St. Louis hit by massive power outages after 80 m.p.h. winds, National Guard mobilized


Friday, July 21, 2006

A storm has knocked out power during a heat wave in the Greater St. Louis Area.

80 mph (130 km/h) winds accompanied by heavy rain caused many tree limbs to fall, some onto cars, some onto thoroughfares, and some on high-tension power lines that supply the city. It also caused at least three building collapses.

After 160,000 people have had their power restored, but 500,000 others are still without power. Three hundred national guardsmen joined volunteers, policemen and firefighters in aiding people during the crisis.

Vulnerable residents in nursing homes and centers for the elderly are being evacuated. Cookies and water are being distributed to those needing them. With temperatures were nearing 100°F (38°C), ice was in short supply as customers grabbed all they could get their hands on.

“I’ve never seen this many people without power, this much debris, buildings collapsed, lines down,” St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said.

The local power company, AmerenUE, estimated that as of 10:26 p.m. local Central time on the 20th, 418,195 customers had no electricity.

After killing wife and children, police officer commits suicide in Noyon, France


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A police officer has shot and killed his wife and two of their children at the train station in the French city of Noyon in the department of Oise, the local prosecutor said, after the wife had informed the officer of her intention to separate from him. Their sons were aged three and five; a third child, twin to the five year old victim, survived the attack and is in the care of child services. The killings took place around 11:30 local time (0930 UTC) on Sunday.

The wife, born in 1983, called the gendarmes (police) in the morning, and they arrived to find her explaining to their five children about the domestic argument which had escalated. The husband returned while the police were present, and they reported he seemed calm and did not interfere with the children being moved to a neighbor’s home, so they departed. The woman reportedly chose to leave her house when her husband was not there, and headed to the station, where the husband awaited them armed.

After assassinating his family, the police officer committed suicide. The wife’s family lived in Guiscard, near Noyon. The station at Noyon was closed after the incident. Late on Sunday, the police were searching for a witness who escaped after observing the events.

Keep your eyes peeled for cosmic debris: Andrew Westphal about Stardust@home


Sunday, May 28, 2006

Stardust is a NASA space capsule that collected samples from comet 81P/Wild (also known as “Wild 2) in deep space and landed back on Earth on January 15, 2006. It was decided that a collaborative online review process would be used to “discover” the microscopically small samples the capsule collected. The project is called Stardust@home. Unlike distributed computing projects like SETI@home, Stardust@home relies entirely on human intelligence.

Andrew Westphal is the director of Stardust@home. Wikinews interviewed him for May’s Interview of the Month (IOTM) on May 18, 2006. As always, the interview was conducted on IRC, with multiple people asking questions.

Some may not know exactly what Stardust or Stardust@home is. Can you explain more about it for us?

Stardust is a NASA Discovery mission that was launched in 1999. It is really two missions in one. The primary science goal of the mission was to collect a sample from a known primitive solar-system body, a comet called Wild 2 (pronounced “Vilt-two” — the discoverer was German, I believe). This is the first US “sample return” mission since Apollo, and the first ever from beyond the moon. This gives a little context. By “sample return” of course I mean a mission that brings back extraterrestrial material. I should have said above that this is the first “solid” sample return mission — Genesis brought back a sample from the Sun almost two years ago, but Stardust is also bringing back the first solid samples from the local interstellar medium — basically this is a sample of the Galaxy. This is absolutely unprecedented, and we’re obviously incredibly excited. I should mention parenthetically that there is a fantastic launch video — taken from the POV of the rocket on the JPL Stardust website — highly recommended — best I’ve ever seen — all the way from the launch pad, too. Basically interplanetary trajectory. Absolutely great.

Is the video available to the public?

Yes [see below]. OK, I digress. The first challenge that we have before can do any kind of analysis of these interstellar dust particles is simply to find them. This is a big challenge because they are very small (order of micron in size) and are somewhere (we don’t know where) on a HUGE collector— at least on the scale of the particle size — about a tenth of a square meter. So

We’re right now using an automated microscope that we developed several years ago for nuclear astrophysics work to scan the collector in the Cosmic Dust Lab in Building 31 at Johnson Space Center. This is the ARES group that handles returned samples (Moon Rocks, Genesis chips, Meteorites, and Interplanetary Dust Particles collected by U2 in the stratosphere). The microscope collects stacks of digital images of the aerogel collectors in the array. These images are sent to us — we compress them and convert them into a format appropriate for Stardust@home.

Stardust@home is a highly distributed project using a “Virtual Microscope” that is written in html and javascript and runs on most browsers — no downloads are required. Using the Virtual Microscope volunteers can search over the collector for the tracks of the interstellar dust particles.

How many samples do you anticipate being found during the course of the project?

Great question. The short answer is that we don’t know. The long answer is a bit more complicated. Here’s what we know. The Galileo and Ulysses spacecraft carried dust detectors onboard that Eberhard Gruen and his colleagues used to first detect and them measure the flux of interstellar dust particles streaming into the solar system. (This is a kind of “wind” of interstellar dust, caused by the fact that our solar system is moving with respect to the local interstellar medium.) Markus Landgraf has estimated the number of interstellar dust particles that should have been captured by Stardust during two periods of the “cruise” phase of the interplanetary orbit in which the spacecraft was moving with this wind. He estimated that there should be around 45 particles, but this number is very uncertain — I wouldn’t be surprised if it is quite different from that. That was the long answer! One thing that I should say…is that like all research, the outcome of what we are doing is highly uncertain. There is a wonderful quote attributed to Einstein — “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called “research”, would it?”

How big would the samples be?

We expect that the particles will be of order a micron in size. (A millionth of a meter.) When people are searching using the virtual microscope, they will be looking not for the particles, but for the tracks that the particles make, which are much larger — several microns in diameter. Just yesterday we switched over to a new site which has a demo of the VM (virtual microscope) I invite you to check it out. The tracks in the demo are from submicron carbonyl iron particles that were shot into aerogel using a particle accelerator modified to accelerate dust particles to very high speeds, to simulate the interstellar dust impacts that we’re looking for.

And that’s on the main Stardust@home website [see below]?

Yes.

How long will the project take to complete?

Partly the answer depends on what you mean by “the project”. The search will take several months. The bottleneck, we expect (but don’t really know yet) is in the scanning — we can only scan about one tile per day and there are 130 tiles in the collector…. These particles will be quite diverse, so we’re hoping that we’ll continue to have lots of volunteers collaborating with us on this after the initial discoveries. It may be that the 50th particle that we find will be the real Rosetta stone that turns out to be critical to our understanding of interstellar dust. So we really want to find them all! Enlarging the idea of the project a little, beyond the search, though is to actually analyze these particles. That’s the whole point, obviously!

And this is the huge advantage with this kind of a mission — a “sample return” mission.

Most missions rather do things quite differently… you have to build an instrument to make a measurement and that instrument design gets locked in several years before launch practically guaranteeing that it will be obsolete by the time you launch. Here exactly the opposite is true. Several of the instruments that are now being used to analyze the cometary dust did not exist when the mission was launched. Further, some instruments (e.g., synchrotrons) are the size of shopping malls — you don’t have a hope of flying these in space. So we can and will study these samples for many years. AND we have to preserve some of these dust particles for our grandchildren to analyze with their hyper-quark-gluon plasma microscopes (or whatever)!

When do you anticipate the project to start?

We’re really frustrated with the delays that we’ve been having. Some of it has to do with learning how to deal with the aerogel collectors, which are rougher and more fractured than we expected. The good news is that they are pretty clean — there is very little of the dust that you see on our training images — these were deliberately left out in the lab to collect dust so that we could give people experience with the worst case we could think of. In learning how to do the scanning of the actual flight aerogel, we uncovered a couple of bugs in our scanning software — which forced us to go back and rescan. Part of the other reason for the delay was that we had to learn how to handle the collector — it would cost $200M to replace it if something happened to it, so we had to develop procedures to deal with it, and add several new safety features to the Cosmic Dust Lab. This all took time. Finally, we’re distracted because we also have many responsibilities for the cometary analysis, which has a deadline of August 15 for finishing analysis. The IS project has no such deadline, so at times we had to delay the IS (interstellar, sorry) in order to focus on the cometary work. We are very grateful to everyone for their patience on this — I mean that very sincerely.

And rest assured that we’re just as frustrated!

I know there will be a “test” that participants will have to take before they can examine the “real thing”. What will that test consist of?

The test will look very similar to the training images that you can look at now. But.. there will of course be no annotation to tell you where the tracks are!

Why did NASA decide to take the route of distributed computing? Will they do this again?

I wouldn’t say that NASA decided to do this — the idea for Stardust@home originated here at U. C. Berkeley. Part of the idea of course came…

If I understand correctly it isn’t distributed computing, but distributed eyeballing?

…from the SETI@home people who are just down the hall from us. But as Brian just pointed out. this is not really distributed computing like SETI@home the computers are just platforms for the VM and it is human eyes and brains who are doing the real work which makes it fun (IMHO).

That said… There have been quite a few people who have expressed interested in developing automated algorithms for searching. Just because WE don’t know how to write such an algorithm doesn’t mean nobody does. We’re delighted at this and are happy to help make it happen

Isn’t there a catch 22 that the data you’re going to collect would be a prerequisite to automating the process?

That was the conclusion that we came to early on — that we would need some sort of training set to be able to train an algorithm. Of course you have to train people too, but we’re hoping (we’ll see!) that people are more flexible in recognizing things that they’ve never seen before and pointing them out. Our experience is that people who have never seen a track in aerogel can learn to recognize them very quickly, even against a big background of cracks, dust and other sources of confusion… Coming back to the original question — although NASA didn’t originate the idea, they are very generously supporting this project. It wouldn’t have happened without NASA’s financial support (and of course access to the Stardust collector). Did that answer the question?

Will a project like this be done again?

I don’t know… There are only a few projects for which this approach makes sense… In fact, I frankly haven’t run across another at least in Space Science. But I am totally open to the idea of it. I am not in favor of just doing it as “make-work” — that is just artificially taking this approach when another approach would make more sense.

How did the idea come up to do this kind of project?

Really desperation. When we first thought about this we assumed that we would use some sort of automated image recognition technique. We asked some experts around here in CS and the conclusion was that the problem was somewhere between trivial and impossible, and we wouldn’t know until we had some real examples to work with. So we talked with Dan Wertheimer and Dave Anderson (literally down the hall from us) about the idea of a distributed project, and they were quite encouraging. Dave proposed the VM machinery, and Josh Von Korff, a physics grad student, implemented it. (Beautifully, I think. I take no credit!)

I got to meet one of the stardust directors in March during the Texas Aerospace Scholars program at JSC. She talked about searching for meteors in Antarctica, one that were unblemished by Earth conditions. Is that our best chance of finding new information on comets and asteroids? Or will more Stardust programs be our best solution?

That’s a really good question. Much will depend on what we learn during this official “Preliminary Examination” period for the cometary analysis. Aerogel capture is pretty darn good, but it’s not perfect and things are altered during capture in ways that we’re still understanding. I think that much also depends on what question you’re asking. For example, some of the most important science is done by measuring the relative abundances of isotopes in samples, and these are not affected (at least not much) by capture into aerogel.

Also, she talked about how some of the agencies that they gave samples to had lost or destroyed 2-3 samples while trying to analyze them. That one, in fact, had been statically charged, and stuck to the side of the microscope lens and they spent over an hour looking for it. Is that really our biggest danger? Giving out samples as a show of good faith, and not letting NASA example all samples collected?

These will be the first measurements, probably, that we’ll make on the interstellar dust There is always a risk of loss. Fortunately for the cometary samples there is quite a lot there, so it’s not a disaster. NASA has some analytical capabilities, particularly at JSC, but the vast majority of the analytical capability in the community is not at NASA but is at universities, government labs and other institutions all over the world. I should also point out that practically every analytical technique is destructive at some level. (There are a few exceptions, but not many.) The problem with meteorites is that except in a very few cases, we don’t know where they specifically came from. So having a sample that we know for sure is from the comet is golden!

I am currently working on my Bachelor’s in computer science, with a minor in astronomy. Do you see successes of programs like Stardust to open up more private space exploration positions for people such as myself. Even though I’m not in the typical “space” fields of education?

Can you elaborate on your question a little — I’m not sure that I understand…

Well, while at JSC I learned that they mostly want Engineers, and a few science grads, and I worry that my computer science degree with not be very valuable, as the NASA rep told me only 1% of the applicants for their work study program are CS majors. I’m just curious as to your thoughts on if CS majors will be more in demand now that projects like Stardust and the Mars missions have been great successes? Have you seen a trend towards more private businesses moving in that direction, especially with President Bush’s statement of Man on the Moon in 2015?

That’s a good question. I am personally not very optimistic about the direction that NASA is going. Despite recent successes, including but not limited to Stardust, science at NASA is being decimated.

I made a joke with some people at the TAS event that one day SpaceShipOne will be sent up to save stranded ISS astronauts. It makes me wonder what kind of private redundancy the US government is taking for future missions.

I guess one thing to be a little cautious about is that despite SpaceShipOne’s success, we haven’t had an orbital project that has been successful in that style of private enterprise It would be nice to see that happen. I know that there’s a lot of interest…!

Now I know the answer to this question… but a lot do not… When samples are found, How will they be analyzed? Who gets the credit for finding the samples?

The first person who identifies an interstellar dust particle will be acknowledged on the website (and probably will be much in demand for interviews from the media!), will have the privilege of naming the particle, and will be a co-author on any papers that WE (at UCB) publish on the analysis of the particle. Also, although we are precluded from paying for travel expenses, we will invite those who discover particles AND the top performers to our lab for a hands-on tour.

We have some fun things, including micromachines.

How many people/participants do you expect to have?

About 113,000 have preregistered on our website. Frankly, I don’t have a clue how many will actually volunteer and do a substantial amount of searching. We’ve never done this before, after all!

One last thing I want to say … well, two. First, we are going to special efforts not to do any searching ourselves before we go “live”. It would not be fair to all the volunteers for us to get a jumpstart on the search. All we are doing is looking at a few random views to make sure that the focus and illumination are good. (And we haven’t seen anything — no surprise at all!) Also, the attitude for this should be “Have Fun”. If you’re not having fun doing it, stop and do something else! A good maxim for life in general!

Ontario Votes 2007: Interview with Family Coalition Party candidate Bill Bernhardt, Kitchener Centre


Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bill Bernhardt is running for the Family Coalition Party in the Ontario provincial election, in the Kitchener Centre riding. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.

Please note that Bill provided his answers in “ALL CAPS”; due to the time constraints of this election coverage, it remains in this typographic style.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.

Cleveland, Ohio clinic performs US’s first face transplant


Thursday, December 18, 2008

A team of eight transplant surgeons in Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, USA, led by reconstructive surgeon Dr. Maria Siemionow, age 58, have successfully performed the first almost total face transplant in the US, and the fourth globally, on a woman so horribly disfigured due to trauma, that cost her an eye. Two weeks ago Dr. Siemionow, in a 23-hour marathon surgery, replaced 80 percent of her face, by transplanting or grafting bone, nerve, blood vessels, muscles and skin harvested from a female donor’s cadaver.

The Clinic surgeons, in Wednesday’s news conference, described the details of the transplant but upon request, the team did not publish her name, age and cause of injury nor the donor’s identity. The patient’s family desired the reason for her transplant to remain confidential. The Los Angeles Times reported that the patient “had no upper jaw, nose, cheeks or lower eyelids and was unable to eat, talk, smile, smell or breathe on her own.” The clinic’s dermatology and plastic surgery chair, Francis Papay, described the nine hours phase of the procedure: “We transferred the skin, all the facial muscles in the upper face and mid-face, the upper lip, all of the nose, most of the sinuses around the nose, the upper jaw including the teeth, the facial nerve.” Thereafter, another team spent three hours sewing the woman’s blood vessels to that of the donor’s face to restore blood circulation, making the graft a success.

The New York Times reported that “three partial face transplants have been performed since 2005, two in France and one in China, all using facial tissue from a dead donor with permission from their families.” “Only the forehead, upper eyelids, lower lip, lower teeth and jaw are hers, the rest of her face comes from a cadaver; she could not eat on her own or breathe without a hole in her windpipe. About 77 square inches of tissue were transplanted from the donor,” it further described the details of the medical marvel. The patient, however, must take lifetime immunosuppressive drugs, also called antirejection drugs, which do not guarantee success. The transplant team said that in case of failure, it would replace the part with a skin graft taken from her own body.

Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital surgeon praised the recent medical development. “There are patients who can benefit tremendously from this. It’s great that it happened,” he said.

Leading bioethicist Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania withheld judgment on the Cleveland transplant amid grave concerns on the post-operation results. “The biggest ethical problem is dealing with failure — if your face rejects. It would be a living hell. If your face is falling off and you can’t eat and you can’t breathe and you’re suffering in a terrible manner that can’t be reversed, you need to put on the table assistance in dying. There are patients who can benefit tremendously from this. It’s great that it happened,” he said.

