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Left in Limbo by Malaysia Flight’s Disappearance: Opening Line

By C. Thompson
March 10, 2014 6:01 AM EDT

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which was lost from radar on Friday night (here)/Saturday morning (there) with 239 on board, and the pace of the investigation hold an eeriness reminiscent of the crash of Air France Flight 447, which similarly vanished on its way to Paris from Rio de Janeiro in 2009. The public’s ability to digest and mourn air tragedies are typically aided by the usual evidence -- the (horrible) images we get when they happen in plain sight. In this case, as was initially the case with Flight 447, our default visceral reaction feels suspended. There’s nothing to see. The scant clues are ominous, most notably the discovery that two tickets were bought together with stolen passports. Now authorities say as many as four travelers’ identities may be suspect, and they have been unable to retrieve the door or window frame they thought they saw over the weekend.

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The markets don’t appear to think terrorism is involved in the plane’s disappearance. U.S. index futures are fluctuating around little changed -- and had turned positive briefly within the past half-hour. Shares were down in Asia and Europe earlier, and copper extended Friday’s plunge, after weaker-than-estimated Chinese trade and inflation data fed concern about its economy. Stocks in Europe are now higher.

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The foreign-exchange rigging scandal is expanding with an SEC investigation into its potential effect on prices for options and exchange-traded funds, two people with knowledge told our Keri Geiger and Silla Brush. Meanwhile, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney will face lawmakers’ questions tomorrow following revelations last week that BOE officials knew there were concerns about forex rigging as early as 2006.

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Buying a car? How about a car-listings website? Cars.com is for sale. The Wall Street Journal, which reported the deal earlier, said the price will be about $3 billion. Call Ken Moelis. Chiquita Brands will merge with Dublin-based Fyffes Plc in a $526 million stock transaction that will create the world’s biggest banana purveyor. Chiquita will own about 50.7 percent of the combined company.

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Morgan Stanley has advised on $176 billion of pending and completed acquisitions globally so far this year, more than any bank, Bloomberg league tables show. Goldman Sachs ranks seventh, advising on $83 billion of deals. However, no one’s really sure if that’s accurate. Royal Bank of Canada, managing the sale of national ambulance service Rural/Metro Corp., left money on the table to push the company into a deal with Warburg Pincus, Delaware Chancery Court Judge Travis Laster ruled Friday.

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The quarterly Bank for International Settlements reports included a couple items this weekend that are worth a look. One is the amount of debt this world is in. Global debt surged 40 percent to $100 trillion since the Great Recession as nations borrowed more and kept interest rates low to spur recovery. The increase, $30 trillion, is almost double the U.S. gross domestic product. The other is a paper suggesting central banks might want to cut back on guidance about rates and policies, saying the banks’ comments could create leave markets out of balance. Our executive editor for economy and international governments, Dan Moss, says the analysis probably isn’t as strident as it appears, however. “It’s written as an academic paper and shouldn’t be seen as some kind of admonishment,” Moss says. Also, “it’s unlikely the Fed, BOE, ECB and so on would disagree. I am told the relevant banks have made similar noises themselves.”

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How much, and when, General Motors knew about ignition-switch failures tied to 13 deaths in Chevrolet, Pontiac and Saturn cars was the information sought in an order to the company by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week. Yesterday the New York Times reported that more than 260 complaints about GM vehicles turning off while being driven came into federal safety regulators over 11 years, according to its analysis of information it says was sent to...the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Anyone who even makes notice of a difference in gender in the execution of most of life’s ventures and tasks is probably missing the point. Why do we even have to write about the emergence of women at the South by Southwest conference? That, in 2014, there’s even a sensitivity to this notion should be a little embarrassing. Business, genius, inspiration -- these are not uniquely male traits. “I’m hoping at one point down the line you can stop talking about the first woman this, first woman that. It’s just, ‘Sally, the engineer’,” said attendee Tina Cannon, president of client relations at the law firm. Right.

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Our follow-up today to the news that Sigma Alpha Epsilon has ended pledging and hazing rituals, which have been linked to 10 deaths at SAE since 2006, examines the reactions from within the Greek community, with SAE members across the U.S. mourning the end of the tradition. The observations tend to gravitate toward misgivings over losing the ability to determine who’s “worthy” and who might be “socially awkward,” like Mohammed, Sidney, Clayton and Jugdish. They suggest that fraternity policies made at national headquarters aren’t necessarily observed at the local level and that these traditions will just be pushed underground. But maybe character isn’t revealed by how much a freshman can drink or what kind of absurd physical abuse he can withstand. What if pledges were required to complete an arduous regimen of public service while maintaining a certain grade-point average before they can be deemed “worthy”? Maybe that would be a “brotherhood experience” worth preserving.

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William Clay Ford, owner of the Detroit Lions NFL team and last surviving grandchild of company founder, Henry Ford, died yesterday at the age of 88. The day before, William “Wild Bill” Guarnere, who, with Edward “Babe” Heffron, embodied one of the more Brotherly Love stories in HBO’s ‘Band of Brothers,’ died at 90.

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Israeli Jews on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship were prevented from debarking in Tunis yesterday, while non-Israeli Jews were allowed onshore. Also in Israel, a seized ship believed to be carrying rockets bound for Gaza arrived in port in Eilat on Saturday. Libyan government forces are besieging a North Korea-flagged oil tanker attempting to sail with a shipment of oil loaded by a rebel faction. Al Qaeda is publishing a new English-language magazine on how to wage terrorism and is using a clip of Malcolm X in a video promoting the title.

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Ted Cruz killed at Saturday night’s 129th annual dinner of the Gridiron Club, according Bloomberg News senior executive editor Marty Schenker. While U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly turned in an impressive performance of his own, Schenker says it was lines from the Senate Republican (“Canadians are so polite, mild-mannered, modest, unassuming, open-minded. Thank God my family fled that oppressive influence before it could change me.”) that rolled the room. Schenker says he wondered about the conversation between Cruz and the man seated next to him on the dais, Michael Bloomberg, “but the highlight for me was when I went looking for the men’s room,” and kept finding dead ends until some guy finally gave him directions.

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Ever read ’Golf in the Kingdom’? If not, the 1971 cult classic by Michael Murphy, who would go on to co-found the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, will change your life and possibly even your golf game. If you have read it, or if you’re just generally aware of how to conduct yourself on a golf course, you understand why Ian Poulter ripped 22-year-old Hideki Matsuyama at Doral over the weekend after the Japanese golfer lashed out in frustration by burying his putter in the green and moved on without repairing the wound. “Golf is a game of blows and weapons,” Murphy wrote. “In order that the game continue we must make amends for every single act of destruction. In a golf club everyone knows the player who does not replace his divot. One can guess how he leads the rest of his life.”

To contact the reporter on this story: C. Thompson in Wilmington at cthompson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Marty Schenker at mschenker@bloomberg.net

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