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US fines Boeing $6.6m over regulatory lapses

Aviation|: Washington: The US aviation oversight agency announced Thursday it fined Boeing a total of $6.6 million (Dh24.24 million), for a series of lapses in the manufacturer’s regulatory and safety obligations. Most of the penalties were imposed for failing to live up to a 2015 deal to “improve and prioritize regulatory compliance.” “Boeing failed to meet all of its obligations under the settlement agreement,” Federal Aviation Administration head Steve Dickson said. “I have reiterated to Boeing’s leadership time and again that the company must prioritize safety and regulatory compliance, and that the FAA will always put safety first in all its decisions,” Dickson said in the statement. Though the amount was small for the global aerospace giant, it was the latest in a steady stream of negative news about Boeing, after its two deadly crashes of the 737 MAX — which has only just returned to the skies — and a recent scare involving a 777, although that was attributed to the Pratt & Whitney engine. Of the total fines, $5.4 million stem from deferred penalties under the terms of the 2015 agreement because Boeing missed some of its improvement targets, and because some company managers did not sufficiently prioritize compliance with FAA regulations, the regulator said. Boeing previously paid $12 million in civil penalties in that case. The company also will pay $1.21 million to settle two enforcement cases in which management “exerted undue pressure or interfered with” an internal quality-control, including “in relation to an aircraft airworthiness inspection,” the FAA said. Boeing said in a statement: “We are strengthening our work processes and operations to ensure we hold ourselves accountable to the highest standards of safety and quality.” The FAA itself has been the subject of intense scrutiny, especially in its handling of the MAX certification in the wake of the tragic accidents that killed 346 people and led to the aircraft being grounded worldwide for 20 months. The FAA came in for fresh criticism over its handling of the MAX in a report released Wednesday night by the Transportation Department’s inspector general that found “weaknesses” in the certification process. The report also said FAA engineers “continue to face challenges in balancing certification and oversight responsibilities” in dealing with Boeing.

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Would you pay $125 to join them on Clubhouse, this elitist app?

