US Scareways

They’ll only continue to be lax on safety if you continue to fly with them. Is a cheaper flight really worth it?

From

Passengers report scare on earlier US Airways Flight 1549

By Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost

CNN Special Investigations Unit
(CNN) — Two days before US Airways Flight 1549 crashed into the Hudson River, passengers on the same route and same aircraft say they heard a series of loud bangs and the flight crew told them they could have to make an emergency landing, CNN has learned.

Steve Jeffrey of Charlotte, North Carolina, told CNN he was flying in first class Tuesday when, about 20 minutes into the flight, “it sounded like the wing was just snapping off.”

“The red lights started going on. A little pandemonium was going on,” Jeffrey recalled.

He said the incident occurred over Newark, New Jersey, soon after the plane — also flying as Flight 1549 — had taken off from LaGuardia Airport in New York.

“It seemed so loud, like luggage was hitting the side but times a thousand. It startled everyone on the plane,” Jeffrey said. “We started looking at each other. The stewardesses started running around. They made an announcement that ‘everyone heard the noise, we’re going to turn around and head back to LaGuardia and check out what happened.’

“I fly about 50 to 60 times per year, and I’ve never heard a noise so loud,” he said. “It wasn’t turbulence, it wasn’t luggage bouncing around. It was just completely like the engine was thrown against the side of the plane. It just — it didn’t shake the plane but it shook you out of the seat when you’re drifting off, it really woke you up. And when it happened again, everyone just started looking at each other and there was a quiet murmuring around the plane, and you could feel the tension rising just in looking.

“I remember turning to my [business] partner and saying, ‘I hope you got everything in order back home, life insurance and everything, because that didn’t sound good.’ ”

Jeffrey said he sent a text message to his wife about a “scary, scary noise on the plane. Doesn’t sound right. They’re flying back to LaGuardia to check it out. I’ll call you when we land. I love you.”

He added, “About 10 minutes later when we never made the turn, we kept going, that’s when the pilot came on and explained — I wish I could remember the words — I remember him using air, compression and lock — I’m not sure the right order, but he made it sound like the air didn’t get to the engine and it stalled the engine out, which he said doesn’t happen all the time but it’s not abnormal.”

Expert Aviation Consulting, an Indianapolis, Indiana, private consulting firm that includes commercial airline pilots on its staff, said the plane that landed in the Hudson was the same one as Flight 1549 from LaGuardia two days earlier. See images from the rescue in last week’s crash »

“EAC confirms that US Airways ship number N106US flew on January 13, 2009, and January 15, 2009, with the same flight number of AWE 1549 from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte Douglas [International] Airport in North Carolina,” Expert Aviation said in a statement to CNN.

The company said it checked with contacts in the aviation industry to confirm that it was the same plane.

The National Transportation Safety Board released the tail number of the downed Airbus A-320, which is N106US.

NTSB spokesman Peter Knudsen said as part of its investigation into the Hudson River crash, it will be looking at all maintenance activities, but has no indications of any anomalies or any malfunctions in the aircraft, so far in the investigation.

The Federal Aviation Administration referred CNN to US Airways.

US Airways would not confirm that the Flight 1549 that took off January 13 was the same plane that splashed into the Hudson two days later.

Valerie Wunder, a US Airways spokeswoman, said: “US Air is working with the National Transportation Safety Board in this investigation.” She would not comment on any other details, including Tuesday’s flight, though she did confirm US Airways is looking into it.

Jeffrey told CNN that US Airways earlier Monday confirmed to him that the Tuesday incident occurred aboard the plane that crashed.

John Hodock, another passenger on the Tuesday flight, said in an e-mail to CNN: “About 20 minutes after take-off, the plane had a series of compressor stalls on the right engine. There were several very loud bangs and fire coming out of the engine. The pilot at first told us that we were going to make an emergency landing, but after about five minutes, continued the flight to Charlotte.”

In an interview, Hodock said the pilot “got on the intercom and said they were going to have to make an emergency landing at the nearest airport. But then, only five to 10 minutes later, the pilot came back on and said it was a stalled compressor and they were going to continue to Charlotte.”

A third passenger, who did not want her named used, also said she heard a “loud banging sound” on the right side of the plane. She said she heard the pilot say the “compressor for the engine was stalled” and they needed “to turn around and go back.” However, she said, the problem was fixed and the flight continued without incident.

