Malaysia

Prime Minister Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, March 20, 2019. AAP Image/Andrew Taylor/via REUTERS

March 23, 2019

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s re-election prospects got a lift on Saturday when Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), returned his ruling Liberal Party to power.

The NSW election, less than two months before a federal poll, was seen as a test case of Morrison’s strategy to seek re-election on the back of his government’s economic record.

Speaking shortly after victory was confirmed, Morrison said the victory in NSW foreshadowed a federal victory in May.

“In two months, we’ll be back here to celebrate another Liberal/National win,” Morrison told supporters in Sydney.

Morrison’s government is, however, well behind the main opposition Labor party in the most recent polls, trailing by 54 percent to 46 percent on a two-party preferred basis.

While the Australian economy is the envy of many, NSW’s finances are in even better shape. Unemployment in NSW is at a near record low, below even the national level which on Thursday was pegged at 4.9 percent.

State coffers have also swelled, topping more than A$400 billion ($286.44 billion) last year to be worth more than the economies of Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, despite signs of a property price-led pullback.

But echoing national discontent, Morrison’s Liberal Party saw support ebb away in NSW as some voters felt they have not enjoyed the benefits of the soaring economy.

Despite this and the Liberal Party’s coalition partner, the Nationals on course to lose several seats that may cost the government an outright majority, the main opposition Labor party conceded NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian will retain power.

Morrison will now hope to capitalize on the victory when his government delivers its final budget ahead of the election.

The conservative government has promised to deliver the country’s first budget surplus in a decade and armed with a hefty war chest, Morrison is likely to also promise tax cuts.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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Malaysia's new government advisor Daim Zainuddin speaks during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing
Malaysia’s new government advisor Daim Zainuddin speaks during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, China Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Andy Wong/Pool/via Reuters

March 23, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia will finalize talks with China in early April regarding a $20 billion rail project that has been suspended since July last year, the Malaysian representative for the negotiations said late on Friday.

The renegotiations could result in cost savings of more than 10 billion ringgit ($2.5 billion) for Malaysia, the country’s envoy for the discussions, Daim Zainuddin said in an interview with a local television station.

China representatives have extended an invitation to Malaysia for a visit on April 2 to conclude negotiations on the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) in the first week of next month.

“They were here two weeks ago in talks with me, and they have invited me to China … to finalize talks,” Daim said.

Daim said the renegotiations could include commercial elements that would benefit Malaysia but did not elaborate.

The ECRL had been threatened by cancellation since Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who came into power in May last year, vowed to renegotiate or cancel what he calls “unfair” Chinese projects authorized by his predecessor Najib Razak.

Hit by ballooning costs, lack of transparency and the risk it could saddle Malaysia with uncomfortably large debt, the project that was launched in 2017 has come to symbolize Najib’s scandal-ridden administration.

In January, ministers flip-flopped on Malaysia’s decision about the ECRL – the centerpiece of China’s infrastructure push in Southeast Asia – first saying it was canceled and then announcing that talks were still ongoing.

Reuters reported in January, citing sources, that China had offered to nearly halve the cost to save the 688-km (430-mile) rail project.

(Reporting by Liz Lee)

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People take part in the “March for Love” at North Hagley Park after the mosque attacks in Christchurch, March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

March 23, 2019

By Tom Westbrook

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – About 3,000 people walked through Christchurch in a ‘march for love’ early on Saturday, honoring the 50 worshippers massacred in the New Zealand city a week ago, as the mosques where the shooting took place reopened for prayers.

Carrying placards with signs such as, “He wanted to divide us, he only made us stronger”, “Muslims welcome, racists not”, and “Kia Kaha” – Maori for ‘stay strong’, people walked mostly in silence or softly sang a Maori hymn of peace.

“We feel like hate has brought a lot of darkness at times like this and love is the strongest cure to light the city out of that darkness,” said Manaia Butler, 16, one of the student organizers of the march.

With armed police on site, the Al Noor mosque, where more than 40 of the victims were killed by a suspected white supremacist, reopened on Saturday. Police said they were reopening the nearby Linwood mosque as well.

“It is the place where we pray, where we meet, we’ll be back, yeah,” Ashif Shaikh told reporters outside the Al Noor mosque. He said he was there on the day of the shooting in which two of his housemates were killed.

Most victims of the country’s worst mass shooting were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

At Saturday’s march security was heavy, with dozens of armed police officers and buses parked sideways across city streets to close them off for the march.

Shila Nair, a migrant from India who works for a migrant advocacy group called Shakti, traveled from Auckland to take part in the march.

“The support gives us hope and optimism that migrant and refugee communities in this country can have a level playing field,” she said.

“We appreciate the solidarity, but it must be carried on. It cannot be allowed to fizzle out. This is how social change happens.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who swiftly denounced the shooting as terrorism and has participated in many of the tributes and funerals for the victims, has announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles, some of the guns used by the shooter.

Ardern and New Zealand have been widely praised for the outpouring of empathy and unity and the response to the attacks. Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum thanked her on Twitter late on Friday.

“Thank you @jacindaardern and New Zealand for your sincere empathy and support that has won the respect of 1.5 billion Muslims after the terrorist attack that shook the Muslim community around the world,” he said on Twitter.

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s 4.8-million population, a 2013 census showed, most of whom were born overseas.

On Friday the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast nationwide on television and radio and about 20,000 people attended a prayer service in the park opposite Al Noor mosque in a show of solidarity.

Many women have also donned headscarves to show their support.

In Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, a special prayer was held after the Friday sermon for the victims of the attack, according to the Saudi news website Sabq.

Most of the dead were laid to rest at a mass burial in Christchurch on Friday, when 26 victims were interred. Others have been buried at private ceremonies, or repatriated to their home countries for funerals.

Shahadat Hossain, whose brother Mojammel Haque was killed in the attack, told Reuters that she would bring his body back to Bangladesh.

“I don’t know when our family will be able to come out of this grief,” she said.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook, Joseph Campbell, Natasha Howitt and Jill Gralow in Christchurch, Hesham Hajali in Cairo, Ruma Paul in Dhaka and Marwa Rashad in Riyadh; Writing by Tom Westbrook and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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People take part in the “March for Love” at North Hagley Park after the mosque attacks in Christchurch, March 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

March 23, 2019

By Tom Westbrook

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – About 3,000 people walked through Christchurch in a ‘march for love’ early on Saturday, honoring the 50 worshippers massacred in the New Zealand city a week ago, as the mosques where the shooting took place reopened for prayers.

Carrying placards with signs such as, “He wanted to divide us, he only made us stronger”, “Muslims welcome, racists not”, and “Kia Kaha” – Maori for ‘stay strong’, people walked mostly in silence or softly sang a Maori hymn of peace.

“We feel like hate has brought a lot of darkness at times like this and love is the strongest cure to light the city out of that darkness,” said Manaia Butler, 16, one of the student organizers of the march.

With armed police on site, the Al Noor mosque, where more than 40 of the victims were killed by a suspected white supremacist, reopened on Saturday. Police said they were reopening the nearby Linwood mosque as well.

“It is the place where we pray, where we meet, we’ll be back, yeah,” Ashif Shaikh told reporters outside the Al Noor mosque. He said he was there on the day of the shooting in which two of his housemates were killed.

Most victims of the country’s worst mass shooting were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

At Saturday’s march security was heavy, with dozens of armed police officers and buses parked sideways across city streets to close them off for the march.

Shila Nair, a migrant from India who works for a migrant advocacy group called Shakti, traveled from Auckland to take part in the march.

“The support gives us hope and optimism that migrant and refugee communities in this country can have a level playing field,” she said.

“We appreciate the solidarity, but it must be carried on. It cannot be allowed to fizzle out. This is how social change happens.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who swiftly denounced the shooting as terrorism and has participated in many of the tributes and funerals for the victims, has announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles, some of the guns used by the shooter.

Ardern and New Zealand have been widely praised for the outpouring of empathy and unity and the response to the attacks. Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum thanked her on Twitter late on Friday.

“Thank you @jacindaardern and New Zealand for your sincere empathy and support that has won the respect of 1.5 billion Muslims after the terrorist attack that shook the Muslim community around the world,” he said on Twitter.

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s 4.8-million population, a 2013 census showed, most of whom were born overseas.

On Friday the Muslim call to prayer was broadcast nationwide on television and radio and about 20,000 people attended a prayer service in the park opposite Al Noor mosque in a show of solidarity.

Many women have also donned headscarves to show their support.

In Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, a special prayer was held after the Friday sermon for the victims of the attack, according to the Saudi news website Sabq.

Most of the dead were laid to rest at a mass burial in Christchurch on Friday, when 26 victims were interred. Others have been buried at private ceremonies, or repatriated to their home countries for funerals.

Shahadat Hossain, whose brother Mojammel Haque was killed in the attack, told Reuters that she would bring his body back to Bangladesh.

“I don’t know when our family will be able to come out of this grief,” she said.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook, Joseph Campbell, Natasha Howitt and Jill Gralow in Christchurch, Hesham Hajali in Cairo, Ruma Paul in Dhaka and Marwa Rashad in Riyadh; Writing by Tom Westbrook and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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Prime Minister Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, March 20, 2019. AAP Image/Andrew Taylor/via REUTERS

March 22, 2019

By Colin Packham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party faces a tight election contest in Australia’s largest state on Saturday, polls suggest, as a strong economy and a troubled opposition may not surmount voter anger over the removal of his predecessor.

