TIME Aviation

The Mystery of Flight 370 Haunts Families and Baffles Experts a Year After Its Disappearance


Without a single scrap of debris, the search for the missing jet will likely end soon, taking with it all remaining hope

You can’t blame Jennifer Chong for being a nervous flyer.

Every time she boards a plane, the resident of Melbourne faces the inevitable walk past the cabin’s front row where her husband of more than 20 years, Chong Ling Tan, had been seated on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Twelve months on from arguably the greatest aviation mystery of all time, Chong says those empty seats can still induce panic.

“I start to think that if anything happened, like a hijacking, then he would be the first one who knows because he’s the one nearest to the cockpit,” Chong tells TIME.

Sunday marks one year since MH370 veered off course en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and vanished from radar screens. Planes and ships from seven countries have completed more than 300 sorties over vast tracts of the southern Indian Ocean in search for the errant Boeing 777, but not a single scrap of debris has been recovered.

Now just four boats continue to comb a 23,000-sq.-mi. patch of ocean floor 1,000 miles off the coast of Perth, western Australia. Australian authorities are set to finish trawling the designated search area in May.

During a parliamentary address earlier this week, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott acknowledged that officials are beginning to question the value of continuing beyond this point. “I can’t promise that the search will go on at this intensity forever, but we will continue our very best efforts to resolve this mystery and provide some answers,” he said.

But for Chong and hundreds of other distraught relatives, simply giving up translates to abandoning the investigation into how a plane with 239 passengers and crew can simply vanish.

“They’re trying to slowly put the thoughts in the minds of the public and the families, so that they will slowly wind down the search after May because it’s about to money and who’s going to pay,” she says.

Justin Green, a lawyer representing 24 of the victims’ relatives, says the search must continue not just for the families’ sake, but also to improve aviation-safety standards in the future. Green points to the years investigators took to uncover the crucial findings that explained other disasters, such as Air France Flight 447 and TWA 800. “None of the subsequent improvements [to airline safety] would have happened if the countries involved had just given up,” he says.

In late January, Malaysian authorities caught families and aviation experts off guard with a sudden announcement that MH370’s disappearance had been caused by an accident and that no one had survived.

In the absence of facts, myriad theories have surfaced over the past year offering plausible scenarios to explain what transpired. These include that the plane was shot down or driven into the sea by a deranged pilot or passenger. According to experts, no theory can’t be wholly dismissed until concrete evidence proves otherwise.

“With the Malaysian government declaring this an accident, well does that limit or preclude further investigation into these other areas?” asks Mike Daniel, an international aviation-safety consultant based in Singapore. “There’s a difference between an accident investigation as opposed to a criminal investigation.”

Despite talk of halting the investigation or ratcheting down recovery operations, Australian officials remain upbeat that their current search will yield results. “We are cautiously optimistic we’ll find that aircraft,” Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, told the BBC this week. “We know we will find that aircraft if it’s in the priority search area.”

However, experts remain divided over where to look for the plane. Are the four Australian search vessels mapping large swaths of the Indian Ocean’s floor even scanning the correct hemisphere? Some even suggest the plane headed north towards the Caucuses.

“The fact that nothing has been found by the way of debris suggests to me that they’re looking in the wrong place,” said Jason Middleton, an aviation professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

The current search zone was drawn up in accordance with calculations based on a number of electronic handshakes MH370 made with a satellite during its last hours of flight. But Middleton argues that these assessments are problematic at best.

“These calculations rely on a whole bunch of issues that are not easily verifiable by outside sources,” explains Middleton. “The science is not demonstrably repeatable.”

But without a shred of evidence, crucial questions will remain unanswered. Why were the transponders deliberately turned off? Why did whoever had control repeatedly change course? Why was there no Mayday call? And why have Malaysian authorities been reticent to release the flight’s cargo manifest in its entirety?

