Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts

Missing MH370 likely to have disintegrated mid-flight: experts
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 commercial jet.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

GOP lawmaker: You will ‘rethink everything’ when full 9/11 report is released

The Raw Story, Travis Gettys, Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Republican lawmaker renewed his call for the release of 28 redacted pages from the investigative report into the 9/11 terrorist attacks — which a left-wing fringe group claims implicates the British monarchy.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) appeared Wednesday on the Glenn Beck Program to discuss the excerpt, which he and two other current lawmakers and one former lawmaker were permitted to read earlier this year.

The Tea Party-backed freshman lawmaker, who was one of five House Republicans who voted against authorizing Speaker John Boehner to sue President Barack Obama, posted video earlier this month from a news conference on those classified portions of the “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.” 

“It is sort of shocking when you read it,” Massie told reporters. “As I read it, we all had our own experience, I had to stop every couple of pages and absorb and try to rearrange my understanding of history for the past 13 years and the years leading up to that. It challenges you to rethink everything.”

Massie appeared alongside Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Stephen Lynch (D-MA), who cosponsored legislation to release the classified pages after being allowed to read them – but not to publicly discuss their contents.

Although the news conference was held in March, the newly posted video prompted renewed online coverage – and an invitation to appear on Beck’s syndicated radio program.

Massie told Beck the revelations would not “tear our country apart,” although he said there would be “anger, frustration, and embarrassment when these 28 pages finally come out.”

“If we’re going to use 9/11 as a motivation to get involved in these civil wars in the Middle East, (lawmakers and the public) need to read these pages and understand what truly caused 9/11 and who our friends are and who our enemies are,” Massie said.

According to Jones’ friends in the Lyndon LaRouche movement, which has claimed knowledge of some contents of those 28 pages since at least 2009, those duplicitous friends are Great Britain and Saudi Arabia.

“We know exactly who did it: It was done by the British monarchy,” said LaRouche, the conspiracy theorist and perennial candidate for president. “The British monarchy set the whole thing up. That’s the guilty party, and that’s what the cover-up is all about.”

LaRouche has suggested for years that Britain controls the world’s political economy and international drug trade using strategies – such as funding terrorists to destabilize nation-states – developed by medieval Venice.

Jones and Lynch pressed for months to gain access to the redacted documents – which are left blank in the published report.

LaRouche’s website contains a number of links to documents suggesting 9/11 – as well as the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya – was funded as part of the ongoing Al Yamamah weapons-for-oil deal set up by the British aerospace company BAE Systems and the Saudi government.

LaRouche’s “Executive Intelligence Review” publication claims to have evidence about the findings provided by former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), who has seen the 28 redacted pages and has called for additional investigation into the Saudis’ role in 9/11.

“Despite the carefully orchestrated campaign to protect our Saudi ‘friends,’ ample evidence of Saudi Arabia’s intimate ties to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks has come to light,” Graham said.

Bob Kerrey, a former U.S. senator who served on the 9/11 Commission, has also suggested the role of Saudi Arabia needs to be further investigated. A U.S. counter-terrorism report released in 2008 concluded Saudi Arabia was the leading source of money for Al Qaeda.

Thailand's ruling junta approves China rail links worth $23bn

Transport project further consolidates China's power in the region and will be finished by by 2021

The Guardian, Kate Hodal, Friday 1 August 2014

Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha unveiled plans connecting the
 country's northern border with the south-east. Photograph: Athit

Thailand's ruling junta has approved a $23 billion (£13.6bn) transport project that will see two high-speed railways link up directly with China by 2021, in a move seen as a further consolidation of Chinese power in the region.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), headed by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha - who took control of Thailand in a bloodless military coup in May - unveiled plans this week connecting the northern border town of Nong Khai with Map Ta Phut, located south-east of Bangkok. Chaing Khong, just south of the Laos capital Vientiane, will also be connected to Ban Phachi, in the central Ayutthaya regions.

