Daily Archives: March 17, 2014

MH370’s endless enigma : Nine things to know about the international effort to find missing Malaysia Airlines jet

A handout picture made available by the US Navy on 17 March 2014 shows sailors inspecting the flight deck of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Kidd at sea in the Indian Ocean, 16 March 2014. Photo: US Navy/EPA

A handout picture made available by the US Navy on 17 March 2014 shows sailors inspecting the flight deck of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Kidd at sea in the Indian Ocean, 16 March 2014. Photo: US Navy/EPA

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 moved into the northern and southern hemispheres as Day 10 of rescue efforts still found no clue as to the whereabouts of the vanished jet. Here’s nine things to know about the international effort to locate the plane.

SYSTEM SHUTDOWN

Malaysian authorities have been criticized for giving contradictory accounts over aspects of the investigation into the disappearance of Flight MH370. Authorities have now added to the confusion surrounding a key communications system. On Sunday, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the aircraft’s communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS) had been “disabled” at 1:07 a.m. on March 8. This was before co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid gave the last verbal message from the plane — “All right, good night” — to ground controllers and would have been the clearest indication yet of something amiss in the cockpit before it went off course.

Journalists stand outside the home of Fariq Abdul Hamid, the co-pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: AP

Journalists stand outside the home of Fariq Abdul Hamid, the co-pilot of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: AP

But Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, chief executive of Malaysia Airlines, clarified at a news conference Monday the communications system had worked normally at 1:07 a.m., then failed to send its next regularly scheduled update at 1:37 a.m. “We don’t know when the ACARS system was switched off,” he said. In response, Hishammuddin waved off numerous questions about why he had said a day earlier CARS had been disabled at 1:07 a.m. “What I said yesterday was based on fact, corroborated and verified,” he said.

MORE QUESTIONS

The new description of what happened to the ACARS system appeared to reopen the possibility the aircraft was operating normally until a transponder ceased sending signals two minutes after its last radio message at 1:19 a.m. The new uncertainty could raise additional questions about whether the plane was deliberately diverted or suffered mechanical or electrical difficulties that crippled its communications and resulted in it flying an aberrant course that involved turning around, heading back over peninsular Malaysia, while rising and falling rapidly, and finally flying out over the Strait of Malacca to an unknown location.

The Malaysian Navy ship KD Kasturi arrives at the Kuantan Naval Base to refuel and restock on March 15, 2014 in Kuantan, Malaysia.

STILL HOPE

Hishammuddin said finding the plane was still the main focus and he did not rule out finding it intact. “The fact that there was no distress signal, no ransom notes, no parties claiming responsibility, there is always hope,” he said. Investigators have not ruled out hijacking, sabotage, pilot suicide or mass murder. They are checking the backgrounds of all 227 passengers and 12 crew, as well as the ground crew, to see if links to terrorists, personal problems or psychological issues could be factors.

SEARCH TEAMS

Malaysia’s government sent out diplomatic cables to all countries in the search area, seeking more planes and ships for the search, as well as to ask for any radar data that might help narrow the task. About 26 countries are involved in the search, which initially focused on seas on either side of peninsular Malaysia, in the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca. China, where most of the passengers were from, is providing several planes and 21 satellites.

FRENCH HELP

French investigators have arrived in Kuala Lumpur to lend expertise garnered in the two-year search for an Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in 2009. In that case, they were able to rely on distress signals. But that vital tool is missing in the Malaysia Airlines mystery because Flight 370’s communications were deliberately severed before its disappearance, investigators say. “It’s very different from the Air France case. The Malaysian situation is much more difficult,” said Jean Paul Troadec, a special advisor to France’s aviation accident investigation bureau.

ITEMS SEIZED

Malaysian police confiscated a flight simulator from the pilot’s home Saturday and also searched the home of the co-pilot in what Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar initially said was the first police visits to those homes. But the government issued a statement Monday contradicting that account by saying police first visited the pilots’ homes as early as March 9, the day after the flight.

MOVING HAYSTACK

The search area for Flight MH370 is now up to about 80 million square kilometres, according to several estimates. The leader of one of the Malaysia search missions, Captain Fareq Hassan, said: “This is not just a needle in a haystack, it’s a haystack that gets bigger and shifts under us, due to the [ocean’s] drift.”

AVOIDING RADAR

Malaysia’s [ital]New Straits Times[endital] reported investigators were considering the possibility the Boeing 777 dropped to 1,500 metres or possibly even lower to avoid detection by radar. It said the plane “had flown low and used ‘terrain masking’ during most of the eight hours it was missing from the radar coverage of possibly at least three countries.” One official told the paper, “It’s possible that the aircraft had hugged the terrain in some areas, that are mountainous to avoid radar detection.” There was no official comment on the report.

