Ford wakes up badly burnt from its India dream

FILE PHOTO: A visitor is reflected as he takes pictures of a Ford Aspire car during its launch in New Delhi, India, Oct. 4, 2018. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/File Photo

September 17, 2021

By Aditi Shah

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – When Ford Motor Co built its first factory in India in the mid-1990s, U.S. carmakers believed they were buying into a boom – the next China.

The economy had been liberalised in 1991, the government was welcoming investors, and the middle class was expected to fuel a consumption frenzy. Rising disposable income would help foreign carmakers to a market share of as much as 10%, forecasters said.

It never happened.

Last week, Ford took a $2 billion hit https://reut.rs/3nFLvnF to stop making cars in India, following compatriots General Motors Co and Harley-Davidson Inc in closing factories in the country.

Among foreigners that remain, Japan’s Nissan Motor Co Ltd and even Germany’s Volkswagen AG – the world’s biggest automaker by sales – each hold less than 1% of a car market once forecast to be the third-largest by 2020, after China and the United States, with annual sales of 5 million.

Instead, sales have stagnated at about 3 million cars. The growth rate has slowed to 3.6% in the last decade versus 12% a decade earlier.

Ford’s retreat marks the end of an Indian dream for U.S. carmakers. It also follows its exit from Brazil announced in January https://reut.rs/39fUnrq, reflecting an industry pivot from emerging markets to what is now widely seen as make-or-break investment in electric vehicles.

Analysts and executives said foreigners badly misjudged India’s potential and underestimated the complexities of operating in a vast country that rewards domestic procurement.

Many failed to adapt to a preference for small, cheap, fuel-efficient cars that could bump over uneven roads without needing expensive repairs. In India, 95% of cars are priced below $20,000.

Lower tax on small cars also made it harder for makers of larger cars for Western markets to compete with small-car specialists such as Japan’s Suzuki Motor Corp – controlling shareholder of Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, India’s biggest carmaker by sales.

Of foreign carmakers that invested alone in India over the past 25 years, analysts said only South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co stands out as a success, mainly due to its wide portfolio of small cars and a grasp of what Indian buyers want.

“Companies invested on the fallacy that India would have great potential and the purchasing power of buyers would go up, but the government failed to create that kind of environment and infrastructure,” said Ravi Bhatia, president for India at JATO Dynamics, a provider of market data for the auto industry.

EARLY MISSTEP

Some of Ford’s missteps can be traced to when it drove into India in the mid-1990s alongside Hyundai. Whereas Hyundai entered with the small, affordable “Santro”, Ford offered the “Escort” saloon, first launched in Europe in the 1960s.

The Escort’s price shocked Indians used to Maruti Suzuki’s more affordable prices, said former Ford India executive Vinay Piparsania.

Ford’s narrow product range also made it hard to capitalise on the appeal won by its best-selling EcoSport and Endeavour sport utility vehicles (SUVs), said analyst Ammar Master at LMC.

The carmaker said it had considered bringing more models to India but determined it could not do so profitably.

“The struggle for many global brands has always been meeting India’s price point because they brought global products that were developed for mature markets at a high-cost structure,” said Master.

A peculiarity of the Indian market came in mid-2000 with a lower tax rate for cars measuring less than 4 metres (13.12 ft) in length. That left Ford and rivals building India-specific sub-4 metre saloons for which sales ultimately disappointed.

“U.S. manufacturers with large truck DNAs struggled to create a good and profitable small vehicle. Nobody got the product quite right and losses piled up,” said JATO’s Bhatia.

RISE AND FALL

Ford had excess capacity at its first India plant when it invested $1 billion on a second in 2015. It had planned to make India an export base and raise its share of a market projected to hit 7 million cars a year by 2020 and 9 million by 2025.

But the sales never followed and overall market growth stalled. Ford now utilises only about 20% of its combined annual capacity of 440,000 cars.

To use its excess capacity, Ford planned to build compact cars in India for emerging markets but shelved plans https://reut.rs/3tMSnAs in 2016 amid a global consumer preference shift to SUVs.

