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Flights Grounded Globally After Ethiopian Airlines Plane Crash Kills 157

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  • A Boeing 737 MAX 8 plane chartered by Ethiopian Airlines crashed, killing all 157 people on board.
  • The plane is the second 737 MAX 8 to crash since October, when a Lion Air flight crashed off the coast of Indonesia, killing 189 people.
  • As a result, 22 airlines have grounded their 737 MAX 8 models.

Crash Outside of Addis Ababa

Boeing is facing massive backlash after a brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed outside of Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing all 157 people on board the plane.

Of the 157 people on board Flight 302, 149 were passengers, and eight were crew members. The victims came from over 35 different countries and included at least 22 employees of United Nations-affiliated agencies, who were flying to Nairobi to attend a conference.

The flight took off at 8:38 a.m local time and was chartered by Ethiopian Airlines, one of Africa’s largest carriers. Shortly after take-off, the pilot of Flight 302 reportedly made a distress call and requested to return to the airport, which he was granted.

The last transmission from Flight 302 was reported at 8:41 am. Just six minutes after take-off, Flight 302 disappeared from the radar, which is the time it is believed to have crashed.

An eyewitness who saw the crash reported that the plane was “swerving and dipping” before it crashed about 40 miles outside of Addis Ababa.

Investigation

Ethiopian authorities announced they would investigate the crash with assistance from the U.S., Kenya, and others. Forensic experts from Israel also came to help with the investigation.

Members of the Red Cross could be seen sifting through debris, recovering passports, and other personal documents, among other things.

While the cause of the crash is still unknown, Ethiopian Airlines tweeted that the Digital Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder (also known as the plane’s “black box”) had been recovered.


The black box records a number of inputs like the sounds in the cockpit. That also includes the pilot’s conversations. The recorders are specifically designed to aid investigations in aviation accidents, and the recovery of the black box is expected to provide more information about what caused the crash.

Boeing 737 MAX

If Boeing 737-MAX 8 sounds familiar, it’s because just 4 months ago another Boeing 737-MAX 8 plane known as Lion Air flight 610 crashed off the coast of Indonesia, killing 189 people.


The circumstances surrounding both flights are eerily similar.

The pilot of the Lion Air flight also reported issues within minutes of taking off from Tangerang airport in Jakarta. The pilot also asked air traffic control if they could return to the airport, right before the flight went off the radar.

It was believed the flight crashed within 12 minutes of taking off.

Boeing’s latest iteration of the 737 is the world’s bestselling airliner. More than 300 Boeing 737-MAX planes are currently in operation, and since 2017, more than 5,000 have been ordered worldwide.

That means that Boeing has 4,700 unfilled orders for 737s, which represents 80% of Boeing’s orders backlog. Essentially all 737 orders are for MAX versions.

Boeing released a statement following the crash, saying: “Boeing is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane.”

Boeing also stated that they would send a technical team to the crash site to “provide technical assistance under the direction of the Ethiopia Accident Investigation Bureau and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.”

However, Boeing has also said that it does not have new plans for guidance. Charlie Miller, Boeing’s vice president of communications, said in a statement: “The investigation is in its early stages, but at this point, based on the information available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”

Unsurprisingly, Boeing has taken massive heat for the crash. Boeing’s stock dropped more than 12% on Monday morning, though it seemed to rebound some later in the day.

However, according to CNN, the drop puts Boeing on track for its worst day since the first day of trading following the 9/11 terror attacks.

Grounded Flights

To make matters even worse for Boeing, numerous countries have responded to the crash by grounding their planes.

As of Monday morning, 22 airlines around the world have grounded their 737 MAX 8 planes.

Notably, the Indonesian Transport Ministry announced today that they will temporarily ground of all Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes operated by Indonesian carriers.

This is especially significant because Indonesia had previously grounded all MAX 8’s in the country following the Lion Air crash, but after inspections, the planes were declared safe to fly.

China also announced it would ground all its 737 MAX 8’s, a move that many consider a big deal because China is one of Boeings biggest markets. Nearly a dozen Chinese airlines have ordered 180 planes from Boeing, and only 76 of them have been delivered.