Dr Alex Clarke, of the Royal Free Hospital had praised the Clinic for its contribution to medicine. “It is a real step forward for people who have severe disfigurement and this operation has been done by a team who have really prepared and worked towards this for a number of years. These transplants have proven that the technical difficulties can be overcome and psychologically the patients are doing well. They have all have reacted positively and have begun to do things they were not able to before. All the things people thought were barriers to this kind of operations have been overcome,” she said.

The first partial face transplant surgery on a living human was performed on Isabelle Dinoire on November 27 2005, when she was 38, by Professor Bernard Devauchelle, assisted by Professor Jean-Michel Dubernard in Amiens, France. Her Labrador dog mauled her in May 2005. A triangle of face tissue including the nose and mouth was taken from a brain-dead female donor and grafted onto the patient. Scientists elsewhere have performed scalp and ear transplants. However, the claim is the first for a mouth and nose transplant. Experts say the mouth and nose are the most difficult parts of the face to transplant.

In 2004, the same Cleveland Clinic, became the first institution to approve this surgery and test it on cadavers. In October 2006, surgeon Peter Butler at London‘s Royal Free Hospital in the UK was given permission by the NHS ethics board to carry out a full face transplant. His team will select four adult patients (children cannot be selected due to concerns over consent), with operations being carried out at six month intervals. In March 2008, the treatment of 30-year-old neurofibromatosis victim Pascal Coler of France ended after having received what his doctors call the worlds first successful full face transplant.

Ethical concerns, psychological impact, problems relating to immunosuppression and consequences of technical failure have prevented teams from performing face transplant operations in the past, even though it has been technically possible to carry out such procedures for years.

Mr Iain Hutchison, of Barts and the London Hospital, warned of several problems with face transplants, such as blood vessels in the donated tissue clotting and immunosuppressants failing or increasing the patient’s risk of cancer. He also pointed out ethical issues with the fact that the procedure requires a “beating heart donor”. The transplant is carried out while the donor is brain dead, but still alive by use of a ventilator.

According to Stephen Wigmore, chair of British Transplantation Society’s ethics committee, it is unknown to what extent facial expressions will function in the long term. He said that it is not certain whether a patient could be left worse off in the case of a face transplant failing.

Mr Michael Earley, a member of the Royal College of Surgeon‘s facial transplantation working party, commented that if successful, the transplant would be “a major breakthrough in facial reconstruction” and “a major step forward for the facially disfigured.”

In Wednesday’s conference, Siemionow said “we know that there are so many patients there in their homes where they are hiding from society because they are afraid to walk to the grocery stores, they are afraid to go the the street.” “Our patient was called names and was humiliated. We very much hope that for this very special group of patients there is a hope that someday they will be able to go comfortably from their houses and enjoy the things we take for granted,” she added.

In response to the medical breakthrough, a British medical group led by Royal Free Hospital’s lead surgeon Dr Peter Butler, said they will finish the world’s first full face transplant within a year. “We hope to make an announcement about a full-face operation in the next 12 months. This latest operation shows how facial transplantation can help a particular group of the most severely facially injured people. These are people who would otherwise live a terrible twilight life, shut away from public gaze,” he said.

Wikinews interviews Joe Schriner, Independent U.S. presidential candidate


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Journalist, counselor, painter, and US 2012 Presidential candidate Joe Schriner of Cleveland, Ohio took some time to discuss his campaign with Wikinews in an interview.

Schriner previously ran for president in 2000, 2004, and 2008, but failed to gain much traction in the races. He announced his candidacy for the 2012 race immediately following the 2008 election. Schriner refers to himself as the “Average Joe” candidate, and advocates a pro-life and pro-environmentalist platform. He has been the subject of numerous newspaper articles, and has published public policy papers exploring solutions to American issues.

Wikinews reporter William Saturn? talks with Schriner and discusses his campaign.

SpaceX Falcon I launches from Kwajalein Atoll


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

SpaceX Corporation launched its Falcon I rocket today from Kwajalein Atoll. Liftoff occurred at 6:00 PM PDT, following two previous launch aborts this week.

The first stage was completely successful, although there appeared to be some problems with the second stage. The sub-orbital flight reached an altitude of 300 km, and is on a traectory for re-entry. It was intended to go into orbit, but contact was lost before this could be accomplished

This is the second launch for the low-cost SpaceX rocket, and the first successful launch for the company. The previous launch had a successful lift-off, but failed 35 seconds into the flight and crashed near to the launch pad due to a fuel leak in the engine.

NTSB releases updates on status of 3 major US investigations


Sunday, June 17, 2007

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the agency responsible for investigating transportation accidents in the United States, released updates on three major investigations on June 14.

The NTSB, well known publicly for its involvement in the investigation of aviation incidents which involve harm or loss of human life, is also an agency that oversees the transportation of refined petroleum and gas products, chemicals and minerals.

The agency determined the cause of a natural gas pipeline explosion that killed six. It also detailed the cause of an accidental release of 204,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia from a pipeline in an environmentally sensitive area, and released preliminary information involving two commercial aircraft coming within 30-50 feet of each other on a runway.

In the gas explosion disaster, the towing vessel Miss Megan, which was of specifications that did not require inspection by the United States Coast Guard, was being operated in the West Cote Blanche Bay oil field in Louisiana by Central Boat Rentals on behalf of Athena Construction on October 12, 2006. The Miss Megan was pushing barge IBR 234, which was tied along the starboard side of barge Athena 106, en route to a pile-driving location. Athena Construction did not require its crews to pin mooring spuds (vertical steel shafts extending through wells in the bottom of the boat and used for mooring) securely in place on its barges and consequently this had not been done. During the journey, the aft spud on the Athena 106 released from its fully raised position. The spud dropped into the water and struck a submerged, high-pressure natural gas pipeline. The resulting gas released ignited and created a fireball that engulfed the towing vessel and both barges. The master of the towing vessel and four barge workers were killed. The Miss Megan deckhand and one barge worker survived. One barge worker is officially listed as missing.

The NTSB blames Athena Construction for the disaster, citing in the final report that Athena Construction’s manual contained no procedures mandating the use of the safety devices on the spud winch except during electrical work. It was found that if the Athena 106 crew had used the steel pins to secure the retracted spuds during their transit, a pin would have prevented the aft spud from accidentally deploying. Furthermore, the spud would have remained locked in its lifted position regardless of whether the winch brake mechanism, the spud’s supporting cable, or a piece of connecting hardware had failed.

The NTSB also found that contributing to the accident was the failure of Central Boat Rentals to require, and the Miss Megan master to ensure, that the barge spuds were securely pinned before getting under way. The Board noted that investigators found no evidence that the Miss Megan master or deckhand checked whether the spuds had been properly secured before the tow began. While Central Boat Rentals had a health and safety manual and trained its crews, the written procedures did not specifically warn masters about the need to secure spuds or other barge equipment before navigating. The NTSB stated that the company’s crew should have been trained to identify potential safety hazards on vessels under their control.

NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker said of the investigation’s results, “Having more rigorous requirements in place could have prevented this accident from occurring. Not only do these regulations need to be put in place but it is imperative that they are enforced and adhered to.”

The NTSB has made a number of safety recommendations as a result of this accident and the subsequent investigation. Recommendations were made to Athena Construction and Central Boat Rentals to develop procedures and train the employees of its barges to use the securing pins to hold spuds safely in place before transiting from one site to another.

The most major of the other recommendations are:

To the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

  • Direct the Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health to issue the following documents document to the maritime industry: (1) a fact sheet regarding the accident, and (2) a guidance document regarding the need to secure the gear on barges, including spud pins, before the barges are moved, and detailing any changes to your memorandum of understanding with the Coast Guard.

To the U. S. Coast Guard

  • Finalize and implement the new towing vessel inspection regulations and require the establishment of safety management systems appropriate for the characteristics, methods of operation, and nature of service of towing vessels.
  • Review and update your memorandum of understanding with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to specifically address your respective oversight roles on vessels that are not subject to Coast Guard inspection.

The NTSB also released the result of its investigation into an environmental disaster in Kansas on October 27, 2004 in which 204,000 gallons (4,858 barrels) of anhydrous ammonia was spilled from a ruptured pipeline in Kingman into an environmentally sensitive area. Chemicals from the pipeline entered a nearby stream and killed more than 25,000 fish, including some fish from threatened species.

The incident reached the scale that it did due to operator error after the initial rupture. The 8 5/8-inch diameter steel pipeline, which was operated by Enterprise Products Operating L.P., burst at 11:15 a.m. in an agricultural area about 6 miles east of Kingman, Kansas. A drop in pipeline pressure, indicating abnormal conditions or a possible compromise in pipeline integrity, set off alarms displayed on the computerized pipeline monitoring system. Shortly after the first alarm the pipeline controller, in an attempt to remedy the low pressure, increased the flow of anhydrous ammonia into the affected section of pipeline. A total of 33 minutes elapsed between the time when the first alarm indicated a problem with the pipeline and the initiation of a shutdown.