It changed its cost structure https://reut.rs/3hFDY4c in 2018 and the following year started work on a joint venture https://reut.rs/3zoxBsk with local peer Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd designed to reduce costs. Three years later, in December, the partners abandoned the idea https://reut.rs/3tOcGxw.

After sinking $2.5 billion in India since entry and burning another $2 billion over the past decade alone, Ford decided not to invest more.

“To continue investing … we needed to show a path for a reasonable return on investment,” Ford India head Anurag Mehrotra told reporters last week.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to do that.”

(Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Kevin Krolicki and Christopher Cushing)





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500 Ships in The US Navy? It’s Not Such a Pipe Dream Anymore

Here’s What You Need to Remember: “The aircraft carrier is still the most powerful platform for power projection, and the concept is still extraordinarily vital. If it was not the Chinese wouldn’t be building aircraft carriers. So they are looking to catch up because they understand you’ve got to deploy power away from your shores,” Wittman said.

Chinese Naval modernization, emerging high-tech weaponry and massive fleet expansion effort are putting growing amounts of pressure upon the U.S. Navy as senior leaders continue to work with Congress and Pentagon leaders regarding an optimal fleet size configuration plan.

The Navy’s fleet size “aim point,” which may or may not come to fruition, was still to pursue a 500-ship fleet as of late last year, yet budget considerations, threat developments and new technologies could change this plan.

Last Fall Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told SeaPower Magazine that Congressional and Pentagon budget support will be needed to approach this aim point in the next twenty-five years. The Future Naval Force Study, released last year, was reported as calling for 143 to 242 unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) and unmanned undersea vessels (UUVs), including 119 to 166 USVs and 24 to 65 UUVs.

Many Congressional decision-makers now deliberating fleet size issues and budget variables, regardless of any arrived upon final number, seem extremely concerned about the threats posed by the Chinese Navy.

“Fleet size considerations need to examine a combination of capacity and capability. So it’s two factors. It’s not only quantity, but its quality. You know, for years, we looked at the Chinese and said ‘they got quantity, but they don’t have quality.’ Well, let me tell you, the Chinese have quality now,” Rep. Rob Whitman -(R) Va., ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, told The National Interest in an interview.

A quick look at the Chinese government-backed newspapers lend plenty of evidence to Wittman’s comment. The Chinese are doubling their numbers of destroyers in just the next five years and adding a new class of high-tech, stealthy Type 055 destroyers. In addition, Beijing has already fielded two new amphibious assault ships and will soon launch a third. China is also adding new Jin-class ballistic missiles submarines armed with much longer range JL-3 nuclear missiles. Finally, Beijing is building carrier-launched fifth-generation stealth fighter jet variants and, perhaps of greatest concern, rapidly growing its fleet of aircraft carriers. China has already copied U.S. Navy dual-carrier warfare preparation exercises by deploying several carriers at once in the direction of Taiwan and the South China Sea.

A report in the Chinese government-backed Global Times newspaper last year says China’s third carrier is likely to formally enter service by as soon as 2025. Unlike the Ukrainian-built Liaoning and Beijing’s first domestically built carrier, the Shandong, the third Chinese carrier is not built with a ski-jump ramp to help its warplanes take flight. Rather, it looks more like a large, flat-decked U.S. carrier and includes the use of an electromagnetic catapult exactly like the technology now used by the U.S. Ford-class.

“The aircraft carrier is still the most powerful platform for power projection, and the concept is still extraordinarily vital. If it was not the Chinese wouldn’t be building aircraft carriers. So they are looking to catch up because they understand you’ve got to deploy power away from your shores,” Wittman said.

Regardless of its eventual numerical size, it is clear and self-evident that the Navy’s future fleet will consist of a mix of manned and unmanned platforms operating in close coordination with one another to support an integrated and networked force.  

