Monthly Archives: March 2014

Connecting the World from the Sky

Thanks;Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook Founder &CEO

Last August, Facebook partnered with leading technology companies to launch Internet.org — a global effort to make affordable basic internet services available to everyone in the world.Connecting the world is one of the fundamental challenges of our time. When people have access to the internet, they can not only connect with their friends, family and communities, but they can also gain access to the tools and information to help find jobs, start businesses, access healthcare, education and financial services, and have a greater say in their societies. They get to participate in the knowledge economy.
Building the knowledge economy is the key to solving many of our big social and economic challenges, and creates new growth and opportunities for people in every country. A recent study by Deloitte found that the internet is already an important driver of economic growth in many developing countries. Expanding internet access could create another 140 million new jobs, lift 160 million people out of poverty, and reduce child mortality by hundreds of thousands of lives. Connectivity isn’t an end in itself, but it’s a powerful tool for change.However, there are significant obstacles to building the knowledge economy, and the internet is growing very slowly. Today, only around 2.7 billion people have access to the internet — just a little more than a third of the world’s population. That number is only growing by about 9% every year.If we want to connect the world, we have to accelerate that growth. That’s our goal with Internet.org.Internet.org progress to date.In my last paper, I outlined a plan to deliver basic internet services to everyone by working to decrease the costs of connectivity, building more efficient services that use less data, and by partnering with mobile operators on new models for access that can help the industry grow while also bringing more people onto the internet.Since then, we’ve achieved promising early results from our first set of partnerships. In the Philippines, we worked with mobile operator Globe to offer free data access to our apps, make it easier for people to register for a data plan and get a loan for their plan. In just a few months we helped double the number of people using mobile data on Globe’s network and grew their subscribers by 25%. In Paraguay, by working with TIGO we were able to grow the number of people using the internet by 50% over the course of the partnership and increase daily data usage by more than 50%. These two partnerships alone helped almost 3 million new people access the internet.
These are still early partnerships, and over the coming years we will expand these efforts in additional markets. By working together with operators to drive awareness and demand for internet services, and by collaborating on new models for access that decrease the cost of data, we think we can bring billions more people onto the internet over the next few years.
But partnerships are only part of the solution. To connect everyone in the world, we also need to invent new technologies that can solve some of the physical barriers to connectivity. That’s why Facebook in investing in building technologies to deliver new types of connectivity on the ground, in the air and in space.
Different communities require different technology
Facebook’s approach to developing new platforms is based on the principle that different communities need different technical solutions.
Our research has shown that approximately 80-90% of the world’s population lives today in areas already covered by 2G or 3G networks. These environments are mostly urban or semi-urban, and the basic cell and fiber infrastructure has already been constructed here by mobile operators. For most people, the obstacles to getting online are primarily economic.

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Coverage Heat Map
For the remaining 10-20%, the economic challenges also apply, but in this case they also explain why the basic network infrastructure has yet to be built out. The parts of the world without access to 2G or 3G signals are often some of the most remote places on Earth, where physical access to communities is difficult. Deploying the same infrastructure here that is already found in urban environments is uneconomical as well as impractical.
But deploying the same infrastructure solutions for everyone is also unnecessary when we consider the different population densities found in different communities. In dense urban areas, greater network capacity is needed to serve a larger population. That means we need to build cell towers, small cells or a big network of wi-fi access points. But in the less urban and less connected markets, there are also fewer people distributed over a wider area. Deploying other infrastructure solutions like satellites might be more efficient and cost effective.
Our strategy is to develop different types of platform to serve different population densities.

Platforms at different altitudes
Higher altitudes generally means beams are more spread out on Earth, but giving more trunking opportunities far away from the sites of interest.

