Here’s the photo of Obama the GOP hope Americans never see

May 17, 2013

It’s a prize-winning photograph by “Scout Tufankjian, an independent photographer whose portfolio includes a book of photographs from Obama’s first run for the White House.”

Scout Tufankjian's award-nominated photograph of Barack and Michelle Obama in East Davenport, Iowa, in 2012.

Barack and Michelle Obama in Booth No. 3 at Lagomarcino’s in the Village of East Davenport, Iowa, during the 2012 election campaign

Photographs sometimes reveal truths, and sometimes those truths are wonderful, and smile-making.

Bill Wundram’s column discusses the photo, in the Quad-City Times (it’s worth the click to read it).

THE QUIETUDE of the soda fountain booth was a marked difference from a rousing Obama appearance a half-hour earlier at a curb-to-curb outdoor rally.

After the speech, the Obamas adjourned to the cool of Lago’s. Tom had  prepared for them to be seated in Booth No. 3.

“The Obamas were shaking so many hands before coming into our soda shop that I had to make three different chocolate sundaes for them.” Tom says. “They kept melting.”

You can see all the photos in this Sony contest in a slide show, here.

More:


What news organizations need to know about “no-fly” zones over disaster areas

April 4, 2013

Lots of chatter around the internet today on the discovery that the Federal Aviation Agency posted a notice making the area over the oil spill in Arkansas off limits to aircraft.

Some people claimed they were certain that it was because Exxon-Mobil paid to get a special favor; others wondered why the government would be complicit in such a deal. Several of the comments linked to aerial photos of the spill, and said ‘obviously’ Exxon Mobil doesn’t want photos of the severity  of the spill to get out.  Bill McKibben’s tweet alerted me to the controversy (take a look at that video, too).

Actually, it’s common procedure to make sport flying and other unnecessary flying over disasters, off limits — FAA has a special set of regulations for that.  Rescuers and disaster fighters, and relief workers,  don’t want sight-seers on visual flight rules posing hazards to flights necessary to work on disaster relief or clean up of a spill of a toxic or hazardous substance.

But this doesn’t mean that news organizations cannot fly — in fact, there is a special regulation to ALLOW news aircraft over the zone, for photography and other reports.

Here’s the notice at FAA’s website (I’m sure that link will be unworkable in a few weeks):

FAA notification, NOTAMs notice of Mayflower, Arkansas, temporary flight restrictions; screen grab April 3, 2013.

FAA notification, NOTAMs notice of Mayflower, Arkansas, temporary flight restrictions; screen grab April 3, 2013.

Most announcements of restrictions of any public activity by a federal agency contain a notice of from where the agency draws that authority; I didn’t include it in the screen grab, but FAA notes the authority flows from Title 14 CFR section 91.137(a)(2).  That’s the Code of Federal Regulations, the set of volumes that list all the regulations the federal government has.  This was also published in the Federal Register — and I suspect the NOTAMs is also published there — but CFR is the more permanent set of books for finding government rules.

In the interests of open government, of course the FAA makes these rules available online.  They are available at several sites.  Here’s the meat of the regulation:

Section 2. Temporary Flight Restrictions in the Vicinity of Disaster/Hazard Areas (14 CFR Section 91.137)

19-2-1. PURPOSE

This section prescribes guidelines and procedures regarding the management of aircraft operations in the vicinity of disaster/hazard areas in accordance with 14 CFR Section 91.137. TFRs issued under this section are for disaster/hazard situations that warrant regulatory measures to restrict flight operations for a specified amount of airspace, on a temporary basis, in order to provide protection of persons or property in the air or on the ground.

19-2-2. RATIONALE

TFRs in accordance with 14 CFR Section 91.137 are issued when necessary to:

a. 14 CFR 91.137(a)(1) – Protect persons and property on the surface or in the air from an existing or imminent hazard associated with an incident on the surface when the presence of low flying aircraft would magnify, alter, spread, or compound that hazard.

b. 14 CFR 91.137(a)(2) – Provide a safe environment for the operation of disaster relief aircraft.

c. 14 CFR 91.137(a)(3) – Prevent an unsafe congestion of sightseeing and other aircraft above an incident or event that may generate a high degree of public interest.