About 85% of Boeing’s Chinese airline orders that have not been filled yet are for 737 MAX planes. Additionally, Boeing has predicted that China will become the world’s first trillion-dollar market for jets within the next few years.

Ethiopian Airlines for its part took more drastic measures, announcing it will take all of its 737 MAX planes out of service entirely. This also has broader implications for the African continent because Ethiopian Airlines is widely considered the best-managed airline in Africa.

Furthermore, the state-owned airline has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent and has been expanding its routes and infrastructure significantly.

However, not everyone is grounding their planes. No U.S. airlines have grounded any of their 737 MAX jets. Together, American Airlines, Alaska Air, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines own 65 737 MAX jets, which is only part of 548 jets they have ordered.

Even if they did ground those 65 jets, it would not significantly disrupt US airlines, because they have huge fleets of other planes.

Debate on Automation

Sunday’s crash has ignited the debate on automation and aviation.

The latest iteration of the 737 has been noted for its increased capabilities of flying autonomously, and while that might sound like it would increase safety, that is not always the case.

The Guardian’s, Gwyn Topham compares this to self-driving cars, writing: “It is notable that insurers considering driverless cars worry most about the period when highly autonomous vehicles will coexist with human drivers, the uncertain interface between human and artificial intelligence.”

A big part of the controversy around this comes from pilots around the world following the Lion Air crash. The pilots believed that small software modifications to the MAX 8’s autopilot had not been fully communicated to them, and they were not subject to new training to deal with that software.

Specifically, one new feature of the 737 MAX 8 is that the plane automatically corrects if it believes an angle it is flying at puts it at risk of stalling, a safety feature that as reportedly different from what 737 pilots were used to.

This feature, in particular, is a big deal because the black box from Lion Air flight 610 suggested the pilots of flight had been wrestling with this issue.

Boeing argued that if pilots followed procedures, there should not be a problem. However, past crashes have shown that the sensors which aircraft systems rely on can malfunction. They also show that many pilots who have become used to certain technology do not always know what to do when things go wrong.

Which begs the question of whether or not autonomous technology is worth the risk.

Ethiopian Airlines has said that the pilot of Flight 302 was extremely experienced, with 8,000 hours of flying time. However, aviation experts have criticized the lack of experience of his co-pilot, who only had 200 hours.

Whether or not this will hurt Boeing’s sales will remain to be seen. If anything, it seems like airlines that have requested 737 Max’s might not want those anymore. Since those compose over 80% of Boeing’s backlog, that could seriously harm the company.

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (CNN) (The Guardian)

International

Opposition Party Wins Mayoral Race in Istanbul in Massive Blow to Erdogan

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  • Former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim conceded to opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu in a re-run election for mayor of Istanbul Sunday.
  • Yildirim had been championed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his defeat comes as a stunning blow to the president, who many believe is losing his extensive grip on power in the country.
  • Imamoglu had previously won the same election back in March by a slim margin of 13,000 votes, but Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) called for a re-run, citing voting irregularities.
  • Imamoglu won Sunday’s election by more than 800,000 votes, representing a dramatic political shift in Turkey’s largest city, which has been under AKP control for 25 years.

Istanbul Election

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suffered what experts are calling his biggest political defeat ever Sunday when his candidate for the mayor of Istanbul conceded a highly anticipated re-run election.

Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister and close ally of Erdogan formally conceded the election late Sunday after polls showed that opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu received 54 percent of the vote.

“As of now, my competitor Imamoglu is leading,” Yildirim said in a televised concession speech. “I congratulate him, wish him success. I wish our friend Ekrem Imamoglu will bring good services to Istanbul.”

Imamoglu celebrated his win during a news conference last night, telling reporters, “16 million Istanbul residents refreshed our belief in democracy and confidence in justice.”

“I am ready to work with you in harmony,” he continued. “I put myself up for that, and I announce this in front of all Istanbul people.”

Erdogan, for his part, congratulated Imamoglu on Twitter, adding that he wished the election result “will be beneficial for our Istanbul.”