The railway lines will link up directly to Kunming, in China's southern Yunnan province, in what analysts have termed Chinese "high-speed railway diplomacy".

China is looking to build a 3,000km (1,860m) high-speed line from Kunming all the way down to Singapore, passing through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia — a project that would increase China's GDP and those of the involved nations by $375b, a former Chinese railway chairman told the China Daily.

According to China Railway Corp, it appears the Kunming-Singapore line will be constructed in four stages, from Kunming to Vientiane, Vientiane to Bangkok, Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, and Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Construction of the Thai lines is planned to begin next year as part of the new eight-year 741.4 billion baht ($23.3bn) infrastructure development project connecting Bangkok and other key cities with airports, seaports, border areas and cargo depots, the Bangkok Post reported, with some 106 new trains added to the existing fleet. Six dual-track railway lines will also be constructed under the same scheme.

The two routes comprise nearly 1,400km in total but unlike many other high-speed trains, which generally run at a speed of 200 km per hour, will only be able to run at 160 km per hour until further investment would allow a higher-speed system.

Map of the planned route

Chinese officials involved in the project have described the deal as a major scoop for the Chinese government, which had earlier struck a deal with former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra — only to see the project initially rejected by the junta when it came to power.

Now the military government has approved the project, "there will be huge room for cooperation [between China and Thailand]," Yang Yong of the China Railway Corp told China Daily, adding that Chinese engineers had been involved in feasibility research for the high-speed lines, and Chinese companies were directly helping to modernise Thailand's railway system.

The effect of high-speed rail is likely to change South-east Asia and the way it does business for good, says Geoff Wade of the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University.

"When the people of the mainland countries soon find, through the convenience of [high-speed railways], that Kunming is their 'closest neighbour' but a few hours away, the Yunnan capital will gradually emerge as the hub of the Greater Mekong Region and will eventually become, in effect, the capital of mainland Southeast Asia," Wade wrote on the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Blog.

Related Articles:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Taiwan gas explosions kill at least 24 people, injure many more

At least 24 people have been killed and 270 others injured in a series of underground gas explosions in Taiwan. The blasts came after local residents had reported smelling the scent of gas.

Deutsche Welle, 1 Aug 2014

Thousands of emergency workers and soldiers were deployed to Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second-largest city on Friday, where an operation was ongoing to search for both survivors and victims of the blasts.

Several people were reported missing and local media reports indicated that the death toll could rise sharply.

Four firefighters who had been called to the area to investigate a possible gas leak were reported to have been among those killed in the explosions, which occurred several hours after their arrival.

The blasts, which occurred in a district of Kaohsiung that is packed with shops and apartment buildings, hurled concrete and vehicles through the air and ripped open large craters in several streets.

Taiwan's minister of economic affairs told a press conference on Friday, that the source of the blasts appeared to have been a gas that is a by-product of the processing of fossil fuels.

"Based on our preliminary investigation, the gases spilled included propene," Chang Chia-juch said.

Urban gas pipes to be checked

The gas line that exploded belongs to the state-owned CPC Corporation, according to the Associated Press. The source and cause of the leak was not immediately clear.

Whatever the cause of the blast, Tiawan's president, Ma Ying-jeou pledged that all pipes used by petrochemical companies under urban areas would be checked to avoid a recurrence of the incident.

"We will make further arrangements and inspections to avoid this kind of disaster from occurring again," President Ma said in comments broadcast on Taiwanese television.
The president also expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.

pfd/kms (AP, dpa, Reuters)

The aftermath of the gas explosions in Kaohsiung,
Aug. 1, 2014 (Photo/CNA)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Panasonic, Tesla to build giant battery plant in US

Yahoo – AFP, July 31, 2014

Japanese electronics giant Panasonic and US electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors (Xetra: A1CX3T - news) said Thursday they will jointly build and operate a huge lithium ion battery plant known as the Gigafactory.