In lieu of answers, the public clamors for new technology to track planes wherever they might be, yet there’s little evidence that any advances could have prevented this mystery, given that existing systems were deliberately scuttled in the cockpit. (Pilots need to be able to turn off all onboard electronics in case of fire.)

“I don’t know really what to believe. It’s just so bizarre to me,” says Chong. “One year later and I’m in the same position with no further answers.”

As the anniversary approaches, Chong says she plans to brave another flight from Melbourne, where she moved two years ago, to Kuala Lumpur to gather with other families and call for the continuation of the search. Without answers, she tries to remain hopeful that the plane will one day be recovered, but admits that it’s difficult at times to convince herself that her husband and his fellow passengers will be found.

“I’m still hopeful that they will be able to find the plane,” she says. “But we don’t know when. Maybe in one year, 10 years or 40 years. I’ll be holding out hope until then.”

TIME Ukraine

Top U.S. General Says Washington Should Consider Arming Ukraine

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill
Joshua Roberts—Reuters Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Martin Dempsey testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 3, 2015

"Putin’s ultimate objective is to fracture NATO," says General Martin Dempsey

The U.S. military’s leading general says Washington should now consider providing Ukrainian forces with lethal aid to help combat the nation’s pro-Kremlin insurgency.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey argued during a Senate hearing on Tuesday that the allegedly Russian-backed rebellion threatens to undo more than six decades of peace in Europe and could potentially splinter the NATO alliance.

“I think we should absolutely consider lethal aid and it ought to be in the context of NATO allies because Putin’s ultimate objective is to fracture NATO,” Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The general’s remarks echo similar pleas made in recent months by a plethora of top American foreign policy officials. The U.S. has already provided approximately $100 million in nonlethal aid to Ukraine, but has refrained thus far from directly arming the country.

However, experts question whether supplying Kiev with advanced weaponry would force the Kremlin to reassess its policy goals in Ukraine.

“Russia is not going to give up in Ukraine, because it is protecting its strategic interests in Ukraine,” Alexander Korolev, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, tells TIME. “Even if the costs of the conflict are very high for Russia, Russia will be willing to bear those costs.”

On Monday, the U.N. published a report claiming that an estimated 6,000 people have been killed and at least 1 million displaced since the pro-Russian uprising erupted in southeastern Ukraine last April.

“All aspects of people’s lives are being negatively affected, and the situation is increasingly untenable for the local inhabitants, especially in areas controlled by the armed groups,” said Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement.

Representatives from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe reported this week that fighting in rebel strongholds in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions appears to be waning, after a tenuous cease-fire was inked in Belarus last month.

But during a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said lasting peace wouldn’t be achievable until Moscow returns the Crimea peninsula, which was annexed by Russian forces last March.

“There could be no slightest way of normalizing or getting back to business in the relations between Ukraine and Russia without returning to status quo and establishing full Ukrainian sovereignty over Crimea,” he said.

TIME celebrities

No, It’s Not a Crime to Make the Face on a Canadian $5 Bill Look Like Spock

Nimoy poses at the party for the release of the Blu-Ray DVD of "Star Trek Into Darkness" at the California Science Center in Los Angeles
Mario Anzuoni—Reuters Leonard Nimoy poses at a party celebrating the DVD release of "Star Trek Into Darkness" at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California on Sept. 10, 2013

However, officials said defacing banknotes was “inappropriate"

Canadians honoring the memory of Leonard Nimoy by altering older versions of the country’s $5 bill to look like Star Trek’s Spock are not breaking the law, according to officials.

Canucks have long been touching up Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s features with black ink to make the country’s seventh Prime Minister resemble the famed Vulcan.

But following Nimoy’s death last week, Canadians have been posting images of their own revamped $5 notes online en masse, sparking fears that an untold number were breaking the law.

On Monday, the Bank of Canada dispelled rumors that it’s illegal to deface or even “mutilate” the country’s currency, according to a report in the Canadian Press.

However, the country’s fiscal authorities pointed out that marring the national currency could be deemed disrespectful.

