Monday, December 29, 2014

Actually, North Korea might not be guilty in the Sony hack | Foreign Policy Battles Loom Between Obama, Republican-led Congress | Putin Shown Not 'So Smart' as Russia Economy Suffers, Obama Says - Businessweek

Actually, North Korea might not be guilty in the Sony hack

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Interview theater christmas dayEnlarge
The Plaza Theatre marquee in Atlanta, Georgia on Christmas Day 2014. Hackers had threatened attacks on theaters that screened 'The Interview,' which depicts the assassination of North Korea's Kim Jong Un. (Marcus Ingram/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, South Korea — The release of “The Interview” last week was supposed to spark a geopolitical imbroglio just in time for the holidays. Instead — after a last-minute release of the hastily canceled film to select theaters and crowds on the web — this Christmas turned out like any other, and we were allowed to watch Kim Jong Un’s head explode in peace.
There was no political escalation — no additional leaks or cyberattacks — from the group of mysterious hackers thought to sympathize with North Korea. Even the rogue state’s customary bluster was absent. There were no trademark missile or nuclear tests, and no naval attack or skirmish in the Yellow Sea intended to blackmail the regime’s enemies.
All was quiet, it seemed, on the northern front.
State media instead pulled out its usual bag of insults. On Saturday, it compared US President Barack Obama to a “monkey in a tropical forest,” and said that he “took the lead in appeasing and blackmailing cinema houses and theaters in the US mainland to distribute the movie.”
But why all the talk with no big punches thrown? After all, the Obama administration declared North Korea responsible for the embarassing cyberattack on Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film. Sony quickly shelved the movie after anonymous threats of 9/11-style attacks on US theaters showing it. Then the studio reversed its decision after pressure from the president, allowing audiences access, albeit limited, to the provocative buddy comedy. So shouldn’t we have witnessed a fiercer, more threatening pushback from Pyongyang upon the release of “The Interview”?
Perhaps not. A growing body of skeptics think that North Korea actually wasn’t the culprit behind the Sony hack, or at least that it’s too early to make a call.
That goes against the findings of the FBI, which announced on Dec. 19 that it “has enough information to conclude that North Korea is responsible for these actions” but could not reveal all the information to protect its sources and methods.
Critics say the evidence is rickety.
Take, for instance, the snippets of unspecified malware code the FBI claims were similar to the ones used by North Korea in the past. The bureau was probably referring to the DarkSeoul hard drive wiper used in its June 2013 cyberattack on South Korea, writes cybersecurity expert Marc Rogers, who heads security operations for DEF CON, the world’s largest hacker conference.
This is hardly a smoking gun, he writes, because cyber-criminals can lease their malware from other groups, shielding them from detection.
The FBI also suggested that IP addresses used in the attack were the same ones previously used by North Korea. But these IP addresses are nothing special, Rogers wrote, because they’re also open to everyday cyber-criminals who need a staging ground for an attack.
Others speculate that the FBI quickly assigned blame because it holds key intelligence still withheld from the public. “The evidence presented publicly by the FBI isn't nearly enough to conclude it is North Korea, but it's also not possible to say it isn't them,” said Martyn Williams, who runs the North Korea Tech blog.
Williams still has doubts about North Korean involvement because “compelling points” in the hackers’ strategy don’t add up. “The hackers didn't mention the movie until two weeks into the hack,” he said. “That's not a very effective way of getting the film pulled, if that was the intention.”
Should the FBI admit that it misfired, this would merely amount to Washington’s latest of several questionable findings on North Korea.
In 2013, President Obama cast doubt on a Pentagon assessment that concluded “with moderate confidence” that North Korea had mastered a sophisticated technology: miniaturizing a nuclear warhead and placing it on a crude missile.
That would mean Kim Jong Un, with his rudimentary nuclear arsenal, could theoretically strike US bases in Japan and South Korea.
In 2011, American intelligence agencies were caught off guard when state television announced the death of the current dictator’s father, Kim Jong Il, who had died two days earlier.
Even as far back as 1997, a CIA report predicted that North Korea — suffering from a famine that would kill hundreds of thousands of people — stood a chance of collapse within five years.
Of course, North Korea poses special challenges for intelligence analysts, who must grapple with a regime inner circle that is far more opaque and unknowable than other authoritarian governments.
Open-source intelligence, in the form of media reports and the testimony of defector associations in Seoul, is rife with misinformation that can easily cloud judgment. The FBI’s findings on the Sony hack could be the latest victim.
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Actually, North Korea might not be guilty in the Sony hack

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SEOUL — The release of 'The Interview' last week was supposed to spark a geopolitical imbroglio just in time for the holidays. Instead, this Christmas turned out like any other, and we were allowed to watch Kim Jong Un’s head explode in peace. Maybe that's because the hermit kingdom isn't playing so big a role after all.