Pilots and aviation officials said that a compressor stall results from insufficient air getting into the engine and that multiple stalls could result in engine damage. However, the officials said, a momentary compressor stall may be less serious and could be corrected in flight by simply restarting the engine.

A bird strike could lead to a compressor stall, the officials said.

Face(book)ing the Music.

Unrepentant on Facebook? Expect jail time

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) — Two weeks after Joshua Lipton was charged in a drunken driving crash that seriously injured a woman, the 20-year-old college junior attended a Halloween party dressed as a prisoner. Pictures from the party showed him in a black-and-white striped shirt and an orange jumpsuit labeled “Jail Bird.”

In the age of the Internet, it might not be hard to guess what happened to those pictures: Someone posted them on the social networking site Facebook. And that offered remarkable evidence for Jay Sullivan, the prosecutor handling Lipton’s drunken-driving case.

Sullivan used the pictures to paint Lipton as an unrepentant partier who lived it up while his victim recovered in the hospital. A judge agreed, calling the pictures depraved when sentencing Lipton to two years in prison.

Online hangouts like Facebook and MySpace have offered crime-solving help to detectives and become a resource for employers vetting job applicants. Now the sites are proving fruitful for prosecutors, who have used damaging Internet photos of defendants to cast doubt on their character during sentencing hearings and argue for harsher punishment.

“Social networking sites are just another way that people say things or do things that come back and haunt them,” said Phil Malone, director of the cyberlaw clinic at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “The things that people say online or leave online are pretty permanent.”

The pictures, when shown at sentencing, not only embarrass defendants but can make it harder for them to convince a judge that they’re remorseful or that their drunken behavior was an aberration. (Of course, the sites are also valuable for defense lawyers looking to dig up dirt to undercut the credibility of a star prosecution witness.)

Prosecutors do not appear to be scouring networking sites while preparing for every sentencing, even though telling photos of criminal defendants are sometimes available in plain sight and accessible under a person’s real name. But in cases where they’ve had reason to suspect incriminating pictures online, or have been tipped off to a particular person’s MySpace or Facebook page, the sites have yielded critical character evidence.

“It’s not possible to do it in every case,” said Darryl Perlin, a senior prosecutor in Santa Barbara County, California. “But certain cases, it does become relevant.”

Perlin said he was willing to recommend probation for Lara Buys for a drunken driving crash that killed her passenger last year, until he thought to check her MySpace page while preparing for sentencing.

The page featured photos of Buys, taken after the crash but before sentencing, holding a glass of wine as well as joking comments about drinking. Perlin used the photos to argue for a jail sentence instead of probation, and Buys, then 22, got two years in prison.

“Pending sentencing, you should be going to [Alcoholics Anonymous]; you should be in therapy; you should be in a program to learn to deal with drinking and driving,” Perlin said. “She was doing nothing other than having a good old time.”

Santa Barbara defense lawyer Steve Balash said the day he met client Jessica Binkerd, a recent college graduate charged in a fatal drunken driving crash, he asked whether she had a MySpace page. When she said yes, he told her to take it down because he figured it might have pictures that cast her in a bad light.

But she didn’t remove the page. And right before Binkerd was sentenced in January 2007, the attorney said, he was “blindsided” by a presentencing report from prosecutors that featured photos posted on MySpace after the crash.

One showed Binkerd holding a beer bottle. Others had her wearing a shirt advertising tequila and a belt bearing plastic shot glasses.

Binkerd wasn’t doing anything illegal, but Balash said the photos hurt her anyway. She was given more than five years in prison, though the sentence was later shortened for unrelated reasons.

“When you take those pictures like that, it’s a hell of an impact,” he said.

Rhode Island prosecutors say Lipton was drunk and speeding near his school, Bryant University in Smithfield, in October 2006 when he triggered a three-car collision that left 20-year-old Jade Combies hospitalized for weeks.

Sullivan, the prosecutor, said another victim of the crash gave him copies of photographs from Lipton’s Facebook page that were posted after the collision. Sullivan assembled the pictures, which were posted by someone else but accessible on Lipton’s page, into a PowerPoint presentation at sentencing.

One image shows a smiling Lipton at the Halloween party, clutching cans of the energy drink Red Bull with his arm draped around a young woman in a sorority T-shirt. Above it, Sullivan rhetorically wrote, “Remorseful?”

