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Malaysia Airlines MH370 search halted, government to make 'full and final' report public

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: Four-year search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 ends Tuesday; New Zealand to cull 150,000 cows to try and stop the spread of an invasive bacteria

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

A girl gets her face painted in Kuala Lumpur during the annual remembrance event for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 3. The government is officially halting the search for the missing plane and those who were aboard. (Lai Seng Sin/Reuters)

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TODAY:

  • Four-year, $200-million search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will end tomorrow, government promises to make "full and final" report public
  • New Zealand to cull 150,000 cows to try and stop the spread of an invasive bacteria
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here


Search for flight MH370 ends

After four years and hundreds of millions of dollars, the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 comes to an official end tomorrow, with more theories than answers about what befell its 239 passengers and crew.

The Boeing 777-200 disappeared from radar screens during trip from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8, 2014. It is believed to have crashed somewhere in the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean after running out of fuel.

A man takes pictures of a flight information board still displaying the overdue arrival of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 (top, in red) at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on March 8, 2014. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)
An initial three-year search by Malaysian, Chinese and Australian authorities failed to find any trace of the plane, despite scouring 710,000 square kilometres of ocean floor and surface.

A new effort covering an additional 90,000 square kilometres, led by American underwater exploration company Ocean Infinity Ltd., has also come up bust.

Last week, Anthony Loke, Malaysia's transport minister, said he was unwilling to grant the firm another extension, even though the search is being performed on a "no-find, no-fee" basis.

Speaking with the media in Kuala Lumpur today, Loke pledged to make a "full and final" report on the international probe into the crash available to the public.

"It will be released to the public without any prejudice, in a transparent manner. This includes even if there are any controversial elements in it," Loke said.

The only hard clues to the fate of MH370 have come from three dozen bits of wreckage — including a flaperon and a damaged Chinese suitcase — that washed up on the beaches of Réunion Island and Mozambique, thousands of kilometres from the plane's likely crash site.

Officers recover pieces of debris later confirmed to be from flight MH370, which had washed ashore on Saint-Andre de la Reunion island on July 29, 2015. (Raymond Wae Tion/EPA)
Earlier this month, Larry Vance, a Canadian aviation expert and former crash investigator, made international headlines with his new book MH370 Mystery Solved, which claims that the plane was "intentionally ditched" by its pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, in an alleged act of murder-suicide.

But the Australian investigators who have led the four-year, $200 million hunt for the plane have dismissed Vance's conclusion. They noted that the flap found off the coast of Tanzania in 2015 was not in a deployed position, suggesting the plane hit the ocean at speed.

The Australian Transportation Board's investigation concluded that Shah and his co-pilot were probably unconscious at the time of the crash, perhaps victims of a sudden cabin depressurization.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 pilots Zaharie Ahmad Shah, right, and Fariq Abdul Hamid. (facebook)
There have, however, been suggestions that Shah was experiencing marital difficulties and had researched a "suicide route" out over the Indian Ocean on a home flight simulator.

This week, Sakinab Shah, the pilot's sister, dismissed the murder-suicide speculation as "preposterous," telling an Australian newspaper that he was a man who "loved life, loved fun."

The sister admitted that things were not always perfect between Shah and his wife, but maintained that the situation was far from irreparable. "He was naughty, I admit that," she said. "But at the end of the day he always went home. He took care of his wife. They were high-school sweethearts."

Ocean Infinity's search vessel, Seabed Constructor, deployed underwater robots with sensitive sonar technology as part of its mission to locate MH370. It has been searching for the missing 777 airliner under a 'no-find, no-fee' arrangement with the Malaysian government. (Ocean Infinity)
Blaine Gibson, an American blogger and wreck hunter who found a number of pieces of the plane's wreckage, remains a fierce critic of the formal search and recovery efforts. The Malaysian government would have been better off offering a reward for the drifting pieces of the plane than scouring the ocean floor for what might have sunk, he says.

"This should have been done a long time ago," Gibson told the Western Australian newspaper. "There is so much more out there, and pieces I have handed in to local authorities have not been collected by the Malaysians. A reward would galvanize many villagers to collect pieces that are just lying on beaches. Some of these could be critical to the investigation."

The extensive and expensive ocean-floor mapping during the hunt for MH370 did discover two other wrecks, however — ships that went missing in the 19th century. Both merchant vessels had been transporting coal when they sank 2,300 kilometres off the coast of Australia.

A map of the major search areas for flight MH370. (CBC)


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New Zealand's bacterial battle

New Zealand's government is preparing to slaughter 150,000 cows to try and stop the spread of an invasive bacteria.

Mycoplasma bovis can cause cattle to develop pneumonia, arthritis, mastitis and other painful conditions. While it doesn't make milk products or meat unsafe to eat, it does have serious economic consequences for farmers, by decreasing production and lowering the weight of cattle.

A cow stands on a farm near Invercargill, New Zealand. The country's government plans to slaughter about 150,000 cows as it tries to eradicate a strain of disease-causing bacteria from the national herd. (Mark Baker/Associated Press)
The bacteria is endemic to cattle herds across North America and Europe, but it only has a small toehold in New Zealand, having first been detected last July.

"We essentially had three options in front of us today: phased eradication, long-term management or doing nothing," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. "Our plan to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis over time will require significant resources from both government and the industry, but to not act would cost even more."

The cull, and the compensation to affected farmers, is expected to cost $800 million and will begin immediately.

The government has given officials the authority to enter farms and slaughter cattle, even over the objections of farmers. Entire herds are to be eradicated, even if just one animal is infected. Most of the cows will be processed for meat.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, centre, at a media briefing in Wellington on Monday. The government announced a cull of cattle herds across the country to try and eradicate a strain of the disease-causing bacteria Mycoplasma bovis. (Nick Perry/Associated Press)
Over the past 11 months, some 26,000 cattle have already been killed in efforts to control the spread of Mycoplasma. But now the government, as well as the dairy and beef industries, say more drastic actions are required.

"Over 99 per cent of our dairy herds in New Zealand have no signs of this disease, and we want to keep it that way," DairyNZ chairman Jim van der Poel told the media.

New Zealand has about 10 million head of cattle overall — more than double its human population.

If the cull proves a success, it will mark the first time a country has ever managed to rid itself of the bacteria.

New Zealand has about 10 million head of cattle, more than double its human population. (Mark Baker/Associated Press)
New Zealand has had some past success in fighting off other foreign invaders.

In 2010, a bacteria called Psa threatened to devastate the Kiwi crop, but a $45 million investment in new varietals appears to have beaten back the blight and the industry is thriving.

In 2015, the government spent $14 million on spraying and eradication after 14 Australian fruit flies were discovered.

Invasive mosquitoes, moths and weevils have all been defeated. And the country is currently engaged in a $3 billion, three-decade effort to rid itself of the introduced rats, possums and stoats that kill some 25 million native birds each year.

In Canada, Mycoplasma bovis is a major cause of respiratory and joint infections in cattle, especially on feedlots. Canadian farmers try to control its spread with pre-immunization and antibiotics.


Highlights from the final Ontario provincial leadership debate:


Quote of the moment

"You think the world revolves around your skin colour."

- Federal Conservative MP Maxime Bernier criticizes his Liberal colleague — and frequent Twitter antagonist — Celina Caesar-Chavannes, an African-Canadian, for being too focused on her race.

Conservative Member of Parliament Maxime Bernier, left, and Liberal Member of Parliament Celina Caesar-Chavez. (Chris Wattie/Reuters, Idil Mussa/CBC)

What The National is reading

  • Former hostage Joshua Boyle to have bail hearing today (CBC)
  • The U.S. lost track of 1,475 immigrant children last year (Washington Post)
  • Motorcyclist who advocated for safety dies in a crash (CTV)
  • New Zealand's Five Eyes membership called into question over 'China links' (Guardian)
  • Migrant who saved dangling child offered citizenship by French president (CBC)
  • Thieves plunder German strawberry fields (Deutsche Welle)
  • Great White Sharks have a secret 'cafe' and they led scientists right to it (NPR)
  • Beekeepers are stealing each others hives to survive in a cutthroat industry (Quartz)

Today in history

May 29, 1964: Alfred Hitchcock's filmmaking tips

The director of Psycho, The Birds and many other classic films discusses how he constructed his films for maximum chills, and why he thinks they are more art than craft. "Sometimes one can almost say the man who builds a roller-coaster is an artist, because the grades and dives that he puts in it create the crudest and broadest emotions in the rider."

The director of Psycho, The Birds and many other films discusses how he constructs his films for maximum chills. 44:54

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.