When large numbers of drone ships are factored into the equation, the possibility of building a 500-ship Navy seems somewhat more attainable, given that the drone ships will operate in many different shapes, sizes and form factors. Also, many of them can be similar and therefore easier to produce and they greatly fortify the Navy’s “mothership” strategy which calls for large platform manned ships to operate large numbers of interconnected drones.

“What we have to look at is, you know, what can our platforms do? What can we do to make our main platforms even more effective? What can we do in developing unmanned platforms that have a reliable and dependable level of function?” Wittman asked.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

This article first appeared earlier this year and is being republished due to reader interest.

Image: Flickr.



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The Dangerous Dream of Zero COVID in Australia – Reason.com

We often hear that “if it saves just one life, it must be worth it,” no matter the cost. But COVID lockdowns have a considerable cost—not just to the economy, but to liberty and, yes, to lives. Australians have been learning the hard way that the “zero COVID” strategy is impossible. We must learn to live with acceptable risks.

The city of Sydney is in week 12 of a harsh lockdown that has seen residents in the worst-affected areas confined to their homes 23 hours a day, with just 60 minutes permitted outside for exercise. When people do venture out, it must be between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m.

In other parts of Sydney, life is a little easier. People can go out for an early-morning or late-night run, but must stick to a roughly three-mile radius from their home. With the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, and takeout food and coffee, everything is closed. There have been ripples of protest, but police have promptly shut them down, with organizers facing jail sentences and participants forced to pay millions in fines.

In Melbourne, the government has closed playgrounds and told residents not to watch the sunset. When protestors gathered, police used pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse them. A child holding a sign saying “let me play” received a face full of pepper spray.

Melbourne was once voted among the world’s most livable, desirable cities. Now it’s best known for being one of the world’s most locked-down cities: More than 225 days and counting of police checking if residents have a reasonable excuse to leave their homes. The federal and state governments have begun to admit the “zero COVID” strategy is unachievable and is limping towards some kind of reopening.

Queensland and Western Australia are both vast states with very low population density. But both have closed their borders to anyone who isn’t rich or famous. Rugby and Australian football players can cross the border, but a critically unwell baby, a child separated from his or her parents, or those seeking medical care at the nearest hospital are not so privileged.

South Australia has developed an app which uses geolocation and facial recognition software to enforce quarantine for certain people—a clear infringement on their privacy. But many Australians are just grateful for an alternative to two weeks of solitary confinement in hotel quarantine.

Australia can try to say it did everything possible to stop the spread (except better prioritization of vaccines). The country has surrendered freedom of movement, prohibited people from leaving the country, the state, a three-mile radius, or in many cases their homes. It has only recently begun to count the human cost of these strict lockdowns.

The obsession with lockdowns surely saved some lives from COVID-19, but it also meant that COVID-19 became the only disease it was unacceptable for a life to be lost to. There is a human cost in terms of diseases not treated, medical appointments missed, and symptoms ignored. A “shadow pandemic” of domestic violence has emerged. An average of 40 minors a day in New South Wales are hospitalized due to self-harm and suicide attempts—up 47 percent from 2019. Our suicide hotline has hit multiple all-time records. Many are watching their life savings slowly dwindle. The restaurant where my partner and I had our first date, an establishment which has been a part of the community for 30 years, recently closed its doors forever. These businesses often represent a lifetime of effort lost.

Apparently, none of those costs matter.

The neuroscientist Sam Harris summarized the basics of human well-being in his book, The Moral Landscape: “people tend to be happier if they have good friends, basic control over their lives, and enough money to meet their needs.” Yet for nearly two years, Australians have been told to stay home in isolation while their relationships fracture and their livelihoods turn to dust. And they’ve been told that it’s for their own good.



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Newsom and the End of the California Dream

Newsom and the End of the California Dream

(Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group via AP)

In 2018, Gavin Newsom ascended to the governorship of California with an unprecedented mandate. The former mayor of San Francisco and lieutenant governor of California had been marked for the highest office in the state for decades, thanks to a close association with the most powerful families in California, and he breezed into office with a nearly 3 million vote margin, winning even deep-red Orange County on the way to the biggest landslide for a nonincumbent since the Great Depression. 

