Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Friday, 11 May 2012

Driver pulled over -- for being radioactive... -

Driver pulled over -- for being radioactive... - 

Mike Apatow was minding his own business Wednesday, driving to an appointment for work in Washington Depot when a state police car appeared suddenly and signaled for the Milford resident to pull over.
Apatow, 42, was entering Interstate 84 in Newtown when the cruiser appeared, and he had no idea what he'd done to merit police attention. It turns out he didn't do anything.
But earlier that day, Apatow, who'd experienced a recent spike in his blood pressure, had a nuclear stress test at Cardiology Associates of Fairfield County in Trumbull. In the test, a small amount of a radioactive material is injected into the veins and used to help track blood flow to the heart.
Though the amount of radioactive material used in the test is relatively low -- equal to a few X-rays or a diagnostic CT scan -- it was enough to set off a radioactivity detector in the state police car. The detectors are used to help identify potential terror threats.
"I asked the officer `What seems to be the problem?' " Apatow said. "He said `You've been flagged as a radioactive car.' "
Apatow's doctor had given him a document attesting that he'd had a medical procedure involving a small amount of radioactive material that he handed to the officer. A Stratford firefighter, Apatow was more curious than annoyed by the incident.
"I had no idea the police even had devices like that," he said. "I imagined it being like a cartoon -- like I'm driving down the street and my car was glowing."
State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance confirmed that many of the state police cars have the radioactivity detectors. "It's part of our homeland security operations here," Vance said. "It's just another layer of public safety that we have in this state."
Though the goal of the detectors is to alert police to motorists who might be carrying hazardous materials, cases like Apatow's happen from time to time.
"They're very sensitive," Vance said of the detectors.
Apatow had the stress test after feeling ill while working at the Fire Department. He took his blood pressure and found it was 180 over 110 -- much higher than the 120 over 70 reading he usually gets. He attributed the spike to a variety of potential factors, including a lack of sleep. On Thursday, after visiting his doctors again, he was cleared for duty.

Read more: http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Radioactive-man-Milford-resident-pulled-over-by-3549631.php

Air traffic controllers in NY napped, watched movies, gambled on job... -

Air traffic controllers in NY napped, watched movies, gambled on job... - 

When midnight rolled around and flight traffic thinned out, air-traffic controllers guiding planes in the busiest U.S. corridor whipped out laptops to watch movies, play games or gamble online.
Controllers on break inflated air mattresses and napped on the floor. Some left before their shifts were over. They cursed at managers, refused to train new controllers, and flouted rules requiring them to pass on weather advisories to pilots.

“It was blatant and in your face,” Evan Seeley, a former manager in the Ronkonkoma, New York, tower who came forward last year, said in a phone interview yesterday.
Those and other allegations made by Seeley were corroborated by investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration, according to reports released this week by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an agency formed to help and protect whistle-blowers inside federal agencies.
Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner sent a letter on May 8 to the White House and Congress detailing findings in Seeley’s case and six other verified whistle-blower complaints, saying the FAA and Department of Transportation were slow to address them or hadn’t acted.
In New York, investigators found a facility in which FAA managers were unwilling or afraid to discipline controllers’ union members, the reports said. Supervisors who tried to enforce the rules had their cars vandalized or were threatened. The result was widespread violations of rules that undermined safety, reviews by the special counsel and FAA found.
Seeley, who’d worked in Fort Worth, Texas, before coming to New York in February 2010, said he was shocked by what he saw.
“The advice from the seasoned front-line managers was: you keep your head in the sand,” he said.


Google Search Results Protected by First Amendment -

Google Search Results Protected by First Amendment - 

Google and other search engines have a First Amendment right to sort or even censor search rankings as they like, according to a legal analysis Google commissioned from a law professor.

Search engine companies are no different from traditional news media outlets such as The New York Times, CNN or the Drudge Report and therefore merit the same constitutional protections, according to UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh in a recent report.

“[S]earch engines select and sort the results in a way that is aimed at giving users what the search engine companies see as the most helpful and useful information…. In this respect, each search engine’s editorial judgment is much like many other familiar editorial judgments,” Volokh writes.

In the report, titled “First Amendment Protection for Search Engine Results,” the libertarian-leaning Volokh, who runs the popular Volokh Conspiracy group blog, argues that search engine results that Google and others produce are a form of opinion. Therefore they have the right to choose what goes into that opinion – whether this means excluding certain links entirely or ranking them in a manner that the search engine deems is most relevant to users.

What this means in practice is that Google should be protected from claims others have made that the search engine giant is abusing its power by excluding certain links altogether or ranking results in a way that can harm the business of others.

Google has been fighting off accusations that it rigs its search results. In 2003 an Oklahoma advertiser accused Google of burying a link to the company in search results, but a judge rejected the case, citing First Amendment protections. In 2007, a California company accused Google of violating its own First Amendment rights because it also was banished to a low ranking in search results. Reader review site, Yelp, has also accused Google of abusing its power by preferring its own content over Yelp’s.

The timing of the report is likely not coincidental. Google is currently the target of a federal investigation over charges of unfair competition. Google is likely to make the argument that even if it is found to be a monopoly, its choices in regards to search rankings and display are protected First Amendment activities.

Google has always threaded a fine line on the issue. The company maintains that it does not have the ability to manipulate individual results. While at the same time, the company regularly punishes sites that it thinks use underhanded tactics to game search results or that sell paid links by reducing or even banishing them from search results.

At a congressional hearing last year, Nextag Chief Executive Jeff Katz testified that Google’s search results for products favor its own sites over those of competitors.

Yelp chief executive and co-founder Jeremy Stoppelman echoed the criticism when he told lawmakers that Google prefers “to send consumers to the most profitable sites on the Web: their own.”


Washington state health officials declare whooping cough epidemic -

Washington state health officials declare whooping cough epidemic - 

Washington state’s worst outbreak of whooping cough in decades has prompted health officials to declare an epidemic, seek help from federal experts and urge residents to get vaccinated amid worry that cases of the highly contagious disease could spike much higher.

It’s the first state to declare a whooping cough, or pertussis, epidemic since 2010, when California had more than 9,000 cases, including 10 deaths. Washington has had 10 times the cases reported in 2011, and so has Wisconsin with nearly 2,000 cases this year, though that state has not declared an epidemic.

California responded to its crisis two years ago with a public information campaign, readily available vaccines and a new law requiring a booster shot for middle- and high-school students. Doctors were urged to spot whooping cough early, send infected babies to the hospital and promptly treat those diagnosed. In 2011, the number of cases there dropped significantly.

In Washington, about 1,280 cases have been reported in 2012, and officials believe the state could see as many as 3,000 cases by year’s end. Health Secretary Mary Selecky declared the epidemic April 3, and since then officials have bought up the vaccine and made it available for free for people who don’t have insurance.

State officials have asked hospitals to vaccinate every adult who goes home with a new baby, and urged businesses to encourage their employees to get the adult booster shot. Washington already requires a booster shot for middle- and high-school students.

Last week, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the state is putting $90,000 into a public awareness campaign and diverting some federal money to pay for 27,000 doses of vaccine. The state has also asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to send a special team of investigators and an epidemiologist to the Washington.

State epidemic declarations are up to the states; there are no federal regulations for such decisions. Selecky said this is the first time in her 13 years on the job she has declared a state epidemic, but felt she needed to take action to stop the disease from spreading further.

“When we’ve looked historically, we’ve seen nothing like this,” she said. “We’re taking this very seriously.”

Adults and teens need booster shots so they don’t give pertussis to the babies in their lives, said CDC spokeswoman Alison Patti

“We want to create a cocoon of protection around them,” she said. “We’re really worried about keeping babies safe.”

Pertussis is known as whooping cough because of the “whooping” sound people often make while gasping for air after a coughing fit. A highly contagious bacterial disease, it starts off like a cold but leads to severe coughing that can last for weeks. In rare cases, it can be fatal.

Until routine child vaccination became widespread in the 1940s, pertussis caused thousands of fatalities each year in the United States. While deaths are uncommon today, they still occur: In recent weeks, infants in New Mexico and Idaho have died from the disease.

Because the adult booster for pertussis — called Tdap for tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis — has only been available since 2005, fewer than one in 10 adults have gotten the shot and most don’t even know they need it. The numbers are better for teens: about 70 percent have received a booster shot. Most people do not find out they even need a booster until they go to the doctor for a tetanus shot, Patti said.

Patti emphasized that pertussis isn’t spreading because of an anti-vaccine movement. Among possible reasons for the recent spike are that diagnoses in teens and adults are getting better and doctors are doing a better job with reporting, she added


Dallas Shopping Mall Requires Teens To Be With Parents After 6 PM... -

Dallas Shopping Mall Requires Teens To Be With Parents After 6 PM... - 

Teenagers have been hanging out at shopping malls since the 1970s. It almost seems like a rite of passage. At NorthPark Center in Dallas, that rite of passage now requires a parent after 6:00 p.m.

“I think it’s our responsibility to know where our children are, who they’re with and what they’re doing,” said Bridget Johnson, a mother of a 15-year-old.

NorthPark is enforcing a new “code of conduct” that requires anyone 17 or younger to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian while inside the mall after 6:00 p.m. “I really do respect that there are parents who may not agree with us completely,” explained NorthPark spokesman, Mark Annick. ”I can tell you that we’ve also spoken with all of the merchants in NorthPark and they think this a very good idea,” added Annick.

NorthPark says the new code is a result of the estimated 26 million visitors that come to the mall every year. With such a large volume, the management says they’re trying to maintain a family friendly atmosphere.

Meredith Bunch is the store manager of Fresh and she’s on board with the policy. “Friday nights and Saturday nights tend to be times spent with your family,” said Bunch. “I love that people come to mall and feel safe and feel comfortable,” she added.

NorthPark management says the new teen policy has nothing to do with complaints filed by shoppers.

While many parents support it, others maintain that 6:00 p.m. is too early to enforce a code of conduct. “I think it’s a little early. I think more like 8:00 p.m. or 9:00 p.m., maybe,” said parent Debbie Hilliard.

NorthPark security will enforce the code by randomly checking IDs. Unaccompanied teenagers, 17 and under, will be asked to call their parents to come join them or pick them up.

An exception will be made for teens coming to the mall for a movie.  However, NorthPark says they must go straight to the theater and leave once the movie is over.

Teens who work at the mall are also exempt. Here’s the full code of conduct:

Read more -