Under the deal, Tesla will run the operations at the proposed US-based plant, while its Japanese partner will make battery cells destined for the plant and invest in equipment and machinery, according to a joint statement.

The companies did not disclose financial details, a location or other terms of the agreement.
Japanese media previously reported that Panasonic would invest as much as 30 billion yen ($290 million) in the multi-billion-dollar plant.

The pair said the large-scale plant should drive down the cost of batteries and eventually help popularise electric vehicles.

The Gigafactory will produce battery cells, modules and packs for Tesla's electric vehicles.

Some 6,500 people are expected to work at the facility.

"The Gigafactory is being created to enable a continuous reduction in the cost of long range battery packs in parallel with manufacturing at the volumes required to enable Tesla to meet its goal of advancing mass market electric vehicles," the joint statement said.

Driverless cars get green light for testing on public roads in UK

Vince Cable announces £10m fund for driverless car research and road law changes

The Guardian, Samuel Gibbs, Wednesday 30 July 2014

Self-driving cars like Google’s prototypes could be seen on UK roads
in 2015. Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

The UK is to encourage the development of driverless cars on its roads, it was announced on Wednesday, with a multimillion-pound research fund and a review into the relevant laws around road safety.

The business secretary, Vince Cable, said a £10m fund will be made available for driverless car researchers in the UK, joint funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) and the Department for Transport (DfT).

“The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as pioneers in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects,” said Cable. “Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.”

Fully autonomous and driver-equipped

The DfT will also kick off a review process of the laws governing road use, including the Highway Code and the Road Safety Act, to permit the testing of driverless cars on public roads, Cable said while visiting the technology and engineering company Mira in Nuneaton.

Two types of testing will be reviewed for public roads: fully autonomous cars without a driver, and those with a qualified driver who could take control at any time, similar to laws in the US where driverless cars have been tested on public roads since 2011 in some states.

The review process will conclude in a report submitted to government by the end of 2014, a spokesperson for DfT told the Guardian.

Research groups to apply for government money

The £10m fund will be governed by the UK’s innovation agency the Technology Strategy Board.

Interested local research institutions will be able to apply for funding by submitting a business case paired with a local city or authority as to why driverless cars are a viable transport solution in their area.

Three cities across the UK will be selected to host driverless car trials from next year, with each test to last between 18 and 36 months starting in January 2015. The deadline for driverless car research applications will be 1 October.

The fund was first announced by the chancellor, George Osborne, in December as part of the national infrastructure plan.

Google’s driverless cars hit headlines and the public consciousness in May, when the search giant announced a brand new bespoke prototype design.

‘A big leap of faith needed by drivers’

The UK has various groups already working on driverless car technology, including engineers at the University of Oxford and engineering firm Mira, which provides autonomous vehicle technology to the military and has been testing driverless cars on a 850 acre site in the Midlands.

“Today’s announcement takes us closer to seeing fully autonomous vehicles on our roads but it will take some time for them to become commonplace,” said Edmund King president of the AA.

“Cars are becoming more automated with the introduction of assistance systems to aid parking; keeping a safe distance from the car in front; or lane departure warning systems,” said David Bruce, director of AA Cars.

“However, there is a big leap of faith needed by drivers from embracing assistance systems to accepting the fully automated car. Two-thirds of AA members still enjoy driving too much to want a fully automated car,” Bruce said.

‘Britain brilliantly placed to lead the world’

“Driverless cars have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network – they could improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2,” said the transport minister, Claire Perry, who committed to the regulatory review of road law.

“Britain is brilliantly placed to lead the world in driverless technology,” said the science minister, Greg Clark. “It combines our strengths in cars, satellites, big data and urban design; with huge potential benefits for future jobs and for the consumer.”

Driverless cars are expected to begin being tested on public roads in 2015, although the DfT could not provide a timescale beyond report submission to the government by the end of 2014.

“This competition for funding has the potential to establish the UK as the global hub for the development and testing of driverless vehicles in real-world urban environments, helping to deepen our understanding of the impact on road users and wider society,” said Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board.

