Disasters

Trump: Blaming The Victim

This is outright inhumane:

Trump is laying the groundwork for abandoning Puerto Rico, and blaming it for its infrastructure problems that existed pre-hurricane. Lost in his “analysis” is that the people suffering there (still no power or clean water on most of the Island) are AMERICANS.

If Bush was negligent with Katrina response, Trump is being outright punishing.

According to some sources, there are now 117 people listed missing in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria struck the island on Sept. 20. (I’m trying to verify)

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz — who hasn’t been shy about calling out the President for the federal response to the devastation in Puerto Rico, which she thinks has been inadequate — pushed back.

She called his comments “unbecoming” of a commander-in-chief and said they seem “more to come from a ‘Hater in Chief.’”

He really is a hater.  This is proof.  This has little to do with the fact that Puerto Rico is a territory, not a state, and everything to do with the fact that the people there are Latino.

UPDATE:  More words from the San Juan Mayor — scathing:

And for comparison:

And the White House contradicts Trump:

Asked for a response to Trump’s remarks, the White House later said it was “committed to helping Puerto Rico” and working with local leaders and Congress “to identify the best fiscally responsible path forward.”

“Successful recoveries do not last forever; they should be as swift as possible to help people resume their normal lives,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reiterated during a Thursday news briefing that the Trump administration would “stand with those American citizens in Puerto Rico until the job is done.”

Trump’s Bizarre Puerto Rico Visit On Tuesday

He accused Puerto Ricans of throwing the federal budget “out of whack.”

He suggested Puerto Rico had not experienced a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina, since a mere “16 people” had been confirmed dead.

He told a family of hurricane victims to “have a good time.”

He tossed paper towels to another group of victims, in a church, as if he was shooting basketball free throws.

He told a third group of victims that they don’t need flashlights any longer, though 90 per cent of the island was still without power.

He refused to speak to the mayor of San Juan.

And, as usual, Donald Trump congratulated himself.

Facing withering criticism for his delayed and then belligerent response to the Puerto Rican hurricane crisis, Trump’s Tuesday visit to San Juan was a chance to begin to repair the wounds he had caused over a week of tweeted insults.

Instead he casually tore them open, a smile on his face.

In a frequently abnormal afternoon on the island, Trump showed none of the scripted gravitas of his sombre Monday response to the massacre in Las Vegas. Speaking without notes, he behaved as if the ongoing crisis had long since been fixed by his own doing.

It was vintage Trump — informal, freewheeling, self-centred, detached from facts, wholly unlike the behaviour of any other modern president.

His supporters applauded again, pointing to his authenticity and moments of empathy. Puerto Ricans already upset with him before he landed were infuriated.

He was a national embarrassment.

Trump’s Disastrous Trip To Puerto Rico Not Much Better Than Maria

This man cannot do public service without sounding tone-deaf.  For Trump, it’s about optics, and how good HE looks.

“Every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here and what is your death count? Sixteen people, versus in the thousands,” Trump said. “You can be very proud. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people.”

That statement is problematic in several ways. The idea that Maria was not a “real catastrophe” defies all evidence, and any discussion of the death toll is premature. While the official number remains at 16, where it has been for several days without update, officials have acknowledged it will end up much higher. The Center for Investigative Journalism reported Monday that “dozens” of people are dead, with bodies piling up in morgues, even as the official count has not kept pace. Trump’s decision to use Hurricane Katrina as a benchmark also makes little sense and belittles the suffering in Puerto Rico. Katrina is both the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history since 1928 and a prime example of a mismanaged disaster. Trump also overstated the toll of Katrina, which was less than 2,000.

Trump also misstated Maria’s strength at landfall. “Few people have ever even heard of a Category 5 hitting land, but it hit land, and boy did it hit land,” he said, but the storm was a Category 4 storm when it struck. Trump also said the Coast Guard had saved 16,000 lives in Texas. It’s unclear where he got that number; the Coast Guard has claimed 11,000 rescues.

Throughout the aftermath of the storm, Trump has often appeared more interested in the political ramifications of the storm than on the human effects, focusing on approval of himself and the federal government (though he doesn’t really draw a distinction between the two). This was also true at Muniz Air Force Base. In praising Governor Ricardo Rosselló, for example, Trump reached for the lens of partisan affiliation.

“He’s not even from my party and he started right at the beginning appreciating what we did,” Trump said. “Right from the beginning, this governor did not play politics. He was saying it like it was, and he gave us the highest rates.”

This was an implicit jab at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been critical of relief efforts, and whom Trump claimed over the weekend was doing so because Democrats had put her up to it. His broadside against Yulín serves as a warning to politicians like Rosselló not to follow her lead, lest Trump punish them too. (Speaking in Washington Tuesday, before taking off, Trump said of Yulín, “Well, I think she’s come back a long way. I think it’s now acknowledged what a great job we’ve done, and people are looking at that.” It’s unclear what he is referring to. She attended Tuesday’s briefing.)

Trump also greeted Jenniffer González-Colón, a Republican who is Puerto Rico’s delegate to the U.S. House, and asked her to praise federal efforts.

“I watched the other day and she was saying such nice things about a lot of the people who are working so hard,” he said. “Jenniffer, do you think you could say a little bit what you said about us? It’s not about me, it’s about these incredible people from the military, from FEMA, the first responders.”

Yet as with his premature celebration of the death toll, Trump’s comments about Puerto Rico and Maria still fell far short of empathy, and were in some cases strangely tone-deaf. Before leaving for Puerto Rico, Trump complained that rather than the federal government not doing enough, it was Puerto Rican authorities who weren’t doing enough to hasten the recovery.

“On a local level, they have to give us more help,” he said in Washngton. “But I will tell you, the first responders, the military, FEMA, they have done an incredible job in Puerto Rico.”

During his briefing, he made an apparent attempt at joke about the cost of recovery. “I hate to tell you Puerto Rico but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” he said. “That’s fine. We saved a lot of lives.” Yet the remark comes in the context of Trump repeatedly mentioning Puerto Rico’s debts as both a reason for the slow recovery and a reason to think hard about reconstruction there. Nor did he make similar remarks after hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

Meanwhile, after thanking an Air Force general present at the briefing, Trump went on a strange digression about the F-35 fighter jet, a troubled boondoggle whose cost Trump negotiated down with the manufacturer. The discussion of the plane was roughly as lengthy as the president’s discussion of the victims of the storm, and it had nothing to do with the hurricane. If the Puerto Rico visit sought to reverse the impression that Trump has not taken Maria seriously and does not feel empathy for its victims, Tuesday’s briefing did not help the cause.

UPDATE:

Jesus….

USA Breaks Record For Mass Deaths By Gun Shooting

And here we go again. Politicians will send thoughts and prayers and…

… right… condolences and sympathies, etc… and then nothing will be done.

So here’s what happened.

There are now at least 50 dead and some 200 400 injured. The 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, was previously the deadliest, with 49 killed.

A gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, fired upon a music festival crowd (the Route 91 Harvest Festival — a country music concert) from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.  He apparently broke the windows with a hammer or some other blunt device.

This happened just after 10 p.m. Sunday local time (1 a.m. ET Monday)  

Here’s a compilation video:

Police scanner as it happened:

“The gunshots lasted for 10-15 minutes. It didn’t stop. We just ran for our lives,” witness Rachel De Kerf told CNN. “The band was rushed off the stage, the floodlights came on the crowd, and you see on the right hand of the stage the person who was injured, so they’re calling for medics, calling for security, then there was gunfire again,” her sister told the network.

According to the NY TImes: “The shooting began around 10:08 p.m. local time, the police said. The authorities estimated that 406 people were transported to hospitals. There were more than 22,000 people at the concert.”

SWAT teams entered the hotel room where Paddock was. He had killed himself. At least 10 guns were found in Mr. Paddock’s hotel room, including several rifles.

This is the Paddock:

Motive unknown, although…

No prior criminal records except a traffic ticket.  His brother says he was not religious, not political, and must have “snapped”

Unidentified relatives told the newspaper that Paddock, who lived in a retirement community in the sleepy desert city of Mesquite, some 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, lived a quiet, uneventful life. He enjoyed country music and visited Sin City frequently to gamble and attend concerts at the flashy hotels that line the Strip, the relatives said.

Mesquite police chief Quinn Averett said in a press conference that “some weapons” and “maybe some ammunition” were found in Paddock’s home, where officers executed a search warrant.

Don’t politicize this?

To be updated….

UPDATE — Right wing is working hard to control the spin with fake news….

