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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Roundup Of Interesting News For 24 October, 2009

Before we dig into the interesting news for the day, I want to remind everyone that today in United Nations Day. Happy UN day to everyone!

I hope you find the new format of these roundups interesting and useful. Each headline is a link to the original source of the news. My comments follow each of the headlines. If you like my views, and my take on the news, please let me know in the comments. If you don't, you can let me know about that too!

Pilot who overshot airport denies crew was napping
So, the first officer of the flight has come forward and denies napping on the flight. But he also denies there was an argument that kept them from responding to air traffic control during the time the plane flew past Minneapolis and had to turn back. He claims it wasn't a safety-related issue, and then ominously adds, "I would tell you more, but I've already told you way too much." I have no idea what to make of that last statement.
Most people think the most likely explanation for the incident is that the pilots fell asleep. Unfortunately, it is not going to be easy to get to the bottom of this if the pilots stay mum on this because the cockpit voice recorder only holds the last 30 minutes of recordings, and whatever happened during the overfly got overwritten once the pilots did turn around. Maybe some advanced technology can reconstruct the original recording from beneath the new recording like how they reconstructed parts of the infamous gap in the Nixon tapes!

Could letting pilots take a nap make flying safer?
This is one of those tired old topics that never goes away. The reason there are two pilots up there is not because it takes two people to actively fly a plane, but because one serves as a backup if something happens to the other. Aeroplanes nowadays pretty much fly themselves. You can program in a series of waypoints into the autopilot computer and the plane will go from one to the other with pretty much no human intervention. Instrument landing systems can also land planes with almost no human intervention, so I see absolutely no problem in the pilots taking turns sleeping while the other keeps an eye on things during routine cruise.
Pilots will argue that this is not safe. They will argue that if an emergency does arise, it would require two alert pilots to get things under control and that one sleeping or groggy pilot would be unsafe. One has to understand that this is an age-old tension between airline management and pilots - management would love to get rid of some rules about rest times and having pilots sleep in the cockpit could mean less strict limits on flight times and rest times. Pilots would love stricter limits on flight times and rest times because it would personally mean more free time for themselves. More importantly, it would mean that airlines have to hire more pilots to fly the same number of flights, which directly translates to higher dues payments to pilots unions. We will have to wait and see how this argument is settled, but if I were a betting man, I would say it is probably not going to happen, especially given that the current administration is democratic (read union-friendly)!

US police to auction motorized lounge chair
OK, this is one true luxury ride. Look at this list of features built into the la-z-boy: comes complete with stereo, footrest, cupholders, headlights, a nitrous oxide power boost system, drag racing-style steering wheel and a parachute. Yes, that's right: it even comes with a parachute, in case you decide to go flying in it and the battery runs out!
Now, it was reported that Le Roy Anderson, the owner, had been cited for DWI after smashing this ride into a parked car while driving it drunk (the chair can do up to 15 mph). It turns out that this actually happened over a year back in August of 2008. Now, that the case has made its way through the courts, the verdict is in: the driver pleaded guilty, and as a penalty, his ride will be auctioned off. Seems mean-spirited to me, but DWI is DWI, and I guess this action sends out a strong message that it will not be tolerated whether it is in a car, a motorbike, a tank or a la-z-boy! And, moreover, it will be on eBay, so here is your big chance to snag it if you have always wanted a couch-potato-mobile!!

Cheesed off Swiss farmers target minister
Dairy farmers in Switzerland have taken a page out of the book of famous shoe-throwing journalist, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, by throwing their boots at the Swiss economy minister. Because it is not practical for anyone to dodge multiple pairs of boots, her bodyguards came to her rescue with opened umbrellas. No word on any arrests!

Only 'Coca-Cola Espanola' for Spanish lawmakers
The speaker of the Spanish parliament has ordered that cans for the Coca Cola in vending machines at the parliament be made in Spain. Ostensibly so that, in his own words, "those buying the drinks can read the nutritional information on the cans in Spanish." Whatever! The maker of the cans (currently a Polish company) can not print in Spanish?! As I said, whatever!!

Shocking Cost Of Spending A Penny At Shop
Don't ask me what the headline actually means. It left me scratching my head after reading the story, which, by the way, is about a shop owner who has electrified the curb near his shop to prevent people from taking a pee there! "If anybody persists and continues with the anti-social behaviour they'll get a shock, they'll know all about it," according to the shop owner, who is apparently tired of the mess he finds his shop and its surroundings in after revellers are done.
Obviously, while most intelligent people will find the solution perfectly reasonable, the police have warned the shop owner that he will be held liable if anyone complains about being shocked. This is obviously the same police that has proven to be effective and efficient at bringing the revellers to justice. Yeah, right!

No one on ballot for mayor, council in NC town
This is a town of 29 people with a mayor and 3 council member! I kid you not! And they were so busy that they forgot about the filing deadline, which apparently "sneaked up" on them! Not to worry, they are going to write each other's names in as write-in candidates so that they can hang on to their jobs! With people like them keeping a sharp eye on things, why would anyone want to replace them?!!

Primary School Kids Go Down The Pub For Lunch
Yeah, it's another of those British headlines that leave you scratching your head for a while! It is a feel-good story about students who patronize a local diner instead of having a lunch room in the school. I guess it is one way that the local school can support a local business instead of having lunch prepared in some kitchen far away and trucked to the school. Before McDonald's gets any fancy ideas, the article does note that "the menus and portions are tested and approved for their nutritional value"! Good luck with that, McDonald's!!

Lebanon dips into another world record with hummus
Lebanese to Israel: Hands off our hummus!
Interesting couple of stories about a nationalistic competition for the largest serving of hummus! I had no idea that hummus was Lebanese. I knew it was middle-eastern, but not specifically Lebanese. If I had to guess, I would have guess Arabic or Egyptian. Turns out Israel held the record for the largest serving of hummus, so the Lebanese were miffed enough about it to organize this record-setting event.
Now, Lebanon accuses Israel of "stealing" these dishes and marketing them to the world as Israeli. And then the article gets very interesting because there apparently is a process to register food as belonging to a particular country. That gives the country the rights to market that dish as its own and prevent other countries from calling that dish theirs! The more you read, the more you know! Of course, the more you know, the more you forget. And the more you forget, the less you know. And the cycle continues . . .

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