“The ability to test driverless cars at scale, when married to the UK’s unique strengths in transport technologies and urban planning, will also attract further investment, helping to establish new design and manufacturing supply chains, driving forward UK economic growth,” Gray said.

Dr Geoff Davis, chief commercial and technical officer of Mira said he welcomed the news.

“Our 10 years of experience developing driverless car solutions with successful applications in defence and security as well as cooperative systems in road transport applications means we are already working on a number of projects that explore the potential of connected and cooperative driverless cars,” Davis said.

Monday, July 28, 2014

MH370 families offer to counsel bereaved relatives of MH17 victims

Remains of those killed not expected to be returned to Malaysia for some time as forensic testing in Netherlands continues

The Guardian, Kate Hodal in Kuala Lumpur, 27 July 2014

A Malaysia Airlines flight attendant in Kuala Lumpur lights a candle during a
 special multi-faith prayer for the MH17 crash victims. Photograph: Mohd 
Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

Families of the passengers and crew members on board missing flight MH370 have begun offering counselling to the relatives of those who died last week on downed flight MH17.

The remains of MH17 victims are not expected to arrive back in Malaysia for many more weeks. "No one deserves to go through what they're going through," said Jacquita Gonzalez, wife of MH370 in-flight supervisor Patrick Francis Gomez.

"Right now they [the MH17 bereaved] are like we were in the beginning: quiet and wanting their space. But we are here for them, we actually know what they're going through, we know this is so painful, so hard."

The offer came at a crucial time just one week after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in the early hours of Friday 18 July in the Donetsk region on the Ukraine-Russia border, where it is believed pro-Russia separatists fired a surface-to-air missile at the aircraft, killing all 298 people on board.

Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak – who was lauded last week after negotiating directly with pro-Russia separatists for the return of the black boxes and the passengers' remains – had previously stated that the Malaysian remains were expected by the end of Ramadan. But he confirmed last week that their return could take much longer owing to forensic testing in the Netherlands, where the remains of 282 passengers – including 43 Malaysians, among them 15 crew – arrived on Wednesday.

"There are technicalities and legal requirements that cannot be avoided," he said. "It is highly unlikely for the remains to be brought back soon."

Dutch experts have now begun the difficult process of verifying and identifying the remains using DNA samples collected from next-of-kin. A special Malaysian crisis team, as well as a group of psychologists, chemists, forensics experts and police, are currently in Kharkiv to help with the investigation, while six other hospital teams in Malaysia are awaiting the remains once they arrive back from Holland via C-130 military plane, local media reported.

Malaysia Airlines and Malaysia's department of civil aviation are also working on removing all evidence from the crash site for further investigation – a complicated endeavour given that the site is on the frontline of a war zone.

"[T]he bodies may have to remain [in Holland] longer for a post-mortem to determine the elements of criminality," the health minister, Subramaniam Sathasivam told the New Straits Times.

"There is strong suspicion that the plane was shot down. There is a possibility that countries affected may want to seek justice for their citizens."

He added that the amount of evidence required to build a criminal case would take time and potentially delay the eventual repatriation of the bodies.

The victims' friends and families have been left saddened that they will not be able to receive the bodies as soon as they had hoped.

Dutch experts have now begun the difficult process of verifying and identifying the remains using DNA samples collected from next-of-kin.

Murphy Govind, the brother of MH17 stewardess Angeline Premila Rajandran, said: "It is sad that the bodies will not be home before [Eid, the end of the fasting period] but there's nothing we can do. We can just hope for the best.

"As long as the Dutch people are doing their job identifying the bodies, we just hope that they can do it as soon as possible."

The tragedy has added further pain to a nation reeling after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared on 8 March, and is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean. For the family and friends of those on board MH370, the crash of MH17 is a stark reminder of how little closure there is for understanding what happened to the 239 people on board.

