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Indonesian Plane with 189 Aboard Crashes into Sea

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An Indonesian aircraft with 189 people on board crashed into the sea and sank on Monday soon after taking off from the capital, Jakarta, on a flight to a tin-mining region, officials said.

relatives of passengers thrown into mourning

Indonesia’s search and rescue agency confirmed the crash of Lion Air flight, JT610, adding that it lost contact with ground officials 13 minutes after takeoff, and a tugboat leaving the capital’s port saw it fall.

“We don’t know yet whether there are any survivors,” agency head Muhammad Syaugi told a news conference, adding that no distress signal had been received from the aircraft’s emergency transmitter.

“We hope, we pray, but we cannot confirm.”

Items such as handphones and life vests were found in waters about 30 meters to 35 meters (98 to 115 ft) deep near where the plane, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, lost contact, he said.

“We are there already, our vessels, our helicopter is hovering above the waters, to assist,” Syaugi said. “We are trying to dive down to find the wreck.”

Ambulances were lined up at Karawang, on the coast east of Jakarta and police were preparing rubber dinghies, a Reuters reporter said.

At least 23 government officials were on board the plane, which an air navigation spokesman said had sought to turn back just before losing contact.

“We don’t dare to say what the facts are, or are not, yet,” Edward Sirait, the chief executive of Lion Air Group, told Reuters. “We are also confused about the way since it was a new plane.”

The privately owned airline said in a statement, the aircraft, which had only been in operation since August, was airworthy, with its pilot and co-pilot together having accumulated 11,000 hours of flying time.

The head of Indonesia’s transport safety committee said he could not confirm the cause of the crash, which would have to wait until the recovery of the plane’s black boxes, as the cockpit voice recorder and data flight recorder are known.

“The plane is so modern, it transmits data from the plane, and that we will review too. But the most important is the black box,” said Soerjanto Tjahjono.

Safety experts say nearly all accidents are caused by a combination of factors and only rarely have a single identifiable cause.

The weather at the time of the crash was clear, Tjahjono said.

Investigators will focus on the cockpit voice and data recorders and building up a picture of the brand-new plane’s technical status, the condition and training of the crew as well as weather and air traffic recordings.

The effort to find the wreckage and retrieve the black boxes represents a major challenge for investigators in Indonesia, where an AirAsia Airbus jet crashed in the Java Sea in December 2015.

Under international rules, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will automatically assist with the inquiry into Monday’s crash, backed up by technical advisers from Boeing and U.S.-French engine maker CFM International, co-owned by General Electric and Safran.

Boeing was deeply saddened by the loss, it said in a statement.

“Boeing stands ready to provide technical assistance to the accident investigation,” it said, adding that in accordance with the international protocol, all inquiries should be directed to Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee.

The flight took off from Jakarta around 6.20 a.m. and was due to have landed in Pangkal Pinang, capital of the Bangka-Belitung tin mining region, at 7.20 a.m., the Flightradar 24 website showed.

Data from FlightRadar24 shows the first sign of something amiss was around two minutes into the flight when the plane had reached 2,000 feet (610 m).

Then it descended more than 500 feet (152 m) and veered to the left before climbing again to 5,000 feet (1,524 m), where it stayed during most of the rest of the flight.

It began gaining speed in the final moments and reached 345 knots (397 mph) before data was lost when it was at 3,650 feet (1,113 m).

Its last recorded position was about 15 km (9 miles) north of the Indonesian coast, according to a Google Maps reference of the last coordinates from Flightradar24.

The accident is the first to be reported involving the widely sold Boeing 737 MAX, an updated, more fuel-efficient version of the manufacturer’s workhorse single-aisle jet.

Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, but its safety record is patchy.

“The industry has grown very quickly and kept pace with that growth is challenging in keeping the safety culture intact,” said Greg Waldron, the Asia managing editor of industry publication Flightglobal, which keeps an accident database.

If all on board prove to have died, the Lion Air crash would rank as Indonesia’s second-worst air disaster, after a Garuda Indonesia A300 crash in Medan that killed 214 people in 1997, he said.

