It looks like winters aren't what they used to be, at least in our nick of the woods. Mind you, we're not complaining, but sipping our morning coffee on a sun-drenched terrace in January isn't exactly what we would describe as a harsh, cold winter. In other words, we're grateful for having been spared some of the dreadful weather conditions which occurred elsewhere in the world in the past month.
On another note and especially for our Chinese readers, we wish you a prosperous and healthy Year of the Dog, an animal which symbolises luck.
The 2018 Lunar New Year starts on February 16 and, to avoid bad luck throughout this year, Chinese astrologers recommend that on that day you avoid cleaning clothes, using scissors or sweeping floors. Just so you know.
Otherwise, may we suggest you sit back and relax and savour the following items in this edition of Punch Bag which we managed to collect for you from a variety of global sources.

Happy reading

Nol van Fenema


- Still on the subject of special offers, but this time a somewhat bizarre one, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, speaking at a business conference in New Delhi last month, offered "42 virgins" as an incentive for any Indian tourist visiting the Philippines this year.
Speaking at the Philippines-India Business Forum, which was meant to lure investors to the Philippines, Duterte told delegates in a reportedly rambling speech that he is "half-Muslim" and that the aims of Islamic State were devoid of any reason.
“It’s an ideology that is totally bankrupt, totally empty and the only objectives are to kill and to destroy for no reason at all,” he said.
“The come-on is that if you die a martyr, you go to heaven with 42 virgins waiting for you. Well if I could just make it a come-on also for those who would like to come to my country.” According to media reports on the event, he added: “I’d like to have the virgins here, not in heaven. God may not allow it.”
Duterte also said Indian businessmen should "avoid Mindanao" because "there's still martial law there," referring to the southern Philippine island, where armed Muslim rebels and fighters continue to battle government forces. In May 2017, Duterte created an international outrage by telling soldiers fighting in Mindanao that they could rape up to three women without getting punished.
Following Duterte's visit to India, his office announced that he secured U$1.25bn in "investment pledges" from Indian businessmen.
The president's office did not specify how many of them had taken up the embarrassing offer of the 42 virgins.

Rambling Rodrigo


- Flying across the United States these days isn’t easy… especially when you’ve just spent hours going through security checks and have experienced a two-hour flight delay. So, to make your trips a tad more convenient, American Airlines has decided to give its adult passengers an added perk on its flights from New York to Chicago: free wine and beer.
The complimentary alcohol will be available in the main cabin on 15 shuttle flights between LaGuardia Airport and O'Hare International Airport, the airline said in a statement and travellers can begin drinking for free April 4.
The U.S. carrier has not announced yet how much the flights will be in terms of ticket prices, neither have other airlines indicated if they will follow suit. So for the moment, we'll drink to the free booze offer.

Free drinks for AA pax – we are giving them a toast!


- Good news for pet lovers in China because, according to a report in the China Daily, Hainan Airlines has decided to allow some pets to travel in the cabin with their owners on domestic flights on a trial basis, making it the first commercial airline in China to do so. Sichuan Airlines reportedly intends to follow suit in March.
The report said the decision was not only good news for pet lovers, but also for the airline "because it can make additional profit." Hainan Airlines will reportedly charge 800 yuan (US$125) for each pet, although initially only two pets will be allowed on each flight.
Call it a (not so) funny coincidence, but Hainan Airlines' decision to allow pets came in the same week when Delta Airlines announced a slew of new requirements for passengers travelling with "emotional support animals" or in other words, pets, often dogs, that accompany people with disabilities.
Delta claimed that apart from a 150% rise in this kind of transport, its decision was based on an 84 percent spike in the number of reported animal incidents since 2016, including urination, defecation and biting. A high-profile 2017 mauling of a passenger by a 70 pound (32 kg) emotional support dog was also taken into consideration.
Delta said that it flies some 700 service animals a day. Among them, customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums, snakes, spiders and other unusual pets.
Not surprisingly, Delta's new service and support animal policy drew instant condemnation from support organisations such as the National Federation of the Blind, which stated that it was "deeply concerned" over the carrier's unilateral decision and claimed that elements of Delta’s policy, as currently articulated, violate the Air Carrier Access Act.
With the new rules coming into play from 1 March 2018 and rival carriers American Airlines and United Airlines also reviewing their policies, the estimated 100,000 emotional support animals travelling in cabins in the U.S. every year, could be in for a rough ride.

Urination, defecation and biting.