NOTE-
This provision applies only to disaster/hazard incidents of limited duration that would attract an unsafe congestion of sightseeing aircraft.

Specific  rules of restrictions, who in the FAA declares them, who can grant waivers, and to who the restrictions apply, get spelled out following that  part.

Notice that, generally, these restrictions apply only to flights below 1,000 feet.  A good camera in a television station’s helicopter can get a lot of great shots from 1,000 feet out (three football fields) — this is a distance often seen in the videos of police car chases.  So it’s not a complete ban.

Savvy news organizations will know how to get news photos using the specific exemption for news aircraft, with procedures spelled out so the FAA knows it’s a news gathering operation; I’ve put the critical clauses in red:

c. Section 91.137(a)(3). Restrictions issued in accordance with this section prohibit all aircraft from operating in the designated area unless at least one of the following conditions is met:

1. The operation is conducted directly to or from an airport within the area, or is necessitated by the impracticability of VFR flight above or around the area due to weather or terrain, and the operation is not conducted for the purpose of observing the incident or event. Notification must be given to the ATC facility that was specified in the NOTAM for coordination with the official in charge of the activity.

2. The aircraft is operating under an ATC approved IFR flight plan.

3. The aircraft is carrying incident or event personnel, or law enforcement officials.

4. The aircraft is carrying properly accredited news representatives and, prior to entering that area, a flight plan is filed with FSS or the ATC facility specified in the NOTAM. Flight plans must include aircraft identification, type, and color; radio frequencies to be used; proposed times of entry to and exit from the TFR area; the name of news media or organization and purpose of flight.

Well-run news organizations already know this; in an age when more and more news rooms operate on a shoe string, it may be that this information about how to cover disasters is not passed along in the newsroom, though.  So I’m reposting it here, so you’ll know, so news organizations now, so environmental reporters can get a copy of the regulations  to carry with them when they head out to cover spills, fires, floods, and other disasters.

I’m waiting, too.  It’s only a matter of time until somebody figures out a local kid has a good radio control helicopter, and it can carry a GoPro camera; or until a local news station invests in a news-gathering drone.  Here in Texas, we’ve already had one environmental disaster uncovered by a drone operated by a guy just checking on real estate.

If you see some footage of the disaster filmed on or after April 3, would you let us know, in comments?

And spread the word to any reporters you know.

More:

Amateur video of the spill:


Fox News, still geographically challenged (Arkansas? What’s that?)

September 15, 2012

Bret Corum calls our attention to another Fox News remaking of the map of the world:

Fox News lost Arkansas, moved Missouri

Misreporting the news is bad enough — but changing the map? Nations go to war over such things . . .

It appears that, in the Fox News view of the world, Missouri conquered Arkansas, and Alabama and Mississippi either swapped spouses and houses, or are in the middle of some geographic square dance, and the satellite caught them in the middle of a do-si-do into each other’s old territory.

Look on the bright side — so far they only screwed up 8% of the United States with their mapping errors.  On the other hand, they named nine states, and made four errors — 55% correct.  That’s probably not a passing score even under No Child Left Behind rules.

One gets the sinking feeling that such sloppiness with the facts infects everything Fox does, though.

I wonder what kinds of errors and screw-ups one could find, if one seriously paid attention to what Fox claims.

More:

  • Why Fox News – yet again – needs a copy editor (apple.copydesk.org)  (Charles Apple’s column on news design is always a good read — but this piece lists several, maybe a hundred, other instances of copy editor-less screw-ups on the news and other places.  God bless copy editors, and let’s hope these errors were all caused by a lack of one.)

