SpaceX tells rocket performance OK in secret satellite launching

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.( AP) — SpaceX defended its rocket performance during the course of its weekend launch of a secret U.S. spacecraft, reacting Tuesday to media reports that the satellite codenamed Zuma was lost.

Company President Gwynne Shotwell said the Falcon 9 rocket “did everything correctly” Sunday night and suggestions otherwise are “categorically false.”

Northrop Grumman — which provided the satellite for an undisclosed U.S. government entity — said it cannot comment on categorized missions. The company opted SpaceX as the launch provider , noting late last year that it took “great care to ensure the most affordable and lowest risk scenario for Zuma.” The name refers to a Malibu beach in Southern California.

This was SpaceX’ s third classified mission for the U.S. government, a lucrative customer. It was so shrouded in privacy that the sponsoring government agency was not even identified, as is usually the case.

The Falcon’s first stage completed its job, lifting the rocket off the pad and toward space, then divided and landed back at Cape Canaveral. But second-stage datum was kept to a minimum because of all the secrecy surrounding the flight. The rocket’s second stage propels the satellite into orbit.

The Wall Street Journal quotes unidentified congressional officials who were briefed on the mission as saying the satellite apparently did not separate from the second stage, and plunged through the ambiance and burned up.

Originally scheduled for a November launch, Zuma was delayed by potential concern about another mission’s payload fairing, the shell on top that protects a spacecraft during launching. The company subsequently said it had cleared the issue.

Shotwell said in a statement that since no rocket changes are warranted for upcoming flights, the company’s launch schedule remains on track. If additional reviews uncover current problems, she said, “we will report it immediately.”

Last year was a banner year for the private space company with 18 launchings. It’s shooting for even more flights in 2018.

SpaceX’s new, powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy, was at its launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, awaiting an engine test-firing sometime the coming week. The California-based company aims to launch the Heavy by month’s aim, constructing its debut with chief executive Elon Musk’s own personal Tesla Roadster on board. Another Falcon 9, meanwhile, is scheduled to fly in three weeks with a communication satellite for Luxembourg.

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Cadillac’s new subscription service lets members order luxury cars whenever

The Cadillac logo
Image: Getty Images/scott olson

Cadillac seems to be taking a cue from the world of subscription delivery startups.

The GM-owned luxury brand is launching a new service that will let members drive and swap out pricey cars whenever they’d like for a flat monthly fee of $1,500.

Subscribers simply select what model car they want from a menu within an app, then wait as a white-gloved concierge delivers it to a location of their choosing (though customers are allowed only 18 swaps per year).

Cadillac is billing the offering, called BOOK, as the first service of its kind.

The idea is that the service will free its members from the hassles of actually owning a car things like insurance, maintenance and registration while also allowing them to match their vehicle to a specific occasion say, an Escalade for a road trip or a CTS for a date.

It’s sort of an upscale version of existing car-sharing services like GM’s Maven or ZipCar.

The announcement comes as big car manufacturers are increasingly contemplating a future where personal car ownership is no longer the default.

While no one quite agrees on the business model to follow, most leaders in the tech and auto industries recognize that the rise of driverless technology, mass urban migration and ride-hailing services will prompt a drastic change in the way people think about transportation.

Visions of this post-ownership future vary by prognosticator. Elon Musk believes each car owner will essentially act as their own ride-sharing service, dispatching their autonomous vehicles to collect fares when they’re not in use.

Lyft president John Zimmer sees a future where the company’s customers pay for a monthly Netflix-like subscription service not unlike Cadillac’s model. Ford is talking to city governments about possible replacements for public transportation. And Volkswagen has launched an in-house startup to explore ideas like on-demand shuttles.

In an interview with Mashable last May, Cadillac president Johan de Nysschen envisioned a subscription service with an ownership system borrowed from the private jet market. Instead of buying expensive planes outright, jet setters often pay for an equity stake in an aircraft proportional to how much time they plan to use it, while the brand handles logistics like fueling and maintenance.

De Nysschen speculated that a similar model might work for pricing access to the luxury brand’s fleet of one-day autonomous cars.

BOOK seems to be the first step towards realizing that vision.

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‘In Grave Danger’: Amber Alert Issued For Twinkle Twinkie Twilight

Fears are growing for the safety of a 15 -month-old toddler from Texas who was in foster care but allegedly disappeared with her biological mom.

Twinkle Twinkie Twilight was taken by Vicki Miles as they visited Fort Worth on Saturday, Child Protective Services reported.