Founded in 1999, Lion Air’s only fatal accident was in 2004, when an MD-82 crashed upon landing at Solo City, killing 25 of the 163 on board, the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety Network says.

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World News

Historical defeat: British lawmakers defeats May over Brexit deal

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British lawmakers defeated Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit divorce deal by a crushing margin on Tuesday, triggering political upheaval that could lead to a disorderly exit from the EU or even to a reversal of the 2016 decision to leave.

Parliament voted 432-202 against her deal, the worst parliamentary defeat for a government in recent British history. Scores of her own MPs – both Brexiteers and supporters of EU membership – joined forces to vote down the deal.

Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn promptly called a vote of no confidence in May’s government, to be held within 24 hours.

With the clock ticking down to March 29, the date set in law for Brexit, the United Kingdom is now ensnared in the deepest political crisis in half a century as it grapples with how, or even whether, to exit the European project that it joined in 1973.

May’s crushing loss, the first British parliamentary defeat of a treaty since 1864, marks the collapse of her two-year strategy of forging an amicable divorce with close ties to the EU after the March 29 exit.

“It is clear that the House does not support this deal, but tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support,” May told parliament, moments after the result was announced.

“We need to confirm whether this government still enjoys the confidence of this House,” May said.

May said parliament had spoken and the government had listened. The small Northern Irish DUP party, which props up her minority government and had said it would oppose the deal, said it would still back May in the no confidence vote.

The EU said the Brexit deal remained the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal from the EU.

“The Brexit deal is basically dead,” said Anand Menon, professor of European politics and foreign affairs at King’s College London.

Ever since Britain voted by 52-48 percent to leave the EU in a referendum in June 2016, the political class has been debating how to leave the European project forged by France and Germany after the devastation of World War Two.

While the country is divided over EU membership, most agree that the world’s fifth largest economy is at a crossroads and that its choices over Brexit will shape the prosperity of future generations.

Before the vote, May had warned pro-Brexit MPs that if her plan was rejected, it was more likely that Britain would not leave the EU at all than that it would leave without a deal.

She has also warned fellow Conservatives not to let the opposition Labour Party seize control of Brexit.

Supporters of EU membership cast Brexit as a gigantic mistake that will undermine the West, smash Britain’s reputation as a stable destination for investment and slowly weaken London’s position as a global capital.

Many opponents of Brexit hope May’s defeat will ultimately lead to another referendum on EU membership, though Brexiteers say that thwarting the will of the 17.4 million who voted for Brexit could radicalise much of the electorate.

Brexit supporters cast leaving as a way to break free from a Union they see as overly bureaucratic and fast falling behind the leading economic powers of the 21st century, the United States and China.

Reuters

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SECURITY

Kenya: Somali Islamists, al Shabaab bombs hotel, attack workers

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Gunmen blasted their way into a hotel and office complex in the Kenyan capital on Tuesday, sending workers fleeing for their lives as others cowered under their desks from an attack claimed by Somali Islamists al Shabaab.

At least one person was killed and eight wounded, hospital officials said. Police warned the “terror attack” may still be ongoing, with the assailants still inside the upscale 14 Riverside Drive complex.

“The main door of the hotel was blown open and there was a human arm in the street severed from the shoulder,” said Serge Medic, the Swiss owner of a security company who ran to the scene to help civilians when he heard of the attack from his taxi driver.

Medic, who was armed, entered the building with a policeman and two soldiers, he said, but they came under fire and retreated. An unexploded grenade lay in the lobby, he said.

“One man said he saw two armed men with scarves on their head and bandoliers of bullets,” Medic told Reuters, as gunfire echoed in the background, more than two hours after the attack began.

A woman shot in the leg was carried out and three men emerged covered in blood. Some office workers climbed out of windows. Many told Reuters that they had had to leave colleagues behind, still huddled under their desks.

“There’s a grenade in the bathroom,” one officer yelled as police rushed out from one building.

“We heard a loud bang from something that was thrown inside. Then I saw shattered glass,” Geoffrey Otieno, who works at a beauty salon in the complex, told Reuters. “We hid until we were rescued.”