Tip of the old scrub brush to the ever-vigilant, accuracy stickler Bret Corum.


Walter Cronkite – gone three years

July 17, 2012

Walter Cronkite died on July 17, 2009.

I miss his broadcasts, still, and they were gone a good 20 years earlier.

Here’s an earlier post on Cronkite:

Walter Cronkite at his office typewriter:

Walter Cronkite at his typewriter, in his office

Walter Cronkite at his typewriter, in his office – from The Typewriter blog

Pipe rack to his left, on the shelf above; full set of the Encyclopedia Britannica to his right (probably a 1960s set); A lot of books, some dealing with space exploration, among his favorite topics; models of the X-15 and early versions of the Space Shuttle; award from the Boy Scouts to his right, where he can see it easily.

When was this photo taken? 1970s? Earlier? Maybe someone who follows Dixie Cups could date the cup to Cronkite’s left.

This is probably the same office, redecorated, and stripped down to move – and with a different typewriter (a Smith-Corona electric?):

Cronkite in his office minutes before his final broadcast.  SF Chronicle photo

Caption from the San Francisco Chronicle website: “In this March 6, 1981 file photo, Walter Cronkite talks on the phone at his office, prior to his final newscast as CBS anchorman in New York City. Behind him is a framed Mickey Mouse cartoon and his Emmy award. Famed CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, known as the ‘most trusted man in America’ has died, Friday, July 17, 2009. He was 92.”

More:


Arab Spring spreads to Europe?

January 16, 2012

English: Emil Boc speaking.

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc - Image via Wikipedia

Eric Koenig wondered, and wrote:

On December 17, 1989, Romanian security forces fired into a crowd in the city of Timişoara. Scarcely a week later, the Romanian revolution was over and Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife had been toppled and tried and summarily executed. Now thousands of people are protesting in Romania and calling for the ouster of their President (who has been in some political hot water himself, being “suspended” briefly and narrowly escaping impeachment in 2007, during his first term) and many of the protests started in the same city.

Is history repeating itself?  Stay tuned …

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/International/2012/Jan-15/159949-romania-protests-spread-despite-health-bill-withdrawal.ashx#axzz1je7ndQhJ

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16570860

The story isn’t being followed by many US newspapers. Yet.

I think it’s not quite so simple, nor a repeat of 22 years ago.  Romanians protest austerity cuts to their government-paid health plans, according to BBC:

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc has called for dialogue and an end to violence after four days of protests against austerity cuts.

Dozens of people were hurt on Sunday, as demonstrators and riot police clashed for a second day running in the capital Bucharest.

The rallies began in support of an official who quit in protest against health care reforms.

But they have grown into a broader hostility towards government policies.

The alliance of opposition parties has called for early elections.

I think the economic grievances are not of the same kind as those in Africa and Arabia, nor are they so deep as the extreme discontent with Ceaușescu’s communist government 22 years ago.

But, who can tell what’s really going on?  We have to depend on reports from Lebanese newspapers, and rewrites of those stories from the Associated Press?

Government change poses astonishing opportunities in the past year, especially these home-grown, nationalist liberation movements.  New resources, cut back from a century ago, leave us without eyes and ears on the ground in too many foreign capitals.

English: Grave of the former dictator Nicolae ...

Bucharest grave of former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu - Image via Wikipedia

Why aren’t we hearing more about the Romanian crisis in U.S. news media?  Well, there’s the war in Afghanistan, the ending war in Iraq, and trouble in Nigeria.  Then there is the South Carolina circus.   For all I know, American Idol is in the news today, too.

It’s not like either you are, or I am, Marie, the Queen of Roumania, right?  What could go wrong that might affect us?

Watch.  U.S. papers will pick up the story in small snippets over the next week or so.

Could you find Romania on an unlabeled map?

Map of Romania, from GreenwichMeanTime.com

Map of Romania, from GreenwichMeanTime.com

Location map of Romania, GreenwhichMeanTime.com

Location map of Romania, GreenwhichMeanTime.com


Encore post: “Don’t play chicken with the debt ceiling!”