"I'm glad that MH17 is being settled and at least they have the remains coming back, they know where the plane is – now it's about who's at fault an who did that," said Gonzalez, who met her husband when she was 12, married him at 22, and was grieving on his 51st birthday last Thursday.

"But we are still in limbo, we don't know anything because we haven't heard anything about MH370 … We also want closure, we want to know what happened."

Instead of drawing the nation together, in some ways, the double tragedy has further amplified religious tension among Malaysians, who comprise Chinese, Indians and ethnic Malay Muslims.

It is often argued that Malay Muslims receive special benefits not available to other Malaysians, from government positions to scholarships.

A government announcement that "special arrangements" had been made for the remains of the 21 Muslim passengers on board MH17, with the Islamic religious and development departments providing logistics and a special burial site, was questioned over the lack of clarity on how the remaining Malaysian bodies would be handled.

"The fact that the Malaysian government is announcing special arrangements for only less than half of the total number of Malaysians killed in this tragedy seems a little awkward," one news report noted.

Adding to controversy, an MP caused an uproar after by telling parliament alcohol and revealing uniforms should be banned from all Malaysian flights to avoid "Allah's wrath". "If smoking is prohibited on flights, what more alcohol? This must not be allowed on our flights," said Siti Zailah Yusof, speaking in parliament earlier this week.

"Another thing the government should pay attention to is the dress code of female flight attendants, especially Muslim flight attendants.

"No one should die in sin … This must be taken into consideration: we cannot stop Allah's wrath."

Siti's comments were met with derision and disbelief by citizens and NGOs alike, who called her comments "sexist, discriminatory and condescending".

"Such a statement is insensitive and irrelevant, especially at a time when the grieving nation is still recovering," said human rights NGO Empower in a statement. "The MP failed to understand that the victims died because MH17 was shot down by perpetrators who have still not been brought to justice."

CORRECTS CITY - Two women pray with others during a prayer session organized
 by former schoolmates of a cabin crew member of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which
 was shot down in Ukraine, at a mosque in Putrajaya, Malaysia Saturday, July 19, 
2014. Malaysia's transport minister said the country is "deeply concerned" that the
site in Ukraine where the Malaysia Airlines jetliner was shot down with 298 people
onboard "has not been properly secured." (AP Photo/Satish Cheney)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Twin tragedies push Malaysia Airlines to the brink

Yahoo – AFP, Bhavan Jaipragas, 27 July 2014

A couple watches as a Malaysia Airlines plane taxi on the runway at the Kuala
Lumpur International Airport on July 27, 2014 (AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)

Any airline would struggle with the devastating impact of losing one jet full of passengers, especially if it had already been bleeding money for years.

But losing another just months later is pushing crisis-hit Malaysia Airlines to the brink of financial collapse, airline experts said, spotlighting whether it can steer its way out of extended turmoil as once-troubled carriers such as Korean Air and Garuda Indonesia did before.

The flag carrier needs an immediate intervention from the Malaysian government investment fund that controls its purse strings, and likely deep restructuring, to survive the twin tragedies of flights MH370 and MH17, analysts added.

Passengers queue at Malaysia Airlines
 check-in counters at the Kuala Lumpur
 International Airport on July 27, 2014
(AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)
Malaysia Airlines (MAS) was already struggling with years of declining bookings and mounting financial losses when MH370's mysterious disappearance in March with 239 people aboard sent the carrier into free-fall.

The July 17 downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine, which killed all 298 people on board, deeply compounds those woes.

"The harrowing reality for Malaysia Airlines after MH17 is that if the government doesn't have an immediate game plan, every day that passes will contribute to its self-destruction and eventual demise," Shukor Yusof, an analyst with Malaysia-based aviation consultancy Endau Analytics, told AFP.

Shukor said MAS was losing "one to two million US dollars a day," and has "the bandwidth to stay afloat for about six more months based on my estimates of its cash reserves".