Foreign Policy Battles Loom Between Obama, Republican-led Congress

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Some of President Barack Obama’s loudest critics on foreign policy will have new powers as chairmen of various Senate committees when Republicans assume control of both houses of Congress in January. VOA Senate correspondent Michael Bowman reports, from Ukraine to the Middle East, the Obama administration can expect enhanced scrutiny of its outreach to the world.

Foreign Policy Battles Loom Between Obama, Republican-led Congress 

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Some of President Barack Obama's loudest critics on foreign policy will have new powers as chairmen of various Senate committees when Republicans assume control of both houses of Congress...
From: VOAvideo
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Obama doesn't rule out US embassy in Tehran - CBS News

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CBS News

Obama doesn't rule out US embassy in Tehran
CBS News
Is there any scenario in which a U.S. embassy could reopen in Tehran in the final two years of President Obama's term in office? That was a question NPR's Steve Inskeep put to Mr. Obama in an interview taped last week. The president responded, "I never ...

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Did the Saudis and the U.S. Collude in Dropping Oil Prices?

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The oil price drop that has dominated the headlines in recent weeks has been framed almost exclusively in terms of oil market economics, with most media outlets blaming Saudi Arabia, through its OPEC Trojan horse, for driving down the price, thus causing serious damage to the world’s major oil exporters – most notably Russia.
While the market explanation is partially true, it is simplistic, and fails to address key geopolitical pressure points in the Middle East. looked beyond the headlines for the reason behind the oil price drop, and found that the explanation, while difficult to prove, may revolve around control of oil and gas in the Middle East and the weakening of Russia, Iran and Syria by flooding the market with cheap oil.
The oil weapon
We don’t have to look too far back in history to see Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and producer, using the oil price to achieve its foreign policy objectives. In 1973, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat convinced Saudi King Faisal to cut production and raise prices, then to go as far as embargoing oil exports, all with the goal of punishing the United States for supporting Israel against the Arab states. It worked. The “oil price shock” quadrupled prices.
It happened again in 1986, when Saudi Arabia-led OPEC allowed prices to drop precipitously, and then in 1990, when the Saudis sent prices plummeting as a way of taking out Russia, which was seen as a threat to their oil supremacy. In 1998, they succeeded. When the oil price was halved from $25 to $12, Russia defaulted on its debt.
The Saudis and other OPEC members have, of course, used the oil price for the obverse effect, that is, suppressing production to keep prices artificially high and member states swimming in “petrodollars”. In 2008, oil peaked at $147 a barrel.
Turning to the current price drop, the Saudis and OPEC have a vested interest in taking out higher-cost competitors, such as U.S. shale oil producers, who will certainly be hurt by the lower price. Even before the price drop, the Saudis were selling their oil to China at a discount. OPEC’s refusal on Nov. 27 to cut production seemed like the baldest evidence yet that the oil price drop was really an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
However, analysis shows the reasoning is complex, and may go beyond simply taking down the price to gain back lost marketshare.
“What is the reason for the United States and some U.S. allies wanting to drive down the price of oil?” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro asked rhetorically in October. “To harm Russia.”
Many believe the oil price plunge is the result of deliberate and well-planned collusion on the part of the United States and Saudi Arabia to punish Russia and Iran for supporting the murderous Assad regime in Syria.
Punishing Assad and friends
Proponents of this theory point to a Sept. 11 meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi King Abdullah at his palace on the Red Sea. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, it was during that meeting that a deal was hammered out between Kerry and Abdullah. In it, the Saudis would support Syrian airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS), in exchange for Washington backing the Saudis in toppling Assad.
If in fact a deal was struck, it would make sense, considering the long-simmering rivalry between Saudi Arabia and its chief rival in the region: Iran. By opposing Syria, Abdullah grabs the opportunity to strike a blow against Iran, which he sees as a powerful regional rival due to its nuclear ambitions, its support for militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, and its alliance with Syria, which it provides with weapons and funding. The two nations are also divided by religion, with the majority of Saudis following the Sunni version of Islam, and most Iranians considering themselves Shi’ites.
“The conflict is now a full-blown proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is playing out across the region,” Reuters reported on Dec. 15. “Both sides increasingly see their rivalry as a winner-take-all conflict: if the Shi’ite Hezbollah gains an upper hand in Lebanon, then the Sunnis of Lebanon—and by extension, their Saudi patrons—lose a round to Iran. If a Shi’ite-led government solidifies its control of Iraq, then Iran will have won another round.”