Morrison, who replaced Malcolm Turnbull after a backbench revolt last year, is pinning his re-election hopes for a May federal poll on his conservative government’s economic track record, a strategy it has also deployed in New South Wales.

The outcome in a state that has historically swung between the two major parties and is home to some marginal electorates that Morrison’s party must win to secure re-election will be a pointer to the May result.

“You can’t escape the parallels between New South Wales and the federal election,” said Haydon Manning, a political science specialist at Flinders University in South Australia.

“If the Liberal Party can’t retain government there, the odds of a Labor victory in May will be much shorter.”

Australia’s robust economy would be the envy of politicians heading into a poll in other countries, but the state’s finances are in even better shape, with unemployment near a record low, below the national figure of 4.9 percent.

State coffers topped A$400 billion ($286 billion) last year, exceeding the economies of each of the southeast Asian nations of Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, despite signs of a property price-led pullback.

Yet the economic strength has not translated into strong polling for the state and federal Liberal parties.

Voter frustration that the strong economy has yet to deliver better infrastructure has dented support for NSW Liberal leader Gladys Berejiklian, analysts said.

“The infrastructure cycle hasn’t matched the electoral one,” said Rodney Smith, an expert in Australian politics at the University of Sydney. “Berejiklian has not been able to cut enough ribbons to make people think she has delivered.”

Despite a #MeToo scandal that has rocked the opposition Labor Party, its support has grown steadily in recent months amid rising discontent over inequality.

“It will be close,” Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

“We need to finish the projects we’ve started, we need to begin the new ones.”

Less than two months before the federal election, Morrison’s government is trailing Labor by 54 percent to 46 percent on a two-party preferred basis, amid voter anger at the removal of his predecessor.

“There is a lot of anger at the change in prime minister,” said John Warhurst, a specialist in Australian politics at the Australian National University.

“The state election will provide a litmus test for Morrison’s appeal in Sydney’s west, where there are a few seats that incumbent Liberal members hold with only a small majority.”

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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FILE PHOTO: A man stands near the logo of Alibaba Group at the company's newly-launched office in Kuala Lumpur
FILE PHOTO: A man stands near the logo of Alibaba Group at the company’s newly-launched office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia June 18, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin/File Photo

March 22, 2019

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s major automobile and internet companies, including Chongqing Changan Automobile, Alibaba and Tencent, are setting up a 9.76 billion yuan ($1.46 billion) joint venture to invest in ride-sharing industry, Chongqing Changan Automobile said on Friday.

Chongqing Changan Automobile has invested 1.6 billion yuan ($238.70 million) in the investment company in Nanjing with partners such as Alibaba’s investment firm, Tencent’s affiliate, Suning’s investment unit, FAW, and Dongfeng Motor.

Changan, Dongfeng, and FAW will each have a 15 percent stake in the investment firm, while Suning will be the biggest shareholder with a 19 percent stake, Changan said in an exchange filing.

Alibaba and Tencent’s investment units will together hold the remainder shares with some other funds, according to the stock exchange filing.

The joint venture will invest in ride-sharing industry with focus on new energy vehicles. It will set up a ride-sharing company. The firm will not engage in other businesses, according to the filing.

(Reporting by Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh in Beijing; Editing by Shreejay Sinha)

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Women attend a vigil for the victims of the mosque attacks during an ecumenical celebration in Christchurch
Women attend a vigil for the victims of the mosque attacks during an ecumenical celebration in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

March 21, 2019

By Tom Westbrook

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – New Zealanders prepared for nationwide prayers on Friday to mark one week since a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch killed 50 worshippers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will lead thousands of mourners expected to gather at a park in front of the Al Noor mosque, where most of the victims died, for a prayer followed by two minutes of silence.

Ardern, who has labeled the attack as terrorism, announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws on Thursday.

The prime minister is expected to be accompanied in the Christchurch prayers with community leaders and other foreign dignitaries.

The Muslim call to prayer will be broadcast nationally across all free-to-air TV and radio stations.

Armed police have been guarding mosques around New Zealand since the attacks. Police said there would be a “heightened presence” on Friday to reassure those attending weekly prayers.

Candlelight vigils continued until late on Thursday across the country, while government officials worked through the night to prepare the mosque and the bodies of the deceased for a mass burial that expected after the prayers.

“All the bodies are washed. We finished around 1.30 a.m. this morning. It was our duty. After we finished there was a lot of emotion, people were crying and hugging,” said a body washer in Christchurch who gave his name as Mo.

Newspapers across the country ran full-page memorials with the names of the victims, and a call for national mourning.

“A call to prayer…in unity there is strength,” New Zealand Herald said on its front page.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, has been charged with murder following the attack.

He was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.

Twenty-eight people wounded in the attacks remain in hospital, six in intensive care.

Most victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Muslims account for just over 1 percent of New Zealand’s population, a 2013 census showed, most of whom were born overseas.

On social media, New Zealanders of all religions were being encouraged to wear headscarves on Friday to show their support for the Muslim community.

The #headscarfforharmony movement was trending on Twitter on Friday, with people posting photos of themselves in the Muslim attire.

(Writing by Praveen Menon; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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Burial ceremony of the victims of the mosque attacks in Christchurch
Relatives and other people arrive to attend the burial ceremony of the victims of the mosque attacks, at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch, New Zealand March 21, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

March 21, 2019

By Tom Westbrook and Charlotte Greenfield

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – The bullet-riddled Al Noor mosque in Christchurch was being repaired, painted and cleaned ahead of Friday prayers, as grieving families buried more victims of New Zealand’s worst mass shooting.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that Friday’s call to prayers for Muslims will be broadcast nationally and there will be a two minute silence.

Armed police have been guarding mosques around New Zealand after 50 people were killed last Friday by a lone gunman who attacked worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch.

“We will have a heightened presence tomorrow in order to provide reassurance to people attending the Friday call for prayers,” police said in a statement on Thursday.

“Police have been working relentlessly, doing everything in our power to gather all appropriate evidence from what are active crime scenes so we can allow people to return to the mosques as quickly as possible.”

Both mosques attacked, the Al Noor and nearby Linwood mosque, plan to be reopened. Thousands of worshippers are expected at the Al Noor mosque, where the majority of victims died.

Most victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist who was living in Dunedin, on New Zealand’s South Island, has been charged with murder following the attack.

He was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5, when police said he was likely to face more charges.

The first victims were buried on Wednesday and burials continued on Thursday, with the funeral of a school boy.

Families of the victims have been frustrated by the delay as under Islam bodies are usually buried within 24 hours.

A mass burial is expected to be held on Friday. Body washing will go on through the day and night to have the dead ready for burial, said one person involved in the process.

Police have identified and release to the families the bodies of some 30 victims.

Twenty nine people wounded in the attacks remained in hospital, eight still in intensive care.

Many have had to undergo multiple surgeries due to complicated gunshot wounds. The gunman used semi-automatic AR-15 rifles, with large magazines, and shotguns.

Ardern as vowed to change gun laws in the wake of the attack, possibly banning semi-automatic weapons. An announcement will be made before the next cabinet meeting on Monday.

The gunman broadcast his attack live on Facebook and it was quickly distributed to other platforms, prompting Ardern and others to rebuke technology companies and call for greater efforts to stop violence and extremist views being aired on social media.

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook and Charlotte Greenfield in CHRISTCHURCH, Praveen Menon in WELLINGTON.; Editing by Michael Perry)

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FILE PHOTO: A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf
FILE PHOTO: A gas flare on an oil production platform in the Soroush oil fields is seen alongside an Iranian flag in the Persian Gulf, Iran, July 25, 2005. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/File Photo

March 20, 2019

By Roslan Khasawneh, Ahmed Rasheed and Ahmed Elumami

SINGAPORE/BAGHDAD/TRIPOLI (Reuters) – At least two tankers have ferried Iranian fuel oil to Asia in recent months despite U.S. sanctions against such shipments, according to a Reuters analysis of ship-tracking data and port information, as well as interviews with brokers and traders.

The shipments were loaded onto tankers with documents showing the fuel oil was Iraqi. But three Iraqi oil industry sources and Prakash Vakkayil, a manager at United Arab Emirates (UAE) shipping services firm Yacht International Co, said the papers were forged.

The people said they did not know who forged the documents, nor when.

The transfers show at least some Iranian fuel oil is being traded despite the reimposition of sanctions in November 2018, as Washington seeks to pressure Iran into abandoning nuclear and missile programs. They also show how some traders have revived tactics that were used to skirt sanctions against Iran between 2012 and 2016. (https://reut.rs/2NF1fTK)

“Some buyers…will want Iranian oil regardless of U.S. strategic objectives to deny Tehran oil revenue, and Iran will find a way to keep some volumes flowing,” said Peter Kiernan, lead energy analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

While the United States has granted eight countries temporary waivers allowing limited purchases of Iranian crude oil, these exemptions do not cover products refined from crude, including fuel oil, mainly used to power the engines of large ships.