NO SERVICE

Passengers on MH370 probably didn’t have any service on their phones to call or text, say experts. Ted Lennox, president of LPS Avia Consulting, an Ottawa company that does aviation and airport planning, suggested the plane could have been out of reach of cellphone towers. The unavailability of a co-operating carrier could also have played a role in why passengers didn’t send texts or calls. Their cellphones, which were likely on a Malaysian carrier, might not have been able to connect to carriers in countries the plane passed over.

via MH370’s endless enigma: Nine things to know about the international effort to find missing Malaysia Airlines jet | National Post.

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Russian ruble becomes Crimea’s second official currency

The Crimean parliament has announced the Russian ruble will become the second official currency of Crimea and will be circulating alongside the hryvnia until it is withdrawn in 2016.

The decision marks the first step in the peninsula’s economic integration with Russia, after Crimea’s citizens overwhelmingly voted for joining Russia in Sunday’s referendum.

“The official currency unit of the Republic of Crimea is the Russian ruble, and until January 1, 2016, the Ukrainian hryvnia would be also the official currency,” the parliament’s official website says.

The parliament has also approved the temporary statute on the Bank of Crimea. “The organization of money circulation and withdrawing them (hryvnia) from circulation on the territory of the Republic of Crimea would be made exclusively by the Bank of Crimea,” the resolution reads. “The Bank of Crimea without any fees performs transactions with budget funds of the Republic of Crimea, as well as transactions regarding public debt management of the Republic of Crimea.”

The key goal of the Bank of Crimea is to provide stable currency circulation, “development and strengthening of the banking system, providing effective and faultless operation of the payment system,” the resolution adds.

The Central Bank of Russia (CBR) will be largely assisting the introduction of the ruble in Crimea, the Izvestia newspaper quotes sources in the CBR. It’ll fix all the technical issues to have the ruble circulating in Crimea within a week. Mobile cash processing centers are ready to be delivered to Crimea, the paper added. The centers would allay threats from for Kiev that grants to the newly independent republic would be cut. The cash centers will provide humanitarian aid in rubles, pensions, grants, as well as effect non-cash payments, which will effectively turn them into local treasuries.

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تجارب القمر الصناعي المصري تبدأ في قاعدة “بايكونور” لإطلاق الصواريخ

تجارب القمر الصناعي المصري تبدأ في قاعدة بايكونور”

أورد المكتب الصحفي لوكالة “روسكوسموس” الفضائية الفيدرالية الروسية أن التجارب الكهربائية لقمر “إدجيبتسات” (القمر المصري) الصناعي المخصص لإجراء عمليات سبر سطح الأرض بدأت في جناح التجارب وأعمال التركيب لإحدى منصات الإطلاق بقاعدة “بايكونور” الفضائية لإطلاق الصواريخ

يقول تقرير المكتب الصحفي إن عمليات توصيل منظومات القمر الصناعي المصري تجري بالتزامن مع أعمال ينفذها مختصون على صاروخ “سويوز-أو” المخصص لإيصال “إدجيبتسات” إلى مداره في الفضاء . ومن المخطط له ان تجري عملية إطلاق الصاروخ المذكور يوم 16 أبريل/نيسان المقبل

تم تصميم وإنتاج القمر الصناعي المصري في شركة “إنيرغيا” الروسية للصناعات الفضائية. وستمكن الأجهزة المركبة عليه من الحصول على صور للارض ملونة بدقة التمييز حتى متر واحد. سيدور هذا القمر الصناعي في مداره حول الأرض على ارتفاع 700 كيلومتر بشكل متزامن مع دوران الأرض اليومي. وسيعمل القمر الصناعي المصري خلال ما لا يقل عن 11 عاما

” إنترفاكس”


US Navy SEALs board tanker hijacked in Libya

navy seals board ship

navy seals board ship

TRIPOLI, Libya: The Libyan government on Monday thanked the United States for a Navy SEALs operation that stopped a North Korean-flagged oil tanker from exporting crude loaded onto it by an autonomy-seeking eastern militia.

The SEALs took control of the Morning Glory late Sunday while it was in international waters near Cyprus, the Pentagon said in a statement. Rear Adm. John Kirby said no one was injured in the operation, which was approved by President Barack Obama.

It said that the tanker will return to Libya under the control of sailors from the USS Stout. It was not clear which Libyan port the vessel was sailing for. North Korea says it has nothing to do with the ship.