July 30, 2011

If only they had listened last April when I first posted this!

A blast from the past:

BusinessWeek cover, April 18-24, 2011 - Don't play chicken with debt ceiling

BusinessWeek cover, April 18-24, 2011 - Don't play chicken with debt ceiling; chicken image by Jan Hamus/Alamy

Not every one of the Bloomberg Businessweek covers has been a hit, but a lot of them are — vastly more entertaining since Bloomberg took over the old workhorse magazine.

This one packs a political punch along with visual excitement.

And it’s right. Do any Republicans pay attention to the finance and business worlds anymore?

Articles inside are informative, too — see Peter Coy’s article, and did you see the article on the debt ceiling issue and the views of past Treasury secretaries?

Hey! Republicans! Stop playing chicken with the nation’s credit, will you?

Graphic - dangerous game on debt ceiling -- Businessweek

Businessweek graphic from April 18-24, 2011 issue - click for larger view at Businessweek site; chicken image by Jan Hamus/Alamy


Troops who fought in two wars now protect public against Missouri River flood and nuclear accident

July 10, 2011

Hoax claims died down a bit across the blogosphere, but the Missouri River still floods, and the two Nebraska nuclear power plants on the Missouri still face threats from the flood.

Comes news via the Omaha World-Herald that members of Nebraska’s and Iowa’s Air National Guard — many of them veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan — patrol the levees, helping protect against floods.  Among points of special concern are the nuclear power plants at Fort Calhoun and Cooper.

The military helicopter’s black shadow dances on an engorged Missouri River as the aircraft slowly loops the flood-encircled Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station — the same left-leaning turns the pilot navigated two days prior.

Warrant Officer Boe Searight, 32, with the Nebraska Air National Guard wants the infrared camera mounted under the chopper to record similar flood scenes for levee experts on the ground to compare.

He and his colleague Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric Schriner also are looking for new signs of trouble for the flooded plant.

“Keep daily eyes on it and see if anything changes,” says Schriner, 31.

Far below, on mosquito-infested riverbanks, two-person crews with the Nebraska National Guard and Iowa National Guard patrol the Omaha and Council Bluffs levees in mud-caked boots.

Members of the Guard are the front-line levee watchers in an operation that clearly has high stakes: Levees protect about 40,000 people from homelessness in the neighboring river cities — as well as the region’s key airport.

The levee watchers are out there right now — three shifts a day, all week, searching for gopher holes, chasing away sightseers who could fall from the levees, and checking for signs of water seepage.

More than 130 men and women with the Nebraska Army and Air National Guard work each day for flood duty, along with 120 from the Iowa Army and Air National Guard.

The idea is to spot trouble early. Levees don’t always give notice before they rupture, but more often than not they do.

If trouble is spotted, steps can be taken to shore up or boost a weakened levee.

Good to know.  Still no nuclear incident along the lines of the hoax report from the Pakistani outlet alleged to be based on a report from a Russian agency — which is also good news — but no cause for abatement of overall concern.

Sometimes safety preparations work.  Kudos to the Air National Guards, to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, and to the companies who own  the power plants.  May their work continue to pay off in no nuclear incidents.

Idaho Samizdat noted earlier that the bizarre conspiracy theories haven’t borne out as accurate or true in the least:

The flooding situation in Nebraska has been the subject of bizarre conspiracy theories originating in Russia and Pakistan alleging that a meltdown has occurred at Ft. Calhoun and that the government is covering it up.

One U.S. web site, Business Insider, ran with the story as legitimate and set off a huge round of copy cat reports on the Internet.

Reports of a U.S. news blackout are also part of the conspiracy theory even though Nebraska papers such as the Omaha World-Herald and the New York Times have run major stories on measures by the two reactor sites to prevent the flood waters from reaching important infrastructure such as switch yards


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