An urgent alert was issued over the weekend in a bid to find the missing infant. That had now been been upgraded to an Amber Alert. The Texas Amber Alert Network said the little girl — also known as Twinkle Miles — was in “grave or immediate danger.”

Twilight has black hair and brown eyes, and was last seen wearing a gray shirt and blue jeans, according to KTRK. The toddler has a blue birthmark on her left forearm and may have a shaved head, CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said.

Miles, 42, who also goes by the name of Vicki Dixon, is 5-foot-3 and 114 pounds, reports WF-AATV . She was last seen driving a red 2001 Chevrolet Trail Blazer with a Texas license plate number MHY 236.

The child was placed into foster care in June after CPS gained custody, reports NBCDFW .

Any information about the mother and daughter can be passed on to the CPS at 800 -2 52 -5 400 or Fort Worth Police on 817 -3 35 -4 222.

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Kansas police chief hailed hero after taking out plant gunman | Fox News

A Kansas police officer was called a tremendous hero Friday after shooting and killing a gunman who killed three people and injured 14 others at a lawnmower-parts plant.

Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton said the officer stopped a bigger massacre because there was about 200 or 300 people still at the Excel Industries building in Hesston and the shooter wasnt done by any means. Had the officer not done what he did, this would be a whole lot more tragic, he added.

This man wasnt going to stop shooting, Walton said, according to the Wichita Eagle. The only reason he stopped shooting is the officer stopped the shooter.

Gov. Sam Brownback said preliminary information indicated that the officer was Hesston Police Chief Doug Schroeder, who didnt wait for backup and seized the situation. The Associated Press reported that Schroeder has been on the job since 1998.

The Hesston police chief, in particular, went in immediately, Brownback said. Rather than even waiting on backup, he went right in and did heroic duty and service.

Earlier Friday, the gunman was identified as Cedric Ford, 38, a worker at the factory. As a convicted felon, he was prohibited from owning any kind of firearm. A woman was charged with supplying him with an assault rifle and a pistol.

Authorities said Ford had just been served with a protective order involving a former girlfriend that probably set off the attack.

While driving to the factory, the gunman shot a man on the street, striking him in the shoulder. A short time later, he shot someone else in the leg at an intersection, authorities said.

The suspect shot one person in the factory parking lot before opening fire inside the building, the sheriff’s department said.

Ford had several convictions in Florida over the last decade. His past offenses included burglary, grand theft, fleeing from an officer, aggravated fleeing and carrying a concealed weapon, all from Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

According to the Wichita Eagle, Ford has also had criminal cases in Harvey County, including a misdemeanor conviction in a 2008 fighting or brawling case and various traffic violations from 2014 and 2015.

Walton said Ford had been “in my jail a couple of times before.”

Excel was “deeply saddened by the horrific event that occurred yesterday,” president and CEO Paul Mullet said.

The shooting came less than a week after authorities say a man opened fire at several locations in the Kalamazoo, Michigan, area, leaving six people dead and two severely wounded. Authorities haven’t disclosed a possible motive in those attacks.

Eleven of the people wounded in Thursday’s attack were taken to two Wichita hospitals, where one was in critical condition, five were in serious condition, and five were in fair condition Friday morning, hospital officials said. The others were taken to a Newton hospital, and their conditions weren’t immediately available.

Walton said his office served the suspect with the protection from abuse order at around 3:30 p.m., which was about 90 minutes before the first shooting happened.

While driving to the factory, the gunman shot a man on the street in the nearby town of Newton, striking him in the shoulder. A short time later, he shot someone else in the leg at an intersection.

“The shooter proceeded north to Excel Industries in Hesston, where one person was shot in the parking lot before he opened fire inside the building,” the department said in a release. “He was seen entering the building with an assault-style long gun.”

Dennis Britton Jr. suffered a fracture in his right leg when a bullet went through his buttocks and out his leg. Britton’s father, Dennis Britton Sr., who also works at the plant as a welding team leader, said his son was “awake and talking and communicating.”

Martin Espinoza, who works at Excel, was in the plant during the attack. He heard people yelling to others to get out of the building, then heard popping, then saw the shooter, a co-worker he described as typically pretty calm.

Espinoza said the shooter pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger, but the gun was empty. At that point, the gunman got a different gun and Espinoza ran.

“I took off running. He came outside after a few people, shot outside a few times, shot at the officers coming onto the scene at the moment and then reloaded in front of the company,” Espinoza told The Associated Press. “After he reloaded he went inside the lobby in front of the building and that is the last I seen him.”