Image is everything

While the MH17 disaster was beyond the airline's control -- pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine stand accused of shooting it down with a missile -- bookings are expected to take a further significant hit, as they did in MH370's wake.

Passengers queue at Malaysia Airlines
 check-in counters at the Kuala Lumpur
 International Airport on July 27, 2014
(AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)
"I'm not considering going to Malaysia in the next few years. Not unless Malaysia Airlines acts or does something in the future that will allow people to feel more relaxed about travelling there," said Zhang Bing, a Chinese national in Beijing.

Jonathan Galaviz, a partner at the US-based travel and tourism consultancy Global Market Advisors, said "perception is key in the airline industry".

"Unfortunately for Malaysia Airlines, potential international customers are now going to link the brand to tragedy."

The airline already has announced refunds for ticket cancellations following MH17, which Galaviz said would cost millions of dollars.

Speculation is rife that state investment vehicle Khazanah Nasional, which owns 69 percent of the airline, will delist its shares and take it private, which could set the stage for painful cost-cutting measures and other reforms.

Analysts have long blamed poor management, government interference, a bloated workforce, and powerful, reform-resistant employee unions for preventing the airline from remaining competitive.

MAS lost a combined 4.1 billion ringgit ($1.3 billion) from 2011-13. It bled a further 443 million ringgit in the first quarter of this year, blaming MH370's "dramatic impact" on bookings.

Khazanah declined to comment on future plans for the airline.

Passengers wait in the departure hall at
 Kuala Lumpur International Airport on July
27, 2014 (AFP Photo/Manan Vatsyayana)
But writing in Britain's Sunday Telegraph on Sunday, Hugh Dunleavy, Malaysia Airlines' commercial director, stated that the carrier "will eventually overcome this tragedy and emerge stronger".

The Malaysian government had begun to speed up its review of the airline's future -- started after the disappearance of MH370 -- following the second tragedy, Dunleavy wrote.

"There are several options on the table but all involve creating an airline fit for purpose in what is a new era for us, and other airlines."

"With the unwavering support we have received from the Malaysian government, we are confident of our recovery, whatever the shape of the airline in future," he wrote.

Rising from the ashes

Other airlines have risen from the ashes, lessons that could be instructive for MAS, experts said.

Indonesia's state-owned Garuda Indonesia was plagued by a series of problems in the 1990s and early 2000s, including heavy debts and the murder of a prominent human rights campaigner mid-air in 2004.

Safety problems also blighted its image, including a 1997 crash on Sumatra island that killed all 234 aboard and remains Indonesia's deadliest air disaster.

A billboard displays well-wishers' 
messages in support of missing Malaysia
 Airlines flight MH370, pictured in Beijing
on March 30, 2014 (AFP Photo/Wang Zhao)
Former banker Emirsyah Satar was appointed in 2005 to turn around the airline, and he undertook a massive exercise to nurse it back to health. In 2010, it was named the world's most improved airline by London-based consultancy Skytrax.

Korean Air was in trouble after a period during the 1980s and 1990s when several accidents left more than 700 people dead.

It embarked on a major reform push, bringing in retired Delta Air Lines vice-president David Greenberg in 2000, who subsequently revolutionised its safety and operational practices.

Korean Air is now widely respected worldwide.

Shukor said Malaysia's government and Khazanah face a "mammoth task" but that the airline could learn much from carriers that have faced similar challenges.

"Its name is now synonymous with disaster, mismanagement, lack of discipline and many negative elements," he said.

Related Article:

Friday, July 25, 2014

Russia loses contact with satellite full of geckos

Photon-M satellite and five reptiles on board will be lost unless contact can be re-established, says space industry source

The Guardian, Alec Luhn in Moscow, Thursday 24 July 2014

Soyuz rockets at a space research centre in Samara, Russia. Photograph:
Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

Russian mission control has lost contact with a satellite full of geckos slated to participate in a weightlessness experiment, in the latest setback for the country's space industry.

