Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 18th, 2019

How to Talk About the New Zealand Massacre: More Sunlight, Less Oxygen

leave a comment »

Evan Osnos writes in the New Yorker:

Even more than its predecessors, the massacre in New Zealand feels like the confluence of strands of our times: on March 15th, a gunman with an AR-15 killed forty-nine people during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch, the worst massacre in New Zealand’s history. It was a poisonously global moment: the attacker broadcast the massacre live on Facebook, and he posted a so-called manifesto to Twitter, regurgitating neo-Nazi in-jokes and immigration-conspiracy theories about “birth rates” and “white genocide.” His particulars merit little more attention than that.

By now, we know to restrain our instinct to recirculate, and perversely glamourize, the details. We know to deprive the virulent corners of modern life of the “oxygen of amplification,” in the words of Whitney Phillips, of the Data & Society Research Institute, who is the author of a valuable report on the interplay between extremists, technology, and journalism. In a list of best practices, Phillips reminds reporters to treat violent language and memes as “inherently contagious” and to avoid highlighting “objectively false” ideas unless they are prominently undermined.

It is good advice, but it can also be misused. As news spread of the gunman’s motives, Donald Trump, Jr., who is not known for his powers of restraint, expressed a sudden desire not to give the “NZ shooter what he wants.” He tweeted, “Don’t speak his name don’t show the footage. Seems that most agree on that. The questions is can the media do what’s right and pass up the ratings they’ll get by doing the opposite? I fear we all know the answer unfortunately.”

Don, Jr.,’s newfound sympathy for decorum most likely owes less to a nuanced theory of violence and publicity than to the shameful reality that the New Zealand killer hailed his father, President Donald Trump, as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” In the Oval Office, a few hours later, the President was asked if he considers white nationalism a rising threat. “I don’t, really,” he said. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.” Trump called the incident “a terrible thing.” He was speaking, not incidentally, during a ceremony in which he vetoed an attempt to block his use of emergency funds to build a border wall. He complained, as ever, about an “invasion” of illegal immigrants.

The New Zealand killer takes his place in the cracked pantheon of violent, Trump-admiring extremists: beside the gunman at the Tree of Life synagogue, in Pittsburgh, who blamed Jews for resettling refugees and immigrants, whom Trump vilifies as the center of his politics; beside the van-dweller in Miami who found purpose amid the throngs of Trump rallies and set about sending pipe bombs to George Soros, journalists, and Democrats. The New Zealand killer did not exact his violence in America, but he would be at home in our statistics: in the past decade, seventy-three per cent of all American extremist-related killings have come from the right wing, compared to twenty-three per cent from Salafi jihadism and three per cent from the left wing, according to the Soufan Center, which studies global security.

Pointing out those patterns does not feed oxygen to the sources; it subjects them to the disinfecting power of sunlight. We can only have an honest analysis of the sources of this violence if we understand how it grows and spreads. That applies not only to the role of journalism but also to the role of technology. Whenever a killer relies, as he did in this case, on the Internet to amplify the effects of his terror, some inevitably defend social media as no better and no worse than the humanity that uses it. Don’t blame the hammer, we are told; blame the hand. At best, that is a deflection. One does not have to be a Luddite to believe that the worst of social media is not a mirror image of us; it is a grotesque distortion, a funhouse mirror that bulges and squeezes and disfigures us in ways that mock our humanity instead of reinforcing it.

Once again, Facebook finds itself scrambling to explain how it will prevent its creations from being used for harm. When I interviewed a range of Facebook executives last year, several of them touted the use of artificial intelligence and human moderators to prevent the misuse of Facebook Live. Alex Schultz, a longtime Facebook staffer, told me that, to detect instances of suicide or murder on Facebook Live, the company created a system that looks for sudden spikes in attention—“by number of people viewing, by the rate at which those impressions are going up, by the percentage of sad reactions versus likes, by the number of people saying, ‘Oh, my God’ down in the comments.” He said, “Then you need artificial intelligence to be able to read those comments, to get the signal out so you can rank it.” In this case, the rampage was broadcast by a head-mounted camera for a hideous seventeen minutes. It stopped only after Facebook was alerted by New Zealand police. In a statement, Mia Garlick, of Facebook New Zealand, said, “Our hearts go out to the victims, their families and the community affected by this horrendous act. New Zealand Police alerted us to a video on Facebook shortly after the livestream commenced and we quickly removed both the shooter’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and thevideo.”