Superior Court Judge Daniel Procaccini said the prosecutor’s slide show influenced his decision to sentence Lipton.

“I did feel that gave me some indication of how that young man was feeling a short time after a near-fatal accident, that he thought it was appropriate to joke and mock about the possibility of going to prison,” the judge said.

Kevin Bristow, Lipton’s attorney, said the photos didn’t accurately reflect his client’s character or level of remorse and made it more likely he’d get prison over probation.

“The pictures showed a kid who didn’t know what to do two weeks after this accident,” Bristow said, adding that Lipton wrote apologetic letters to the victim and her family and was so upset that he left college. “He didn’t know how to react.”

Still, he uses the incident as an example to his own teenage children to watch what they post online.

“If it shows up under your name, you own it,” he said, “and you better understand that people look for that stuff.”

Find this article at:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/07/18/facebook.evidence.ap/index.html

Is America’s suburban dream collapsing into a nightmare?

By Lara Farrar
For CNN

(CNN) — When Shaun Yandell proposed to his longtime girlfriend Gina Marasco on the doorstep of their new home in the sunny suburb of Elk Grove, California, four years ago, he never imagined things would get this bad. But they did, and it happened almost overnight.

“It is going to be heartbreak,” Yandell told CNN. “But we are hanging on.”

Yandell’s marriage isn’t falling apart: his neighborhood is.

Devastated by the subprime mortgage crisis, hundreds of homes have been foreclosed and thousands of residents have been forced to move, leaving in their wake a not-so-pleasant path of empty houses, unkempt lawns, vacant strip malls, graffiti-sprayed desolate sidewalks and even increased crime.

In Elk Grove, some homeowners not only cut their own grass but also trim the yards of vacant homes on their streets, hoping to deter gangs and criminals from moving in.

Other residents discovered that with some of the empty houses, it wasn’t what was growing outside that was the problem. Susan McDonald, president of a local neighborhood association aimed at saving the lost suburban paradise, told CNN that around her cul-de-sac, federal agents recently busted several pot homes with vast crops of marijuana growing from floor to ceiling.

And only a couple of weeks ago, Yandell said he overheard a group of teenagers gathered on the street outside his back patio, talking about a robbery they had just committed.

When they lit a street sign on fire, Yandell called the cops.

“This is not like a rare thing anymore,” he said. “I get big congregations of people cussing — stuff I can’t even fathom doing when I was a kid.”

For Yandell, his wife and many other residents trying to stick it out, the white picket fence of an American dream has faded into a seemingly hopeless suburban nightmare. “The forecast is gloomy,” he told CNN.

While the foreclosure epidemic has left communities across the United States overrun with unoccupied houses and overgrown grass, underneath the chaos another trend is quietly emerging that, over the next several decades, could change the face of suburban American life as we know it.

This trend, according to Christopher Leinberger, an urban planning professor at the University of Michigan and visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, stems not only from changing demographics but also from a major shift in the way an increasing number of Americans — especially younger generations — want to live and work.

“The American dream is absolutely changing,” he told CNN.

This change can be witnessed in places like Atlanta, Georgia, Detroit, Michigan, and Dallas, Texas, said Leinberger, where once rundown downtowns are being revitalized by well-educated, young professionals who have no desire to live in a detached single family home typical of a suburbia where life is often centered around long commutes and cars.

Instead, they are looking for what Leinberger calls “walkable urbanism” — both small communities and big cities characterized by efficient mass transit systems and high density developments enabling residents to walk virtually everywhere for everything — from home to work to restaurants to movie theaters.

The so-called New Urbanism movement emerged in the mid-90s and has been steadily gaining momentum, especially with rising energy costs, environmental concerns and health problems associated with what Leinberger calls “drivable suburbanism” — a low-density built environment plan that emerged around the end of the World War II and has been the dominant design in the U.S. ever since.

Thirty-five percent of the nation’s wealth, according to Leinberger, has been invested in constructing this drivable suburban landscape.

But now, Leinberger told CNN, it appears the pendulum is beginning to swing back in favor of the type of walkable community that existed long before the advent of the once fashionable suburbs in the 1940s. He says it is being driven by generations molded by television shows like “Seinfeld” and “Friends,” where city life is shown as being cool again — a thing to flock to, rather than flee.