The Photon-M satellite and its reptile crew will likely be lost and fall from orbit in a few months unless specialists can re-establish communications with it, a source in the space industry told Interfax news agency. The four female and one male gecko on board will die from hunger within two and a half months or earlier if the craft's life-support systems are also disrupted, the source said.

Part of a research satellite programme stretching back to 1985, the Photon satellite was launched into space atop a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome on 19 July, after the mission was held up for three weeks because of delays in testing the electrical system.

After rejecting future cooperation with Nasa amid deteriorating relations with the United States, the Russian government in May announced $52bn in investment in its space industry until 2020. But just days later a Proton-M rocket carrying a communications satellite to provide internet to remote parts of the country exploded minutes after liftoff, the second crash of a Proton rocket in less than a year. In June, the maiden voyage of Russia's first new spacecraft since the Soviet era, the Angara rocket, was aborted at the last minute on live television as the president, Vladimir Putin, looked on, although it was successfully launched on 9 July.

The last Photon-M to be launched in 2007, a veritable Noah's Ark carrying newts, lizards, Mongolian gerbils, slugs, butterflies and spiders, returned successfully to Earth. But the first Photon-M launch in 2001 ended in tragedy after the launch vehicle fell back to Earth and exploded, killing a soldier.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Air Algerie loses contact with plane over west Africa

Yahoo – AFP, 24 July 2014

A Swiftair MD-83 airplane is seen in this undated photo. Authorities have lost
 contact with an Air Algerie flight en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to
 Algiers with 110 passengers on board, Algeria's APS state news agency and a
Spanish airline company said on Thursday. (REUTERS/Xavier Larrosa)

Algiers (AFP) - Air Algerie said Thursday it had lost contact with one of its passenger aircraft nearly an hour after takeoff from Burkina Faso bound for Algiers.

A company source told AFP that the missing aircraft was a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and that some 110 people of various nationalities are listed as being on board the flight.

The source said contact with the aircraft was lost while it was still in Malian airspace approaching the border with Algeria.

Despite international military intervention still under way, the situation remains unstable in northern Mali, which was seized by jihadist groups for several months in 2012.

On July 17, the Bamako government and armed groups from northern Mali launched tough talks in Algiers aimed at securing an elusive peace deal, and with parts of the country still mired in conflict.

"The plane was not far from the Algerian frontier when the crew was asked to make a detour because of poor visibility and to prevent the risk of collision with another aircraft on the Algiers-Bamako route," the Air Algerie source said.

"Contact was lost after the change of course."

The airline announced that the plane had gone missing in a brief statement carried by national news agency APS.

"Air navigation services have lost contact with an Air Algerie plane Thursday flying from Ouagadougou to Algiers, 50 minutes after takeoff," the statement said.

It added that the company initiated an "emergency plan" in the search for flight AH5017, which flies the four-hour passenger route four times a week.

One of Algeria's worst air disasters occurred in February this year, when a C-130 military aircraft carrying 78 people crashed in poor weather in the mountainous northeast, killing more than 70 people.

The plane was flying from the desert garrison town of Tamanrasset in Algeria's deep south to Constantine, 320 kilometres (200 miles) east of Algiers.

Air Algerie loses contact with plane over west Africa

Tamanrasset was the site of the country's worst ever civilian air disaster, in March 2003.

In that accident, all but one of 103 people on board were killed when an Air Algerie passenger plane crashed on takeoff after one of its engines caught fire.

The sole survivor, a young Algerian soldier, was critically injured.

In December 2012, two Algerian military jets on a routine training mission collided in mid-air near Tlemcen in the northwest, killing both pilots.

A month earlier, a twin-turboprop CASA C-295 military transport aircraft, which was carrying a cargo of paper for the printing of banknotes in Algeria, crashed in southern France.