By then, archives of the video were everywhere. Carole Cadwalladr, an investigative reporter at the Observertweeted, “I may have reached my moment of total despair. The full video is all over YouTube. All over Facebook.” She pointed to a version that had been watched twenty-three thousand times on Facebook in one hour. “And 1000s out there,” she wrote.

For Facebook, the New Zealand massacre is a gruesome measure of the social-media platform’s power and its limitations. The attack struck just as the company is attempting to refashion itself to focus on small-scale, encrypted conversations. But that new focus will expand alongside the main news feed of public conversation; it will not replace the public forum. And so the peril remains. The company did not create the root cause—what the scholar Thomas Rid calls a “violent transnational neo-fascist ideology”—but the technology has multiplied its force to a degree that is almost beyond measure.

To allow the killer to monopolize the final image of this moment would be a mistake. Instead, it is worth pausing to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2019 at 5:33 pm

Another good walk and a relaxed (if somewhat tired) evening

leave a comment »

I walked 38.9 minutes but took a few more steps so still came out to 106 steps/minute. I did note some heavy breathing as I walked: I can feel the effort.

A while back I bought a quart of Farm & Field’s “Hearty” bone broth, whose ingredients include beef bones, duck bones, and pig bones. When it’s icebox cold, it’s totally gelled. Every time I open the freezer door, I see the quart I bought, still frozen, so tonight I thought I should put it to use.

Le Soup

I used my 6-qt stockpot because it’s a 10″ pot and I wanted to sauté the ingredients. The larger diameter helps with that. I’m not going to make all that much soup (probably around 2-3 quarts), so I can transfer the soup to a smaller pot to refrigerate it.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (Partanna)
2 fairly large carrots, chopped by making diagonal cuts as I turned the carrot
2 spring onions, one white and one red. I quartered the bulb part lengthwise, then chopped the entire onion including leaves
8 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced (and let rest 10 minutes)
big pinch of salt
about 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 bay leaves from local source, given to me by The Wife

I put all that in the pot, turned heat to medium-high, and sautéed it for several minutes, until I felt the vegetables were getting cooked.

1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped

i just happened to have the parsley on hand and it was a godsend: I wanted some sort of greens in the soup/stew, and the parsley was perfect—nice bunch, too: very fresh. I sautéed the parsley with the other veggies for a while, then added:

1 qt frozen bone broth

I covered the pot, set the time for 10 minutes, and return to find the broth melted and simmering. I added:

1/2 cup lentils
1/2 cup (scant) pot barley
1/2 cup black-eyed peas (maybe a bit more: whatever was left in the bag)

I stirred that in and — damn! I just realized I forgot to add a Parmesan rind. Oh, well. (And also no anchovies and no tomatoes and no soy sauce and no Worcestershire sauce: what will it do for umami? — Actually, it tastes quite good—perhaps the bay leaves helped.)

I simmered that for 30 minutes, then added:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into narrow strips and then across into pieces

I simmered that 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Surprisingly rich and tasty—that’s the bone broth, I’m sure.

Le Cocktail

A while ago I ordered bamboo cocktail toothpicks, and I decided to go with 4.5″ rather than 3.5″ (which I had before).

They’re wonderful. I took them out of the plastic bag and secured a strong rubber band around the whole quiver of them, and it’s easy to pull one out of the pack when I want a Martini.

And—unexpected bonus—the 4.5″ pick holds five (queen-size) olives. The old ones could hold but four.

I used Tempo Renovo Dry Gin, which (it’ll have you know) is a Vancouver Dry Gin, not a London Dry Gin. Here’s the site, and click the “Tempo” button. It is in fact a very smooth and polished gin with a very nice flavor. I would rate it top-notch. The bottle, FWIW, is heavy: it would be a good defensive weapon in a bar fight.

(I will add that the Goodridge & Williams Northern Grains whisky is exceptionally good. There’s a tab for it on that same page.)

 

 

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2019 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks, Food, Recipes

Good enough to eat? The toxic truth about modern food

leave a comment »

Bee Wilson writes in the Guardian:

Pick a bunch of green grapes, wash it, and put one in your mouth. Feel the grape with your tongue, observe how cold and refreshing it is: the crisp flesh, and the jellylike interior with its mild, sweet flavour.

Eating grapes can feel like an old pleasure, untouched by change. The ancient Greeks and Romans loved to eat them, as well as to drink them in the form of wine. The Odyssey describes “a ripe and luscious vine, hung thick with grapes”. As you pull the next delicious piece of fruit from its stalk, you could easily be plucking it from a Dutch still life of the 17th century, where grapes are tumbled on a metal platter with oysters and half-peeled lemons.

But look closer at this bunch of green grapes, cold from the fridge, and you see that they are not unchanged after all. Like so many other foods, grapes have become a piece of engineering designed to please modern eaters. First of all, there are almost certainly no seeds for you to chew or spit out (unless you are in certain places such as Spain where seeded grapes are still part of the culture). Strains of seedless varieties have been cultivated for centuries, but it is only in the past two decades that seedless has become the norm, to spare us the dreadful inconvenience of pips.

Here is another strange new thing about grapes: the ones in the supermarket such as Thompson Seedless and Crimson Flame are always sweet. Not bitter, not acidic, not foxy like a Concord grape, not excitingly aromatic like one of the Muscat varieties, but just plain sweet, like sugar. On biting into a grape, the ancients did not know if it would be ripe or sour. The same was true, in my experience, as late as the 1990s. It was like grape roulette: a truly sweet one was rare and therefore special. These days, the sweetness of grapes is a sure bet, because in common with other modern fruits such as red grapefruit and Pink Lady apples, our grapes have been carefully bred and ripened to appeal to consumers reared on sugary foods. Fruit bred for sweetness does not have to be less nutritious, but modern de-bittered fruits tend to contain fewer of the phytonutrients that give fruits and vegetables many of their protective health benefits. Such fruit still gives us energy, but not necessarily the health benefits we would expect.

The very fact that you are nibbling seedless grapes so casually is also new. I am old enough to remember a time when grapes – unless you were living in a grape-producing country – were a special and expensive treat. But now, millions of people on average incomes can afford to behave like the reclining Roman emperor of film cliche, popping grapes into our mouths one by one. Globally, we both produce and consume twice as many as we did in the year 2000. They are an edible sign of rising prosperity, because fruit is one of the first little extras that people spend money on when they start to have disposable income. Their year-round availability also speaks to huge changes in global agriculture. Fifty years ago, table grapes were a seasonal fruit, grown in just a few countries and only eaten at certain times of year. Today, they are cultivated globally and never out of season.

Almost everything about grapes has changed, and fast. And yet they are the least of our worries when it comes to food, just one tiny element in a much larger series of kaleidoscopic transformations in how and what we eat that have happened in recent years. These changes are written on the land, on our bodies and on our plates (insofar as we even eat off plates any more).

For most people across the world, life is getting better but diets are getting worse. This is the bittersweet dilemma of eating in our times. Unhealthy food, eaten in a hurry, seems to be the price we pay for living in liberated modern societies. Even grapes are symptoms of a food supply that is out of control. Millions of us enjoy a freer and more comfortable existence than that of our grandparents, a freedom underpinned by an amazing decline in global hunger. You can measure this life improvement in many ways, whether by the growth of literacy and smartphone ownership, or the rising number of countries where gay couples have the right to marry. Yet our free and comfortable lifestyles are undermined by the fact that our food is killing us, not through lack of it but through its abundance – a hollow kind of abundance.

With Brexit, food worries in the UK have become political, with panicked discussions of stockpiling and the spectre of US imports of chlorine-treated chicken on the horizon. Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK, has dismissed these worries, suggesting that US food standards are nothing to be concerned about. But the bigger question is not whether American standards are lower than those in Britain, but why food standards across the world have been allowed to sink so dramatically.

What we eat now is a greater cause of disease and death in the world than either tobacco or alcohol. In 2015 around 7 million people died from tobacco smoke, and 2.75 million from causes related to alcohol, but 12m deaths could be attributed to “dietary risks” such as diets low in vegetables, nuts and seafood or diets high in processed meats and sugary drinks. This is paradoxical and sad, because good food – good in every sense, from flavour to nutrition – used to be the test by which we judged the quality of life. A good life without good food should be a logical impossibility.

Where humans used to live in fear of plague or tuberculosis, now the leading cause of mortality worldwide is diet. Most of our problems with eating come down to the fact that we have not yet adapted to the new realities of plenty, either biologically or psychologically. Many of the old ways of thinking about diet no longer apply, but it isn’t clear yet what it would mean to adapt our appetites and routines to the new rhythms of life. We take our cues about what to eat from the world around us, which becomes a problem when our food supply starts to send us crazy signals about what is normal. “Everything in moderation” doesn’t quite cut it in a world where the “everything” for sale in the average supermarket has become so sugary and so immoderate.

At no point in history have edible items been so easy to obtain, and in many ways this is a glorious thing. Humans have always gone out and gathered food, but never before has it been so simple for us to gather anything we want, whenever we want it, from sachets of black squid ink to strawberries in winter. We can get sushi in Buenos Aires, sandwiches in Tokyo and Italian food everywhere. Not so long ago, to eat genuine Neapolitan pizza, a swollen-edged disc of dough cooked in a blistering oven, you had to go to Naples. Now, you can find Neapolitan pizza – made using the right dough blasted in an authentic pizza oven – as far afield as Seoul and Dubai.

Talking about what has gone wrong with modern eating is delicate, because food is a touchy subject. No one likes to feel judged about their food choices, which is one of the reasons why so many healthy eating initiatives fail. The rise of obesity and diet-related disease around the world has happened hand in hand with the marketing of fast food and sugary sodas, of processed meats and branded snack foods. As things stand, our culture is far too critical of the individuals who eat junk foods and not critical enough of the corporations who profit from selling them. A survey of more than 300 international policymakers found that 90% of them still believed that personal motivation – AKA willpower – was a very strong cause of obesity. This is absurd.

It makes no sense to presume that there has been a sudden collapse in willpower across all ages and ethnic groups since the 1960s. What has changed most since the 60s is not our collective willpower but the marketing and availability of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods. Some of these changes are happening so rapidly it’s almost impossible to keep track. Sales of fast food grew by 30% worldwide from 2011 to 2016 and sales of packaged food grew by 25%. Somewhere in the world, a new branch of Domino’s Pizza opened every seven hours in 2016.

But this story isn’t just about one kind of food or one set of people. Across the board, across all social classes, most of us eat and drink more than our grandparents did, whether we are cooking a leisurely dinner at home from fresh ingredients or grabbing a takeaway from a fast food chain. Plates are bigger than they were 50 years ago, our idea of a portion is inflated and wine glasses are vast. It has become normal to punctuate the day with snacks and to quench our thirst with calorific liquids, from green juice and detox shots to craft sodas (which are just like any other soda, only more expensive). As the example of grapes shows, we don’t just eat more burgers and fries than our grandparents, we also eat more fruit and avocado toast and frozen yoghurt, more salad dressing and many, many more “guilt-free” kale crisps.

Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at Chapel Hill University, North Carolina, can identify the year when snacking took off in China. It was 2004. Before that, the Chinese consumed very little between meals except green tea and hot water. In 2004, Popkin suddenly noticed a marked transition from the old Chinese ways of two or three meals a day towards a new pattern of eating. In collaboration with a team of Chinese nutritionists, he has been following the Chinese diet in snapshots of data every two or three years, conducting regular surveys of around 10,000-12,000 people. Back in 1991, Popkin found that at certain fixed times of year, there were treats to supplement the daily diet. During the mid-autumn festival, for example, people would eat moon cakes made from lard-enriched pastry stuffed with sweetened bean paste. But such feasting foods were ritualised and rare, nothing like a casual cereal bar.

In 2004, out of nowhere, as incomes rose, Chinese habits of snacking spread dramatically. The number of Chinese adults between 19 and 44 describing themselves as eating snacks over a three-day period nearly doubled, while the number of children between two and six eating snacks rose almost as much. Based on the most recent data, more than two-thirds of Chinese children now report snacking during the day. This is an eating revolution.

The curious thing about snacking in China is that to start with it actually made people healthier, because they were snacking on fruit: fresh tangerines and kumquats, bayberries and lychees, pineapple and pomelo. These were the foods that people had always aspired to eat, but couldn’t afford in the past. Phase two of snacking in China has been very different. “The marketing comes in,” Popkin tells me, “and boom! boom! boom! the snacks are not healthy any more.” As of 2015, the commercial savoury snack food market in China was worth more than $7bn. When I travelled to Nanjing last year, I saw people consuming the same Starbucks Frappuccinos and blueberry muffins as in London.

China is not alone. Almost every country in the world has experienced radical changes to its patterns of eating over the past five, 10 and 50 years. For a long time, nutritionists have held up the “Mediterranean diet” as a healthy model for people in all countries to follow. But recent reports from the World Health Organisation suggest that even in Spain, Italy and Crete, most children no longer eat anything like a “Mediterranean diet” rich in olive oil and fish and tomatoes. These Mediterranean children, who are, as of 2017, among the most overweight in Europe, now drink sugary colas and eat packaged snack foods and have lost the taste for fish and olive oil. In every continent, there has been a common set of changes from savoury foods to sweet ones, from meals to snacks, dinners cooked at home to meals eaten out, or takeaways. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2019 at 1:44 pm

Trump officials chafe at second-guessing of North Korean missile sites

leave a comment »

“Second-guessing” in this case means “reporting what’s happening.” David S. Cloud reports in the LA Times:

When workers at North Korea’s Sohae rocket facility began rebuilding the dormant site’s launchpad and engine test stand this month, U.S. spy satellites orbiting overhead quickly detected the construction.
So did Joe Bermudez, a freelance North Korea military expert who keeps close tabs on unclassified overhead photos of the country’s scattered missile and nuclear weapons facilities.

Unlike U.S. intelligence agencies, Bermudez immediately went public.

“North Korea is pursuing a rapid rebuilding of the long-range-rocket site at Sohae,” Bermudez and Victor Cha, a former U.S. National Security Council official, warned in a March 5 analysis published by a Washington think tank that included satellite images of the hilly launch site near North Korea’s border with China.

The analysts suggested that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might be moving toward resuming ballistic missile tests only days after the collapse of his summit with President Trump in Hanoi — a possible blow to Trump’s efforts to persuade Kim to abandon his missile and nuclear weapons programs.

It also showed how the burgeoning availability of high-resolution commercial satellite photos of North Korea and other isolated global hot spots has challenged the monopoly that U.S. intelligence agencies long held on satellite imagery analysis.

“Activity is evident at the vertical engine test stand and the launchpad’s rail-mounted rocket transfer structure,” Bermudez and Cha wrote. “The rebuilding activities at Sohae demonstrate how quickly North Korea can easily render reversible any steps taken towards scrapping its WMD program,” referring to weapons of mass destruction.

Senior U.S. officials involved in the negotiations with North Korea can barely contain their disdain for the unofficial analysis, viewing it as overly pessimistic and potentially disruptive to their efforts.

“The tendency to reach these snap conclusions is, in my view, a little bit hasty,” Stephen Biegun, the special U.S. envoy for North Korea, said at a Washington conference Monday.

“We take very seriously the reports that we’ve seen about what’s happening at Sohae,” he added. “We don’t need to depend upon commercial satellite photography.”

John Bolton, Trump’s national security advisor, similarly dismissed recent overhead images showing rail cars and other activity at Sanumdong, a facility near Pyongyang where North Korea has assembled some of its intercontinental ballistic missiles and satellite-launching rockets.

“I don’t really want to get into speculation about what they’re doing,” he told ABC’s “This Week” on March 10.

No one suggests the analysts are endangering national security. But evidence that Kim’s government is continuing its missile and nuclear weapons development deepens questions about whether Trump is engaged in a fruitless diplomatic initiative.

Pyongyang has not launched a ballistic missile or tested a nuclear device since the run-up to the Trump-Kim summit — their first — in Singapore in June, a fact Trump touts as one of the accomplishments of his high-level engagement with Kim.

U.S. intelligence agencies that study the reclusive North Korean government use communication intercepts, defector reports, reconnaissance flights and other sources. Sophisticated spy satellites transmit classified images said to be substantially more detailed than those publicly available.

That enables them to keep surveillance on dozens of sites where Kim’s government is believed to be working on nuclear weapons or long-range missile components.

U.S. intelligence officials say Kim is unlikely to surrender his nuclear stockpile or long-range missiles, seeing them as a guarantee of his grip on power.

But a cottage industry of U.S. academic groups, nonproliferation groups and Korea experts are buying the latest commercial satellite shots to look for their own evidence that Pyongyang is secretly advancing its weapons work while talking peace with Trump.

In the competitive world of Washington think tanks, satellite photos that appear to offer insight into North Korea’s next move — and that challenge the administration’s version of events — generate buzz, news stories and even donations from people and foreign governments who see North Korea as a threat.

The most active player in this parallel intelligence-gathering universe is the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington policy research organization that employs Bermudez as its “senior fellow for imagery analysis” and that issues frequent — sometimes breathless — reports using overhead imagery.

Bermudez has spent decades examining Pyongyang’s secret missile and weapons programs, including as senior analyst for DigitalGlobe, a Colorado-based satellite imagery company whose primary customer is the U.S. intelligence community.

Before signing on with CSIS, the Colorado-based analyst worked with 38 North, another nonprofit research group and website focused on North Korea that regularly issues its own reports on overhead imagery of Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear sites.

“I got sucked into North Korea and never have been able to get out,” said Bermudez, who refuses to say whether he formerly worked for a U.S. spy agency.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Defense Department entity that collects and analyzes satellite imagery, has given Bermudez and a handful of other analysts access to its vast trove of unclassified North Korea imagery in return for their analysis on obscure topics.

His report on rail shipments of iron ore from the North Korean city of Wonsan was posted on the agency’s public website in November, part of a year-old NGA program to enlist outside experts to do unclassified research that its own analysts don’t have time to do.

But Bermudez’s work on North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs gets the most attention.

After their first report on the new construction at Sohae, Bermudez and Cha issued new pictures of the launch site two days later, labeling the structures and noting what had changed since the satellite last had passed overhead.

“Commercial satellite imagery acquired March 6, 2019 … shows that North Korea has essentially completed the rebuilding of both the rail-mounted transfer/processing structure on the launchpad and the vertical engine at the Sohae Launch Facility,” they wrote.
That “could indicate deliberate preparations to test rocket engines again,” they added.
Other outside analysts say Bermudez and Cha sometimes push their conclusions too far, extrapolating from limited information on the images what Kim’s next move may be. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2019 at 12:05 pm

Flawed analysis, failed oversight: How Boeing, FAA certified the suspect 737 MAX flight control system

leave a comment »

Dominic Gates reports in the Seattle Times:

As Boeing hustled in 2015 to catch up to Airbus and certify its new 737 MAX, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers pushed the agency’s safety engineers to delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the resulting analysis.

But the original safety analysis that Boeing delivered to the FAA for a new flight control system on the MAX — a report used to certify the plane as safe to fly — had several crucial flaws.

That flight control system, called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), is now under scrutiny after two crashes of the jet in less than five months
Current and former engineers directly involved with the evaluations or familiar with the document shared details of Boeing’s “System Safety Analysis” of MCAS, which The Seattle Times confirmed.

The safety analysis:

  • Understated the power of the new flight control system, which was designed to swivel the horizontal tail to push the nose of the plane down to avert a stall. When the planes later entered service, MCAS was capable of moving the tail more than four times farther than was stated in the initial safety analysis document.
  • Failed to account for how the system could reset itself each time a pilot responded, thereby missing the potential impact of the system repeatedly pushing the airplane’s nose downward.
  • Assessed a failure of the system as one level below “catastrophic.” But even that “hazardous” danger level should have precluded activation of the system based on input from a single sensor — and yet that’s how it was designed.

The people who spoke to The Seattle Times and shared details of the safety analysis all spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their jobs at the FAA and other aviation organizations.

Both Boeing and the FAA were informed of the specifics of this story and were asked for responses 11 days ago, before the second crash of a 737 MAX last Sunday.

Late Friday, the FAA said it followed its standard certification process on the MAX. Citing a busy week, a spokesman said the agency was “unable to delve into any detailed inquiries.”

Boeing responded Saturday with a statement that “the FAA considered the final configuration and operating parameters of MCAS during MAX certification, and concluded that it met all certification and regulatory requirements.”

Adding that it is “unable to comment … because of the ongoing investigation” into the crashes, Boeing did not respond directly to the detailed description of the flaws in MCAS certification, beyond saying that “there are some significant mischaracterizations.”

Several technical experts inside the FAA said October’s Lion Air crash, where the MCAS has been clearly implicated by investigators in Indonesia, is only the latest indicator that the agency’s delegation of airplane certification has gone too far, and that it’s inappropriate for Boeing employees to have so much authority over safety analyses of Boeing jets.

“We need to make sure the FAA is much more engaged in failure assessments and the assumptions that go into them,” said one FAA safety engineer.

Certifying a new flight control system

Going against a long Boeing tradition of giving the pilot complete control of the aircraft, the MAX’s new MCAS automatic flight control system was designed to act in the background, without pilot input.

It was needed because the MAX’s much larger engines had to be placed farther forward on the wing, changing the airframe’s aerodynamic lift.

Designed to activate automatically only in the extreme flight situation of a high-speed stall, this extra kick downward of the nose would make the plane feel the same to a pilot as the older-model 737s.

Boeing engineers authorized to work on behalf of the FAA developed the System Safety Analysis for MCAS, a document which in turn was shared with foreign air-safety regulators in Europe, Canada and elsewhere in the world.

The document, “developed to ensure the safe operation of the 737 MAX,” concluded that the system complied with all applicable FAA regulations.

Yet black box data retrieved after the Lion Air crash indicates that a single faulty sensor — a vane on the outside of the fuselage that measures the plane’s “angle of attack,” the angle between the airflow and the wing — triggered MCAS multiple times during the deadly flight, initiating a tug of war as the system repeatedly pushed the nose of the plane down and the pilots wrestled with the controls to pull it back up, before the final crash.

On Wednesday, when announcing the grounding of the 737 MAX, the FAA cited similarities in the flight trajectory of the Lion Air flight and the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 last Sunday.

Investigators also found the Ethiopian plane’s jackscrew, a part that moves the horizontal tail of the aircraft, and it indicated that the jet’s horizontal tail was in an unusual position — with MCAS as one possible reason for that.

Investigators are working to determine if MCAS could be the cause of both crashes.

Delegated to Boeing

The FAA, citing lack of funding and resources, has over the years delegated increasing authority to Boeing to take on more of the work of certifying the safety of its own airplanes. [BAD mistake, but necessary because the US government is underfunded in order to deliver tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy. – LG]

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2019 at 11:47 am

Trump is the apostle of ignorance: Trump administration proposes $7.1 billion funding cut to Education Department

leave a comment »

Sophie Tatum reports for ABC News:

The Trump administration is looking to decrease the Education Department’s funding by $7.1 billion compared to what it was given last year, as part of next year’s proposed budget.

The budget proposal suggests eliminating 29 programs, including after-school and summer programs for students in high-poverty areas, among other things.

The budget proposal is unlikely to pass through Congress – especially with Democrats in control of the House, however, it is a glimpse into the Trump administration’s priorities going into the next fiscal year.

In a statement on Monday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the proposed cuts show “commitment to spending taxpayer dollars wisely and efficiently by consolidating or eliminating duplicative and ineffective federal programs.”

She also said the “budget at its core is about education freedom,” an apparent nod to the issue of school choice – something DeVos has attempted to champion during her time as head of the department.

The proposed budget includes DeVos’ school choice platform by asking for an increase in $60 million for the Charters Schools Program.

The budget also requests $700 million for school safety measures from multiple agencies, including the Education Department, the Justice Department and Health and Human Services.

“After the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, the President established the Federal Commission on School Safety to assess and develop Federal, State, and local policy recommendations to help prevent violence in schools,” the 2020 budget proposal reads.

“The Budget provides approximately $700 million, an increase of $354 million compared to the 2019 Budget, in Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services grants to give States and school districts resources to implement the Commission’s recommendations, such as expanding access to mental healthcare, developing threat assessments, and improving school climate.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued a statement responding to the proposed cuts, criticizing the DeVos’ leadership at the department.

“Rather than increase funding for kids with special needs or for those who live below the poverty line in both rural and urban America, or addressing the issues raised in their own safety report, DeVos once again seeks to divert funding for private purposes in the name of ‘choice,’” Weingarten said.

The statement continued: “However, if they listened to parents, they would hear that, overwhelmingly, parents want well-funded public schools as their choice.”

Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, also criticized the budget’s Education Department proposals, saying it showed “how wildly out of sync” DeVos is.

“Secretary DeVos is proposing gutting investments in students, teachers, . . .

Continue reading.

The US is now doing itself great harm. And it cannot stop, apparently.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2019 at 10:55 am

Spring onions have arrived!

leave a comment »

Just back from a grocery run, and the Market on Yates had spring onions. These are basically immature storage onions, and I do eat the leaves when I cook with them. Scallions are on the bottom. (I eat their leaves as well, cooked or not.)

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2019 at 10:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

%d bloggers like this: