Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner is grounded until Boeing can show it’s safe to fly following a series of technical problems. This isn’t the first time aeronautical engineers have been up against system glitches or even major design flaws in new aircraft. Many in the industry offhandedly refer to them as teething problems. Now Marketwatch takes a look at four other planes whose careers got off to rough starts: the Airbus 380, the McDonnell-Douglas DC-10, the De Haviland Comet, and the Lockheed Constellation."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "A burglar gets stuck in a chimney, a truck driver in a head on collision is thrown out the front window and lands on his feet, walks away; a wild antelope knocks a man off his bike; a candle at a wedding sets the bride's hair on fire; someone fishing off a backyard dock catches a huge man-size shark. Now Kevin Kelly writes that in former times these unlikely events would be private, known only as rumors, stories a friend of a friend told, easily doubted and not really believed but today they are on YouTube, seen by millions. "Every minute a new impossible thing is uploaded to the internet and that improbable event becomes just one of hundreds of extraordinary events that we'll see or hear about today," writes Kelly. "As long as we are online — which is almost all day many days — we are illuminated by this compressed extraordinariness. It is the new normal." But when the improbable dominates the archive to the point that it seems as if the library contains only the impossible, then the "black swans" don't feel as improbable. "To the uninformed, the increased prevalence of improbable events will make it easier to believe in impossible things," concludes Kelly. "A steady diet of coincidences makes it easy to believe they are more than just coincidences.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Gregg Laskoski writes in US News and World Report that virtually all of the retail gasoline price volatility that Americans experienced this past year was connected to significant problems at refineries and it was those refineries' vulnerability that subjected US consumers to the year's highest average price ever, $3.63 per gallon. February delivered the BP refinery fire in Cherry Point, Washington that led to gasoline price spikes all along the Pacific coast, refinery problems in the Great Lakes region pushed Chicago gas prices to an all-time high of $4.56 per gallon, and over the summer, west coast refineries incurred outages, and California saw record highs in most markets, with Los Angeles gasoline's average price peaking at $4.72/gallon in October. Finally after Reuters reported that some 7,700 gallons of fuel spilled from Phillips 66's Bayway refinery in Linden, NJ, after Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey environmental protection officials said they were not made aware of a major spill at the Bayway plant, and the refinery failed to respond to inquiries from Reuters reporters. "Too many times, history has shown us, the Phillips 66 response or lack thereof characterizes the standard practice of the oil industry. Refineries often fail or are slow to communicate problems that create significant disruptions to fuel supplies and spikes in retail gasoline prices. More often than not, scant information is provided reluctantly, if at all," writes Laskoski. "When such things occur is silence from refineries acceptable? Or does our government and the electorate who put them there have a right to know what's really going on?""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Louise Radnofsky reports that a study by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine has found US life expectancy near the bottom of 17 affluent countries with the US at or near the bottom in nine key areas of health: infant mortality and low birth weight; injuries and homicides; teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections; prevalence of HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; chronic lung disease; and disability. Americans fare worse than people in other countries even when the analysis is limited to non-Hispanic whites and people with relatively high incomes and health insurance, nonsmokers, or people who are not obese. The report notes that average life expectancy for American men, at 75.6 years, was the lowest among the 17 countries and almost four years shorter than for Switzerland, the best-performing nation while American women's average life expectancy, 80.8 years, the second-lowest among the countries and five years shorter than Japan's, which had the highest expectancy. "The [U.S.] health disadvantage is pervasive—it affects all age groups up to age 75 and is observed for multiple diseases, biological and behavioral risk factors, and injuries," say the report's authors. The authors offered a range of possible explanations for Americans' worse health and mortality, including social inequality, limited availability of contraception for teenagers, community designs that discourage physical activity such as walking, air pollution as well as individual behaviors such as high calorie consumption. The report's authors were particularly critical of the availability of guns. "One behavior that probably explains the excess lethality of violence and unintentional injuries in the United States is the widespread possession of firearms and the common practice of storing them (often unlocked) at home," reads the report. "The statistics are dramatic.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Jason Koebler reports that the fears of major health organizations have come true with the detection of Gonorrhea that is immune to the last remaining effective oral antibiotic in at least nine North American patients, meaning the era of "incurable" gonorrhea could be close. Scientists have found that 6.7 percent of patients with gonorrhea at a Toronto clinic still had the disease after a round of cephalosporins, the last effective oral antibiotic used to treat the disease. This is the first time cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea has been found in humans in North America. "These are the clinical cases we've been waiting for," says Vanessa Allen of Public Health Ontario. "This is the translation of the lab information into what the clinical consequence is." Gonorrhea is estimated to infect close to 700,000 Americans each year with symptoms including painful urination, abdominal pain, genital discharge, itching, and infertility in women. Less than a year ago, Gail Bolan, director of the CDC's sexually transmitted disease prevention program, wrote that the "threat of untreatable gonorrhea is emerging rapidly." At the time, just 1.7 percent of gonorrhea isolated in the lab were considered resistant to cephalosporins. Allen says her study shows just how fast antibiotic resistance is evolving in the organisms. "Our results aren't generalizable to the overall population because they all came from one clinic," concludes Allen. "But basically, the problem appears worse than we originally thought.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Gurdian reports that the US nuclear weapons laboratory at Los Alamos that was the birthplace of the atomic bomb has replaced at least two network switches made by H3C Technologies, based in Hangzhou, China over fears they might pose a national security risk. H3C began as a joint venture between China's Huawei Technologies and 3Com, a US tech firm, and was once called Huawei-3Com. Hewlett Packard acquired the firm in 2010. In October, the US House intelligence committee issued an investigative report that recommended government systems should not include components made by Huawei or ZTE, another Chinese manufacturer. The report said that based on classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE "cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence" and pose "a security threat to the United States and to our systems." The company, the world's second-largest telecommunications equipment maker, denies its products pose any security risk or that the Chinese military influences its business. "There has never been a shred of substantive proof that Huawei gear is any less secure than that of our competitors, all of which rely on common global standards, supply chains, coding and manufacturing," says William Plummer, Huawei's vice president of external affairs. ""Blackballing legitimate multinationals based on country of origin is reckless, both in terms of fostering a dangerously false sense of cyber-security and in threatening the free and fair global trading system that the US has championed for the last 60-plus years."
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Peter Ludlow writes in the Atlantic that the internet has turned the online dating marketplace into a frictionless market that puts together buyer and seller without transaction costs. And that's a bad thing. "Finding a partner used to be expensive, and the market was inefficient. If you lived in a large city, there were always people looking for partners, but the problem was how to find them." But one advantage of inefficient dating markets is that in times of scarcity we sometimes take chances on things we wouldn't otherwise try while in times of plenty, we take the path of least resistance (someone who appears compatible) and we forgo difficult and prima facie implausible pairings. The secret is that great chemistry isn't about putting together people who are on the same page—it is about putting together people who are different and making it work. Another problem with frictionless online markets is that assume we know what we are looking for, but sometimes we simply don't know what we are looking for until we stumble across it in a search for something else says Ludlow. "The result is often unexpected and beautiful. So it is with relationships; compatibility is a terrible idea in selecting a partner." concludes Ludlow. "We often make our greatest discoveries and acquire our greatest treasures when local scarcity compels us to be open to new and better things.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "ABC News reports that Indiana University Health Goshen Hospital has fired eight employees after they refused mandatory flu shots, stirring up controversy over which should come first: employee rights or patient safety. The fired nurses include Joyce Gingerich and Sue Schrock who filed appeals on religious grounds. 'I feel like in my personal faith walk, I have felt instructed not to get a flu vaccination, but it’s also the whole matter of the right to choose what I put in my body..." says Schrock adding that she has not had a flu vaccine for 30 years as a result of a choice she made because of her Christian faith. Over the last several years, hospitals have been moving toward mandatory vaccinations because many only have 60 percent vaccination rates says Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Schaffner adds that nurses in particular tend to be the most reluctant to get vaccinated among health care workers, "There seems to be a persistent myth that you can get flu from a flu vaccine among nurses," says Schaffner. "They subject themselves to more influenza by not being immunized, and they certainly do not participate in putting patient safety first." But Jane M. Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, says the scientific case for flu vaccine mandates is very weak and that there is no evidence showing that vaccinated workers are less likely to transmit virus. "The scientific and religious concerns are in a sense backward," says Orient. "Advocates of the mandate are full of evangelical zeal and are quick to portray skeptics as wicked and selfish. It's like a secular religion, based on faith in vaccine efficacy and safety.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Want to buy a 15,000-foot landing strip? How about a place to assemble rocket ships or a parachute-packing plant? Have we got a deal for you. The Orlando Sentinel reports that with the cleanup and wind-down of the shuttle program, NASA is quietly holding a going-out-of-business sale for the its space-shuttle facilities including Launch Pad 39A, where shuttles were launched; space in the Vehicle Assembly Building, the iconic 526-foot-tall structure first used to assemble Saturn V-Apollo rockets; the Orbiter Processing Facilities, essentially huge garages where the shuttles were maintained; Hangar N and its high-tech test equipment; the launch-control center; and various other buildings and chunks of undeveloped property. "The facilities out here can't be in an abandoned state for long before they become unusable," says Joyce Riquelme, NASA's director of KSC planning and development. "So we're in a big push over the next few months to either have agreements for these facilities or not." The process is mostly secret, because NASA has agreed to let bidders declare their proposals proprietary, keeping them out of the view of competitors and the public. Frank DiBello, thinks the most attractive facilities are those that can support launches that don't use the existing pads at KSC and adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. "Anything that still has cleaning capabilities or satellite-processing capabilities, the parachute facility, the tile facility, the OPF, all three of them, they have real value to the next generation of space activity," says Frank DiBello, President of Space Florida, an Independent Special District of the State of Florida, created to foster the growth and development of a sustainable and world-leading space industry in Florida. "If the infrastructure helps you reach market, then it has value. If it doesn't, then it's just a building, it's just a launchpad, and nobody wants it.""
Hugh Pickens writes writes: "David Pogue writes that with Windows 8 Microsoft has made a billion-dollar gamble that personal computing is taking a new direction and that new direction is touch. Using a series of fluid, light finger taps and swipes across the screen on a PC running Windows 8, you can open programs, flip between them, navigate, adjust settings and split the screen between apps, among other functions. It's fresh, efficient and joyous to use—all on a touch-screen tablet. But Microsoft expects us to run Windows 8 on our tens of millions of everyday PCs and although touch has been incredibly successful on our phones, tablets, airport kiosks and cash machines, Pogue says touch will never take over on PC's. The reason? Gorilla Arms. There are three big differences between tablet screens and a PC's screen: angle, distance and time interval. The problem is "the tingling ache that [comes] from extending my right arm to manipulate that screen for hours, an affliction that has earned the nickname of gorilla arm." Some experts say gorilla arm is what killed touch computing during its first wave in the early 1980s but Microsoft is betting that Windows 8 will be so attractive that we won't mind touching our PC screens, at least until the PC concept fades away entirely. "My belief is that touch screens make sense on mobile computers but not on stationary ones," concludes Pogue. "Microsoft is making a gigantic bet that I'm wrong.""