The vessel, whose ownership remains a mystery, sparked political tension in the country after it sailed away with a cargo worth more than 30 million dollars from the port of al-Sidra, in eastern Libya, despite government attempts to seize it. The parliament, which had a long rivalry with then-Prime Minister Ali Zidan, used the crisis to vote him out, saying it had underlined his weakness.

The port is among three of the country’s largest oil terminals, which since last summer have been seized by rebels who demand greater autonomy and equal distribution of oil revenues among the country’s three historic regions.

Cyprus is monitoring the tanker, which had been anchored some 18 nautical miles off its southern coastal town of Limassol when U.S. special forces took control, its Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Adding that the ship was now sailing “in a westward direction” with a U.S. Navy escort.

Libya’s interim government said in a statement Monday that the oil cargo will be unloaded when it arrives in Libya. The crew is safe and will be dealt with in accordance with international law, it added.

“The interim government thanks and appreciates all who contributed to this work … especially international partners, above all the governments of the United States and the Republic of Cyprus,” the government said in a statement, adding: “the oil is the backbone of the national economy and tampering with it … is unacceptable.”

On her Twitter account, US Ambassador to Libya Deborah K. Jones wrote, “glad we were able to respond positively to Libya’s request for help in preventing illegal sale of its oil on stateless ship.”

Since the downfall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libya has struggled to rein in unruly militias, most of which stem from the rebellion that overthrew him.

The attempt to sell oil from the seized terminals was a first, a daring move made by an eastern militia led by former rebel fighter named Ibrahim Jedran, who controls the most vital terminals for the country’s so-called Oil Crescent. He is a founding member of a body known as the Cyrenaica Political Bureau, named after Libya’s eastern region, which aims to replace the state oil company and distribute revenues more equitably itself.

Bureau member Essam al-Jihani on Monday said the tanker incident had drawn international attention to the region’s cause. Speaking by telephone from Ajdabiya, close to al-Sidra port, he said his group is preparing to load a second tanker for export, although it was not possible to verify his claims.

As the tanker crisis appeared to come to an end, a car bomb struck just outside the gates of a military technical school in the eastern city of Benghazi, killing nine soldiers and wounding at least others, Libya’s state news agency and officials said. Hours later, a second blast from a car bomb rocked a central district in the city, killing one person, a security official said.

The first car bomb, which was loaded with explosives, went off as cadets were leaving after an inauguration ceremony, the LANA news agency reported. It said the explosion tore the facade off shops and destroyed several cars in the area.

Bodies of the slain officers and the wounded were taken to the Benghazi Medical Center, security and medical officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Initial reports had said that 14 people were wounded in the bombing, but disparate figures are common in the immediate aftermath of large attacks.

Benghazi, the birthplace of the 2011 uprising that led to Gadhafi’s downfall, has seen a sharp rise in attacks and assassinations targeting military and police troops. The city was the scene of a brazen militant attack on the U.S. Consulate on Sept. 11, 2012 which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Assassins kill former officers, judges, and activists on a near daily basis in Libya’s east, which includes Benghazi and the Islamist-stronghold of Darna.

 

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Breaking news – Putin signs order to recognize Crimea as a sovereign independent state

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DETAILS TO FOLLOW

President Vladimir Putin has signed an order that Russia recognizes Crimea as a sovereign and independent state. The Autonomous Republic of Crimea held a referendum on Sunday with over 96% voting for integration into Russia.

“According to the will of the peoples of the Crimea on the all-Crimean referendum held on March 16, 2014, [I order] to recognize the Republic of Crimea, in which the city of Sevastopol has a special status, as a sovereign and independent state,” the document reads.

The order comes into force immediately.

DETAILS TO FOLLOW

Crimea was declared an independent sovereign state, the Republic of Crimea, on Monday, the autonomous Ukrainian regional parliament’s website stated.

Crimea also addressed the UN seeking recognition as a sovereign state.

“The Republic of Crimea intends to build its relations with other states on the basis of equality, peace, mutual neighborly cooperation, and other generally agreed principles of political, economic and cultural cooperation between states,” the parliament said.

The Crimean parliament also unanimously voted to integrate of the region into Russia.

The parliament’s resolution comes after Sunday’s referendum which resulted in over 96 percent of voters answering ‘yes’ to the autonomous republic joining Russia. The overall voter turnout in the referendum was 81.37%, according to the head of the Crimean parliament’s commission on the referendum, Mikhail Malyshev.