Dubai: You probably heard about Clubhouse and feel like you’ve been left out of the club. If you haven't yet, well, it’s the latest social networking craze in town. The platform has an air of elitism: Clubhouse is an invitation-only audio-chat. And it’s currently available only on iPhones. It’s less than a year old. But clubhouse’s unique proposition of audio-only social networking has sent people scampering for invitations. Some adjectives used by users to describe it: “Fascinating”, “incredible”, “mind-blowing”. The platform has been depicted as the “Netflix of talk”, or the “Zoom of podcasts”. The app is barely one year old (launched in April 2020). But its popularity has gone through the roof in the last few months. Here's what we know so far: What’s all the big buzz about Clubhouse? Who are the founders? Paul Davison and Rohan Seth. The legal entity behind Clubhouse is Alpha Exploration Co. SPC LLC, based in Oakland, California. Rohan Seth (left) and Paul Davison, co-founders of Clubhouse. Image Credit: Screengrab Can I download it? Yes. However, it’s only available on iOS at the moment (iPhones). Anyone who has the ability to download the app can go into the App Store and download Clubhouse. How do I get access to the app? As of the moment, it’s only an invite-only social media platform. It means that to access the app, you should be invited by someone who is already on there. To actually access the features of the app, you must receive a Clubhouse invite from somebody already on there. Should I download Clubhouse even if I don’t have an invite? It’s strongly recommended that you do, because even you don’t get an invite, you can already download the app and reserve your username (these days, usernames have become precious real estate on the social media platforms) Why is it still an invite-only app? According to media reports, Clubhouse owners still don’t have the infrastructure in place to currently support a public release that would potentially lead to millions of people following the the platform. That’s why they’re keeping it by-invitation only, slowly spreading the word organically to different communities. So clearly, the invite-only strategy is working. What makes it unique? It’s quite unlike any other social media — it is entirely audio-based. So, as an audio-only social media platform, there are no pictures, and no videos either. It is entirely audio-based. Meaning that you can communicate with people one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-one. You can either talk to or listen to people on the platform. How is it different from Facebook, Twitter or Zoom? It is a social networking platform that’s unlike anyone has done before. It’s a bit like Zoom, in terms of permissions. The person who sent the invite (created the room) would give the guests the permission to speak. But people in the room can say whatever they want. But unlike Zoom, it is audio only. Upside: you don’t have to look your Sunday best on the screen for the meeting. You can jump in, or leave, anytime. But unlike Twitter or Facebook, Clubhouse is not moderated. A surprise chat between tech billionaire Elon Musk and Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev on Clubhouse propel the app to the top of the startup charts and sparked a scramble for invitations to the exclusive, by-invitation-only service. Image Credit: Reuters If it's just audio-only app, why is every going gaga over it? Celebrities and high-profile venture capitalists started promoting it in May, when Clubhouse was still in beta (test stage). That’s how it started grabbing increasing attention. As mentioned earlier, the app requires an invite in order to join. Public figures on Clubhouse include Ai Weiwei, Lindsay Lohan and Roger Stone. Robinhood founder Vlad Tenev is also on it. And so are Arab stars like Mona Kattan, Saudi women’s wear designer Awra Al Banawi, Lebanese actress Razane Jammal, lifestyle influencer Lana El-Sagely. With Clubhouse, think of a live podcast where anyone can participate in — even as everyone else uses other apps simultaneously. Clubhouse feeds the desire to be heard, without the need to be seen. There’s no fear of drawing the ire of others for leaving your camera off (no camera is involved in Clubhouse). While platforms like Zoom and Tiktok have dominated our locked down world, Clubhouse is seen just as an added layer, which many social media savvy people don’t want to miss out on. Specifically, what’s the experience like? Just imagine an audio-only platform. Clubhouse has been described as a number of many things : Clubhouse has been described as a number of many things: ■ Part-talkback radio ■ Part-Conference call ■ Part-Houseparty. ■ Audio-chat allows users to listen to conversations and discussions – and speak too. ■ It’s almost like tuning in to a live podcast. So, isn’t it like a podcast? It depends on your podcast preferences. Also, all the people are talking on their iPhones. They don't see each other, so it’s like listening on a phone call. Why is Elon Musk on Clubhouse? It’s his right. And, like everybody else on the app, he probably got invited by someone else, who had been invited earlier by another, and so on. Early this month, it was reported that Elon's banter with Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev over the short-squeeze on the trading app has triggered a stampede for Clubhouse app. It was initially limited to a small community, mainly consisting of venture capitalists. ■ On February 1, 2021, it was in the news when Tesla founder Elon Musk hosted an audio-chat on Clubhouse with Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev. The event maxed out the app conversation room limits and was live-streamed to YouTube. This took Clubhouse to the top of the startup charts and sparked a scramble for invitations. ■ On February 14, 20201, Clubhouse was in the news again when Musk sent this Tweet out, apparently directed to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Until then, Clubhouse was an outlier app, obscure and unknown to many. Some call it the “Elon Effect”, which also happened to Bitcoin. Is it true the Clubhouse invitations are now for sale? The the rate vary widely, we found one e-Bay ad entry whcih offers Clubhouse invite from $125. Another one goes for for $15, and still another for $19.99. The add states: “Clubhouse Invite READY to be texted to you App Invitation (GUARANTEED). Invite texted to you - please include your phone number in notes at payment.” [Disclaimer: We cannot guarantee the authenticity of these offers.] How much money does clubhouse make? Zero. Zilch. Nada. (For now) It still doesn’t have an Android app (*as you read this on February 25, 2021) It’s still an invite-only iOS app. What's the force behind its flourishing? Most people around the world still endure lockdowns, where relationships are lived in a virtual world. In that world, apps like Zoom and Tiktok have flourished. Now, it’s Clubhouse’s turn. Ppeople continue to search for ways to connect while remaining isolated from one another. There are several factors that help boost its massive popularity: Good timing with the launch amid a pandemic Ability to meet 5,000+ people, socially distanced, but talking about a specific topic Invite-only format (which has drawn Silicon Valley insiders), who treated the app like a “safe space" to speak to their followers. Growth strategies deployed by start-up founders to drive downloads and hook users Good timing with the launch amid a pandemic (ability to meet 5,000+ people, socially distanced, but talking about a specific topic). “It’s either dead by July (2020) or it’s something big.” Josh Felser, co-founder of venture firm Freestyle and an early Clubhouse user in May 2020 In May 2020, when it had only 1,500 users, the app was valued at nearly $100 million. On January 21, 2021, it had 2 million users, with a market valuation estimated at $1 billion. Can I join? Only if you are invited. You can’t just download the app (available only on the Apple store at present) and create an account. You have to be invited by an existing member. Existing users only have two invites available at first. What do I do when I join? ■ You can select topics of interest so that the app will recommend conversation “rooms” or individuals you may want to follow. Once in, it is like a conference call with some people on the call talking, and most listening in. ■ Once the conversation is over, the room is closed and the live audio-chats disappear. How many users does it have? At the beginning of the February, Clubhouse had 2 million users. It is now valued at $1 billion, and is considered a “Unicorn” startup — like AirBnb, Uber and SpaceX. 5,000 number of people who can simultaneously join a Clubhouse chat room, which can then also be livestreamed on Youtube How many people can be in a conversation? The current limit is 5,000 people per Clubhouse room. What’s unique, however, is that users in a room can live-stream on YouTube as was done during the Musk interview. Is there an Android equivalent for this? Not yet. But it is reportedly being worked on. Is anyone else planning to compete with Clubhouse? Facebook is building an audio chat product similar to Clubhouse, New York Times reported, quoting people with knowledge of the matter. What's  next for Clubhouse? It remains to be seen. There's talk about other possibilities: Members of parliament holding a session/debate on important legislation. Live classes. Live concerts. Live events. Small community meetings. Corporate board meetings. Possibly with millions of people listening in via a Youtube link. Would you pay to be on Clubhouse?