Source: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Re-Run Election

While Imamoglu’s win represents a decisive and landmark victory, it is technically not the first time he has won the election for mayor of Istanbul.

He first was elected mayor of Istanbul on March 31, by a small margin of around 13,000 votes. However, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, contested the results, claiming that votes had been stolen and voting officials had not been legally approved.

Turkey’s High Election Council responded by annulling the election and ordering a do-over in a rare move that greatly angered the opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP.

The CHP condemned the move, arguing that it undermined the democratic foundations of Turkey and that it was clearly just a power move by the AKP to try to maintain their foothold in Istanbul.

The CHP also claimed that the High Election Council’s members were beholden to the AKP for their jobs and so they could be easily manipulated.

However, holding the election again appears to have backfired on Erdogan and the AKP. Imamoglu won Sunday’s election by over 800,000 votes, a huge victory compared to the 13,000 he got last time.

Additionally, voter turnout even went up one percentage point from the March election.

Erdogan’s Decreasing Power

The increased voter turnout and the massive support for the opposition party are hugely significant because the AKP has held power in Istanbul for 25 years.

Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city and its main commercial hub, which alone makes the election a big defeat for the AKP on a populous level. It is also a massive blow to Erdogan personally because he is from Istanbul and considers it his political base

Erdogan even started his political career there, serving as the mayor himself. Now, experts are saying that this could be a sign that his long-running grip on power is weakening.

Erdogan has been the ruler of Turkey since 2003, first serving as prime minister and then as president. He has largely been perceived as an invincible strongman and has been considered by many to be Turkey’s most dominant politician since its founder almost a century ago.

During his rule, Erdogan has significantly expanded his authoritarian reach by strengthening his own powers under Turkey’s Constitution. He has also consolidated his power by jailing journalists, isolating opponents, and purging Turkey’s police, the military, and courts. 

Despite all of that, Erdogan has largely been popular. His party has a lot of support among religious and conservative populations, and under his rule, Turkey’s economy has grown significantly.

However, recently, Turkey has been experiencing an economic recession and a financial crisis. This has shaken Erdogan’s support significantly, along with that fact that some voters are concerned about his efforts to increase his control over the government.

In fact, Istanbul is not the only place where Erdogan and his party are losing power. The AKP had a poor showing in many parts of Turkey in the March election.

Notably, the party also lost to the opposition in Ankara, the capital of Turkey and its second biggest city.

The recent loss in Istanbul really cannot be understated. Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city by far, with a population of more than 15 million people, which is basically triple Ankara’s 5.4 million.

With the opposition also in control of Turkey’s third largest city, Izmir, Turkey’s three largest cities are now fully in the hands of opposition parties. As a result, analysts and experts say this will likely usher in a new chapter in Turkish politics.

Some members of the AKP could splinter off and even form new parties. Others who previously had supported Erdogan or had been allies could run against him in 2023.

Additionally, the election in Istanbul could trigger a cabinet reshuffle in the capital, as well as a shift in Turkey’s foreign policy.

Response

Regarding foreign policy, the election also comes amid tense relations between Erdogan and the U.S.

The Donald Trump administration objected to Turkey re-doing the Istanbul election, arguing that it disrupted important negotiations on Syria and other issues. The U.S. has also objected to Turkey’s plans to install Russian missile systems, over which the U.S. has even threatened sanctions.

Turkey’s close economic ties with Iran are also not doing them any favors in the eyes of the Trump administration.

Erdogan is set to meet with Trump at the Group of 20 summit meeting this week. Already, Erdogan is trying to shift the focus of the election, outlining his upcoming diplomatic trips.

Source Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Meanwhile, in Istanbul, tens of thousands of people celebrated Imamoglu’s win. Fireworks were set off, and the streets of Istanbul were packed with his supporters waving national flags and hanging out of car windows. Street parties continued on into of Monday morning.

Many believe the election has re-invigorated the young people in Istanbul. One university student told BCC, “Many young people desperately want to leave Turkey, but now, we might consider staying here. We are hopeful once again.”

However, there are others who are not happy with the outcome of the election. Another student told Al Jazeera that Imamoglu was less qualified than his opponent. “People just voted for the promises […] Because they appeal to them,” the student said. “But I don’t think they’ll be able to get what they want from Imamoglu.”

