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
While comedian Amy Schumer will tell you she isn't racist, a pair of university professors disagree — and have gone as far as to say she "inspired" the worldview of alleged Charleston shooter Dylann Roof in a Washington Post op-ed titled, "Don't believe her defenders. Amy Schumer's jokes are racist."
Stacey Patton, a history professor at American University, and David Leonard, a professor in the Critical, Cultural, Gender and Race Studies department at Washington State University, wrote that Schumer's racially insensitive jokes make her no different than Donald Trump, who has come under fire of late for comments calling Mexican migrants rapists and murderers. Patton and Leonard argue that Schumer could run on the same presidential ticket as Trump, citing several stand-up routines, including one in which Schumer said, "I used to date Hispanic guys, but now I prefer consensual."
Patton and Leonard are not the first to call Schumer out for her offensive jokes, however: The Guardian previously ran a piece arguing that Schumer has a "large blind spot around race." But the Washington Post op-ed takes this argument a step further, claiming the comedian's jokes are not merely offensive, but dangerous, and could be to blame for accused Charleston shooter Dylann Roof's "worldview."
"Invoking the 'it's just a joke" defense denies the social, historic, and cultural implications of racial humor," Patton and Leonard write, adding that Schumer's jokes spread racism of the caliber seen in the murder of nine black Americans last month:
This rhetoric isn't just ugly. It contributes to a worldview that justifies a broken immigration system, mass incarceration, divestment from inner city communities, that rationalizes inequality and buttresses persistent segregation and violence. Yet nobody wants to take responsibility for spewing rhetoric that breeds the fear that results in soaring gun purchases, that "inspires" monsters like Dylann Roof to craft a manifesto with deadly consequences. [Washington Post]
They'll never stop The Simpsons. Just weeks after announcing he was leaving The Simpsons behind after 26 years, Harry Shearer — who voices Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, and Principal Skinner, among many other characters — will return to Springfield after all.
Shearer has signed a new contract for The Simpsons, which secures his voice work for four more seasons. Shearer and the other five principal voice actors on The Simpsons, who had already signed on for the new seasons, are each estimated to earn more than $300,000 per episode.
Shearer originally left The Simpsons in May over a dispute during contract negotiations for the show's upcoming 27th season. "I wanted what we've always had: the freedom to do other work," Shearer tweeted at the time. In reply, executive producer James L. Brooks tweeted, "Hey, we tried. We're still trying. Harry, no kidding, let's talk." Scott Meslow
Southern cooking star Paula Deen once again has "a lot of esplainin' to do." This time, it's for a photo that Deen posted on Twitter and Facebook, in which her son Bobby is wearing brownface.
"Lucyyyyyyy! You got a lot of esplainin' to do! #TransformationTuesday," the now-deleted tweet read. A photo of Deen and her son Bobby dressed up as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy was attached below it.
— Eater (@Eater) July 7, 2015
Since Bobby Deen's hands are held right up to his face in the photo, it's glaringly obvious that his skin was intentionally darkened with makeup in order for him to depict the Cuban-American Ricardo. It's unclear why Deen would have decided to resurface the photo, which Yahoo reported is actually from a shoot in 2011.
Deen is no stranger to accusations of racism: She first landed herself in a batch of trouble for racism in 2013, when she admitted to using the "n-word" and said she once thought about hiring "black waiters and waitresses to dress up like 'slaves' for her brother Bubba's wedding," Mic reports. These incidents cost Deen most of her business relationships and her reputation, and yet, two years later, she seems to be right back at it. Becca Stanek
An F-16 military fighter plane collided with a private Cessna C-150 in the skies above Moncks Corner, South Carolina, 11 miles north of Charleston, ABC News reports. One witness described the collision as a "ball of fire in the air" to local station WCBD.
The F-16 was reportedly from Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, and a defense official said that the pilot ejected safely from the plane. There is no word yet on how many others were aboard the private Cessna, nor are there details of casualties. Jeva Lange
— The Post and Courier (@postandcourier) July 7, 2015
South Carolina prosecutors said Tuesday that Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old accused of killing nine people at a historically black church in Charleston last month, has been indicted on 13 charges, including murder, attempted murder, and possessing a weapon during a violent crime.
Charleston County prosecutor Scarlett A. Wilson previously said that she has not decided whether to seek the death penalty against Roof, since she first wanted to discuss that possibility with the victims' families. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R), meanwhile, has called for Roof to face the death penalty. Becca Stanek
Here's something you can use that pocket change for: In honor of the International House of Pancakes' 57th anniversary, the breakfast chain will be selling its short stack of three buttermilk pancakes for just 57 cents between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 7.
— IHOP (@IHOP) July 7, 2015
IHOP started as a single restaurant in Los Angeles specializing in pancakes from around the world in 1958 and has since expanded to over 1,500 locations in the United States and Canada. In recent years, it got a little bit more international when it opened locations in Dubai and Kuwait. Marshall Bright
Having saved the world countless times, James Bond is setting his sights on a more modest goal: conquering Broadway. Playbill reports that producer Merry Saltzman has acquired the rights to stage James Bond: The Musical. The play is already in development, and producers hope to have it ready for Broadway or Las Vegas by 2017 or 2018.
While the story of James Bond: The Musical will be original — and introduce a brand-new female character for 007 to tangle with — the play will include several existing Bond villains. Here's hoping Jaws finally opens his steel-toothed jaw and reveals the beautiful baritone he's been hiding all along. Scott Meslow