UPDATE 11:20 am EST — President Trump read comments from a teleprompter.  Sounded great, looked awful.  Didn’t ad lib so everyone is rushing to compliment how “presidential” he was.  In truth, he is rather low energy when there’s no racial division or paranoia and fear to stoke.  There was nothing useful to Trump in what happened last night in Vegas, and it shows in his lack of reaction.

UPDATE 11:40 am EST —  Police say death toll is 58 (possibly 59) with over 515 injured.

UPDATE 11:50 am EST

The Washington Post reports:

Geary Danley was not the gunman in Las Vegas who killed at least 50 people late Sunday. But for hours on the far-right Internet, would-be sleuths scoured Danley’s Facebook likes, family photographs and marital history to try to “prove” that he was.

The right-wing news site Gateway Pundit also picked up these rumors as fact in a now-deleted article. That article’s URL was still the top result for Danley’s name on Google in the early hours of Monday morning.

The headline, still visible in search results, and remaining on the first page of results for Danley when I ran my 9 a.m. search, read, “Las Vegas Shooter Reportedly a Democrat Who Liked Rachel Maddow, MoveOn.org and Associated with anti-Trump Army.”

After Gateway Pundit accused an innocent Michigan man of being the Charlottesville Nazi terrorist, a lawyer for the man’s family vowed to sue. So far there are no reports that a suit has been filed.

Note: The Gateway Pundit has White House press credentials.

UPDATE — Horrifying

UPDATE: Scum…

UPDATE — Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock is son of Benjamin Paddock, bank robber once on FBI most-wanted list. Might be clue to his background.  Stephen Paddock is an accountant, no kids, divorced.

Why Is Trump Tweeting About The NFL?

Thursday night in Alabama, at a rally, Trump went off on a tangent about the NFL and its bad ratings and how players who refused to stand for the national anthem (i.e., Colin Kaepernick) should be fired by the owners.  This got cheers from the Alabamians, because they are Alabamians.  And it made headlines on Friday (since he never says anything of substance), so Trump doubled down this weekend.  And tripled down.  And 4X downed. Etc.  Here’s SOME of those tweets, which are continuing into this morning:

For its part, the NFL stood united. For the Sunday games, many owners released statements supporting their players’ right to protest.  And of course, there was kneeling.  Players kneeled.  An owner kneeled.  A singer of the National Anthem kneeled on the last line.  Many in the crowds kneeled or stayed seated.  Some booed.  Others cheered.  Some teams, rather than take part in a political spectacle, decided to stay in the locker room during the anthem.  Players who didn’t kneel locked arms with those who did, in a sign of solidarity (including Trump’s friend, Tom Brady).

All-in-all, there was significant pushback.  And what was once a smattering of kneels became an overwhelming number of them. Trump seemed please with those who booed.

Later, many players spoke out.  They spoke of being “disappointed” or “disheartened”. A Seattle Seahawks wide receiver minced no words:

Trump does not seem to understand (or care) why some players had been choosing to kneel in the first place.  It is not a stand against American ideals, the flag, or the Anthem.  It is that the American ideals symbolized by the flag and the Anthem are not being applied to all of America’s citizens — black people in particular.

And now Trump is creating  fight, challenging the patriotism of those who kneel. Trump is making clear his moral priorities. He is infinitely more offended by the sight of a black ballplayer quietly, peacefully protesting racism in the United States than he is by racism itself.

The question is why, e.g., why would Trump continue to poke at the players and, as he did Sunday night, call for the NFL to change its policies to ban any sort of protests surrounding the anthem?

The most basic (and right) answer is because he knows that, for his base, this fight is a winner for him. Specifically:

1. The players are rich. Remember that Trump, despite being a billionaire, sees himself (and is regarded) as the voice of the Average Joe. And he knows that lots of Average Joes resent how much money these players make for playing a game.

2. The players are playing a game. Spend 10 minutes talking about football (or any pro sport) with a group of people, and I guarantee that you will hear someone (if not several) say something like: “Man, they get to play a game for their job. I’d do that for free.” (Obviously points No. 1 and No. 2 are closely tied.)

3. The players are (mostly) black. Trump insisted on Sunday night that “this has nothing to do with race.” But that simply doesn’t fly. The vast majority of the players in the NFL are black. Ditto the players in the NBA, whom Trump also went after over the weekend. Trump knows that. And he also knows that when he uses phrases such as “our heritage” to describe what’s allegedly under assault in the anthem protests, many of his supporters see that in racial terms. You don’t simply get to repeatedly flick at racial animus — in the campaign and as President — and then plead total innocence when those code words trigger a reaction.

4. Trump can paint this as a battle for patriotism. The anthem protest was begun last year by then-San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who cited concerns about the deaths of African-American men at the hands of police as the motivation for his stance. Trump has seized on the protests as some sort of slap in the face to the military, which it’s not. By painting the players as insufficiently loyal to the country, Trump can make an appeal to patriotism — a powerful emotion not just in his base but in the country.

It certainly does not appear to be working. Yes, maybe it pleases his base, but most people recognize it as being divisive, even if they disagree with the protests. It is stirring a hornet’s nest, plain and simple.

Others are wondering about his priorities. Days after Maria struck, Puerto Rico remains crippled by widespread destruction and catastrophic flooding. Villages were razed and communications ruined, leaving officials unable to tally an accurate toll of the death and devastation. Power is out, and restoration of the electrical grid may take months, not weeks. A dam was compromised, threatening major flooding and a loss of drinking water.

There is no food.

There is no agriculture.

Although Puerto Rico cannot vote for president and has no voting representatives in Congress, its citizens are entitled to the same federal emergency funds and resources that Washington has been funneling to the far more politically powerful and economically resilient states of Texas and Florida in their hurricane miseries.

The same holds true for the US Virgin Islands.

Yet Trump has said (or tweeted) nothing these past few days on the subject.  Instead, he throws oil on the fire of an already too-polarized country.  It’s difficult to see the benefit in rending this country apart in a culture war.  But apparently the White House sees this as good.

Clearly, this is why Russia wanted him to be president – to start wars in his own country.

FLASHBACK: From an owner of the USFL football team in Tampa Bay:

UPDATE:  Conservatives, republicans and old white people have Trump’s back, but all told, only 38% agree with Trump

UPDATE: Props to Greg Popovich, head coach for the Spurs (basketball) for saying this at NBA Media Day:

SimCity Set To “All Disasters Mode”

First Harvey, then Irma.  Now Maria is hitting Puerto Rico with a force “not seen in modern history” according to WaPo

It hit the island at 6:15 a.m. as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds — the first Category 4 storm to directly strike the island since 1932. By midmorning, Maria had fully engulfed the 100-mile-long island as winds snapped palm trees, peeled off rooftops, sent debris skidding across beaches and roads, and cut power to nearly the entire island.

On September 8, Mexico was rocked by an 8.1 magnitude earthquake, but another earthquake — 7.1 magnitude — which hit yesterday is proving more deadly, because its epicenter was very near to Mexico City. The death toll after Mexico’s massive earthquake has hit 225, according to a tweet early Wednesday from the official account of Luis Felipe Puente, National Coordinator of Civil Protection of the Ministry of the Interior.

  • 71 were killed in Morelos
  • 94 in Mexico City
  • 43 in Puebla
  • 12 in State of Mexico
  • 4 in Guerrero
  • 1 in Oaxaca

Many of the dead are schoolchildren where a school collapsed.

Horrific stuff.

It’s unsettling what the Earth is throwing around, and it’s made all the more unsettling by the impending non-natural disasters that we have made for ourselves.

9/11 Plus 16 — What If Trump Was President?

Each year as 9/11 comes and goes, there is less added to the perspective. An entire generation is now politically aware, who cannot remember that horrible day.  Bizarre, to me.

We forget that Bush, like Trump, was in the infancy of his presidency. I remember thinking that he was over his head — partly because it was unprecedented, and partly because it was, frankly, Bush.

But at least he was surrounded (mostly) by smart people (mostly) and the crisis was handled deftly in the immediate days… until it became a war against Iraq (who did not attack us).

One wonders if the Trump Administration is prepared for something on that level. I suspect not, and I say that knowing that he has the benefit of a 9/11/ type attack no longer being “unprecedented”.  But consider this:

  • The White House is in constant disarray as key personnel are hired and fired at an unprecedented rate. One cost is that most basic measure of experience: days on the job. Another is an inability to forge sustained working relationships as colleagues are summarily dispatched in the manner of a reality-TV show. And how can those who remain do their best work when the boss at the top exhibits a management style that is as volatile and erratic as it is petty? Many dignified people have simply refused to consider working for him.
  • Huge numbers of important State Department positions are still unfilled, including key undersecretary positions; and the ability of the United States to conduct diplomacy or to draw on country-specific expertise seems to have atrophied.
  • The United States is crazy divided. And according to a recent Fox News poll, it isn’t just that a majority of Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing—56 percent say that he is “tearing the country apart.”
  • The Trump Organization’s murky asset portfolio, with heavy investments in numerous foreign countries, and the Trump family’s refusal to divest from it, makes it impossible for congressional overseers or the public to adequately discern when the Trump family’s business interests diverge from America’s interests.

