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16 July 2013


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Alba Etie

Did you see that the Michigan state judge stopped the Detroit backruptcy filing - says that the emergency manager law that Orr operates under is unconstitutional .

William R. Cumming

Helen Thomas was a fearless but biased reporter IMO



Helen Thomas was an American of Arab descent. Yes, she was biased about the Israel/Palestine issue. She was a biased as the people on the other side of the issue. At the same time it was just silly to say that Israeli Jews should return to wherever their ancestors came from. Do you think you should go to wherever your ancestors came from? pl

William R. Cumming

Thanks for agreeing with me PL!

My primary ancestry Polish, Welsh, Scottish! So a rather typical American mutt. First William Cumming arrived at age 17 in Halifax Nova Scotia in 1797! On the run if legend serves.

steve g

Cronin and TTG

A 1961 movie called "Parrish" about
the Connecticut Valley valley tabacco
growers has quite the all star cast.
Troy Donahue, Stella Stevens, Karl
Malden, Dean Jagger and even Claudette
Colbert. Saw it a couple of years ago
on cable. Had all the intrigue elements
of one grower that wants to drive out all
the smaller ones. The trials and tribu-
lations of weather and climate were well
represented. Excellent plot and casting.


Reuteers reports: "Islamist-Kurdish fighting spreads in rebel-held Syria"

"The new round of fighting broke out in Tel Abyad, a border town near Turkey in the rebel-held Raqqa province. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said clashes began after Kurdish militias in the area discovered fighters from an al Qaeda-linked rebel group trying to rig one of their bases with explosives.

The Kurds retaliated by kidnapping several fighters, including the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, one of the most powerful Qaeda-affiliated forces fighting in Syria."


Never mind the "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights ", which is iirc a guy in his living room in London - it is in the larger context a rather predictable result, considering that for Islamists their particular brand of Islam comes first, and nations and nation states mean nothing in face of that. It was quite illustrative that Hamas was criticised by Al Qaeda for putting Palestine before Islam. Speaks volumes about their priorities.

I wonder, didn't Turkey's Erdogan pursue reconciliation with the Kurds based on religion? Apparently there are things and interests appeals to Islam cannot overcome. Assad made the Kurds a much better offer when he promised them regional autonomy.

Considering the latent racism I have observed in Turks and Arabs, the Kurds must be acutely ware that they are 'just Kurds', and ethnically different (in this context, regarded as inferior by Arabs and Turks).

I always get confused looks when I tell about how in Mexico, the cheap buses I rode on didn't stop for indigenas. Ethnicity and the colour of skin matter, for what's it worth.


This is my theory on the cause of the Lac-Megantic train disaster that killed over 60 people.


At about 23:00 on 5 July 2013, the train stopped at Nantes, Quebec.
At 23:50, the fire was reported to the rail traffic controller.
At about midnight, the engine was shut down, and the fire was extinguished.(Other timelines say 00:15)
An MMA employee arrived on site to assist the fire department.
At approximately 00:56 on 6 July 2013, the train started to move, after the fire department and MMA had left.
Runaway train

The train rolled down the approximately 1.2% grade into the center of Lac-Mégantic.
The train derailed at approximately 01:14 on 6 July 2013.
The locomotives detached from the rest of the train and stopped 1 km past the yard.
There were no signals or track circuits, so the rail traffic controller would have no indication of a runaway train.

I am going to assume engineer Harding followed MMA work practices when he secured the train on the mainline and that the firemen correctly shut down the lead engine when called to put out the fire and that sabotage was not a factor. It is my belief the accident was a result of unsafe MMA work practices and that the fire caused the air brakes to release on the train, sending it into Lac-Megantic at 63 mph on 10 mph track.

Harding said he tied 11 handbrakes on the train which The CEO of MMA's parent company considered sufficient to keep the train from rolling away on a 1.2 % grade is obvious by the fact he is quoted as saying the engineer didn't tie all 11 brakes. On the Union Pacific, a train of 5000 to 6000 ft. (the Lac-Megantic train was just over 5000 ft.) parked unattended on a 1.25 % grade requires a minimum of 15 handbrakes, and most conductors would have tied another 5 brakes. This train did not have a conductor; it was a one-man crew. I don't know if the reduced crew size contributed to the accident.