Kenya has often been targeted by al Shabaab, who killed dozens of people in a shopping centre in 2013 and nearly 150 students at a university in 2015.

“We are behind the attack in Nairobi. The operation is going on,” said Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman.

According to its website, 14 Riverside is home to the local offices of international companies including BASF, Colgate Palmolive, Reckitt Benckiser, Pernod Ricard, Dow Chemical and SAP, as well as the dusitD2 hotel, part of the Thai hotel group Dusit Thani.

The Australia embassy is across the road from the compound. Kenya is an expatriate hub for diplomats, aid workers, businessmen and others operating around east Africa.

“I just started hearing gunshots, and then started seeing people running away raising their hands up and some were entering the bank to hide for their lives,” a woman working in a bank in the complex said, adding she had heard two explosions.

Kenyan television featured appeals for blood from local hospitals and showed police cordoning off the route to ensure vehicles could move quickly. Red Cross ambulances ferried victims away.

Al Shabaab says its attacks in Kenya are revenge for Kenyan troops stationed inside Somalia which has been riven by civil war since 1991.

The Kenyan troops, concentrated in the south, originally went into Somalia to try to create a buffer zone along the border. They are now part of an African Union peacekeeping force supporting the weak U.N.-backed central government.

Reuters

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World News

Oil Price rebounds to $60

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Crude oil price climbed around three per cent to rebound to $60 per barrel. This followed the extension of talks between the United States and China in Beijing, which raised hopes that the world’s two largest economies would resolve their trade standoff.

The United States West Texas Intermediate (WTI) traded at $51.36 per barrel, up $1.58, or 3.17 per cent, the first time this year that WTI has topped $50.

Reuters reported that the international Brent crude rose by $1.63, or 2.78 per cent, at $60.35 per barrel.

Brent price hit last year’s high of $86 in October, a development that encouraged the federal government to predicate this year’s budget on an oil price of $60, against the $50 per barrel oil price benchmark proposed in the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP).

However, with the efforts by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to reduce the excess inventory in the market, oil price rose by 12 per cent in December.

Both crude price benchmarks added to Tuesday’s two per cent gains and have now been on the rise for eight straight days – their longest rally since June 2017.

The trade talks in Beijing were carried over into an unscheduled third day yesterday, amid signs of progress on issues including purchases of US farm and energy commodities and increased the US access to China’s markets.

“Talks with China are going very well!” United States President Donald Trump tweeted, without elaborating. State newspaper, China Daily said yesterday that Beijing was keen to put an end to its trade dispute with the United States, but that any agreement must involve compromise on both sides.

The World Bank expects global economic growth to slow to 2.9 per cent in 2019 from three per cent in 2018, it said in a semi-annual report released late on Tuesday.

More fundamentally, oil prices have been receiving support from supply cuts started at the end of 2018 by the OPEC and allies including Russia.

The OPEC-led cuts are aimed at reining in an emerging supply overhang, in part because U.S. crude output surged by around 2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2018 to a record 11.7 million bpd.

However, US crude stocks fell less than expected last week, while gasoline and distillate inventories rose more than expected, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said yesterday.

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World News

World Bank President resigns

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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced on Monday that he will be stepping down from his position after more than six years as the head of the Bretton Woods institution. Kristalina Georgieva, the World Bank’s chief executive officer, will assume the role of interim president effective February 1.

Kim, 59, was not due to leave until 2022 after he was re-elected for a second five-year term in 2017.

He will “join a firm and focus on increasing infrastructure investments in developing countries”, the World Bank said.

Kristalina Georgieva, the World Bank’s chief executive officer, will assume the role of interim president.

Speaking on his resignation, Kim in a statement said: “It has been a great honour to serve as President of this remarkable institution, full of passionate individuals dedicated to the mission of ending extreme poverty in our lifetime.

“The work of the World Bank Group is more important now than ever as the aspirations of the poor rise all over the world, and problems like climate change, pandemics, famine and refugees continue to grow in both their scale and complexity.

“Serving as President and helping position the institution squarely in the middle of all these challenges has been a great privilege.”

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