And none of this gets to Trump’s incompetency.

One HOPES that there is enough institutional competency such that a terrorist attack would not flummox us. After all, at this very moment, Texas is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma just trampled Florida.  And FEMA seems to be doing fine (Trump’s role seems to be limited to tweeting).

So maybe we can get by without Trump’s leadership, even in a 9/11-type event.

I just would prefer not to test that theory.

Harvey Update

The images just don’t stop. It’s actually pretty incredible that only 15 have died so far.

As they were saying before the hurricane hit, the real problem would not be the hurricane impact, but the rains that would follow for days and days.  According to the Washington Post, 30% of Harris County’s 1,777 square miles are underwater.  Harris County is home to Houston. Harvey has passed the 50” measured single-storm rainfall record for the continental US.

Here is just one little bit of video — floods carrying away the concrete barrier at the San Jacinto Bridge.

Officials say more than 30,000 people may be forced from their homes by Harvey, and many whose homes have been severely damaged or destroyed by deadly winds and astonishing floodwater may need shelter for weeks or months to come.

Another under-reported problem: the floodwaters are becoming a cesspool of harmful chemicals and bacteria.

Hurricane Harvey

There’s a good reason why Mashable’s Andrew Freedman dubbed Hurricane Harvey—now barreling toward Texas and Louisiana—“the meteorological equivalent of a White Walker from Game of Thrones.”  This is no joke.  Harvey is likely to be the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since 2005. Harvey will make landfall late Friday or early Saturday.  The storm is expected to hit middle Texas coast. After that, Harvey will likely stall over the state, which could lead to catastrophic flooding. In fact, the storm surge of 20+ inches is the highest ever predicted.

Harvey was upgraded to Category 3 (winds of 111 to 129 mph) less than an hour ago.

One HOPES that FEMA and other regulatory agencies are consistent despite changes of the President, but with Trump, you just don’t know. Trump has been active on the twitter front regarding the hurricane as well, re-tweeting a photo of his conversation with Texas Governor Greg Abbot, and a video of Trump meeting being briefed by various FEMA officials ahead of the impending storm.  But that’s PR.

Will FEMA handle Harvey as poorly as Katrina? Probably not. In the wake of Katrina, significant changes have been made to ensure more efficiency on the part of the agency, typified by their ability to work effectively with several state, local, and federal organizations in the wake of Superstorm Standy.  Regardless, FEMA faces its first major challenge in some time, and the first under the Trump Administration. All eyes are on the response, relief, and recovery of this forthcoming natural disaster.

So far, though, so good. Dallas News reports FEMA has also set up a command center at an Airfield near Seguin TX, stationed trailers containing supplies, food, and water in San Antonio, and placed FEMA staff at Texas’s State Operation center to make coordination efforts as seamless as possible – while letting Texas officials take the lead. Gov. Abbott activated 700 or so members of the national guard ,the Houston School District announced multiple closing ahead of the storm, a state of disaster has already been declared for multiple counties, and those in power are speaking directly to the citizens regarding what to expect, how to prepare, and how to get out.

5.8 Earthquake off North Korea Coast

Normally, I wouldn’t care, but I have to wonder if this is an earthquake.  Info coming in….

 

  • The quake was very deep – 348.2 miles (560km) below the seabed off the coast
  • Its epicenter was 125 miles (201 km) southeast of North Korean city of Chongjin
  • Early speculation indicated quake was man-made, as has been the case in past

Yeah… the problem is that it is 348.2 miles under the sea.  You can’t put a nuke there.

 

 

Scenes From New Zealand

New Zealand got hit by a devastating 7.8M earthquake earlier this week and has had about 300+ aftershocks, some of them quite strong.  Here are some scenes:

Stranded cows:

Matthew Update

As of this writing (10/7/2016) at 11:45 a.m., Hurricane Matthew, now a Category 3, has shown a little mercy by veering slightly northernly and westernly than expected.  Right now, the western eyewall is brushing the Florida coast — the hurricane is located 75 miles southeast of Jacksonville.currentsat

The winds along the Florida coast are rough, but it doesn’t seem to be getting the high forces that normally come at the backend of the hurricane wall.

currentwinds

It apparently is not going to hit land in Florida.  It may just lightly touch land near Hilton Head, South Carolina or even Cape Hatteras further north.

currentlandfall

And then what?  It is thought it will loop around.

track

And hopefully die.  Others have speculated it could revive as it gets back into warmer waters, but the projection now is “not so”.

Nobody is kidding themselves.  Even if hurricane force winds stay offshore FL, tropical storm conditions can be impactful and dangerous.  By this morning, it had knocked out electric power to more than 590,000 customers across Florida.  Even a Category 2 with 120 mph gusts in Charleston could be devestating.

Matthew Bears Down

Florida is going to get hit HARD. Thousands told to evacuate.  Winds up to 140.

From the National Weather Station in Melbourne FL – no mincing of words:

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A picture right now from ISS:

iosshurricaen

Gonna be bad.

6.2 Magnitude Hits Central Italy

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A 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit central Italy early Wednesday and rescuers are searching for survivors.

  • 73 people have died, according to Italian officials [UPDATE 1:45 pm EST: Now 120 dead and still rising]
  • Rescuers struggle to reach some remote towns
  • Amatrice, town at epicenter, “is no more” says mayor
  • Witness: We woke up shaking side to side in bed

Louisiana Flood – How Did It Happen?

You had rain like it was from a slow-moving tropical depression.  It dropped 24+ inches of rain in some places.  That is more rain than what Bakersfield, California, has seen in 5+ years, or Omaha, Nebraska in one year.

As a result, a half dozen river gauges set new record highs in southeast Louisiana.  And not just by a little bit.  Some exceeded their previous record by several feet.

This is what we get:

16 dead.

Trump and Nukes

This should sober you up.

This morning on Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough relates a story where Trump repeatedly asked a security expert why we couldn’t use nukes.  This is sobering (good part starts at 1 minute mark):

Here’s some commentary on it from a conservative national security commentator and analyst, Jeb Bush’s security advisor, John Noonan:

Speculative Theories On EgyptAir MS804

As I write this, we don’t know much about what happened to MS804, which disappeared off radar last night (our time).  The wreckage has not even been found yet.

But if I may be allowed to speculate (and it’s my blog, so why not), I think we can conclude that the loss was due to an explosive device.

Why do I say this?  Process of elimination.

We know that MS804 was flying in clear weather.  So that possibility is out.

We know that it was flying at a steady altitude of 37,000 feet, and did not change direction or altitude in the minutes before it “disappeared” from the radar.  This would suggest that whatever happened, it happened quickly.  If, say, a cargo door had blown off and the cabin depressurized, the aircraft would have stayed aloft for many minutes, as the pilots struggled to keep control.  That didn’t happen.  Nor was any radio or distress signal sent.  From all this, we can rule out some sort of mechanical error with the craft or its maintenance.  It is highly unlikely that a mechanical error would result in a sudden disappearance (and plummet) of an aircraft.

That leaves explosion.

There are a couple ways an aircraft could explode.  It could have been hit by another aircraft.  But this would have been known by now (if another aircraft was downed or missing).  It could have been hit by a missile (ground-to-air), as in an act of terrorism.  This is unlikely because the airplane was so high (37,000 feet) and 100 nautical miles out to sea.  It could have been an explosion due to some dangerous explosive cargo, but we know it was carrying none.

What we are left with then…. is an explosive device.

If true…. that is disturbing, since it clearly indicates a breakdown in security, either at the Paris airport (deGaulle) or one of the previous airports.

MAB 370 Update

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board when it disappeared from radar shortly after takeoff on March 8, 2014. Radar tracking showed the plane made at least three unexpected turns without the pilots signaling an emergency, and hourly satellite signals suggested the plane headed to the remote Indian Ocean before running out of fuel.

An international search effort to find the aircraft turned up nothing — no debris, no bodies, no oil slick.