“The image of the city was once something to be left behind,” said Leinberger.

Changing demographics are also fueling new demands as the number of households with children continues to decline. By the end of the next decade, the number of single-person households in the United States will almost equal those with kids, Leinberger said.

And aging baby boomers are looking for a more urban lifestyle as they downsize from large homes in the suburbs to more compact town houses in more densely built locations.

Recent market research indicates that up to 40 percent of households surveyed in selected metropolitan areas want to live in walkable urban areas, said Leinberger. The desire is also substantiated by real estate prices for urban residential space, which are 40 to 200 percent higher than in traditional suburban neighborhoods — this price variation can be found both in cities and small communities equipped with walkable infrastructure, he said.

The result is an oversupply of depreciating suburban housing and a pent-up demand for walkable urban space, which is unlikely to be met for a number of years. That’s mainly, according to Leinberger, because the built environment changes very slowly; and also because governmental policies and zoning laws are largely prohibitive to the construction of complicated high-density developments.

But as the market catches up to the demand for more mixed use communities, the United States could see a notable structural transformation in the way its population lives — Arthur C. Nelson, director of Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute, estimates, for example, that half of the real-estate development built by 2025 will not have existed in 2000.

Yet Nelson also estimates that in 2025 there will be a surplus of 22 million large-lot homes that will not be left vacant in a suburban wasteland but instead occupied by lower classes who have been driven out of their once affordable inner-city apartments and houses.

The so-called McMansion, he said, will become the new multi-family home for the poor.

“What is going to happen is lower and lower-middle income families squeezed out of downtown and glamorous suburban locations are going to be pushed economically into these McMansions at the suburban fringe,” said Nelson. “There will probably be 10 people living in one house.”

In Shaun Yandell’s neighborhood, this has already started to happen. Houses once filled with single families are now rented out by low-income tenants. Yandell speculates that they’re coming from nearby Sacramento, where the downtown is undergoing substantial gentrification, or perhaps from some other area where prices have gotten too high. He isn’t really sure.

But one thing Yandell is sure about is that he isn’t going to leave his sunny suburban neighborhood unless he has to, and if that happens, he says he would only want to move to another one just like it.

“It’s the American dream, you know,” he said. “The American dream.”

Castro Retires.

Fidel Castro retired.  It’s interesting though — though CNN and MSNBC were reporting that the Cuban newspaper Granma was reporting Castro’s retirement, Granma wasn’t yet reporting it (see images below).  Kind of makes you wonder where the news actually comes from.

From CNN:
CNN Castro Retires

From Granma (taken 1 minute later).
crg

Read the entire letter from Comrade Fidel (in English) at Granma, here. 

Berkeley to Marines: You’re ‘not welcome in our city’

cnn

(CNN)– Berkeley, the famously liberal college town in California, has taken aim at Marine recruiters, saying they are “not welcome in our city.”

Republican lawmakers in Washington fired back this week, threatening to take back more than $2 million of federal funding to the city as well as money designated for the University of California-Berkeley, the campus that became a haven of protests during the Vietnam War.

The battle erupted after the Berkeley City Council approved a measure last week urging the Marine recruiters to leave their downtown office.

“If recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders,” the item says. It goes on to say the council applauds residents and organizations that “volunteer to impede, passively or actively, by nonviolent means, the work of any military recruiting office located in the City of Berkley.

Outside the Shattuck Avenue recruiting station earlier this week, a handful of protesters with the anti-war group Code Pink camped out, strumming a guitar as they sang anti-war songs and held signs against the Iraq war. “Time to end the war, time to end the war, time to end the war right now,” they sang to the beat of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” One giant sign said, “No Military Predators in Our Town.” Another message on a pink placard read, “Join the Marines. Travel to Exotic Lands. Meet Exciting and Unusual People — And Kill Them.”

Zanne Joi peered out from under her straw hat. “This Marine recruiting station is trying to recruit our youth to go to Iraq to kill and be killed. And we are against that,” said Joi, a member of Code Pink Women for Peace. Protester Sharon Adams added: “This recruiting station recruits people to go fight and then once they fight and they serve their country, our country doesn’t take care of them. That’s a shame.”