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Dense urban areas: in urban environments, wireless mesh networks can provide simple to deploy and cost effective solutions. We will discuss this further in a later paper.
Medium density areas: for limited geographical regions, unmanned aerial vehicles can pro- vide a novel and efficient method of access. High altitude solar-powered aircraft can be quickly deployed and have long endurance.Low density areas: across the largest areas of territory with the lowest population densities, satellites can beam internet access to the ground. Communications satellites today are expensive to deploy, but space-based methods of connectivity are becoming smaller and cheaper to launch.Our teams in Facebook’s Connectivity Lab are working on projects in each of these areas. The following sections of this paper will focus on how we’re doing this for aerial and space-based platforms.
The physics of aerial connectivity
Before discussing the relative costs, benefits and capabilities of these platforms, it’s important to understand the fundamental constraints we need to consider while working on aerial connectivi- ty. These are not only issues of cost, efficiency and deployment, but also the basic laws of physics.The most important constraint to consider is that as you increase altitude, assuming all else is equal, the signals emitted by aerial platforms cover a wider area and therefore become weaker. More specifically, the power of a radio signal weakens as a square of distance.
If you consider cell towers, they can provide really strong signals across relatively small areas. And stronger signals creates the ability to deliver higher capacity. A plane at an altitude of 20 kilometers will allow you to reach people more than 100 kilometers away, but the signal loss will be significantly higher than would occur for terrestrial networks. And if you send up a satellite that can beam internet across an entire continent, it might have wide reach across a large territory, but its signal will be a lot weaker than almost any other option for connecting.
Boosting the signal in order to achieve a high bandwidth capacity is also very impractical. Radio signals get weak very quickly, so they require a large amount of power to strengthen. Since satellites generally rely on solar power as their energy source, generating a lot of power (would need to square to make up the difference) would mean constructing either huge, unstable structures, which are impractical, or nuclear powered satellites, which are very expensive.<a href="http://

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Physics of electromagnetic propagation
As radio waves or light propagate, everything else being equal, at a distance 4x from the source, a signal is 16 times weaker than at a distance 1x.
So physics creates a number of challenges for deploying aerial platforms for connectivity, and creates different costs and benefits for each platform. For lower population densities, where people are spread out across a large area, the higher up you go, the more cost effective it becomes to place trunk stations and to deliver the internet. But signal loss will also be higher, so satellite access is only really a way of providing a basic internet experience for remote communities. Likewise, for high population densities, only lower altitude platforms will be truly effective, and connection speeds will be faster and the experience better for a lot of people.
Given these challenges, Facebook is working on a range of technologies that will provide dif- ferent options for connecting people.
Free space optics
Free space optical communication, or FSO, is a way of using light to transmit data through
space. These are basically invisible laser beams in the infrared part of the spectrum.
FSO is a promising technology that potentially allows us to dramatically boost the speed of internet connections provided by any of the previously mentioned platforms. The lasers used in FSO systems provide extremely high bandwidths and capacity, on par with terrestrial fiber optic networks, but they also consume much less power than microwave systems. Because you can make the beam so much narrower, this allows you to focus all of your power exactly where you want it to go.
Using FSO technology could boost the signals being sent from Earth to orbit, and then be- tween satellites in an orbital constellation. Potentially, the same system can also dramatically increase the speed of internet connections on the ground that are provided by satellite. If a laser receiver is mounted at a destination, a laser-equipped satellite can transmit data to it. Using FSO to connect people on the ground would dramatically increase the utility of satellites in providing internet access to larger segments of unconnected populations.
At the same time, FSO has a number of significant weaknesses. The narrow optical beams are hard to orient correctly and need to be pointed very precisely. The level of accuracy required is the equivalent of needing to hit a dime from 10 miles away, or hit the statue of liberty from California. Laser systems also require line of sight between both ends of the laser link, meaning that they don’t work through clouds and are very vulnerable to bad weather conditions. As a result, backup radio systems are needed.
Despite these weaknesses, if we can overcome these problems, FSO can provide ways to con- nect people that are a lot better and more cost effective. We’ve already started hiring world experts on FSO, and we’re going to invest in exploring the full potential of this technology over the coming years.
Drones and High Altitude Long Endurance systems
High altitude drones are one major area we’re focused on developing. To understand the reasons for this, it is helpful to consider some of our technical constraints.
We want to:
• Fly as close to the ground as possible in order to maximize signal strength.