However, on December 27, 2015 and February 27 2016, two items of debris were independently found, approximately 220km apart, on the Mozambique coast.  Assistance from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was requested by the Malaysian Government in the formal identification of the items to determine if they came from the Malaysian Airlines Berhad (MAB) Boeing 777 aircraft, registered 9M-MRO, operating as MH370.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is investigating the disappearance of flight MH370, concluded in its report today the following:

Part No. 1 was a flap track fairing segment, almost certainly from the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft, registered 9M-MRO.

Part No. 2 was a horizontal stabiliser panel segment, almost certainly from the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft, registered 9M-MRO.

The key to the findings surround some stenciled code on the parts — the stencils make it clear that these are like;y parts associated with a Malaysian Arilines Boeing 777 craft.  Some details (click to embiggen):

mabparts

At the time of writing, ongoing work was being conducted with respect to the marine ecology identification as well as testing of material samples. The results from these tests will be provided to the Malaysian investigation team once complete.

Until now, the only other confirmed piece of debris from the Boeing 777 was a wing part that washed ashore on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion last year.  Authorities could not confirm the Reunion debris was from Malaysian Air (but it was pretty likely).

Taken together, the debris findings are consistent with the belief that MAB 370 crashed somewhere in a remote stretch of the southern Indian Ocean about 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) east of Mozambique. Authorities had predicted that any debris from the plane that isn’t on the ocean floor would eventually be carried by currents to the east coast of Africa. However, given the vast distances involved, the variability of winds and the time that has elapsed, it is impossible for experts to retrace the parts’ path back to where they first entered the water.

Love me some airplane forensics.

The Most Powerful Hurricane Ever Recorded Is Bearing Down On Mexico

200-mph sustained winds and even more powerful gusts.  Patricia is “the strongest hurricane on record in the National Hurricane Center’s area of responsibility (AOR) which includes the Atlantic and the eastern North Pacific basins,” according to a Friday morning forecast discussion.

The closest contender, at this point, might be Hurricane Camille when it battered the U.S. Gulf Coast in 1969. Regardless, Patricia looks to be more powerful than Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Katrina in 2005 and many others.

151023060912-hurricane-patricia-friday-530-a-m-satellite-image-exlarge-169

When it hits land, it will be devestating.  This potentially catastrophic destruction would occur in a small area of Mexico’s Jalisco State, between Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta, according to the NHC’s projected path on Friday morning.  Fortunately, that is not a heavily populated area.

Note that hurricane-force winds (74+ mph) extend out 30 mph from the center of Patricia. This means that a small part of Jalisco’s coast will see the most extreme winds at landfall. A destructive storm surge will also occur near and to the right of where the center makes landfall.

map_tropprjpath20_ltst_5nhpao_enus_650x366

Here is a live feed of Minerva, Mexico (about 120 miles inland from landfall):

Aid For Me And Not For Thee

What a jerk

Washington (CNN)Sen. Lindsey Graham is asking for federal aid for his home state of South Carolina as it battles raging floods, but he voted to oppose similar help for New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2013.

“Let’s just get through this thing, and whatever it costs, it costs,” Graham told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” on Monday of the devastating floods in his home state.

Graham was among the Republican senators who opposed a federal aid package in January 2013 to assist states hit by Hurricane Sandy, but now he doesn’t remember why.

“I’m all for helping the people in New Jersey. I don’t really remember me voting that way,” Graham said.

This is a pretty common thing with Republicans.  Cruz did it too.

The objection from Graham and other Republicans at the time was that the Sandy relief bill supposedly contained “pork”, i.e., helping people pay for flood insurance.  That’s supposedly “pork” — when you help taxpayers in need..

Hurricane Joaquin Deadly But Could Have Been Worse

It seems the biggest damage was caused by rain and subsequent flooding in South Carolina, although Joaquin only played a part.

Technically, here’s what happened:

As Hurricane Joaquin tracked north, well east of the coast, a separate, non-tropical low pressure system was setting up shop over the Southeast late last week. This system drew in a deep, tropical plume of water vapor off the tropical Atlantic Ocean. At the same time, this upper-level low pressure system tapped into the moist outflow of Hurricane Joaquin.

The moisture pipeline fed directly into a pocket of intense uplift on the northern side of the non-tropical vortex. Within this dynamic “sweet spot,” thunderstorms established a training pattern, passing repeatedly over the same location and creating a narrow corridor of torrential rain stretching from Charleston to the southern Appalachians.

Parts of that area got four months worth of rain in one day.

SCrain

The remarkable thing about this process is that it was sustained for three days, resulting in historic flooding in South Carolina. On Sunday, Columbia endured its rainiest day in history, according to the National Weather Service. Much of Charleston was drenched by 2 feet of rainfall.

A total of nine dead related to floods.

Joaquin, again, appears to be only indirectly related to the floods and rain, but the news today is that it might have taken even more lives. El Faro (pictured right) — a 790-foot cargo ship whose name means “lighthouse”—has apparently sunk in the Atlantic Ocean, the U.S. Coast Guard believes.

Rescuers have been searching for the container ship, which was in the path of Hurricane Joaquin, since the crew last made contact Thursday morning, saying El Faro was listing but the situation was manageable. The vessel was carrying 33 people—28 Americans and five Poles—and while searchers have found debris they believe came from the ship, they haven’t found the vessel itself or any survivors. One body has been found.

Chile’s 8.3 Earthquake

8.3 is very strong (strongest of the year by far).  And this one was shallow, too.  And lots of aftershocks.

Only eight dead, which is remarkable, and the tsunami wasn’t terribly bad.  Think Chile dodged a bullet.

Major Earthquake Predicted “Any Day Now”

There was a 4.0 earthquake the other day in California yesterday morning.  The 2:41 a.m. earthquake on the border of Fremont and Union City occurred on the Hayward Fault at a depth of 5 miles.  Fremont and Union City are in the San Francisco and Oakland area.

That’s not the news.  The news is this: Tom Brocher, a scientist with the USGS, told CBS that the Hayward Fault is due to produce a major earthquake “any day now.”

Per CBS:

“The population is now 100 times bigger in the East Bay, so we have many more people that will be impacted,” said Tom Brocher, a research geophysicist with the USGS.

“We keep a close eye on the Hayward Fault because it does sit in the heart of the Bay Area and when we do get a big earthquake on it, it’s going to have a big impact on the entire Bay Area,” Brocher said.

While a 2008 report put the probability of a 6.7-magnitude or larger earthquake on the Hayward-Rodgers Creek Fault system over the next 30 years at 31 percent, Brocher said the reality is a major quake is expected on the fault “any day now.”

“The past five major earthquakes on the fault have been about 140 years apart, and now we’re 147 years from that 1868 earthquake, so we definitely feel that could happen any time,” Brocher said.

Why isn’t everyone fraking out?  Why isn’t this front page news everywhere?

Two reasons.  Earthquake prediction is horrible.  The earth’s crust moves at a geologically slow rate.  Geologically slow.  So trying to predict when a major quake will come is tricky.  It has never been done with success.

The other reason? Bocher has been sounding the alarm on the Hayward Fault for a while now. In 2008, he was the lead author of a USGS report that described the fault as a “tectonic time bomb” and warned that a 6.8-7.0 magnitude quake could “could cause hundreds of deaths, leave thousands homeless, and devastate the region’s economy.” Among the factors that lead the report’s authors to suggest that the Hayward Fault is the country’s most dangerous one are the facts that it is the “single most urbanized earthquake fault in the United States” and that “critical regional gas and water pipelines and electrical transmission lines cross.”  You can read the full report here [pdf].

So when he says “any day now”,  you have to remember he is a geologist.  And to a guy who thinks in geological terms, “any day” doesn’t necessarily mean “within the next week”.  It means, literally, “any day”.  Could be tomorrow or maybe a couple of centuries from now.

 

Taiwan TransAsia ATR-72: Pilot Error Combined With Engine Flameout

The crash was horrific, although remarkable, some survived.  But this pilot…. oy:

TAIPEI, Taiwan — The captain of a TransAsia Airways plane mistakenly switched off its only working engine seconds before it crashed in February, killing 43 people, according to Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council.

The ASC’s latest report also showed that Captain Liao Jian-zong, who was at the controls, had failed simulator training in May 2014, in part because he had insufficient knowledge of how to deal with an engine flame-out on take-off.

“Wow, pulled back the wrong side throttle,” Liao, 41, was heard to say on voice recordings seconds before the crash.

There appeared to be confusion in the cockpit as the two captains tried to regain control of the plane after the other engine lost power about three minutes into the doomed flight.

Liao reduced the throttle on the working engine but did not appear to realize his mistake until it was too late.

He tried to restart the engine before a junior first officer, who was also in the cockpit as part of his training, said: “Impact, impact, brace for impact.”

