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Malaysian Airplane Probe Looks at Suicide as Possible Motive.


The co-pilot of a missing Malaysian jetliner spoke the last words heard from the cockpit, the airline’s chief executive said, as investigators consider suicide by the captain or first officer as one possible explanation for the disappearance.

No trace of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has been found since it vanished on March 8 with 239 people aboard. Investigators are increasingly convinced it was diverted perhaps thousands of miles off course by someone with deep knowledge of the Boeing 777-200ER and commercial navigation.

A search of unprecedented scale involving 26 countries is under way, covering an area stretching from the shores of the Caspian Sea in the north to deep in the southern Indian Ocean.

Airline chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya also told a news conference on Monday that it was unclear exactly when one of the plane’s automatic tracking systems had been disabled, appearing to contradict comments by government ministers at the weekend.

Suspicions of hijacking or sabotage had hardened further when officials said on Sunday that the last radio message from the plane – an informal “all right, good night” – was spoken after the tracking system, known as “ACARS”, was shut down.

“Initial investigations indicate it was the co-pilot who basically spoke the last time it was recorded on tape,” Ahmad Jauhari said on Monday.

That was a sign-off to air traffic controllers at 1.19 a.m., as the Beijing-bound plane left Malaysian airspace.

The last transmission from the ACARS system – a maintenance computer that relays data on the plane’s status – was received at 1.07 a.m. as the plane crossed Malaysia’s northeast coast.

“We don’t know when the ACARS was switched off after that,” Ahmad Jauhari said. “It was supposed to transmit 30 minutes from there, but that transmission did not come through.”

FOCUS ON CREW

The plane vanished from civilian air traffic control screens off Malaysia’s east coast less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian authorities believe that someone on board shut off its communications systems.

Malaysian police are trawling through the backgrounds of the pilots, flight crew and ground staff for any clues to a possible motive in what is now being treated as a criminal investigation.

Asked if suicide by the pilot or co-pilot was a line of inquiry, Malaysian Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said: “We are looking at it.” But it was only one of the possibilities under investigation, he said.

Intensive efforts by various governments to investigate the backgrounds of everyone on the airplane had not, as of Monday, turned up any information linking anyone to militant groups or anyone with a known political or criminal motive to crash or hijack the aircraft, U.S. and European security sources said.

One source familiar with U.S. inquiries into the disappearance said the pilots were being studied because of the technical knowledge needed to disable the ACARS system.

Many experts and officials say that, while the jet’s transponder can be switched off by flicking a switch in the cockpit, turning off ACARS may have required someone to open a trap door outside the cockpit, climb down into the plane’s belly and pull a fuse or circuit breaker.

Whoever did so had to have sophisticated knowledge of the systems on a 777, according to pilots and two current and former U.S. officials close to the investigation.

Malaysian police searched the homes of the captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, and first officer, Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, in middle-class suburbs of Kuala Lumpur close to the international airport on Saturday.

Among the items taken for examination was a flight simulator Zaharie had built in his home but a senior police official familiar with the investigation said there was nothing unusual in the flight simulator programmes. A second senior police official with knowledge of the investigation said they had found no evidence of a link between the pilot and any militant group.

Some U.S. officials have expressed frustration at Malaysia’s handling of the investigation. The Malaysian government still had not invited the FBI to send a team to Kuala Lumpur by Monday, two U.S. security officials said.

 

VAST SEARCH CORRIDORS

Police and the multi-national investigation team may never know for sure what happened in the cockpit unless they find the plane, and that in itself is a daunting challenge.

Satellite data suggests it could be anywhere in either of two vast corridors that arc through much of Asia: one stretching north from Laos to the Caspian, the other south from west of the Indonesian island of Sumatra into the southern Indian Ocean.

Aviation officials in Pakistan, India, and Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia – as well as Taliban militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan – said they knew nothing about the whereabouts of the plane.

China, which has been vocal in its impatience with Malaysian efforts to find the plane, called on its smaller neighbour to immediately expand and clarify the scope of the search. About two-thirds of those aboard MH370 were Chinese.

