Still a mystery. A missing Malaysian jetliner emitted signals to satellites for hours after its last contact with air traffic control, investigators said Thursday. The satellite “pings” from the plane strengthened speculation that its transponders and other communication devices were turned off deliberately by the pilot or a knowledgeable hijacker. Given the amount of fuel it had on board, the plane could have reached anywhere in a large swath of South and Southeast Asia. In the absence of more information on its movements, finding it could be a massive task. The theory that the plane turned back and flew west has been strengthened after Malaysia said it has military radar records showing unidentified blips that could indicate the plane taking a different direction. The Beijing-bound Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 vanished with 239 people on board last Saturday, after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.
Combat-ready? A gay rights group says it’s time to allow transgender military personnel. The push is based on the notion that people who want to change their gender, including cutting off body parts, have no psychological problems, said Aaron Belkin of the Palm Center, a transgender advocacy group. It has published a paper saying there are no health concerns about allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military. Belkin said the study did not consider issues like the effects on military readiness and unit cohesion. Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness said that was a huge omission. “For him to admit, and I would say admit, that this paper did not even look at the social and military implications, that’s a tip-off right there that it’s not anything objective.”
A house divided. The Montana Supreme Court has ruled the property of a Lutheran church in Great Falls belongs to a small group of congregation members who refused to split from the mainline denomination. Faith Lutheran Church voted to break away from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 2010 after the denomination decided to allow the ordination of men and women in monogamous same-sex relationships. The church’s constitution allowed such a schism if at least two-thirds of the members approved it, but it required a 90 percent vote to take the church’s property with them. The Montana court ruled that 48 church members who wished to remain in the ELCA could retain control of the property in keeping with the church’s constitution. Those members have formed a new congregation called New Hope Lutheran Ministry. But the court ruled that New Hope could not claim control over an endowment fund started at Faith Lutheran Church.
Unsafe at any speed. The Metro-North commuter railroad’s loose approach to safety contributed to a deadly train derailment Dec. 1 in the Bronx, N.Y., a federal agency said Friday. The “deficient safety culture” shows in inadequate track inspection, poor training, and employees’ use of cellphones, the Federal Railroad Administration said. Metro-North, which connects New York City to its northern suburbs, concentrated too much on sticking to its schedule and not enough on protecting passengers. The report cited three other accidents in the past year: a March derailment in Bridgeport, Conn., that injured more than 50 people; a May accident in West Haven, Conn., that killed a Metro-North worker; and a July freight train derailment in New York City that resulted in “significant” property damage.