James Fallows

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Almost as soon as the news broke about the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine on Thursday, in which all 298 passengers and crew members were killed, people began to ask: What was a commercial aircraft doing over a conflict zone in the first place? Was this disaster somehow the airline’s fault?

The answer is no — but to understand why, you have to look at the complex realities of modern commercial aviation.

Malaysia Airlines, already world famous because of the still-missing flight MH370, appears to have been following all normal safety rules. And the rules governing airline flights over danger zones, including Ukraine, reflect the balance between the risks inherent in any flight and the efficiency on which the world airline system depends.…  Seguir leyendo »

The news out of China this year has been relentlessly bad. The political system was embarrassed in front of its own people by the Bo Xilai scandal and in front of the world by the Chen Guangcheng incident. The Chinese economy has slowed and its stock indexes have been rocked, while its neighbors have been strengthening their ties with the United States.

All this has occurred at the worst possible time for the Communist leadership, as it prepares for what was supposed to be a seamlessly orchestrated transfer of power to a new president, premier and ruling cadre later this year.…  Seguir leyendo »