Additionally, throughout the whole election, Turkey’s state-run media outlets have been openly against Imamoglu, and have been quick to attack him while also reporting favorable news about his opponent.

Regardless, many think this is the beginning of the end for Erdogan, who himself once said, “Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Al Jazeera) (Reuters)

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Trump Ordered Strikes on Iran, Then Called Them Off

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  • President Donald Trump ordered air strikes on Iran, but later canceled the strikes after the operation was reportedly underway.
  • Trump ordered the strike after Iran shot down a U.S. drone on Thursday.
  • Iran said the drone was in their airspace, but the U.S. claimed it was in international waters.
  • In a series of tweets, Trump explained that he called off the attack after being informed that it would cause 150 casualties.

Iran Strike Ordered, Then Cancelled

President Donald Trump ordered air strikes on Iran after the country shot down a U.S. surveillance drone Thursday, but then called off the operations at the last moment.

In a series of tweets Friday morning, Trump said he called off the strikes after he was told they would cause 150 casualties, which was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.”

Trump claimed that the U.S. was “cocked & loaded to retaliate” against Iran, but he stopped the attacks “10 minutes before the strike” was set to launch.

A senior administration official who spoke to the New York Times, which first reported that Trump had canceled the strikes, said that the operation was well underway when Trump decided to call it off.

“Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down,” the Times reported.

The U.S. Drone and Iran

Earlier on Thursday, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it shot down a U.S. surveillance drone that had flown into Iran’s airspace.

U.S. Central Command confirmed shortly after that the drone had in fact been shot down, but argued that it was in international airspace.  

The commander of the IRGC’s aerospace division said in an interview with Iran’s state-run broadcaster on Friday that Iran had given “warnings” to the drone before they shot it down.

“When it did not redirect its route and continued flying toward and into our territory, we had to shoot it,” he said. “Our national security is a red line.”

U.S. Central Command disputed that version of events, saying in a statement that the incident was “an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace.”

Iran on Thursday released footage it said showed that the U.S. drone was shot down in Iranian territory.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also shared GPS coordinates that place the drone eight miles off Iran’s coast, which would place the drone inside the 12 nautical miles from the shore that legally belong to Iran under international law.

“We don’t seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters,” Zarif wrote in the tweet. “We’ll take this new aggression to #UN & show that the US is lying about international waters.”

The Defense Department responded by providing a rendered map of the drone’s flight path, which they argued showed that the drone never entered Iranian airspace.

Mixed Messages

Trump’s decision to strike Iran and his subsequent reversal is another example of the president’s hesitancy to start a conflict in the Middle East, even as more hawkish officials in his administration push for a more confrontational approach.

While meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House on Thursday, Trump spoke to journalists about Iran. When asked if the U.S. intended on striking Iran in retaliation, Trump responded, “You’ll soon find out.”

“They’re going to find out they made a very big mistake,” he said. “I have a feeling that it was a mistake made by somebody that shouldn’t have been doing what they did […] it could have been someone loose and stupid.”

He also said that it made a “big, big difference” that the drone was unmanned.

According to the New York Times, Trump’s national security advisers were divided on whether or not to respond militarily to Iran. Senior administration officials told the Times that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and C.I.A Director Gina Haspel were in favor of a military response.

However, top Pentagon officials worried that airstrikes could cause risk escalation, as striking Iran could be considered an act of war under international norms.

Pompeo and Bolton have often alluded to responding to Iran with military force, even as Trump has reiterated that he would prefer other alternatives.

Escalating tensions between Iran and the U.S. were further complicated in recent weeks. On Monday, Iran announced that it would exceed the amount of uranium it has been allowed to stockpile under the 2015 nuclear deal in 10 days, if European nations did not do more to alleviate U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran.

Last Thursday, the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on two tankers off the coast of Oman. Iran denied the accusations.

Pompeo responded to the attacks during an interview with Fox & Friends on Sunday, where he said that the U.S. had not ruled out military action. “The United States is going to make sure that we take all actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise, to achieve that outcome,” he said.

