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Worlds Biggest Flooded Cave Found In Mexico Explorers Say

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MEXICO CITY – A group of divers has connected two underwater caverns in eastern Mexico to reveal what is believed to be the biggest flooded cave on the planet, a discovery that could help shed new light on the ancient Maya civilization.

The Gran Acuifero Maya (GAM), a project dedicated to the study and preservation of the subterranean waters of the Yucatan peninsula, said the 347-km (216-mile) cave was identified after months of exploring a maze of underwater channels.

Near the beach resort of Tulum, the group found that the cave system known as Sac Actun, once measured at 263 km, communicated with the 83-km Dos Ojos system, the GAM said in a statement. For that reason, Sac Actun now absorbs Dos Ojos.

GAM director and underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda said the “amazing” find would help to understand the development of the rich culture of the region, which was dominated by the Maya civilization before the Spanish conquest.

“It allows us to appreciate much more clearly how the rituals, the pilgrimage sites and ultimately the great pre-Hispanic settlements that we know emerged,” he told Reuters.

The Yucatan peninsula is studded with monumental relics of the Maya people, whose cities drew upon an extensive network of sinkholes linked to subterranean waters known as cenotes.

Some cenotes acquired particular religious significance to the Maya, whose descendents continue to inhabit the region.

Reporting by Rodolfo Penaroja;

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Pratt May Revert To Previous Engine Seal For A320neo Sources

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BERLIN/PARIS – Engine maker Pratt & Whitney is likely to return to a previous seal as a way of temporarily dealing with the latest issues on the geared turbofan engine for the Airbus (AIR.PA) A320neo, according to several people familiar with the matter.

Some A320neo jets were grounded this month and deliveries were halted after problems arose in January and safety authorities warned of the risk of inflight engine shutdown.

Pratt, part of United Technologies Corp (UTX.N), has said the latest problems stem from an engineering change the company made last summer to the “knife-edge seal” in the high-pressure compressor near the rear of the engine.

The people said the most likely option for now was a return to the old seal, which was removed over durability issues.

An Airbus spokesman referred technical questions to Pratt. The U.S. company was not immediately available for comment.

Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders said last week that deliveries to customers should resume in April.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan and Tim Hepher;

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Volkswagen Reaches German Deal On Wages Leave Pensions

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FRANKFURT – Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) has agreed to raise the wages of around 120,000 workers in Germany by 4.3 percent from May, resolving a dispute that had prompted its first strikes since 2004.

The deal announced by Europe’s largest carmaker and labor union IG Metall on Wednesday includes a 100-euro one-off payment, improvements to VW’s corporate pension scheme and the right for some workers to choose more time off instead of more money.

It also allows for some workers’ hours to be increased temporarily to work on projects, which has been a key demand of industrial employers in recent labor negotiations as they face full order books.

IG Metall had demanded a 6 percent wage increase for workers at VW’s facilities in western Germany, a bump in pensions and more hiring of apprentices to help cope with an industry shift to electric vehicles and self-driving technology.

But VW, facing billions of euros in costs and fines over its diesel emissions-test cheating scandal and huge investments for its subsequent transformation plan, had dismissed the demands as excessive.

It had offered to raise wages by 3.5 percent and by a further 2 percent over 30 months.

The 4.3 percent wage increase now agreed for a 27-month period mirrors a deal that IG Metall won for around 3.9 million industrial employees in Germany this month after rolling 24-hour strikes across the country.

“This (similarity) was an important objective for us in order to safeguard the competitiveness of Volkswagen,” board member Karlheinz Blessing said in a statement.

“At the same time, we have made Volkswagen significantly more attractive as an employer,” he said.

VW workers will also receive an additional payment equivalent to 27.5 percent of their monthly wage once a year from next year.

Some employees with small children at home or who work a demanding shift schedule can choose to take six additional days off instead, the parties said.

On the other hand, Volkswagen will be able to ask five percent and in special cases even 10 percent of the workers covered by the wage agreement to temporarily increase their working hours to up to 40 per week.

“This provision gives us the additional flexibility which we definitely needed,” VW chief negotiator Martin Rosik said.

From July 2019, the amount that Volkswagen pays into the company pension scheme each month will rise to 90 euros per member from 27 euros now, and increase to 98 euros from January 2020.

Reporting by Maria Sheahan;

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Daimler To Invest 26 Billion Euros In Trucks Division By 2019

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FRANKFURT – Daimler (DAIGn.DE) said it will invest 2.6 billion euros ($3.2 billion) in research and development at its trucks division by 2019, as part of a broader effort to mass produce electric heavy-duty commercial vehicles from 2021.

Mercedes-Benz is currently testing eActros trucks with an operating range of up to 200 kms (125 miles) as part of a broader electrification push, Daimler said.

“In 2018 and 2019, Daimler Trucks will invest approximately 1.3 billion euros on average each year in research and development,” Daimler said in a statement on Wednesday.

Daimler Trucks will focus on developing electric mobility, connectivity and automated driving technology for commercial vehicles, the company said.

Mercedes-Benz is testing trucks with 11 battery packs and two drive motors until 2020 to see if fully electric vehicles can replace diesel-powered equivalents, the company said.

Mercedes-Benz is testing two variants with a gross vehicle weight of 18 to 25 tonnes and will hand them over to a focus group of customers this year.

Reporting by Edward Taylor;

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