Friday, September 14, 2007

What a sales pitch!

We heard Expo Square director Rick Bjorglund bragging on the radio this morning about how visitors to this year's Tulsa State Fair will be pleased to see a "cleaner and greener" fairgrounds, with more open space, more parking, new grass-covered berms (those man-made lines of hillside) and lots of new trees!!!

Well, Mama, bundle up the young 'uns and let's git goin'.
Grass, trees and new parking spaces! What more excitement can you imagine than that!

And we were afraid the loss of Bell's would mean a less attractive fair.

Now if we could just add some big boulders smack dab in the middle of the fair, maybe with some moss and lichens on the shady northern bits, our fair-going ecstasy would be complete.

Solar eruptions can kill the ozone layer

At the ongoing "Living With a Star" workshop in Boulder, Colo., evidence that certain types of proton emissions from the Sun can do lasting damage to the ozone layer. According to today's
Scientists attending the Living With a Star workshop in Boulder, Colorado, learned yesterday that solar storms can have long-lasting effects on Earth's ozone layer. Charles Jackman of the Goddard Space Flight Center reported that solar protons hitting Earth in July 2000 altered the chemistry of the upper atmosphere, resulting in "huge enhancements (>100%) in middle stratospheric NOx."

NOx (pronounced "knocks") are nitrogen oxides such as NO or NO2. The presence of NOx can either boost or destroy ozone, depending on altitude, temperature and other variables. Jackman and colleagues analyzed what happened in July 2000 when powerful solar storms produced a surge of NOx. In the Southern Hemisphere, they found, ozone was both boosted (yellow in the diagram above) and destroyed (blue).

Researchers have long known that solar storms affect ozone. The surprise here is timescale: Ozone abundances were affected for nearly a year after the July 2000 storms. The ozone layer eventually returned to normal, but not until many months after solar actvitiy subsided.
The LINK is to the details of a paper presented by a group that studied the results of proton emissions in 2000, and the after effects on the atmosphere a year later. It's kind of technical, but you should be able to get the gist of it.

To paraphrase: The Sun, can't live without it, can't live with it.

Mexican truck explosion story gets more interesting all the time

When the first reports came out about the Mexican truck explosion on Sunday, Sept. 9, the truck was reported to be carrying "mining explosives." Initially it was said that the blast occurred when the big rig hit another vehicle, leaving 37 dead, scores injured and a crater 65 feet wide in the roadway of northern Mexican highway, about a hundred miles northwest of Laredo, Texas.

Naturally, since it took place on the eve of the first Mexican trucks rolling into the U.S. under a pilot program designed to allow long haul access to the entire lower 48, it was seen as a symbolic and tragic failure of safety regulations, a signature event behind which opponents of allowing Mexican trucks unlimited U.S. access could rally.

But new details are now sharpening our understanding of what took place. They are also raising new mysterious questions.

It seems the truck was not hauling "mining explosives" after all. It was carrying ammonium nitrate, a type of fertilizer. Where have we heard of this stuff before? Oh, yeah! That's what Timothy McVeigh used (combined by necessity with diesel fuel and dynamite) to blow up the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. According to Land Line Magazine, a publication for independent long-haul truckers, the truck was not registered to haul explosives. Which it wasn't, officially, since ammonium nitrate is not normally considered an explosive. In fact, ammonium nitrate (AN) doesn't explode all that easily. That's one of the mysteries of this story.

According to the Reuters' account, most of the dead and injured were bystanders who stopped to see the burning truck and were casualties of the explosion that occurred 40 minutes after the initial crash! Reporters, emergency workers, other drivers, killed and maimed. We've heard from several people that this belated explosion points to something odd, perhaps even evil. AN requires a combustive catalyst and a tight enclosure for a big explosion. Otherwise it will spark and fizzle and burn quite convincingly but not go boom. (Do you want to know more?)

Mystery No. 2: The driver of the truck reportedly fled the scene, whereabouts still unknown.

As usual there is the possibility that the explosion occurred for reasons that we do not know, perhaps even legitimate ones.

CONCLUSION No. 1 -- Given the disappearance of the driver, the timing of the event, and the odd explosion that should not have taken place unless the truck had unwisely hauled other dangerous combustibles with the AN, and you have to ask yourself: What is the probability that this is all just one big mistake?

CONCLUSION No. 2 -- Assuming that the explosion happened because mistakes were made by the company and/or the driver(s), electing to haul a combination of volatile and potentially catastrophic elements over the road, you must ask yourself: Do we really want to open our U.S. highways to people who are this ignorant or careless?

It's difficult to conceive of a third conclusion. Whether you buy into the conspiratorial conclusion No.1 or the "innocent negligence" of conclusion No.2, it doesn't exactly inspire confidence on the highways, does it?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Why the kid gloves on Hsu?

Nabbed: Fugitive campaign contributor Norman Hsu, in Grand Junction, Colo., taken into custody by FBI agents on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Hsu, who has funneled millions to Democrat party candidates across this land, will now have to attend his sentencing hearing on a 15-year-old felony theft conviction.

The entire Hsu episode is troubling and there are many unanswered questions, chief among them is "Where did he get all the money he has donated? What is its origination, and why?"

Until that question is answered, justice is not served.

Next big question: Why was he "out on bail" pending a bail hearing (at which time he promptly disappeared from California)? How could you NOT consider him a flight risk, since he just spent the last 15 years avoiding his sentencing?

Today's new question, as per The Associated Press story: A spokesman for the FBI said that "Once he is returned to state custody, the federal charges will be dismissed." Huh? Did he or did he not leave California without the court's permission? Since when are such things merely dismissed? What kind of political clout does Mr. Hsu have?

Stuff like this causes us to wonder if this country is salvageable.

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