NO RECORD AT BASRA

Documents forwarded to Reuters by ship owners say a 300,000 tonne-supertanker, the Grace 1, took on fuel oil at Basra, Iraq, between Dec. 10 and 12, 2018. But Basra port loading schedules reviewed by Reuters do not list the Grace 1 as being in port during those dates.

One Iraqi industry source with knowledge of the port’s operations confirmed there were no records of the Grace 1 at Basra during this period.

Reuters examined data from four ship-tracking information providers – Refinitiv, Kpler, IHS Markit and Vessel Finder – to locate the Grace 1 during that time. All four showed that the Grace 1 had its Automatic Identification System (AIS), or transponder, switched off between Nov. 30 and Dec. 14, 2018, meaning its location could not be tracked.

The Grace 1 then re-appeared in waters near Iran’s port of Bandar Assaluyeh, fully loaded, data showed. The cargo was transferred onto two smaller ships in UAE waters in January, from where one ship delivered fuel oil to Singapore in February.

Shipping documents showed about 284,000 tonnes of fuel oil were transferred in the cargoes tracked by Reuters, worth about $120 million at current prices.

Officials at Iran’s oil ministry declined to comment.

Singapore customs did not respond to requests for comment.

The Grace 1, a Panamanian-flagged tanker, is managed by Singapore-based shipping services firm IShips Management Pte Ltd, according to data. IShips did not respond to several requests for comment via email or phone.

A Reuters reporter visited the office listed on IShips’ website but was told by the current tenant that the company had moved out two years earlier.

(MAP: Grace 1 tanker movement between Iraq, Iran and the UAE – https://tmsnrt.rs/2FkRjMK)

SHIP-TO-SHIP TRANSFERS

The ship-tracking data analyzed by Reuters showed the Grace 1 emerged from the period when it did not transmit its location almost 500 kilometers south of Iraq. It was close to the Iranian coast with its draught – how deep a vessel sits in water – near maximum, indicating its cargo tanks were filled.

The Grace 1 transferred its cargo to two smaller tankers between Jan. 16 and 22 in waters offshore Fujairah in the UAE, data showed.

One of those vessels, the 130,000 tonne-capacity Kriti Island, offloaded fuel oil into a storage terminal in Singapore around Feb. 5 to 7. Reuters was unable to determine who purchased the fuel oil for storage in Singapore.

The Kriti Island is managed by Greece’s Avin International SA.

The tanker was chartered by Singapore-based Blutide Pte Ltd for its voyage to Singapore, Avin International’s Chief Executive Officer George Mylonas told Reuters. Mylonas confirmed the Kriti Island took on fuel oil from the Grace 1.

There is no indication that Avin International knowingly shipped Iranian fuel oil. Mylonas said his firm had conducted all necessary due diligence to ensure the cargo’s legitimate origin.

CERTIFICATE OF ORIGIN

Mylonas emailed Reuters a copy of a Certificate of Origin (COO) that he said was provided by the charterers – referring to Blutide – showing the Grace 1 loaded fuel oil at Basra on Dec. 10 and 12, 2018.

“The Certificate of Origin and all the information obtained did not reveal any connection with Iran, let alone that the cargo of fuel oil originated” from there, Mylonas wrote.

Mylonas said the Grace 1’s owners, managers, shippers, receivers and charterers were screened by Avin International. “There were not circumstances that would make the COO of dubious origin,” he said via email.

He said he had been told by the charterers that the Grace 1 only stopped in waters off Iran in late December and early January for “repairs of damaged diesel generators” before sailing to Fujairah.

The document provided by Mylonas says Iraq’s state oil marketer SOMO certified the Grace 1 in December loaded a total of 284,261 tonnes of Iraqi fuel oil.

Reuters shared the document with a SOMO official in Iraq who said it was “faked” and “completely wrong”. The official declined to be identified by name, citing the marketer’s communications policy.

Two other Iraqi oil industry sources with direct knowledge of Basra port and oil industry operations also said the documentation was forged.

The two sources said the document bore the signature of a manager who was not working at Basra port on the stated dates. The document also bears contradictory dates: It indicates a loading period of Dec. 10 and 12, 2018 but a sign-off date for the transaction of Jan. 12, 2018.

‘CONSIDER TO BE FORGED’

Data showed the second tanker into which the Grace 1 transferred cargo was the Marshal Z, also a 130,000-tonne vessel.

It was bound for Singapore in the first half of February but changed course on Feb. 15, parking off western Malaysia. Reuters was unable to determine who owns the Marshal Z, nor who chartered it.

Around Feb. 25, the Marshal Z transferred its cargo to another vessel called the Libya, owned and managed by Tripoli-based General National Maritime Transport Company (GNMTC).

A GNMTC spokesman said the Libya was chartered by Blutide, the same Singapore firm that chartered the Kriti Island.

    Blutide registered as a company in Singapore on May 14, 2018. Its sole listed shareholder and only director, Singaporean Basheer Sayeed, said by telephone on Feb. 7 he was retired and not in a position to comment on the company’s activity.

The Libya’s owner GNMTC “was not aware, at any stage that the cargo is linked in any way to Iran,” the company’s spokesman said via email.

GNMTC provided Reuters with a copy of a COO that it said was issued by shipping services company Yacht International, based in Fujairah, showing the Marshal Z loaded Iraqi-origin fuel oil during a ship-to-ship transfer in UAE waters on Jan. 23.

However, Yacht International shipping manager Prakash Vakkayil said in an email his firm did not issue the certificate and “considers it to be forged”.

The GNMTC spokesman did not respond to follow-up questions from Reuters.

    As of March 20, data showed the Libya was located alongside the Marshal Z offshore western Malaysia, the position vessels typically adopt for ship-to-ship transfers.

Reuters could not immediately determine whether the fuel oil cargo the Libya had been carrying was still aboard the ship.

(Reporting by Roslan Khasawneh in SINGAPORE, Ahmed Rasheed in BAGHDAD and Ahmed Elumami in TRIPOLI; Additional reporting by Jonathan Saul in LONDON and Parisa Hafezi in DUBAI; Editing by Henning Gloystein, Christian Schmollinger and Kenneth Maxwell)

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Al Noor mosque shooting survivor Farhid Ahmed poses with a photo of his wife Husna, who was killed in the attack, after an interview with Reuters in Christchurch, New Zealand
Al Noor mosque shooting survivor Farhid Ahmed poses with a photo of his wife Husna, who was killed in the attack, after an interview with Reuters in Christchurch, New Zealand March 18, 2019. Picture taken March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

March 19, 2019

By Charlotte Greenfield and Tom Westbrook

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand (Reuters) – Husna Ahmed was 19 when she arrived in New Zealand from Bangladesh on her wedding day. Waiting to meet her was Farid, the man she would marry in a few hours, as their families had agreed.

A quarter of a century later, the life they had built together was torn apart at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch when a gunman walked into the building, firing on worshippers at Friday prayers.

Husna encountered the gunman on his way out of the mosque. He shot her on the footpath. She fell and he fired two more shots, killing her instantly.

Farid, who uses a wheelchair after an earlier accident, was talking to a friend and was delayed from joining worshippers at his usual spot at the front of the mosque, instead praying in a small side room.

He managed to escape when he heard the shooting begin, returning when the gunman left, to find many of his friends and community members dead and comfort those who were dying.

Farid found out about his wife’s death when a detective he knew called his niece as they waited outside the mosque.

She passed the phone: “I don’t want you to wait the whole night, Farid. Go home, she will not come,” Farid said the detective told him.

“At the moment I hear that, my response was I felt numb,” Farid told Reuters. “I had tears but I didn’t break down.” His niece crumbled.

A total of 50 people were killed in the rampage, with as many wounded, as the gunman went from Al Noor to another mosque in the South Island city.

Most victims were migrants or refugees from countries including Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Syria, Turkey, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Husna was one of five members of a growing but tight-knit Bangladeshi community killed, according to the Bangladesh consul in New Zealand, Shafiqur Rahman Bhuiyan. Four others were wounded, one critically, he added.

Members of the Bangladesh cricket team, in town for a test match against New Zealand, narrowly avoided the carnage, turning up at the Al Noor mosque soon after the attack took place.

Based on what eyewitnesses told him, Farid said instead of hiding, Husna helped women and children inside the mosque and ran to the front of the building to look for him.

“She’s such a person who always put other people first and she was even not afraid to give her life saving other people,” Farid said.

Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with murder. He entered no plea and police said he is likely to face more charges.

The slaughter has rocked Christchurch, and New Zealand, to its core, blanketing the city in grief and driving Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to promise swift gun law reform.

Farid said he had forgiven his wife’s killer.

“I want to give the message to the person who did this, or if he has any friends who also think like this: I still love you,” Farid said. “I want to hug you and I want to tell him in face that I am talking from my heart. I have no grudge against you, I never hated you, I will never hate you.”

LIKE A MOTHER

A few hours after the massacre as evening fell, the front room of Farid’s home in a sleepy Christchurch suburb where he runs a homeopathy business was full with survivors and friends grieving for a woman many described as like a mother to them.

Husna was born on 12 October in 1974 in Sylhet, a city on the banks the Surma River, in northeastern Bangladesh. She was so fast that Shahzalal Junior High School would only let her run three races, to give her rivals a chance, Farid said.

She moved to New Zealand in 1994.