He also stressed that there were no complaints concerning the voting process. Those international observers who came to Crimea made an official statement on Monday that the vote was free and conformed to international standards.

The international reaction to the Crimea’s referendum and its resolution was the implementation of sanctions. On Monday the EU and US slapped visa bans and financial restrictions against Russian and Ukrainian officials.

The White House stated that “the actions and policies” of the Russian government with respect to Ukraine “undermine democratic processes” and “threaten its peace,” sanctioning 11 officials. While the EU late on Monday introduced a list of 21 Russian and Crimean political figures that will be sanctioned for 6 months.

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McCaul: Missing Malaysian airplane could be used as giant bomb

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Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Monday that the missing Malaysian Airlines plane could be parked somewhere unknown and potentially used as a giant bomb.

McCaul said on Fox News that he is convinced the plane was hijacked. From there, he said it either crashed somewhere or is still operational and potentially very dangerous.

“What would be the purpose behind crashing it into the ocean?” McCaul said. “So the other possible theory that we’re looking at is it could have landed somewhere, filled with explosives and then sent somewhere else to cause some great damage.”

McCaul added: “And I think we have to look at all possibilities.”

The search for the plane continues,11 days after it first went missing.

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Vladimir Putin will address the Federal Assembly on March 18

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Vladimir Putin will address State Duma deputies, members of the Federation Council, regional governors and civil society representatives at the Kremlin on March 18 at 3 p.m. on the Republic of Crimea’s and city of Sevastopol’s request to join the Russian Federation.

via President of Russia.

أفاد المكتب الصحفي للرئيس الروسي فلاديمير بوتين يوم الإثنين 17 مارس/ آذار أن الرئيس بوتين سيلقي خطابا استثنائيا غدا الثلاثاء أمام الجمعية الفدرالية (البرلمان) بشأن الوضع حول القرم

 وأضاف المكتب أن بوتين سيلقي خطابه في الساعة 15:00 بتوقيت موسكو. وكان برلمان جمهورية القرم قد توجه الى موسكو في وقت مبكر من اليوم ذاته بطلب قبول القرم في قوام روسيا الاتحادية بصفة وحدة إدارية

كما أصدر البرلمان في اجتماعه الاثنين قرارا “حول استقلال القرم”. وجاء في القرار أنه استنادا إلى نتائج الاستفتاء، الذي أظهر أن شعوب القرم تؤيد الانضمام الى روسيا والخروج من قوام أوكرانيا، يعلن البرلمان جمهورية القرم دولة مستقلة ذات سيادة، بينما تتمتع مدينة سيفاستوبول بوضع خاص في قوامها

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Russian MPs recall urgent bill to accept new Russian Federation subjects

Deputies of the leftist Fair Russia faction said their original bill had been prepared to ease the entry of the Crimean Autonomous Republic but it turned out that it can happen under existing laws.

The decision to recall the bill was taken after Sunday’s referendum in Crimea in which the overwhelming majority of the republic’s population voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. The Crimean parliament has already passed a bill to adopt the Russian currency.

The Russian President and parliament have promised to comment on Tuesday regarding the future of accepting the Crimean Republic into the Russian Federation.

The State Duma statement was prepared jointly by all four parliamentary factions. According to the leader of the Fair Russia party, Sergey Mironov, it will express unconditional support for the referendum results and request the authorities in the Crimean Republic to ensure security, equality and normal social and economic conditions for all residents of the peninsula.

The original Fair Russia bill on bringing new regions into the Russian state was submitted in early March and its sponsors openly admitted that the main reason behind the move was their fear over the fate of ethnic Russians in Crimea.

“To put it in plain text, the bill was initiated by me for the sake of Crimea,” Mironov said. He also expressed confidence that the bill could be passed very fast – within a week after the Crimean referendum.

The suggested amendments make the acceptance of new regions possible without intergovernmental agreements in two cases – if such a move is approved by a universal referendum of the region’s residents, or if the request is made by a legitimate body of state power from another country.

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Missing Malaysian Airlines plane could have flown into Taliban-controlled Pakistan

Military officer Pham Tuan Minh looks through a window of a Vietnam Air Force AN-26 aircraft during a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Con Dao island March 13, 2014.

Malaysia is reportedly investigating a theory that flight MH370 could have slipped under Pakistani radars and landed a Taliban base close to the Afghan border. The pilots’ possible role in the plane’s disappearance is also being examined.

Citing sources, UK newspaper The Independent reported that Malaysian investigators had requested permission from the Pakistani government to follow up a theory that the missing passenger jet had landed close to the border with Afghanistan. The Boeing 777, carrying 239 people, disappeared from radars last week on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Since then, authorities have been unable to ascertain the whereabouts of the plane, and have not found any wreckage from a crash.