At least 42 killed in Taiwan plane crash: officials

Yahoo – AFP, Amber Wang, 23 July 2014

Sheng Ching (2nd left) -- the Director of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration --
speaks to reporters at the Sungshan airport in Taipei, on July 23, 2014 (AFP Photo/
Sam Yeh)

At least 42 people were killed in a plane crash in Taiwan on Wednesday, officials said, with witnesses and local media reporting the flight came down in a storm after an aborted landing.

TransAsia Airways flight GE222 was carrying 58 people on a domestic flight when it crashed into houses near Magong airport on the Penghu island chain after requesting a second attempt to land there, local media reported.

The ATR 72-500 twin turboprop was flying from the southwestern city of Kaohsiung to the islands off the west coast and had been delayed due to bad weather as Typhoon Matmo pounded Taiwan, according to the authorities.

Journalists wait in front of a TransAsia
 reservations desk at Sungshan airport in
 Taipei, on July 23, 2014 (AFP Photo/Sam
"We have found 42 bodies and some body parts so far," an official surnamed Tsai at the Penghu county fire department told AFP early Thursday.

Television images showed firefighters working in heavy rain to douse the mangled plane and soldiers on the scene.

"There were 58 people on board including four crew members, four children and, so far, according to the information we have, 12 were injured and were sent to hospitals while 46 were missing," Transport Minister Yeh Kuang-shih told reporters earlier.

Two French nationals were on board the plane and the de facto French embassy had been notified, Yeh said.

Plane 'came down in storm'

There were no immediate reports of casualties on the ground after the plane smashed into houses in the village of Sisi, a couple of kilometres (about a mile) from Magong airport.

"I heard a loud sound and my instinct was that it's a plane crash," a villager surnamed Wang was quoted as saying by the Apple Daily Newspaper website after the plane crashed next to his home and damaged his house.

Wang said he smelt gasoline and saw some passengers with blood on their faces and bodies brought out of the plane.

Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration director general Shen Chi earlier said 51 were feared dead in the crash, but later revised the figure to 47.

"The control tower lost contact with the aircraft soon after they requested a go-around (second attempt to land)," Shen told reporters.

The plane had requested a second attempt to land at just after 7:00 pm (1100 GMT).

Local fire chief Hung Yung-peng told TVBS there were 11 survivors, with all others on board feared dead.

"The weather was bad and some witnesses said there were storms and lightning when the plane went down," said Hung.

"We rushed 12 people to hospitals soon after our arrival. One died at the hospital. We kept searching for the other passengers from the wreckage but with more and more bodies pulled out, I'm afraid the rest of them might be dead," Hung said.

Several television stations also quoted witnesses saying the plane was on fire before it crashed.

Anxious relatives

Television footage showed anxious relatives of passengers gathered at TransAsia's counter at Kaohsiung airport, with one woman sitting on the floor and wailing after she could not get in touch with her daughter.

TransAsia Airways president Chooi Yee-choong bowed in front of television cameras to apologise for the accident.

An airline official speaking on local television identified the pilot as 60-year-old Lee Yi-liang and co-pilot Chiang Kuan-hsin, 39, saying they had both accumulated more than 20,000 flight hours.

"He worked so hard to become a pilot, who can give me my brother back," Chiang's sister was quoted as saying by the Central News Agency.

French-Italian aircraft manufacturer ATR said the plane was manufactured in June 2000.

"At this time, the circumstances of the accident are still under investigation," it said in a statement, adding that the Aviation Safety Council of Taiwan would be in charge of the probe.

President Ma Ying-jeou's office said it was a "very sad day in Taiwan's aviation history".

"All Taiwanese people feel the sorrow and will provide the survivors and families of the deceased the biggest support and assistance," it said in a statement.

"President Ma Ying-jeou is very saddened... and has instructed relevant units to clarify the case soon."

Chinese President Xi Jinping was "deeply grieved" and extended his condolences to relatives of the victims, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Beijing also offered to provide assistance to its neighbour, and former bitter rival.

TransAsia, Taiwan's first private airline, also flies to China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam and is due to launch the island's first low-cost airline later this year.

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