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Ex-Boeing 737 MAX chief technical pilot indicted for fraud

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A former chief technical pilot for Boeing Co was charged with fraud on Thursday for deceiving federal regulators evaluating the company’s  737 MAX, hindering the ability to protect airline passengers and leaving “pilots in the lurch,” the U.S. Justice Department said.

Mark Forkner, 49, was indicted by a grand jury in Texas on six counts of scheming to defraud Boeing’s U.S.-based airline customers to obtain tens of millions of dollars for Boeing, the government said.

Boeing declined to comment. A lawyer for Forkner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the indictment, Forkner, largely in the run-up to the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to approve the 737 MAX in 2017, provided the FAA Aircraft Evaluation Group with “materially false, inaccurate, and incomplete information” about a new part of the flight controls for the Boeing 737 MAX, called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

The MCAS, a software feature designed to automatically push the airplane’s nose down in certain conditions, was tied to two fatal crashes of the 737 MAX over a five-month period that killed 346 people and led to the FAA’s grounding the plane for 19 months, an action which was lifted in November 2020.

“In an attempt to save Boeing money, Forkner allegedly withheld critical information from regulators,” said Chad Meacham, the acting U.S. attorney for Northern Texas. “His callous choice to mislead the FAA hampered the agency’s ability to protect the flying public and left pilots in the lurch, lacking information about certain 737 MAX flight controls.”

The FAA declined comment.

In January, Boeing agreed to pay https://www.reuters.com/article/boeing-737max-justice-int/boeing-to-pay-2-5-billion-to-settle-u-s-criminal-probe-into-737-max-crashes-idUSKBN29D07Q more than $2.5 billion in fines and compensation after reaching a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department over the MAX crashes, which cost Boeing more than $20 billion.

The January agreement faulted Boeing’s conduct and said it was holding the largest U.S. planemaker “accountable for its employees’ criminal misconduct.” https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/boeing-charged-737-max-fraud-conspiracy-and-agrees-pay-over-25-billion

In January, Boeing admitted in court documents that through two former employees it deceived the FAA about the MCAS.

Prosecutors noted that a key  FAA document lacked any reference to the MCAS, and as a result airplane manuals and pilot-training materials for U.S.-based airlines also lacked any reference.

One November 2016 message from Forkner said he was working at “jedi-mind tricking regulators into accepting the training that I got accepted by FAA.”

If the FAA required pilot simulator training for MAX pilots, Boeing would have been required to pay Southwest Airlines nearly $400 million to offset the simulator-based pilot training requirements, a 2020 U.S. House of Representatives report said.

In 2019, the FAA required simulator training before pilots could resume flying the MAX.

Forkner is charged with two counts of fraud involving aircraft parts in interstate commerce and four counts of wire fraud. He is expected to make his initial court appearance Friday in Fort Worth, Texas.

If convicted, he potentially faces decades in prison.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Leslie Adler and Rosalba O’Brien)

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Panama, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic ask for U.S. help on migration

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The presidents of panama, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic on Wednesday asked for U.S. assistance in stemming the flow of thousands of migrants crossing the dangerous jungles that divide Panama and Colombia as they make their way to the United States.

Panama’s President Laurentino Cortizo hosted a meeting with Costa Rica’s Carlos Alvarado Quesada and Dominican Republic’s Luis Abinader in Panama City on Wednesday, where they discussed the burgeoning migrant crisis.

Cortizo said that so far this year a record number of more than 100,000 undocumented migrants have trekked north from Colombia through the Darien Gap, a lawless jungle teeming with everything from deadly snakes to anti-government guerrillas.

The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said earlier this month that some 19,000  migrant children have crossed the Darien Gap so far in 2021, almost three times higher than the total for the previous five years.

Cortizo said the situation demands concrete solutions and that Washington should play an active role in assisting.

The Latin American leaders agreed “that our foreign ministers urgently articulate with the U.S. authorities and other countries to … look for concrete measures,” he added.

The presidents discussed the possibility of establishing a strategy of investments and job creation in Haiti, home to many of the migrants.

Cortizo said that he is seeking a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden during the United Nations’ COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

In early 2021, Panamanian authorities had warned of a possible crisis after opening the borders that had for months been closed because of the pandemic.

By September, the immigration authorities of the Central American nation reported a record number of 91,305 migrants who entered from neighboring Colombia. Of these, 56,676 were Haitians and 12,870 Cubans.

 

(Reporting by Elida Moreno; Writing by Anthony Esposito Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Wednesday – CBC.ca

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The latest:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, and said Americans can choose a shot that is different than their original inoculation.

