Whats App wins the (700 kg) gold medal

Is there anything that Whats App cant do? It has opened glorious new vistas, especially for gold smugglers.

A public service message to prosperous BP readers (redundant, yes we know) who are also potential gold smugglers. Please think twice before landing up with 9Kg gold concealed in your belt or even (especially) 5 Kg gold hidden in your undies. It will embarrass your friends and family to the extreme (not that you really care). Please use your ingenuity if you must (drink it up). 

And yes, never ever involve minors. Why should they spend the rest of their life in pison because of your (vile) greed??

All in all one has to hand it to the Indians for their gold fetish- 700 kg smuggled in every day. Sheesh!!!
arresting a flight stewardess in the gold smuggling case for the first
time in the history of AP Customs, the air intelligence unit has
gathered vital details about the gangs operating from the city. Customs
sleuths have found out that smugglers are using mobile-based social
networking tool like ‘WhatsApp’ to exchange gold.


  On Wednesday,
customs sleuths nabbed Sadaf Khan, a flight stewardess of Emirates
airlines who arrived at the RGI Airport from Dubai with 13 kg gold
concealed in her baggage. During interrogation, Sadaf informed the
customs officials that the contraband was given to her by gold smuggler
Shujat Mohammed Ali in Dubai.

Sadaf also told customs sleuths
that Shujat had travelled with her in the Emirates flight from Dubai to
Hyderabad. After this confession, customs officials made Sadaf call
Shujat saying she was held up at the airport due to a technical problem
and asking him to come and collect the gold.

However, Shujat
grew suspicious and did not turn up at the airport. Later, customs
sleuths found that he boarded a flight back to Dubai on Wednesday night.
After coordinating with Dubai customs authorities, state officials got
Shujat deported to Hyderabad on Thursday.

During interrogation,
Shujat spilled the beans and confessed to customs officials about the
gold smuggling racket. A resident of Old City, Shujat had gone to Dubai a
decade ago and has been involved in the cell phone trade there.
However, according to the officials, the cell phone business in Dubai
was only a front and that Shujat has been actively involved in gold
smuggling for the past several years during which time he became a
frequent traveler between Dubai and Hyderabad.

In the wee
hours of Wednesday, Sadaf and Shujat boarded the same Emirates flight.
Their photos were ‘WhatsApped’ to the receivers in Hyderabad by
Dubai-based kingpins. Shujat told customs officials that they would
never know the exact receivers in advance but that the receivers would
identify them through the photos sent after which they would receive the
gold outside the airport.

While Sadaf claimed that she was
involved in smuggling for the first time, customs officials suspect that
she carried out gold smuggling at least two times before. For
transferring the gold, Sadaf was paid Rs 1 lakh per kilogram. Both
Shujat and Sadaf were produced before the court and remanded in judicial
custody. Customs officials are planning to file a petition before the
court seeking Shujat’s custody for further interrogation.




Not in our name (not quite good enough)

This letter is indeed one on which we would like to attach our name but for an important caveat. The Hindu pilgrims on the train who got burnt to death should have been mentioned (not as a justification for the riots). Leftists are so cute when they feel that others (including neutrals) will not notice their acts of omission even when they are the first people to find (micro level) fault with others.

Bottom-line murdering people is bad. Murdering people with state power backing is evil. This has been the bane of India since ever (starting from the Hindu era), but in the modern times one particular event stands out for its culpability: Direct Action Day declared by the Muslim League in 1946. Short term policies of might is right might have helped gain Pakistan (this is not to question the validity of the Pakistan movement as a flowering of muslim nationalism in SAsia) but then it went sour right away when people died for the cause of Bengali in 1952.

And now the sword (of criminals patronized by  the state) has fallen on 40 million Shias (even though the founder father of Pakistan was a Shia). Following the same logic espoused in 1940 they should be demanding partition (Indian muslim leaders have already warned about another partition- should Modi become head of Hindu-stan). Yet Shia voices in Pakistan stay silent. Why?

