Posts Tagged ‘airport security’

MH370: Chinese media blame Malaysia but were they expecting an attack?

March 10, 2014

The blame game has started but it has started much too early.

For the Chinese media, blame is already clear. It is either Malaysia (if terrorism) or Malaysia Airlines (if aircraft fault) to blame. For the Malaysian Home Minister it is incompetence among his passport control staff. (Note that this is passport control for passengers leaving the country). Malaysia Airlines is also being criticised for not even knowing where and when the aircraft disappeared.

The rush to judgement by the Chinese does make me wonder whether they were expecting something. The recent knife attack by terrorists at Kunming Railway station where 29 died may not be irrelevant. The Chinese media were not pleased then, when the Western media were divided in calling the knife-wielding attackers “dissidents” or “terrorists”. I have the distinct perception – from their response and their allocation of blame – that the Chinese know much more about MH370 than they are letting on.

China does not also seem entirely satisfied with the search efforts for the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 and are stepping up their own efforts to locate it:

XinhuaChina creates search plan for Malaysia Airlines jet

Chief of China’s Maritime Search and Rescue Center He Jianzhong said Monday the country has created a plan for the search and rescue of a missing Malaysia Airlines jet. The search and rescue plan involves four patrol and rescue vessels and two naval warships. The search range of the six ships has also been clarified, said He, who is also vice minister of transport.

Chinese warship Mianyang and a marine police vessel with hull number 3411 have begun searching the sea where the Beijing-bound MH370 flight from Kuala Lumpur might have lost contact, he said. He said that three more patrol and rescue vessels under the command of the transport ministry are expected to arrive in the area on Monday and Tuesday. Their hull numbers are 115, 31 and 101.

Most of the passengers on MH370 were from China and there is an assumption in the Chinese media that a terrorist act must have taken place and there is a growing criticism of Malaysian security arrangements and their speed of response. The Malaysian Home Minister is rattled – see previous post- and is looking for scapegoats. The acting Malaysian Transport Minister does not know very much. For the Chinese media, if it was an aircraft problem then it was clearly the fault of Malaysian Airlines and if it was a terrorist act then it was equally clearly the fault of Malaysian security. (But I think the Chinese are protesting too loudly and much too quickly. They were – perhaps –  expecting some kind of an attack).

BBCA commentary in the Beijing Times notes that Premier Li Keqiang said he was “very worried” over the missing plane and added that his government will continue to be a “strong shield” for people who are overseas.

“When the citizens are out of the country, their dignity is closely linked to the dignity of the country. When the country is strong and prosperous, especially if it respects the citizens and protects them, citizens will feel confident and proud when they are abroad,” it says.

Criticising Malaysia for not responding swiftly during the initial stages of the problem, the Global Times Chinese edition says the incident shows there were “obvious loopholes in security checks” in Malaysia. The daily calls for better security for Chinese holidaymakers.

“The Chinese society is no longer in the era of poverty, life is no longer cheap. We demand safety of food, air, water as well as transportation. So we pay great attention to the safety situation in holiday destinations in other countries which are popular among the Chinese,” it says.


China’s state-run media on Monday lashed out at Malaysia and its national carrier over their handling of the missing passenger jet, calling for a swifter response effort and tightened airport security.

Nearly two-thirds of the 239 people aboard Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 were from China, and if the loss of the aircraft is confirmed, it would be China’s second-worst air disaster in history. 

“The Malaysian side cannot shirk its responsibilities,” the Global Times newspaper, which is close to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, wrote in a scathing editorial. “The initial response from Malaysia was not swift enough.

“There are loopholes in the work of Malaysia Airlines and security authorities,” it said.

“If it is due to a deadly mechanical breakdown or pilot error, then Malaysia Airlines should take the blame. If this is a terrorist attack, then the security check at the Kuala Lumpur airport and on the flight is questionable.”

The China Daily newspaper wrote in an editorial that “terrorism cannot be ruled out”, with Malaysian and international authorities still at a loss to explain how at least two passengers were able to board with stolen Italian and Austrian passports.

“Who were they and why were they using false passports?” the paper asked.