Forrest Smith, who described himself as a veteran of U.S. Special Forces, said his son recently returned from a tour in Iraq and his daughter served in Afghanistan.”My position on this is the Marines are the best thing we have,” said Smith, decked out in Army fatigues. He blasted the City Council for its action. “It’s clearly an abuse of power.”A group of young students who strolled down the sidewalk shared that sentiment. They derided one of the protesters who argued the United States was involved in an illegal war in Iraq. “That’s our national security, and you’re here protesting the Marines.” Gunnery Sgt. Pauline Franklin, a spokeswoman for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command, told CNN there is “no plan for that office to move.” She said recruiters are there to “provide information to qualified men and women who are looking for opportunities that they may benefit from by serving in the military.”

“The Marine Corps is here to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, which does guarantee the freedom of speech,” Franklin said. “In terms of the situation in Berkeley, the City Council and the protesters are exercising their right to do so.” In Washington, a group of Republican lawmakers have introduced the Semper Fi Act of 2008 — named after the Marine motto — to rescind more than $2 million of funds for Berkeley and transfer it to the Marine Corps. “Like most Americans, I really get disturbed when taxpayer money goes to institutions which proceed to take votes, make policy or make statements that really denigrate the military,” said Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, a co-sponsor of the bill. He told CNN he believes the bill will pass. “I think it’s going to have significant support.” The bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, said in a written statement, “Berkeley needs to learn that their actions have consequences.”

Berkeley’s declaration, which was introduced by the city’s Peace and Justice Commission, accuses the United States of having a history of “launching illegal, immoral and unprovoked wars of aggression and the Bush administration launched the most recent of those wars in Iraq and is threatening the possibility of war in Iran.” It adds, “Military recruiters are salespeople known to lie to and seduce minors and young adults into contracting themselves into military service with false promises regarding jobs, job training, education and other benefits.” Out on Shattuck Avenue, it appears the protesters have no plans to leave anytime soon. “We are the civilian population; we control the military,” Adams said. “We the people have to take back our control of the military.”

CNN’s Jim Castel and Peter Ornstein contributed to this story from Berkeley, and CNN’s Dick Uliano contributed from Washington.

It’s my dream come true…

From the Political Insider, sent by my friend Joe:

Lou Dobbs For President?

Is populist CNN broadcaster Lou Dobbs mulling a political future? Writing at CNN.com last week, Dobbs said, “One year from now, we will have elected a new president. As eager as I am for that reality, I can’t imagine any one of the current candidates for their party’s nomination being chosen by the American people to lead this nation for the next four years. I believe the person elected a year from now will be an Independent populist, a man or woman who understands the genius of this country lies in the hearts and minds of its people and not in the prerogatives and power of its elites.”

Dobbs continued, “As I travel around the country, my feeling about the lack of true candidates is validated by those I talk with: They are not excited about the candidates seeking their party’s nomination.” He concluded by saying, “I believe next November’s surprise will be the election of a man or woman of great character, vision and accomplishment, a candidate who has not yet entered the race.”Dobbs is hitting the trail — the book-tour trail — with “Independent’s Day“, which his publisher calls “an independent populist’s view of the critical issues and challenges that confront the presidential candidates and American voters as we approach the 2008 election.” And according to MarketWatch columnist Jon Friedman, former CNN executive and producerDavid Bernknopf is wondering if Dobbs’s musings mean he is “testing the waters for a presidential run.”

If Dobbs did run, it would have to be as an independent given that the primary season begins in just six weeks. And with an average 825,000 viewers per night in October, Dobbs’s audience alone would not carry him to the White House. A Dobbs run, though unlikely, could play a role in what seems to be his real mission, though — to establish himself as America’s premier critic of globalization, free trade accords, and loose immigration policies. Like Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes before him, a Dobbs campaign would be more about cementing Dobbs’s place in a movement than about actually winning the presidency.

It is unlikely that Dobbs will run, but with both major parties likely to nominate pro-free trade candidates, he would certainly make a splash if he did. (Several Draft Dobbs websites already exist.)

Oh My Stars!

Star Jones

Wow! Star Jones has a new daytime call-in show on CourtTV (essentially replacing Nancy Grace, who recently shifted focus from CourtTV to CNN Headline News (both TimeWarner companies). In any case, the promo shots on the website for Star’s new show are stunning. She really has come a long way in a short time, and she looks great. Personally, I’m glad to see that she’s shifted her point of View, it’s always great to see someone triumph. Check out more about the new Star Jones show here. Best of luck Star!