Metrolink Engineer was Texting 22 Seconds Before Crash

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Engineer sent texts before train crash

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A Metrolink engineer sent a cell phone text message 22 seconds before his commuter train crashed head-on into a freight train last month, killing 25 people, federal investigators said Wednesday.

Cell phone records of engineer Robert Sanchez, who was among the dead, show he sent a message after receiving one about a minute and 20 seconds before the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a press release.

Investigators are looking into why Sanchez ran through a red signal and collided with a Union Pacific train Sept. 12 in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley. It was the nation’s deadliest rail crash since 1993.

Sanchez sent his last text message at 4:22:01 p.m. According to the freight train’s onboard recorder, the accident occurred at 4:22:23 p.m.

Records obtained from Sanchez’s cell phone provider also showed that he sent 24 text messages and received 21 messages over a two-hour period during his morning shift. During his afternoon shift, he received seven and sent five messages.

NTSB investigators were continuing to correlate times from Sanchez’s cell phone, the train recorders and data from the railroad signal system.

“I am pleased with the progress of this major investigation to date,” acting NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker said in a statement. “We are continuing to pursue many avenues of inquiry to find what caused this accident and what can be done to prevent such a tragedy in the future.”

NTSB spokesman Terry Williams declined to release information about who was exchanging text messages with Sanchez.

In the days after the crash, several teenage train enthusiasts told a reporter Sanchez sent them a text message just before the collision. Federal investigators spurred by the media reports interviewed two 14-year-old boys, who they said cooperated in the investigation and provided their cell phone data.

The collision, which also injured more than 130 people, occurred on a horseshoe-shaped section of track in the community of Chatsworth. Investigators say the two trains were in sight of each other only for a few seconds before the crash. The freight engineer was able to apply brakes but brakes were never applied on the Metrolink train


EPA Won’t Limit Toxic Chemical in Drinking Water

Reposted from:,8599,1843426,00.html

The Environmental Protection Agency has decided there’s no need to rid drinking water of a toxic rocket fuel ingredient that has fouled public water supplies around the country.

EPA reached the conclusion in a draft regulatory document not yet made public but reviewed Monday by The Associated Press.

The ingredient, perchlorate, has been found in at least 395 sites in 35 states at high levels that some scientists say could interfere with thyroid function and pose developmental health risks, particularly for babies and fetuses.

The EPA document says that mandating a clean-up level for perchlorate would not result in a “meaningful opportunity for health risk reduction for persons served by public-water systems.”

The conclusion, which caps years of dispute over the issue, was denounced by Democrats and environmentalists who accused EPA of caving to pressure from the Pentagon.

“This is a widespread contamination problem, and to see the Bush EPA just walk away is shocking,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate’s environment committee.

Lenny Siegel, director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight in Mountain View, Calif., added: “This is an unconscionable decision not based upon science or law but on concern that a more stringent standard could cost the government significantly.”

The Defense Department used perchlorate for decades in testing missiles and rockets, and most perchlorate contamination is the result of defense and aerospace activities, congressional investigators said last year.

The Pentagon could face liability if EPA set a national drinking water standard that forced water agencies around the country to undertake costly clean-up efforts. Defense officials have spent years questioning EPA’s conclusions about the risks posed by perchlorate.

The Pentagon objected strongly Monday to the suggestion that it sought to influence EPA’s decision.

“We have not intervened in any way in EPA’s determination not to regulate perchlorate. If you read their determination, that’s based on criteria in the Safe Drinking Water Act,” Paul Yaroschak, Pentagon deputy director for emerging contaminants, said in an interview.

Yaroschak said the Pentagon has been working for years to clean up perchlorate at its facilities. He also contended that the Pentagon wasn’t the source of as much perchlorate contamination as once believed, noting that it also comes from fireworks, road flares and fertilizer.

Benjamin Grumbles, EPA’s assistant administrator for water, said in a statement that “science, not the politics of fear in an election year, will drive our final decision.”

“We know perchlorate in drinking water presents some degree of risk, and we’re committed to working with states and scientists to ensure public health is protected and meaningful opportunities for reducing risk are fully considered,” Grumbles said.

Grumbles said the EPA expected to seek comment and take final action before the end of the year. The draft document was first reported Monday by the Washington Post.

Perchlorate is particularly widespread in California and the Southwest, where it’s been found in groundwater and in the Colorado River, a drinking-water source for 20 million people. It’s also been found in lettuce and other foods.

In absence of federal action, states have acted on their own. In 2007, California adopted a drinking water standard of 6 parts per billion. Massachusetts has set a drinking water standard of 2 parts per billion.

Swiss Restaurant to Serve Meals Made With Human Breast Milk

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The owner of the Storchen restaurant in the exclusive Winterthur resort will improve his menu with local specialities such as meat stew and various soups and sauces containing at least 75 per cent of mother’s milk.

“We have all been raised on it. Why should we not include it into our diet?” Hans Locher, who has become Switzerland most controversial restaurant owner, said.

Mr Locher attracted the attention of the leading media of the German-speaking world this week after he posted ads looking for women donors, who will receive just over three pounds for 14 ounces of their milk.

He said: “I first experimented with breast milk when my daughter was born.

“One can cook really delicious things with it. However, it always needs to be mixed with a bit of whipped cream, in order to keep the consistency.”

The food control authority in Switzerland was initially confused by the apparent loophole in local legislation regulating the use of human milk and it was not clear whether Mr Locher could actually be banned from serving his specialities.

“Humans as producers of milk are simply not envisaged in the legislation.

“They are not on the list of approved species such as cows and sheep, but they are also not on the list of the banned species such as apes and primates,” Rolf Etter of the Zurich food control laboratory said.


Workers to Pay Even More for Health Care in 2009

Photo via stock.xchng

Photo via stock.xchng

Next year, American workers will be paying even more than they already do for co-pays and deductibles.

U.S. News & World Report just reported on the results of a survey performed by the Mercer consulting firm. The survey found that “59 percent of companies intend to keep down rising health care costs in 2009 by raising workers’ deductibles, copays or out-of-pocket spending limits.”

According to Mercer, health care costs for 2009 rose 5.7 percent, which was the same for this year. In 2007, the figure was 6.1 percent. These figures are still not very encouraging because the rising cost of health care is growing faster than inflation or workers wages.

Very bad news indeed!