Burkhardt also is quoted in many news articles saying that the firemen shutting down the lead engine released the air-brakes. Of course, the newspapers take his word as gospel. The fact is that’s bull. A train’s air-brakes are fail-safe. Train brakes stay released when the air pressure in the train line and each cars auxiliary reservoir is equal, 90 psi for freight trains and 110 psi for passenger. A reduction of train line air pressure applies the brakes. That way if a train line is compromised, say the train breaks in two, the train is stopped by an emergency brake application (big hole). It has been that way since George Westinghouse invented the triple-valve in 1872. An engine must be running for the air compressor to pump air into the train line to increase the pressure for the brakes to release. So shutting down the engine could not have released the train’s air brakes.

Here is a link to a simple to understand Popular Science, 1951, article on train air-brakes. There have been some improvements in design since ’51—freight train air pressure is now 90 psi instead of 70 psi and the engineer's brake-valve lever no longer needs to be placed in lap to maintain constant train line air pressure during a service reduction--but the principle remains the same. Article starts on page 44.


The trains air brakes had to release for the train to run away. My theory is the fire heated the air in train line, raising its air pressure 20 psi, or higher, causing the brakes to release. The rules stipulate the engineer, when parking a train, set the air brakes with a 20 pound reduction, leaving 70 psi in the train line. The train line is metal and rubber. The fire could have melted the part of the air hose, sealing it so the air couldn’t escape through brake-valve on the lead engine, the heated air expanding as it crawled like a ghost through the length of the train line, releasing all or enough of the brakes to send it into Lac-Megantic.

A witness saw the train start to move about five minutes after the firemen left and thought it strange the engine lights were off. I’m wondering if vibrations from the fire truck could have set off mini waves of oil in the tank cars, sloshing the liquid around and contributing to the initial movement. He didn’t say the train was traveling fast, which would have been the case on a 1.2% grade if there had been no handbrakes. Another witness leaving a bar in town saw the train barreling into town at 63 mph, the wheels smoking. The smoking wheels also show there were handbrakes on the head end of the train.

What could have prevented the train from running away?

A portable derail in front the train would have sent a couple of engines into the dirt but stopped the train from rolling further downhill. Unfortunately, a train was parked in the siding next to the mainline where Harding left his train, so he couldn’t park his train there. The siding most likely had a split-rail derail, which is more dependable than a portable one.

Disconnecting the air hose from the end-of-train device and opening the angle cock on the rear of the train would have depleted all the air from the train line, keeping the heated air from building up enough psi to recharge the brakes.

Here’s a wiki article on the derailment. The part about the air is wrong.


Ex-employee talks about how unsafe the MMA is.


I just read one article that the Canadian safety inspectors found contradictions in the engine's event recorder. This "black box" records the position of its controls, brake levers and throttle, and the train lines air pressure. Even though the inspectors report won't come out for months, this shows my theory is plausible: the engine controls would have been properly set but the air pressure would still have managed to increase enough to release the air brakes. These are circumstances the rule book never considered.


Turkey won't tolerate Kurdish autonomy in Syria

"Turkey's deputy prime minister says his country supports Syria's territorial integrity and won't tolerate the creation of a "de facto" Syrian Kurdish entity on its frontiers.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Bulent Arinc would not spell out what Turkey would do prevent any such entity from coming about but said it would act carefully and in a cool-headed manner.

Authorities here have been concerned over Syrian Kurdish militants' recent strengthening of power in areas bordering Turkey.

The concerns have been heightened by reports that Kurds in Syria are preparing to form an autonomous region in those areas.

Last week, a Syrian Kurdish group — affiliated with Turkey's own autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels — took control of a town on the border with Turkey after fighting radical Islamic groups.


Now that'd be a reason for Turkey to war against Assad all by itself. In light of such statements, was Erdogan's engagement of the Kurds through appeals to the common religion just a way to placate them?


Darrel Issa, out to screw Americans one more time. Maybe he should figure out the postal service could save 1/4 billion by not taking images of every letter mailed.



I thought air brakes were a fail safe, i.e. lose air pressure and the brakes are applied, rather than needing air to keep the brakes working?


They are fail-safe. I pointed that out in the comment, and the Popular Science article is very clear. A reduction in the train line air pressure causes the slide-valve (triple-valve) to move to one side and forces the air from the auxiliary reservoir, which maintains a higher air pressure, into the brake cylinder, shoving a piston out that forces the brake shoes against the wheel. The diagrams on the PS article are easy to understand.

To set up the brakes the engineer reduces the air in the train line by venting the air in the train line with a control valve. If the continuity of the train line is compromised, say the train comes apart, the brakes automatically apply on all the rail cars because the air pressure in the train line is zero.

My theory is the trains brakes released because the fire heated the air in the train line, and expanding air increased the air pressure in the train line.
Increase in train line psi releases brakes. Decrease in train line psi applies brakes.

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