Radar signals show a Malaysia Airlines plane that has been missing for more than 24 hours may have turned back, Malaysian officials have said.
Rescue teams looking for the plane have now widened their search area.
Investigators are also checking CCTV footage of two passengers who are believed to have boarded the plane using stolen passports.
Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared south of Vietnam with 239 people on board.
Air and sea rescue teams have been searching an area of the South China Sea south of Vietnam for more than 30 hours.
Malaysia's civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur that the search area had been expanded to include the west coast of Malaysia.
Five passengers booked on the flight did not board, he added. Their luggage was consequently removed.
There are now 40 ships and 34 aircraft from nine different nationalities taking part in the search. But no signal has been received from the plane's emergency locator transmitter, Malaysian aviation authorities say.
Air force chief Rodzali Daud said the investigation was now focusing on a recording of radar signals that showed there was a "possibility" the aircraft had turned back from its flight path.
Vietnamese navy ships which reached two oil slicks spotted earlier in the South China Sea found no signs of wreckage.
The BBC has confirmed that a man falsely using an Italian passport and a man falsely using an Austrian passport purchased tickets at the same time, and were both booked on the same onward flight from Beijing to Europe on Saturday.
The BBC's Alice Budisatrijo describes the growing search effort
"There is a possibility the aircraft did make a turn back"
Both had purchased their tickets from China Southern Airlines, which shared the flight with Malaysia Airlines, and they had consecutive ticket numbers.
The real owners had their passports stolen in Thailand in recent years.
Aerial search teams have yet to spot any wreckage
Military ships have been searching the sea south of Vietnam
Developments have been the subject of intense media attention in Beijing
The international police agency Interpol confirmed that at least two passports recorded as lost or stolen in its database were used by passengers on the flight - and that no checks of its database had been made for either passport between the time they were stolen and the departure of the flight.
"Whilst it is too soon to speculate about any connection between these stolen passports and the missing plane, it is clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol databases," the agency's Secretary General Ronald Noble said in a statement.
He expressed frustration that few of Interpol's 190 member countries "systematically" search the database.
Malaysia's Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said international agencies including the FBI had joined the investigation and all angles were being examined.
"Our own intelligence have been activated and, of course, the counterterrorism units... from all the relevant countries have been informed," he said.
"The main thing here for me and for the families concerned is that we find the aircraft."
The passengers on the flight were of 14 different nationalities. Two-thirds were from China, while others were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.
The plane vanished from radar south of Vietnam at 17:30 GMT Friday (01:30 local time Saturday).
Malaysia Airlines had previously said it last had contact with air traffic controllers 120 nautical miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu.
Distraught relatives and loved ones of those on board are being given assistance at both the arrival and departure airports.
Many have expressed anger at the lack of information.
"I can't understand the airline company. They should have contacted the families first thing," a middle-aged woman told AFP news agency at Beijing airport, after finding out her brother-in-law was on the flight.
Some relatives said they were still hoping for miracle, reports the BBC's John Sudworth in Beijing.
Texas firm Freescale Semiconductor says 20 of its Malaysian and Chinese employees were on the flight, according to a statement on its website.
Malaysia's national carrier is one of Asia's largest, flying nearly 37,000 passengers daily to some 80 destinations worldwide.
Correspondents say the route between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing has become more and more popular as Malaysia and China increase trade.
Written By tap taru on Monday, March 10, 2014 | 12:14 AM
Radar signals show a Malaysia Airlines plane that has been missing for more than 24 hours may have turned back, Malaysian officials have said.
Written By tap taru on Saturday, March 8, 2014 | 12:39 PM
Flight MH370, operating a Boeing B777-200 aircraft left Kuala Lumpur at 12.21 a.m. (11.21 a.m. ET Friday) and had been expected to land in the Chinese capital at 6.30 a.m. (5.30 p.m. ET) the same day.
"We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts with flight MH370," Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said in a statement.
"Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their search-and-rescue teams to locate the aircraft," it said.
An official at the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) said the plane had failed to check in as scheduled at 1721 GMT (12.21 p.m. ET) while it was flying over the sea between Malaysia and Ho Chi Minh city.
"Its code didn't appear in our system," Bui Van Vo, the CAAV's flight control department manager, told Reuters by telephone.
China's official Xinhua news agency also quoted the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) as saying the flight lost contact while flying through Vietnamese airspace.
The CAAC said 158 Chinese nationals were on board the plane. China's aviation regulators said they had not received any signals from the plane and that there had been no reports of any aircraft crashing in Chinese waters.
"We are extremely worried," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing. "We are doing all we can to get details. The news is very disturbing. We hope everyone on the plane is safe."
Chinese state TV also said there had not been any immediate reports of a plane crashing in Chinese waters.
If the plane is found to have crashed, the loss would mark the second fatal accident involving a Boeing 777 in less than a year, after an unblemished safety record since the jet entered service in 1995.
Last summer, an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crash-landed in San Francisco, killing three passengers.
Boeing said it was aware of reports that the Malaysia Airlines plane was missing and was monitoring the situation but had no further comment.
Malaysia Airlines said it was contacting the families of those on board flight MH370 and had set up support facilities for those affected.
"Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support," the airline statement said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members."
Distressed family members of those on board had also begun gathering at Beijing airport on Saturday.
Chang Ken Fei, a Malaysian waiting at Beijing airport for friends to arrive, said: "I got here at seven (a.m.). At first I thought the plane was just delayed as normal, so I came a bit later, I've just been waiting and waiting.
"I asked them what was going on but they just tell us 'we don't know'."
Written By tap taru on Friday, March 7, 2014 | 5:33 PM
“The Keck Observatory showed us this thing was worth looking at with Hubble,” David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles said in a statement. “With its superior resolution, space telescope observations soon showed there were really 10 embedded objects, each with comet-like dust tails. The four largest rocky fragments are up to 400 yards in diameter, about four times the length of a football field.”
According to Hubble data, the asteroid began to break apart early last year, but its fragments are drifting away from each other very slowly at merely one mile per hour.
The scientists believe there are possibilities that P/2013 R3 is disintegrating due to a subtle effect of sunlight that gradually increases the rotation rate of the asteroid, whose components gradually succumb to the central force and then pull apart.
Astronomers said that the asteroid's remnants, weighing about 200,000 tons, could turn into meteoroids in the future, and a small fraction of the debris may blaze across the skies while others will eventually plunge into the sun.
Written By tap taru on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 | 5:05 PM
All of the objects appear to be manufactured as no type of natural process known could explain their creation. How humans 100,000 years ago would have been able to be technologically advanced to such a degree as to be able to create them is unknown. Is this mysterious discovery evidence that humans may have been more technologically advanced than previously believed or are the objects evidence of extraterrestrial contact or presence?
The structures have been studied by the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow, Syktyvkar and St. Petersburg and also at the Helsinki Institute in Finland to no avail. No official satisfactory conclusions have ever been made about the artifacts. Unfortunately any further researches on the objects have been stalled due to the death of Dr. Johannes Fiebag in 1999. He was the principal researcher in charge of the find.
The jury is still out on determining exactly what these tiny structures are and many varying theories have been proposed by supporters and detractors alike. No defining conclusions have ever been made and no satisfactory conclusions have been offered.
Is it possible that ancient humans were more technologically advanced than previously believed? Were all humans this advanced or were just a small portion of humanity capable of producing these?
Another definite possibility is that these objects are extraterrestrial in origin and were either technology provided to humans or discarded by an advanced alien race. Who knows?
The possibilities are endless but it is certain that much more study of these objects should occur and that they should shouldn’t be discarded by the scientific community without exploring all viable possibilities. Hopefully someone will pick up Dr. Johannes Fiebag’s mantle and continue to study these curious artifacts.
Written By tap taru on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 | 11:41 AM
The latest find, described online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, appears to belong to a new family of mega-viruses that infect only amoeba. But its revival in a laboratory stands as “a proof of principle that we could eventually resurrect active infectious viruses from different periods,” said the study’s lead author, microbiologist Jean-Michel Claverie of Aix-Marseille University in France.
“We know that those non-dangerous viruses are alive there, which probably is telling us that the dangerous kind that may infect humans and animals -- that we think were eradicated from the surface of Earth -- are actually still present and eventually viable, in the ground,” Claverie said.
With climate change making northern reaches more accessible, the chance of disturbing dormant human pathogens increases, the researchers concluded. Average surface temperatures in the area that contained the virus have increased more steeply than in more temperate latitudes, the researchers noted.
“People will go there; they will settle there, and they will start mining and drilling,” Claverie said. “Human activities are going to perturb layers that have been dormant for 3 million years and may contain viruses.”
Claverie’s co-author, Chantal Abergel, nonetheless cautioned that their finding is limited to one innocuous virus infecting an amoeba.“We cannot definitely say that there are some human pathogens in there,” she said.
They will reexamine the drill core samples, Abergel said, to “find out if there is anything there that is dangerous to humans and animals.”
Claverie’s laboratory was behind the discovery, in Chile, more than a decade ago, of the first giant DNA virus, dubbed Mimivirus. They next identified a far larger virus of an entirely different family in 2011, dubbing it Pandoravirus salinus, in homage to the mythical Pandora’s box that first unleashed evil on the world.
This time, they used an amoeba commonly found in soil and water as bait to draw out a virus from a Siberian permafrost core that had been dated to 30,000 years ago.
The finding described Monday looked like another Pandora, except it was 50% larger.
"Giant" in virology is still pretty tiny. A virus of one micron in size, or a thousandth of a millimeter, is considered huge. That's big enough to be seen with a normal light microscope. The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, measures one tenth of a micron.
The genome of the newly described virus, however, contained only about a quarter of the number of paired DNA building blocks as Pandora, and the prevailing type of these base pairs was similar to the kind that dominate the Mimivirus genome.
Researchers kept with the ominous mythological theme and dubbed their find Pithovirus, from the Greek pithos, the type of amphora, or jar, that Pandora opened (it was not a box, after all).
Pithovirus still has an unusually large genome -- 600,000 base pairs, which the researchers predict would include genes that code 467 proteins. The genome of Pandora virus contains more than 2.8 million base pairs and about 2,500 coding genes. For comparison: the tiny HIV retrovirus has 9,749 base pairs and nine coding genes; the virus that causes mononucleosis has about 172,000 base pairs and about 80 genes.
The prospect of finding additional viruses that prove to be viable in a host remains uncertain. Microbiologist Brent C. Christner, of Louisiana State University, who has done similar work on frozen microbes but was not involved in the study, cautioned that DNA is easily damaged and that viruses cannot replicate or mutate without a host. “They have no source of energy,” he said. “They have to hijack the mechanisms of the host cell.”
Nonetheless, the study further challenges the notion that viruses can be fully eradicated, Christner said. The genome described in the study, he noted, encodes 125 proteins involved in transcription, DNA repair and replication.
The researchers plan to reexamine large viruses that have been mistaken for bacteria in the past -- one such specimen, found in 2008, had infected an amoeba living in a 17-year-old woman’s contact lens solution.
They also plan to look more deeply into the Siberian ice cores. "We have a sample that dates to 3 million years old,” Abergel said.
Those samples could harbor ancient forms of relatively modern human pathogens, including smallpox, which was rampant in Siberia. Fragments of a smallpox virus, for example, have been identified in Siberian mummies dating from the late 17th century.
“I would not be surprised that those viruses are still in the ground,” Claverie said.
Written By tap taru on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 | 5:01 PM
Two radioactive cesium isotopes, cesium-134 and cesium-137, have been detected offshore of Vancouver, British Columbia, researchers said at a news conference. The detected concentrations are much lower than the Canadian safety limit for cesium levels in drinking water, said John Smith, a research scientist at Canada's Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Tests conducted at U.S. beaches indicate that Fukushima radioactivity has not yet reached Washington, California or Hawaii, said Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Mass.
"We have results from eight locations, and they all have cesium-137, but no cesium-134 yet," Buesseler said. (Isotopes are atoms of the same element that have different numbers of neutrons in their nuclei. In this case, cesium-137 has more neutrons than cesium-134.)
The scientists are tracking a radioactive plume from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Three nuclear reactors at the power plant melted down after the March 11, 2011, Tohoku earthquake. The meltdown was triggered by the massive tsunami that followed the quake.
The initial nuclear accident from the Fukushima reactors released several radioactive isotopes, such as iodine-131, cesium-134 and cesium-137. Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years and remains in the environment for decades. Cesium-134, with a half-life of only two years, is an unequivocal marker of Fukushima ocean contamination, Smith said.
"The only cesium-134 in the North Pacific is there from Fukushima," he said. Cesium-137, on the other hand, is also present from nuclear weapons tests and discharge from nuclear power plants.
Smith and his colleagues tracked rising levels of cesium-134 at several ocean monitoring stations west of Vancouver in the North Pacific beginning in 2011. By June 2013, the concentration reached 0.9 Becquerels per cubic meter, Smith said. All of the cesium-134 was concentrated in the upper 325 feet (100 m) of the ocean, he said. They are awaiting results from a February 2014 sampling trip.
The U.S. safety limit for cesium levels in drinking water is about 28 Becquerels, the number of radioactive decay events per second, per gallon (or 7,400 Becquerels per cubic meter). For comparison, uncontaminated seawater contains only a few Becquerels per cubic meter of cesium.
Cesium-137 levels at U.S. beaches were 1.3 to 1.7 Becquerels per cubic meter, Buesseler said. That's similar to background levels in the ocean from nuclear weapons testing, suggesting the Fukushima plume has not reached the U.S. coastline yet, he said.
The new monitoring data does not show which of two competing models best predicts the future concentration of Fukushima radiation along the U.S. West Coast, Smith said. These models suggest that radionuclides from Fukushima will begin to arrive on the West Coast in early 2014 and peak in 2016. However, the models differ in their predictions of the peak concentration of cesium — from a low of 2 to a maximum of 27 Becquerels per cubic meter. Both peaks are well below the highest level recorded in the Baltic Sea after Chernobyl, which was 1,000 Becquerels per cubic meter.
"It's still a little too early to know which one is correct," Smith said.
US doctors are warning of an emerging polio-like disease in California where 20 people have been infected.
Written By tap taru on Monday, February 24, 2014 | 9:31 PM
US doctors are warning of an emerging polio-like disease in California where up to 20 people have been infected.
A meeting of the American Academy of Neurology heard that some patients had developed paralysis in all four limbs, which had not improved with treatment.
The US is polio-free, but related viruses can also attack the nervous system leading to paralysis.
Doctors say they do not expect an epidemic of the polio-like virus and that the infection remains rare.
Polio is a dangerous and feared childhood infection. The virus rapidly invades the nervous system and causes paralysis in one in 200 cases. It can be fatal if it stops the lungs from working.
Global vaccination programmes mean polio is endemic in just three countries - Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
There have been 20 suspected cases of the new infection, mostly in children, in the past 18 months,
A detailed analysis of five cases showed enterovirus-68 - which is related to poliovirus - could be to blame.
In those cases all the children had been vaccinated against polio.
Symptoms have ranged from restricted movement in one limb to severe weakness in both legs and arms.
Dr Emanuelle Waubant, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, told the BBC: "There has been no obvious increase in the pace of new cases so we don't think we're about to experience an epidemic, that's the good news.
"But it's bad news for individuals unlucky enough to develop symptoms which tend to be moderate to severe and don't appear to improve too much despite reasonably aggressive treatment."
The cases have been spread over a 100-mile diameter (160km) so the research team do not think the virus represents a single cluster or outbreak.
However, many more people could have been infected without developing serious symptoms - as was the case with polio.
Dr Waubant suspects similar cases in Asia could explain why California is affected, but not the rest of the US.
Fellow researcher Dr Keith Van Haren, from Stanford University, said the cases "highlight the possibility of an emerging infectious polio-like syndrome" in California.
He added: "We would like to stress that this syndrome appears to be very, very rare. Any time a parent sees symptoms of paralysis in a child, the child should be seen by a doctor right away."
Commenting on the findings, Jonathan Ball, a professor of virology at the University of Nottingham, told the BBC: "Since the near-eradication of poliovirus, other enteroviruses have been associated with paralysis, but these viruses usually cause a very mild cold-like illness and severe complications are very rare.
"Two children showed evidence of being infected by a strain of virus called enterovirus-68, which has become strongly associated with outbreaks of respiratory illness.
"Whether or not this strain of enterovirus has caused these or other cases of paralysis is possible but remains conjecture, further studies will be needed to determine this."
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