Authorities identified the dead as 44-year-old Brian Sadowsky of Newton; 31-year-old Josh Higbee of Buhler; and 30-year-old Renee Benjamin, whose hometown was unavailable.

Hesston is a community of about 3,700 about 35 miles north of Wichita. Excel Industries was founded there in 1960 and manufactures Hustler and Big Dog mowing equipment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from The Wichita Eagle.

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We Drive the $30K Chevy Bolt, GM’s Tesla-Walloping Electric Car

For nearly two years, General Motors has promised that the Chevrolet Bolt, its affordable, long-range electric car, would deliver at least 200 miles on a charge and cost no more than $30,000 after the requisite federal tax credit.

Those two numbers are in many ways the Bolt’sraison d’tre,because they are widely seen as the key to overcoming range anxiety—the fear of beingstranded with a dead battery—and pushing electric vehiclesinto the mainstream. “The 200-mile mark is huge, it’s a huge thing in customers’ minds,” says Josh Tavel, the Bolt’s chief engineer. “They believe they need it. So we gave it to ’em, in surplus.”

Indeed. The EPA pegs the Bolt’s range at 238 miles, General Motors announced today. I saw even more drivinga pre-production Bolt downthe California coast from Monterey to Santa Barbara. I put the car in park having added 239.9 miles to the odometer, and the range indicator said the battery had another 23 miles to go.

Nicely done, GM.

Delivering exceptional range is essential to GM’s goal of beating Tesla in the race to deliver an EVfor the masses. The Bolt is expected in showrooms within months; Musk & Co. plan to start producing theModel 3late next year and offer it for around $35,000. Tesla has said the car will offer a range of 215 miles.

What’s really remarkable about the bowtie-badged hatchback is it also topsTesla’s entry-level Model S 60 sedan, which delivers208 miles and goes for $50,000. (TheModel S P100Dflagshipoffers 315 miles and costs $134,500.)

Granted, it was a warm day, and General Motors mapped thetest route I followed, which started with a 100-mile cruise down the coast on Highway 1, where I averaged about 40 mph. Then I spent an hour on Highway 101, zipping along at my typical freeway speed of 70 mph. I had no trouble keeping up with traffic making a 2,000-foot climb through Los Padres National Forest. At no point during the day did I feel I had to back off to save the battery.

Chevrolet’s $30K Bolt EV boasts an EPA-rated range of 238 miles. Chevrolet

The Bolt’s computer told me I averaged 4.5 miles per kilowatt-hour (the electric equivalentto mpg) and that I drained 53.9 kWh from the 60-kWh pack built by LG Chem.

Although excellent range and a reasonable price are the car’s big selling points, the Bolt has other attributes. It hits 60 mph from a standstill in a respectable 6.5 seconds. The styling is sleek, and the car is attractive if not sexy. It does everything you’d expect of a compact car.

The car is remarkably spacious. The wheels are at the corners and the drivetrain is down low, maximizing space. Clever engineering created roomin unexpected places. The front seats, for example, are half as thick as conventional seats, improving rear passenger space without sacrificing comfort. “You’re sitting on springs, instead of a pillow,” Tavel says. The car is so roomy that Tavel lobbied the marketing department to use Usain Bolt—who stands 6 feet, 5 inches tall—in advertisements, but apparently Olympic legends are expensive pitchmen.

Still, the Bolt isn’t quite finished, and Tavel picks the tiniest of nits. He’d like to see a tighter tolerance in the gap between the dash and doors, a space I’d peg at about a quarter of an inch. He wants a faster response from the infotainment system when opening Apple CarPlay (the Bolt also supports Android Auto). And he’s got his team tinkering with manufacturing dies to rounding off some of the car’s corners.

But these are finishing touches on what strikes me as an excellent car. GM hasn’t said just what the car will cost, nor has it said how many it might build. The Model 3 is Tesla’s volume play, the car that Elon Musk hopes makes his company more than a niche player. Tesla already has 400,000 orders for the car.

The Bolt is GM’s fine china, brought out to impress the increasingly important millenials.

GM, on the other hand, sees the Bolt as a “strategic asset,” says Steve Majoros, Chevrolet’s head of marketing for cars and crossovers, like the hybrid electric Volt and musclebound Camaro. (GM has sold 100,000 Volts since 2010, and sells 80,000 to 90,000 Camaros annually.) Obviously the company wants to sell as many Bolts as possible—and will offer them in dealerships nationwide—but it’s not gonna make or break the company.The Bolt is what the industry calls a halo car, a vehicle meant to show that GM can innovate.