Without questioning the validity of India’s democratic election process, it is crucial to remember the role played by the Modi government in the horrifying events that took place in Gujarat in 2002.
The Muslim minority were overwhelmingly the victims of pillage, murder
and terror, resulting in the deaths of more than 2,000 men, women and
children. Women, in particular, were subjected to brutal acts of
violence and were left largely unprotected by the security forces. 

Although some members of Narendra Modi’s government are now facing
trial, Modi himself repeatedly refuses to accept any responsibility or
to render an apology. Such a failure of moral character and political
ethics on the part of Modi is incompatible with India’s secular
constitution, which, in advance of many constitutions across the world,
is founded on pluralist principles and seeks fair and full
representation for minorities. Were he to be elected prime minister, it
would bode ill for India’s future as a country that cherishes the ideals
of inclusion and protection for all its peoples and communities.

Anish Kapoor, artist
Homi K Bhabha, professor of the humanities, Harvard University
Salman Rushdie, novelist
Deepa Mehta, film director
Dayanita Singh, artist
Vivan Sundaram, artist
Dame Helena Kennedy, barrister
Imran Khan, solicitor
Mike Wood, British Member of Parliament
John McDonnell, British Member of Parliament
Fiona Mactaggart, British Member of Parliament
Jacqueline Bhabha, director of research, François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University
Kumar Shahani, film director
Geeta Kapur, art historian
Pragna Patel, director of the Southall Black Sisters
Sashi Kumar, film producer
Jayati Ghosh, economist
Prabhat Patnaik, economist
MK Raina, actor/film director
Ram Rahman, artist
Saeed Mirza, screenwriter
Anuradha Kapur, National School of Drama in Delhi
Kumkum Sangari, professor of English and the humanities, University of Wisconsin
Gautam Appa, emeritus professor, London School of Economics
Chetan Bhatt, professor of sociology, London School of Economics
Suresh Grover, director, Southall Monitoring Group




An orphan for life

Jashodaben Narendrabhai Modi was quite the orphan growing up (lost her mom when just two, lost her papa in Class X). And then she had to face adult-hood all alone (her brothers did support her). 

She is also the ideal Hindu woman -pati-brata bharatiya nari – who wishes her husband the best – “I just wish that he  progresses in whatever he does. I know
he will become PM one day”
–  even though he treated her the worst.
This is the generation which is on its way out. The youthful girls of today will no longer stand by their man in such a manner. They will demand respect…and if they dont get it…simply walk away. Regardless of the dust storm of atrocities that are blinding us right now, the sun is setting on patriarchy in India.
The man she claims is still her “husband” is the BJP’s prime
ministerial candidate and is considered the frontrunner for the top job
this year.  But Jashodaben, 62, a retired school teacher who was married
to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi when she was 17 — and separated
after about three years — is far removed from the rough and tumble of

She gets a monthly pension of Rs 14,000, lives mostly with a brother
and spends much of her time in prayer. In Ahmedabad to visit her
extended family, she agreed to be interviewed by The Indian Express but
refused to be photographed. Excerpts from her first interview since Modi
was named PM candidate:

For how long were you married and what is the status of the marriage?

We married when I was 17… I had quit studies once I went to his place
and remember him saying he wanted me to pursue my education. He would
mostly talk to me about completing my education. Initially he took
interest in talking to me and even in the affairs of the kitchen.

Do you feel burdened by the relationship, especially when the
media asks you about your strained relationship? Are you instructed to
remain low profile?

We have never been in touch and we parted on good terms as there were
never any fights between us. I will not make up things that are not
true. In three years, we may have been together for all of three months.
There has been no communication from his end to this day.

Do you track the news about Narendra Modi?

Yes, I read everything that I can get my hands on. I read all the
newspaper articles and also watch news on the television and like to
read about him.

If he becomes the next Prime Minister and moves to Delhi,
would you like to go back to him, if he calls you back? Will you try and
meet him?

I have never gone to meet him and we have never been in touch. I
don’t think he will ever call me. In whatever I say, I do not want it to
harm him. I just wish that he  progresses in whatever he does. I know
he will become PM one day!

Did he ever tell you he was leaving you or quitting the marriage?

