March 25, 2019

He Died and Within Hours He Was Released to us "washed, dressed, Laid on a Table" Overlooking The Garden

Rich Stewart, 77, and wife Sharon, 78. Rich died last month and his funeral was held at their home, a practice that turns out to be an old American tradition. (Ann Wasserman)
 Washington Post
My wife’s brother Rich died the last week in February. They were very close. Shortly after he passed, in the emergency room of a hospital in Washington state, his body came home. There it was wrapped in a Stewart tartan blanket (his family name) and placed on a table in a window alcove facing Mount Baker. He remained there for the next three days clad in a favorite red plaid Pendleton shirt, jeans, moccasins, and a much-worn woolen cap, On the second day, his wife, Sharon, put binoculars around his neck, a reminder of his many hours watching the snow geese, hawks, trumpeter swans and bald eagles surrounding his beloved farm.
Sharon was connecting to a movement that had arisen in the 1990s for families to take back responsibility from hired professionals for the caring and mourning of loved ones in the privacy of their homes. It turns out to be an old American tradition.
Before the Civil War, funerals were a family affair. With help from their church and community, family members would wash, display the body and dig the grave for their dead. But, as Civil War historian Drew Gilpin Faust writes in her book “This Republic of Suffering,” the huge numbers of young men dying in the war far from home overwhelmed the personal home funeral. Instead, there was embalming, mass-marketed coffins and transporting bodies long distances. President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, followed by the public display of his embalmed body, became a major moment in the national marketing of this new death trade. 
By the 20th century, undertakers were elevated to a professional class of funeral directors, bodies were seen as a risk to public health and the false narrative spread that families no longer had the right to care for their own. The practice of dying at home and family caring for the dead remained common only in rural areas.
Like most of us, Rich and Sharon hadn’t planned their funeral. Unlike us, they had talked and read about death and attended a class on alternatives to standard funerals. These included arrangements for green burials, where bodies in the ground decompose in compostable caskets. Sharon also had talked with a friend who, with the help of a local home funeral group, had kept her husband’s body at home for three days for visits and prayers.
Rich’s death had been unexpected. A retired ophthalmologist, he had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer and had his first chemotherapy treatment the week before. He developed sepsis, which can happen after chemo, and died the following day. He was 77. Sepsis is fast-moving and deadly. Here are the symptoms to recognize
At the hospital’s ER, Sharon explained to two chaplains who sat with her that she wanted to bring Rich home. They put her in touch with A Sacred Moment, a local funeral home that is part of a national network reviving and supporting family-managed funerals.
A “very kind” man, as Sharon put it, from the group took the body to the house in a van. He gave Sharon information on keeping it cold with packs of dry ice and instructions to replace them every 12 to 18 hours. Sharon and her daughter washed and clothed the body.
Rich had passed away at 11 a.m. and by 1 p.m. his body was home.
For the next three days, family and friends came by to see Rich. Some talked to him; one shared the beat of an ancient drum; some read poems. Sharon thought that many friends wouldn’t have attended a funeral parlor for a restrained viewing in a limited time. Here they could arrive individually or as a family, whenever they wanted, stay as long or little as they could bring photos or food or prayers or babies or guitars. 
Our son Daniel arrived in the middle of the night to sit alone with the uncle who helped raise him.
Sharon found it all incredibly comforting. Rich’s men’s support group of 30 years gathered for a morning of stories of kayaking in Alaska and tales of salmon fishing, hiking, and climbing in the North Cascades. The second morning the couple’s Buddhist Sangha meditation group chanted prayed together and held Sharon as they wept.
Many of the visitors seemed shocked that this was possible, that a body could be brought home for people to mourn however they wanted.
For the family, it provided the last chance to talk with Rich, to be with him in a place he loved. Sharon remarked that so many people worried that they “never had a chance to say goodbye.” Now they could, and they didn’t have to look back and regret not saying the right thing. 
In their own unplanned way, people could grieve.
At times there was a crowd, at others a solitary friend. A family member lit a vaporizer full of essential oils. Others placed flowers on his body. A table nearby had his notes written when he couldn’t talk because of mouth sores from the chemo and a guest book that soon filled with photos and letters and mementos.
Not everyone showed up — there were no solemn strangers in dark suits timing the starched formalities of yet another ceremony. Rich’s death was wrapped in the life that continued around it. Often there were kids playing, dogs wrestling, women cooking.
At 2 p.m. of the third day, the kindly man from A Sacred Moment returned to take the body. As they carried it out, Sharon played on the piano “It Had To Be You,” which she and Rich had often sung together. This time, she sang it with her daughter, Jo.
Washington state does not allow bodies to be buried outside a cemetery, so he was cremated and his ashes were scattered in his garden. A memorial service will be held when the tulips bloom in early spring.
Gary Wasserman is a former professor of government at Georgetown University and author of The Doha Experiment.

March 24, 2019

San Antonio City Council Votes to Keep Anti Gay Chick-fil-A Out From Opening at The Airport

"They are not giving as much to anti gay groups but they are still giving/supporting them"


The San Antonio City Council narrowly voted to prevent Chick-fil-a from opening a restaurant at the city's airport on Thursday due to the company's alleged bias against LGBT rights.

The council voted, 6-4, for excluding Chick-fil-a from the overall restaurant and concession space operated by Atlanta-based airport concessionaire Paradies Lagardre. Chick-fil-a has been accused of anti-LGBT behavior for years. CEO Dan Cathy first drew condemnation from LGBT groups in 2012 when he said he supported "the biblical definition of the family unit" -- marriage only between a man and woman.

The agreement with Paradies Lagardre was for 10,000 square feet in food and concession space, including not only the Chick-fil-a, but also a Smoke Shack, San Antonio Spurs retail store and coffee shop and bar. The Chick-fil-a would have replaced Raising Cane's, also a chicken restaurant chain.

The Chick-fil-a was set to fill just 658 square feet of the deal, according to the agreement.

Sen. Ted Cruz blasted the vote on Twitter Saturday, saying, "San Antonio City Council voted to ban @ChickfilA from the airport bc the company gave to...the Fellowship of Christian Athletes & the Salvation Army?!? That's ridiculous. And not Texas."

The Chick-fil-a would've paid $366,507 annually in rent to the city as part of a guarantee of $2.165 million in annual rent from the company, according to the concessionaire agreement. Chick-fil-a also would've paid 10 percent of annual gross receipts to the city.

The lease would've begun Jan. 1, 2020.

"With this decision, the City Council reaffirmed the work our city has done to become a champion of equality and inclusion," District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino, who voted against Chick-fil-a, said in a statement Friday. "San Antonio is a city full of compassion, and we do not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.

"Everyone has a place here, and everyone should feel welcome when they walk through our airport," he continued. "I look forward to the announcement of a suitable replacement by Paradies."

Chick-fil-a said in a statement to San Antonio ABC affiliate KSAT that they were disappointed by the vote.

"This is the first we've heard of this. It's disappointing," the statement said. "We would have liked to have had a dialogue with the city council before this decision was made. We agree with Councilmember Treviño that everyone is and should feel welcome at Chick-fil-A. We plan to reach out to the city council to gain a better understanding of this decision."

Just this week it was reported by ThinkProgress that Chick-fil-a had donated $1.8 million to conservative groups that advocated against homosexuality, mostly the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, in newly released 2017 tax filings.

Chick-fil-a, founded in 1946 by Cathy's father, S. Truett Cathy, operates more than 2,000 restaurants around the country

Boeing Made The 737 Max Differently Than Any Other Plane Not To Make It Better But Cheaper

Boeing is in trouble. The American aviation giant finds itself in the middle of a storm that has culminated in the worldwide grounding of its latest aircraft model, the 737 MAX. There is an emerging picture of a major manufacturer botching a new aircraft design, with more than 300 people dead as a result. This follows two fatal accidents in the space of five months that seem to have occurred under similar circumstances.
May one be pardon’d and retain the offence?
“In the corrupted currents of this world,
“Offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice,
“And oft is seen the wicked prize itself
“Buys out the law.” (Hamlet, Act III, sc. three)
The tragic crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 bears an uncanny resemblance to last year’s crash of Lion Air 610, a flight that went down eight minutes after take-off from Jakarta airport. The accident in Indonesia in October last year also killed all passengers and crew, a total of 189 people.
This earlier accident is widely believed to have been caused by repeated nose-down trim responses driven by the MAX’s so-called ‘Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System’ (MCAS), which in turn may have been influenced by inputs from a faulty angle-of-attack (AOA) sensor. In plain English, and from my own limited understanding as a non-Boeing pilot: the crash was caused by a single faulty sensor in the 737 MAX models that poorly written software translated into automatically pointing the nose of the aircraft down to avoid a (non-existent) stall – when the so-called ‘angle of attack’ becomes too high and the plane loses all lift, in effect falling out of the sky – but about which the pilots had not been informed and which they were unable to override.
If that sounds like a pretty obvious design flaw, this is because it is exactly that. Yet after the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, Boeing’s own announcements showed an astonishing ignorance to the gravity of the situation. An official Boeing press release touted a MAX software update that would “make a safe airplane even safer” – which is more than slightly uncomfortable when set alongside the fact that more than 150 people just died in an accident involving that same aircraft. Following the Lion Air accident, Boeing essentially blamed the pilots. The company’s PR approach is one of “move along, nothing to see here”.
Boeing Lion Image Flickr Bathara SaktiBoeing has seen a worldwide grounding of its latest model, the 737 MAX, after a crash killed 300 passengers. The manufacturer seems to have botched this.