That’s why GM using the car to stock the fleets of Maven, its car sharing service. It sent about a dozen pre-production vehicles to Cruise, the autonomous driving outfit it acquired earlier this year. And Lyft drivers gets dibs in ordering (GM invested $500 million in Uber rival in January). All are uses chosen to get the Bolt, and the great things it says about GM, in front of more people, especially young people.

The Bolt is GM’s fine china, brought out to impress the increasingly important millenials. Still, it’s just about here, and for anyone who takes it home, it’ll go the distance.

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In Germany’s Appalachia, the Last Coal Mine Is Shutting

This story originally appeared on Grist and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

It’s a sunny October day on the outskirts of the west German town of Bottrop. A quiet, two-lane road leads me through farm pasture to a cluster of anonymous, low-lying buildings set among the trees. The highway hums in the distance. Looming above everything else is a green A-frame structure with four great pulley wheels to carry men and equipment into a mine shaft. It’s the only visible sign that, almost three quarters of a mile below, Germany’s last hard coal lies beneath this spot.

Bottrop sits in the Ruhr Valley, a dense stretch of towns and suburbs home to 5.5 million people. Some 500,000 miners once worked in the region’s nearly 200 mines, producing as much as 124 million tons of coal every year.

Next year, that era will come to an end when this mine closes. The Ruhr Valley is in the midst of a remarkable transformation. Coal and steel plants have fallen quiet, one by one, over the course of the last half-century. Wind turbines have sprung up among old shaft towers and coking plants as Germany strives to hit its renewable energy goals.

But the path from dirty coal to clean energy isn’t an easy one. Bottrop’s Prosper-Haniel coal mine is a symbol of the challenges and opportunities facing Germany—and coal-producing states everywhere.

Around the world, as governments shift away from the coal that fueled two ages of industrial revolution, more and more mines are falling silent. If there’s an afterlife for retired coal mines, one that could put them to work for the next revolution in energy, it will have to come soon.

The elevator that carries Germany’s last coal miners on their daily commute down the mine shaft travels at about 40 feet a second, nearly 30 miles an hour. “Like a motorcycle in a city,” says Christof Beicke, the public affairs officer for the Ruhr mining consortium, as the door rattles shut. It’s not a comforting analogy.

The brakes release and, for a moment, we bob gently on the end of the mile-and-a-half long cable, like a boat in dock. Then we drop. After an initial flutter in my stomach, the long minutes of the ride are marked only by a strong breeze through the elevator grilles and the loud rush of the shaft going by.

When the elevator finally stops, on the seventh and deepest level of the mine, we file into a high-ceilinged room that looks like a subway platform. One of the men who built this tunnel, Hamazan Atli, leads our small group of visitors through the hall. Standing in the fluorescent light and crisp, engineered breeze, I have the uncanny sense of walking into an environment that humans have designed down to the last detail, like a space station or a submarine.

A row of hydraulic presses displayed at the Mining Museum in Bochum, Germany.
Amelia Urry

A monorail train takes us the rest of the way to the coal seam. After about half an hour, we clamber out of the cars and clip our headlamps into the brackets on our hard hats. It is noticeably warmer here. There is a sulfurous smell that grows stronger as we walk down the slight incline toward the deepest point of our day, more than 4,000 feet below the surface, and duck under the first of the hydraulic presses that keep the ceiling from collapsing on us.

Because this seam is only about five feet high, we have to hunch as we move through the tunnel of presses, stepping through deep pools of water that swallow our boots. The coal-cutting machine is stalled today, otherwise it would be chewing its way along the 310-yard-long seam, mouthparts clamped to the coal like a snail to aquarium glass. The coal would be sluiced away on a conveyor belt to the surface, and the hydraulic presses would inch forward, maintaining space for the miners to work.

Instead, the mine is eerily quiet. Two miners, their faces black, squeeze past us. As we sit, sweating and cramped under the hydraulic presses, the bare ceiling above the coal seam gives up an occasional gasp of rock, showering down dust and debris.

Later, in a brightly lit room back on the surface, Beicke from the mining consortium asks me what I thought of the mine. I tell him that it seems like an extreme environment for humans. “Yes,” he nods, “it is like an old world.”

An old mine car sits as an exhibit in the former Zollverein Mine Complex.
Amelia Urry

A few days earlier, Beicke and I had trekked to the top of a hill outside the long-shuttered Ewald Mine in Herten, a half-hour drive from Bottrop. We climbed a set of stairs to a platform with a view over the whole region, the fenced-off or leased-out buildings of the old mine sitting below us.