Those chilling words were the last heard on the data recordings, according to the latest report of the ASC’s investigation into the Feb. 4 crash in clear weather.

Taiwan has some serious pilot training issues.

Hypocrite Cruz

He’s a weasel:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Wednesday assured Texans that the state would receive federal relief following major flooding, even though the senator opposed federal funding following Hurricane Sandy.

“There are a series of federal statutory thresholds that have to be satisfied. Initially, it appears those thresholds are likely to be satisfied by the magnitude of the damage we’re seeing,” Cruz said while touring the flooding in Wimberley, Texas, according to Texas television station KSAT. “Democrats and Republicans in the congressional delegation will stand as one in support of the federal government meeting its statutory obligations to provide the relief to help the Texans who are hurting.”

At least 15 people have died due to widespread flooding in Texas, and officials have warned that the flooding may worsen in certain parts of the state.

Cruz voted against a federal aid package in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and claimed that he opposed the bill due to spending in the bill unrelated to storm relief.

These guys just love their own and hate everybody else.

Response To Amtrak Train Crash: Let’s Gut Amtrak

TrainCrash-816x511On Tuesday, an Amtrak train — the Northeast Regional train, No. 188 — was traveling from Washington to New York when it derailed around 9:30 p.m., just outside Philly. The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed that the train was traveling at more than 100 miles an hour or twice the speed limit in that part of the corridor.  More than 200 people, including eight now in critical condition, were taken to hospitals, officials said.  Seven are dead, including a college dean at Medgar Evers College, and officials have not accounted for everyone on board.

Naturally, early focus is on the 32 year old engineer, who was slightly injured and has not spoken to the NTSB yet.  According to the engineer’s attorney (yes, he’s lawyered up), his client has no recollection of the accident.

But let’s move off the engineer and note that technology that could have remotely slowed the train, which the president of Amtrak has called “the most important rail safety advancement of our time,” has been installed on much of the Northeast Corridor, but not the section where the train derailed — and if some in the Senate have their way, it may not be in place for another five years.

For decades, the National Transportation Safety Board has urged the the nation’s railroads to implement a technology called positive train control systems (PTC). This technology would allow railroads to use GPS to stop or slow trains in cases of driver emergencies, switches left in the wrong position, hijacking, natural disasters, or other human error. In 2008, Congress enacted the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which required the nation’s busiest railroad operators to have these technologies fully in place by December 2015.

Knowing all that, the House decided it was a good time to… wait for it…. cut our infrastructure spending:

A House panel approved a measure Wednesday that cuts funding for Amtrak, less than a day after a train derailment left at least seven people dead and many more injured.

The Republican-led House Appropriations Committee voted 30-21 to reduce grants to Amtrak by $252 million — a drop of about 15% from last year’s level. The cut would apply only to Amtrak’s capital spending and wouldn’t touch funding levels for safety and operations. The measure still needs to clear the full House and Senate before it would go into effect in October.

Democrats on the panel fought unsuccessfully to boost Amtrak funding by $1 billion, to $2.4 billion. But Republicans argued that such a spending increase would need to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget, and they admonished Democrats for pointing to the derailment in an effort to increase funding for the passenger rail service.

“Don’t use this tragedy in that way. It was beneath you,” Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said to Democrats.

 

Tragedy In Nepal

Thousands dead following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake.  It is had to get one’s head around devastation like that.

Here’s video from the avalanche on Everest, which killed a few dozen, including some Americans.

Ways to help —

Lutheran World Relief

The U.N.-affiliated organization immediately shipped nearly 10,000 quilts and 100 personal water filtration mechanisms to Nepal. They are working in close coordination with a local disaster government agency called the Nepali District Disaster Relief Committee.

“This is still a scary situation,” said Narayan Gyawali, a local staff member currently in Nepal in a press release.

To donate to the Lutheran World Relief organization, click here. If you prefer to send physical checks, the Lutheran World Relief is especially well organized.

AmeriCares

AmeriCares has an emergency response office in Mumbai, India and have sent a team to the Nepal disaster zone. On its website, AmeriCares says, “for every $1 donated AmeriCares has provided $20 in aid.” They are also preparing medical supplies and will distribute tetanus and measles vaccinations because many residents are now living in close proximity with one another.

Click here to make a donation.

Islamic Relief USA

Based in Virginia and operating for nearly 25 years, Islamic Relief USA has a presence in more than 35 countries across the world. They are launching an appeal to raise $100,000 dollars for relief efforts in Nepal. “We are concerned about the victims of this tragedy and are sending our emergency response teams from different countries to respond,” said CEO Anwar Khan in a press release.

The agency also advocates for active participation in relief efforts, which they suggest can be done by organizing community fundraisers.

To help Islamic Relief USA reach its target goal, click here.

Doctors Without Borders

MSF is sent eight teams to Nepal to assist those in need, including a highly-skilled surgical team that will set up mobile clinics in the hopes of reaching people in remote areas. They are also contributing emergency medical supplies and a non-medical team in Kathmandu.

To donate click here.

Charity: Water

The people of Nepal will need significant help getting access to clean water as they recover from the earthquake. Charity: Water is in an excellent position to do just that. This smaller organization is networked into the country from previous clean water projects, and has begun a relief campaign in which 100% of proceeds go to Nepal’s earthquake disaster relief, with the immediate focus being to raise money for emergency supplies.

Click here to offer support.

NAMI On the Germanwings Air Crash

Reprinted in full:

NAMI shares the grief of the rest of the world over the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525.  We extend our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this senseless tragedy.

As often happens in tragedies, information emerges first through an immediate frenzy of reporting in news media and then through more careful analysis. It is always best not to speculate on causes, but to wait until all facts are confirmed and assessed.

In this case, as news cycles have progressed, we’ve been told that the co-pilot who crashed the plane had some history of depression. Most recently, a German prosecutor has reported that he had “received psychotherapy for an extended period of time, during which suicidal tendencies had been noted,” while the airline has reported in 2009 he had disclosed to them a previous episode of severe depression. Treatment apparently occurred before he received his pilot’s license.

He also apparently was being seen for one or more other medical issues. How relevant those factors actually are remains to be seen.

We know that by crashing the plane, the co-pilot killed himself, along with 149 other people.

We know that most suicides involve mental illness.

In the United States, approximately 40,000 people die from suicide each year.  Obviously, we are falling far too short in suicide prevention.

Typically, suicide involves a struggle between a person and his or her own psychological problem. Murder-suicides are very rare. Murder-suicides conducted by commercial airline pilots are even rarer—extremely rare—although that of course is no consolation to the victims of Flight 9525, their families and friends.

People living with mental illness are rarely violent. Usually, mental illness is only one factor, among several, if not many, that set the stage for violent tragedies.

In the case of Flight 9252’s co-pilot, the fact is that we don’t know his full history yet. We may never know every relevant fact. His precise history of depression, whatever it may have been, may ultimately be seen as unimportant compared to other issues in his life.

Please keep that point in mind as the global conversation now turns to whether anyone who experiences mental illness should be allowed to serve in certain occupations or professions. Mental illness is treatable. People do recover.

Senseless tragedies must not be allowed to resurrect or perpetuate stigmatizing stereotypes that associate anyone with a history of mental illness with a propensity to violence. It will be an additional tragedy if the crash of Flight 9525 leads to “witch hunts” in which people who have sought help for mental illness become unfairly discriminated against.

Sixteen million American adults—almost 7 percent of the population—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.  When depressive symptoms occur, people need to see a doctor for a comprehensive examination. Underlying medical issues that can mimic a depressive episode, side effects from medications or any other medical causes must first be ruled out, before a treatment plan is chosen.

As a society, we need to create a cultural environment in which people are encouraged to seek help when they need it—regardless of whether it is a mental illness or any other illness.  No one should have to hide out of fear of negative consequences or reprisals such as loss of employment or social ridicule.

We want a society that affirms the worth of every individual—the same kind of affirmation that causes us to mourn the loss of so many precious lives on Flight 9525.

Don’t Blame Depression

This is in Forbes, so I don’t have to write it:

You saw a depressed person today. Probably dozens or hundreds of them.

They drive cars. They perform surgery.

They fly planes — and safely land them.

Of course, that’s been frequently forgotten since last week’s devastating Germanwings tragedy.

Many pundits quickly blamed the horrific plane crash on depression, noting that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz — who took control of the Germanwings airliner and steadily, deliberately flew it and his 149 fellow passengers into the Alps — was reportedly treated for depression and possessed a supply of antidepressants.