Thin, nervous and overwhelmed by leaving everyone she knew for a new life in an alien country, she burst into tears when her husband-to-be picked her up from Auckland airport.

He comforted her on the long drive back to Nelson, where he was living, and where she quickly found her feet.

With almost no other Bangladeshis in the small city, Husna made English-speaking friends and learned the language within six months. Farid said she spoke it with more of a Kiwi accent than he did.

When Farid’s workmates at a meatpacking plant agreed to work half an hour longer on Fridays so he could take a break to pray, she cooked them a feast every week in thanks.

And when Farid was partially paralyzed after being run over by a car outside his house, after four years of marriage, she moved with him to Christchurch and became his nurse.

“Our hobby was we used to talk to each other. A lot. And we never felt bored,” he said.

REBUILDING CHRISTCHURCH

When Christchurch was razed by a deadly earthquake in 2011, Husna helped settle an influx of Bangladeshi migrants – qualified engineers, metalworkers and builders – who came to assist the rebuilding of the shattered city.

Mohammad Omar Faruk, 36, was one of the new arrivals. Faruk was working as a welder in Singapore but leapt at the opportunity to come to New Zealand where working conditions were better and permanent residency was possible.

Faruk was also killed at Al Noor mosque.

His employer, Rob van Peer, said he had allowed his team to leave early last Friday after they finished a job by lunchtime, meaning Faruk could attend Friday prayers.

Van Peer said Faruk was loved by his colleagues for his loyal and friendly personality and fast, precise welds.

Zakaria Bhuiyan, a welder at another engineering firm, also died. Newly married, he was waiting for a visitor visa so his wife could travel from Bangladesh.

Mojammel Haque worked as a dentist in Bangladesh and was studying in New Zealand for an advanced medical qualification when he was killed.

All three men knew Husna, said Mojibur Rahman, a welder and former flatmate of Faruk.

“It’s really hard because we are a little community but everyone’s living here in unity, we know each other, we share everything with each together,” he said. “Now I don’t know what’s going to happen, how we become normal.”

The fifth Bangladeshi victim was Abus Samad, 66, a former faculty member of Bangladesh Agriculture University who had been teaching at Christchurch’s Lincoln University.

CUSTOMS AND CARE

Many new workers to Christchurch brought young families, or were starting them and Husna took it upon herself to care for women through their pregnancies, often waking Farid at all hours so he could drive her to the births.

“We think she’s like a mother…if there’s something we needed, we go to Husna,” said Mohammed Jahangir Alan, another welder.

Husna guided his wife, then 19, to a midwife and a doctor and joined her in the delivery room as she gave birth to a baby girl, Alan said.

A few days later Husna shaved the infant’s head, an Islamic ritual which she did for dozens of children in the community. She was so gentle the baby fell asleep while she pulled the razor over the soft skin.

Husna would also lead the customary washing and prayer ritual for women who died. She was due to lead a workshop the day after her death to teach other women the process.

Now, Husna’s devastated female family members will wash her for her funeral, expected later this week.

“We know she would just want us to be a part of it, to wash her,” said her sister-in-law Ayesha Corner.

After the burial, Farid says he wants to continue the work he and his wife used to do and to care for their 15-year-old daughter.

When the lockdown at her school lifted on Friday, their daughter returned home, knowing only her mother was missing and asking where she was.

“I didn’t miss a second, I said: ‘She is with God,’” Farid said.

“She said: ‘You are lying’. She said: ‘Are you telling me I don’t have a mother?’”

“I said: ‘Yes, but I am your mother now and I am your father…we have to change the roles.”

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Tom Westbrook in CHRISTCHURCH; Additional reporting by Ruma Paul in DHAKA; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad arrives at APEC Haus, during the APEC Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
FILE PHOTO: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad arrives at APEC Haus, during the APEC Summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea November 18, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray

March 19, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia may list certain state-owned entities to reduce government debt and liabilities, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday.

A government committee on reducing debt is looking at strategies, including “identification of opportunities on potential asset monetization, which means mature unlisted government entities may be listed in the stock market,” Mahathir said at an investor conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Reducing some equity stakes of state-owned firms is also being considered, he said.

(Reporting by Liz Lee, Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Source: OANN

People visit a memorial site for victims of Friday's shooting, in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch
People visit a memorial site for victims of Friday’s shooting, in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 18, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

March 18, 2019

CHRISTCHURCH (Reuters) – Kamran Nasir was in a finance lecture in Australia when a gunman slaughtered 50 people during Friday prayers at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

Within hours he had joined a band of about 60 volunteers on their way to wash the dead victims, in the somber aftermath of New Zealand’s worst modern mass shooting spree.

“We got this text – they need volunteers,” Nasir, 35, told Reuters.

“It literally unfolded in an hour and half and we were running to the airport to catch a flight,” he said, sitting with four friends who had also dropped everything to offer help.

Experienced in Islamic funeral rites, the men from Brisbane who are connected to Brothers in Need, a charity group, are part of a contingent drawn from Australia and cities across New Zealand to help a community overwhelmed by the number of bodies which must be dealt with according to ritual.

They also epitomize a spirit of generosity that has pulsed across a grieving city this week.

“The first thing that went through my head was: They need us,” Nasir said.

He arrived in the early hours of Saturday, the same day Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder over the killings. Tarrant was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5 where police said he was likely to face more charges.

Christchurch is subdued. Bunches of flowers have been piled up outside the botanical gardens and underneath oak trees opposite one of the mosques, which are guarded by armed police.

The majority of victims were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The youngest was a three year old boy, born in New Zealand to Somali refugee parents.

The victims, after their bodies were removed from the crime scenes, had to be examined by investigators before they can be prepared for burial.

“It is a spiritual process, preparing the body to go into the next life,” said Taufan Mawardi, who is 38 and one of Nasir’s fellow volunteers.

“I’ve never personally done anything that’s got to do with violent crime, particularly bodies that have been riddled with bullet holes or knife wounds or whatever that may be. So it is a bit confronting as well, anticipating what it’s going to be like in there,” he said.

Eight teams of six people are carrying out the work of cleansing the bodies before burial.

“You start from the head, working down from the right to the left side, to the feet. The mouth and the nose have to be washed,” Nasir said.

Officials say they have released one body and that they hope to complete their examinations of the other 49 killed as soon as possible.

“As much as it is emotional, we’ve got a very good support network,” said Nasir.

“For me it is an honor. It is an honor to be washing these bodies.”

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

The Goldman Sachs company logo is seen in the company's space on the floor of the NYSE in New York
The Goldman Sachs company logo is seen in the company’s space on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 18, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian prosecutors on Monday said they would issue summonses to units of U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs in London and Hong Kong, requiring them to respond by June to criminal charges filed against them last year.

Soon after being elected in May, 2018, a new government charged three units of Goldman Sachs for misleading investors by making untrue statements and omitting key facts in relation to bond issues totaling $6.5 billion for state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

On Monday, only the Singapore unit of Goldman Sachs appeared at a pre-trial hearing in a Kuala Lumpur court as a respondent.

“Fresh summonses will be served on the United Kingdom and Hong Kong offices of Goldman Sachs ahead of the next court hearing on June 24,” prosecutor Aaron Paul Chelliah told reporters.

The 1MDB scandal played a major role in the electoral defeat that ended Najib Razak’s near decade in power, and a new government led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad promptly re-opened corruption investigations.

Najib, who has consistently denied wrongdoing, is facing multiple criminal charges, mostly linked to 1MDB, and has been barred from leaving the country.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has estimated that a total of $4.5 billion was misappropriated by high-level 1MDB fund officials and their associates between 2009 and 2014, including some of the funds that Goldman Sachs helped raise.

Malaysia has said it was seeking up to $7.5 billion in reparations from Goldman Sachs, including $600 million in fees paid to the bank for the bond issues.

Goldman Sachs has consistently denied wrongdoing and said certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB lied to it about how proceeds from the bond sales would be used.

A separate Kuala Lumpur court also set April 15 for prosecutors to serve documents to the defense for former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng.

Ng, a Malaysian, was charged on Dec. 19 last year with abetting the bank to provide misleading statements in the offering prospectus for the 1MDB bond sales.

Prosecutor Zaki Arsyad told the court he needed more time to obtain documents as most of them were overseas.

Ng was originally set to be extradited to the United States to face money laundering charges filed against him by the DoJ.

Malaysia, however, has said it may postpone the extradition until Ng can face a domestic trial first.

Tim Leissner, another former Goldman Sachs official, and Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho have also been charged in the United States over the alleged theft of billions of dollars from 1MDB. Leissner has pleaded guilty.

Low, whose whereabouts is unknown, has issued denials of any wrongdoing and has refused to return to Malaysia, saying that the case against him is politically motivated.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: A Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft taxis at Midway International Airport in Chicago
FILE PHOTO: A Southwest Airlines Co. Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft taxis after landing at Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Kraczynski

March 15, 2019

By Conor Humphries, Jamie Freed and Allison Lampert

DUBLIN/SINGAPORE/MONTREAL (Reuters) – The grounding of Boeing’s global 737 MAX fleet has brought headaches for airlines that need to find alternative aircraft to fly in their place, but it has given some carriers a welcome opportunity to re-evaluate orders for the plane.