“The Bank of Canada feels that writing and markings on banknotes are inappropriate as they are a symbol of our country and a source of national pride,” Josianne Menard, a spokesperson from the Bank of Canada, told the Canadian Press.

TIME Jordan

Jordan’s King Abdullah Says the War Against ISIS ‘Is Our War’

"It has been for a long time," he tells CNN

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has intensified his rhetoric in the kingdom’s fight against ISIS.

“It is our war. It has been for a long time,” King Abdullah told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria during an interview that aired on Sunday.

The King went on to describe the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria’s fighters as “outlaws” of Islam and said ISIS had set up an “irresponsible caliphate to try to expand their dominion over Muslims.”

ISIS forces captured Royal Jordanian Air Force fighter pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh last December and later burned him alive during a notorious video that they published online. The killing sparked retaliatory attacks from Jordan led by King Abdullah personally.

Read more at CNN

TIME Research

A New Treatment for Migraines Is Showing Promising Results

Getty Images

Treating migraines effectively might have gotten a lot easier, according to a new study published this month.

Researchers at the Albany Medical Center claim that a new innovative treatment offers chronic migraine sufferers prolonged relief from the debilitating headaches.

During the procedure, clinicians insert a spaghetti-size catheter through the patient’s nasal passages and administer lidocaine to the sphenopalatine ganglion — a nerve bundle behind the nose that is associated with migraines. It should be noted that no needles actually touch the patient during the process.

“When the initial numbing of the lidocaine wears off, the migraine trigger seems to no longer have the maximum effect that it once did,” said Dr. Kenneth Mandato, the study’s lead researcher at Albany Medical Center.

Following the procedure, 88% of patients reported that they required less or no migraine medication to provide additional pain relief.

[Science Daily]

Read next: 8 Things You Don’t Know About Supplements

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME viral

How #TheDress Went Viral

Tracking an Internet sensation

Everyone knows the Internet can spread information at lightning speed. But few demonstrations of that have been more conclusive to more people than a seemingly banal debate about the color of a dress.

Before the phrase “black and blue or white and gold?” became a universally recognized question, the Internet was pursuing its usual obsession with kittens or celebrities (or runaway llamas).

Then, on Thursday at 6:14 pm EST, Buzzfeed published the story “What Colors Are This Dress?” based on a Tumblr page, where the hue of a Scottish woman’s dress was being fiercely debated among her friends and subsequently other netizens.

In a matter of hours the likes of Taylor Swift were weighing in on the matter, while memes from as far away as Burma mocked the debate with a dose of political satire.

When this article was being posted, the original Buzzfeed story had notched up a record-breaking 20.8 million views.

“At one point tonight (ET) more than 670,000 people were on Buzzfeed.com simultaneously, 500k of those on mobile, and half of those people were reading the dress post,” said the website.

Gawker and Vox quickly followed suit with online outlines. So did TIME. Then came the scientific explainers (ours is here) and then interviews with the woman who took the original picture. Expect the chin-stroking academic takes in a few hours time, as European and East Coast professors awake to a world that is consumed by such things as the precise color of a garment, and ponder its significance.

The Internet may remain poles apart over where the article of clothing falls in the color spectrum but #thedress, and the speed with which debate over it spread, shows us just how connected we all actually are.

Oh, and by the way: it’s #blueandblack.

TIME viral

This May Be Why You’re Seeing the Dress as White and Gold

Science explains an Internet sensation

The Internet officially broke on Thursday night thanks to a dress that had defied the classification of color. Is it white and gold or is it black and blue?

“I’ve studied individual differences in color vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.” Jay Neitz, a color-vision researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, told Wired.

However, the actual physiology of your eye might come into play with how you perceive the dress. According to Neitz, an individual’s lens, which is part of the eyeball, changes over the course of one’s lifespan. Individuals are less sensitive to blue light when they are older. Which could explain why older netizens are seeing white and gold. But, in the absence of hard-core data relating to age and perceptions regarding the dress, this theory cannot be proved yet.

At the same time, the way the dress is captured on camera could also be playing a significant role in this debate. According to Science Daily, humans are blessed with something called color constancy, which means that while color should be easily identifiable whether you’re in bright or dull lighting, things can change if the lighting is colored.

MORE Taylor Swift Says the Dress Is Black and Blue

“The wavelength composition of the light reflected from an object changes considerably in different conditions of illumination. Nevertheless, the color of the object remains the same,” writes Science Daily.

So, because the photo is taken in lighting with a blue hue, it may be causing the blues in the dress to reflect a white color. And while the dress may in fact be blue and black, the lighting does, for some viewers, make it appear to be white and gold.

However, experts agree that the only individuals who can accurately identify “the dress” are those who see it in person.

“Anyone who has ever worked in color management knows that a digital image is subject to many variables, including screen brightness and contrast, color calibration and ICC profile, the type of screen material and it’s corresponding lighting method, as well as the ambient light present,” says Matthew Sexton, a web designer of nearly 10-years experience, who formerly worked in TIME’s international production department.

“If you’re viewing it on a screen … it’s both people!”

Read next: The Sports World Weighs In on the Colors of #TheDress

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Military

U.S. Military Records Longest Period Without a Combat Death Since 9/11

US Army Medevac Tends To The Wounded In Afghanistan
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A U.S. Army doctor monitors a patient inside a MEDEVAC helicopter on June 20, 2010, in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

It’s been more than two months since a U.S. solider has died in a combat zone

The U.S. military is currently enjoying its longest stretch without a combat death since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Wednesday marked the 75th day since American forces suffered its last fatality, when two soldiers were killed in Afghanistan’s Parwan province on Dec. 12 after their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device, reports the Washington Post.

The newspaper tallied the figure following a panel discussion at New York University’s campus in Washington D.C., after the father of a deceased serviceman raised a question pertaining to combat deaths during a Q&A session.

Read more at the Washington Post.

TIME Singapore

Singapore’s Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew Is Still on Life Support

Lee Kuan Yew
Wong Maye-E — AP Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew attends the Standard Chartered Singapore Forum in Singapore on March 20, 2013

The former head of government was admitted to hospital earlier this month after falling ill with pneumonia

Singaporean officials confirmed on Thursday that the country’s founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, remains on life support in an intensive care unit.

The Prime Minister’s office released a statement clarifying Lee’s condition, after rumors swirled earlier this week that the 91-year-old former head of government had died.

“Mr Lee Kuan Yew is still warded in ICU at Singapore General Hospital. He remains sedated and on mechanical ventilation,” read the statement. “His doctors have restarted him on antibiotics, and are continuing to monitor him closely.”

Lee, who is largely credited with creating the conditions that allowed the former British colony to transform into a thriving international business hub, was first admitted to Singapore’s General Hospital on Feb. 5 after succumbing to severe pneumonia.

According to an earlier statement, Lee was both “conscious and lightly sedated” over the weekend.

TIME Drugs

Police Arrest Four Wesleyan Students Tied to Mass ‘Molly’ Overdose

Undated handout of ecstasy pills, which contain MDMA as their main chemical
Reuters Ecstasy pills, which contain MDMA as their main chemical, are pictured in this undated handout from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Two students remain in the hospital

Police in Middletown, Conn., have arrested four Wesleyan students in connection with a mass MDMA overdose over the weekend involving a bad batch of “molly” that left 12 people hospitalized.

The four students are reportedly in police custody and authorities are collecting evidence related to the incident.

“We take very seriously allegations concerning the distribution of dangerous drugs, and the university will continue to cooperate with state and local officials,” said Michael Roth, Wesleyan’s president, in a statement released Tuesday night.

School officials also announced that only two Wesleyan students are still being treated at a hospital in nearby Hartford.

Molly is the street name for MDMA, colloquially known as ecstasy, that is thought to be unusually pure and normally consumed in capsule form.

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