The decision paves the way for millions more people in the United States to get the additional protection with the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus causing breakthrough infections among some who are fully vaccinated.

The agency previously authorized boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months after the first round of shots to increase protection for people aged 65 and older, those at risk of severe disease and those who are exposed to the virus through their work.

Last week, an advisory panel to the FDA voted to recommend a third round of shots of the Moderna vaccine for the same groups.

WATCH | U.S. will now accept Canadian travellers with mixed doses: 

U.S. will now accept Canadian travellers with mixed COVID-19 vaccine doses

5 days ago

The United States has confirmed that Canadians that had different COVID-19 vaccines for their first and second dose will be recognized as fully vaccinated. The U.S. will be implementing travel restrictions on Nov. 8, only permitting fully vaccinated travellers into the country. 2:09

The panel also recommended a second shot of the J&J vaccine for all recipients of the one-dose inoculation at least two months after receiving their first.

The FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were under some pressure to authorize the additional shots after the White House announced plans in August for a widespread booster campaign.

The advisory panel meeting included a presentation of data on mixing vaccines from a U.S. National Institutes of Health study in which 458 participants received some combination of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and J&J shots.

The data showed that people who initially got J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine had a stronger immune response when boosted with either the Pfizer or Moderna shot, and that “mixing and matching” booster shots of different types was safe in adults.

Many countries including Canada and the U.K. have backed mix-and-match strategies for the widely-used AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which is not authorized in the United States but is based on similar viral vector technology as J&J’s vaccine.

WATCH | Booster shots not yet needed for most, says specialist: 

COVID-19 booster shots not needed for most people yet, says specialist

14 days ago

Canadians who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 might see longer immunity if their shots were spaced further apart than recommended by the vaccine makers, says Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious diseases specialist in Montreal who said most people don’t need booster shots at this time. (Evan Mitsui/CBC) 4:51

Reuters reported in June that infectious disease experts were weighing the need for booster shots of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine after the J&J shot.

A CDC advisory committee on Thursday will make its recommendations about which groups of people should get the Moderna and J&J boosters, which the agency’s director will use to inform her final decision.

About 11.2 million people have so far received a booster dose, according to data from the CDC.


What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Vaccines for kids could face hurdles after approval: 

COVID-19 vaccines for kids could face hurdles after approval

23 hours ago

Health Canada is reviewing data for the first COVID-19 vaccine for younger children, but even if it’s approved, the hurdles could include vaccine supply, distribution and getting some parents on board. 3:38

  • Pandemic restriction opponents line up behind Manitoba PC leadership hopeful.
  • Some unvaccinated municipal workers in northeastern Ontario sent home.
  • N.L. sees 9 cases as officials make tweaks to fix vaccine passport issues.

What’s happening around the world

As of Wednesday, more than 241.6 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, according to the latest figures posted by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.9 million, according to the U.S-based university’s coronavirus tracker.

In Europe, Russia will shut workplaces for a week, Latvia went back into lockdown for a month and Romanian funeral homes are running out of coffins, as vaccine-skeptic ex-communist countries face record highs of infections and deaths.

In Africa, Kenya lifted a nationwide curfew on Wednesday that has been in place since March 2020 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

In the Americas, 41 per cent of people across Latin America and the Caribbean have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Pan American Health Organization said.

In Asia, China reported a fourth day of new, locally transmitted cases in a handful of cities across the country, spurring local governments to double down on efforts to track potential carriers amid the zero-tolerance policy.

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N.Korea says U.S. overreacting over submarine missile test

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North Korea said on Thursday the United States was overreacting to its recent missile test and questioned the sincerity of Washington’s offers of talks, warning of consequences.

This week’s test of a new ballistic missile from a submarine was part of North Korea’s mid- and long-term plan to bolster self defense and was and not aimed at the United States or any other country, an unnamed spokesperson at Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said, according to the official KCNA news agency.

Washington had taken “overly provocative moves” by calling the test a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and a threat to regional peace and stability, the spokesperson said.

The Security Council met on Wednesday over the launch at the request of the United States and Britain, and the U.S. envoy urged Pyongyang to accept offers of talks, reiterating that Washington has no hostile intent toward it.

The foreign ministry spokesperson said the United States’ “double standards” over missile development cast doubt over its overtures.

“It is a clear double standard that the United States denounces us for developing and testing the same weapons system it already has or was developing, and that only adds suspicions to their sincerity after saying they have no hostility towards us,” the spokesperson said in a statement carried by KCNA.

The United States and the council could face “more grave and serious consequences” if they opted for wrong behaviour, the spokesperson said, warning against “fiddling with a time bomb.”

 

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; editing by Richard Pullin)

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