Chinese airliners
Greg Baker  /  AP
Jets are seen parked at Beijing airport earlier this year. One Chinese airline has decided bathroom breaks are no longer air-worthy.
By Brian Tracey Business Editor
msnbc.com
COMMENTARY

Soaring oil prices have pinched gas guzzlers everywhere, but the pain has been particularly acute in the air-travel industry. So we shouldn't be surprised to learn a Chinese airline, which has calculated it takes a liter of fuel to flush the toilet at 30,000 feet, is urging passengers to go to the bathroom before they board.

As Chinese airlines come under increasing pressure to cut fuel expenditures, China Southern's latest strategy is to encourage passengers "to spend their pennies before boarding the aircraft," the Xinhua news agency reported this week.

"The energy used in one flush is enough for an economical car to run at least 10 kilometers," Captain Liu Zhiyuan, who flies regularly between Hangzhou and Beijing, was quoted as saying.

We think a catchy slogan would help motivate travelers. How about: "Flush, then fly with us." Or maybe, "Go before you go."

Not-so-bad ideas

  • Do you feel the need for some jungle jingles? Well, the Xavante Indians living on the southern edge of Brazil's Amazon rainforest plan to start selling ringtones of traditional chants like "the hunt song" and "the healing dance" to cell phone users in China and Europe.

Brazilian cell phone users can already download the tones for about $1.40 each, and 100 Xavantes living in the remote Sao Pedro village in Mato Grosso state have been profiting from the sales for the past few months, said Gilson Schwartz, coordinator of an aide group called Cidade Movel.

His group helps riverside communities in the Amazon find alternative sources of income in a region where most people live without modern conveniences and economic growth usually depends on mining or logging the forest.

"We want to create a business model of social content for the wireless phone industry," he said.

The project has generated tens of thousands of dollars for the Xavante and several other impoverished rural communities, Schwartz said.

While we applaud the group's originality, we suggest mobile users turn down their ringer volume so as to not frighten small children.

  • A walking, talking stick? German scientists have developed an intelligent cane that calls an ambulance if the owner falls over.

According to the Ananova Web portal, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Development invented the 'i-Stick' as part of an ongoing project to use technology to aid elderly people.

If a sensor in the i-Stick detects that it is in a horizontal position, it sends a signal to a control unit which plays a message telling the owner to pick it up.

If the stick remains on the floor the control box is programmed to call either an ambulance directly or a chosen relative.

I-Sticks have yet to hit stores but the scientists said they are currently looking for a distributor.

We think one way to improve it would be to have also call the police when a senior citizen swings it at a mugger.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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