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Thursday, September 27, 2007
- Drying your hands just got easier | Crave : The gadget blog Drying your hands just got easier | Crave : The gadget blog
If you haven't seen this already, this is the new Dyson Airblade hand dryer for public washroom.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
- Do Not Call listings to expire in 2008 - Yahoo! News Do Not Call listings to expire in 2008 - Yahoo! News: "in June 2003, are valid for five years. For the millio"
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
- CTA slammed in federal report -- chicagotribune.com CTA slammed in federal report
Mismanagement, poor maintenance cited in probe of 2006 derailment, fire
By Jon Hilkevitch | Tribune transportation reporter
1:57 PM CDT, September 11, 2007
WASHINGTON - The Chicago Transit Authority's track-inspection process is "a case study in organizational accidents,'' marked by a management culture that allows falsification of records, deferred maintenance of bad rails and poor safety oversight, a federal report said Tuesday.
The findings issued by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded a yearlong investigation into the CTA train derailment and fire in the Blue Line subway that injured more than 100 passengers July 11, 2006. Inadequate information about the eight-car train's location in the tunnel, between the Clark/Lake and Grand/Milwaukee stations in downtown Chicago, slowed the emergency response to evacuate the approximately 1,000 passengers aboard the evening rush-hour train, the safety board said.
There were also problems with the 55-year-old tunnel's ventilation system in removing smoke caused by electrical arcing between the last car and the 600-volt third rail, the NTSB said.
Investigators determined within days that some wheels on the last car lost contact with the running rails due to the gauge of the track being out of alignment.
But a subsequent examination of documents, interviews with CTA workers and repeated walk-throughs with track inspectors in the Blue Line tunnel turned up severe systemic problems, the safety board said in a blistering report.
More than 80 percent of inspection records were missing for the Blue Line, the board's report noted. CTA tracks are supposed to be inspected twice a week, but one track inspector told a safety board investigator that he had inspected his assigned area only once in five months, the report said.
"We found hundreds of records missing, literally hundreds,'' said Cy Gura, an investigator who served as chairman of the safety board's track, signal and engineering group. "The CTA said the work was done, but there was no record. The [track] gauge problem was not reported and the fixes were not reported.''
In many other instances, investigators found that inspection reports were falsified to indicate that track was inspected when in fact it was not, the report said.
Gura, who accompanied CTA inspectors on their rounds, said they routinely marked off on their reports as having walked and measured track in the entire 6 miles of their territories, even though they actually came up about 1½ miles short by the time their shift ended.
"It looks like a lot of people were looking the other way,'' said safety board member Steven Chealander, referring to CTA management.
Problems uncovered included failures in setting up effective training, track inspection, maintenance and supervisory programs, leading to unsafe track conditions, the board said.
Mud and standing water in the subway tunnel, wet and rotten rail ties, corrosion of rail fasteners and worn or broken screws and tie plates accelerated the track's failure, while CTA inspectors failed to identify the obvious problems, the investigation found.
"The track had clearly been deteriorating for a long time. It did not happen overnight,'' said Bob Chipkevich, director of the safety board's office of railroad, pipeline and hazardous materials investigations. He said the conditions found at the CTA were the worst he has seen at any U.S. transit agency.
CTA officials said they have replaced some top management personnel and initiated changes, including improved inspector training and the use of more sophisticated track-gauge measuring equipment.
But Kitty Higgins, a NTSB board member who accompanied investigators to Chicago after the derailment, said the failures found at the CTA "should really be a wakeup call to transit agencies across the nation.''
"This accident is about the failure to understand and invest in a system of this age that carries thousands and thousands and thousands of people everyday,'' Higgins said.
The investigation also found that CTA employees were required to pull double-duty--working as both track maintainers and track inspectors, creating a conflict of interest.
"The maintainers are the same people doing the inspections. Where is the quality assurance there?'' said safety board member Robert Sumwalt.
A human factors expert at the safety board said the CTA's corporate culture apparently allowed mistakes and other failures to take place and occur repeatedly.
Referring to the management style at the transit agency, Gerald Weeks, chief of the board's human performance and survival factors division, said: "It sounds like a case study in organizational accidents.''
Sumwalt noted that budget pressures at the CTA often meant reduced staffing of maintenance personnel and inspectors.
"The result was that inspectors were often called away from inspections to make repairs,'' Sumwalt said.
The investigation also singled out the Regional Transportation Authority, which has rail safety oversight responsibilities, for failing to closely monitor the CTA, leading to unsafe track conditions continuing to exist, the safety board said. Lax monitoring by the Federal Transit Administration was also cited in the safety board report.
"Clearly there was very minimal oversight going on between the FTA and the state program,'' Chipkevich said.
- Radio frequencies help burn salt water - Yahoo! News ERIE, Pa. - An Erie cancer researcher has found a way to burn salt water, a novel invention that is being touted by one chemist as the "most remarkable" water science discovery in a century.
John Kanzius happened upon the discovery accidentally when he tried to desalinate seawater with a radio-frequency generator he developed to treat cancer. He discovered that as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio frequencies, it would burn.
The discovery has scientists excited by the prospect of using salt water, the most abundant resource on earth, as a fuel.
Rustum Roy, a Penn State University chemist, has held demonstrations at his State College lab to confirm his own observations.
The radio frequencies act to weaken the bonds between the elements that make up salt water, releasing the hydrogen, Roy said. Once ignited, the hydrogen will burn as long as it is exposed to the frequencies, he said.
The discovery is "the most remarkable in water science in 100 years," Roy said.
"This is the most abundant element in the world. It is everywhere," Roy said. "Seeing it burn gives me the chills."
Roy will meet this week with officials from the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense to try to obtain research funding.
The scientists want to find out whether the energy output from the burning hydrogen — which reached a heat of more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit — would be enough to power a car or other heavy machinery.
"We will get our ideas together and check this out and see where it leads," Roy said. "The potential is huge."