The year 2014 is well on its way to being Malaysia Airlines' annus horribilis. Flight 17, shot down last week over eastern Ukraine, is the second Boeing 777 the airline has lost in the last five months, after MH370 disappeared, it's believed, somewhere over the Indian Ocean.
But even before the double calamity, Malaysia's national carrier was struggling to adapt to momentous shifts in Asia's aviation industry.
It was expected to announce a restructuring plan even before MH17 was shot down. That plan is expected very soon. Other than bankruptcy or privatization, analysts say, the airline doesn't have many options.
"To recover from a double incident like this, it's unprecedented in the history of aviation," says Mohshin Aziz, an aviation analyst at Maybank Investment Bank.
Mohshin figures that Malaysia Airlines is losing about $1.7 million a day, and he expects that figure to rise after the recent plane crash.
"So if there were a recovery, suffice it to say it will take a substantial amount of time, perhaps a year, two, maybe more," he says. "The unfortunate thing is Malaysia Airlines doesn't have the balance sheet to sustain anything beyond a year."
Mohshin says that Malaysia Airlines is not to blame for flying its approved route over a conflict zone.
But ultimately, he says, it is the perceptions of consumers that count, and that's why the airline's ticket bookings and stock prices have plummeted.
Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai has recently been bombarded by questions about why MH17 flight flew over a war zone.
He says it's because aviation authorities approved the route.
"The flight and its operators followed the rules," he said. "But on the ground, the rules of war were broken."
If the airline is privatized, that may be a good thing, some critics say, because state ownership of the airline has led to crony capitalism.
Gurcharan Singh is a 30-year veteran of Malaysia Airlines, and the former head of its pilots association.
He notes that for years, Malaysia's rulers gave the airline to their political allies to manage. And he says that resulted in a lot of bad business decisions.
"Who decides what aircraft to buy, what engines to use. ... One guy says no, it's GE, another guy says it's Pratt & Whitney. It's all political," he says.
What's worse, Gurcharan says, the airline's management was awarded on the basis of affirmative action policies that benefit ethnic Malays.
He says the privatization of Malaysia Airlines must to avoid this trap.
"Everything is race-based. So we have to get out of that. This is something technical. You just want people with merit," he says. "It doesn't matter if he's Indian, Chinese, Malay, whatever race, it must be strictly on merit for them to survive."
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines is up against some tough competitors in the neighborhood. On the top end, it faces Singaporean and Thai carriers. On the low end, it's outperformed by the more efficient budget carrier Air Asia.
Mohshin Aziz, the aviation analyst, says Malaysia-based Air Asia has helped usher in low-cost air travel in the region, much as Southwest and Ryanair have done in the U.S. and Europe, respectively.
"So that's where Asia is right now. We're having a good economic growth for the past decade. There's a lot of middle-class people," he says. "And the geography of Southeast Asia — there's sea everywhere, so in many instances, flying is the only option that you have."
Malaysia Airlines has become a part of the national identity, Mohshin says, because people grew up with it. He says it could and should survive as a private airline, focused on domestic routes.
Learn how to inject a Celtic core into your music library that reflects past and present, honors tradition and celebrates the spirit of innovation. It can be done! Host Fiona Ritchie has suggestions that will enhance any personal music collection.
The Federal Aviation Administration has extended its ban on U.S. flights to and from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel.
"The agency is working closely with the Government of Israel to review the significant new information they have provided and determine whether potential risks to U.S. civil aviation are mitigated so the agency can resolve concerns as quickly as possible."
The ban applies only to U.S. operators, so airlines such as Israel's El Al can continue flying to the region.
To that end, it's worth noting that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg flew to Israel today to protest the ban.
"This evening I will be flying on El Al to Tel Aviv to show solidarity with the Israeli people and to demonstrate that it is safe to fly in and out of Israel," Bloomberg said in a statement before the flight, according to CNN. "Ben Gurion is the best protected airport in the world and El Al flights have been regularly flying in and out of it safely."
He went on to call the restrictions "a mistake" that hand "Hamas an undeserved victory."
Many international airlines followed the Americans' lead yesterday.
Update at 1:19 p.m. ET. European Carriers Follow Suit:
The AP reports:
"Lufthansa and Air Berlin extended their cancelations through Thursday and Air France said it was suspending its flights 'until further notice.'
"The European Aviation Safety Agency late Tuesday said it 'strongly recommends' that airlines refrain from operating flights to and from Tel Aviv. It said it would 'monitor the situation and advise on any update as the situation develops.' "
If prostitution were legal around the world, the transmission of HIV among female sex workers would go down by at least a third, according to a paper presented at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.
That would be a huge step forward. "Sex workers face a disproportionately large burden of HIV," the paper notes.
Goats and Soda spoke to Dr. Kate Shannon, director of the Gender and Sexual Health Initiative of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in British Columbia, and lead author of the paper published in the July 22 journal The Lancet.
What led you to do research on HIV and female sex workers?
This is part of a larger series of research on sex workers and HIV that also looked at transmission among male and transgender sex workers.
Why has the criminalization of prostitution made sex workers more vulnerable to HIV infection?
We see across many settings that criminalization leads to more violence. Policing practices displace sex workers, sending them to more hidden places where they're less safe and where they lose the ability to negotiate conditions, such as condom use.
It seems counterintuitive: A greater police presence in the sex trade leads to more violence and less safety for sex workers. How does that happen?
From our review, we see that policing efforts include bribes, confiscating condoms, police harassment, forced detainment and abuse. And where sex workers experience violence, or fear violence, they're more likely to have to do things like jump into vehicles quickly [for sex] with a reduced ability to negotiate condom use.
How do the sex workers describe these encounters with the law?
There are some moving quotes in the paper.
From Kenya: "They [the police] found me on the street, took all the condoms I had and destroyed them." From Vancouver, Canada: "You get all these [expletive] cops and security ... pushing us into darker and darker areas ... they'll pick you up and make you do something for them just so you can stay there to work." From India: "He put handcuffs on me and told me I had to go to the police station, but he took me to a remote place instead. Twelve members had sex with me and snatched my money and purse."
The three countries you looked at, Canada, India and Kenya, are quite different. What do they have in common when it comes to HIV and sex workers?
In all three settings, we set up models to see what the impact of removing sanctions against prostitution would have on HIV. By decriminalizing prostitution and having safer environments, indoor environments, we could avert 33 percent to 46 percent of new HIV cases among sex workers over the next decade. Some countries are moving toward criminalizing clients while decriminalizing sex workers. But our work shows that if all laws and sanctions were removed for both clients and sex workers, you'd see this reduction in HIV transmission.