In contrast, Trump said in an interview with Fox & Friends last Friday that while Iran did attack the tankers, he was not looking for war, and instead favored engagement with the Iranian leadership.

“I’m ready when they are,” Trump said. “Whenever they’re ready, it’s O.K. In the meantime, I’m in no rush.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Al Jazeera)

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Severe Water Shortage in India Sparks Protests

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  • Water shortages across the state of Tamil Nadu, India have left the 4.6 million people in the city of Chennai without water, forcing the government to ship it in by truck.
  • A protest over the shortages in the city of Coimbatore on Wednesday resulted in the arrests of hundreds who staged a demonstration in front of a local government building.
  • Experts say the drought is caused by the late monsoon season and poor government planning, but has been exacerbated by climate change.
  • According to a new government study, 40 percent of India’s population will not have access to drinking water by 2030.

Protests

Hundreds of people were arrested in the state of Tamil Nadu, India on Wednesday after protests over state-wide water shortages broke out.

The protestors demonstrated in front of a local government building in the city of Coimbatore and carried empty water containers. Most of the protestors who were arrested were reportedly members of the main opposition party in the state.

According to India Today, police arrested the protestors because they had not received permission to hold the demonstration. Currently, it is unclear how many people were arrested. CNN reported at least 550 people had been detained.

Indian newspapers seemed to be split on the number, with some publications reporting 400 people were arrested, while others cited police reports saying it was actually closer to 700.

Water Crisis

While the water shortages are statewide, they are the most extreme in the city of Chennai, which is the state capital and India’s sixth largest city. The drought has essentially left the entire city of around 4.6 million people without water.

Over the last few weeks, the four reservoirs that supply water to the millions of residents in the region have nearly run dry. As a result, the state government has had to truck in tons and tons of water.

Now, every day, hundreds of thousands of residents are forced to wait in line for hours in the summer heat just to fill plastic containers with water, while many others are still left without any at all.

The shortage has been described as one of the worst in years, and it also comes as the region is facing an extreme heatwave that has already killed hundreds of people. Schools, businesses, and restaurants have been forced to close.

The water crisis has also caused unrest in the community. People have started fighting over water, with clashes breaking out across the city. According to reports, trucks transporting water to the people have been hijacked, and the drivers have even been attacked.

What Caused the Shortage?

There are several causes for the recent shortages in Tamil Nadu.

The main reason for the water crisis is the fact that the seasonal monsoon rains are late. The monsoon season usually starts in early June and is essential for replenishing India’s water supplies each year.

However, so far, it has barely rained at all this season. As a result, the state’s Madras High Court has accused the Tamil Nadu government of negligence and poor management.

The court argued that the government has just passively waited for the monsoons to come, rather than being proactive about it, despite the fact that a late and dry monsoon season was predicted.

Another cause of the shortages is the lack of proper infrastructure. Even when the monsoons do come, the state’s current infrastructure often is unable to store water adequately. Experts say that is largely due to the fact that the state does not have rainwater harvesting or recycling.

India also relies on groundwater collection. However, groundwater has been depleted by years of drilling into the earth and urban development that has destroyed the wetlands.

That groundwater depletion is especially bad in large cities, and disproportionately affects low-income families who rely almost entirely on groundwater.

A Growing Crisis

India experiences droughts every year and smaller towns have even run out of water in the past.

According to a 2018 report from the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI), a government think tank, droughts all over India caused water shortages that impacted 600 million people.

Only one in four Indian households have drinking water at home and nearly 200,000 people die each year because of inadequate water supply or water contamination.

However, Chennai is the first major city to have such a severe water shortage.

According to NITI, at least 21 cities in India, including the capital New Delhi, will run out of groundwater by 2020, impacting around 100 million people. Additionally, 40 percent of India’s population will not have access to drinking water by 2030.

All of these problems are expected to get worse with climate change, which experts say will make monsoon rains more erratic and water shortages more common.

This is especially problematic for India, where about 70 percent of the population depends on agriculture, and about 80 percent of water goes to agriculture.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Al Jazeera) (India Today)

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