- We can assure you we haven't made up the following story, but according to several British tabloids, a recent Norwegian flight from Oslo to Munich - a two hour and 20 minute flight - was forced to turn back after just 20 minutes into the journey because of a faulty toilet.
Not an overly unusual inconvenience one could argue, except for the fact that the plane was packed with… plumbers.
The service from the Norwegian capital was carrying 85 specialists from the country’s plumbing industry including 65 from one company, Rørkjøp. Sadly, even this army of plumbers was unable to fix the faulty loo.
“We would have liked to fix the restrooms, but unfortunately it had to be done from the outside and we didn’t want to risk sending a plumber out to work at 10,000 metres,” Rørkjøp ceo Frank Olsen told Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.
A spokesperson for Norwegian confirmed that Flight DY1156 from Oslo to Munich, returned to Oslo due to a technical fault with the toilet. The aircraft was repaired and continued with the flight later that day and arrived Munich three-and-a-half hours late.

Air Flush One


- Chinese state media have reported that cargo airline SF Express, e-commerce giant JD.com, China Railway Express, China Postal Express and Logistics and Deppon Logistics have signed agreements with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force to improve military logistics.
Under the deals, the air force and the five companies will collaborate on transport and distribution, storage management and supplies until 2022.
Zheng Xuexiang, head of air force logistics, said the Air Force needed the support because it did not have the personnel to meet its growing demands, Xinhua reported.
Last month state-run Xinhua said that SF Express drones took part in People’s Liberation Army Air Force exercises in the southwestern province of Yunnan and in northwestern Shaanxi province, as the military explores new kinds of logistics support.
In the Yunnan drill, a company drone delivered urgently needed spare parts for a damaged radar in a rugged mountainous area in about an hour after the request was made, less than half the time it would have taken to truck in, the report said.
In Shaanxi, an SF Express drone dropped antivenin to a snakebite victim at a radar station in 22 minutes, compared to the two hours it would have taken by road.

Parachuting drop pod


- Still on drones, we hear that in an apparent case of disillusion, the U.S. labour union which goes under the name The Teamsters, have started their annual contract talks with United Parcel Service by demanding that the world's largest express company stays away from drones, driverless vehicles and other new technology to transport packages without human intervention.
The silly demand makes abundantly clear that The Teamsters are living on another planet and seem to be oblivious to the massive research and development activities in drones and driverless technologies, which are taking place in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.
Although the current state of drone deliveries is still very much nascent, major companies like Amazon, FedEx and UPS have already begun testing unmanned delivery technologies as well as patenting any potential device that could become a game changer in this highly competitive market segment.
The nonsensical demands go even further as The Teamsters insist that UPS must also hire an additional 10,000 employees to the workforce and the express company should stop delivering packages after 9 p.m., as well as extending those hours during peak months such as November and December, when workers often find themselves working overtime.
Sounds like a nightmare scenario which, if implemented, could put UPS out of business. Obviously, that is of no concern to the brainless union leaders, who are renegotiating the current agreement which affects 260,000 full and part-time UPS employees and expires in July.
Although the outrageous demands seem to have little chance of success, union bozos should realise that FedEx and Amazon are also experimenting with automation - and their drivers aren’t unionised.

Brainless demands


- The deal between the U.S. and Qatar on a handful of voluntary commitments to end the three-year-old contrived controversy over alleged airline subsidies, has miraculously been claimed as a "victory" by the CEO's of Delta Airlines and American Airlines, respectively Messrs Ed Bastian and Doug Parker.
Together with United Airlines, these carriers have relentlessly attacked Qatar Airways and the two UAE airlines - Dubai-based Emirates and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways over alleged government subsidies and violations of the separate Open Skies pacts between the U.S. and Qatar and the UAE, which the U.S. carriers claimed created a distorted competition and threatened U.S. airlines jobs.
After spending huge sums of shareholders' money and management time over the last three years and pressing the Obama and Trump administrations for tough action, the deal with Qatar doesn't seem to address the subsidies issue, nor the Open Skies debate.
In other words, the agreement with Qatar looks more like a whimper than a bang as it is blatantly obvious that the political campaign against Open Skies has been nothing more than a coordinated, joint anti-competitive initiative by the Big Three U.S. carriers under the guise of a policy debate.
And as for the unfounded claim of protecting U.S. jobs, it's good to realise notes Kevin Mitchell, founder of the Business Travel Coalition and OpenSkies.travel, that apart from the carriers' historic, record-setting profits by stifling competition both at home and abroad, it's the Gulf Carriers that have purchased 235 of the 306 Boeing 777s sold to date, while the Big Three have purchased none.

Qatar supports U.S. jobs