The argument came from know-nothing pundits like Piers Morgan. “Depressed pilots on medication for mental illness should not be flying passenger planes,” he declared. If they’re not pulled from the skies, he added, “it could be any one of us next.”

The supposed link was blared across European newspaper headlines, too.

Even the experts weren’t sure.

“Should a depressed pilot be allowed to fly?” wrote Dr. John Grohol, the founder & CEO of Psych Central.

“I’m not sure someone who has a lot of responsibility should be going into work on days where they’re dealing with this kind of emotional upset or sadness.”

On one count, Grohol’s right: there do need to be some basic protections. (That’s a key reason why the FAA has been incredibly restrictive when letting pilots return from treatment for depression, as Forbes writer David Kroll notes.)

And there is a possible link between depression and violence, at least in some cases.

For example, a recent Oxford University study reviewed 50,000 Swedish citizens diagnosed with depression, concluding that people who were diagnosed with depression tended to commit more violent crimes too.

“Our findings suggest that the odds of violent crime are elevated two to three fold after adjustment for familial, socioeconomic, and individual factors,” the researchers wrote in TheLancet Psychiatry in February.

But blaming a person’s depression for his evil acts is ridiculous.

For instance, the Oxford researchers noted that when accounting for other factors — like a previous history of violence, substance abuse, or psychosis — the elevated rate of violence among depressed was notably smaller. And it’s possible that “depression” was over-diagnosed in these people, too.

Mental health experts further stress: Depressed people may be suicidal, but almost never homicidal. The suicide rate in the United States is roughly double that of the homicide rate.

That’s why one of the most important public health efforts of the past few decades has been the effort to de-stigmatize depression — especially because it’s so widespread. Depression strikes up to 20% of Americans across their lifetimes, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America has found.

For the moment, depression is seen as a debilitating, but not disabling condition. “Depression made me do it” isn’t an acceptable excuse for doing a poor job at work, and can’t get you out of a legal bind.

And it doesn’t explain what happened in the case of Germanwings, as Lubitz horribly plunged a plane of screaming passengers into the Alps, acting with chilling evil.

If you believe the tale told by an alleged ex-girlfriend, the plane crash was chillingly planned for months; Lubitz supposedly wanted the world to know his name.

“I don’t know what that is,” psychiatrist Anne Skomorowsky wrote at Slate, “but it’s not depression.”

Ask one of the 10 million-plus Americans who are seriously depressed at any given time. The bravest among them will admit: Depression is devastating. It makes you self-loathing, and lays you low.

But it doesn’t make you a murderer.

See also: “Would We Be ‘Blaming’ Cancer for the Deaths of Those People Who Perished in the Alps?” at HuffPo

I would add that we shouldn’t blame bipolar disorder either.  That is being bandied about as the culprit because he was prescribed strong SSRIs and anti-psychotic medicine.

Don’t get me wrong… I think it is clear that he suffered from some mental illness.  He may have had bipolar disorder or depression, but these would only explain the suicide, not the 149 homicides.  Some have suggested narcissistic personality disorder, which is characterized by (among other things) indifference toward others and grandiosity (Lubitz reportedly said he wanted to “change the system”).  Perhaps that is true.

But the danger here is linking his illness to the tragedy.  I know people who have struggle with depression.  I know people who have been diagnosed bipolar.  And people who have NPD/borderline.  None of them are likely to become homicidal.  This tragic event, like some school shootings, could become a good teaching moment for mental illness — to explain both the frequency and severity and the wide range of problems it causes (homicide being extremely rare)  But instead, the media focus will merely add to the already-existing stigma of mental illness, causing fewer people to seek treatment, or deny their illness altogether.  And that would add to the tragedy.

Stigmatization Of Mental Illness Begins

It’s an explanation, not an excuse.

By the way, it bears mentioning that if there were no stigmatization of mental illness, the copilot would not have felt the need to hide his condition, and could have gotten the help he needed, thus saving 150 lives. But you can bet the media won’t take that angle.

Co-Pilot Had Undisclosed Illness

The recent GermanWings crash gets more interesting everyday it seems:

…[I]nvestigators had found a sick leave certificate valid for “several days” including Tuesday — the day of the crash. They also found the certificate’s carbon copy, which is supposed to be presented to employers.

“It seems clear that he deliberately ignored the doctor’s directive,” a spokesperson said.

The revelation came after teams emerged late Thursday from Lubitz’s parents’ home in Montabaur — some 40 miles northwest of Frankfurt — carrying blue bags, a big cardboard box and what looked like a large computer. Another person who came out was shielded from reporters by police, the Associated Press reported.

No news as to whether the illness and sick leave note pertained to a physical or mental problem.  But there’s this, too:

Amid questions over what could have driven Lubitz to down the Germanwings plane, German tabloid Bild reported that the pilot, whose training included a spell at a flight school in Arizona, received psychiatric treatment for a “serious depressive episode” six years ago and recently had a “severe relationship crisis.” NBC News has not confirmed the report.

Sad all around.  Mostly because I fear this will lead to a stigmatization of mental illness.

Deliberate Mass Murder

The co-pilot of the doomed Germanwings Airbus A320 locked his captain out of the cockpit before deliberately crashing into a mountain to ‘destroy the plane’, it was sensationally revealed today.

French prosecutor Brice Robin gave further chilling details of the final ten minutes in the cockpit before the Airbus A320 plunged into the French Alps killing 150 people.

Revealing data extracted from the black box voice recorder, he said the co-pilot – named as 28-year-old German Andreas Lubitz – locked his captain out after the senior officer left the cockpit.

At that point, Lubitz uses the flight managing system to put the plane into a descent, something that can only be done manually – and deliberately. The co-pilot “didn’t say a single word” during the last 10 minutes of the flight, investigations reveal. The pilot kept hitting the cockpit door and “tried to smash it down.”

He said: ‘The intention was to destroy the plane. Death was instant. The plane hit the mountain at 700km per hour.

‘I don’t think that the passengers realized what was happening until the last moments because on the recording you only hear the screams in the final seconds.

Andreas Lubitz had clocked in 630 flight hours and joined Germanwings in September, 2013, straight from the training school. Lubitz was a German citizen and had no terrorist background, said French prosecutor Brice Robin.

Photos of Lubitz on social media:

Andreas3

andreas-lubitz-2

Also, this…. from September 2013:

FAA recognizes Andreas Guenter Lubitz

I’m Guilty

I was going to write a post about disaster porn — specifically, the CNN wall-to-wall coverage of Germanwings Airbus A320 flight which crashed in the southern French Alps yesterday, taking 150 souls.  I was going to write about the aching narrative they repeat over and over again, and the strained effort they make to come up with a different “angle” (“Coming up, what is the black box anyway, and why is it called ‘black’?”), and the parade of experts who speculate and speculate when we all know the facts will eventually come out in due time following an investigation.

But the thing is, I’m guilty of watching it.  Or at least…. of being interested in it.  After all, before I went into law, I majored in engineering psychology (also known as ergonomics), which is the parent field of man-machine design and the catastrophic failure thereof.  For a while there, I toyed with wanting a career at FEMA or the NTSB.  So my interest is academic.

But CNN and the other news outlets don’t really cater to that, if only because the cause of the crash is certainly unknowable at this point (even the guest experts are saying that).  So why is this on the news so much?

 

Flightradar Is A Scary App

Actually, it is a cool app, but it scares the crap out of me sometimes.

This is a live screenshot of Hawaiian Airlines Flight 47 from Oakland to Honolulu.

HAL47

What the hell is going on???

UPDATE:  The Hawaiian Airlines website said it is being diverted back to Oakland, although it has just been circling in that same spot for over an hour now.  Oh, well.  I’m sure I’m being an alarmist…. which was the point of this post.

diverted

 

LAST UPDATE:  Yup, it’s heading back.  That was a 3 hour flight to nowhere.  Glad my Hawaiian vacation didn’t start with that flight.

Scary Dashcam of Taiwan TransAsia ATR-72 Plane Crash

The wing clips the car in front, then goes into Taipei River.  Incredibly, 15 have survived.  28 dead; 18 still missing.

This isn’t the one making the rounds.  This is actually a more rare (but clearer) dashcam video taken from the car BEHIND the car whose dashcam video is making the rounds.

UPDATE: The Guardian is reporting that the taxi driver whose car was clipped by the plane suffered a head injury and concussion but was hospitalized with stable vital signs.

So Long It’s Been Good To Know You

So… we're experiencing the deadliest outbreak of ebola in history.  It's so bad that the leading ebola doctor died yesterday.  Fortunately, it is all happening in Sierra Leone and other parts of Africa.

But then this happens:

Part of CMC ER roped off  officials say patient being tested   www.wsoctv.com

 

UPDATE:   They were checking out a patient who wanted to be checked out because s/he just came back from a country with infectious diseases (country and possible diseases unknown).

Didn’t See This Coming?

West Virginia'ss image as caring more about corporations than people is really being bolstered this week.

West Virginia emergency planners never put together any strategy for dealing with spills of a toxic chemical from the Freedom Industries’ tank farm, despite the facility’s location just 1.5 miles upstream from a drinking water intake serving 300,000 people, officials acknowledged this morning.

Local emergency official likewise didn’t act to prepare for such an incident, even though they had been warned for years about storage of toxic chemicals so close to the West Virginia American Water plant serving the Kanawha Valley and surrounding region.

“That’s just something that’s kind of fallen by the wayside,” said Larry Zuspan, administrator of the Kanawha-Putnam Emergency Planning Committee.

They had other priorities than health and safety I guess.

Freedom Industries’ tanks don’t fall under an inspection program, and the chemicals stored at the facility weren’t considered hazardous enough to require environmental permitting.

Ugh.

1060

Beyond Horrible

Really horrible:

Corpses hung from trees, were scattered on sidewalks or buried in flattened buildings — some of the 10,000 people believed killed in one Philippine city alone by ferocious Typhoon Haiyan that washed away homes and buildings with powerful winds and giant waves.

As the scale of devastation became clear Sunday from one of the worst storms ever recorded, officials projected the death toll could climb even higher when emergency crews reach parts of the archipelago cut off by flooding and landslides. Looters raided grocery stores and gas stations in search of food, fuel and water as the government began relief efforts and international aid operations got underway.

Even in a nation regularly beset by earthquakes, volcanoes and tropical storms, Typhoon Haiyan appears to be the deadliest natural disaster on record.

Haiyan hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Friday and quickly barreled across its central islands, packing winds of 147 mph that gusted to 170 mph, and a storm surge of 20 feet.

Its sustained winds weakened to 83 mph as it crossed the South China Sea before approaching northern Vietnam, where it was forecast to hit land early Monday. Authorities there evacuated hundreds of thousands of people.

Hardest hit in the Philippines was Leyte Island, where officials said there may be 10,000 dead in the provincial capital of Tacloban alone. Reports also trickled in from elsewhere on the island, as well as from neighboring islands, indicating hundreds more deaths, although it will be days before the full extent of the storm can be assessed.

“On the way to the airport we saw many bodies along the street,” said Philippine-born Australian Mila Ward, 53, who was waiting at the Tacloban airport to catch a military flight back to Manila, about 580 kilometers (360 miles) to the northwest. “They were covered with just anything – tarpaulin, roofing sheets, cardboard.” She said she passed “well over 100” bodies.

Are we getting so used to these massive disasters that we don't care anymore?

Those Who Don’t Laugh At The Past Are Forced To Repeat It

So this happened in 1919:

Panorama of the Molasses Disaster sitePanorama of the Molasses Disaster site

On January 15th, 1919, in what was probably the most bizarre disaster in United States' history, a storage tank burst on Boston's waterfront releasing two million gallons of molasses in a 15 ft-high, 160 ft-wide wave that raced through the city's north end at 35mph destroying everything it touched.

And then this week, this happened:

Hawaii spill

Blame Obama

I'm always amazed at how many Republicans can just lie to themselves about basic immutable facts.  Here's the latest example:

A significant chunk of Louisiana Republicans evidently believe that President Barack Obama is to blame for the poor response to the hurricane that ravaged their state more than three years before he took office.

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided exclusively to TPM, showed an eye-popping divide among Republicans in the Bayou State when it comes to accountability for the government's post-Katrina blunders.

Twenty-eight percent said they think former President George W. Bush, who was in office at the time, was more responsible for the poor federal response while 29 percent said Obama, who was still a freshman U.S. Senator when the storm battered the Gulf Coast in 2005, was more responsible. Nearly half of Louisiana Republicans — 44 percent — said they aren't sure who to blame.

Benen has an explanation:

More Louisiana Republicans blame Obama than Bush for the response to Katrina, which obviously don't make sense, but I imagine if PPP asked, a non-trivial number of Louisiana Republicans would also blame the president for 9/11, Watergate, the Hindenburg disaster, the 1919 White Sox, and the U.S. Civil War.

That's probably true.  It's just blind outrage.

Hurricane Names For This Season

BL6-Tq_CcAAI48A

Some hurricane names just sound like they will be bad.

I'm guessing that Hurricane Andrea, Hurricane Dorian, Hurricane Nestor, Hurricane Olga, and Hurricane Pablo will all be serious contenders.  But they will all pale compared to Hurricane Gabrielle.

But don't sweat Hurricane Barry or Hurricane Chantel.

God-Evoking During Tragedies

Well, this is a refreshing change:

You’d think by now CNN would have learned to stop treating its assumptions as truths. But when Wolf Blitzer made a casual comment Tuesday, it turned out to be a teachable moment both for the newsman and television viewers.

Speaking live to a survivor of the deadly tornado in Moore, Okla., Blitzer declared the woman “blessed,” her husband “blessed,” and her son “blessed.” He then asked, “You’ve gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?”

But as she held her 18-month-old son, Rebecca Vitsmun politely replied, “I’m actually an atheist.” A flummoxed Blitzer quickly lobbed back, “You are. All right. But you made the right call,” and Vitsmun graciously offered him a lifeline. “We are here,” she said, “and I don’t blame anyone for thanking the Lord.” Nicely done, Rebecca Vitsmun.

 

WTF Quote Of The Day

After Hurricane Sandy, Republican Senator Inhofe (and others) voted against a bill for $50.5 billion in Hurricane Sandy disaster relief.

But he's all for relief for Oklahoma victims.

On MSNBC, Inhofe argued that tornado aid for Oklahoma is “totally different” from aid for Hurricane Sandy. “Everyone was getting in and exploiting the tragedy taking place,” he said. “That won’t happen in Oklahoma.”

Right.  Can Hurricane Sandy hit the blue-staters in New Jersey and New York, and they're not real people like those in the midwest.

Devastation in Oklahoma

It was bizarre yesterday — I just happened to be at my desk and saw a news alert, and soon I was watching the live streaming video of that main F4.  I saw it form, I saw it grow and devestate, and I saw it die.  The good thing about that means, if *I* saw all that, certainly the people in Moore, Oklahoma saw it, and had plenty of advance warning.

When I went to bed last night, the death toll was 51 (including 20 children).  This morning, it was still 51, and one report said that only 4 were unaccounted for.  I find that almost impossible to believe.  I would have placed the death toll and a couple hundred easily.

And then, there are reports that even the "51" might be incorrect.  The medical examiner thinks there may have been double-counting, so the report said (on MSNBC's Chuck Todd Daily RUndown), and it is only 27.  That would be a miracle if true, but I can't seem to find the report elsewhere, so it just might be a rumor. [UPDATE – it appears to be true.  Death toll down to 24 (9 children), but it is expected to rise]

It's too early for politics, but already Republicans are acting like dicks.  Including, remarkably, the ranking Republican from Oklahoma:

The tornado damage near Oklahoma City is still being assessed and the death toll is expected to rise, but already Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., says he will insist that any federal disaster aid be paid for with cuts elsewhere.

CQ Roll Call reporter Jennifer Scholtes wrote for CQ.com Monday evening that Coburn said he would “absolutely” demand offsets for any federal aid that Congress provides.

Coburn added, Scholtes wrote, that it is too early to guess at a damage toll but that he knows for certain he will fight to make sure disaster funding that the federal government contributes is paid for. It’s a position he has taken repeatedly during his career when Congress debates emergency funding for disaster aid.

Scholtes points out that Coburn was one of 36 Republican senators who voted against disaster funding for Superstorm Sandy in January.

Yes, by all means.  Let's cut back on food to the poor and others in need so we can help others in need.  That makes sense.  

Events like the Oklahoma tornado are called "emergencies" and "disasters" because they cannot be strictly anticipated or budgeted for. When they occur, particularly in a big rich country, we respond, at least as rapidly and with as little initial thought about putting on the green eyeshade as in the case of military necessity. Yes, the recovery stage of any disaster requires decisions that don't always involve saying "yes" to petititioners for help. But this sort of situation is a reminder that all the alarmist talk of fiscal hawks about a deficit and debt "crisis" looks pretty ridiculous when the real thing comes along.

You know the saying "when your neighbor's house is on fire, you don't argue over the price of your hose"?  Yeah, neither have Republicans.

Anyway, enough about that.

This happened:

 

 

Some Tweets Of The Boston Bomber (Suspect #2, Currently At Large)

Jahar was his handle.

From this past weekend:

And on Monday, the day of the bombing:

And on subsequent days:

And his last tweet (on Wednesday):

What The Texas Explosion Reveals

I was reading an analysis of last night's fertilizer explosion in West, Texas, and came upon this paragraph:

This explosion is nothing at all like what happened in Oklahoma City back in 1995. That was a mixture of ammonium nitrate, a dry solid, and diesel fuel. Ammonium nitrate is made from ammonia, but the United States banned it after that attack. It was a common method of application, but now we use liquid UAN (urea/ammonium nitrate) or solid urea. Neither can be used to make explosives.

The author was referring to the bombing by Timothy McVeigh.

And it occurred to me that we had a national tragedy, and Congress did something in response to it: they banned ammonium nitrate. [UPDATE: Hmmmm… I can't confirm that outside this one blog.  Still, the point is that Congress responded.  Read on (and hat tip to Brett)]

Congress did more than that though.  They passed a law which require that dynamite and other commercial explosive materials contain tagging agents that would aid investigators in tracing bombs.

And that's what our government is supposed to do.  It's bad enough that the government doesn't act proactively, but at least it does something after a tragedy has occurred.

Except with Newtown.  It failed.  It failed because of the NRA.  Because of fear of the NRA.

Ironically, the law that included tagging of explosive materials only passed when an exemption was granted for gunpowder.  Gunpowder is not tagged.  And who opposed that?  You guessed it.  The NRA.

This is an evil organization, and its impact must be stopped.  Next electin cycle, it is important that a high NRA approval rating be deemed a negative.  Only then can this country become safer.

But the Texas explosion reveals something else: this is what happens with "freedom from government".  The plant had not been inspected in five years.

Finding Nemo

Hold on, New England!

From The Weather Channel:

The heaviest snow totals by early Sunday morning are expected in New England from coastal Maine to Connecticut, as well as the Adirondacks of Upstate New York, where over one foot of snow is expected!  Some locations, particularly in coastal New England, may top two feet of storm total snow!  The following cities are in the threat for at least one foot of snow:

This has the potential to be a top 10 snowstorm all-time in Boston!  

According to the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass., in records dating to 1892, there have been only six snowstorms of 20 inches or more in Boston, topped by the Feb. 17-18, 2003 snowstorm (27.5") and the infamous "Blizzard of '78" (Feb. 6-7; 27.1").  

A snow total of 18.2" or more would place it in the top 10 list all-time.

The winters storm is called "Nemo".

Plainly Stupid

AP reports:

The lead police investigator into a nightclub fire that killed 234 people in southern Brazil says the music group playing at the time lit a flare designed for outdoor use that set the club's ceiling on fire.

Police inspector Marcelo Arigony said in a news conference Tuesday that "the flare was for outdoor use only and the people who lit them know that."

 

Breaking: Another Gulf Oil Spill?

Happening right now.

Four rushed to hospital after rig explosion.  Offshore from New Orleans, because those people haven't had to face any kind of disasters ever.

Apparently not deep water, so presumably it can be capped.

The owner of the platform is Black Elk Energy. On its website, the company stated that this month it was starting to drill the first of 23 new wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

UPDATE: Image on Twitter

A71dD60CAAAzfmf

UPDATE: Fire is now contained on the platform.  This doesn't appear to be another BP.

Follow more at https://twitter.com/ChrisFinchFOX8

Sandy By The Numbers

The immensity of the impact of Superstorm Sandy on the Eastern U.S. is difficult to comprehend, and the scenes of devastation coming from the impact zone are stunning and heart-wrenching. To help understand the extraordinary scale of this historic storm, I've put together a list of notable statistics from Sandy:

Death toll: 160 (88 in the U.S., 54 in Haiti, 11 in Cuba)

Damage estimates: $10 – $55 billion

Power outages: 8.5 million U.S. customers, 2nd most for a natural disaster behind the 1993 blizzard (10 million)

Maximum U.S. sustained winds: 69 mph at Westerly, RI

Peak U.S. wind gusts: 90 mph at Islip, NY and Tompkinsville, NJ

Maximum U.S. storm surge: 9.45', Bergen Point, NJ 9:24 pm EDT October 29, 2012

Maximum U.S. Storm Tide: 14.60', Bergen Point, NJ, 9:24 pm EDT October 29, 2012

Maximum significant wave height: 33.1' at the buoy east of Cape Hatteras, NC (2nd highest: 32.5' at the Entrance to New York Harbor)

Maximum U.S. rainfall: 12.55", Easton, MD

Maximum snowfall: 36", Richwood, WV

Minimum pressure: 945.5 mb, Atlantic City, NJ at 7:24 pm EST, October 29, 2012. This is the lowest pressure measured in the U.S., at any location north of Cape Hatteras, NC (previous record: 946 mb in the 1938 hurricane on Long Island, NY)

Destructive potential of storm surge: 5.8 on a scale of 0 to 6, highest of any hurricane observed since 1969. Previous record: 5.6 on a scale of 0 to 6, set during Hurricane Isabel of 2003.

Diameter of tropical storm-force winds at landfall: 945 miles

Diameter of ocean with 12' seas at landfall: 1500 miles


Figure 1. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this image of Superstorm Sandy around 3:35 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (7:35 Universal Time) on October 30. This image is from the “day-night band” on VIIRS, which detects light wavelengths from green to near-infrared. The full Moon lit up the tops of the clouds. Image credit: NASA.


Figure 2. Preliminary death and damage statistics for Sandy as compiled by Wikipedia on November 1, 2012.


Figure 3. Precipitation from Superstorm Sandy for the 7-day period ending at 8 am EDT Thursday, November 1, 2012. Image credit: NOAA/NWS/AHPS.


Figure 4. Top five weather-related power outages in the U.S.


Figure 5. Strong winds from Sandy blow snow in West Virginia on October 30, 2012. Image credit: Facebook/Cheryl Clay

Sandy's snows
Several cities set records for snowiest October day on record during Sandy: Elkin, WV (7", previous record, 4.6" in 1917) and Bluefield (4.7", previous record 3.2" in 1993.) Heavy snows caused roof collapses in West Virginia, and snows of two feet or more fell in four states–West Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, and Virginia. However, Sandy fell short of setting the all-time record for snowfall from a hurricane. The Vermont Journal estimated that the Snow Hurricane of 1804 dumped up to 4 feet of snow in Vermont.

36" Richwood, WV
34" Mount Leconte, TN
34" Sevier, TN
33" Clayton, WV
32" Snowshoe, WV
29" Quinwood, WV
28" Frostburg, WV
28" Davis, WV
28" Huttonsville, WV
28" Flat Top, WV
26" Redhouse, MD
26" Garret, MD
26" Craigsville, WV
24" Oakland, MD
24" Alpine Lake, WV
24" Nettie, WV
24" Norton, VA
24" Quinwood, WV
24" Alexander, WV

Links
Impressive loop of 1-minute visible satellite imagery spanning 6 days of Sandy's life.

A one-day time lapse video from a New York City webcam showing Sandy's impact on the city. It's eerie to see the city suddenly plunged into darkness.

First round of damage assessment aerial imagery collected by NOAA's National Geodetic Survey on Oct. 31 along the New Jersey coast.


Figure 6. Flooding in Haiti from Hurricane Sandy. Image credit: The Lambi Fund of Haiti.

Charities mobilize for Sandy
The outpouring of charitable donations in the wake of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy has been one of the bright spots in the gloomy aftermath of the storm. The main owners of The Weather Channel have agreed to match donations of up to $1 million to the American Red Cross, if you text SANDY to 90999 ($10). I also recommend my favorite disaster relief charity, Portlight.org. They are focusing their response efforts exclusively on the post-Sandy neeeds of people with disabilities.Check out the Portlight blog to see what they're up to; donations are always needed. 

Sandy's greatest devastation occurred in Haiti, where rains of up to 20 inches in 24 hours unleashed rampaging flood waters that killed at least 54, left 200,000 homeless, wiped out thousand of acres of crops, and killed massive numbers of livestock. For impoverished families in Haiti still struggling to recover from the earthquake in 2010 and Hurricane Isaac in August, Sandy was devastating.  These crops are the very essence of rural Haitian’s livelihoods, and there are fears widespread starvation will result. A disaster relief charity in Haiti that I've contributed to for many years,The Lambi Fund of Haiti, is seeking donations to help farmers purchase local seeds so that they can replant their crops in the wake of this latest terrible Haitian catastrophe.