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Phuket Gazette World News: Australia says new ‘pings’ best lead yet in Malaysia jet search

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Phuket Gazette World News: Australia says new ‘pings’ best lead yet in Malaysia jet search | The Thaiger

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Australia says new ‘pings’ best lead yet in Malaysia jet search
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: An Australian ship searching for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner has picked up signals consistent with the beacons from aircraft black box recorders, in what search officials said on Monday was the most promising lead yet in the month-long hunt.

The U.S. Navy “towed pinger locator” connected to the Australian ship Ocean Shield picked up the signals in an area some 1,680 km (1,040 miles) northwest of Perth, which analysis of sporadic satellite data has determined as the most likely place Boeing 777 went down.

“I’m much more optimistic than I was a week ago,” Angus Houston, head of the Australian agency coordinating the search, told a news conference in Perth, while cautioning that wreckage still needed to be found.

“We are now in a very well defined search area, which hopefully will eventually yield the information that we need to say that MH370 might have entered the water just here.”

If the signals can be narrowed further, an autonomous underwater vehicle called a Bluefin 21, will be sent to attempt to locate wreckage on the sea floor to verify the signals, said Houston, who noted that the potential search area was 4.5 kms (2.8 miles) deep, the same as the Bluefin range.

The black boxes record cockpit data and may provide answers about what happened to the Malaysia Airlines plane, which was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew when it vanished off radar on March 8 and flew thousands of kilometres off its Kuala Lumpur-to-Beijing route.

Authorities have not ruled out mechanical problems as a cause of the plane’s disappearance but say evidence, including loss of communications, suggests it was deliberately diverted.

The first “ping” signal detection was held for more than two hours before the Ocean Shield lost contact, but the ship was able to pick up a signal again for around 13 minutes, Houston said.

“On this occasion two distinct pinger returns were audible. Significantly, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder,” he said.

Depth is at edge of search capability

The black boxes, thought be to lying on the ocean floor, are equipped with locator beacons that send pings but the beacons’ batteries are thought to be running out of charge by now, a month after Flight MH370 disappeared.

“We are right on the edge of capability and we might be limited on capability if the aircraft ended up in deeper water. In very deep oceanic water, nothing happens fast,” said Houston.

“This is not the end of the search. We still have got difficult, painstaking work to do to confirm that this is indeed where the aircraft entered the water.”

Alec Duncan, expert in underwater acoustics at Curtin University’s Centre for Marine Science and Technology said the lead was promising but impossible to verify without confirmed wreckage from the aircraft.

“It’s a difficult business, operating underwater and trying to detect anything in the sort of water depth that this search involves and it’s impossible to be 100 percent sure of anything until the wreckage is actually on the deck of the ship,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

A second search area was being maintained in waters where a Chinese vessel had also picked up “ping” signals at the weekend in an area more than 300 nautical miles from the latest signals.

Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 reported receiving a pulse signal with a frequency of 37.5 kHz, consistent with the signal emitted by flight recorders, on Friday and again on Saturday.

Houston said the Chinese and Australian discoveries of pings were consistent with work done on analysing radar and satellite data but the Ocean Shield’s leads were now the most promising.

Houston on Sunday said he was comfortable with the level of cooperation between search countries, following criticisms that Australia only became aware of the Chinese find at the same time as the Xinhua state news agency filed a story from a reporter on board the Haixun.

“I’m very satisfied with the consultation, the coordination that we are building with our Chinese friends,” Houston said.

However, he added that language was sometimes an issue and he had arranged for a Chinese liaison officer to join the Australian-led coordination centre.

Malaysian authorities have faced heavy criticism, particularly from China, for mismanaging the search and holding back information. Most of the 227 passengers were Chinese.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Philippines

Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines

May Taylor

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Powerful 6.4 earthquake kills five in the Philippines | The Thaiger

PHOTO: AFP

A strong 6.4 magnitude earthquake has struck the southern Philippines, killing five, including one child, destroying property and disrupting power supply. The death toll is expected to rise.

The powerful quake was felt across the Mindanao region, even causing a 3-storey shopping mall to burst into flames. Residents were evacuated and a child was killed when a house collapsed in the town of Datu Paglas.

AFP reports that the quake was 14 kilometres deep and followed by two aftershocks. The Philippines is part of the “Ring of Fire”, a zone of constant seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific.

Several injuries have been reported as a result of falling debris. The shopping mall that caught fire was evacuated when the quake struck, but it’s not yet known if there were still people inside as the fire took hold.

The mall was still on fire three hours later as nearly 100 firemen battled to put it out.

Residents on the coast in Davao fled to higher ground fearing a tsunami, even though a government seismologist reassured people there was no tsunami risk as the quake had occurred inland.

It’s understood that prisoners in the municipal jail in the town of Bansalan were also let out, but placed in handcuffs and held outside for the duration of the evacuation.

SOURCE: AFP

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World

Key ally rejects PM Johnson’s Brexit plan – Sterling sags

The Thaiger

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Key ally rejects PM Johnson’s Brexit plan – Sterling sags | The Thaiger

The British Pound tumbled again today after UK PM Boris Johnson’s key ally in parliament said it “could not support” his plans for a Brexit deal, throwing a spanner in the works – just as Britain and the EU were closing in on an agreement.

The comment caused an immediate reaction from this morning’s Asia Pacific markets.

After years of wrangling, the two sides said they were edging towards the basis for a treaty allowing Britain to avoid an economically catastrophic “no-deal” exit from the European Union.

With both teams working through the night, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there had been “good progress, and work is ongoing”, while France’s deputy foreign minister said Thursday a deal was “within reach but is not guaranteed”.

There had been optimism that a deal was in the offing, just two weeks before Britain is due to leave the bloc, as they worked towards a solution on the vexed question of British-ruled Northern Ireland.

But Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) dropped a bombshell hours before the start of a crunch EU summit Thursday, saying it cannot support the plan.

“As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity” on Value Added Tax, the DUP, which props up Johnson’s government, said in a statement on Twitter.

“We will continue to work with the Government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster had met Johnson several times this week to discuss the progress of talks and had described as “nonsense” previous reports that she was ready to give way.

The pound, which earlier in the day was hovering at five-month highs around $1.2877 sank to $1.2750 before edging back slightly, while it also lost ground to the euro.

The DUP are against any deal that would tie Northern Ireland to EU rules but cut the rest of the United Kingdom loose.

Markets react

In early trade, London’s FTSE added 0.1%, Paris was flat and Frankfurt eased 0.2%. In Asia, most markets were in the red, with traders unable to take advantage of weak US retail data that raised the chances of another Federal Reserve interest rate cut. Comments in the Fed’s Beige Book update on the economy also pointed to a slowdown.

Hong Kong added 0.7% but Shanghai finished 0.1% lower and Tokyo lost 0.1%.

Sydney sank 0.8%, Singapore shed 0.7% and Seoul retreated 0.2%t, with Wellington and Manila also off. There were gains in Taipei, Mumbai, Bangkok and Jakarta.

Speculation about a possible US rate cut provided support to higher-yielding currencies against the dollar, with the Australian dollar 0.6 percent up and the South Korean won 0.1 percent stronger. The Thai baht, the Mexican peso and the South African rand also posted healthy gains.

Oil prices fell after data pointed to a sharp rise in US stockpiles that reinforced worries about the impact on demand from the China-US trade war and the global economic slowdown.

Key markets today

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2784 from $1.2817 at 2100 GMT

Euro/pound: UP at 86.65 pence from 86.33 pence

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1081 from $1.1073

Dollar/yen: UP at 108.80 yen from 108.71 yen

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,175.09

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1% at 22,451.86 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.7% at 26,848.49 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1% at 2,977.33 (close)

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 56 cents at $52.80 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 55 cents at $58.87 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.1% at 27,001.98 (close)

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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World

EU and UK zone in on possible breakthrough

The Thaiger

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EU and UK zone in on possible breakthrough | The Thaiger

British and European negotiators headed back into intense negotiations on a draft Brexit deal after late-night talks brought them closer but so far fails to confirm an elusive breakthrough.

Reports that Britain has softened its stance on the customs status of Northern Ireland in order to clinch an accord at this week’s European summit had raised hopes that a chaotic “no-deal Brexit” can be avoided and is driving the pound higher.

But a marathon overnight negotiating session in the EU’s Brussels headquarters brought them to the eve of the meeting with still some distance to go to agree the wording of a treaty to govern the terms of Britain’s October 31 departure from the bloc.

“The teams worked into the night and continue to make progress. The teams will meet again this morning,” a UK official said, describing the talks as “constructive”. He and EU officials said the teams would get back to work at around 9am.

A senior European diplomat told AFP that the negotiators had begun to transcribe the British offer into a legal text that could eventually go before the 28 EU national leaders on Thursday at their European Council summit which begins on Thursday.

But there remain some important differences, he cautioned, while a European official, speaking on condition of anonymity as closed-door negotiations continue, played down hopes that any text would be finalised Wednesday.

Even if a text is prepared for the leaders this week – or if, as many observers in Brussels expect, an extraordinary summit is called later – any deal would have to be approved by a skeptical British parliament, which holds a special session on Saturday.

By agreeing to a form of customs boundary in the Irish Sea, Britain could allow its province of Northern Ireland to remain under EU rules, prevent a return to a hard land border with EU member Ireland and salvage a negotiated withdrawal.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson may struggle to convince hardline Conservative eurosceptic MPS and his allies from Northern Ireland’s loyalist Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to accept this concession — less than three weeks before Britain is due to leave the EU.

Nevertheless, EU negotiator Michel Barnier and British Brexit minister Stephen Barclay judged that a deal was close enough to justify officials working into the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Barnier had said a text must be on the table by Wednesday if member state governments are to have a chance to consider it before the summit, because the 28 national leaders have no plans to themselves debate the details of the agreement.

But if, as now seems likely, the Wednesday deadline is missed, officials said talks could instead resume next week and a special summit be called just in time for Johnson to fulfil his pledge to lead Britain out of the bloc on October 31.

European leaders warn they will not let Britain use Northern Ireland as a back door to the single market and Barnier said Tuesday that “it is high time to turn good intentions into legal text.”

Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel outlined why EU officials are driving a hard bargain and hoping Britain will commit to a “level playing field” in post-Brexit trade and commerce.

“One thing is clear, Britain will develop into another competitor on the doorstep of Europe. And therefore the EU will be challenged to become more competitive and to assume geopolitical responsibility.”

Glimmers of hope

“The last moment is always a bit later than you think,” one German government official told AFP, suggesting Brexit would have to be postponed beyond the end of the month if talks are to reach a successful conclusion.

More than three years after Britain’s 2016 referendum vote to leave the European bloc, talks remain stuck on how to avoid customs checks on the border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

The EU has reservations about London’s proposed customs arrangements and the role for Northern Ireland’s Stormont assembly in giving consent to the plans.

In London, DUP leader Arlene Foster told the BBC that she wanted to support a deal, but would not do so if she felt it divided Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK and added that without her party’s support “everybody knows” it would not pass in parliament.

If no deal is reached by Saturday, Johnson will fall foul of a British law demanding he ask the EU to postpone Brexit for a third time rather than risk a potentially disastrous “no deal” departure.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse

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