Media Watch 26/3/15

By Rowan Williams

One of the two pilots of a Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday had been locked out of the cockpit, reports have suggested. 150 people were killed when the Airbus A320 jet en route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf crashed into a mountainside after a rapid eight-minute descent. Investigators analysing the plane’s cockpit voice recorder say that one pilot left the cockpit before the descent began and was unable to get back in, despite desperate attempts to do so. It is not clear from the recording which pilot is the captain and which the first officer. France’s aviation investigation agency has said a preliminary report on the crash could be ready within days, though a full report on the crash could take weeks or months. Lufthansa, the group that owns budget airline Germanwings, will operate special flights from Barcelona and Dusseldorf for victims’ families to visit the area. 72 victims are confirmed to have been German, while 51 were Spanish.

Huge crowds are expected to gather at Leicester Cathedral on Thursday for the funeral and reburial of King Richard III, the English king whose remains were first buried in 1485. Richard’s remains were lost for hundreds of years before being rediscovered under a Leicester car park in 2012 and undergoing DNA testing. Thousands lined the streets to view a procession of Richard’s coffin on Sunday, while 20,000 people queued this week to view the late king’s coffin. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will lead today’s ceremony. Some have expressed anger at the proceedings, and have campaigned for Richard to be buried in York, a city that had been a crucial stronghold for Richard’s family. Richard was the last king of England’s Plantagenet dynasty, and the last English king to die in battle, at the Battle of Bosworth Field in the Wars of the Roses.

Half of China’s total trade will be settled in renminbi by 2020, the CEO of HSBC has said. Cross-border trade settlement from China denominated in its renminbi, or yuan, currency is expected to climb to over 50 percent by 2020, more than double its current level. A scheme launched in five Chinese cities in 2009 to encourage cross-border trade settlement in yuan rather than US dollars has grown rapidly since it began, with yuan settlement of trade debts rising from 1 percent in 2010 to 22 percent in 2014. This growth was not dented by a depreciation of the yuan in early 2015, suggesting that the need for the yuan in settlement is rooted in genuine need. HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver predicted that the yuan will quickly become a main global reserve currency alongside the US dollar and the euro.

The Papers

Unanswered questions surrounding the crash of a Germanwings passenger aircraft in the French Alps on Tuesday continue to make the headlines. The Times writes that the mystery of the crash “leaves expert baffled”, and that families of the 150 people killed face a “long wait for answers”. The task of recovering human remains from the mountainside crash site is “expected to take weeks”. In other news, The Independent leads with a report into “Capita and the great British food safety sell-off”. The paper writes of concerns for a “key research unit” sold to Capita, a “controversial outsourcing giant”. Public health concerns could now “lose out to pursuit of profit” at the facility, experts have warned. The Financial Times leads with news of two food giants, after Heinz was yesterday reported to be engaged in a takeover bid of Kraft Foods. Warren Buffett and a Brazilian private equity firm both backed the takeover, the paper writes. The Daily Telegraph leads with news of the Prime Minister’s “pledge to freeze VAT”. The Conservative Party is using the move as a “trap” against the Labour Party, aiming to portray itself as the party that will keep taxes lowest.  The Guardian leads with revelations that the Metropolitan Police spied on several Labour politicians in the 1990s. Harriet Harman, Jack Straw and Diane Abbott were all targeted, with information held on those spied on including financial information and private material.

British Media on China

On China’s detention of five female activists: China on Wednesday rejected Western calls to release five feminist activists after three weeks in detention, prompting coverage from The Guardian and BBC. The BBC writes that “grassroots groups in China have been reporting a marked rise in the detention of political activists” as part of suppression of political opposition. The Guardian reports one of those detained, who suffers from hepatitis B, “had been forced to sleep on a concrete floor and denied regular medication by authorities”. There has been “particular shock at the decision to criminally detain the five”, the paper writes.

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