I’ve only flown them once - on a short hop from Delhi to Lahore in the 1990s. But one flight on Pakistan’s national flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), was quite enough. It went immediately on my list of airlines to be avoided in future.
So it came as no surprise to read recently that PIA has fired 300 employees - including pilots, cabin crew and engineers - for producing fake degrees.
The sacked pilots had flown thousands of hours for the airline including one who had recorded 25 years of service.
The scandal first broke in 2012, when a number of employees of the airline were accused of having submitted fake degrees.
There is no shortage of clowns in the Philippines. My Filipino friends tell me most of them are running the country. I can’t comment on that, but whenever I attend a children’s birthday party with my five year-old son, there is always a clown. And the kids love them.
The situation in Britain is quite different. While we have more than our fair share of clowns at the helm of government, it seems the era of the clown as an entertainer is in steep decline.
For decades a clown at a birthday party or a corporate event was a constant fixture. But no more. Membership of Clowns International (CI) has dropped from almost 1,000 in the 1980s to just 100.
Clowns say that the public has become increasingly cynical and TV characters such as The Simpsons’ Krusty the Clown, who is portrayed as a heavy smoker and drinker, and film makers who turn friendly clowns into psychopaths, have contributed to the decline which could see the profession wiped out.
Legendary crooner, Tony Bennett, has slammed today’s music industry saying modern songs have no lasting qualities and are simply designed to make the industry as much money as possible.
The rags-to-riches New Yorker, now 87 and still performing, has sold more than 50 million records over his long career.
Speaking in England last week, the veteran singer said: "The songs that are written today, most of them are terrible. It’s a very bad period, musically, throughout the world for popular music.
The USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the United States Seventh Fleet, arrived in Manila’s South Harbor on Tuesday on a four-day goodwill visit and to strengthen ties between the two countries.
I was lucky enough to be in Manila this week and when I received an invitation from the US Embassy to join a media tour of the ship, I jumped at the opportunity.
The impressive second chopper on the ship.*
My last visit to a US Navy ship was a few years back when the stately aircraft carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk, made her farewell visit to Hong Kong.
The Seventh Fleet is the largest of the US Navy’s forward-deployed fleets. At any given time there are 80 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft and some 40,000 sailors and marines in Seventh Fleet.
Robert Harland with the impeccable Bleu Moore.*
There’s a cheap little device new on the market which will be a godsend for poor people living in areas with no access to electricity.
The Lightie designed to provide sustainable, safe and affordable lighting.*
Michael Suttner, a South African mechanical engineer and entrepreneur recently unveiled what he calls the ‘Lightie’. This is a portable solar-powered light that fits into a standard plastic soft drink bottle.
Each Lightie costs around Php500.
The Lightie fits snugly into a soft drink bottle which enhances the illumination.*
AUSTRALIA DAY. Guest of honor at the Manila British and Commonwealth Club recently to celebrate the national days of Australia and New Zealand was Australian Ambassador H.E. Bill Tweddell (center) with (l-r) club vice-president and Negros sugar and rice farmer Leslie Stokes OBE and Angel Stokes, Robert Harland, British Embassy Warden for Negros Occidental and Bacolod Chef Stessie Hecita.*
I had a message the other day to return a call to one of the country’s major telephone companies. Thinking it might be in connection with a recent query I’d raised with them, I called back. After many attempts, I finally reached the person who had called me.
Was it about my query? No, it was a sales girl trying to sell me some additional ‘phone services.
I found this very irritating. To my mind, if someone is trying to sell something, the onus is on the salesperson to track down the prospect, not the other way around. I wasted 20 minutes trying to find the person who had called.
So I asked the girl how long she’d been in the selling job. Just four days was the answer.
I never cease to be amazed at how tolerant Filipinos are. While they’re usually quick to moan about corrupt politicians, the government or the ‘Gates of Hell’ traffic, most Filipinos seem reluctant to complain if they’ve had a bad meal or poor service in a shop or restaurant.
Maybe it’s because Filipinos are non-confrontational. They don’t want to embarrass someone in public. So if they get served a steak which is as tough as a doormat, many locals will just leave it and never come back to that restaurant.
Super typhoons Yolanda, Ondoy, Milenyo, Pablo and Pepeng have become household names. The damage they wrought on land is well-known – but what exactly do storms do to coral reefs?
To find out, I asked Gregg Yan, communications manager for WWF-Philippines. He explained that the WWF is one of the most active in helping to protect the country’s marine resources.
Broken coral branches blanket the sea floor. New corals will have a harder time re-colonizing rubble fields as they are unstable.* (Photo: WWF-Philippines)
Yan said that storms and typhoons continuously shape the composition, distribution and geographical range of the world’s reefs. Like plants, many corals take on forms best suited to their homes.