• Fly at a high enough altitude where the wind is not very strong in order to maximize endurance.
• Fly outside of regulated airspace for safety and quick deployment.
• Be able to precisely control the location of these aircraft, unlike balloons.
• Build the smallest structure possible so it requires minimal energy to stay aloft.
• Build a large enough structure that can effectively harvest all the energy it needs from the sun.
• Build the cheapest structure so we can cost effectively produce enough to span many areas.
• Build a re-usable structure to make it more cost effective as well.
Based on these constraints, drones operating at 65,000 feet are ideal. At this altitude, a drone can broadcast a powerful signal that covers a city-sized area of territory with a medium pop- ulation density. This is also close to the lowest altitude for unregulated airspace, and a layer in the atmosphere that has very stable weather conditions and low wind speeds. This means an aircraft can easily cruise and conserve power, while generating power through its solar panels during the day to store in its batteries for overnight use.
With the efficiency and endurance of high altitude drones, it’s even possible that aircraft could remain aloft for months or years. This means drones have more endurance than balloons, while also being able to have their location precisely controlled. And unlike satellites, drones won’t burn up in the atmosphere when their mission is complete. Instead, they can be easily returned to Earth for maintenance and redeployment.We’re still finalizing the communication equipment payload, including FSO systems. If the technical hurdles can be overcome with free space optics, the value of this solution will only increase. But even equipped with microwave antennae, this system can potentially connect a lot more people to the internet in an efficient and cost effective way.Our team is actively working on building our first aircraft now. We recently announced that key members from Ascenta, whose founders created early versions of Zephyr, which became the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft, will be joining our Connectivity Lab to work
on these aircraft. We expect to have an initial version of this system working in the near future.
Satellites and low population density areas.Despite the clear strengths of drone-based connectivity solutions, there will still be places where it remains uneconomical or impractical to deploy drones or to provide the internet connection to them. In these situations, satellites may prove a cheaper alternative for beaming internet access to communities.
There are two main types of orbits that Facebook is considering for deploying satellites: low Earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO).
Low Earth orbit
Low Earth orbit extends anywhere from 160 kilometers to 2,000 kilometers above the Earth. As a LEO satellite orbits, the Earth turns underneath. LEO is the simplest and easiest orbit to reach, and this is why the vast majority of satellites are deployed here.
LEO satellites have some clear strengths. Satellites in this orbit are close to Earth, so they can provide a usable signal while using less power. This means LEO satellites can be smaller and therefore cheaper to launch. There’s also comparatively less signal latency at this orbit, so it’s easier to use real-time services like the web or voice calling.However, the signal is still weak and can only serve a small population density – probably less than 100 people per square kilometer. It also requires antennas to be installed at ground stations to track their movements. And because LEO satellites don’t orbit at the same speed as the Earth spins, an entire constellation of satellites is necessary to maintain constant coverage. This drives up the cost considerably.
Geosynchronous Earth orbit
A geosynchronous orbit is an orbit around the Earth at the same speed that the planet is rotating at. To hold an orbit at this distance from the planet, a satellite holds steady at 35,786 kilometers above sea levels.
A satellite in this orbit can stay pointed at one region indefinitely. This means the base stations and trunk stations can be simpler and cheaper to configure since the beams don’t need to be constantly tracking the moving constellations of satellites overhead.
As discussed earlier, with FSO technology it becomes possible to achieve much faster data speeds. With conventional microwave signals, it’s much harder to deliver a high capacity signal as a geosynchronous satellite is 60-90 times further away. Since signals weaken as a square of distance, this becomes orders of magnitude worse.
This FSO approach is much harder for LEO because of satellite movement, but there are still considerable technical challenges to be solved here.
Satellites are expensive and slow to develop
Ultimately, space platforms are much more complex to develop and deploy than other com- peting technologies. Even if you can build satellites for relatively cheaply, transport to space can cost millions — or in some cases tens or hundreds of millions — of dollars.
Navigating the regulatory issues can be a slow and expensive process too. ITU licenses for reg- ulated microwave spectrum can take 5-7 years to achieve, though FSO remains unregulated.
In spite of the challenges, satellites offer the potential to deliver connectivity solutions when all others fail. We’re currently exploring both LEO and geosynchronous approaches.
Deployment
From our work examining the different technologies for offering aerial solutions for connec- tivity, it’s clear that each platform has strengths and weaknesses. Some of these weaknesses will have to be fully solved in order to make the platforms viable and cost effective.
One major advantage of aerial connectivity, however, is that deployment to people’s homes is relatively simple.
Relatively cheap devices already exist that can receive signals from the sky and broadcast wi-fi to mobile phones. These take the form of simple and durable boxes, and can become cheaper and capable of handling more kinds of signals over time. Even if everyone doesn’t own one, someone in a village or community still may – a local store that wants to attract customers, a community hub or non-governmental organizations working in the area. Civil society organiza- tions and governments would be ideal for disseminating these units throughout communities in developing countries.
This is a very different scenario from typical terrestrial network deployments. Installing tradi- tional network infrastructure, like cell towers and fiber, requires digging. This means manual construction, modifying structures and building other physical infrastructure, and lots of reg- ulatory approval. Having a network that depends on lots of facilities and hardware on the
ground also makes your network subject to the insecurities of the ground – theft, looting, war and natural disasters.
By comparison, aerial connectivity is relatively plug-and-play. You can get an internet box and pick up signal from whatever is overhead.
Our approach
I hope this paper provides an interesting and useful overview of some of the technologies that can help bring internet access to everyone in the world.
Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is building a team to develop these technologies, including areas such as drones, satellites, mesh networks, radios and free space optics, as well as other prom- ising areas of research. We’ve hired some of the leading experts in these fields from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Ames Research Center and other centers of aerospace research. If you’re excited about working on this mission, we’d love to talk to you too.
Internet.org is a partnership between companies, non-profits and governments. No one company can do this work by itself, and Facebook will not deploy these technologies alone. We’re looking forward to working with our partners and operators worldwide over the coming months and years. Together we can develop new solutions to these important problems, and deliver on the promise of a connected world.

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China Says “No” To Virtual Credit Cards

Vaniceseasonal's Blog

Thanks;Gordon Orr
Chairman, Asia at McKinsey & Company

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The end of last week saw the Chinese central bank intervene to shut-down an innovative online service of virtual credit cards

, launched by Tencent and Alibaba, in conjunction with Citic Bank. This move came the day after the services were launched, which seemed a little odd – why did they allow something to go to market rather than intervene to halt the services before they could be launched?

The answer lies in a combination of the absence of regulation or policy in some parts of the banking sector, and the willingness of the large Internet players to take the absence of prohibition to mean permission, so that they have largely been pushing into financial services with a logic of “if enough scale with enough satisfied customers can be reached quickly”, then it’s too late for the regulator to shut them down…

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China Says “No” To Virtual Credit Cards

Thanks;Gordon Orr
Chairman, Asia at McKinsey & Company

20140319-231822.jpg

The end of last week saw the Chinese central bank intervene to shut-down an innovative online service of virtual credit cards

, launched by Tencent and Alibaba, in conjunction with Citic Bank. This move came the day after the services were launched, which seemed a little odd – why did they allow something to go to market rather than intervene to halt the services before they could be launched?

The answer lies in a combination of the absence of regulation or policy in some parts of the banking sector, and the willingness of the large Internet players to take the absence of prohibition to mean permission, so that they have largely been pushing into financial services with a logic of “if enough scale with enough satisfied customers can be reached quickly”, then it’s too late for the regulator to shut them down. These virtual credit cards, which would have bypassed the state-owned quasi monopoly, China UnionPay, was another move in this direction.

Unlike with online wealth management products, the government intervened fast when it learned of the launch of the credit cards. Now, perhaps, the regulators can say they have caught on to the tip of the tail of the dragon that is innovation in Chinese financial services today, and going forward, it will be seeking to impose more classic banking-style regulation on the new, online private Chinese banks.

Yet sustaining a balance that works for all will be incredibly hard – investors clearly love the online options – more than 80 million have signed up in less than a year, and according to reports, 3% of Chinese deposits have shifted to their products in one month in 2014. Incumbent state-owned banks have deeply rigid fixed cost structures, meaning that even if they do offer identical online services, they will be at higher cost. Being a financial services industry regulator in China today may be one of the hardest jobs around.

With all the turbulence in China’s banking sector, I took a look at the share price trend of the big 4 banks. Bank of China (BOC) and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) were listed back in 2006; China Construction Bank (CCB) in 2007; and Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) in 2010. Today, only ICBC’s share price is above its listing price – and that by a slight 2%. BOC is down by 27%, CCB by 54% and ABC by 15%.

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Much of the decline has come in the last few years on the back of investors’ concerns over how these mammoth state-owned institutions could reinvent themselves as their industry changed. Firstly, they had to face up to the reduction in spread between lending and deposit-taking as rate setting has gradually shifted to the market. Secondly, the market sees the banks as the deep pockets likely to be called on if more trust products get into trouble.

And thirdly, the impact of Alibaba and Tencent, with their ability to attract billions of dollars of deposits and tens of millions of clients in only a few months, and to innovate seemingly at will, leaves investors looking at the big 4 as legacy banks with legacy fixed assets and people that make it very hard to reinvent themselves into the kind of financial institutions that Chinese consumers clearly want to deal with today.

Why Do Airlines Keep ‘Black Box’ Flight Data Trapped on Planes?

Vaniceseasonal's Blog

Thanks;Justin Bachman

March 10, 2014

Image

Photograph by Johann Peschel/AP Photo

To solve the mystery of what happened to Malaysia Airlines (MAS:MK) Flight MH370, investigators need the airplane’s data and voice recorders. In an airplane tragedy, however, the information stored in the so-called black box inevitably ends up inside a wreck. This seems like a terrible place to keep the clue you need to find most.

As investigators scour the Gulf of Thailand and waters as far north as Hong Kong for debris from the Boeing (BA) 777-200 that vanished en route to Beijing on Saturday, there’s almost no indication yet of what doomed the flight and the 239 passengers on board. So far, at least, no wreckage or jet fuel has been found. Without recovering the black box, there’s little way to know what caused a plane cruising at 35,000 feet to disappear from radar.

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Why Do Airlines Keep ‘Black Box’ Flight Data Trapped on Planes?

Thanks;

March 10, 2014

Image

Photograph by Johann Peschel/AP Photo

To solve the mystery of what happened to Malaysia Airlines (MAS:MK) Flight MH370, investigators need the airplane’s data and voice recorders. In an airplane tragedy, however, the information stored in the so-called black box inevitably ends up inside a wreck. This seems like a terrible place to keep the clue you need to find most.

As investigators scour the Gulf of Thailand and waters as far north as Hong Kong for debris from the Boeing (BA) 777-200 that vanished en route to Beijing on Saturday, there’s almost no indication yet of what doomed the flight and the 239 passengers on board. So far, at least, no wreckage or jet fuel has been found. Without recovering the black box, there’s little way to know what caused a plane cruising at 35,000 feet to disappear from radar.

Why not transmit this flight data off the plane so it’s accessible almost instantly? Airlines, after all, track each of their flights everywhere in the world and can advise crews on course adjustments, security alerts, quick weather changes, and a host of other situations. Passengers are routinely offered in-air Wi-Fi and live television these days. So why keep vital data trapped on the plane?

The answer is mostly about one issue: cost. Sending all the data from each flight in real time via satellite would be enormously expensive. A 2002 study by L-3 Aviation Recorders (LLL) and a satellite provider found that a U.S. airline flying a global network would need to spend $300 million per year to transmit all its flight data, even assuming a 50 percent reduction in future satellite transmission costs. And that’s just a single airline. Commercial airline disasters, meanwhile, are becoming even more uncommon as technology and techniques improve—in part thanks to lessons from past crashes—so there’s little incentive for investing heavily in real-time data.

Businessweek last explored this question in July 2009 as French and Brazilian authorities searched a wide section of the Atlantic Ocean for a missing Air France (AF:FP) flight. The data recorders aboard the Airbus (AIR:FP) A330 remained missing for almost two years, some 2 miles beneath the surface, before searchers finally recovered them.

If the Malaysia Airlines flight did go down at sea, as searchers believe, waters in the suspected crash area are much shallower than in the region of the Atlantic where the French jet went down. In both cases, meanwhile, the flight data and cockpit voice recorders were made by Honeywell (HON) Aerospace. Despite the conventional term “black box,” the Honeywell recorders and most others in use are actually bright orange in color.

Of course, there remains the possibility that a powerful enough calamity could have obliterated the data boxes on the Malaysia flight, leaving investigators without their best hope for discovering what went wrong. No data recorders were ever recovered from the two Boeing airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 mystery: Jet’s door may have been found,

Vaniceseasonal's Blog

ThankS;FoxNews
Published March 09, 2014FoxNews.com

http://youtu.be/3JtYApCrUDY

Vietnamese aircraft spotted what they suspected was one of the doors belonging to the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on Sunday, as troubling questions emerged about how two passengers managed to board the Boeing 777 using stolen passports.

The discovery comes as officials consider the possibility that the plane disintegrated mid-flight, a senior source told Reuters.