The Saudis know the Iranians are vulnerable on the oil price. Experts say the country needs $140 a barrel oil to balance its budget; at sub-$60 prices, the Saudis succeed in pressuring Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, possibly containing its nuclear ambitions and making the country more pliable to the West, which has the power to reduce or lift sanctions if Iran cooperates.
Adding credence to this theory, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a Cabinet meeting earlier this month that the fall in oil prices was “politically motivated” and a “conspiracy against the interests of the region, the Muslim people and the Muslim world.”
Pipeline conspiracy
Some commentators have offered a more conspiratorial theory for the Saudis wanting to get rid of Assad. They point to a 2011 agreement between Syria, Iran and Iraq that would see a pipeline running from the Iranian Port Assalouyeh to Damascus via Iraq. The $10-billion project would take three years to complete and would be fed gas from the South Pars gas field, which Iran shares with Qatar. Iranian officials have said they plan to extend the pipeline to the Mediterranean to supply gas to Europe – in competition with Qatar, the world’s largest LNG exporter.
“The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – if it’s ever built – would solidify a predominantly Shi’ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord,” wrote Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar.
Global Research, a Canada-based think tank, goes further to suggest that Assad’s refusal in 2009 to allow Qatar to construct a gas pipeline from its North Field through Syria and on to Turkey and the EU, combined with the 2011 pipeline deal, “ignited the full-scale Saudi and Qatari assault on Assad’s power.”
“Today the U.S.-backed wars in Ukraine and in Syria are but two fronts in the same strategic war to cripple Russia and China and to rupture any Eurasian counter-pole to a U.S.-controlled New World Order. In each, control of energy pipelines, this time primarily of natural gas pipelines—from Russia to the EU via Ukraine and from Iran and Syria to the EU via Syria—is the strategic goal,” Global Research wrote in an Oct. 26 post.
Poking the Russian bear
How does Russia play into the oil price drop? As a key ally of Syria, supplying Assad with billions in weaponry, President Vladimir Putin has, along with Iran, found himself targeted by the House of Saud. Putin’s territorial ambitions in the Ukraine have also put him at odds with U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders of the EU, which in May of this year imposed a set of sanctions on Russia.
As has been noted, Saudi Arabia’s manipulation of the oil price has twice targeted Russia. This time, the effects of a low price have hit Moscow especially hard due to sanctions already in place combined with the low ruble. Last week, in an effort to defend its currency, the Bank of Russia raised interest rates to 17 percent. The measure failed, with the ruble dropping another 20 percent, leading to speculation the country could impose capital controls. Meanwhile, Putin took the opportunity in his annual televised address to announce that while the economy is likely to suffer for the next two years and that Russians should brace for a recession, “Our economy will get diversified and oil prices will go back up.”
He may be right, but what will the effect be on Russia of a sustained period of low oil prices? Eric Reguly, writing in The Globe and Mail last Saturday, points out that with foreign exchange reserves at around $400 billion, the Russian state is “in no danger of collapse” even in the event of a deep recession. Reguly predicts the greater threat is to the Russian private sector, which has a debt overhang of some $700 billion.
“This month alone, $30-billion of that amount must be repaid, with another $100-billion coming due next year. The problem is made worse by the economic sanctions, which have made it all but impossible for Russian companies to finance themselves in Western markets,” he writes.
Will it work?
Whether one is a conspiracy theorist or a market theorist, in explaining the oil price drop, it really matters little, for the effect is surely more important than the cause. Putin has already shown himself to be a master player in the chess game of energy politics, so the suggestion that sub-$60 oil will crush the Russian leader has to be met with a healthy degree of skepticism.
Moscow’s decision on Dec. 1 to drop the $45-billion South Stream natural gas pipeline project in favor of a new pipeline deal with Turkey shows Putin’s willingness to circumvent European partners to continue deliveries of natural gas to European countries that depend heavily on Russia for its energy requirements. The deal also puts Turkey squarely in the Russian energy camp at a time when Russia has been alienated by the West.
Of course, the Russian dalliance with China is a key part of Putin’s great Eastern pivot that will keep stoking demand for Russian gas even as the Saudis and OPEC, perhaps with U.S. collusion, keep pumping to hold down the price. The November agreement, that would see Gazprom supply Chinese state oil company CNPC with 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year, builds on an earlier deal to sell China 38 bcm annually in an agreement valued at $400 billion.
As commented on Sunday, “ongoing projects are soldiering on and Russian oil output is projected to remain unchanged into 2015.”
“Russia will go down with the ship before ceding market share – especially in Asia, where Putin reaffirmed the pivot is real. Saudi Arabia and North America will have to keep pumping as Putin plans to uphold his end in this game of brinksmanship.”
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Ebola Case Confirmed in Scotland Hospital 

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A health worker who recently returned from Sierra Leone is being treated for Ebola at a hospital in Glasgow, the Scottish government announced Monday.
The female aid worker arrived late Sunday night to Glasgow Airport on a British Airways flight, having traveled from Sierra Leone to Casablanca and London before reaching Scotland. NHS Scotland, the country’s health care system, said in a statement it has rolled out its infectious disease protocol.
“Scotland has been preparing for this possibility from the beginning of the outbreak in West Africa and I am confident that we are well prepared,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in the statement. “We have the robust procedures in place to identify cases rapidly. Our health service also has the expertise and facilities to ensure that confirmed Ebola cases such as this are contained and isolated effectively minimising any potential spread of the disease.”
The patient has been isolated and is receiving care in the Brownlee Unit for Infectious Diseases of Gartnavel Hospital. Per U.K. and Scottish protocol, the woman is likely to be transferred to another high-level isolation unit at London’s Royal Free hospital.

No, Argentina's president did not adopt a Jewish child to stop him turning into a werewolf 

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The chance meeting of a Latin American president with a colourful myth too good to fact-check proved irresistible for many
Nope. Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has not become godmother of a Jewish baby to stop him from becoming a werewolf – despite what you may have read in multiple news reports.
Over the past few days, the story has been reported and unquestioningly re-reported across the echo chamber of the internet, picked up by news organisations around the world including Haaretz,BuzzfeedThe Independent and The Huffington Post.
Tenía razón. Me trajeron de regalo un candelabro de Israel. Me pidieron que encendiera las velas…
Yo no lo sabía, pero su visita coincidía con la celebración de Hanukkah. El papá, decía que no era una casualidad…
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Russian recession fears as economy shrinks for first time in five years 

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Falling oil prices, sanctions and collapsing rouble take toll, with GDP in November 0.5% lower than in same month year ago
The Russian economy has contracted for the first time in five years after falling oil prices and sanctions imposed by western governments began to take their toll.
The prospects for the country’s economy are expected to remain weak after President Vadlimir Putin’s government revealed that GDP in November was 0.5% lower than in the same month a year ago.
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Hamas Turns Back 37 Gaza War Orphans From a Bridge-Building Trip to Israel

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Israeli and Palestinian officials had organized the visit for 37 children from Gaza as a way to promote peace and reconciliation, but the Hamas authorities turned them back at a border crossing.

Arizona police officer shot dead by domestic violence suspect - Washington Times

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Arizona police officer shot dead by domestic violence suspect
Washington Times
Law enforcement officers from multiple agencies work the scene of a shooting Saturday, Dec. 27 2014 in Flagstaff, Ariz. near where Flagstaff police officer Tyler Stewart was involved in a fatal shooting. According to the Flagstaff police department Robert W.

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Arizona police officer killed; suspect dead - Pierce County Tribune

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Arizona police officer killed; suspect dead
Pierce County Tribune
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A northern Arizona police officer killed over the weekend was shot repeatedly at close range by a domestic violence suspect after calmly asking the man if he could pat him down for any weapons, authorities said Sunday. Flagstaff ...

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Authorities investigating after 4 found dead in Texas home - CBS46 News Atlanta

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Authorities investigating after 4 found dead in Texas home
CBS46 News Atlanta
Authorities said a 9-year-old who was inside the home called a relative and told her that a man there was injured after attempting to kill himself. (Source: MGN Online). NationalMore > · Mayor's 1st year: Liberal victories, NYPD crisis · Mayor's 1st year: Liberal ...

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Russia's Lavrov sees chance to solve Ukraine crisis in 2015: Interfax

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov sees a real opportunity to solve the Ukraine crisis in 2015, Interfax news agency quoted him as saying on Monday.

Spanish Court Approves Arrest Of Kazakh Opposition Figure

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A Spanish court has approved the arrest of a Kazakh opposition figure who now faces possible extradition to Kazakhstan.

Everything We Know About the Missing AirAsia Flight QZ 8501

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In the third Malaysian-linked aviation disaster this year, an AirAsia plane traveling from Indonesia to Singapore disappeared early Sunday over the Java Sea. Officials indicate that it probably crashed into the ocean, and although possible wreckage has already been spotted, nothing has yet been confirmed.
What happened?
AirAsia Flight QZ 8501 departed Surabaya, Indonesia, bound for Singapore at 5.35 a.m. on Sunday, but lost contact with air traffic control after 42 minutes. The flight path was almost entirely over water.
The pilot asked for clearance to change altitude and direction minutes before contact was lost in order to avoid heavy cloud. This request was reportedly denied.
There were 162 people on board including seven crew. The passengers were mainly Indonesian, but there was also a Singaporean, a Malaysian and a British citizen on the manifest. The copilot was French.
How are search and rescue efforts progressing?
Searchers set out by air and sea soon after the plane did not arrive as planned at 8.30 a.m. at Singapore’s Changi Airport. However, bucketing rain and poor visibility hampered their efforts.
The Java Sea is a major shipping lane, well mapped and comparatively shallow. But strong westerly currents may have shifted any debris from where the last radar contact was received. Efforts are focusing near Belitung island off eastern Sumatra in the Java Sea.
The procedure will be to lay a grid over where the last radar contact was received and expand the search systematically from that point. “If it’s in the water, something will turn up,” Captain Desmond Ross, an Australia-based aviation expert, tells TIME.
Skies cleared overnight and Monday’s search is taking place in better conditions.
What may have caused the plane to go down?
Current theories relate to bad weather in the area, especially since Captain Iriyanto — who, like many Indonesians, only uses one name — had asked for permission to ascend from 32,000 ft. to 38,000 ft. to avoid cloud.
Meteorologists say cloud tops may have reached over 50,000 ft., though, and satellite imagery shows a huge storm that quickly disappeared, indicating a massive amount of rainfall in a short period.
There is speculation that flying through thunderstorms at high altitude could have caused ice to form on instruments, giving erroneous readings and affecting navigation. Similar problems are thought responsible for the ditching in the Atlantic of Air France Flight 447 in June 2009, that killed all 228 people aboard.
However, there are problems with this theory. Firstly, cockpit recordings indicate the Air France crew hadn’t been trained for such circumstances. But ever since, Airbus has put new training in place so that all pilots who fly their aircraft know how to deal with these occurrences. “It’s a new regime,” says Ross.
What’s more, the Air France flight was in the dead of night and so the crew only had instruments to rely on. “I don’t even think they had a horizon,” says Ross. It is unlikely such a tragedy would have occurred in daylight conditions such as QZ 8501 experienced.
Essentially, says Ross, “Weather doesn’t cause accidents. Accidents are caused by poor decision-making or other things like malfunctions.” What’s more, just 10% of fatal crashes from 2004 through 2013 occurred while a plane was at cruise elevation, according to a safety study published by Boeing in August. (Almost half were at approach and landing.)
Monsoon conditions over the Java Sea are well known, and lightning strikes or turbulence do not generally cause planes to come down. If the weather was sufficiently bad to have caused a crash, then this would have been known prior to or early in the flight. At the very least, the plane should have either flown around the storm or turned around and landed back at Surabaya.
A320-200 pilots can generally see a thunderstorm forming from over 100 miles away, and commercial planes sometimes detour their flightpaths even more than that again to avoid such problems.
Did the pilot indicate the plane was in trouble?
No distress call was reported, neither from the radio nor the transponder. The last contact from the cockpit was at 6:12 a.m. local time when the pilot “asked to avoid clouds by turning left and going higher to 38,000 feet [11,600 meters],” say officials. Radar contact was lost three minutes later.
The lack of the distress call is not entirely surprising, as pilots are trained to focus first on dealing with any emergency and to communicate only if and when free to do so. However, says Ross,“I’m having a bit of a problem that we haven’t heard anything from emergency locator transmitters or anything else.”
What about the plane?
The Airbus A320-200 used for QZ 8501 had two pilots, four flight attendants and one engineer on board. The single-aisle, twin-engine jetliner was delivered in 2008 and had last had scheduled maintenance on Nov. 16. The A320, which entered service in 1988, has seen a total of 11,163 orders with 6,331 deliveries to date to more than 300 operators globally. (AirAsia is the largest commercial customer of the A320, with 184 orders and 157 deliveries.) It is a true industry workhorse specializing in short-hall flights under five hours.
According the Aviation Safety Network accident database, there have been 54 incidents involving the A320. The most deadly was the crash of a TAM Linhas Aereas plane in 2007 that killed all 187 on board, plus a further dozen people on the ground, after the plane careered off the runway during landing in Brazil’s Sao Paulo airport in wet conditions.
The A320 was also what pilot Chesley Sullenberger was flying in 2009 when he miraculously landed on the Hudson River in New York after hitting a flock of geese. Everyone on board survived.
What is the reputation of AirAsia?
The plane was owned and operated by Indonesia AirAsia, which is 49% owned by AirAsia — a low-cost airline based in Malaysia that primarily serves Southeast Asia but has begun expanding aggressively in China and India and previously has flown to European and U.S. destinations.
Charismatic CEO Tony Fernandes, who also hosts the Asian version of The Apprentice, took over the airline in 2001 when it had just two planes, and has overseen meteoric growth. Today, AirAsia flies to 88 destinations and has a spotless safety record.
“AirAsia are considered to be quite well funded and apparently Tony Fernandes is a stickler for safety and good maintenance,” says Ross. “There are no black marks against them at this point in time.”
Indonesia AirAsia likewise has a good reputation for safety.
What about the pilots?
Captain Iriyanto boasted a total of 6,100 flying hours. First Officer Remi Emmanuel Plesel, 45, a French National, had 2,275 flying hours. Iriyanto’s nephew Doni told Indonesian news portal that his uncle was a good man who wanted to help people. “He is a very caring person,” he said, according to the Malaysian Insider. “If there is a sick relative who needed help and even money, my uncle would be there.”
So what is up with Malaysian air carriers?
Following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in March and the shooting down of MH37 over Ukraine in July, this appears to be the third major aviation disaster connected with Malaysia this year. But it could just be a horrifying coincidence. All three incidents are sufficiently unique to rule out any kind of systemic flaw across the national, or regional, aviation industry.
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Obama: Iran has 'chance to get right with the world' - NPR - Reuters

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Obama: Iran has 'chance to get right with the world' - NPR
"They've got a chance to get right with the world," Obama said in the interview, which was taped at the White House on Dec. 18 and is set to air this week. More than a year ago, Iran agreed to an interim plan to halt higher-level uranium enrichment in ...
Obama Says Despite Protests, America 'Less Racially Divided' Since 2009Yeshiva World News

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Putin Shown Not 'So Smart' as Russia Economy Suffers, Obama Says - Businessweek

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Putin Shown Not 'So Smart' as Russia Economy Suffers, Obama Says
Russian President Vladimir Putin, hailed as a “genius” by some earlier this year, hasn't been “so smart” as sanctions his country faces are proving successful, President Barack Obama said in a year-end interview with NPR. Difficulties afflicting the Russian ...
Obama: Iran has 'chance to get right with the world' - NPRReuters India

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Iran Holds Funeral for Commander

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Iran held a funeral for a senior Revolutionary Guard commander who was killed during a battle against the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq