Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 5 November 2010

Great balls of fire over Canada: NASA investigates -

Great balls of fire over Canada: NASA investigates - 

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Great balls of fire have been reported swooping over Eastern Canada and several U.S. states.

Even NASA's on the case.
There are different theories about what was behind the sighting of those fireballs. A NASA spacecraft got a closer look at one of the possible sources today.
The spacecraft flew past Hartley 2 -- taking closeup pictures after the comet made one of its closest passes by Earth this week.
But one expert is skeptical of reports that any fireballs came from Hartley -- which is roughly 1.2 kilometres wide and spews deadly cyanide gas.
Scientist Peter Brown says his meteor group at the University of Western Ontario tracked one of two fireballs while the other was tracked by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.

Broken Washington DC Metro escalators send riders flying - landed four in the hospital -

Broken Washington DC Metro escalators send riders flying - landed four in the hospital - 

Two escalator brake failures in five days sent passengers flying down to the bottom — and landed four in the hospital, putting the spotlight on Metro’s deteriorating escalator performance.
Both brake failures happened when the escalators were packed. The first occurred after Saturday’s rally on the National Mall when a L’Enfant Plaza station escalator went into free fall; the second came on Wednesday night at Gallery Place-Chinatown, where witnesses said a station escalator suddenly sped up on passengers who were leaving the Washington Capitals game.
Metro safety officials presented a preliminary report on the weekend incident Thursday morning. Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said officials investigated the second incident on Thursday.
“It was determined that one of the escalators did need a new brake, so they will be installing it when [the part] is available either today or tomorrow,” she said.
The accidents are two blows to an agency already plagued by worsening escalator performance. According to Metro data, the average escalator reliability has fallen three straight years to 90.5 percent in 2009.
Even then, some Metro Board members believe escalator performance is much worse.
“When I give people that 90 percent number, they never believe me,” board member Jeff McKay said at an October meeting.
The L’Enfant report said the sheer volume of the passengers on the escalator — on a day when Metro broke a ridership record — contributed to the malfunction.
“When the escalator shut down [due to the volume], the brakes engaged but failed due to the passenger load,” Metro Deputy Chief of Rail Safety Robert Maniuszko told the committee.
“After the distinct sound of a metallic ‘bang,’ ” he said, the escalator went into an 18-second free fall.
Passengers “piled up at the bottom” and six were injured; two declined medical attention. One of the four sent to the hospital suffered a “severe laceration and possibly internal injury,” Maniuszko said.
An inspection of the brakes revealed one had oil on it, another “showed wear” and a third was in good condition. Farbstein said the agency is investigating the escalator and the adjacent ones for the “root cause” of the failure but is not conducting a sweeping inspection of all 588 escalators in the system.
The L’Enfant escalator was last inspected in September and investigators are reviewing those records, according to Maniuszko. The unit was
installed in 1977 and rehabbed in 2004.
Samuel Robfogel, a witness to the Saturday accident, said he wants more accountability from Metro.
“My confidence is shaken,” said Robfogel, a university administrator in the District. “And Metro still hasn’t released a statement about it. I just want to know that these things are being addressed and being taken seriously. I want to know what went wrong and what’s going to be done to fix it.”
Christopher Zimmerman, chairman of the Metro Board’s safety committee, said Thursday afternoon he had not heard of the Gallery Place malfunction but that “it is of great concern any time something like this occurs.”
Zimmerman, who has served on Metro’s board since 1998, said malfunctions of this severity — where the units speed up — are rare.
“I haven’t previously heard of anything like this happening,” he said.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/Broken-Metro-escalators-send-riders-flying-106739773.html#ixzz14SJrUmC4

Barack Obama suffers another defeat as he is knocked off Forbes power top spot - Hu Jintao Chinese named most powerful

Barack Obama suffers another defeat as he is knocked off Forbes power top spot - Hu Jintao Chinese named most powerful - 

The annual list, compiled by Forbes, the business magazine, places David Cameron, the British prime minister, at seven, behind Angela Merkel, the German chancellor in the list of 68.
Forbes explained that those on the list had been chosen “because, in various ways, they bend the world to their will”.

King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia came in third behind Mr Jintao and Mr Obama, while Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister was fourth, ahead of Dmitry Medvedev, who only came in at 12.
Pope Benedict XVI was in fifth place, while the rest of the top 10 was rounded off by Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, Sonia Gandhi, the Indian president, and Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Mr Gates finished ahead of Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, who was in 17th place.
The list, another blow to the US president, cited his party’s poor performance in the midterm elections.
“Obama’s Democrats suffered a mighty blow in US midterm elections, with the president decisively losing support of the House of Representatives, and barely holding onto the Senate. It’s quite a comedown for last year’s most powerful person, who after enacting widespread reforms in his first two years in office will be hard-pressed to implement his agenda in the next two.”
Of Mr Hu, Forbes wrote: “Unlike Western counterparts, Hu can divert rivers, build cities, jail dissidents and censor internet without meddling from pesky bureaucrats, courts. Recently surpassed Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy both in absolute and purchasing power terms. Credible estimates have China poised to overtake US as world’s largest economy in 25 years – although, crucially, not on a per-capita basis.”