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March 18, 2014

A Startlingly Simple Theory About the Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet

The best theory: an onboard electrical fire and a captain aiming for the nearest, safest runway. A Startlingly Simple Theory About the Missing Malaysia Airlines Jet | Autopia | Wired.com
For me, the loss of transponders and communications makes perfect sense in a fire. And there most likely was an electrical fire. In the case of a fire, the first response is to pull the main busses and restore circuits one by one until you have isolated the bad one. If they pulled the busses, the plane would go silent. It probably was a serious event and the flight crew was occupied with controlling the plane and trying to fight the fire. Aviate, navigate, and lastly, communicate is the mantra in such situations. There are two types of fires. An electrical fire might not be as fast and furious, and there may or may not be incapacitating smoke. However there is the possibility, given the timeline, that there was an overheat on one of the front landing gear tires, it blew on takeoff and started slowly burning. Yes, this happens with underinflated tires. Remember: Heavy plane, hot night, sea level, long-run takeoff. There was a well known accident in Nigeria of a DC8 that had a landing gear fire on takeoff. Once going, a tire fire would produce horrific, incapacitating smoke. Yes, pilots have access to oxygen masks, but this is a no-no with fire. Most have access to a smoke hood with a filter, but this will last only a few minutes depending on the smoke level. (I used to carry one in my flight bag, and I still carry one in my briefcase when I fly.) What I think happened is the flight crew was overcome by smoke and the plane continued on the heading, probably on George (autopilot), until it ran out of fuel or the fire destroyed the control surfaces and it crashed. You will find it along that route–looking elsewhere is pointless.

March 10, 2014

Cash-strapped towns using actual toxic waste to de-ice their roads

Coal ash is what is left over after you burn coal. It is incredibly toxic and basically poison. So why not spread it on the road outside your child's school? Spraying Toxic Coal Ash Is A Cheap And Popular Way To De-Ice Roads | ThinkProgress
The months of relentless winter weather that have pummeled much of the nation have forced many communities to get creative when it comes to de-icing roads. With salt for roads in short supply, everything from beet juice to cheese brine is being used to help drivers stay in control on slippery streets — including coal ash. That’s right, for years, cities and towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Mexico, Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, and Colorado have sprayed the toxic waste on roads to combat winter ice and snow. Municipalities often get it for free from power plants who are eager to dispose of it somehow and it never seems to be in short supply. Coal ash, the residue left over from burning coal to generate electricity, contains some very dangerous substances including arsenic, lead, mercury chromium, and cadmium. When coal ash washes from a road into a ditch or storm sewer it can leach toxic compounds into the water and soil. According to the American Coal Ash Association, 256,000 tons of coal ash were distributed for use on roads in 2012. Barb Gottlieb, director of environment and health for Physicians for Social Responsibility, said that using coal ash in this way “should be recognized as a problem.” She singled out chromium, for example, as a “very dangerous carcinogen” that is even more dangerous when wet.

George Zimmerman signs autographs at Florida gun show

The only thing Zimmerman has done is chase down a teenager and murder him. George Zimmerman Signs Autographs At A Florida Gun Show | ThinkProgress
George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, was the featured guest at a central Florida gun show this weekend, where he autographed photographs for customers. Organizers of the New Orlando Gun Show almost canceled the event because of backlash, but instead agreed to relocate Zimmerman’s signing to a smaller venue. Zimmerman wanted to return a favor to The Arms Room, an Orlando gun store that supported him after he killed Martin. “The concept of being able to pay them back for what they did for me and seeing my supporters face to face was something I just couldn’t pass up,” Zimmerman told Fox 35. On Twitter, he described the controversy as “another company bowing to threats of being labeled racist.” The only thing Zimmerman is famous for is killing an unarmed black teenager. And he is, in many ways, the poster child for Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. “I walk around armed; I walk around with a bullet proof vest; it’s not so much for my safety as it is so much for those around me,” he said. “I can be around my family and something might happen to them. There’s children around me, etc. Those threats… I have to be able to defend myself like any American.”

February 15, 2014

Ellen Page comes out in a lovely speech to the Human Rights Campaign

I love Ellen Page.