The Pakistani government says it has no record of the craft entering its airspace, but has told the Malaysian investigators it is ready to share all available information. In addition, The Kazakh Civil Aviation Committee has said that although the Malaysian Airlines plane could have reached Kazakhstan, their radars would have picked it up.

“No information about the Malaysian plane is available at our radar as it has not entered our airspace,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told reporters when asked to comment on the Malaysian government‘s request. “Our radar system has no information about the Malaysian aircraft as it has never contacted our control tower.”

Pakistan is now one of 25 countries participating in the search for the missing plane.

The Malaysian authorities are investigating a myriad of theories of how the plane disappeared and have not ruled out a possible terrorist attack.

On Saturday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that investigators had reliable information that someone on the plane had “deliberately disabled” communications systems before the plane vanished. Furthermore, investigators said that it would have taken someone with pilot training to be able to switch off the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS. This system automatically sends engine data and other information to the airline.

‘All right, good night’

On Sunday, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a news conference that the last words to be spoken to air traffic control from onboard the plane were “All right, good night.” This was said after the ACARS system had been switched off and there was no mention of any inflight problems.

In connection with this new information, authorities are now investigating the pilot, 53-year-old Captain Zaharie Shah. On Sunday authorities searched his home, interviewed his family and took away for analysis a flight simulator he used to practice with in his spare time. The home of co-pilot Fariq Abdul, 27, was also searched.

In light of the new information, Hussein said that we must not jump to conclusions too quickly as the two pilots did not request to be onboard together and they had also not asked for any extra fuel.

Malaysian authorities have almost completely ruled out the possibility that one of the passengers had a hand in disabling the communications systems. Khalid Abu Bakar, inspector general of Malaysia’s police, said that they had “cleared” most of the passengers on the plane.

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US, Germany inspectors to fly over Russia amid Ukraine tensions

Saab 340.(Screenshot from YouTube user Saab AB)

American and German inspectors will make observation flights over Russia and Belarus within the framework of the international treaty on Open Skies. The mission is set to verify the true position of Russian troops and military equipment.

Starting from March 17, military inspectors from the United States and Germany will perform flights over European Russia and Belarus to check the real whereabouts of Russian troops following accusations from Ukraine that Russia is consolidating military forces close to its borders. The inspection will continue through March 21.

“The flights will be performed on the Swedish observation plane SAAB-340,” head of the National Nuclear Threat Reduction Center, Sergey Ryzhkov, told Itar-Tass.

Ryzhkov specified that the flights will be performed on agreed routes only and that representatives of the Russian and Belarus military will be present onboard to ensure that the observation equipment on board is used strictly in accordance with the treaty’s provisions and that the flight adheres to coordinated parameters.

The SAAB-340 twin-engine aircraft to be used in the inspection is equipped with aerial photographic cameras and is not capable of carrying weapons.

This international mission is the third one starting from the beginning of March seeking to verify the current location of Russian army units and military equipment.

The first mission was performed on March 3-8 by American and French military inspectors. On March 12, Russia gave a positive reply to Ukraine and allowed Kiev to perform an inspection flight to allay fears about the impending invasion of the Russian army on the Crimea peninsula.

On Monday, Russia announced its readiness to let Ukraine use a Russian helicopter to inspect the Kursk and Belgorod regions close to the Russian-Ukrainian border.

In the course of the inspection, the Ukrainian representatives will be given an opportunity to inspect the specified area using a helicopter provided by the Russian side to make sure that “no military activity threatening Ukraine, so actively discussed in Ukrainian and Western media lately, is underway there” Russia’s deputy Defense Minister, Anatoly Antonov, told journalists.

Russian inspectors are also making observation flights this week over NATO member Spain, where the US recently deployed its Aegis missile destroyer. The inspection started March 16 and will last until Saturday. A Russian military delegation flying on an Antonov 30B aircraft is planning to make up to 1,800-kilometer flights over Spain from Getafe air base near the capital, Madrid. Spanish officers are also present onboard and the flights are performed on agreed routes only. Like the observation planes in Russia, the Antonov 30B twin-engine surveillance aircraft carries no weapons onboard.

A Russian Antonov-30B airplane.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 and unites 34 countries. The treaty allows observation flights over Canada, the US, Russia and the majority of European states. The primary aim of the treaty is to ensure transparency in arms control and the settlement of crisis situations within the framework of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and other international organizations.

 RT News

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