from the French.

The boundaries of satire were tested this year when Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan took legal action against German comedian Jan Boehmermann for broadcasting a satirical poem suggesting the president engaged in bestiality and watched child pornography. (VOA)

 

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German Automaker Volkswagen to introduce 15 New Energy Vehicle Models in China

These models will be released in the next three to four years to address the environmental protection needs in the Chinese market

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Volkswagen Logo, Wikimedia

November 6, 2016: German automaker Volkswagen has planned to introduce 15 models of new energy vehicles in China that are locally produced, the company said on Sunday.

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These models will be released in the next three to four years to address the environmental protection needs in the Chinese market, an official of the Volkswagen Group China said in Tianjin city, where a joint venture project of the company is under construction, Xinhua news agency reported.

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China is Volkswagen’s largest market worldwide. Volkswagen Group China and its two joint ventures delivered 2.85 million automobiles in the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong in the first three quarters, up 10.7 per cent year on year. (IANS)

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How Indian govt may protect US nuclear firms against Indian liability law

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by Amit Bhandari

New Delhi: A $48-billion (Rs 3.26 lakh crore) penalty claimed by the US government from Volkswagen for cheating on diesel car emissions is about 200 times as large as the $225 million (Rs 1,500 crore) insurance pool set up by Indian insurance companies to compensate US nuclear power companies for mishaps in India.

If a US nuclear company were to build a reactor in India that suffered a catastrophe, and people were to die in India, the US government’s position seems to be that American suppliers shouldn’t face civil or criminal liability. The US believes the Indian civil nuclear liability law, which calls for both penalties, is unduly harsh. Rather than say so directly, US officials keep repeating that the “Indian law is inconsistent with the international liability regime”.

The Indian civil nuclear liability law holds the equipment supplier responsible for any incident caused by the supplier or its employees. The Indian liability law differs from those of other countries because it was drafted keeping in mind the 1984 Bhopal tragedy –where, despite 5,000 deaths and effects across generations, no one was held criminally liable.

The penalty demanded in the Volkswagen case is about 100 times the compensation of $470 million – ($907 million in 2014 dollars) – paid by the US firm Union Carbide after the Bhopal Gas tragedy, which also left 70,000 people maimed or injured. Volkswagen’s cover-up caused no injuries or deaths.

Although the Indian government wants to protect US nuclear companies against the Indian liability law, critics argued that these companies are using India’s eagerness to avoid any liability, if something goes wrong.

India wants to build more nuclear power plants in an attempt to reduce the share of coal in electricity generation. Increasing the use of nuclear power is also a part of the country’s strategy to tackle climate change.

India currently has 5,780 MW of nuclear power in operation and plans to add another 17,400 MW, making it possibly the largest market for nuclear power after China, and a financially lucrative prospect for Western firms faced with limited domestic sales.

However, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has heightened concerns about nuclear safety and accident costs. The fallout of that disaster will also make it hard to change India’s liability laws.

The US’ large settlements extend to corporate wrong-doing beyond its borders. Large settlements in the US are a regular feature. In October 2015, the Justice Department arrived at a settlement with oil major BP, which will pay a penalty of $20.8 billion to cover the economic and environmental damage arising from a 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Volkswagen could, in theory, face fines of as much as $37,500 per vehicle for each of two violations of the law; up to $3,750 per “defeat device”; and another $37,500 for each day of violation, a Reuters report said.

In April 2010, a deepwater oil-drilling rig operated by BP, the Deepwater Horizon, suffered an explosion which killed 11 men, and the well it was drilling leaked over five million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

This was the largest-ever settlement in the history of the Department; the Volkswagen penalty could be larger.

A number of companies have paid tens of billions of dollars in fines over the past decade for breaking US law.

Top US banks, such as Bank of America, JP Morgan, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, have paid multi-billion dollar fines for their roles in the 2008 global financial crisis, caused by reckless business practices of large Western banks.

The remit of the US Justice Department extends beyond its borders and to foreign firms as well. In May 2015, five global banks–- Citicorp, JP Morgan, Barclays, UBS and the Royal Bank of Scotland–agreed were to pay fines adding up to $2.5 billion, for manipulating a widely-used financial benchmark set in London. This brings the total penalty paid by these banks for their role in this manipulation to $9 billion.

UK-based HSBC was fined for “illegally conducting transactions on behalf of customers in Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma” –countries under US economic sanctions.

During the financial year 2015, the US justice department collected $23 billion in penalties in various civil and criminal cases, slightly lower than the collection for 2013, when it had a record haul. Indian firms were also fined in the US.

While the US nuclear industry wants to avoid any liability in India for acts of omission or commission, Indian companies have often been slapped with large fines for violations of US law.

Drug manufacturer Ranbaxy paid penalties of $500 million (Rs 3,400 crore) in 2013 for falsifying data about its drugs and for not following proper manufacturing practices- –more than twice the value of the nuclear liability insurance pool to be created in India.

In 2013, tech firm Infosys paid a $35 million penalty in a civil settlement on allegations of visa misuse; the firm maintained that the “claims are untrue and remain unproven”.

India, too, has started levying big fines. For instance, in 2013, a group of Indian cement companies was fined Rs 6,698 crore by the Competition Commission of India for working as a cartel and over-charging consumers. This amount, levied for unfair business practices rather than causing deaths and injuries, is 4.4 times the proposed liability cap for nuclear incidents.

Similarly, Delhi-based real estate firm DLF has been recently ordered to pay a penalty of Rs 630 crore for unfair business practices. (IANS/ IndiaSpend.org)