He told me once that “I will be traveling across the country and
will go as and where I please; what will you do following me?” When I
came to Vadnagar to live with his family, he told me “why did you come
to your in-laws’ house when you are still so young, you must instead
focus on pursuing your studies”. The decision to leave was my own and
there was never any conflict between us. He never spoke to me about the
RSS or about his political leanings. 

When he told me he would be
moving around the country as he wished, I told him I would like to join
However, on many occasions when I went to my in-laws’ place, he
would not be present and he stopped coming there. He used to spend a lot
of time in RSS shakhas. So I too stopped going there after a point and I
went back to my father’s house.

Are you still legally Modi’s wife?

Every time people take his name, I am also mentioned somewhere, even
though in the background. Did you not come all the way and look all
over, to find me and come and speak to me? If I was not his wife, would
you have come to speak to me?

Do you feel slighted that your status as a wife has not been acknowledged by him in all these years?

No. I don’t feel bad, because I know that he is doing so due to
destiny and bad times. In such situations he has to say such things and
also has to lie. I don’t see my situation as being bad because I feel,
in a way, my luck has improved too.

Why have you never remarried?

After this experience, I don’t think I want to. My heart is not into it.

How did you support yourself after you moved back to your parents’ house?

My in-laws treated me well, but would never speak about the marriage.
My father paid the fees for my studies and I also got some financial
assistance from my brothers to continue my education. 

I had lost my
mother when I was two years old and I lost my father two years after I
started studying again and was in class 10. However, once I started my
studies, I started to enjoy learning and did my SSC in 1974, and went on
to complete my teachers training in 1976 and became a teacher in 1978.

How do you spend your retired days?

I enjoyed teaching and taught classes from the first to fifth grade
and taught all subjects. Nowadays, I mostly start my day by 4 am and
begin with prayers to Ambe Ma (Goddess Durga). I spend all my time in
Bhakti (prayer). I mostly live with my elder brother Ashok Modi who
lives in Unjha but I keep visiting the home of my other brother who
lives in Brahman Vada near Unjha whenever I feel like. I feel I have got
good brothers who have supported me.



The audacious (brown) Professor

Once upon a time there was a famous (black) Professor who spoke about the audacity of hope and reclaiming of the american dream. Now it is the turn of another (brown) Prof to demonstrate the audacity of grand larceny and (false) claiming of american dollars. A good man gone bad due to greed. No leniency will be shown (40 years in prison) as the authorities want to make an example out of this case (as they should).
Indian-American professor has been convicted by a federal grand jury of
defrauding the US government and students of $700,000 in research

Manoj Jha, a full-time professor at the Morgan State
University in Baltimore, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison
for each of four counts of wire fraud, and for one count each of mail
fraud and falsification of records; and 10 years in prison for theft of
government property.

46, has been found guilty of fraudulently obtaining $200,000 in grant
funds from NSF’s Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programme to
fund a highway project, and attempting to obtain another $500,000 via
the same project.

Federal prosecutors alleged Jha converted the
funds to his personal use; Jha made payments on his mortgage and
personal credit card and authorised approximately $11,000 in salary
payments to his wife, who performed no NSF-related work.

According to Justice Department, Jha incorporated Amar Transportation
Research and Consulting Inc (ATRC), and was its president and only
director. Trial evidence showed that Jha submitted funding proposals on behalf of ATRC to the STTR.

The stated purpose of Jha’s proposed project was to enhance current
models used by highway planners to optimise horizontal and vertical
highway routes, and ultimately, to commercialise the result



The anti anti-rape backlash

The patriarchy has been badly embarrassed by the atrocities committed on Indian women. It was a question of something must be done to wake up a society deep in slumber and sick up to the neck. The anti-rape ordinance that has been passed and may be considered a harsh response to a deadly virus that was sweeping through communities. Another thing good happened, women were no longer willing to take things lying down.

The two most vile cases have been fast-tracked (along with others) and now we have a number of “boys” sentenced to death. While in the Nirbhaya case (Delhi) boys were hindus, in the Shakti Mills case (Mumbai) boys were muslims.