Australia has offered more resources in addition to the two P-3C Orion aircraft it has already committed.

Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin said diplomatic notes had been sent to all countries along the northern and southern search corridors, requesting radar and satellite information as well as land, sea and air search operations.

The Malaysian navy and air force were also searching the southern corridor, he said, and U.S. P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft were being sent to Perth, in Western Australia, to help scour the ocean.

At the same time, the U.S. Navy said the destroyer USS Kidd was ending its search operations in the Andaman Sea.

 

NORTH OR SOUTH?

Electronic signals between the plane and satellites continued to be exchanged for nearly six hours after MH370 flew out of range of Malaysian military radar off the northwest coast, following a commercial aviation route across the Andaman Sea towards India.

The plane had enough fuel to fly for about 30 minutes after that last satellite communication, Ahmad Jauhari said.

A source familiar with official U.S. assessments of satellite data being used to try to find the plane said it most likely turned south after the last Malaysian military radar sighting and may have run out of fuel over the Indian Ocean.

The Malaysian government-controlled New Straits Times on Monday quoted sources close to the investigation as saying data collected was pointing instead towards the northern corridor.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Co-pilot Spoke Missing Plane’s Last Word.


Malaysia Airlines believes the co-pilot aboard the missing plane spoke the last words to ground controllers.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said at a news conference Monday that initial investigations indicate that co-pilot is the one who calmly said, “All right, good night.”

Officials previously have said that those words came at a point in the March 8 flight when one of the jetliner’s data communications systems already had been switched off.

The timing of the last words has sharpened suspicions that one or both of the pilots may have been involved in the plane’s disappearance.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Dalai Lama to Open US Senate Session With Prayer.


The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, will give the opening prayer on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday, the first time he has done so, reports said.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, said he and his committee also would host the Dalai Lama on Thursday afternoon. The Tibetan holy man is expected to meet with House leaders as well, The Hill reported.

Senate Chaplain Barry Black usually opens the Senate session with a prayer.

The Dalai Lama, who first visited the United States in 1979, has been in the country for a few weeks, sparking a controversy along the way.

President Barack Obama met with the spiritual leader in the White House two weeks ago — their third talk in recent years, the Washington Post reported.

China, which angrily objected to the meeting, calls the Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959, a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who seeks to use violent methods to establish an independent Tibet.

The Dalai Lama, 78, says he wants autonomy for Tibet and denies advocating violence.

During the White House meeting, Obama reiterated the U.S. stance against an independent Tibet but encouraged dialogue between the two countries.

“The president commended the Dalai Lama’s commitment to peace and nonviolence and expressed support for the Dalai Lama’s ‘middle way’ approach,” the White House said of the meeting, The Hill reported.

The Dalai Lama has appeared on Capitol Hill before for meetings with congressional leaders, and was awarded Congress’ highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, during a 2007 ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda in an event attended by President George W. Bush.

In 2009, he focused on compassion in an opening prayer for the New York State Senate.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy Burke

Graham: Iran Sanctions ‘Crumbling’.


The nuclear arms agreement between the U.S. and Iran that eased some economic sanctions is “crumbling,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday, calling on Congress to impose new sanctions against Tehran.

“The sanctions are crumbling,” Graham told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.” “I want to put sanctions back on the table to let the Western world know that we’re serious about sanctions. And, let the Iranians know that the pressure is not off.”

Graham said he had 59 co-sponsors for a bill to reimpose sanctions against Iran. He said Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid wouldn’t allow it to come to the Senate for a vote, and was “making the mistake of a lifetime by not putting sanctions back in place before they crumble.”

“Harry Reid is following [President] Barack Obama’s dictate. Barack Obama’s running the United States Senate,” the South Carolina Republican said.

The U.S. and six world powers agreed with Iran late last year to ease certain economic sanctions on Iran for six months, in exchange for a freeze on some of its nuclear activities.

The sanctions are “collapsing,” Graham said, as indicators showed Iran’s economy was improving dramatically. He said the agreement was doing “nothing to dismantle their nuclear program.”

“The value of the Iranian currency is going up by about 30 percent. Their inflation rate has been dramatically lowered. Over 100 foreign delegations have visited Iran, lining up to do business. Their sales of oil to India have doubled. Their economy is resurging,” he said.

Graham said he was attempting to “reset this before it’s too late,” and pledged to “keep doing this until we get it successful.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Wanda Carruthers

Study: Government Restrictions, Social Hostility Rise Against Religion.


Government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion are on the rise around the world, a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life disclosed.

Social hostilities include “abuse of religious minorities by private individuals or groups in society for acts perceived as offensive or threatening to the majority faith of the country,” according to Pew.

Social hostilities in a third of the 198 countries or territories surveyed were viewed as high or very high, with acts of religious violence rising everywhere in the world except the Americas, Pew noted in its study, which covered the six years from 2007 to 2012.

“We monitor this in two ways that religious freedom is restricted — actions of government and actions of individual groups of society,” the study’s lead author Brian Grim told Newsmax. “We’ve seen a steady climb overall. It’s a global phenomenon.

“There’s an association between social hostilities and government restrictions. As one goes up, the other goes up. And that may be part of what is going on,” said Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation in Annapolis, Md.

Among the Pew study’s key findings:
• The number of countries with religion-related terrorist violence has doubled over the past six years.

• Women were harassed because of religious dress in nearly a third of countries in 2012 (32 percent), up from 25 percent in 2011 and 7 percent in 2007.

• The Middle East and North Africa were the most common regions for sectarian violence, with half of all countries in the regions seeing conflicts in 2012.

• China, for the first time in the study, experienced a high level of social hostilities involving religion, with multiple types reported during 2012, including religion-related terrorism, harassment of women for religious dress, and mob violence.

• The number of countries with a very high level of religious hostilities increased from 14 in 2011 to 20 in 2012. Six countries — Syria, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Myanmar (Burma) — had very high levels of religious hostilities in 2012 but not in 2011.

Raymond Ibrahim, a religious scholar and author who studies hostilities against Christians, said persecution of Christian minorities was rising across the Islamic world, as well as in North Korea and to a smaller extent in India and China.

Ibrahim said the U.S. culture’s embrace of tolerance makes it different from other places where religious traditions tend to discount other faiths as false.

“I think the historical position on religions is about truth. If I have the truth, you don’t. I don’t want your falsehoods to get out in the open. We in the West don’t appreciate this kind of logic and we take for granted the idea of religious tolerance,” Ibrahim said.

The difference between the United States and other countries around the world is that America has “many mechanisms to address religious freedom problems as they come up,” Grim noted, citing the Department of Justice’s special branch dedicated to reviewing discriminatory issues related to religious dress as well as land use problems involving churches and mosques.

In current hot zones of violence, like the Central African Republic and Nigeria, and across sub-Saharan Africa, “there’s a real trend toward major fighting and religious violence along this Christian-Muslim line,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

In Nigeria, “you have a largely Muslim north and a largely Christian south and extremist groups stoking tensions between the two and carrying out acts of violence,” Rassbach told Newsmax.

“I think what happens is those conflicts aren’t just limited to their own countries. What you are seeing is they end up resulting in inter-religious disagreements in other countries,” Rassbach said.

Ethnic and economic conflicts are also tied up in regional disputes, and those add to the mix of religious differences, he said.

“In other parts of the world, it tends to be government-driven, especially in more authoritarian governments. You tend to see a crackdown, so to speak,” noting the crackdown on Christian house churches in China.

In Pakistan, “the government doesn’t officially target religious groups, but the way it runs itself, it ends up essentially green-lighting inter-religious violence by individuals who can often act with impunity,” Rassbach said.

In the Middle East, “the Arab Spring has intensified a lot of previously quieter disputes,” many of which have spilled over to other countries within the region as governments have been destabilized. “I think, anecdotally, you can tell that the violence and resentment is going up. But I think it’s for different reasons in different places,” he said.

There also has been some hostility toward religion in the United States, Rassbach added. “I think a lot of it has been stoked by the government,” including “issues like the contraceptive mandate that we are litigating.”

“It used to be that everybody agreed that religious liberty was a good thing. Now you are starting to see people here opposed to religious liberty.

“I think it’s because of the politicization,” he said. “Some political actors have seen it as useful to pick fights with religious groups. That ends up stoking religious tensions.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Andrea Billups

Bill Gates Predicts Almost No Poor Countries Left by 2035.


Bill Gates, the world’s richest man, said that by 2035 no nation will be as poor as any of the 35 that the World Bank now classifies as low-income, even adjusting for inflation.

Most countries will have higher per-person income by 2035 than China does now, Gates said in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual letter published today. He argued against what he called “three myths” that block progress for the poor: poor countries are doomed to stay poor; foreign aid is a big waste; and saving lives leads to over-population.

“The facts are on the side of the optimists,” Gates, 58, said today in a Bloomberg Television interview today with Betty Liu. “It’s actually dangerous that people are focusing on the bad news and not seeing the progress we’ve made. It means they don’t look at the best practices, it makes them less generous.”

The Gates Foundation has distributed $28.3 billion in grants since 1997 to fund projects in global health and development and education programs in the U.S., according to the organization’s website.

Almost all countries will be what are now called lower- middle income or richer by 2035, Gates said in the letter. They will learn from their most productive neighbors and benefit from innovations such as new vaccines, better seeds and the digital revolution, he said.

Poverty, Disease

“The belief that the world is getting worse, that we can’t solve extreme poverty and disease, isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful,” Gates wrote. “By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. In two decades it will be better still.”

A few countries will be held back by war and politics, Gates said, citing North Korea, or geography, such as landlocked nations in central Africa. Still, he predicts that more than 70 percent of countries will have a higher per-person income than China now, and almost 90 percent of nations will be above today’s India.

Health aid is a “phenomenal investment,” Gates, the co- founder of Microsoft Corp., said in the letter. Helped by foreign aid, the number of polio-endemic countries was reduced to 3 from 125 since 1988. With the right investments and changes in policies, by 2035, every country will have child-mortality rates that are as low as the rates in the U.S. or the U.K. in 1980, Gates said, citing research by the foundation and economists published in the Lancet last month.

When children survive in greater numbers, parents decide to have smaller families, Melinda Gates wrote in the letter. And the pattern of falling death rates followed by falling birth rates applies for the vast majority of the world, she said.

“Headlines in a way are what mislead you because bad news is a headline and gradual improvement is not,” Bill Gates said in the interview. “We almost have to take a letter like this and speak out and say, ‘Wait a minute, despite how bad we feel about what’s not yet done, we have some approaches that work.’ And the cynicism is holding us back.”

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Indian Diplomat Leaves US in Fraud Case That Fueled Tensions.


Image: Indian Diplomat Leaves US in Fraud Case That Fueled Tensions

NEW DELHI — Devyani Khobragade, the Indian diplomat accused of visa fraud for allegedly underpaying her babysitter, left the United States after she was indicted in a case that roiled relations between the two countries.

Khobragade, 39, was charged Thursday with making “multiple false representations” to U.S. authorities to obtain a visa for the caretaker, and the State Department later ordered her to leave the country after India denied waiving her diplomatic immunity.

Her flight has already left the United States, according to an Indian government official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

Khobragade’s departure may resolve a diplomatic row that threatened to jeopardize a growing economic relationship as annual trade in goods and services between the countries nears $100 billion.

The dispute, which erupted after reports that she was strip-searched, put a cloud over President Barack Obama’s goal of strengthening U.S.-India ties.

“Even though the case is being resolved, it caused waves that will take time to resolve and it has caused reputational harm on both sides,” P.J. Crowley, a former State Department spokesman, said in an email. “Both sides need to make conciliatory gestures in the aftermath,” he wrote. “Wounds do heal, but as always, they leave a scar.”

India’s Ministry of External Affairs said Friday Khobragade had been transferred to a post in New Delhi and that it had declined a U.S. request to waive her diplomatic immunity. Syed Akbaruddin, a ministry spokesman, didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone.

Khobragade was first charged Dec. 12. Her case triggered Indian outrage when news circulated that she was arrested by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service in front of her daughter’s school in upper Manhattan and strip-searched while being held with other female suspects. She was released on $250,000 bond which was unsecured.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has said the strip- search was standard practice in an arrest. The incident sparked an uproar in India as the nation of 1.2 billion people prepares for elections in a few months.

“India will continue to be upset about how this was handled and rightfully so, but this has opened the door to putting this issue behind us,” said Karl Inderfurth, a former State Department official responsible for South Asia.

Secretary of State John Kerry should now reach out to the Indian government, Inderfurth, now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in an interview.

“I’d hope the last word is from the State Department, preferably from Secretary Kerry, stating U.S. regret, if not apology, for how this was handled,” he said.The Indian government demonstrated its displeasure with a variety of small reprisals, including removing some security barriers at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, lifting traffic-violation exemptions for U.S. Embassy cars, and ordering the American Center, a venue in central New Delhi for U.S. cultural programs, to halt its activities.

The U.S. countered by postponing anticipated visits to India by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Nisha Desai Biswal, the U.S. assistant secretary of state responsible for India.

During a visit in November 2010, Obama called the relationship with India “one of the defining and indispensable partnerships of the 21st century.”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was Obama’s first official diplomatic guest in 2009, last week described a deal with the United States that allowed it to import nuclear technology as his greatest achievement during a decade in power.

He told reporters in New Delhi that diplomacy should be given a chance to resolve the recent “hiccups” in relations.

Raymond Vickery, a top U.S. trade official under former President Bill Clinton and now a senior director at the Albright Stonebridge Group in Washington, said that expanding trade and investment has been “the underlying driver” in U.S.-India relations.

Speaking before the late legal developments, Vickery said business relations hadn’t yet been hurt by the dispute. The bilateral trade in goods and services reached $92.5 billion in 2012 from $59.9 billion in 2009, the first year of the Obama administration, according to a joint statement following U.S.-India economic talks in October.

Indian foreign direct investment in the United States increased from $227 million in 2002 to almost $5.2 billion in 2012, making India one of the fastest growing sources of investment into the U.S., according to the statement.

At the hearing in Manhattan, Khobragade’s lawyer Daniel Arshack said he told her not to board an Air India flight Thursday afternoon because “there was at least a possibility that it would be viewed as flight” from prosecution.

Arshack said his client had “diplomatic status” and told U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin that she no longer had jurisdiction over the case.

“I was not willing to permit her to depart without appearing before your honor,” Arshack said. He asked Scheindlin to vacate his client’s bail.

Scheindlin later agreed that Khobragade wouldn’t be accused of bail jumping if she agreed to the State Department’s request. The judge deferred a decision on bail to a later date.

“We are pleased that the United States Department of State did the right thing today by recognizing the diplomatic status to which Dr. Khobragade has always been entitled,” Arshack said in a statement issued last night. He accused the government of committing a series of “blunders.”

The visa fraud charge against Khobragade carries a maximum prison term of 10 years, while the false statements charge has a maximum term of five years, according to prosecutors in Bharara’s office.

In a contract Khobragade submitted as part of the visa application, the diplomat said she paid the babysitter $9.75 an hour — above minimum wage as required by law, State Department Special Agent Mark Smith said in the original criminal complaint.

In a second contract, the diplomat agreed to pay the babysitter 30,000 rupees a month, or $573, the United States said, which came out to $3.31 an hour. New York minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

“Khobragade did not want to pay the victim the required wages under U.S. law or provide the victim with other protections against exploitative work conditions mandated by U.S. law [and widely publicized to foreign diplomats and foreign officials],” according to the indictment.

After her arrest, Khobragade was named by her country to serve as a member of its permanent mission to the United Nations, a position that gave her a higher level of diplomatic immunity than she enjoyed as deputy consul general at India’s consulate general in New York.The United States accepted the request to accredit Khobragade to the U.N. mission, according to a State Department news release. Seeking to deny such a request would be almost without precedent, except in matters of national security including espionage, the department said.

The United States first asked for a waiver of diplomatic immunity, which India subsequently denied, then requested that she return to India, the department said.

The case is U.S. v. Khobragade, 14-cr-00008, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

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