Countries and airlines around the world banned the 737 MAX this week after a deadly Ethiopian Airlines plane crash killed all 157 people on board. The disaster followed a fatal crash of the same model operated by Lion Air in Indonesia in October.

For airlines that over-ordered the latest version of Boeing’s 737 workhorse, the grounding could be a good excuse to delay or cancel purchases, saving cash on the balance sheet, analysts said.

“These unfortunate developments could give airlines that have potentially over-ordered an opportunity to review their requirements and fleet strategy,” CAPA Centre for Aviation Chief Analyst Brendan Sobie said.

Many airlines have had to quickly find other aircraft to substitute for the grounded 737 MAX, which has also complicated plans by airlines to use the fuel-efficient, longer-range jet to serve new destinations.

Southwest Airlines Co, the world’s largest operator of the MAX, was planning to fly the jet on its new California-Hawaii route later this year, while Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes inaugurated flights from Brazil to Orlando and Miami in November after receiving its first 737 MAX planes.

Normally there are financial penalties for airlines that cancel orders and for manufacturers that do not deliver according to the contract terms. It was unclear how much legal leverage the MAX grounding might give airlines to wiggle out of commitments or seek damages for costs and lost revenue.

Among airlines that may regret ordering too many 737 MAX, Sobie cited Vietnam’s VietJet Aviation JSC, which he said had based a decision to expand from an all-Airbus A320 fleet by adding 200 737 MAX jets on a flawed strategy of opening joint ventures in overseas markets.

VietJet said it was closely monitoring developments and would make a decision about its order once more is known.

Among other Asian airlines, financially troubled Malaysia Airlines said on Friday that its order for 25 737 MAX jets was under review. Garuda Indonesia said this week it might cancel its order for 20 737 MAXs, which it had already reduced from 49 before the crash.

Lion Air, one of Boeing’s top three MAX customers in terms of total orders, had already thrown into question 187 unfilled orders after its October crash. It told Reuters on Wednesday it would halt all planned 737 MAX deliveries until after a final report into its crash is released later this year.

In Europe, analysts said there was a case for and against cash-strapped Norwegian Air cancelling MAX orders: The ban would offer a reprieve from debt commitments but could leave the airline at the back of a congested Airbus order queue or increase operating costs if flights were replaced with less fuel-efficient jets.

Loss-making Norwegian already said in February it was postponing delivery of 12 MAX aircraft from 2020 to 2023 and 2024 to cut expenditure and shift its focus from expansion to profitability, and this week became the first major airline to publicly say it will seek compensation from Boeing over the MAX grounding.

A Norwegian Air spokesman declined to comment on Friday on whether it was discussing delaying or cancelling altogether MAX 8 orders, saying it was in dialogue with Boeing about a range of topics but had nothing new to share.

FLEET PAIN

For many large carriers like American Airlines Group Inc and China Southern Airlines Co Ltd, the 737 MAX a tiny proportion of the total fleet.

But smaller airlines Iceland Air, Poland’s LOT and Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA had planned to use 737 MAX jets to cover 25 percent, 17 percent and 11 percent of their summer schedules respectively, Goodbody analyst Mark Simpson said, giving them a higher exposure to the grounding.

“This is going to impact on their operations and cash flow,” he said. “Particularly into the Easter peak season next month and potentially through the summer as well… People will be scrambling for spare aircraft and there are not many, so lease rates will rise.”

Meanwhile, Air Canada on Friday became the first major airline to publicly attach dollars and cents to the uncertainty surrounding the 737 MAX, saying it was suspending its 2019 financial forecasts.

One silver lining for the airlines: Reduced seat capacity may allow them to hike passenger fares, analysts said.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin, Jamie Freed in Singapore, Allison Lampert in Montreal and Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; additional reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago, Marcelo Rochabrun in Sao Paolo, Cindy Silivana in Jakarta and Liz Lee in Kuala Lumpur; writing by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Men unload a case containing the black boxes from the crashed Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 outside the headquarters of France's BEA air accident investigation agency in Le Bourget
Men unload a case containing the black boxes from the crashed Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 outside the headquarters of France’s BEA air accident investigation agency in Le Bourget, north of Paris, France, March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

March 15, 2019

By David Shepardson, Richard Lough and Aaron Maasho

WASHINGTON/PARIS/ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – French investigators on Friday will begin analyzing data from the black boxes of the Boeing 737 Max plane that crashed after takeoff from Addis Ababa killing 157 people, the second such calamity involving the aircraft since October.

Experts will be looking for any links between Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash and the October crash of a 737 Max operated by Lion Air in Indonesia that killed 189 people. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration grounded all Boeing MAX jets in service because of similarities between the two crashes.

Boeing said it had paused deliveries of its fastest-selling 737 MAX aircraft built at its factory near Seattle, but continues to produce the single-aisle version of the jet at full speed while dealing with the worldwide fleet’s grounding.

Possible links between the accidents have rocked the aviation industry, scared passengers, and left the world’s biggest planemaker scrambling to prove the safety of a money-spinning model intended to be the standard for decades.

The flight data and cockpit voice recorders were handed over to France’s Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) on Thursday. Technical analysis would begin on Friday and the first conclusions could take several days.

U.S. lawmakers said on Thursday the 737 Max fleet would be grounded for weeks if not longer until a software upgrade could be tested and installed.

Boeing has said it would roll out the software improvement “across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks.”

The captain of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 requested permission to return to Addis Ababa airport three minutes after takeoff as it accelerated to abnormal speed, the New York Times reported.

All contact between air controllers and Flight 302 to Nairobi was lost five minutes after it took off, a person who reviewed air traffic communications told the newspaper.

Within a minute of the flight’s departure, Captain Yared Getachew reported a “flight control” problem as the aircraft was well below the minimum safe height during a climb, the Times reported, citing the person.

After being cleared by the control room to turn back, Flight 302 climbed to an unusually high altitude and disappeared from radar over a restricted military zone, the person added.

Relatives of the dead stormed out of a meeting with Ethiopian Airlines on Thursday, decrying a lack of transparency, while others made the painful trip to the crash scene.

“I can’t find you! Where are you?” said one Ethiopian woman, draped in traditional white mourning shawl, as she held a framed portrait of her brother in the charred and debris-strewn field.

Nations around the world, including an initially reluctant United States, have suspended the 371 MAX models in operation, though airlines are largely coping by switching flights to other planes in their fleets.

Nearly 5,000 MAXs are on order, meaning the financial implications are huge for the industry.

“We continue to build 737 MAX airplanes while assessing how the situation, including potential capacity constraints, will impact our production system,” Boeing spokesman Chaz Bickers said.

Boeing would maintain its production rate of 52 aircraft per month, of which the MAX, its newest version, represents the major share. However, Boeing declined to break out exact numbers.

CONNECTION TO INDONESIA CRASH?

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cited satellite data and evidence from the scene that indicated some similarities and “the possibility of a shared cause” with October’s crash in Indonesia.

The head of the Asian nation’s transport safety committee said the report into the Lion Air crash would be speeded up so it could be released in July to August, months earlier than its original timeframe.

Though it maintains the planes are safe, Boeing has supported the FAA move. Its stock is down about 11 percent since the crash, wiping more than $26 billion off its market value. It fell 1 percent on Thursday.

U.S. and Canadian carriers wrestled with customer calls and flight cancellations and Southwest Airlines Co and American Airlines Group Inc, the largest U.S. operators of the 737 MAX, said they had started flying empty MAX aircraft to be parked elsewhere during the ban.

U.S. President Donald Trump, an aviation enthusiast with deep ties to Boeing, said he hoped the suspensions would be short. “They have to figure it out fast,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

A software fix for the 737 MAX that Boeing has been working on since the Lion Air crash in October will take months to complete, the FAA said on Wednesday.

In what may presage a raft of claims, Norwegian Air has said it will seek compensation from Boeing for costs and lost revenue after grounding its fleet of 737 MAX.

Airline Garuda Indonesia said there was a possibility it would cancel its 20-strong order of 737 MAXs, while Malaysia Airlines said it was reviewing an order for 25 of the aircraft.

Under international rules, Ethiopians are leading the investigation but France’s BEA will conduct black box analysis as an adviser. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was also sending three investigators to assist.

The cause of the Indonesian crash is still being investigated. A November preliminary report, before the retrieval of the cockpit voice recorder, focused on maintenance and training and the response of a Boeing anti-stall system to a recently replaced sensor, but gave no reason for the crash.

(For an interactive graphic on ‘Ethiopian Airlines crash’ click https://tmsnrt.rs/2ChBW5M)

(Reporting by Richard Lough, Tim Hepher and John Irish in Paris, Duncan Miriri and Aaron Masho in Addis Ababa, Jeff Mason and David Shepardson in Washington, Omar Mohammed and Maggie Fick in Nairobi; Danilo Masoni in Milan, and Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, Tracy Rucinski in Chicago, Allison Lampert in Montreal; Writing by Stephen Coates; Editing by Neil Fullick)

Source: OANN

A Saudi man who's brother died in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, touches a debris after a commemoration ceremony at the scene of the crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa
A Saudi man who’s brother died in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, touches a debris after a commemoration ceremony at the scene of the crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

March 15, 2019

By Tom Hals, Brendan Pierson and Tina Bellon

(Reuters) – The crash of Boeing Co’s 737 MAX 8 passenger jet in Ethiopia raises the chances that families of the 157 victims, even non-U.S. residents, will be able to sue in U.S. courts, where payouts are larger than in other countries, some legal experts said.