Now the backlash has started and the politicians are finding a way to exploit anxieties about boys getting harsh punishment because of bad behavior. With Mullah Mulayam it is another way to win the hearts of muslim families (as if muslims dont care about what happens to girls). 
Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi has said that any woman who has sex outside marriage should be hanged, including rape victims. According to a report published in Mid-Day,
Azmi said, “Rape is punishable by hanging in Islam. But here, nothing
happens to women, only to men. Even the woman is guilty.”

Samajwadi Party leader further added, “In India, if you have sex with a
person with consent, it’s fine. But if that same person complains, it’s a
problem. Nowadays, we see a lot of such cases. Girls complain when
someone touches them, and even when someone doesn’t touch them. It
becomes a problem then, and the man’s honour is ruined in this. If rape
happens with or without consent, it should be punished as prescribed in

When asked for a solution to the problem of rapes, Azmi
had this to say: “Solution is this: any woman if, whether married or
unmarried, goes along with a man, with or without her consent, should be
hanged. Both should be hanged. It shouldn’t be allowed even if a woman
goes by consent.” 
Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Thursday opposed the new anti-rape
law and said that his party would change the law that entails death for

Addressing a rally in Moradabad, Mulayam said, “rape accused should not be hanged. Men make mistakes.”

The SP chief further said he will support provision for legal action against those who misuse the rape act.

Citing the recent example of a court sentencing three men found guilty
of gang-raping two women in the abandoned Shakti Mills in Mumbai last
year, he said there was a need to change the new rape law which provides
for death sentence to repeat rape offenders.

“Efforts will be
made to change such a law, so that those misusing it are punished. Those
filing false reports will also be taken to task,” he said.

Mulayam said boys and girls fall in love but due to differences they
fall apart later on. “When their friendship ends, the girl complains she
has been raped,” he said, stressing the need for changes in the
anti-rape law. ………. 



1 Bil fighters for Mother India

Big language (English) has the biggest base in India (books, newspapers,…), and now Facebook will be joining the party as well, as the user count crosses 100 mil (currently at par with the USA) with a goal of reaching 1 Billion.

And for now at least, the Hindu Great Man (HGM) is the second most liked politician on the planet (only Barrack Hussein Obama comes out ahead) and has hundred times the followers than what the Young Prince can claim.

Prima facie this appears to be a pure and simple conspiracy by the capitalist pigs and it will be good to hear from Arundhati Roy as to how the evil americans are enabling the spread of (hindutva inspired) fascism in India (see below).

The scale of the Indian elections is also an enormous opportunity for Facebook, which recently announced
its ambitions to reach 1 billion users in India. Already, India is the
only country aside from the United States where Facebook’s consumer base
exceeds 100 million, and it’s certainly the only country in the world
where Facebook can hope to corral 1 billion new users.

“Of the 800+ million people eligible to vote in India, 170 million of
them are on the Internet and well over half of Internet users in India
are using Facebook,” Facebook spokesperson Andrew Stone told BuzzFeed in
an email. “In fact, you may have seen that just this morning we made
the announcement about having reached 100 million active Facebook users in India.”

In early March when the elections were first announced, Facebook India launched an election tracker that tracks mentions of the leading candidates and parties, ranking them from most mentioned to least. This is modeled after a similar app Facebook launched in the United States during the 2012 presidential elections.

As of Wednesday, the top of the Facebook India
homepage now features an “I’m a Voter” button, which will remain
visible for the duration of the Indian elections. Clicking it allows
users to share with all of their friends that they voted. The visibility
of this button is contingent on voting eligibility; it is only visible
to Facebook users over the age of 18, and only on days when voting is
taking place in the region they are in.

The idea is to drive Indians to the polling stations. A UC San Diego study
during the 2012 U.S. presidential elections found that social
pressures, specifically on social networks and specifically from close
connections, are a major influence on whether individuals vote or not.
Although 4% of Facebook users who clicked the “I voted” button on
Facebook admitted to not actually having voted, rates of voting were
highest among those who had seen a message seeing that their friends had
voted — particularly close friends.

In an election already historic for its scale, this Facebook
initiative might — this is the hope — increase voter turnout by acting
as a multiplier.

Narendra Modi, one of of India’s two front-running prime ministerial candidates, has more than 12 million likes on his Facebook page
(having gained 48,555 in the last day alone, at the time of writing).
Among global politicians’ Facebook popularity, that number ranks him
second only to President Barack Obama. In the last week, Facebook pages
for Indian politicians and parties have garnered likes faster than any
other political pages worldwide.

Even at a rudimentary glance, Facebook’s electoral data illustrates
that Modi is more talked about than his primary challenger Rahul Gandhi
among India’s Facebook users, i.e., among India’s educated youth.
The data also suggests Modi’s fan base extends far beyond the more
conservative and older demographic that he has conventionally been
associated with.

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi has less than a 100th of Modi’s Facebook
following, and doesn’t even exist on Twitter. (Modi has more than 3.5
million Twitter followers.)

Only about an eighth of eligible Indian voters are on Facebook — a figure the company is aiming to change — and only 74% of India is even literate. Harbath said Facebook is not discouraged by that fact. “Conversations
aren’t restricted to Facebook. People might be conversing with
candidates or political parties on Facebook, but they are continuing
those conversations in their communities, with their friends and
neighbors … It ends up being a lot of conversations on the ground.” And
of course, some of those conversations may translate into new users.



Mobile dating

How life changes in the 21st century. Spy a nice looking stranger in a bar and kick-start the dating game. This is the ultimate in instant gratification. 

The only question is: should there be a ping locator for the diamond on the finger (it is best rejected as an oppressive symbol of patriarchy, also it costs too much).

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 2.03.43 PM

A startup called Mingleton is introducing a new mobile dating application that
uses iBeacon technology to help you connect only with people you can
see around you, or, as one of the founders puts it, it’s like Tinder
“for the people in your immediate vicinity.” The app doesn’t actually
require venues to have iBeacon or Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) devices
installed in order for this to work, to be clear, but rather leverages
Core Bluetooth and Core Location technology in the iPhone itself to help
its users find one another out the real world.

The idea of tapping into BLE flips the idea of mobile dating apps on
its head. Instead of seeing someone’s picture in the app before trying
to find them in the room (damn those group photo shots!), you’re more
likely to see them in the flesh first, and then you turn to the app to find their profile and indicate your interest.

Mingleton actually started out as a side project created by 24-year
old Harvard grads, Obi Ekekezie and Joel Ayala.
Ekekezie was pre-med at
Harvard, but went to work in management consulting with Bain &
Company in San Francisco after graduation, before returning to interview
for medical school and pursue his longtime interest in programming.
Ayala’s background is in finance, and he’s worked at Goldman Sachs and
Citigroup in the past, and is now doing corporate strategy and finance
in the ad tech space.

Asked to explain how the technology works in more detail, Ekekezie
said users would sign up with Facebook before being assigned a unique
beacon configuration. “When another user detects your beacon configuration and then taps
‘See Who’s Nearby’ to see who it is, he or she pings our server to
figure out who you are and if you’re relevant to him or her based on
both of your stated preferences – for now just gender and age range,” he
says. In other words, Mingleton is still showing relevant users based
on Facebook data, at least for now. If a potential match, the app then
allows the user to view your mutual friends and the hashtags on their

“From there, he or she can decide whether to ask you to mingle,”
says Ekekezie. “If and only if you both express interest in mingling, we
let you both know.”

Mingleton is a free download here on iTunes.



(Surya Devi lied) Mohd Bin Qasim died

Fairy tales from 712 AD….and good raw material for Hindus and Muslims to squabble over in 2112 AD.

The linked article is however accurate in pointing out that the condition of the sub-alterns remained unchanged following conversion, it was primarily a numbers game (and still is). When it comes to burials the ghost of the caste(s) speaks with one voice- Hindu, Muslim, Sikh etc.

Chachnama, a Sindhi book published by the Sindhi Adabi Board
in 2008, speaks of Muhammad bin Qasim’s demise on page 242 to 243. I
will try to summarise it for you.

After Raja Dahar was killed, two
of his daughters were made captive, whom Muhammad Bin Qasim sent to the
capital Damascus. After a few days, the Caliph of the Muslims called
the two young women to his court. The name of the elder daughter of Raja
Dahar was Suryadevi, while the younger one’s name was Pirmaldevi.

Waleed Bin Abdul Malik fell for Suryadevi’s extraordinary beauty. He
ordered for her younger sister to be taken away. The Caliph then began
to take liberties with Suryadevi, pulling her to himself.

It is
written that Suryadevi sprang up and said: “May the king live long: I, a
humble slave, am not fit for your Majesty’s bedroom, because Muhammad
Bin Qasim kept both of us sisters with him for three days, and then sent
us to the caliphate. Perhaps your custom is such, but this kind of
disgrace should not be permitted by kings.”

Hearing this, the Caliph’s blood boiled as heat from anger and desire both compounded within him.
in the thirst of Suryadevi’s nearness and jealousy of Bin Qasim who had
robbed him of the purity he would otherwise have had, the Caliph [sic]
immediately sent for pen, ink and paper, and with his own hands wrote an
order, directing that, “Muhammad (Bin) Qasim should, wherever he may
be, put himself in raw leather and come back to the chief seat of the

Muhammad Bin Qasim received the Caliph’s orders in the
city of Udhapur. He directed his own men to wrap him in raw leather and
lock him in a trunk before taking him to Damascus.

En route to
the capital, Muhammad Bin Qasim, conqueror to some, predator to others,
breathed his last and his soul departed to meet with the Creator in
whose name he claimed to crusade in Sindh.

When the trunk carrying
Muhammad Bin Qasim’s corpse wrapped in raw leather reached the Caliph’s
court, the Caliph called upon Dahar’s daughters, asking them to bear
witness to the spectacle of obedience of his men for the Caliph.

of Dahar’s daughter’s then spoke in return and said: “The fact is that
Muhammad Qasim was like a brother or a son to us; he never touched us,
your slaves, and our chastity was safe with him. But in as much as he
brought ruin on the king of Hind and Sind, desolated the kingdom of our
fathers and grandfathers, and degraded us from princely rank to slavery,
we have, with the intention of revenge and of bringing ruin and
degradation to him in return, misrepresented the matter and spoken a
false thing to your majesty against him.”

The author of the Chachnama
then writes that had Muhammad Bin Qasim not lost his senses in the
passion of obedience, he could have made the whole journey normally,
while wrapping himself in raw leather and locking himself in a trunk
only when a part of the journey remained to be covered.

He could have then proven himself innocent in the Caliph’s court and saved himself from such a fate.



A new capital for Hindu-stan

If our leaders had any sense they would re-locate the capital from Delhi to Nagpur. This is the famous city of Oranges, and it has a zero mile marker indicating the centre-point of India. For now it is the capital of Vidarbha (and winter capital of Maharashtra) and a fully cosmopolitan city (more North Indian flavor than Marathi). 

Nagpur is well connected to rest of India and is closer to most of
India than Delhi. Most important, it is proximate to the Adivasi/Maoist
belt. The capital re-location would ensure that the heartlands (which
presently suffer from sever neglect) get a bit more TLC.

is also the home of the RSS and knowledgeable observers of India know
of this and are looking ahead (see below). If the BJP comes to power it
can shake things up by moving house. If nothing else the people of the
Deccan Plateau (South-Central and Southern India) would welcome such a
move and may even develop a soft corner for a (primarily) Hindi-belt
party. This fellow feeling would be critical for BJP to nurture and
develop in order to challenge Congress in those impregnable southern

high commissioner Sir James David Bevan today visited Nagpur to witness
the polling process in Naxal-hit Vidarbha region during the first phase
of Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra. 

“I am here to observe
the wonderful experience of polling in the world’s largest democracy and
enjoying it,” the senior diplomat told PTI, adding Britain is also
keenly following Indian elections.

On why he chose to come to
Nagpur when he lived in Delhi, where seven LS seats went to polls on
Thursday, James said he wanted to visit other places in the country to
keenly watch the democratic process.

James arrived here this
morning from Delhi and drove straight to the residence of former BJP
national president Nitin Gadkari who is contesting his first Lok Sabha
election this time from here. He spent nearly half-an-hour with the 56-year-old stalwart at ‘Gadkariwada’ in Mahal. Later, James visited some of the polling booths. Gadkari, accompanied
by his wife Kanchan and the family, cast his vote in Town Hall polling
centre amid media glare.

