Lost … And Found (International Business Times)

UPDATE, 2:25 p.m. EDT: Paris deputy prosecutor Serge Mackowiak said in a news conference that there is “very strong supposition that the flaperon found in Réunion belongs to MH370.” He added that more analysis will continue on Thursday.

Deputy Paris Prosecutor explains how the Reunion Island debris was identified as being from missing Flight MH370 https://t.co/nhzVing9rq

— Sky News Tonight (@SkyNewsTonight) August 5, 2015

UPDATE, 2:15 p.m. EDT: Malaysia Airlines called the flaperon confirmation a “major breakthrough” in figuring out what happened to MH370. The company added it expected and hoped there will be “more objects found which would be able to help resolve this mystery.”

Map showing #MH370 search update with ocean current drift zone, Inmarsat pings, surface searched area and new debris. pic.twitter.com/yIYjnZCBm1

— Jay Minden (@FlightSMS) July 30, 2015

The wing part was not the only piece of debris that Reunion Island residents have turned up. Since the flaperon’s discovery, people have given authorities old shoes, scrap metal, a wallet, a tea kettle, a Frisbee and part of a ladder, according to previous International Business Times reporting. None of those have been conclusively linked to the plane.

UPDATE, 2:05 p.m. EDT: “It is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you that an international team of experts has conclusively confirmed that the aircraft debris found on Reunion Island is indeed from MH370,” Razak said in a news conference. “We now have physical evidence that, as I announced on 24th March last year, flight MH370 tragically ended in the southern Indian Ocean.”

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The flaperon was found on the island’s beach last week and later transported to Toulouse, France, for analysis.

Malaysia Airlines released a statement sending condolences to the relatives and friends of the 239 people who were on board the plane when it went missing. “Family members of passengers and crew have already been informed and we extend our deepest sympathies to those affected,” it read.

Original story: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has reportedly confirmed that debris found on the French Reunion Island belongs to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in March 2014 without a trace.

PM @NajibRazak confirms that the debris from Réunion Island is indeed #MH370

— Patrick Lee (@patricklee_msia) August 5, 2015

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Cynical politics of free trade (Los Angeles Times)

August 5, 2015

The following editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, Aug. 5:

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When Congress granted President Barack Obama fast-track authority in June to negotiate trade deals, it included an amendment by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., barring any nation on the bottom rung of the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report from being part of a trade pact with the United States. Malaysia, one of a dozen member nations in the looming Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, has been on that bottom rung, known as Tier 3, since 2014 because of its persistent failure to take meaningful steps to combat human trafficking.

Yet the 2015 trafficking report released last week miraculously moved Malaysia up a rung, qualifying it for membership in the TPP, even though international human rights observers say they have seen no notable improvements in its lax approach to trafficking. In fact, the U.S. ambassador to Malaysia, Joseph Yun, told attendees at a youth conference on human trafficking in April that Malaysia had to do more if it hoped to be promoted from Tier 3. It was promoted anyway.

Menendez argues that the upgrades of Malaysia and Cuba reflected politics, not improvements in those countries. Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., the top-ranked members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have asked Secretary of State John F. Kerry for a briefing on the subject.

The case for keeping Cuba on Tier 3 is less clear than that for Malaysia. In the new report, the State Department describes Malaysia as a destination as well as “a source and transit country” for people “subjected to forced labor and women and children to sex trafficking.” Most of the victims “are among the estimated 2 million documented and more than 2 million undocumented foreign workers in Malaysia.” The department had cited those conditions when it dropped the country to Tier 3.

The new report describes objectionable conditions in Malaysia, including debt bondage, passport confiscations by employers and children forced to work as street beggars. What improvements did the State Department cite? Some proposed (but not passed) amendments to anti-trafficking laws, a small pilot project to give trafficking victims under orders of protection more freedom to move and to work, and a doubling of trafficking investigations — even though convictions fell from nine in 2013 to four in 2014.

Tier 3 status is reserved for countries that neither comply with the minimum standards of the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act nor make “significant efforts to do so.” That defines Malaysia. Kerry is in the country this week, and we hope he at least has the good grace to feel embarrassed over his department’s decision to turn its back on trafficking victims for the sake of bringing a strategically important country into a trade deal.