Sunday’s crash occurred five months after the same model of the plane went down in Indonesia, an accident that prompted a string of U.S. lawsuits against Boeing by families of the 189 victims.

While no lawsuits have yet been filed since the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, some plaintiffs’ lawyers said they expect that Boeing will be sued in the United States.

Boeing did not immediately comment.

The company, which has its corporate headquarters in Chicago, has often convinced U.S. judges to dismiss air crash cases in favor of litigation in the country where the evidence and witnesses are, usually where the crash occurred.

That allows the company to avoid U.S. juries, which can award hefty punitive damages to accident victims for wrongful death, emotional suffering and economic hardships of surviving family.

Boeing may have a tougher time with that strategy after the Ethiopian crash, some legal experts said.

This is partly because eight U.S. citizens died and because plaintiffs could argue that liability hinges on system design and safety decisions made by Boeing executives since the Lion Air crash in Indonesia.

“Now with two crashes with a brand-new aircraft, what Boeing did in the intervening five months is more relevant, and that all happened in the United States,” said Daniel Rose, a lawyer with Kreindler & Kreindler, a firm that represents air crash victims and their relatives.

The causes are still unknown, but both involved a relatively new 737 MAX 8 aircraft that crashed within minutes of takeoff and experienced sudden drops in altitude when the aircrafts should have been steadily climbing.

This has raised fresh questions among regulators about a digital anti-stall system known as Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS, designed specifically for the MAX to offset the extra lift from larger engines mounted on its low-slung frame.

In a March 4 court filing in litigation over the Indonesia crash, Boeing asked the judge to limit all discovery in the case to issues of forum, or which country the cased belonged, and said it planned to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

LIABILITY

While potential plaintiffs may name Ethiopian Airlines as a defendant in any lawsuits, the focus on the 737 MAX 8 anti-stall system makes Boeing a likely target of litigation, some lawyers said.

Arthur Wolk, an attorney who represents plaintiffs in air crash litigation and said he has been contacted by a potential plaintiff over the Ethiopian Airlines crash, said Boeing would likely face claims for strict liability. That means they could face an allegation of having sold a product that was inherently defective and dangerous.

Plaintiffs will also claim Boeing failed to exercise reasonable care in designing planes or failed to inform flight crews about how the planes operate, Wolk said.

Rose, the lawyer for passengers, said two accidents so close together will put the focus of any lawsuits on the Ethiopian crash on how Boeing tried to address problems with its MCAS system after the Lion Air crash.

“Were there other efforts by Boeing to essentially minimize the problem or hide the scope of the problem?” Rose asked. If lawyers can show Boeing management acted recklessly, it could clear the way for substantial punitive damages, he said.

Some lawyers who have worked on the other side of such cases are less sure about Boeing’s potential liability.

Kenneth Quinn, a lawyer who represents airlines and manufacturers, said he thought Boeing had a good chance of getting both sets of U.S. cases dismissed on forum grounds.

He said the trend in U.S. courts was in Boeing’s favor.

“Increasingly, attempts to litigate foreign crashes involving foreign airlines on foreign soil are being dismissed,” he said.

In November, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. dismissed a case against Boeing and other defendants stemming from the disappearance of a Malaysian Airlines flight in 2014 because the presumed crash had a stronger connection to Malaysia than the United States.

In 2011, a federal judge in Los Angeles dismissed 116 wrongful death and product liability cases against Boeing over the 2008 crash of a Spanair jet on a domestic flight in Spain, where the judge determined the cases should be heard.

If the company has to defend U.S. cases, it would likely argue that claims against it are preempted because the FAA had approved the plane’s design, said Justin Green, a plaintiffs lawyer.

While manufacturers in the past have enjoyed broad protection under the Federal Aviation Act, a decision by the 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals has called into question whether manufacturers can rely on preemption when they could have easily submitted changes to the FAA for approval.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware and Brendan Pierson in New York; additional reporting by Tracy Rucinski in Chicago and Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)

Source: OANN

A Volvo Car equipped with self-driving highway software is parked at the autonomous vehicle testing facility AstaZero in Boras, near Gothenburg
A Volvo Car equipped with self-driving highway software is parked at the autonomous vehicle testing facility AstaZero on the outskirts of Boras, near Gothenburg, Sweden February 22, 2019. REUTERS/Esha Vaish

March 14, 2019

By Esha Vaish

GOTHENBURG (Reuters) – A “virtual human” suddenly steps out at a blind bend, but the engineer in the Volvo car’s driving seat on the test track doesn’t flinch, leaving it to software to take evasive action.

Private test tracks like the one owned by Sweden’s AstaZero are playing an increasing role as manufacturers like Volvo put self-driving cars through their paces following high-profile setbacks on public roads, auto executives say.

Automakers and technology companies are locked in a race to bring these vehicles into commercial use by 2022, but their efforts on public roads stumbled last year when an Uber test car hit and killed a pedestrian.

The accident raised public questions about the technology’s safety and made road testing permission tougher to secure, with Uber resuming trials in a severely reduced capacity in December and authorities placing restrictions on its program.

“Everybody has revised the protocols a little bit after that kind of crash because we cannot have that again,” Dennis Nobelius, head of Volvo Cars’ Zenuity driverless software joint venture, told Reuters.

“The industry … has really been made to do one more loop … not only (to) make the end product safe enough but also make the testing secure,” Nobelius said from the backseat of the autonomous Volvo car at AstaZero’s track.

Public road testing has become more challenging for driverless vehicles as software which controls brake and steering is trialled, unlike previously when people controlled breaking and steering and software the other functions.

TRUCK TESTING

Trucks which drive themselves are even tougher to test than cars because of their size and weight and truckmakers say they are running tests at enclosed sites like warehouses, harbors and mines where human access can be restricted for safety.

Scania is trialling an autonomous truck at customer Rio Tinto’s Australian mines while an identical truck at its Swedish base runs more tests through simulation.

“In this kind of environment we’re able to test more or less what we need for public roads later on,” Lars-Gunnar Hedström, Scania’s engineering director at connected and autonomous systems, told Reuters.

“We have the possibility to be out on customer sites and run real operations much earlier, which is a big difference.”

The AstaZero track, which counts Scania and rival AB Volvo as customers, says it has also secured partnerships with domestic universities and testing grounds in the United States, South Korea and Singapore that give it data about traffic, city planning and human behavior.

This data, CEO Peter Janevik says, is essential because people’s behavior in traffic differs across countries.

Zenuity uses AstaZero’s virtual recreation to test cars using data from Malaysia, aiming to deliver software which is safe anywhere in the world.

With firms also testing upgrades and running joint trials as alliances grow, AstaZero’s facility is fully booked for this year, said Janevik.

Start-up Einride uses one of the tracks to check whether a person in Barcelona can use Ericsson’s 5G network to remotely steer its driverless electric truck, which gives a warning and stops when it encounters a moose or other roadblock.

The idea is eventually to allow customers like DB Schenker, which has already begun using Einride’s truck on Swedish roads, to be able to monitor a fleet of such trucks from a control room and a person there to be able to switch any truck that encounters an obstacle to remote control and navigate it safely.

“Autonomous technology has the potential to… reduce the number of accidents. That’s something we need to work with jointly in this industry,” Robert Falck, CEO of Einride said.

(Reporting by Esha Vaish in Gothenburg, additional reporting by Laurence Frost in Paris and Paul Lienert in Detroit, editing by Alexander Smith)

Source: OANN

The Goldman Sachs company logo is seen in the company's space on the floor of the NYSE in New York
The Goldman Sachs company logo is seen in the company’s space on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 17, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

March 14, 2019

By Fathin Ungku

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Malaysia’s securities commission said on Thursday that it has issued a show-cause letter to Goldman Sachs, which is embroiled in multi-jurisdictional investigations into Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

A show-cause letter typically requires the recipient to explain why they should not be subject to disciplinary action.

“We have issued a show cause to Goldman Sachs,” the chairman of the Malaysia Securities Commission, Syed Zaid Albar, said at a press conference on Thursday.

However, he did not say when the letter was issued or provide any details about its contents. If the commission finds a financial institution violated regulations, its powers include issuing fines or revoking operating licenses.

Goldman Sachs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apart from facing civil lawsuits, Goldman Sachs is being investigated by Malaysian authorities and the U.S. Department of Justice for its role as underwriter and arranger of three bonds that raised $6.5 billion for 1MDB.

Goldman Sachs has consistently denied wrongdoing and said certain members of the former Malaysian government and 1MDB had lied to the bank about the use of the proceeds from the bond sales.

(Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Editing by Neil Fullick.)

Source: OANN

Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong arrives at the Shah Alam High Court on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur
Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, who was a suspect in the murder case of North Korean leader’s half brother Kim Jong Nam, is escorted as she arrives at the Shah Alam High Court on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia March 14, 2019. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin

March 14, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – A Vietnamese woman will continue her trial for the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader, after Malaysian prosecutors rejected a request from Vietnam to free her on Thursday.

The Vietnamese government had made the call after Doan Thi Huong’s co-accused, Indonesian woman Siti Aisyah, was released on Monday.

Huong and Siti Aisyah were charged with killing Kim by smearing his face with VX poison, a banned chemical weapon, at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017.

(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Michael Perry)

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A man watches debris at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa
A man watches debris at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoftu, southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

March 13, 2019

By Duncan Miriri and Terje Solsvik

ADDIS ABABA/OSLO (Reuters) – Ethiopian Airlines said on Wednesday it would send the black boxes from its crashed Boeing 737 MAX abroad, while a Norwegian airline sought compensation from the U.S. planemaker after two thirds of that model were grounded globally.

Sunday’s still unexplained crash of the passenger jet, just after take-off from Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi, killed 157 people and followed another disaster involving a 737 MAX in Indonesia five months ago that killed 189 people.

That has spooked the global airline industry and heaped pressure on Boeing, whose shares have plunged.

Multiple nations have suspended the 737 MAX, leading to the grounding of about two-thirds of the 371 jets of that make in operation around the world, according to Reuters calculations.

With no link proven between the two crashes, however, the United States has bucked the trend and allowed 737 MAX planes to continue operating even though Europe has suspended them.

Boeing, the world’s biggest planemaker, has said it retains “full confidence” in the 737 MAX. Its shares fell 6.1 percent on Tuesday, bringing losses to 11.15 percent since the crash, the steepest two-day loss for the stock since July 2009.

The drop has lopped $26.65 billion off Boeing’s market value.

Adding to the pressure on Boeing, Norwegian Air said it would seek recompense for lost revenue and extra costs after grounding its 737 MAX aircraft.

“We expect Boeing to take this bill,” Norwegian said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

In Ethiopia, which lacks the forensic capabilities of other countries, a spokesman for Ethiopian Airlines said the black box voice and data recorders recovered on Monday would be sent overseas for analysis.

“There is no capacity here so the black box will be sent elsewhere for analysis. The investigation team will decide where,” the spokesman told Reuters.

That could be in Europe, the company’s CEO told CNN.

U.S. officials said the black box devices suffered some damage but they were confident of some initial results within 24 hours of the data being downloaded.

More than a dozen relatives of those who perished in the crash, mainly Kenyans who have flown in, left Addis Ababa early in the morning to pay their respects at the rural crash site where Flight ET 302 came down in a fireball.

It may take weeks or months to identify all the victims, who include a prize-winning author, a soccer official and a team of humanitarian workers.

U.S. KEEPS FLYING MAX MODEL

Resisting pressure, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) acting administrator Dan Elwel said its review had shown “no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft”.

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke to Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg and got assurances the aircraft was safe, two people briefed on the call said.

On Tuesday, the European Union’s aviation safety regulator suspended all flights in the bloc by the 737 MAX and a U.S. senator who chairs a panel overseeing aviation suggested the United States take similar action.

Thailand and Lebanon joined the long list of nations suspending the model on Wednesday.

The three U.S. airlines using the 737 MAX – Southwest Airlines Co, American Airlines Group Inc and United Airlines – stood by the aircraft, although many potential passengers took to social media to express concerns, asking if they could change flights or cancel.

Of the top 10 countries by air passenger travel, all but the United States and Japan have halted flights of the 737 MAX. The EU, China, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, India and others have temporarily suspended the plane.

A debate over automation lies at the center of an investigation into October’s Lion Air crash in Indonesia. A focus there is the role of a software system designed to push the plane down, alongside airline training and repair standards.

Boeing says it plans to update the software in coming weeks.

Given problems of identification at the charred disaster site, Ethiopian Airlines said it would take at least five days to start handing remains to families. The victims came from more than 30 nations, and included nearly two dozen U.N. staff.

The new variant of the 737, the world’s most-sold modern passenger aircraft, was viewed as the likely workhorse for global airlines for decades and 4,661 more are on order.

(Additional reporting by Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa; Omar Mohammed and Maggie Fick in Nairobi; David Shepardson in Washington; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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FILE PHOTO: The tails of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen at a Boeing production facility in Renton, Washington
FILE PHOTO: The tails of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft are seen at a Boeing production facility in Renton, Washington, U.S., March 11, 2019. REUTERS/David Ryder/File Photo

March 13, 2019

By Jamie Freed and Alexander Cornwell

SINGAPORE/DUBAI (Reuters) – Groundings of brand-new Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets have sent shockwaves through global aviation after a crash in Ethiopia, but many airlines are managing to keep to schedule with other jets while economic woes mean some may be grateful for a pause.

The 737 Max 8 upgrade to Boeing’s best-selling jet only entered service in 2017, meaning there are not many in the skies compared with other more established work horses.

“If you had a grounding of something like the 737-800, wow what an impact. But with the MAX, there are fewer than 400 of these flying globally,” one aviation analyst said, adding that most airlines could “backfill most of the capacity”.

The Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people on Sunday was the second 737 MAX crash in less than six months, with 189 others killed when a Lion Air jet went down in Indonesia in October. At a time when crashes are rare, that is an unusually bumpy entry into service for a new jet.

There were 371 of the 737 MAX family jets in operation before this week’s groundings, led by China, according to Flightglobal. Around two-thirds of the fleet is now grounded, based on Reuters calculations.

That compares to more than 6,000 of the previous model, the 737 NG series, giving airlines the ability to use other jets in their fleets as a replacement for at least some of the flights.

“At present the impact of any groundings is contained by the relatively small global fleet currently in service,” aviation consultant John Strickland told Reuters.

The time of year and signs of concerns about a peak in global aviation growth and a slowdown in the economy

“It is off-season so it is an easier gesture to make, and some airlines are more worried about having too much capacity,” a Western aviation official said.

For others who are able to make do without the 737 MAX 8 for a period, doing so is likely to come at a cost.

“It is a headache for airlines to take aircraft out of service with flights likely to be canceled and an impact on revenues,” Strickland added.

Although March is not a peak season for flights, some have been hit, with Chinese aviation data firm Variflight on Monday saying at least 29 international and domestic flights had been canceled.

However, airlines had swapped for other planes on 256 other flights that had been scheduled to use the 737 MAX 8.

Singapore’s Changi Airport said on Tuesday that one planned 737 MAX flight by Shandong Airlines to and from Jinan had been canceled, but others had gone ahead with different aircraft.

Singapore Airlines Ltd, Indonesia’s Lion Air and Garuda Indonesia and state-backed carriers Air China Ltd, China Eastern Airlines Corp Ltd and China Southern Airlines Co Ltd all have large fleets of jets other than the MAX to draw on, the analyst said.

The bigger impact from the Ethiopian crash could be on future deliveries, since other carriers including Korean Air Lines Co Ltd have placed relatively large orders for 737 MAX 8 jets, said Um Kyung-a, a senior analyst at Shinyoung Securities.

“It might turn into a big headache for them if Boeing fails to nail down the causes of the recent crashes,” Um said. “If that turned out to be the case, they need to come up with different plans to replace their 737 MAX 8 orders.”

Brazil’s largest airline, Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes, had placed a firm order of 100 Boeing 737 Max 8 jets as of last month, according to the carrier’s latest earnings release. It currently operates seven such planes, which it decided to ground late on Monday.

The airline operates Boeing 737 models exclusively and announced in December that it was accelerating its transition to the newer Max 8 planes.

Lion Air, which suffered a 737 MAX crash in October, has refused to take delivery of some of the jets but analysts say it is suffering from overcapacity and may benefit from a slowdown.

It threatened in November to cancel Boeing orders in a row over the crash but has yet to do so, industry sources said. Airbus SE is another supplier and is seen in talks to sell more.

Malaysian officials said on Monday they had asked national carrier Malaysia Airlines to revisit its order for 25 737 MAX jets.

“I feel there are other factors apart from safety, including finance and politics, for that move,” said Shukor Yusof, the head of Malaysia-based aviation consulting firm Endau Analytics.

“I doubt there will be outright cancellations for orders already placed by other carriers because there are still many unanswered questions.”

(Reporting by Jamie Freed and Alexander Cornwell; additional reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore, Heekyong Yang in Seoul, Marcelo Rochabrun in Sao Paulo, Liz Lee in Kuala Lumpur and Tim Hepher in Paris; editing by Alexander Smith abd Stephen Coates)

Source: OANN

Audrey Conklin | Reporter

The Ethiopian Boeing flight that crashed and killed 157 people was showing signs of technical difficulty minutes before the plane went down Sunday.

Witnesses say the Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane was making rattling noises and had a cloud of white smoke and debris such as paper and clothes trailing behind it before it eventually hit the ground, Reuters reports. The pilot’s request to return to the airport came too late.

A local farmer who lives near the crash site told Reuters that the plane made “a loud rattling sound. Like straining and shaking metal. Everyone [in the area] says they have never heard that kind of sound from a plane, and they are under a flight path.”

Rescue team walk past collected bodies in bags at the crash site of Ethiopia Airlines (MICHAEL TEWELDE/AFP/Getty Images)

Rescue team walk past collected bodies in bags at the crash site of Ethiopia Airlines (Photo by Michael TEWELDE / AFP)

Another farmer, who owns the field on which the plane crashed, said he saw smoke and sparks coming from the back of the plane. He also said “the plane was very close to the ground and it made a turn . . . . Cows that were grazing in the fields ran in panic.”

Of the 157 people who died in the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, there were 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians and eight from Italy, China and the United States.

The deceased include Antoine Lewis, an American serviceman; American brothers Melvin and Bennett Riffel; a Canadian family of six on a trip to Kenya; Cedric Asiavugwa, a third-year Georgetown law student from Kenya; Nigerian-born scholar Pius AdesanmiJonathan Seex, head of Kenya-based restaurant chain Tamarind; Hussein Swaleh, a former Kenyan soccer official; a group of 19 U.N. humanitarian workers; and more.

The U.K. and several E.U. countries banned the Boeing 737 MAX 8 Tuesday along with China, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia and Oman. (RELATED: UK Becomes Latest Country To Ban Boeing 737 MAX 8)

Local residents collect debris at the scene where Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in a wheat field just outside the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa on March 10, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Local residents collect debris at the scene where Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

The United States has not banned the plane, but President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday, “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly … Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further when often old and simpler is far better.”

Boeing said in an official statement Tuesday, “We understand that regulatory agencies and customers have made decisions that they believe are most appropriate for their home markets. We’ll continue to engage with them to ensure they have the information needed to have confidence in operating their fleets.”

The deadly crash comes just months after another Boeing 737 MAX plane went down over the Java Sea in October 2018, killing all 189 people aboard the flight. According to the BBC, “the air flight maintenance log showed six problems had been identified on the plane since 26 October, including errors with its airspeed and altitude information displays.”

Source: The Daily Caller

Saagar Enjeti | White House Correspondent

President Donald Trump questioned the complexity of modern aviation technology after a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft crashed Sunday in Ethiopia.

Trump’s tweet comes as several countries grounded the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from their airspace and investigations are underway. The Ethiopian Airlines crash was eerily similar to an October 2018 Lion Air crash in Indonesia. Both crashes occurred minutes after takeoff, killed all passengers on board, and involved pilots reporting flight control problems before losing control of the specific aircraft.

Boeing signage is seen on the outside of the Boeing Sheffield factory, the aerospace company's first manufacturing facility in Europe, in Sheffield, northern England on October 25, 2018. - The US aircraft manufacturer Boeing inaugurated its first plant in Europe in the north of England on Thursday, which will produce high value-added components and is a symbol of the Brexit approach. The opening of the site was celebrated with great pomp in the late morning in Sheffield in the presence of senior executives of the aircraft manufacturer and British politicians. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP) (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Boeing signage is seen on the outside of the Boeing Sheffield factory, the aerospace company’s first manufacturing facility in Europe, in Sheffield, northern England on October 25, 2018. – The US aircraft manufacturer Boeing inaugurated its first plant in Europe in the north of England on Thursday, which will produce high value-added components and is a symbol of the Brexit approach. (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

The investigation into the Lion Air crash revealed that pilots were flummoxed by new software in the Boeing aircraft and the automatic flight control systems. Boeing updated its flight control systems after the crash and is standing by the safety of its aircraft. (RELATED: Nearly 190 People Feared Dead After Indonesian Plane Crashes Into The Sea)

“Boeing has been working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on development, planning and certification of the software enhancement, and it will be deployed across the 737 MAX fleet in the coming weeks. The update also incorporates feedback received from our customers,” the company said in a statement, adding “it is important to note that the FAA is not mandating any further action at this time, and the required actions in AD2018-23.51 continue to be appropriate.”

The 737 MAX 8 produced for Southwest Airlines is pictured as Boeing celebrates the 10,000th 737 to come off the production line in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Redmond | Southwest Airlines Plane Depressurizes

The 737 MAX 8 produced for Southwest Airlines is pictured as Boeing celebrates the 10,000th 737 to come off the production line in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Redmond | Southwest Airlines Plane Depressurizes

Despite Boeing’s statement, several countries have banned the particular 737 from operating, including Germany, the U.K., Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Sens. Mitt Romney, Richard Bluementhal, and Dianne Feinstein also called for the grounding of the aircraft until an investigation is pursued.

Source: The Daily Caller

FILE PHOTO: Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong arrives at the Shah Alam High Court on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur
FILE PHOTO: Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, who is on trial for the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader, arrives at the Shah Alam High Court on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia March 11, 2019. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin/File Photo

March 12, 2019

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Vietnam called on Malaysia on Tuesday to free a Vietnamese woman accused in the 2017 murder of the North Korean leader’s half brother, a day after a Malaysian court dropped a similar charge against an Indonesian woman.

Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Binh, in a telephone call to his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah, asked Malaysia to “ensure a fair trial and free Vietnamese citizen Doan Thi Huong,” the government said in a statement.

Huong’s co-defendant, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, was freed on Monday after a Malaysian court dropped the charge against her.

She and Huong have been accused of poisoning Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with liquid VX at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017. Conviction could carry the death penalty.

Minh said in the phone conversation that senior leaders and the people of Vietnam have paid close attention to the trial, the government statement said.

Huong’s father, Doan Van Thanh, said Siti Aisyah’s release was good news for his family.

“I believe that my daughter will be released too because she is innocent. We haven’t received any information from Malaysia recently, and we are eager to hear from them now,” Thanh told Reuters.

The court is scheduled to presume proceedings on Thursday.

Defense lawyers have maintained that the women were pawns in an assassination orchestrated by North Korean agents.

During the trial, the court was shown CCTV footage of two women allegedly assaulting Kim Jong Nam while he prepared to check in for a flight.

Siti Aisyah and Huong have maintained that they believed they had been hired to participate in a reality TV prank show.

(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Malaysia Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at Kuala Lumpur International Airport
FILE PHOTO: Malaysia Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at Kuala Lumpur International Airport July 21, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su

March 12, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – The Malaysian government is considering whether to shut, sell or refinance national carrier Malaysia Airlines (MAB), Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday.

The government was studying options for the national carrier, and a decision should be made “soon”, Mahathir said, when asked about analysts’ suggestions the airline be shut down or spun off.

“It is a very serious matter to shut down the airline,” Mahathir told a news conference at parliament.

“We will nevertheless be studying and investigating as to whether we should shut it down or we should sell it off or we should refinance it. All these things are open for the government to decide.”

The airline has been trying to transform its operations and return to profitability by 2019 as it recovers from two disasters in 2014, when flight MH370 disappeared in what remains a mystery and flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

Sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which took MAB private in 2014, said the government needed to decide on its investment in, and level of support for, the struggling airline.

The fund also said that it was waiting for MAB to present a review of its business strategy.

(Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Source: OANN

Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

Malaysian authorities released Monday one of two women accused of assassinating Kim Jong Un’s half-brother with VX nerve agent after prosecutors dropped her charges.

Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas said prosecutors dropped the charges against Siti Aisyah, 26, in response to lobbying from the government of her native Indonesia, which asked for her release at every meeting with Malaysian officials. Aisyah stood accused along with Doan Thi Huong of  killing Kim Jong Nam by applying VX nerve agent to his face in February 2017 in the airport in Kuala Lumpur. (RELATED: ‘Sometimes You Have To Walk’: Trump Leaves Second NoKo Summit With No Deal)

“I feel very happy. I didn’t expect that today will be the day of my freedom,” Aisyah said at a press conference, according to The Washington Post.

Aisyah’s attorney, Gooi Soon Seng, also hailed the decision.

“We are grateful the public prosecutor has come to this conclusion, because we truly believe she is merely a scapegoat and she is innocent,” he said.

Indonesian national Siti Aisyah (C) is escorted by Malaysian police after a special court session to rule on witness statements at the Shah Alam High Court, outside Kuala Lumpur on December 14, 2018 for her alleged role in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Indonesian national Siti Aisyah (C) is escorted by Malaysian police after a special court session to rule on witness statements at the Shah Alam High Court, outside Kuala Lumpur on December 14, 2018 for her alleged role in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Thomas wrote in a letter to Indonesia’s minister of law and human rights that prosecutors decided to drop Aisyah’s charges and release her “taking into account the good relations” between Malaysia and Indonesia.

Aisyah and Huong have maintained since their arrests that they thought they were participating in a prank show and were going to apply lotion to a man’s face. Four North Koreans fled Malaysia on the day of Kim Jong Nam’s assassination, and authorities arrested only Aisyah and Huong. Authorities believe that Kim Jong Un had his half-brother assassinated as part of an effort to consolidate his power after he became the ruler of North Korea.

Kim Jong Nam was the eldest son of their late father Kim Jong Il, and therefore presented a potential threat to Kim Jong Un’s legitimacy as ruler of North Korea.

A Malaysian high court ruled in August that existing evidence warranted prosecution of the four North Korean fugitives, Aisyah, and Huong on charges of conspiracy to murder Kim Jong Nam. Huong will still stand trial, though her lawyer, Teh Poh Teik, insists that she too is just a scapegoat and says that he is seeking her release on the basis that there is no difference between her case and that of Aisyah.

“We are hoping against hope that the charges against her will be dropped,” he said. “It is unfair that despite the case being the same for both, that one could have been dropped without explanation, while the other is being set to continue.”

Authorities believe that North Korean agents recruited Huong, who hails from Vietnam, while she worked at a bar in Hanoi. Her trial continues on Thursday.

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