Conflict of interest

Aviation accidents very rarely have a single cause. As we wrote in our article on the Germanwings crash four years ago:
“Within aviation in the last few decades, this has been the goal of aircraft accident investigations: not to apportion blame to any particular individual, but to try to uncover a chain of events in order to draw the lessons. (‘Germanwings crash in the Alps: sick pilot a symptom of a sick industry’)”
One such air crash investigator is James E. Hall, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board from 1994 to 2001. His recent opinion piece in the New York Times sheds some very interesting light on the cosy relationship between the manufacturer (Boeing) and the regulator (the Federal Aviation Administration – FAA):
“The roots of this crisis can be found in a major change the agency instituted in its regulatory responsibility in 2005. Rather than naming and supervising its own ‘designated airworthiness representatives,’ the agency decided to allow Boeing and other manufacturers who qualified under the revised procedures to select their own employees to certify the safety of their aircraft. In justifying this change, the agency said at the time that it would save the aviation industry about $25 billion from 2006 to 2015. Therefore, the manufacturer is providing safety oversight of itself. This is a worrying move toward industry self-certification.” (March 13, 2019)
Since this new regulatory scheme took effect, Hall continues, the aviation industry has introduced two new aircraft types, both of which have encountered serious problems. In 2013, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner was grounded because of fires caused by lithium batteries. In that case, the agency quickly recertified the safety of the aircraft, even before the exact cause of the Dreamliner problems had been determined.
The manufacturer thus in essence becomes both the manufacturer and the regulator, because of the inability of government to do the job, which has outsourced that task beyond the regulatory agency. This has allowed aircraft manufacturers like Boeing to choose their own employees to be the designees who could help certify their planes. This has also led to the absurd situation where the FAA maintains offices inside Boeing’s factories, including those in Renton, Wash., and in Charleston, S.C.
Indeed, Boeing is a major military contractor with close ties with the American government, and is an influential lobbying force in Washington. Last year the company employed more than a dozen lobbying firms to advocate for its interests and spent $15 million in lobbying. The current Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, is a former Boeing executive. But don’t take our word for it, just take a look on Boeing’s own website, which has a document listing a year’s worth of “political expenditures”. It goes on for 14 pages and lists campaign contributions to lawmakers, ranging from a city councilman in Texas to Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who is now the House speaker. ‘You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.’

One hack too far?

The original 737 became the best-selling airliner of all time and has been a real cash-cow for Boeing. Over the years, Boeing has introduced four distinct generations of the 737. The latest is the 737 MAX, which entered service in 2017. Thus far, Boeing has received orders for more than 5,000 737 MAX jets, an enormous amount, worth billions of dollars. The recent grounding puts all of this at risk.
The truth is, the 737 is now more than 50 years old and is fundamentally an old aircraft with dated technology and ergonomics. Boeing itself realised this years ago and, as explained in this article on the Air Current website, the company actually wanted to replace the 737 with a completely new model designed from scratch.
Aviation is big business, however, and competition for worldwide markets is cut-throat. Airbus in particular, Boeing’s main competitor from Europe, has been chipping away at Boeing’s market share for decades. The Airbus 320 family in the 1980s pioneered the use of digital fly-by-wire flight control systems, as well as side-stick controls, in commercial aircraft, which was now becoming increasingly computerised.
Since then, Airbus has followed a more incremental strategy of evolving their existing designs and putting new, more efficient engines on their existing aircraft. Launched in December 2010, Airbus’s A320neo and subsequent A321neo have been a great commercial success and took Boeing by surprise. This forced Boeing’s hand and it had to put new engines on the 737 to stay even with its rival.
As the previously linked article explains:
“An all-new jet meant leaving the past behind, along with its established infrastructure. With a lower-cost alternative in the A320neo not hamstrung by having to pay for a fresh $15 billion development, a new Boeing jet risked giving Airbus dominant market share. In the wake of a record oil run-up in 2008, airlines wanted fuel efficiency at a current-technology price.
“The 737 Max was Boeing’s ticket to holding the line on its position – both market and financial – in the near term. Abandoning the 737 would’ve meant walking away from its golden goose that helped finance the astronomical costs of the 787 and the development of the 777X.
“Every airplane development is a series of compromises, but to deliver the 737 Max with its promised fuel efficiency, Boeing had to fit 12 gallons into a 10 gallon jug. Its bigger engines made for creative solutions as it found a way to mount the larger CFM International turbines under the notoriously low-slung jetliner. It lengthened the nose landing gear by eight inches, cleaned up the aerodynamics of the tail cone, added new winglets, fly-by-wire spoilers and big displays for the next generation of pilots. It pushed technology, as it had done time and time again with ever-increasing costs, to deliver a product that made its jets more-efficient and less-costly to fly.”
Unfortunately for Boeing, all signs are there that they didn’t implement the re-engining properly, or have gone “one hack of an outdated system too far”. The larger engines also generate more lift, causing the nose of the aircraft to pitch higher than usual, and change the aerodynamic characteristics of the aircraft. The risk Boeing found through analysis and later flight testing was that under certain high-speed conditions, that upward nudge created a greater risk of stalling. Boeing’s solution was the previously mentioned MCAS software that is meant to automatically trim the horizontal stabiliser to bring the nose down, activated with ‘Angle of Attack’ data. This is what is at the centre of the Lion Air investigation and the recent Ethiopian crash.

Profits before safety

It would appear the tweaks to the existing 737 Classic and NG have reached a qualitative leap where it in effect becomes a completely new aircraft type that should never have been certified by the authorities.
Boeing convinced airlines and the FAA that the planes were essentially interchangeable with earlier models of 737, and therefore pilots who were already trained in flying older 737s would not need comprehensive additional training on the new aircraft (a two-hour training session on an iPad was meant to be sufficient). Until the Lion Air crash, no 737 MAX pilot had ever heard of this completely new MCAS system, which was not documented anywhere, never mind trained for in the simulator. In fact, this was one of the main selling points that helped Boeing secure the 5,000 orders for the 737 MAX: no expensive separate type rating – on average a 5-6 week training involving full-motion simulators, which are very expensive to run – needed for your existing 737 pilots, who can keep making your company money.
China Airlines Image Thomas MitchellThe American aviation industry is a cosy club where everybody looks after each other: regulators, manufacturers and politicians. The consequences of their criminal negligence can be deadly  Image: Thomas Mitchell
Today’s 737 is a substantially different aircraft than the original developed in the 1960s. Boeing strengthened its wings, integrated various new technologies and put in modern avionics. Over the years, the FAA has implemented new and tougher design requirements, but a derivative or “variant” gets many of the designs grandfathered in. This is also the case for the 737 MAX and its predecessors, which held against today’s certification requirements, would not pass certain tests. This obviously doesn’t mean that the popular 737 Classics and NGs flying all over the world are unsafe (well maintained, they are very fine aircraft), but it indicates the dangers associated with this grandfathering system, which to a great extent relies on the self-certification of the manufacturer.
And this is where it seems to have gone wrong, as confirmed by an investigative article published yesterday in the Seattle Times. Current and former engineers directly involved with the evaluations or familiar with the original safety analysis that Boeing delivered to the FAA for the new MCAS flight control system on the MAX, shared details of Boeing’s “System Safety Analysis” of MCAS. The engineers, speaking anonymously to the Seattle Times, found several flaws in the design and disagreed with the safety analysis that was eventually approved. It is worth quoting a few technical notes:
“The safety analysis:
  • "Understated the power of the new flight control system, which was designed to swivel the horizontal tail to push the nose of the plane down to avert a stall. When the planes later entered service, MCAS was capable of moving the tail more than four times farther than was stated in the initial safety analysis document.
  • "Failed to account for how the system could reset itself each time a pilot responded, thereby missing the potential impact of the system repeatedly pushing the airplane’s nose downward.
  • "Assessed a failure of the system as one level below ‘catastrophic.’ But even that 'hazardous' danger level should have precluded activation of the system based on input from a single sensor — and yet that’s how it was designed.”
This is quite a damning assessment by engineers directly involved with the system. The article reveals how several FAA technical experts said in interviews that as certification proceeded, managers prodded them to speed the process:
“Development of the MAX was lagging nine months behind the rival Airbus A320neo. Time was of the essence for Boeing.
“A former FAA safety engineer who was directly involved in certifying the MAX said that halfway through the certification process, 'we were asked by management to re-evaluate what would be delegated. Management thought we had retained too much at the FAA.'"
“'There was constant pressure to re-evaluate our initial decisions,' the former engineer said. 'And even after we had reassessed it … there was continued discussion by management about delegating even more items down to the Boeing Company.'"
“Even the work that was retained, such as reviewing technical documents provided by Boeing, was sometimes curtailed.
“'There wasn’t a complete and proper review of the documents,' the former engineer added. 'Review was rushed to reach certain certification dates.'”
The competition with Airbus was probably the decisive factor. It’s not an accident that the FAA was dragging its feet when the Europeans grounded their MAX fleet. The reputational and financial damage for Boeing is going to be severe, and it could have a noticeable impact on the US economy. Aircraft and parts represent 6 percent of US exports. The market for short-to medium-range aircraft is estimated to be $3.2tn over the next 20 years, which is 54 percent of the total market for aircraft, and Airbus was edging ahead. Boeing needed a success with their new MAX to keep up. Undoubtedly this led the US state to hasten the FAA approval of the model. The Chinese were the first to ground the MAX, probably as part of their tit-for-tat spat with the US over trade.
The decision by the FAA is now under investigation by the Ministry of Transport. They appear to be looking at two elements of the certification process: the engineering side, and the pilot training side. This shows the scale of the scandal. The US state needs to repair the damage it has caused to the authority of the FAA, which until this point was the authority on airplane safety, and their recommendations were followed by others worldwide. If the Europeans or the Chinese were able to seize that mantle, it would mean that Boeing would find it more difficult and costly to certify its new models. It is indicative that the Ethiopian government refused to let the FAA download the data from the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder, in spite of US diplomatic pressure. Instead they let the French BEA carry out the task, and the FAA was only allowed to witness.

Short-sightedness and incompetence

A similar process of “soft corruption” and conflict of interest can be seen in the financial industry in various countries across the world, made worse by deregulation. The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 started a process of removing government controls over the airlines and manufacturers in the USA. This was done to encourage competition and lower the ticket prices, but the end result has been the monopolisation of air travel to the point where four major carriers control 80 percent of US air traffic. Tickets did become cheaper but travelling by plane has generally become a miserable experience worldwide and the workforce – from pilots and cabin crew to dispatchers, baggage handlers and office workers – is more exploited, underpaid and demoralised than ever.
Trump Noopy420 wiki FileCOLON0620trumppolicies01.jpgTrump bizarrely tweeted that “airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly” and that he doesn’t want “Albert Einstein to be his pilot”. From a man who nominated his own pilot to head the FAA / Image: Gage Skidmore
Combine this with the majority of establishment politicians sitting on the boards of private companies and you have a clear recipe for disaster. It is a cosy club where everybody looks after each other: regulators, manufacturers and politicians. Obviously, for any airline or manufacturer, any serious incident or accident is bad publicity and is to be avoided. The general level of safety in aviation since the 1980s has been relatively good, and numerically speaking, flying remains the safest method of transportation. Under capitalism, however, with profit as the primary goal, there will be a never-ending battle of short-term expense versus long-term safety, where the latter finishes a long way behind.
This short-term thinking ties in with the increasing short-sightedness and sheer incompetence of the political elite worldwide. In the UK we have the Brexit circus, in the USA we have Trump. The Twitter president was quick last week to send yet another bizarre tweet saying that “airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly” and that he doesn’t want “Albert Einstein to be his pilot”. This comes from a man who doesn’t know how to close an umbrella upon entering the presidential 747 and who last year nominated his own pilot, John Dunkin — the man who flew Trump planes, not Air Force One — to head the FAA. As the Financial Times put it:
“When the Senate laughed him off as unqualified to lead an $18bn agency, Mr Trump failed to come up with a new name. The FAA has been flying without a pilot, so to speak, for more than a year. Little surprise America’s partners have lost trust in its direction.” (March 13, 2019)
Yet, like a broken clock that is right twice a day, Trump in this instance has a point, even if we can’t suspect him of having any real level of comprehension of the matter at hand.

When HAL says no

Amongst the general public there is a lot of confusion about automation in aviation. This is not the place to go into great detail about this, but suffice to say automation has undoubtedly improved the safety of air travel over the last decades. However, there is a reason why you still see two qualified pilots at the front of the plane when you board: for all the talk about replacing pilots with “computers that don’t make human errors” (the wet dream of accountants and certain professors in aeronautics), the relationship between human and machine remains a very complex one. Artificial intelligence is often not very intelligent at all (garbage in, garbage out) and having flown both smaller “hands-on” aircraft for several years without any auto-pilot at all, and highly computerised jetliners with very advanced “flight management systems”, we can say this for sure: we pilots are not going anywhere any time soon.
This is relevant to the Boeing 737 MAX tragedies as certainly the Lion Air crash is an example of how a simple computer can order a command on the basis of false inputs that dooms an aircraft and all persons on board. Incidentally, this almost happened on an Airbus as well. In 2014 a Lufthansa Airbus A321-200 was climbing through 31,000ft out of Bilbao about 15 minutes into the flight, when the aircraft on autopilot unexpectedly lowered the nose and entered a sudden descent. Luckily an alert crew knew the logic of the system and managed to disable the faulty systems causing this descent.
The problem with these recent tragedies is that Boeing didn’t bother to provide the flight crew with the necessary information to truly know their own aircraft. And this goes against one of the basic rules amongst aviation professionals: know your aircraft. Boeing thought they would get away with cutting corners, but as we can see, this has fatal consequences.

Criminal negligence

Reports have started to emerge of confidential reports submitted by Boeing 737 MAX pilots in an anonymous NASA database, with NASA serving as a neutral third party for reporting purposes. This database is a very useful tool that improves safety, and most reports are fairly mundane. Nevertheless, it contains some telling testimonies about Boeing’s latest aircraft, summed up in this article. It starts off with this incident:
“As I was returning to my PFD (Primary Flight Display) PM (Pilot Monitoring) called ‘DESCENDING’ followed by almost an immediate: ‘DONT SINK DONT SINK!’ I immediately disconnected AP (Autopilot) (it WAS engaged as we got full horn etc.) and resumed climb. Now, I would generally assume it was my automation error, i.e., aircraft was trying to acquire a miss-commanded speed/no autothrottles, crossing restriction etc., but frankly neither of us could find an inappropriate setup error (not to say there wasn't one). With the concerns with the MAX 8 nose down stuff, we both thought it appropriate to bring it to your attention. We discussed issue at length over the course of the return to ZZZ. Best guess from me is airspeed fluctuation due to mechanical shear/frontal passage that overwhelmed automation temporarily or something incorrectly setup in MCP (Mode Control Panel). PM's callout on ‘descending’ was particularly quick and welcome as I was just coming back to my display after looking away. System and procedures coupled with CRM (Resource Management) trapped and mitigated issue."
Another report from a First Officer talks about how ‘the aircraft pitched nose down after engaging autopilot on departure’.
In a separate report, a Captain complains about Boeing’s lack of documentation:
“This description is not currently in the 737 Flight Manual Part 2, nor the Boeing FCOM, though it will be added to them soon. This communication highlights that an entire system is not described in our Flight Manual. This system is now the subject of an AD. I think it is unconscionable that a manufacturer, the FAA, and the airlines would have pilots flying an airplane without adequately training, or even providing available resources and sufficient documentation to understand the highly complex systems that differentiate this aircraft from prior models. The fact that this airplane requires such jury rigging to fly is a red flag. Now we know the systems employed are error prone--even if the pilots aren't sure what those systems are, what redundancies are in place, and failure modes. I am left to wonder: what else don't I know? The Flight Manual is inadequate and almost criminally insufficient. All airlines that operate the MAX must insist that Boeing incorporate ALL systems in their manuals [my emphasis].”
“Criminally insufficient” is an apt summary of Boeing’s weak attempt at damage control. We would go further and describe this as criminal negligence. How else to describe certifying an aircraft with a brand new critical system that (a) wasn't documented to the pilots strapping themselves every day to these million-dollar machines, and (b) was not built with the necessary double or triple redundancy that is standard in the industry?
Boeing’s new aircraft should never have been released in the way that it was. It is clear that Boeing cut corners to get the model out as soon as possible, and with as little expense to the airlines as possible. They needed this to avoid falling behind Airbus. To this end, the US regulator, which works hand-in-glove with Boeing, certified the design when they should not have. This is what prepared the way for two completely avoidable accidents, and it shows what the profit motive does to the safety standards of aviation.

FYI: Donald Trump Has Shifted $1.3 Millions of Campaign Donor $ to His Business

"This is against the law but that never stopped Donald"

Donald Trump has charged his own reelection campaign $1.3 million for rent, food, lodging, and other expenses since taking office, according to a Forbes analysis of the latest campaign filings. And although outsiders have contributed more than $50 million to the campaign, the billionaire president hasn’t handed over any of his own cash. The net effect: $1.3 million of donor money has turned into $1.3 million of Trump money. 
In December, Forbes reported on the first $1.1 million that President Trump moved from his campaign into his business. Since then, his campaign filed additional documentation showing that it spent another $180,000 at Trump-owned properties in the final three months of 2018. 
None of this seemed likely when Donald Trump first got into politics. “I don’t need anybody’s money,” he announced on the day he launched his 2016 campaign, standing inside the marble atrium at Trump Tower. “I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”

At first, he acted like it, spending $50 million of his own money from April 2015 to June 2016. But the following month, when he was officially named the Republican nominee for president, his financing model changed. From July to November of 2016, outsiders contributed $234 million while Trump put up just $16 million.  
Once he became president, Trump had a chance to get some money back. The campaign put more than $800,000 into Trump Tower Commercial LLC, the holding company through which Trump owns his interest in the original Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue. Trump Tower Commercial LLC took in an additional $225,000 in rent from the Republican National Committee, which coordinated those payments with the campaign. That means that, since the inauguration, Trump’s reelection effort has had a hand in funneling more than $1 million into the president’s most famous property.  In addition, the campaign has paid $54,000 to Trump Plaza LLC, which controls a property that includes two brownstone apartment buildings in New York City. The reason for those payments, which are listed as “rent,” remains unclear. Forbes staked out the property for 14 hours on a November day but still could not pin down what exactly the campaign was renting. A person working behind the front desk couldn’t make sense of it either. “If there was any kind of office rented out for campaigning or whatever, I would know about it.” Six residents also said they had never seen any indication of the campaign in the buildings. A 2016 campaign staffer, however, said people sometimes crashed at an apartment there when they were in town. 
It is also unclear what exactly the 2020 effort is renting from Trump Restaurants LLC, which has received $60,000 in campaign funds. Trump Restaurants LLC is another holding company tied to Trump Tower. The building’s website, which features a handful of Trump-branded eateries, includes a page of legal disclaimers for Trump Restaurants LLC. 
Inside the building lie clues to the purpose of the payments. Near Trump Grill and Trump’s Ice Cream Parlor, there’s a kiosk where tourists can buy T-shirts, hats and other campaign memorabilia. The fine print at the bottom of a poster next to the stand says, “Paid for by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.”—the official name for the president’s 2020 campaign committee. 
The Trump Organization did not respond to a list of questions, including whether the stand is, in fact, the basis for the payments and how many square feet it occupies. So a Forbes reporter paced out the space to take a rough measurement. It appears the entire stand is approximately 60 square feet. With monthly payments of $3,000, that implies that the campaign is paying $600 per square foot in annual rent. For comparison, Gucci rents prime space upstairs, along Fifth Avenue, for only $440 per square foot, according to an analysis of a debt prospectus obtained by Forbes.
Real estate experts offered varying opinions on whether $3,000 a month represented an appropriate price. “That’s robbery,” said one person familiar with the New York market, surveying the kiosk from inside the building. Two others said it seemed like a fair deal since smaller spaces often command higher rates on a per-square-foot basis. A Trump campaign official said the 2020 effort pays market rents.
It’s a key question because federal regulations allow candidates to put campaign money into their own businesses only if they pay going rates. Given the varying opinions on whether $3,000 a month constitutes a fair price, however, it seems unlikely that the payments will spark an investigation by the Federal Election Commission. “If something is really egregious, yeah, it’s there,” says Bradley Smith, a Republican who served as a commissioner of the FEC from 2000 to 2005. “But they’re just not going to try to pick apart things on a difference of a few percentage points and try to second-guess what should be paid.” 
That means Trump should be free to continue shifting his supporters’ money into his business for the rest of the election cycle.

I write about Donald Trump, the people around him, and how they affect business. Before he won the presidency, I covered billionaires, industrial America and sports. 

March 22, 2019

Fewer People Think LGBT Face Discrimination But Is That True?

 Over the past decade, the gay rights movement has had a lot to celebrate. Within a single generation, a politically divided country appeared to reach a consensus in support of same-sex marriage and acceptance of gay and lesbian people. Today, two-thirds of Americans support allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, nearly the mirror opposite of where things stood in 1996, the first year Gallup polled on the question.
But the rapid rise in support and the corresponding changes in American culture have led to a growing disconnect between public perceptions and the actual experiences of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the U.S.
Perceptions of discrimination against gay and lesbian people have plummeted over the past few years, particularly among young people. Only 55 percent of Americans believe that gay and lesbian people face a lot of discrimination in the U.S., down from 68 percent in 2013. Among young adults, historically some of the strongest supporters of gay rights, perceptions of discrimination against gay and lesbian people dropped by 16 points. What’s more, a Pew Research Center study suggests that Americans surveyed by phone may be overstating the extent to which they believe gay and lesbian people face discrimination. A 2014 report found that Americans were 14 points less likely to say gays and lesbians experience a lot of discrimination when responding to an online survey than when a pollster called them.
The drop in perceptions of discrimination against gay and lesbian people has not coincided with a broader shift in the public’s thinking about discrimination in society. Over the same time period, Americans have not become notably less inclined to say Muslims, women, Jews or blacks are facing less discrimination. In fact, Americans are somewhat more likely to say black people are experiencing a lot of discrimination than they were in the past.1
Mounting evidence suggests that around half of Americans believe the fight for gay rights is increasingly unnecessary. A 2019 Gallup survey found that a majority (54 percent) of the public feel satisfied with the level of acceptance of gay and lesbian people in the country. In a Gallup survey conducted a couple years earlier, just under half (46 percent) of the public said new laws are not necessary to reduce discrimination against gay and lesbian people. This is largely consistent with a more recent PRRI survey, which found that nearly half (49 percent) of Americans — including 81 percent of Republicans — believe the country has made the changes needed to give gay and lesbian people equal rights.
Gay rights has never been the most important issue for the average voter. Even during the intense debate over same-sex marriage, few ranked it as a critical concern. And now, gay rights has largely fallen off the public radar. On a list of 16 issues, a Pew poll found that the treatment of LGBT people ranked dead last in the percentage of people who said it was important to their vote in the 2018 election.
This stands starkly at odds with the actual experiences of LGBT people. A 2017 Harvard study found that a majority of self-identified LGBT people reported facing slurs or offensive comments. Experiences of being threatened and subjected to sexual harassment were also widely reported in the study. The results of the Harvard study are remarkably similar to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey that found a nearly identical number (58 percent) of LGBT people who said they had been subjected to slurs or jokes based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
These findings suggest that the pervasiveness of discrimination experienced by LGBT people is, at best, largely unchanged over the past few years, and government data shows violence against LGBT people is increasing.
How has this happened? It’s difficult to point to any definite cause, but there are a few potential explanations. One is the high-profile accomplishments of the LGBT fight for equality. The movement’s milestones and accomplishments were meticulously documented and dramatized in real time. Media outlets have eagerly covered each historic step and shift in public opinion, which may have left an increasing number of Americans with the impression that the public has reached a comfortable consensus on the issue of gay rights.
Kasey Suffredini, president of strategy at Freedom for All Americans, says winning on same-sex marriage came with a cost. “[It] may have led some Americans to believe that LGBTQ Americans now have all the protections they need. Some people I meet out on the campaign trail are really surprised to learn how much discrimination LGBTQ Americans still face.”
Another possible explanation may be that despite the increasing visibility of the lives, experiences and perspectives of gay and lesbian people, Americans are receiving a picture of LGBT life that doesn’t always match reality. Gay, lesbian and transgender characters are featured widely in television shows, and the issues of sexual orientation and gender identity have become common themes in many of these programs. But although a number of gay and lesbian actors and entertainers have achieved national popularity, the experiences of LGBT people vary widely depending on where they live. As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni notes, “There is no such thing as LGBT life in America.”
Simply having a gay or lesbian friend may not change those misconceptions either. Seventy percent of Americans report having a close friend or family member who is gay or lesbian, but this doesn’t necessarily mean Americans are getting an honest accounting of what life is like for gay and lesbian people. A 2017 survey of LGBT people found that nearly one-third avoided talking about LGBT issues in social situations to avoid facing possible discrimination.
Perhaps the sustained focus by activists and the media on same-sex marriage — both the legal fight and the shifting public support — overly simplified the more complex and nuanced public views Americans have about LGBT issues. For years, support for same-sex marriage served as a proxy for the views about how gay and lesbian people should be treated in society. But it is unclear how committed Americans will remain to the entire set of issues that fall under the umbrella of LGBT equality. Polling on transgender issues shows a far more divided public, for example.
Lastly, public perceptions about LGBT rights in the U.S. may be affected by the decreasing prominence of critical opinions in the media. Opposition to gay rights remains entrenched in two important institutions — the Republican Party and many churches — but these perspectives are increasingly absent from popular culture.
Only one of the country’s two major political parties — the Democratic Party — currently affirms that gay and lesbian people have a right to marry. The Republican Party remains steadfast in its opposition to same-sex marriage. The 2016 Republican platform offered an emphatic denunciation of the recently-enshrined right, which had been ushered in at the federal level by a court ruling the year before. “We … condemn the Supreme Court’s lawless ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which in the words of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, was a ‘judicial Putsch’ — full of ‘silly extravagances.’” Given how important conservative religious voters are in Republican politics, this state affairs is not likely to change in the near term.
Meanwhile, many of country’s largest religious denominations still prohibit same-sex marriage. The issue of homosexuality still appears in Sunday sermons around the country. Forty-two percent of Americans who regularly attend religious services report that their clergy discusses the issue. And the messages are usually critical, according to those who have heard them. Today, nearly one in three Americans believe that gay and lesbian relations are morally wrong.
The social media sphere was set atwitter after it was reported thatKaren Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, would teach at a Christian schoolthat bans gay and lesbian students and teachers. But this practice is not uncommon at many Christian secondary schools, where openly gay and lesbian teachers face disciplinary actions and can be fired.
The truth is that a large number of Americans express a deeply-felt discomfort with gay and lesbian people, but it’s becoming less likely that their perspectives will show up on “House Hunters,” in your Facebook feed or at your office happy hour. They do show up in state party platforms, in laws governing child welfare agencies and even in trade deals. They are held by a substantial number of Americans.
The challenge for the gay rights movement is convincing Americans that while the legalization of same-sex marriage was a major accomplishment, it’s not the only metric that matters.
Daniel Cox a research fellow for polling and public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute.

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