The state-run Thanh Nien newspaper cited Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnam’s army, as saying searchers in a low-flying plane had spotted an object suspected of being a door from the missing jet. It was found in waters about 56 miles south of Tho Chu island, in the same area where oil slicks were spotted Saturday.

“From this object, hopefully (we) will find the missing plane,” Tuan said. Thanh Nien said two ships from the maritime police were heading to the site.

An…

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Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 mystery: Jet’s door may have been found,

ThankS;FoxNews
Published March 09, 2014FoxNews.com

http://youtu.be/3JtYApCrUDY

Vietnamese aircraft spotted what they suspected was one of the doors belonging to the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on Sunday, as troubling questions emerged about how two passengers managed to board the Boeing 777 using stolen passports.

The discovery comes as officials consider the possibility that the plane disintegrated mid-flight, a senior source told Reuters.

The state-run Thanh Nien newspaper cited Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnam’s army, as saying searchers in a low-flying plane had spotted an object suspected of being a door from the missing jet. It was found in waters about 56 miles south of Tho Chu island, in the same area where oil slicks were spotted Saturday.

“From this object, hopefully (we) will find the missing plane,” Tuan said. Thanh Nien said two ships from the maritime police were heading to the site.

An authority told Reuters that it was too dark to be certain the object was part of the missing plane, and that more aircraft would be dispatched to investigate the site in waters off southern Vietnam in the morning.

Rahman said that the search area has been increased to 50 nautical miles, from 20, and includes 34 aircraft and 40 ships. Aircraft are conducting 12-hour searches, until sundown, while ships are scheduled to continue the search throughout the night.

Meanwhile, Interpol says no country checked its database for information about stolen passports that were used to board the Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared with 239 people on board Saturday less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, bound for Beijing.

In a sharply worded criticism of shortcomings of national passport controls, the Lyon, France-based international police body said information about the thefts of an Austrian passport in 2012 and an Italian passport last year was entered into its database after they were stolen in Thailand.

Interpol said in a statement it was investigating all other passports used to board the flight and was working to determine the “true identities” of the passengers who used the stolen passports.

“I can confirm that we have the visuals of these two people on CCTV,” Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference late Sunday, adding that the footage was being examined. “We have intelligence agencies, both local and international, on board.”

Hussein declined to give further details, saying it may jeopardize the investigation. Hussein said only two passengers had used stolen passports, and that earlier reports that the identities of two others were under investigation were not true.

European authorities on Saturday confirmed the names and nationalities of the two stolen passports: One was an Italian-issued document bearing the name Luigi Maraldi, the other Austrian under the name Christian Kozel. Police in Thailand said Maraldi’s passport was stolen on the island of Phuket last July.

A telephone operator on a China-based KLM hotline on Sunday confirmed to The Associated Press that “Maraldi” and “Kozel” were both booked to leave Beijing on a KLM flight to Amsterdam on March 8. Maraldi was then to fly to Copenhagen, Denmark, on KLM on March 8, and Kozel to Frankfurt, Germany, on March 8.

She said since the pair booked the tickets through China Southern Airlines, she had no information on where they bought them. The ticket purchases reportedly took place almost simultaneously, and the tickets were numbered consecutively, according to the BBC.

A U.S. official told Fox News that a key priority is clarifying the status of the passports, whether they were lost or stolen, and determining through airport security screening and video who got on the flight under those names.

The statements came as officials said finding the wreckage of the flight is “the utmost priority.”

“There is still no sign of the aircraft,” Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, director general of the Department of Civil Aviation, said during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

The U.S. Navy sent a warship, the USS Pickney, which was conducting training and maritime security operations off the South China Sea, and a surveillance plane. Singapore said it would send a submarine and a plane. China and Vietnam were sending aircraft to help in the search.

It is not uncommon for it to take several days to find the wreckage of an aircraft floating on the ocean. Locating and then recovering the flight data recorders, vital to any investigation, can take months or even years.

When pressed on reports of fake passports used by at least two passengers on board the flight and the possibility of a terrorist attack, Rahman re-stated that the priority is to find the aircraft and that any probe investigating a terror link is independent of the search mission. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has also said it is “too early to make any conclusive remarks.”

Earlier, Malaysia’s air force chief told reporters that military radar indicated that the plane may have turned from its flight route before losing contact.

Rodzali Daud didn’t say which direction the plane might have taken when it apparently went off route.

“We are trying to make sense of this,” he told a media conference. “The military radar indicated that the aircraft may have made a turn back and in some parts, this was corroborated by civilian radar.”

Malaysia Airlines Chief Executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said pilots were supposed to inform the airline and traffic control authorities if the plane does start to return. “From what we have, there was no such distress signal or distress call per se, so we are equally puzzled,” he said.

Vietnamese air force planes spotted two large oil slicks late Saturday in the first sign that the aircraft had crashed. The slicks were each between 6 miles and 9 miles long, the Vietnamese government said in a statement.

But there was no confirmation that the slicks were related to the missing plane, but the statement said they were consistent with the kinds that would be produced by the two fuel tanks of a crashed jetliner.

The plane was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants and 12 crew members when it “lost all contact,” with Subang Air Traffic Control at 2:40 a.m., two hours into the flight, the airline said. The plane was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.

Around the time the plane vanished, the weather was fine and the plane was already at cruising altitude, making its disappearance all the more mysterious.

Just 9 percent of fatal accidents happen when a plane is at cruising altitude, according to a statistical summary of commercial jet accidents done by Boeing. The plane was last inspected 10 days ago and found to be “in proper condition,” Ignatius Ong, CEO of Malaysia Airlines subsidiary Firefly airlines, said at a news conference.

The lack of a radio call “suggests something very sudden and very violent happened,” said William Waldock, who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.

The plane “lost all contact and radar signal one minute before it entered Vietnam’s air traffic control,” Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese army, said in a statement issued by the government.

U.S. officials said late Saturday that a team of safety experts had been dispatched to Southeast Asia to assist in the investigation. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board told Fox News that the team, which includes investigators from the agency and technical experts from the Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing, had been sent to the region despite the fact that the plane had not been located due to the lengthy travel time from the U.S. and the team’s desire to be in a position to assist local authorities right away. The FBI is also assisting in the search.

Meanwhile, a former intelligence official told Fox News that the information about stolen passports from two adjacent European countries, combined with recent warnings for flights to the United States about the risk of possible shoe bomb attacks, is concerning.

The airline said onboard the plane, there were 152 passengers from China, 38 from Malaysia, seven from Indonesia, six from Australia, five from India and three from the U.S. and others from Indonesia, France, New Zealand, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Taiwan and the Netherlands.

The U.S. State Department later confirmed in a statement that three Americans were aboard the jetliner.

In the United States, a friend confirmed to the Associated Press that an IBM executive from North Texas named Philip Wood had been aboard the jet. Freescale Semiconductor, a company based in Texas, also confirmed Saturday that 20 of its employees — 12 from Malaysia and eight from China — were passengers.

The airline says the plane’s pilot is Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a 53-year-old who has been with the airline for over 30 years. The plane’s first officer is Fariq Ab.Hamid, a 27-year-old who joined the airline in 2007. Both are Malaysians.

At Beijing’s airport, authorities posted a notice asking relatives and friends of passengers to gather at a hotel about nine miles from the airport to wait for further information, and provided a shuttle bus service.

Malaysia Airlines has 15 Boeing 777-200 jets in its fleet of about 100 planes.

The 777 had not had a fatal crash in its 20-year history until the Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco in July 2013.

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Inside The 2014 Forbes Billionaires List: Facts And Figures

Vaniceseasonal's Blog

Thanks;Luisa Kroll, Forbes Staff
My beat: How folks make, keep and spend fortunes.
LISTS 3/03/2014 @ 6:48AM |371,010 views

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By Kerry A. Dolan and Luisa Kroll

The ranks of the world’s billionaires continue to scale new heights–and stretch to new corners of the world.

Our global wealth team found 1,645 billionaires with an aggregate net worth of $6.4 trillion, up from $5.4 trillion a year ago. We unearthed a record 268 new ten-figure fortunes, including 42 new women billionaires, another record. In total, there are 172 women on the list, more than ever before and up from 138 last year.

Bill Gates is back on top after a four-year hiatus, reclaiming the title of world’s richest person from telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico, who ranked No. 1 for the past four years. Gates, whose fortune rose by $9 billion in the past year, has held the top spot…

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Inside The 2014 Forbes Billionaires List: Facts And Figures

Thanks;Luisa Kroll, Forbes Staff
My beat: How folks make, keep and spend fortunes.
LISTS 3/03/2014 @ 6:48AM |371,010 views

20140308-083833.jpg
By Kerry A. Dolan and Luisa Kroll

The ranks of the world’s billionaires continue to scale new heights–and stretch to new corners of the world.

Our global wealth team found 1,645 billionaires with an aggregate net worth of $6.4 trillion, up from $5.4 trillion a year ago. We unearthed a record 268 new ten-figure fortunes, including 42 new women billionaires, another record. In total, there are 172 women on the list, more than ever before and up from 138 last year.

Bill Gates is back on top after a four-year hiatus, reclaiming the title of world’s richest person from telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico, who ranked No. 1 for the past four years. Gates, whose fortune rose by $9 billion in the past year, has held the top spot for 15 of the past 20 years. Spanish clothing retailer Amancio Ortega (best known for the Zara fashion chain) retains the No. 3 spot for the second year in a row, extending his lead over Warren Buffett, who is again No. 4. American gambling tycoon Sheldon Adelson, who added $11.5 billion to his pile, makes it back into the top ten for the first time since 2007. Another first: A record net worth of $31 billion was needed to make the top 20, up from $23 billion last year.

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The Richest People On The Planet
The year’s biggest dollar gainer was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, whose fortune jumped $15.2 billion, to $28.5 billion, as shares of his social network soared. Tech, and more specifically Facebook, helped propel numerous fortunes lately. The company’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, joins the ranks for the first time, as does Facebook’s longtime vice president Jeff Rothschild. Also, thanks to a $19 billion deal (including restricted stock) with Facebook, WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton join the ranks of Silicon Valley’s wealthiest for the first time. They are 4 of 26 newcomers whose fortunes come from technology, 10 of whom are American, including Dropbox CEO Drew Houston and Workday cofounder Aneel Bhusri.
Thanks to the tech boom, and strong stock market, the U.S. once again leads the world with 492 billionaires, followed by China with 152 and Russia with 111. But wealth is spreading to new places. We found billionaires for the first time in Algeria, Lithuania, Tanzania and Uganda. Also for the first time, an African, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria, breaks into the top 25. Worth $25 billion, he moves up 20 spots.

FULL LIST: The Richest People On The Planet

Roughly two-thirds of the billionaires built their own fortunes, 13% inherited them and 21% have been adding on to fortunes they received. Other notable newcomers include World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Vince McMahon, fashion king Michael Kors and Denise Coates of UK online betting firm Bet365.

Still not all countries–or tycoons–had good years. Turkey lost 19 billionaires due to soaring inflation, a sagging stock market and a declining value in its currency. Indonesia, whose currency tumbled 20% against the dollar, now has 8 fewer ten-figure fortunes. Altogether 100 people dropped out of the ranks, while another 16 passed away.

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Methodology

This is our 28th year publishing the Forbes Billionaires list. Though we’ve been at it a long time, it is never an easy task. Our reporters dig deep and travel far. To compile net worths, we value individuals’ assets–including stakes in public and private companies, real estate, yachts, art and cash–and take into account estimates of debt. We attempt to vet these numbers with all billionaires. Some cooperate; others don’t. We also consult an array of outside experts in various fields.

The Forbes Billionaires ranks individuals rather than large, multi-generational families who share large fortunes. So Maja Oeri, who has a disclosed stake in pharmaceutical firm Roche, makes the list, but her eight relatives who, with a nonprofit foundation, share a multi-billion fortune do not. In some cases we list siblings together if the ownership breakdown among them isn’t clear, but here, too, they must be worth a minimum of $2 billion together, or equivalent to $1 billion apiece, to make the cut. We split up these fortunes when we get better information, as we did with the Canada’s Irving brothers this year. Children are listed with their parents when one person is the founder and in control. Those fortunes are identified as “& family.”

We do not include royal family members or dictators who derive their fortunes entirely as a result of their position of power, nor do we include royalty who, often with large families, control the riches in trust for their nation. Over the years Forbes has valued the fortunes of these wealthy despots, dictators and royals but have listed them separately as they do not truly reflect individual, entrepreneurial wealth that could be passed down to a younger generation or truly given away.

Our estimates are a snapshot of wealth on Feb. 12, when we locked in stock prices and exchange rates from around the world. If a stock market wasn’t open on that day, the stock price is from the previous trading day.