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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Video Shows Moment of Impact of Asiana Flight 214

The National Transportation Safety Board released a video Wednesday showing the moment of impact of Asiana Airlines flight 214 when it crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.

In video of the July 6 crash of Asiana Airlines flight 214 that was newly released Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board, the plane can be seen tumbling down the runway and making a dramatic cartwheel after hitting the sea wall at San Francisco International Airport, breaking off the back of the fuselage.

As my colleague Matthew Wald reported, documents released at the board’s hearing in San Francisco on the crash of the Boeing 777 also indicated confusion among crew members about how the plane’s automation system worked.

The plane’s captain, while an experienced pilot, had just 35 hours of experience with the auto throttles, and he appeared confused about some details of the system, mixing them up when interviewed by investigators with the automation system for an Airbus A320.

The board’s chairwoman, Deborah A. P. Hersman, briefing reporters at the hearing.

During the hearing, which included representatives of Asiana, the Boeing Company, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Korean government Office of Civil Aviation, investigators said that no one said that the plane was too low until the last 30 seconds of the flight.

Of 291 passengers, three schoolgirls from China died, and 199 were transported to hospitals as were three of the four pilots and 10 of the 12 cabin crew members.

The jet had taken off from Seoul, South Korea, where Asiana is based, and stopped in Shanghai before heading to San Francisco.

Wife Appeals for Release of Journalist Kidnapped in Syria

The wife of Javier Espinosa, an El Mundo journalist who was kidnapped in Syria, making a public appeal for the release of her husband and the photographer abducted with him, Ricardo García Vilanova.

Thirteen international news organizations, including the BBC, The Associated Press and The New York Times, have written a letter to the armed opposition in Syria asking for assurances that their journalists will not be abducted, as my colleague Ravi Somaiya reported.

The letter came as the wife of one of two Spanish journalists who were kidnapped by Islamic extremists in September while working in Syria made a public appeal on Monday, asking their captors to let them go after secret efforts to win their release were unsuccessful.

My colleague Anne Barnard reported that Monica G. Prieto pleaded for the release of her husband, Javier Espinosa, a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, and Ricardo García Vilanova, a photographer who was abducted alongside him.

Ms. Prieto also announced the start of the Free Javier and Ricardo Campaign, which includes a collection of online footage showing Mr. Espinosa at work, reporting in the Middle East and North Africa.

Footage of Javier Espinosa at work in Libya in 2011.

In her appeal for the release of the two men, Ms. Prieto emphasized the risk they have taken to cover the conflict in Syria and tell the stories of the people in Syria. “Javier and Ricardo are not your enemy,” said Ms. Prieto, who wore a head scarf, apparently to make her speech more likely to be viewed by Islamist jihadists. “Please, honor the revolution they protected, and set them free.”

The online collection shows the depth of the work the two men have done in Syria, including footage of wounded children and civilians fleeing an air attack.

Wounded children at a hospital in Aleppo, Syria, in video shot by Ricardo García Vilanova.
Civilians fleeing an air attack in Aleppo.

Struggle for Kiev Square Unfolds Live Online

A screenshot of four live video streams from Kiev's Independence Square early Wednesday. A screenshot of four live video streams from Kiev’s Independence Square early Wednesday.

As my colleagues David Herszenhorn and Andrew Kramer report from Kiev, the security forces failed to clear protesters from the city’s main square overnight, despite dismantling barricades and shoving against lines of demonstrators for hours in the freezing cold.

The relative restraint shown by the riot police, known as the Berkut, was in marked contrast to the brutal beating of protesters and journalists during the government’s last attempt to clear the protest camp, just over a week ago. The security forces’s new tolerance of journalism meant that interested observers who were not in the square, or even in the country, were able to follow events as they unfolded in granular detail, watching live video of the tense standoff in the square streamed from multiple camera angles, reading text updates from reporters and activists as the hours passed and viewing photographs of protesters fortifying their defenses at the nearby city hall they continue to occupy.

One of those streaming video throughout the night, from both sides of the front lines, was Mustafa Nayyem, an independent Ukrainian journalist. At one stage, Mr. Nayyem recorded the dismantling of barricades by officers and men in orange vests who appeared to be municipal workers.

Video streamed live to the web overnight by Mustafa Nayyem, a Ukrainian journalist who uses the screen name mefimus.

As night gave way to morning, video posted on Instagram by Max Seddon, a Buzzfeed correspondent in the square, and Sergey Ponomarev, a New York Times photographer, showed that the protest camp’s sound system continued to blast out a driving hard-rock soundtrack to the action, punctuated by repeated renditions of the national anthem from the Ukrainian pop star Ruslana.

Although the lack of violence made for less obviously dramatic images, there was one extraordinary scene captured on video at about 2 a.m. local time. As both the Guardian reporter Shaun Walker and the Dutch correspondent Olaf Koens reported on Twitter, hours into the shoving match, a phalanx of riot police officers suddenly found themselves forced through the lines and then trapped inside the square. The protesters, however, treated them with mercy, and formed a cordon through their lines to allow them to retreat.

Clear images of that scene were recorded by a young Ukrainian filmmaker, Vasia Nikolayenko. Just over four minutes into his footage of the night’s action, Mr. Nikolayenko showed the orange-helmeted protesters clearing a path through their ranks and the police officers filing out.

Video recorded overnight in Kiev by a 20-year-old Ukrainian filmmaker, Vasia Nikolayenko, showed protesters forming a cordon to allow riot police officers, briefly stranded behind their lines, to retreat.
Mr. Nikolayenko, who was 11 years old during the last round of mass protests against the current president, Viktor Yanukovich, also had some fun with video of a statue of Lenin that was toppled by protesters in Kiev last week, producing a remix set to the soundtrack from the Super Mario Brothers video game.

A YouTube remix of video recorded during the toppling of a statue of Lenin in Kiev last week.

‘Selfie’ of Obama Was Misinterpreted, Photographer Says

President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain posed for a picture with Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark on Tuesday during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.Roberto Schmidt/Agence France-Presse â€" Getty Images President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain posed for a picture with Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark on Tuesday during the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.

This is an era when one honest image can ignite viral misinterpretation. So an Agence France-Presse photographer, Roberto Schmidt, has provided invaluable context for his photograph of a grinning President Obama joining two prime ministers in taking a snapshot of themselves at Nelson Mandela’s memorial ceremony.

The photograph was one of the most widely shared images to emerge from the ceremony in South Africa on Tuesday, and quickly became the focus of online commentary. It shows Mr. Obama leaning sideways toward Denmark’s prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, as they posed for a camera phone picture with David Cameron, the prime minister of Britain.

The reactions included criticism that the leaders were being disrespectful and attempts to decipher the meaning behind Michelle Obama’s expression.

On Wednesday, Mr. Schmidt explained what went on before and after that single moment interpreted in isolation. He was replying, he wrote, because he saw how that one image out of hundreds Agence France-Presse published “lit up” social media networks.

“I guess it’s a sign of our times that somehow this image seemed to get more attention than the event itself,” he wrote. “Go figure.”

He continued, in part:

Anyway, suddenly this woman pulled out her mobile phone and took a photo of herself smiling with Cameron and the U.S. president. I captured the scene reflexively. All around me in the stadium, South Africans were dancing, singing and laughing to honor their departed leader. It was more like a carnival atmosphere, not at all morbid. The ceremony had already gone on for two hours and would last another two. The atmosphere was totally relaxed - I didn’t see anything shocking in my viewfinder, president of the U.S. or not. We are in Africa.

I later read on social media that Michelle Obama seemed to be rather peeved on seeing the Danish prime minister take the picture. But photos can lie. In reality, just a few seconds earlier the first lady was herself joking with those around her, Cameron and Schmidt included. Her stern look was captured by chance.

I took these photos totally spontaneously, without thinking about what impact they might have. At the time, I thought the world leaders were simply acting like human beings, like me and you. I doubt anyone could have remained totally stony faced for the duration of the ceremony, while tens of thousands of people were celebrating in the stadium. For me, the behavior of these leaders in snapping a selfie seems perfectly natural. I see nothing to complain about, and probably would have done the same in their place. The AFP team worked hard to display the reaction that South African people had for the passing of someone they consider as a father. We moved about 500 pictures, trying to portray their true feelings, and this seemingly trivial image seems to have eclipsed much of this collective work.

Mr. Schmidt’s descriptions of the event’s “carnival atmosphere” were similar to the observations my colleagues Nicholas Kulish, Lydia Polgreen and Alan Cowell have reported, saying the sometimes “rambunctious national memorial ceremony” for Mr. Mandela on Tuesday was followed on Wednesday by a “more muted” event in which the South African leader was lying in state.

On Wednesday, back in Britain in the House of Commons, Mr. Cameron made light of the self-photograph, referring to the Kinnock family. Ms. Thorning-Schmidt is the daughter-in-law of Neil Kinnock, the former leader of the Labour Party, the rival of Mr. Cameron’s Tory Party.

“But in my defense I’d say that Nelson Mandela played an extraordinary role in his life and in his death in bringing people together,” Mr. Cameron said. “And so, of course, when a member of the Kinnock family asked me for a photograph, I thought it was only polite to say yes.”

On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron briefly referred to the snapshot in this U.K. Parliament video.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.