“The fact that some of the passengers on board were travelling with false passports should serve as a reminder to the whole world that security can never be too tight, at airports in particular, since terrorism, the evil of the world, is still trying to stain human civilisation with the blood of innocent lives,” it added.

Airport security and the monetisation of distrust

February 25, 2014

I am just back after a trip of 10 days and have suffered the travails of airport security at 5 airports.

It occurs to me that the behaviour of the security personnel (by definition composed of people required to follow a particular protocol and required NOT TO THINK) is primarily a measure of distrust.

  1. The “security” industry is just too large and too lucrative to disappear.
  2. Whether or not airport security achieves its purpose is not measurable and it is to the industry’s benefit that it not be measurable.
  3. The greater the inconvenience and hassle generated, the greater the perception that something useful is being achieved. (Hassle free security checks – which could be done – is not beneficial to the industry).
  4. The security checks are the single most disruptive and stressful part of the journey.
  5. Idiot security staff (chosen so since they are not required to think) are vested with a power to ruin your travel experience and doing so is one of the little pleasures they have in their jobs. They are more formidable than any immigration control officer.

Distrust has been monetised and some industries are making a killing. It is the monetisation of the precautionary principle where it pays handsomely to be alarmist.

I will not see a return in my lifetime to the days when the travel itself was a pleasurable experience. Those days are long since gone and will probably never return.

Fortunately it is still exciting to arrive.

And so to bed…

July 15, 2013
Delhi street

Delhi street (Photo credit: April_May)

It has been a hectic week in Delhi.

A trip covering about 30 degrees of latitude and 60 degrees of longitude. From 58.7057° N, 15.7674° E to 29.0167° N, 77.3833° E and back.

I first lived in Delhi in the 1950’s and the city has grown out of all recognition. Size and population and traffic have exploded. The infrastructure has only just about managed to keep pace. (Considering the rate of growth that itself is no mean achievement.) Every home boiled water then and uses water purifiers today. You were subject to sporadic loss of power then and now put up with regular “load shedding” (as demand side power management is called). But inverters and generators are common and the urban Delhi dweller can “make do”. He has to – he has no choice.

Delhi Urban population –

The same “standard meal” (a bowl of rice, 4 chappatis, a bowl of lentils, 2 servings of vegetables and a small bowl of yogurt) costs Rs 30 ($0.50) from the street vendor, Rs 60 from the roadside dhaba, Rs 70 from the office canteen and about Rs 800 at an upmarket hotel restaurant. But mangoes from Uttar Pradesh were in season and mangoes and papaya everyday for breakfast was refreshing. And my hosts were kind enough to pack 10kgs of mangoes I could bring back with me.


Prolonging problems to keep selling the solutions?

December 12, 2012

While going through security checks at a number of airports this week, I got to wondering whether once a “commercial” solution to a “problem” has been “found” there is a tendency to keep the problem alive long after it is no longer a problem – just to keep the sales of a commercial solution alive. I was then sitting through a presentation by a start-up company in the carbon sequestration business and was struck by the fact the entire marketing strategy is built on building up a fear of carbon emissions and the strategy collapses if this false premise is abandoned. The  questions then started piling up:

  1. Airport Security – Is the vested interests of the security industry (manufacturers of scanning machines, security manpower companies etc.) such that the perceptions of security risks will never be allowed to diminish?
  2.  Computer security – Is there a vested interest of the virus protection software suppliers to ensure that perceptions of risks are never allowed to diminish? and does it extend as far as – directly or indirectly – helping the production of damaging viruses?
  3.  Renewable energy: All the billions spent in subsidising the development and deployment of  wind and solar power are in the pursuit of a solution to a problem that does not exist but where the vested interest is too strong to allow the perception of the problem to diminish or disappear.
  4. Carbon sequestration: As with renewable energy subsidies, the billions milked from tax money for the development of carbon sequestration systems now creates a vested interest in first denying that carbon sequestration is uselss for its stated objective and second that reduction of carbon dioxide emissions is irrelevant to trying to control climate (if at all such control is possible).
  5. Influensa vaccines. The benefits of vaccination against flu are dubious but the vested interest of the sellers of the vaccines in maintaining the fear of flu every winter  are obvious.

I feel sure there must be many cases where solution providers work to keep the problem alive and well.

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