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04/19/2007


Spotted Debris Offers Hope in Search for MH370: VIDEO

Debris

Late last night, news broke that satellite images have spotted objects in the Indian Ocean approximately 1,500 miles from Perth, Australia. Prime Minister Tony Abbott made an announcement to parliament that something had been spotted, and search planes have been dispatched to the area.

Watch ABC This Morning's report, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Spotted Debris Offers Hope in Search for MH370: VIDEO" »


Don’t Malign the MH370 Captain’s ‘Fanatical’ Politics

Captain

BY PATRICK WINN / GlobalPost

The tabloids are misinformed. You'd probably agree with the captain.

BANGKOK, Thailand — He’s “fanatical,” says one Western media outlet. He’s “obsessive,” says another. The captain of Malaysia Airlines’ missing jet was even photographed wearing a black T-shirt (above, right) that proclaims “Democracy is Dead,” which apparently “fuels talk that he hijacked the flight.

These headlines create a composite image: an oddball radical with an Islamic name, a man possessed by fringe politics — all in a Muslim-majority nation unfamiliar to most in the West.

But these tabloid notions are grossly misinformed.

All evidence available to the public suggests the opposite: Capt. Zaharie Shah’s politics appear to be generally in tune with Western sensibilities. And given Malaysia’s authoritarian leanings, his opposition views are entirely understandable.

Malaysia is a tropical, multi-ethnic home to roughly 30 million people. The nation endured centuries of European colonization only to shake off British rule in 1957 and become, by Asian standards, modern and affluent. Thanks to a cultural mix of Malays, Chinese and Indians, its cuisine is also mind blowing.

The nation’s government, however, leaves much to be desired.

“People need to see that Malaysia is a one-party state, run by princelings, despite regular elections. This regime has been protected from effective competition,” said Wong Chin-Huat, a political scientist with Malaysia’s Penang Institute think tank.

"Once you understand that,” Chin-Huat said, “you’ll also understand why there’s chaos in coordination over the missing flight.”

Malaysia’s dominant party, Barisan Nasional, has held power for nearly 60 years. To retain control, Malaysia’s leaders stifle protest and dissent. They have instituted laws and privileges favoring the dominant race, Malay, over all other citizens.

They also pursue dubious charges against political challengers, such as Anwar Ibrahim, a veteran politician whose opposition party promotes a less oppressive, more racially integrated vision of Malaysia. This vision has never condoned armed struggle, coups, terrorism or hijacking jets full of innocent passengers.

The MH370 captain happens to be a committed Anwar supporter. The two are also very loosely related through in-laws but have no personal relationship, according to Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper.

AnwarAnwar (pictured, right), the face of Malaysia’s opposition, was sentenced to a five-year prison term several days before the flight went missing. Zaharie attended the trial. The politician’s alleged crime: fully consensual male-on-male sex — a crime in conservative Malaysia. Human Rights Watch condemned the verdict as a “political case” worthy of “international ridicule.”

That prison sentence conveniently follows a groundbreaking election last summer in which the ruling party, badly threatened by Anwar’s opposition, earned less than half of the popular vote. Barisan Nasional retained power nonetheless.

“So if you think the captain is an extremist, then I’m afraid that 51 percent of Malaysians share that extremism. That’s how many people voted for the opposition party,” Chin-Huat said. “This situation generates anger, frustration and depression because it seems you can’t remove a government through elections. But the anger is understandable.”

“Him wearing a T-shirt that says ‘Democracy is Dead,’” Chin-Huat said, “is no different than Americans’ reaction in 2000 when Al Gore lost to George Bush.”

Tabloids’ screaming speculation that Zaharie hijacked the plane in “political protest” is hard to reconcile with the total lack — as far as we know — of a manifesto recovered by police on searches of his home and computer. Without a public declaration of intent, the killing of 239 people (plus himself and his co-pilot) would also be rendered completely pointless.

That hasn’t stopped Fox News from calling him an “obsessive follower” of anti-government politics, or its pundits claiming that “experts” believe his politics are a “cause of concern ... is it a political or ideological act of protest?”

Zaharie, a highly competent English speaker, has a light presence on social media. His YouTube channel, featuring his mundane and geeky tutorials on home repair, has become a haven for both consolation and cruel trolling.

Zaharie also appears to have clicked “like” on a number of atheism-themed YouTube clips, which suggests a degree of unorthodox broadmindedness in Malaysia’s puritanical society. The state holds Islam so sacrosanct that citizens declared “Muslim” at birth are forbidden from legally switching faiths.

MapMultinational investigations into the bizarre vanishing of flight MH370 have grown more agonizing by the day. Satellite data indicate the Boeing 777 could have ended up as far as the Kazakhstan hinterlands or the depths of the Indian Ocean.

Malaysia’s premier has declared the plane’s disappearance “deliberate” and police have sharpened their focus onto Zaharie and his co-pilot. So far, authorities have not identified any others aboard the plane who appear capable of the expert navigation skills displayed after the jet veered off its scheduled Kuala Lumpur to Beijing route.

Investigating both pilots’ beliefs, mental state, behavior and belongings is necessary as long as 239 passengers and a 770,000-pound jet are missing. But so far, no publicly available evidence suggests Zaharie’s political beliefs were deranged or unhealthy.

Quite the opposite. The captain’s opposition to Malaysia’s flawed government — with its legacy of race-baiting, draconian laws and censorship — should be relatable to many Americans.

And if it turns out Zaharie’s politics somehow played a role in the flight’s disappearance?

Given everything we currently know, blaming Malaysia’s popular opposition would still be misplaced. That’s like blaming actress Jodie Foster for the 1981 attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan — all because the mentally ill gunman wanted to impress her.

(map via bbc)


Malaysia 370 Investigation Turns to Crew, Passengers as 'Deliberate Act' Comes into Focus: VIDEO

370

The international investigation into Malaysia 370, the Boeing 777 disappearance that is captivating the world, continues to take new twists every few hours. Now, authorities are saying that the plane flew for as many as seven hours after being diverted.

Malaysia's Prime Minister announced that it has now become a criminal investigation as location data made that theory almost impossible to deny. The NYT:

According to Mr. Najib, a satellite orbiting 22,250 miles (35,800 kilometers) over the middle of the Indian Ocean received a transmission that, based on the angle of transmission from the plane, came from a location somewhere along one of two arcs. One arc runs from the southern border of Kazakhstan in Central Asia to northern Thailand. The other runs from near Jakarta, Indonesia, to the Indian Ocean, roughly 1,000 miles off the west coast of Australia.

“These movements are consistent with deliberate action by someone on the plane,” Mr. Najib said. He noted that one communications system had been disabled as the plane flew over the northeast coast of Malaysia. A second system, a transponder aboard the aircraft, abruptly stopped broadcasting its location, altitude, speed and other information a few minutes later, at 1:21 a.m., while the plane was one-third of the way across the Gulf of Thailand from Malaysia to Vietnam.

Watch CNN's report on the newest developments, AFTER THE JUMP...

Any number of places are now in the search area:

The arc passes close to northern Iran, through Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, and through northern India and the Himalayan mountains and Myanmar.

An aircraft flying on that arc would have to pass through air-defense networks in India and Pakistan, whose mutual border is heavily militarized, as well as through Afghanistan, where the United States and other NATO countries have operated air bases for more than a decade.

Air bases near that arc include Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where the United States Air Force’s 455th Air Expeditionary Wing is based, and a large Indian air base, Hindon Air Force Station.

The Indian Ocean, the third-largest in the world, has an average depth of more than 12,000 feet, or more than two miles.

Continue reading "Malaysia 370 Investigation Turns to Crew, Passengers as 'Deliberate Act' Comes into Focus: VIDEO" »


New Leads on Missing Malaysia 370 are Refuted or Turn Up Empty: VIDEO

Malaysia_maddow

Rachel Maddow took a look last night at recent reports of possible wreckage of Malaysia 370, and past aviation disasters and their causes as the search for the missing airliner continues. Also, why are we using such old technology to track the planes.

Watch Rachel Maddow's report which was filed before the developments mentioned below,
AFTER THE JUMP...

ChinaimageDespite the existence of images from Chinese satellites of objects thought to have potential as fragments of a plane, Malaysian's civil aviation chief said there are no signs of the missing Boeing 777 at the location photographed by the satellites:

"There is nothing. We went there, there is nothing," he told the Associated Press.

Vietnamese officials previously said the area had already been "searched thoroughly" in recent days, the AP reports.

Meanwhile, U.S. investigators believe the missing jetliner flew on for four hours once it lost contact with air traffic controllers, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Their theory is based on data from the plane's engines that are automatically downloaded and transmitted to the ground as part of routine maintenance programs.

WsjThe Wall Street Journal report said the planed could have traveled an additional 2,200 nautical miles, and added a new theory:

U.S. counterterrorism officials are pursuing the possibility that a pilot or someone else on board the plane may have diverted it toward an undisclosed location after intentionally turning off the jetliner's transponders to avoid radar detection, according to one person tracking the probe.

The investigation remains fluid, and it isn't clear whether investigators have evidence indicating possible terrorism or sabotage. So far, U.S. national security officials have said that nothing specifically points toward terrorism, though they haven't ruled it out.

But the huge uncertainty about where the plane was headed, and why it apparently continued flying so long without working transponders, has raised theories among investigators that the aircraft may have been commandeered for a reason that appears unclear to U.S. authorities. Some of those theories have been laid out to national security officials and senior personnel from various U.S. agencies, according to one person familiar with the matter.

Malaysian officials denied the report from the WSJ:

Malaysia's acting Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference that the report, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, was "inaccurate."

Malaysian officials said they had consulted with the makers of the plane and its engines, who told them that no transmissions of any kind were received from the plane after air traffic controllers lost contact with it.

Last night, Rachel Maddow took a look at the history of causes of plane crashes with regard to the disappearance of Malaysia 370.

Watch Rachel Maddow's report which was filed before these new developments,
AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "New Leads on Missing Malaysia 370 are Refuted or Turn Up Empty: VIDEO" »


Fox News Contributor Angela McGlowan Links Missing Malaysian Airliner to Obama Foreign Policy: LISTEN

Mcglowan_malaysia

FOX News contributor Angela McGlowan appeared on Sean Hannity's show this week and tried to link the disappearance of Malaysia 370 to Obama's foreign policy.

Hannity: "To me this thing was blown out of the sky, in my opinion. Your thoughts..."

McGlowan: "I believe it was too. The current administration, Sean, doesn't really have a foreign policy plan and they're really a failure in homeland security so I'm gravely concerned..."

Listen, AFTER THE JUMP...

In related news, confusion continues to dominate the investigation.

Continue reading "Fox News Contributor Angela McGlowan Links Missing Malaysian Airliner to Obama Foreign Policy: LISTEN" »


Search for Malaysian Airliner Turns to Completely New Area

Maylsia350As the search for Malaysia Airlines' missing Boeing 777 airliner continues for a fourth day, authorities are turning their interest to a new, completely different area after military officials report radar data showed the plane may have turned around, and flown hundreds of miles off its flight path at an extremely low altitude, the WaPo reports:

If the plane dropped from a low altitude into the Malacca Strait, it might explain the lack of a major debris field. Malaysia Airlines said in a statement early Tuesday that the western coast of Malaysia was “now the focus” of the search. But a spokeswoman for the airline later said the wording was a mistake and that there was no particular emphasis on any location.

Malaysian civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said searches were continuing “on both sides” of the peninsula.

Authorities expressed surprise that the plane would have attempted to head back to the Malaysian capital without informing ground control.

Terrorism has not been ruled out though "two Iranians who boarded an ill-fated passenger jet with fake passports did not appear to have any terrorist links."


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