News Briefs – May 24, 2017


Wal-Mart expands military leave-of-absence policy

Wal-Mart announced May 23 that it’s expanding its military leave-of-absence policy by offering differential pay to all eligible employees who are on military assignments lasting more than three days.
The Bentonville, Ark.,-based company said in a news release that the differential pay will cover the duration of military leave, including basic training, for employees whose military salary is less than what they earn working for Wal-Mart. The company says its employees took more than 4,400 military leave of absences last year. The new policy takes effect June 24.
Wal-Mart senior director for military programs, retired Brig. Gen. Gary Profit, said employees who want to serve in the military will now be able to do so more easily.
“We believe that anyone who wants to serve in our Armed Forces should be able to do so without fear of losing wages or leaving their family in a lurch,” Profit said. “The changes we’re making will remove financial barriers for all associates serving their country, including those who are starting their service journey through basic training.”
Wal-Mart also announced that it was giving a $100,000 grant to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, a group that helps those grieving the death of a loved one who served in the Armed Forces. AP

Vietnam, Indonesia vessels clash in South China Sea

Indonesia says several Vietnamese fishing vessels escaped its waters following a show of force by Vietnam’s coast guard in the South China Sea.
Indonesia’s Maritime and Fisheries Ministry said May 23 that Vietnam is holding an Indonesian fisheries officer, who was aboard one of the Vietnamese vessels, and Indonesia has 11 Vietnamese crew members in its custody.
According to Indonesia, the clash May 21 took place north of the Natuna island chain within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.
The ministry said five Vietnamese-flagged fishing vessels were intercepted by a maritime patrol vessel and were under its control until a Vietnamese coast guard ship rammed the fishing boat with the Indonesian official aboard, sinking it. The ministry said no one was hurt.
It said the Indonesian vessel withdrew after several more Vietnamese coast guard vessels were seen approaching on radar while an Indonesian warship was 30 minutes away.
Vietnam’s coast guard declined to comment.
Tensions easily flare in the South China Sea, a major global trading route. China’s claim to most of the sea overlaps with the territorial waters of several Southeast Asian nations.
Indonesia has destroyed hundreds of vessels caught fishing illegally in its waters over the past two years, many of them Vietnamese-flagged, as part of a policy of strengthening control over the archipelago nation’s vast maritime territory.
Rifky Effendi Hardjianto, secretary-general of the fisheries ministry, told a news conference that ministry officials have met with Vietnam’s ambassador and would resolve the incident through normal diplomatic channels. Both sides agreed to avoid a repeat of the clash, he said. AP

Boeing blamed for maintenance errors on Air Force One

Boeing mechanics are to blame for accidental contamination of oxygen systems aboard one of the modified Boeing 747 planes known as Air Force One used for presidential travel, the Air Force said in an investigation report.
The plane was undergoing extensive maintenance at a Boeing facility in San Antonio, Texas, when the mishap occurred in April 2016. No one was injured.
An Air Force accident investigation report released this month faulted three Boeing mechanics for supplying and using tools and parts that did not meet cleanliness standards while checking oxygen lines for leaks. The standards are meant to prevent a fire hazard. The mechanics also used an unauthorized cleaning procedure.
The report said Boeing has paid more than $4 million to clean or replace contaminated portions of the aircraft’s oxygen system. The plane has been returned to service with the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
The investigators also concluded that Boeing failed to adequately oversee the quality of maintenance being performed on the aircraft, which is a Boeing 747-200B specially configured for aerial refueling and equipped with special communications gear. AP