Ten Lok Sabha constituencies in Vidarbha where polling is underway
since 7 AM are Nagpur, Ramtek, Bhandara-Gondia, Gadchiroli,
Chandrapur,Akola, Amravati, Buldana, Wardha and Yavatmal-Washim.



MH-370 signals (1300 sq km wide, 6.5 km deep)

The hunt for the black box recorder goes on, now concentrated on a Los Angeles size area in the Indian Ocean.

It is one level of miracle to pin-point the pings (which are due to be switched off any time now, there is a grace period of about 10 days) and quite another (impossible) challenge to retrieve the recorder from extreme depths (worst case scenario: it is in a trench 5800m deep).

Australian aircraft picked up a new underwater signal on Thursday while
searching the same part of the Indian Ocean where earlier sounds were
detected that were consistent with an aircraft’s black boxes.

If confirmed, this would be the fifth underwater signal detected in the
hunt for Flight 370, which vanished on March 8 while flying from Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, with 239 people aboard.

Tuesday, the Australian vessel Ocean Shield picked up two underwater
sounds, and an analysis of two other sounds detected in the same general
area on Saturday showed they were consistent with a plane’s flight
recorders, or “black boxes.”


The Australian navy has been
dropping buoys from a P-3 Orion to better pinpoint the location of the
sounds detected by the Ocean Shield.

Royal Australian navy
commodore Peter Leavy said each buoy is dangling a hydrophone listening
device about 300 meters (1,000 feet) below the surface. Each buoy
transmits its data via radio back to the plane.

The underwater
search zone is currently a 1,300 square kilometre (500 square mile)
patch of the ocean floor, and narrowing the area as small as possible is
crucial before an unmanned submarine can be sent to create a sonar map
of a potential debris field on the seabed.

The Bluefin 21 sub
takes six times longer to cover the same area as the pinger locator
being towed by the Ocean Shield, and it would take the vehicle about six
weeks to two months to canvass the underwater search zone, which is
about the size of Los Angeles. That’s why the acoustic equipment is
still being used to hone in on a more precise location, US navy Capt.
Mark Matthews said.

The search for floating debris on the ocean
surface was narrowed on Thursday to its smallest size yet — 57,900
square kilometers (22,300 square miles), or about one-quarter the size
it was a few days ago. Fourteen planes and 13 ships were looking for
floating debris, about 2,300 kilometers (1,400 miles) northwest of

A “large number of objects” were spotted on Wednesday,
but the few that had been retrieved by search vessels were not believed
to be related to the missing plane, the search coordination centre said.

locator beacons on the black boxes holding the flight data and cockpit
voice recorders have a battery life of about a month, and Tuesday marked
one month since Flight 370 disappeared. The plane veered off-course for
an unknown reason, so the data on the black boxes are essential to
finding the plane and solving the mystery. Investigators suspect it went
down in the southern Indian Ocean based on a flight path calculated
from its contacts with a communications satellite and analysis of its
speed and when it would have run out of fuel.

An Australian
government briefing document circulated among international agencies
involved in the search on Thursday said it was likely that the acoustic
pingers would continue to transmit at decreasing strength for up to 10
more days, depending on conditions.

Once there is no hope left of the Ocean Shield’s equipment picking up any more sounds, the Bluefin sub will be deployed. Complicating matters, however, is the depth of the seafloor in the
search area. The pings detected earlier are emanating from 4,500 meters
below the surface — which is the deepest the Bluefin can dive.

Williams said colleagues at the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts had autonomous and remotely
operated underwater vehicles that will dive to 11 kilometers (36,100
feet), although they might not be equipped for such a search.

Underwater vessels rated to 6,500 meters (21,300 feet) could search the
sea bed of more than 90 percent of the world’s oceans, Williams said.
“There’s not that much of it deeper than six and a half kilometers,” he said.
Williams said it was unlikely that the wreck had fallen into the narrow
Diamantina trench, which is about 5,800 meters (19,000 feet) deep,
since sounds emanating from that depth would probably not have been
detected by the pinger locator.