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The Joe Cozzo Show – The American Dream Turned Nightmare 9/10/21


Joe Biden and the federal government has gone rogue. The administration is making decisions that are infringing on our rights as American citizens. And this is just the beginning.

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Why Did China Nix Its Dream of a Six Aircraft Carrier Fleet?

Here’s What You Need to Know: In a high-intensity conflict with the United States, the PLA Navy would likely struggle to use its carriers without exposing them to unacceptably high levels of risk.

China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy takes many of its cues from the U.S. Navy as it develops its carrier aviation branch. It is seeking similar flat-deck carriers to its U.S. counterpart, and has developed airborne early warning planes and electronic attack jets comparable to American E-2D Hawkeyes and EA-18 Growlers.

But that tendency may have backfired for once. That’s because the U.S. Navy has been beset by major cost overruns and delays in deploying its new generation Gerald Ford-class supercarriers due to persistent flaws in their catapults, arresting gear, radars and weapons elevators. You can read more about these many problems in an earlier article.

Similar problems apparently are affecting China’s carrier program. In November 2019, Minnie Chan of the South China Morning Post reported that Beijing was scrapping plans for a fifth and sixth nuclear-powered carrier, once it finished construction of two new steam-powered vessels.

The reason? “Technical challenges and high costs,” including issues particularly linked to development of the latter two vessel’s electromagnetic launch systems—the same system bedeviling the U.S. Navy.

China’s Truncated Aircraft Carrier Program

For over a decade, China has been steadily building up plans to deploy six aircraft carriers of progressively greater capability.

China’s first carrier, the Type 001 Liaoning, was actually an old Soviet “aircraft-carrying cruiser” purchased by an ex-basketball star from Ukraine, ostensibly for use as a floating casino, and then extensively refitted into a carrier. Considerably smaller than U.S. carriers, the Liaoning features a curved ‘ski jump’ ramp that limits the fuel and weapons payload carried by her J-15 Flying Shark fighters.

The second carrier, launched in 2017—variously designated the Type 001A or Type 002—was China’s first entirely domestically built carrier, and is essentially a modestly improved Type 001.

China’s third and fourth carriers (the Type 002 or Type 003 depending on which nomenclature you prefer) are significantly larger and more capable, with flat, catapult-equipped flight decks that would allow deployment of fully combat-loaded jet fighters.

The final stage of the Chinese carrier program was two even larger flat-deck carriers using nuclear propulsion—intended essentially to be equal in capability to the U.S. Navy’s super carriers.

But rather than adopt the steam catapults used on most flat-deck aircraft carriers, Beijing was determined to steal a technological step by directly adopting next-generation electromagnetic launch systems, or EMALs—currently only featured on two new Gerald Ford class carrier.

U.S. Navy planners have long enthused that EMALs would save billions of dollars in operating costs compared to steam catapults, speed up aircraft operations 25%, and reduce wear-and-tear on aircraft by allowing the amount of impelling force to be fine-tuned according to operational needs.

But unfortunately, Pentagon testing reports revealed that EMALs remained far from mature, exhibited dramatically higher failure rates, and required excessively long times to repair due to the Ford’s distributed power system.

The catapults used by China’s third and fourth-carriers are also experiencing teething issues, according to Chan: “tests of the electromagnetic catapults used to launch the J-15, China’s only carrier-based fighter, had yet to meet the required standard.”

Chan cites a military insider in describing two other factors behind the axing of China’s plans for nuclear-powered supercarriers.

One problem is the need to develop a next-generation carrier-based stealth fighter to succeed the PLAN’s current J-15s. Indeed, there are conflicting reports as to whether China will evolve the lighter, and as yet non-operational J-31 stealth fighter for carrier operations, or develop a naval variant of the larger Chengdu J-20 stealth jet currently in service.

Chan’s source also claimed “China doesn’t possess the nuclear technology required, although it has developed many nuclear-powered submarines.” Apparently carrier’s larger scale needs pose a greater technical challenge.