The Ruhr Valley encompasses 53 cities of Germany’s once-formidable industrial heartland, including Essen, Bochum, and Oberhausen. The whole region was once low-lying riverland, but these days large hills rear above the landscape. These are the heaps of rock removed from the mines, tons of slag excavated with the coal and piled up. It’s a stark visual reminder of what’s been emptied out from underneath.

As the mines have closed down, most of these heaps have been covered with grass, and many have been crowned with a statue or other landmark. On one hill outside Essen, there’s a 50-foot steel slab by the sculptor Richard Serra; on another, atop other heaps, wind turbines stand like giant mechanical daisies.

Germany has been hailed as a leader in the global shift to clean energy, putting aside its industrial past for a renewable future faster than most of the industrialized world. The country has spent more than $200 billion on renewable energy subsidies since 2000 (compare that to the United States, which spends an estimated $20 billion to subsidize fossil fuel production every year).

In 2011, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government announced the beginning of a policy of “energiewende” to wean Germany off fossil fuels and nuclear power. Last year, wind, solar, and other renewables supplied nearly 30 percent of the country’s electricity. The goal now is to hit 40 percent in the next 10 years, while slashing carbon emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Amelia Urry

That transition has happened alongside attempts to restore the Ruhr Valley’s landscape. For every hill raised above ground level, there is an accompanying depression where the land subsided as coal seams were emptied out. The land here sank as the coal seams closest to the surface were emptied out. Overall, the region has sunk about 80 feet.

Streams that enter the Ruhr Valley are no longer able to flow out the other side, Beicke explains, and now water pools in places it never used to. The mining company is responsible for pumping that water away, as well as pumping groundwater across the region, to keep the water table below the level of the existing mines. Any contaminated water in the old mines must be removed and treated to keep it from polluting the groundwater.

These are just a few of the mining company’s “ewigkeitsaufgaben”—literally, eternity tasks.

“As long as 5 or 6 million people want to live in this area, we will have to do that,” Beicke tells me, of the expensive water management. “Maybe 2,000 years in the future that will change, but until that happens, well.” He shrugs.

The government gives the mining consortium 220 million euros a year in subsidies to deal with all the consequences of coal mining. Unlike in the United States, where aging coal companies often sell off their assets or declare bankruptcy to dodge clean up bills, here the mining company will be pumping and treating water long after it has stopped being a mining company at all.

Despite a national commitment to a broad energy transition, many now think that Germany will fall short of its renewable energy targets, thanks to a number of confounding economic and social factors, including the continued use of a coal alternative called lignite, also known as “brown coal.” Germans have the highest electricity costs in Europe, and the rise of the country’s extreme right-wing party in the last election has been pinned, in part, on those high bills.

If Germany does continue to progress toward its climate goals, much of the new energy is sure to come from wind power. Germany has more wind turbines than any other country in Europe, many of them installed in the last six or seven years. But wind doesn’t blow consistently, so this shift has been a challenge for the electrical grid. Even slight disruptions in the power supply can have wide-ranging consequences.

As more wind turbines are turned on, and more coal plants are retired, this problem will only get bigger, and the challenge of storing all that intermittent energy will be even more important. Here’s where the country’s retired coal mines might prove useful again — as giant batteries for clean energy.

To turn a coal mine into a battery, all you need is gravity.

OK, you also need a lot of money (more about that later), but the basic principle is gravitational. When you lift a heavy object, it stores the power used to lift it as potential energy until it’s released and falls to the ground.

Let’s say the heavy object you’re lifting is water. When you want to store energy, you just have to pump the water uphill, into a reservoir. When you want to use that energy, you let the water flow back down through a series of turbines that turn the gravitational rush into electricity.

A shaft tower above the Prosper-Haniel coal mine.
Amelia Urry

This is the basic plan André Niemann and Ulrich Schreiber conceived when they were dreaming up new ways to use old mines. It seemed intuitive to the two professors at the University of Essen-Duisburg: The bigger the distance between your upper and lower reservoirs, the more energy you can store, and what’s deeper than a coal mine?

Schreiber, a geologist, realized it was theoretically possible to fit a pumped storage reservoir into a mine, but it had never been done before. Niemann, a hydraulic engineer, thought the proposal was worth pursuing. He drummed up some research money, then spent a few years conducting feasibility studies, looking for a likely site in the Ruhr Valley and running the numbers on costs and benefits.