In its initial report to the National Response Center (NRC), the pipeline operator’s accident reporting contractor reported a release of at least 20 gallons of ammonia, telling the NRC that an updated estimate of material released would be reported at a later time. No such report was ever made. Because of the inaccurate report, the arrival of representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency was delayed by a full day, affecting the oversight of the environmental damage mitigation efforts.

The cause of the rupture itself was determined to be a pipe gouge created by heavy equipment damage to the pipeline during construction in 1973 or subsequent excavation activity at an unknown time that initiated metal fatigue cracking and led to the eventual rupture of the pipeline.

“We are very fortunate that such highly toxic chemicals of the size and scope involved in this accident were not released in a populated area,” commented Rosenker. “Had this same quantity of ammonia been released near a town or city, the results could have been catastrophic.”

As a result of this accident, the NTSB made the following safety recommendations:

To the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration:

  • Require that a pipeline operator must have a procedure to calculate and provide a reasonable initial estimate of released product in the telephonic report to the National Response Center.
  • Require that a pipeline operator must provide an additional telephonic report to the National Response Center if significant new information becomes available during the emergency response.
  • Require an operator to revise its pipeline risk assessment plan whenever it has failed to consider one of more risk factors that can affect pipeline integrity.

To Enterprise Products Operating L.P.:

  • Provide initial and recurrent training for all controllers that includes simulator or noncomputerized simulations of abnormal operating conditions that indicate pipeline leaks.

“The severity of this release of dangerous chemicals into the community could have been prevented,” said Rosenker. “The safety recommendations that we have made, if acted upon, will reduce the likelihood of this type of accident happening again.”

As well as concluding their investigation of the above accidents, the NTSB also released preliminary information regarding a serious runway incursion at San Francisco International Airport between two commercial aircraft on May 26, 2007.

At about 1:30 p.m. the tower air traffic controller cleared SkyWest Airlines flight 5741, an Embraer 120 arriving from Modesto, California, to land on runway 28R. Forgetting about the arrival airplane, the same controller then cleared Republic Airlines flight 4912, an Embraer 170 departing for Los Angeles, to take off from runway 1L, which intersects runway 28R.

After the SkyWest airliner touched down, the Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS) alerted and the air traffic controller transmitted “Hold, Hold, Hold” to the SkyWest flight crew in an attempt to stop the aircraft short of runway 1L. The SkyWest crew applied maximum braking that resulted in the airplane stopping in the middle of runway 1L. As this was occurring, the captain of Republic Airlines flight 4912 took control of the aircraft from the first officer, realized the aircraft was traveling too fast to stop, and initiated an immediate takeoff. According to the crew of SkyWest 5741, the Republic Airlines aircraft overflew theirs by 30 to 50 feet. The Federal Aviation Administration has categorized the incident as an operational error.

The NTSB sent an investigator to San Francisco, who collected radar data, recorded air traffic control communications, and flight crew statements, and interviewed air traffic control personnel prior to the NTSB making the preliminary release.

Wikinews’ overview of the year 2008


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Also try the 2008 World News Quiz of the year.

What would you tell your grandchildren about 2008 if they asked you about it in, let’s say, 20 years’ time? If the answer to a quiz question was 2008, what would the question be? The year that markets collapsed, or perhaps the year that Obama became US president? Or the year Heath Ledger died?

Let’s take a look at some of the important stories of 2008. Links to the original Wikinews articles are in all the titles.

US Defense Secretary evaluates Iraq and the political climate


Friday, April 6, 2007

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned that limiting funding for the United States efforts in Iraq could lead to more bloodshed in the Middle Eastern country. In an interview with radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, he said it might even lead to ethnic cleansing in Bahgdad and elsewhere in Iraq.

Gates’ comment followed a proposal from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to end most spending on the Iraq war in 2008, limiting it to targeted operations against al Qaeda, training for Iraqi troops and U.S. force protection.

Sec. Gates also said that the duration of the troop increase is not clear and that evaluating whether the Administration’s new strategy was working will have to wait till mid-summer. The Army general charged with day-to-day operations has suggested that the increased deployment may extend to early next year.