Ever since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared in the early morning of March 8, there have been two basic theories to explain how the massive Boeing 777 with 239 people on board vanished: It crashed, or it was hijacked. Malaysia is now treating the lost flight as a criminal hijacking, and on late Monday U.S. officials bolstered that case, saying that the plane's initial turn off-course was programmed into the Flight Management System computer and was not the result of somebody manually steering the plane away from its Beijing destination.
Because the flight computer can only be programmed in the cockpit by somebody familiar with Boeing jets, it now seems unlikely that a passenger could have taken control of the jetliner. The new information, if true, doesn't do anything to illuminate why the pilots or a trained hijacker would have carefully veered the passenger jet off its planned course. If a hijacker or rogue pilot had wanted to crash the plane, there would be no point in turning off the communication and tracking devices and programming the flight computer — he would simply steer it into the ocean.
Chris Goodfellow, a veteran commercial pilot, plausibly hypothesizes that the captain piloted the plane off-course because of a fire in the cockpit or another major event onboard, and was headed to the closest large landing strip, at Palau Langkawi.
Instead of a nefarious hijacker, the pilot was likely "a hero struggling with an impossible situation trying to get that plane to Langkawi," Goodfellow says. But the pilots were incapacitated before they got it there, and the plane "just continued on the heading probably on George (autopilot) until either fuel exhaustion or fire destroyed the control surfaces and it crashed," he adds. "Smart pilot. Just didn't have the time." That's not the most optimistic theory, since it assumes that everyone is dead, but it has the air of nobility and simplicity. And it makes as much sense as the other explanations out there. Peter Weber
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has run a presidential campaign plagued by low poll numbers, weak fundraising efforts, and lackluster debate performances. Recently, he's been pouring more fundraising energy into his Senate re-election bid, which he's running simultaneously to his effort to win the Republican presidential nomination.
But Paul insisted he's not going anywhere in a Sunday interview on Fox News' Media Buzz.
"I think the rumors of my demise are somewhat exaggerated, to say the least," he said.
Paul also took a shot at Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, who predicted Paul's downfall in a September tweet.
Prediction: Rand Paul has been driven out of the race by my statements about him-- he will announce soon. 1%!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 29, 2015
"We run a tight ship around here," Paul said. "We plan on being in for the long hall, and I think ultimately celebrity will sort of filter out of this."
Israeli authorities banned Palestinians — including Jerusalem residents — from entering the capital's Old City on Sunday, The New York Times reports.
The only exception to the ban was reportedly for Palestinians who wanted to worship at the Al Aqsa Mosque, where men under 50 are not typically allowed.
About 3,500 police officers in Jerusalem closed off some of the capital's Arab neighborhoods Sunday. The move came after the second deadly Palestinian attack on Israeli families in three days, where two ultra-Orthodox men were fatally stabbed. Julie Kliegman
The bad blood between pop stars Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus might run even deeper than previously thought. When Cyrus hosted Saturday Night Live, the show devoted a whole segment to relentlessly mocking her colleague's ever-growing squad.
On her 1989 tour, Swift has garnered attention for a mile-long list of invitations for celebrities to join her on stage: Lena Dunham, Uzo Aduba, Julia Roberts, Keith Urban, and Kobe Bryant, to name a very small fraction.
In a post-apocalyptic sketch that feels way too real, SNL dared to imagine what will happen when everyone forcibly joins Swift's cult.
Vanessa Bayer woke up in a dark, dark world where the few remaining survivors live in constant fear of being abducted to join Swift on stage.
"First it was the models. And then the athletes," a distraught Kenan Thompson said, moments before his own abduction. "Then it was everybody."
Watch your imminent demise unfold below. Julie Kliegman
Vice President Joe Biden said transgender people should be able to serve openly in the military, a stance that goes beyond anything the Obama administration has said before, The Associated Press reports.
"It's simple," Biden said at the Human Rights Campaign gala Saturday night. "All Americans are qualified to serve, should be able to serve."
In July, Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered a review of the policy banning transgender people from service.
Biden is known for supporting LGBT rights more vocally than other prominent Democrats. In 2012, he backed same-sex marriage before President Obama and Hillary Clinton did.
The vice president, who is still deciding whether to enter the 2016 race, also used the keynote as a chance to slam his would-be Republican opponents.
After noting how far the U.S. has come in supporting LGBT rights, Biden added a wry caveat: "There's homophobes still left — most of them are running for president." Julie Kliegman
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump doesn't believe stricter gun control would result in fewer mass shootings, he said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press. In fact, he thinks more guns could be the answer to stop gunmen like Christopher Harper-Mercer, who fatally shot nine people at an Oregon community college Thursday.
"I can make the case that if there were guns in that room other than his, fewer people would've died, fewer people would've been so horribly injured," he told Chuck Todd.
Both on NBC and in a similar interview on ABC's This Week, Trump blamed gun violence on mental illness.
"No matter how you cut it, you have people that are mentally ill, and they have problems and they're going to slip through the cracks," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos.
In fact, only 4 percent of U.S. violence can be linked to people diagnosed with mental illness, according to a 2015 American Journal of Public Health report debunking the exaggerated role some believe mental illness plays in mass shootings.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) formally announced his bid for House speaker in a Fox News Sunday interview.
"The American people want a fresh face and a fresh new person," Chaffetz said.
Chaffetz, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, told Politico he would treat the position as a facilitator.
"I'm not here to be a dictator, but to empower members to do what they see fit," he said. "I want the process to work its way through the body." Julie Kliegman
Clinton played Val, an ordinary bartender, to Kate McKinnon's Clinton, who was feeling down on her 2016 chances. The two acknowledged Clinton took a long time to oppose the Keystone pipeline and support same-sex marriage.
When McKinnon mentioned Trump, the real politician mustered a surprisingly decent Donald voice and said, "Isn't he the one that's like, 'Ugh, you're all losers.'"
To further hit home that she's a good sport, Clinton even tweeted praise of McKinnon's performance:
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 4, 2015
Even former President Bill Clinton dropped by (as played by SNL vet Darrell Hammond) to kick off the show's 41st season. Watch it all unfold below. Julie Kliegman