Pilots disabled critical computers moments before AirAsia crash

The pilots of AirAsia Bhd. Flight 8501 cut power to a critical computer system that normally prevents planes from going out of control shortly before it plunged into the Java Sea, two people with knowledge of the investigation said. The action appears to have helped trigger the events of Dec. 28, when the Airbus Group NV A320 climbed so abruptly that it lost lift and it began falling with warnings blaring in the cockpit, the people said. All 162 aboard were killed. The pilots had been attempting to deal with alerts about the flight augmentation computers, which control the A320’s rudder and also automatically prevent it from going too slow. After initial attempts to address the alerts, the flight crew cut power to the entire system, which is comprised of two separate computers that back up each other, the people said. While the information helps show how a normally functioning A320’s flight-protection system could have been bypassed, it doesn’t explain why the … [Read more...]

John McCain calls protesters ‘scum,’ tells them to ‘shut up’

U.S. Senator John McCain had a blunt message for demonstrators chanting for the arrest of Henry Kissinger at a Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing on Thursday: "Get out of here, you low-life-scum." The protesters, from the Code Pink anti-war group, drew the ire of the Arizona Republican who chairs the committee after some of them approached Kissinger as he took his seat at a hearing on global security. Members of the group held up handcuffs and anti-Kissinger signs and called for his arrest for "war crimes." Addressing the hearing, McCain said: "I have been a member of this committee for many years and I have never seen anything as disgraceful and outrageous and despicable as the last demonstration that just took place." McCain said he would have Capitol Police arrest the protesters if they did not "shut up." He then told them: "Get out of here, you low-life scum." In a statement afterward, McCain, who was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said the protesters had physically … [Read more...]

Google fourth-quarter revenue misses Wall Street target

Google Inc's revenue grew 15 percent in the fourth quarter but fell short of Wall Street's target on declining online ad prices and unfavorable foreign exchange rates. Shares of Google edged up 0.1 percent to $510.66 in extended trading after an initial dip on the news. Google's advertising revenue has come under pressure as more consumers access its online services on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, where ad rates are typically lower. The growing popularity of mobile devices has made No. 1 social network Facebook Inc (FB.O) a greater threat in the battle for advertisers. Facebook reported on Wednesday that mobile ads on its network doubled year-over-year during the fourth quarter. Google said on Thursday the average price of its online ads, or "cost per click," decreased 3 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter, while the number of consumer clicks on its ads increased 14 percent. Some analysts had hoped for gains in cost-per-click, said BGC Partners analyst … [Read more...]

Man wielding pistol arrested at Dutch national broadcaster

A 19-year-old Dutchman with a pistol forced his way into the studios of the national broadcaster NOS on Thursday demanding to be allowed to go on air, but was quickly arrested, officials said. Wearing a black suit and tie, the man entered the studio after threatening a guard with a pistol, witnesses said. It was unclear how he passed through security, which was increased after the attacks in Paris earlier this month. Footage aired on Dutch TV showed the man pacing in the studio with a black pistol behind his back. He had intended to speak to the country on the most popular evening news broadcast, but was led to an empty studio by a quick-thinking security guard. "This is taking too long," the man said. Then police stormed into the studio yelling, "Drop it! Drop it! And get on your knees!". He dropped the gun, saying, "I dropped it. It's dropped", and the police put handcuffs on him and took him away. The man lives in the central Dutch town of Pijnacker, near the university town … [Read more...]

Japan, Jordan working closely on fate of captive Japanese journalist


Anwar Tarawneh (R), the wife of Islamic State captive Jordanian pilot Lieutenant Muath al-Kasaesbeh, and his sister (C) weep after listening to a statement released by Islamic State in front of the Royal Palace in Amman January 28, 2015. Japan was working closely with Jordan on Friday to find out what was happening to a Japanese journalist held by Islamic State militants after a deadline passed for the release of an Iraqi would-be suicide bomber on death-row in Jordan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said every effort was being made to secure the release of journalist Kenji Goto. "We are gathering and analyzing information while asking for cooperation from Jordan and other countries, making every effort to free Kenji Goto," Abe told a parliamentary panel. Jordan said on Thursday it was still holding the Iraqi woman death-row prisoner as a deadline passed for her release set by the militants, who threatened to kill a Jordanian pilot unless she was handed over by sunset. An audio … [Read more...]