Prestige versus Combat Power

Beijing may also be having second thoughts on whether springing big bucks for big carriers is the best use of its defense budget.  China’s carriers’ greatest value may lie more in prestige, power projection against weaker adversaries, and building experience for later capability growth, rather than as deterrence against the U.S. Navy.

After all, a six-carrier PLA Navy would still be balancing against eleven higher-capability U.S. carriers. In the past, such naval imbalances in power often resulted in the weaker side’s most valuable ships staying in port rather than sallying forth into likely defeat. Consider the 17 huge Kaiser Wilhelm dreadnaughts built prior to World War I, which saw limited action because they were contained by the 29 dreadnaughts in the Royal Navy.

In a high-intensity conflict with the United States, the PLA Navy would likely struggle to use its carriers without exposing them to unacceptably high levels of risk. Cheaper but still capable surface warships and submarines, as well as land-based missiles and long-range anti-ship bombers offer the PLA Navy a more immediately useable means to contest the western Pacific against a peer adversary. 

Debatably, such long-range standoff weapons threaten the future viability of even the United State’s more mature carrier fleet. Adapting supercarriers to survive against them may involve developing new long-range unmanned systems radically different from the Super Hornet and Lightning fighters in current carrier air wings.

Thus, China’s downsizing of its carrier ambitions may leave it with more time to evaluate just what the carriers of the future will really look-like—and whether they’re worth the cost.

Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States.

This article first appeared in December 2019.

Image: Reuters



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Mercury face Dream in bid for10th straight win

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The Phoenix Mercury will try to sweep the season series against the Atlanta Dream on Wednesday when the teams meet in College Park, Ga.

On Aug. 15, the Mercury downed the visiting Dream 92-81, a result that kicked off Phoenix’s current nine-game winning streak.

The teams squared off again on Aug. 21, and Phoenix (18-10) came away with an 84-69 road win. Skylar Diggins-Smith averaged 22 points and seven assists for the Mercury in the two victories.

Both of those results were part of an 11-game losing streak for the Dream (7-20). The skid ended Sunday when Tiffany Hayes had 22 points, eight rebounds and three steals in a 69-64 win over the Dallas Wings at Arlington, Texas.

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Monique Billings also had her second straight double-double in the victory, Atlanta’s first on the road since May 29, when the Dream beat the New York Liberty 90-87 in overtime.

On Sunday, Billings registered 12 points and a season-best 14 rebounds, and teammate Courtney Williams contributed 17 points.

“We’ve improved in a lot of measurable areas,” Atlanta interim coach Darius Taylor said. “We don’t have the finishers that some other teams have. We’re finding ways to stay in games.”

Phoenix is coming off an 86-81 win over the Indiana Fever on Monday in Indianapolis.

Brittney Griner had 21 points and 10 rebounds in a result that was closer than expected against the last-place Fever.

Phoenix star Diana Taurasi is listed as doubtful for the Wednesday game due to a left ankle injury sustained in the closing seconds of the win at Indiana. The Mercury have indicated that Taurasi’s availability will be a game-time decision.

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Sophie Cunningham or Shey Peddy could start in her place. Bria Hartley might be available for more playing time in her third game back from major knee surgery.

Taurasi sat out 12 games due to injuries before the Olympics but has played in nine games since winning her fifth gold medal with Team USA. She is averaging 15.2 points, 4.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game this season.

“She’s one of the toughest players out there,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said. “Hopefully she’ll be OK. I think she stood on someone’s foot there.

“No one comes close to her (value). Regardless of what happens in the rest of the game, she can come out and make the big plays. That’s what makes her really special.”

–Field Level Media



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Allisha Gray leads Wings past skidding Dream

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Allisha Gray scored 19 points, including a three-point play during Dallas’ decisive late-game run, as the Wings outlasted the visiting Atlanta Dream 72-68 on Thursday

The contest was the first of a two-games-in-four-days mini-series between the teams in Arlington, Texas.

The fourth quarter had three lead changes. Gray’s three-point play with 2:34 remaining gave the Wings a 66-62 advantage, and Isabelle Harrison’s putback layup on Dallas’ ensuing possession stretched the lead to six points.

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Atlanta pulled within two points on Courtney Williams’ 3-pointer with 29.2 seconds left but could get no closer.

Arike Ogunbowale added 17 points for the Wings, with Moriah Jefferson hitting for 13 and Harrison recording 11 points and 10 rebounds, her first double-double of the season. Gray also had a double-double, as she pulled down 10 boards.

Dallas (12-15) snapped a three-game home losing streak, winning in its building for the first time since July 2. The Wings are 3-3 since the WNBA’s five-week Olympic break.

Williams poured in 25 points for the Dream, with Monique Billings adding 15 points and 11 rebounds and Shekinna Stricklen contributing 10 points. Atlanta took its 11th consecutive loss dating back to June 29. The Dream (6-20) has dropped 14 of is past 15 games and is now in last place in the league.

Dallas led 20-12 after the first quarter behind Gray’s nine points. The Dream roared back to move in front at 25-24 on Williams’ three-point play with 5:26 remaining in the second period.

Atlanta built its lead to four points before the Wings finished the half with a 10-1 run and took a 36-31 advantage at the break.

Atlanta bounced back to move in front on Williams’ pullup jumper with 3:15 to play in the third period and took a 50-47 advantage to the final 10 minutes.

The second game of the series will be played Sunday afternoon.

–Field Level Media



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Pink shames 14-year-old YouTuber’s mom for exploiting her daughter through inappropriate bikini photos, but the teen hits back: My mom is ‘amazing enough’ to help me live out my dream

Singer and performer Pink criticized a 14-year-old YouTuber’s mother for allowing her daughter to parade around in skimpy bikinis and flaunt her figure all over the internet, but the teen hit back and said that her mother supports her “dream” every step of the way.

What are the details?

Piper Rockelle, 14, caught the eye of Pink — real name Alecia Beth Moore — earlier this week, and Pink, a 41-year-old mom of two children, took to Twitter to criticize Piper’s mother for allowing her young, impressionable daughter to engage in potentially dangerous behavior.

Pink tweeted, “How many kids like Piper Rockelle are being exploited by their parents? And at what point do the rest of us say … ‘this isn’t okay for a 13 yr old to be posing in a bikini whilst her MOTHER takes the photo?!?!'”

Pink’s tweet raised eyebrows on social media, prompting Piper to speak out to TMZ in her mother’s defense, Page Six reported.

“The first thing I want everyone to know is that my mom doesn’t make me do anything. Quite the opposite,” the teen YouTuber told the entertainment outlet. “I’m a kid who had a dream, and my mom is amazing enough to help me live it out.”

She added, “I know there are kids who are being taken advantage of and that’s a real problem, but I’m not one of them.”

Piper also defended the content of her YouTube page, which boasts more than 5 million followers.

“I don’t think Pink has ever seen one of my YouTube videos because if she did, she’d see it’s just my friends and me having fun and acting like ourselves,” she said. “The content we make is the kind of stuff anyone can watch.”

Piper’s mother, Tiffany Rockelle, added that she’ll always protect her daughter.

“Since Piper was a child, she has had a strong love of performing and she has always had a dream,” Rockelle told Today Parents. “So long as Piper wants to do this and it’s her passion, I’m here for her to follow that dream and protect her.”

What else?

Pink wasn’t the only one who took issue with the young girls presentation, and one social media user responded that the teen’s “sexualized pictures of her in Google are horrifying[.]”

“Thank you Pink for bringing attention to this, hopefully is a wake up call to people in Hollywood and regulations,” one wrote, according to Page Six.

Another added, “My God. When I was 13 I was dancing to Backstreet Boys in my room and kissing my poster goodnight every single night. I grew up accordingly, not light years ahead of my time. Shame on the parents for allowing this. Anyone can be parents. Scary world!”





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