After studying the region’s web of fault lines and stratigraphic layers, Niemann’s team settled on the closing Prosper-Haniel mine. Their underground reservoir would be built like a massive highway tunnel, a reinforced concrete ring nine miles around and nearly 100 feet high, with a few feet difference in height from one side of the ring to the other to allow the water to flow, Niemann explains.

At max storage, the turbines could run for four hours, providing 800 megawatt-hours of reserve energy, enough to power 200,000 homes.

The appeal of pumped storage is obvious for Germany. Wind and sun are fickle energy sources—“intermittent” by industry lingo—and energy storage can help smooth out the dramatic spikes. When the wind gusts, you can stash that extra power in a battery. When a cloud moves over the sun, you can pull power back out. It’s simple and, as the grid handles more and more renewable energy, increasingly needed.

The only problem: It’s expensive.

As wind turbine and solar technologies have become cheaper, energy storage costs have stayed high. Pumped hydro, especially, requires a big investment up front. Niemann estimates it would cost between 10,000 and 25,000 euros per meter of tunnel just to build the reservoir, and around 500 million euros for the whole thing. Right now, neither the government nor the energy companies in the Ruhr Valley are willing to make that kind of investment.

“It’s not a business, it’s a bet, to be honest,” Niemann says with a shrug.

In spite of the increasing unlikelihood of the proposal becoming reality, delegations from the United States, China, Poland, France, South Africa, and Slovakia, among others, have visited Niemann and Schreiber in Essen to learn about mine pumped-storage. Virginia’s Dominion Energy has been studying the idea with the support of a Republican state senator, and a group from Virginia Tech paid a visit the week after I did.

Here’s where any attempt to draw comparisons across the Atlantic gets complicated. In the United States, the federal government has been relatively hands-off in helping coal-dependent regions move on from the industries that fueled their way of life. In Germany, by contrast, there’s a broad agreement about the need to shift to renewable sources of energy. And yet, even with all that social, political, and economic foresight, important and necessary innovations remain stalled for lack of investment.

The Ruhr Valley is not Appalachia. And yet the two regions share key similarities that offer some important lessons about the a path to a cleaner, more sustainable future.

The view over the Ruhr Valley today.
Amelia Urry

Dying industries take more than jobs with them. Towns built around a single industry, like coal mining, develop a shared identity. For many workers and their families, it’s not as simple as picking up and finding a new line of work when the mine closes. Mining is seen as a calling, an inheritance, and people want their way of life back.

That’s how residents of the Ruhr responded when coal jobs started to decline.

“For a long time, people thought the old times would come back, the old days would return,” says Kai van de Loo, an energy and economics expert for a German coal association in Essen. “But they can never come back.”

In the United States, of course, calls to bring back the old days often works wonders as a political sales pitch. Donald Trump campaigned for president on promises to stop the “war on coal” and revive the dying industry, and mining towns across the Rust Belt supported him.

In Pennsylvania’s Mon River Valley, home to a once-thriving underground mining complex bigger than Manhattan, mining continues to exert an oversized influence. Some 8,000 people work in coal in the state, a portion of the 50,000 coal jobs left in the United States. That’s a far cry from the 180,000 people who worked in the industry 30 years ago. worked in or around coal mines only 30 years ago.

And the legacy of coal mining on the landscape is hard to miss. Bare slag heaps rise above the trees, dwarfing the towns beside them. Maryann Kubacki, supervisor of East Bethlehem in Washington County, says that during rainy spells the township has to shovel the gritty, black runoff from their storm sewers.

But without the federal government leading the way with financial support as it has in Germany, getting these former coal towns on a new track is a daunting task. Veronica Coptis, director of the Center for Coalfield Justice in Pennsylvania, says that organizing people to put pressure on mining companies is a delicate matter. People don’t want to hear that coal is bad, or that its legacy is poisoned. “We want an end to mining,” she says, “but we know it can’t happen abruptly.”

Back in Germany, the mayor of Bottrop, Bernd Tischler, has been thinking about how to kick coal since at least the early 2000s, long before the federal government put an end date on the country’s mining. An urban planner by training, Tischler has a knack for long-range strategy. After he took office in 2009, Tischler thought Bottrop could reinvent itself as a hub of renewable energy and energy efficiency. He devised heating plants that run off methane collected from the coal mine, and made Bottrop the first town in the Ruhr with a planned zone for wind energy.

In 2010, Bottrop won the title of “Innovation City,” a model for what the Ruhr Valley cities could become. Bottrop now gets 40 percent of its energy from renewables, Tischler said, 10 percentage points above the national average.

Describing this transformation, Tischler makes it almost sound easy. I explain that the issue of coal seems to track larger divisions in the United States, and so discussions inevitably turn heated, emotional.

“In Bottrop, the people of course feared for the process of the end of the coal mining,” he said. But Tischler believes mining towns have an advantage that can help them adapt to change: They’re more cohesive. In the mines, people are used to working together and looking out for each other. Distrust is dangerous, even deadly.

The Ruhr cities absorbed waves of Polish, Italian, and Turkish laborers over the years. And they’ve managed to get along well, knitting a strong social fabric, Tischler said. In the past few years, Bottrop, a town of 117,000 people, has resettled thousands of Syrian refugees in new housing.

A strong social fabric isn’t enough to survive the loss of a major industry, of course. Some promising industry—technology and renewables in Bottrop’s case—has to be found to replace it.

“I think the responsibility of the mayors and the politicians is to change the fear into a new vision, a new way,” he says. “You can’t do it against your people; you have to convince your people. You have to work together with institutions and stakeholders that don’t normally work together, [so that] we are sitting in the same boat and we are rowing in the same direction.”

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Kobe Steel chief admits scandal has hit trust as car checks spread

General Motors joins auto, train and aircraft manufacturers investigating whether they have used substandard products

The chief executive of Kobe Steel has said a deepening scandal over false inspections data may have spread beyond Japan, and conceded that his company now had “zero credibility”.

US carmaker General Motors is the latest manufacturer to check whether its cars contain falsely certified parts or components sourced from the the firm, Japan’s third-biggest steelmaker.

“General Motors is aware of the reports of material deviation in Kobe Steel copper and aluminium products,” the company’s spokesman Nick Richards said. “We are investigating any potential impact and do not have any additional comments at this time.”

The scandal has forced some of Japan’s best-known manufacturers to confirm the safety of products sourced from Kobe Steel.

Toyota and Nissan are among about 200 affected companies, and Hitachi said it had used Kobe Steel parts in trains built for the UK market.

“Products used met safety standards, but they did not meet the specifications that were agreed between us and Kobe Steel,” a Hitachi spokesman said.

Pressure is mounting on Kobe after it admitted last weekend that it had falsified figures about the strength and durability of its aluminium and copper products, which are used in cars, aircraft, space rockets and defence equipment.

Its chief executive, Hiroya Kawasaki, apologised on Thursday and promised that the firm would report to the trade ministry on the results of urgent safety inspections within a fortnight. He also said the cause of the falsified data would be explained within a month.

“The credibility of Kobe Steel has plunged to zero. We will make efforts to regain trust as soon as possible,” Kawasaki told reporters after meeting government officials.

Hitachi also said it had used the Kobe Steel parts in trains built for the UK market. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

The scandal is one of several to have embroiled Japanese manufacturers in recent years, and has called the country’s reputation for quality control into question.

The car parts maker Takata has paid $1bn (£756m) in penalties in connection with defective airbags that have been blamed for at least 16 deaths worldwide.

Earlier this month, Nissan recalled all 1.2m new cars it sold in Japan over the past three years after discovering that final vehicle inspections had not been performed by authorised technicians.

Nissan used Kobe Steel aluminium in the hoods and doors of some of its vehicles. “As hoods are related to pedestrian safety, we are working to quickly assess any potential impact on vehicle functionality,” it said.

Toyota also confirmed that the material has been used in hoods and rear doors of some of its vehicles.

The aircraft maker Boeing said it was inspecting Kobe Steel products, but that it had no reason to believe safety had been put at risk.

Kobe Steel also supplies materials to the carmakers Ford, Honda, Mazda and Subaru as well as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Yoshihiko Katsukawa, a managing executive officer at Kobe Steel, said the scandal could widen depending on the results of an investigation by an outside law firm into cases of data falsification stretching back a decade.

“We can’t rule out the possibility that the external investigation will find other cases,” Katsukawa said. No Kobe Steel customers had raised safety concerns or cancelled contracts with the firm, he added.

Shares in the company stabilised on Thursday after about $1.6bn was wiped off its market value in two days.

Wire agencies contributed to this report.

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Volkswagen could have a 300 -mile, mass-market EV by 2018

A Volkswagen BUDD-e concept car is ensure at the 2016 International Consumer Electronics Show( CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 06 January 2016.
Image: Jason Ogulnik/ picture-alliance/ dpa/ AP Images

If you thought the Tesla Model 3‘s 200 -mile-range was impressive, delayed until you hear what Volkswagen has in store.

The company has been hurting a bit since dieselgate transgressed last year. The world’s largest automaker might be down, but it’s not out. That’s because it has a veritable arsenal of exciting new vehicles in the pipeline. Perhaps none more so than VW’s forthcoming long-range EV.

While we knew the German carmaker was working on a 300 -plus-mile electric car, we didn’t quite know when we might actually see it, or learn about any of its features. However, today we have a better idea.

VW CEO Hebert Diess told German publication Wirtschafts Woche that the yet-unnamed EV will have a range somewhere between 400 to 600 kilometers( 248 to372 miles ), according to Electrek .

However, the New European Driving Cycle( NEDC) is a bit more liberal with its efficiency figures than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency( EPA ). So, it’d probably rated by the EPA at around 300 miles per charge. Still, that would make it the longest-range EV around.

What’s more, Diess admitted the EV will be around the size of the Golf but have the cargo space of the larger Passat sedan. Dedicated that admission, it’s not unlikely that the car will be a microbus like the BUDD-e VW unveiled at CES earlier this year.

Although Elon Musk has confirmed Tesla is working on a microbus of its own, there’s no telling when that EV mini people mover is likely to be debuted. The VW, on the other hand, is being readied for a Paris Motor Show unveiling in September.

Granted, that car will be merely a prototype. Thankfully, Diess corroborated the production version of the car will be sent into production in 2018 or 2019.

If you’re in the market for a mass-market long-range EV and don’t want to wait for either the Model 3 or the VW EV, though, Chevy’s Bolt EV will be reaching showrooms subsequently this year.

BONUS: BUDD-e electric microbus from Volkswagen is a tech lover’s dream

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Tesla’s holiday update includes a light show and a trip to Mars

Image: WILLIAM TERWILLEGER via youtube

Tesla continues to demonstrate why its success among a crowded field of auto giants isn’t a fluke, this time with a special holiday greeting.

Hidden in a recent Tesla Model X software update released earlier this week was an Easter Egg that allows owners to put the car into a holiday-themed light show mode.

Pressing the Tesla logo for about five seconds on the car’s control screen and then typing in the access code “modelxmas” starts the show, which also includes music and the car’s unique “falcon wing doors” flapping in unison.

On Saturday, Tesla founder Elon Musk popped up on Twitter to give Tesla owners instructions on how to get the holiday function to work.

Another Easter Egg in the update, geared toward those who are fans of Musk’s SpaceX pursuings, requires you press the logo and enter the access code “mars” to get a simulation of being on Mars as a rover.

No , none of this builds the car better than the competition. But by treating the Tesla like the rolling computer that it is( something users are now accustomed to on their smartphones ), Tesla once again is showing off its tech-native approach to automobiles.

Your move, literally every other vehicle company on Earth.

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Sister accused of killing twin in Hawaii jailed in New York

Rescue workers respond to the scene of a car crash in Hawaii.  (AP)

A woman who was accused of killing her twin sister by driving their vehicle off a Hawaii cliff in May was being held in a New York jail Monday after again being charged with murder.

New York State Police announced over the weekend that Alexandria Duval, 38, was arrested Friday after being tracked down at an Albany home. Police say when they spotted Duval outside the residence she tried to flee, but she was soon caught.

The arrest comes after the Maui Police Department issued a warrant for Duval’s arrest when a grand jury indicted her on a second-degree murder charge late last month.

Authorities on Maui said Alexandria was driving a Ford Explorer on Hana Highway on May 29 with her sister Anastasia in the passenger seat when the SUV crashed into a rock wall, plunging about 200 feet onto a rocky shoreline during what was described as a hair-pulling fight over the steering wheel.

Anastasia Duval was killed and Alexandria was injured. Alexandria was arrested and jailed on a second-degree murder charge, accused of deliberately causing her sister’s death.

A judge later ordered Alexandria’s release after determining there was no probable cause for a murder charge.

In August, Duval was arrested in Stamford in upstate New York on a drunken driving charge after authorities say she nearly struck a vehicle driven by a state police investigator. She was released about three weeks later.

Duval was being held in the Albany County Jail awaiting extradition to Hawaii.

The Duval sisters, born Alison and Ann Dadow in the Utica, New York, area, operated popular yoga studios in Palm Beach County, Florida, from 2008 to 2014 before they changed their names. They moved to Hawaii in December 2015 from Utah.

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