Russia warns West support for Kiev could lead to ‘catastrophe’


Conscripts attend a ceremony marking enrollment of new conscripts in the Ukrainian army in Kiev January 29, 2015. Russia's envoy to the European security watchdog OSCE urged the United States and Europe on Thursday to stop supporting the "party of war" in Ukraine and warned "catastrophe" could result, Interfax news agency reported. "I would like to appeal to the states that have influence on Kiev's leadership, most of all to Washington. It's time to stop indulging Ukraine's party of war," said Russia's OSCE envoy, Andrei Kelin. "Only a big catastrophe can result from such developments." Russia has increasingly blamed the United States and NATO for the flare-up in violence in eastern Ukraine. The West accuses Moscow of feeding a pro-Russian insurgency with guns and soldiers. Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week the Ukrainian army itself was a legion of NATO sent to geopolitically contain Russia. "It's time to stop covering (Kiev's) inhuman actions, it is unacceptable to … [Read more...]

Islamic State’s Egypt wing claims deadliest attacks in months: official Twitter

Islamic State's Egypt wing claimed a series of attacks that killed at least 27 security personnel on Thursday in some of the worst anti-government violence in months, after commemorations around the anniversary of the 2011 uprising turned deadly in the past week. Egypt's government faces an Islamist insurgency based in Sinai and growing discontent with what critics perceive as heavy-handed security tactics. A series of tweets from the Sinai Province's Twitter account claimed responsibility for each of the four attacks that took place in North Sinai and Suez provinces within hours of one another on Thursday night. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt's most active militant group, changed its name to Sinai Province last year after swearing allegiance to Islamic State, the hardline Sunni militant group that has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria, drawing U.S.-led airstrikes. Thursday's first attack was a bombing targeting a military headquarters, base and hotel in the capital of North Sinai … [Read more...]

Philippines, Vietnam upgrade ties in show of unity against China


Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh speaks during the session 'The Geopolitical Outlook' in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos January 23, 2015. Photo credit: Reuters The Philippines and Vietnam are forging closer ties in a symbolic move after China stepped up activities in disputed areas of the East Sea -- the Vietnamese term for the South China Sea, raising tension in the potential flashpoint. China claims almost the entire East Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits and fishery resources. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim parts of the sea, crossed by ships carrying $5 trillion a year in cargo. Pham Binh Minh, Hanoi's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, on Thursday began a day-two visit to Manila for talks to build a strategic partnership and strengthen security, trade and cultural ties. "We believe a strategic partnership enhances the cooperation on a comprehensive basis," Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario said, adding … [Read more...]

Portugal quick to back Figo’s FIFA campaign


Former Portuguese international and Inter Milan player Luis Figo speaks during a news conference in Zayed sport city in Abu Dhabi in this December 17, 2010 file photo. Photo credit: Reuters Luis Figo's decision to enter FIFA's presidential election has received a positive reaction in his native Portugal even though he faces a seemingly impossible task to unseat incumbent Sepp Blatter in May. Figo, 42, a former World Player of the Year and one of the greatest players of his generation in his time with Real Madrid and Barcelona, entered the race on Wednesday saying he had the five nominations from national FAs to launch a challenge for the top job in world soccer. The deadline for nominations closes at 2300 GMT on Thursday and he is challenging on an anti-Blatter ticket along with Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, Michael van Praag of the Netherlands and French duo Jerome Champagne and David Ginola. Figo was involved in a losing battle with the Spanish tax authorities in 2012 and … [Read more...]

Russian charter flights to Vietnam’s Phu Quoc suspended until end of May


Russian tourists arrive at Phu Quoc Airport in the first charter flight made on February 14, 2014. Photo: Thu Tuyet A Vietnamese-Russian venture has halted charter flights from Russia to Phu Quoc Island for four months due to a significant drop in the number of tourists. The Anh Duong Company, the Vietnamese firm that has partnered with Pegas Touristik, said the flights will be suspended until the end of May. The rationale for the move is a decrease in the number of Russian tourists to the popular resort island, presumably caused by the weakening ruble, according to the operators. Huynh Quang Hung, deputy chairman of Phu Quoc District, said the decision will not affect the local tourism sector much as the number of international visitors is still increasing. Travelers often fly in from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Last year, Phu Quoc saw a 32-percent annual increase in the number of foreign visitors. The charter flight service from Russia to Phu Quoc was launched last … [Read more...]

Vietnamese cops charged for cooking the books, stealing from state fund

Prosecutors in Kien Giang Province have charged two police officers involved in bookkeeping with embezzlement after investigation found they doctored salary records to steal money. A source said the two had abused their positions to commit the crime – Pham Van Manh as the chief accountant of the province’s police department and Trinh Thi Ngoc Nhung as its cashier. They had stolen more than VND13 billion (US$608,900) from 2009 until they were busted in 2013, local media quoted investigation findings as saying. They were accused of inflating the total salary payment of the department in financial records to pocket the difference. They then used the money to buy land and other personal properties. The prosecutors also charged the head and deputy head of the department’s treasury with dereliction of duty for letting the crime happen. … [Read more...]

Da Nang gives ex-cop 40 days to knock down his illegal luxury villa

The imposing complex of villas and stilt houses illegally built by Ngo Van Quang at the foot of Hai Van Mountain in Da Nang. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre

Da Nang City will force the demolition of two luxury villa complexes illegally built on its forest land by a retired police officer and a gold mining tycoon. Major-general Phan Nhu Thach, former police chief of the nearby Quang Nam Province, was ordered to demolish the three-storey villa that he built near a stream on the edge of the Nam Hai Van Forest without any permit, local media reported. If he fails to pull down the villa, covering an area of 17,750 square meters, by March 10, authorities will step in to do the job. Thach has also been fined VND40-50 million (US$1,873-2,342) for the unlawful construction. The same measure and fine will be applied to the complex of villas and stilt houses unlawfully built by Ngo Van Quang, a gold mining tycoon in Quang Nam. Thach’s family reportedly bought a few pieces of agricultural land in the Nam Hai Van forest, which cannot be used for residential purposes, and sold them to Quang. Quang then built the imposing complex worth over … [Read more...]

Obama budget to propose spending lift for military, domestic programs


U.S. President Barack Obama (L) listens to engineer Rod Washington as he tours Vacon, a company that manufactures AC drives, during a visit to Raleigh, North Carolina, in this January 15, 2014 file photo. Photo credit: Reuters President Barack Obama's budget will call for an increase in domestic and military spending that would end spending caps known as "sequestration," a White House official said, setting up a new source of conflict with Republicans in Congress. Obama intends to announce his plans during a meeting with congressional Democrats in Philadelphia on Thursday. The fiscal 2016 budget, which the White House intends to unveil on Monday, would fund a host of programs that Republicans are unlikely to support. It is the latest salvo by the Democratic president lobbed at a Congress controlled by the opposition party and follows a defiant State of the Union address last week that critics said betrayed an unwillingness to seek compromise. The White House rejects that criticism … [Read more...]

Malaysia declares MH370 an ‘accident’, airline to proceed with compensation


Kelly (last name not given), 29, the wife of a passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, holds a picture of her husband walking with Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, at a news conference in Putrajaya January 29, 2015. Malaysia declared on Thursday the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident, clearing the way for the airline to pay compensation to victims' relatives while the search for the plane goes on. The Boeing 777 aircraft disappeared on March 8 last year, carrying 239 passengers and crew shortly after taking off from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing. Months of searches have failed to turn up any trace. "We officially declare Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident ... and that all 239 of the passengers and crew onboard MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives," Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said in a statement. The announcement is in accordance with … [Read more...]

3rd Russian submarine arrives in Vietnam


The HQ 184 Hai Phong, the third of six Kilo-class submarines Vietnam bought from Russia, being carried to Cam Ranh Port on January 28, 2015. Photo: D.Q. The third Kilo-class submarine Russia built for Vietnam arrived at Cam Ranh Bay in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa on Wednesday night. The submarine, codenamed HQ184 Hai Phong, is being towed to Cam Ranh Port Thursday by cargo ship Rolldock Star. This is the third of six Kilo-class diesel-electric submarines that Vietnam contracted to buy from Russia under a US$2-billion deal in 2009. The first two subs, HQ-182 Hanoi and HQ-183 Ho Chi Minh City, arrived in Cam Ranh in January and March of 2014. The fourth one, HQ-185 Da Nang, was launched in March 2014 and is testing the waters on the Baltic Sea. It is expected to be handed over to Vietnam in mid-2015. The fifth one, HQ-186 Khanh Hoa was launched in December 2014 and is scheduled for a trial run this May. The delivery of the last one, HQ-187 Ba Ria-Vung Tau, is scheduled … [Read more...]

Vietnam’s shrimp king courts foreign investors to expand


Workers process shrimp at a factory of Minh Phu Seafood Corp. in Vietnam's Mekong Delta. Minh Phu Seafood Corp., which sells black tiger shrimp to Costco Wholesale Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., will seek to sell half of itself to foreign strategic investors to help fund overseas expansion. Vietnam’s largest seafood exporter by value aims to complete the stake sales this year after it gets approval to delist from the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange this quarter, Chief Executive Officer Le Van Quang said in an interview. The company forecasts net income will jump 55 percent to 1.416 trillion dong ($66 million) this year, with sales reaching $1 billion, mainly from exports, he said. "We’re looking for strategic foreign investors to help maximize our advantages and potential as our goal is to become a global shrimp company by 2020," Quang, dubbed the "king of shrimp" by local media, said in an interview Jan. 24 in the Mekong delta province of Hau Giang. Vietnam is … [Read more...]

Russian tourist found dead, naked at Vietnam’s Mui Ne resort


Police investigating the room at Malibu Resort where a Russian tourist was found dead Wednesday. A Russian man was found dead inside his room at a resort in the popular tourist town of Mui Ne in central Vietnam late Wednesday. Alexander Suvorov, 50, has been drinking most of the time since he arrived on January 19, Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper quoted an unnamed receptionist of the Malibu Resort as saying. At around 10 p.m. Wednesday, the receptionist tried to check on Suvorov because the guest had not gone out since early morning and had not responded to calls to his room. The receptionist found Suvorov's naked body leaning against the main door. He reported the case to local police. Initial investigation found that Suvorov came to Vietnam on a tour that would end on January 29. Instead of following the tour, he mostly stayed in his room drinking, police said. According to the receptionist, Suvorov only went out to buy alcohol and then returned to his room. "There was one … [Read more...]

Saigon Post Office tries new shades of yellow to fix controversial paint job


Managers of the Saigon Central Post Office accidentally turned the beloved historic building into what many called an eyesore with a paint job last year. In response to public pressure, they are now testing new colors for the 123-year-old building, one of the top tourist destinations in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. This time, to be sure, they have submitted eight different shades of light yellow to the city administration, in an effort to bring back the original color of the building, which was constructed between 1886 and 1891. Designed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel, the namesake creator of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the three-story building was renovated last September for the first time since the Vietnam War ended in 1975. The Saigon Central Post Office became a hot spot for tourists as part of the city's colonial core, which includes the Notre Dame Cathedral, the former Cercle des Officiers on Le Duan Street and several other French buildings on Dong Khoi and Ly Tu … [Read more...]

Embassy asked to ensure safety for Vietnamese in Ukraine


A woman walks next to an exploded shell in Krasnyi Pakhar village near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. Photo credit: Reuters The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has ordered the Vietnamese embassy in Ukraine to keep a close watch on the fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine and take measures to ensure safety for the Vietnamese community there. Spokesperson Le Hai Binh said at a press briefing Wednesday that the embassy has also been ordered to evacuate Vietnamese citizens from dangerous areas. So far, there have been no Vietnamese casualties caused by the armed conflict in Ukraine’s embattled Donbass region, according to Binh. The embassy has coordinated with Vietnamese associations to take measures to ensure safety of Vietnamese lives and assets and handle requests for support, especially to quickly help those who want to return home, he said. Around 7,000 Vietnamese nationals are living in Ukraine. More than 5,000 people have been killed since last April during the conflict in war-torn … [Read more...]

French co-pilot flying AirAsia jet before crash-investigators


Rescue team members walk as they carry the wreckage of a seat of the AirAsia Flight QZ8501 airliner at Kumai port in Pangkalan Bun, January 19, 2015. The French first officer of an AirAsia passenger jet that crashed into the sea last month was at the controls just prior to the accident, Indonesia's lead investigator said on Thursday. Data from the black box flight data recorder has provided the accident probe with a "pretty clear picture" of what happened in the last moments of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, but officials offered few details. The Airbus A320 vanished from radar screens in bad weather on Dec. 28, less than halfway into a two-hour flight from Indonesia's second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore. All 162 people on board were killed. "The second-in-command, popularly known as the co-pilot, who usually sits to the right of the cockpit. At the time, he was flying the plane," said head National Transport Safety Committee (NTSC) investigator Mardjono Siswosuwarno, referring to … [Read more...]