PUNCH BAG

As tropical temperatures engulf Europe, here is your June edition of Punch Bag with the usual selection of controversial, amusing and sometimes interesting items from around the world. 
While for many a pleasant alternative to the past cold winter months, the current weather conditions could be caused by climate change, a topic not everyone wants to take seriously, but that aside.
The outcome of the French presidential elections last month brought at least a temporary halt to populist trash and a sigh of relief for those who want to continue to use their euros in the coming years.
Also, on the cargo front more positive news with continuing improvements in cargo volumes, better yields in some areas and even some capacity shortages on some routes.


Nol van Fenema

UNPAID SIN TAX

- Oh dear, oh dear, we hear that UPS may have to cough up US$247 million to pay a fine for shipping cigarettes to New York City and the state without the payment of appropriate taxes.
District Judge Katherine Forrest of Manhattan ruled that UPS needed to pay a large fine because of the gravity of the infraction, which involved shipping more than 683,000 cartons of fags since 2010.
Like in practically every other civilised country in the world, cigarette taxes (also called “sin taxes”), are a major source of revenue in the U.S. Alcohol, another sin, is also taxed at high levels.
According to the Tax Foundation, the federal tax on a pack of 20 cigarettes is $1.0066. New York has the highest tax of any state at $4.35.
In her ruling, Judge Forrest said that UPS ignored “red flags” that its brown trucks were being used to transport untaxed cigarettes from Indian reservations.
The suit alleged that tobacco retailers located on upstate reservations were given price discounts for shipping in volume. It said delivery drivers were allowed to accept gifts from shippers and that account executives, whose compensation was tied to keeping big accounts, ignored signs that some customers signing delivery contracts dealt in cigarettes.
The Atlanta-based integrator argued it followed the rules and would appeal the decision, calling it “excessive and far out of the bounds of constitutional limits, particularly given that the shipments at issue generated around US$1 million in revenue.” A pittance for cancer-causing fags.

We love logistics…and cigarettes

LAST MILE

- Still on Swiss WorldCargo, your Punch Bag reporter, who was among the early leavers at the "press briefing", miraculously managed to extract some bit of news from the newly appointed head of business development and customer experience at Swiss WorldCargo, Andres Perez.
Perez recently joined the airline from U.S.-headquartered manufacturer of beauty products, Estée Lauder, where he was transportation manager retail, based in Switzerland. In this capacity, he was, among other things, involved in e-commerce shipments of EL beauty products.
As generally speaking, airlines have basically ignored and avoided any role in e-commerce, other than transporting packages for post offices and, occasionally integrators, Punch Bag's question if his previous experience in e-commerce shipments had resulted in any activity in that sector at Swiss WorldCargo, Perez revealed that the Swiss operator had launched a pilot project earlier this year to find out the feasibility of introducing an airport-to-door solution for e-commerce shipments.
According to Perez, the pilot would involve an, as yet unnamed, forwarder with an "excellent" domestic network to cover the all important last mile delivery section of the airport-to-door solution. No involvement, at least for now, of an integrator or even Swiss Post for the last mile delivery, Perez confirmed.
We just hope that the results of the pilot will be made public at a good old, traditional press conference.

Swiss WorldCargo business development manager, Andres Perez

BAD HOMBRE

- The idea is not entirely new, but Mexican lawyer, Antonio Battaglia from Guanajuato, will start selling toilet paper with Donald Trump's face on the packaging to help raise funds for deportees.
Battaglia, who registered the trademark in August 2015 with the slogan "Softness without borders" said he came up with the idea after becoming enraged at President Trump's "bad hombres" comments about Mexicans.
Battaglia is not the first person to produce a Trump toilet paper with other similar products, manufactured in China during the U.S. election campaign in 2016, available on eBay and Amazon.
In fact, Qingdao Wellpaper Industrial Co., based in Shandong province, which also developed toilet paper with Hilary Clinton's likeness, said at the time that Trump toilet paper was outselling the Hillary toilet rolls six to one.
One Amazon review listed the paper "abrasive and doesn't get the job done.”
The Mexican toilet paper will be made and sold in Mexico, but maybe some of the product will manage to find its way north of the border, across a still imaginary wall.

To wipe or not to wipe

U.S. BANS

- President Trump's revised travel ban faced another humiliating setback last month, when a U.S. federal appeals court again refused to block, what has been described by a former CIA chief as, "a simplistic and wrongheaded" executive order.
The Virginia-based court said the president's broad immigration power was "not absolute" and the ban “speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination,” Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote for the majority.
With the travel ban, at least temporarily, out of the way, the Trump Administration is now focusing on an expansion of its “extreme vetting” practices, which could force visitors from Europe to reveal mobile phone contacts, social media passwords, financial data and even questioning over their ideology.
Media reports suggest the travel ban and the extreme vetting proposals have already hurt the tourism industry.
However, yet another ban, the so-called "laptop" ban is likely to cause even more severe disruptions, prompting the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) to caution against “ill-judged reactionary measures” as the U.S. appears close to extending its ban on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins to flights from Europe.
Some aviation experts consider the risk of a battery fire in the cargo hold to be greater than that of a laptop bomb carried into the passenger cabin, among them IATA Chief Alexandre de Juniac.
In a statement, AAPA Director General Andrew Herdman said “AAPA understands the need to maintain the highest levels of security in air transportation, but ...safety issues relating to large numbers of lithium battery powered PEDs being stowed in an aircraft cargo bay, contrary to recognised best safety practices, remain unresolved.”
Similarly, in letters to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Trump Administration, U.S.-based organisation Flyersrights.org, warned against a series of ineffective or dangerous aviation security policies it is pursuing.
Paul Hudson, Flyersrights.org President noted: “We are alarmed that the Trump Administration is not only failing to correct past TSA inadequacies but is compounding them by pursuing newly misguided policies."
Not surprisingly, among the "misguided policies" is the proposed lap top ban which, according to Flyersrights.org, could be avoided by "just requiring that they go through explosive detection screening as used for checked baggage and then reclaimed on board."
Meanwhile, AAPA's Herman stressed that security measures should be "practical, cost effective and sustainable, whilst minimising the impact on the wider travelling public."
Honestly, we're not overly optimistic if the WH is listening.

"Misguided" laptop ban

TWIDDLING FINGERS

- Mind you, we only attended just a few of the numerous press gatherings organised by eager PR staffers at last month's transport logistics event in München, but the prize for the most non-sensical "press briefing" this year easily goes to Swiss WorldCargo.
What happened?
Normally, the proceedings of a press briefing are quite simple: after welcoming the hacks, the company's honcho makes a (newsworthy?) statement on say, a new product, expanded services, joint venture, or financial results. This is then followed by the so-called Q&A, where hacks ask questions (Q) and the honcho replies (A).
All very down to earth and most of the time rather effective, depending on the sensibility of the questions and, of course, the validity of the replies.
Unlike the fraught relationship between the media and authorities in the U.S., which has produced words such as "fake news,” "alternative facts" and statements like the media are "the enemy of the people,” the transport trade press so far has managed to maintain a reasonable level of contact with the leading, and not so leading, players in the cargo industry.
Like two years ago, Swiss WorldCargo for until now incomprehensible reasons, decided to change the classic format of its press briefing and, in a reversal of roles, tasked its PR staff to put previously prepared questions to their own senior executives, leaving the baffled hacks in the audience twiddling their fingers and wondering when they would be allowed to ask their own questions, like in the good old days.
That moment never came and by the time the last two diehards had discretely left the room, the audience for the "press briefing" exclusively consisted of senior executives and staff continuing their prepared Q&A.

Fake news U.S. style