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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Donald Trump: America’s Sore Loser

Donald Trump is not here to make friends.

Following a devastating defeat this weekend in Colorado’s state convention, in which Cruz won all 34 delegates, Trump immediately lashed out at the state’s voting procedures on Fox and Friends. According to Trump, “people out there are going crazy, in the Denver area and Colorado itself, and they’re going absolutely crazy because they weren’t given a vote. This was given by politicians — it’s a crooked deal.”

Trump failed to mention, of course, that his team handed out flyers at the Colorado convention that were filled with mistakes, including listing incorrect ballot numbers for key delegates. Still, details like this don’t seem to matter.

Donald just wants you to know that it’s not his fault.

After the Louisiana primary in March, in which Trump narrowly won the popular vote, but ended up getting the same number of delegates as Cruz, Trump cried foul. Tactfully claiming that Cruz got his “ass kicked,” he ranted about a “very sick system” to thousands. Manafort, Trump’s new de facto campaign manager, accused Cruz of using “Gestapo tactics” to siphon delegates away from the frontrunner in multiple races.

At this point in the primary season, Trump’s platform is one big complaint. Last week, he tweeted “Isn’t it a shame that the person who will have by far the most delegates and many millions more votes than anyone else, me, still must fight.” He’s recently mentioned Bernie Sanders’s against-the-odds delegate tie with Hillary Clinton in Wyoming on Saturday, saying they were both “ripped off” by their respective party establishments.

Shortly after the announcement of Cruz’s clean sweep in Colorado, a few of Trump’s supporters there posted videos of themselves on social media burning, apparently, their Republican registrations.

“I’ve been a Republican all my life, but I will never be a Republican again,” said one form-burner. “Goodbye, GOP. I will not be forced to vote for somebody that I don’t want to.”

With each setback, Trump desperately clings to the role of the noble victim, or else he knows he will quickly become another one of the “losers” he’s always mentioning.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

States Use Cameras To Crack Down On School Bus Scofflaws

By Jenni Bergal, (TNS)

MaKayla Marie Strahle was only 11 when she stepped off a school bus, started to cross the road and was struck and killed by a pickup truck in west central Wyoming just days before Christmas 2011. The driver, who had ignored the stopped school bus’ flashing lights, was later convicted of three misdemeanor charges, including homicide by vehicle.

MaKayla’s death sparked calls for change, and spurred the legislature to take action. Last year, Wyoming became the first state in the nation to mandate that every public school bus have cameras attached to catch drivers who illegally pass.

“It’s quite a different approach,” said Douglas Shinkle, a transportation policy expert for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). “Wyoming has taken a pretty big step requiring this statewide, and appropriating the money to do so.”

While Wyoming is out front, a number of states have enacted measures that would allow the use of cameras to target the dangerous action of “fly-bys” or “pass-bys” by scofflaw drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses.

At least 12 other states — Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia — have laws that authorize the use of cameras on the outside of buses to catch fly-by drivers, according to the NCSL. And at least seven states, including New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee, are considering bills this year that deal with school bus monitoring cameras. They range from providing grants to school districts to buy and install the equipment to authorizing that the cameras be allowed statewide.

Two other states, Virginia and Indiana, took up school bus camera bills this session though neither passed.

Republican state Representative Edmond Soliday, who authored the Indiana bill, said it received overwhelming support in committee and from the public, but he withdrew it after some of his colleagues expressed strong opposition, citing privacy concerns.

“When it comes to legislation like this, you have to have patience,” said Soliday, who chairs the House Roads and Transportation committee.

Soliday said this was the third attempt (and his second) to pass a bill in Indiana authorizing outside school bus cameras. But in some states, he said, it has taken several years to get this type of law enacted. “We’ll try it again, if we have the votes,” he said. “Perseverance is the only path to victory.”

Nearly half a million school buses are on the road every day in the U.S.

State laws typically require motorists from either direction to stay stopped if a school bus’ flashing red lights are deployed and its stop signal arm is extended, unless it’s at a divided highway or there’s a barrier. In that case, cars may be allowed to travel in the opposite direction of the bus.

But some drivers who are impatient about waiting for students to board or exit choose to ignore the warning signals and zoom around the bus. In many states, they face hefty fines for doing that — if they’re caught.

A 2014 survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) of more than 97,000 school bus drivers in 29 states found that an estimated 76,000 vehicles illegally passed buses on any given day.

“When children are getting on and off buses in the loading zone, that’s when they’re the most vulnerable,” said Charlie Hood, the association’s executive director.

Between 2001 and 2013, nearly a dozen children between the ages of six and seventeen died in school bus-related crashes involving another driver charged with illegally passing the bus, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Hood said states have adopted a variety of measures to tackle the problem of fly-bys, such as improving motorist education, hiking penalties, and beefing up law enforcement, including mounting cameras on both sides of buses.

“It’s a very complex problem. Cameras can definitely help,” Hood said. “We think they have a deterrent effect. They certainly have an educational effect. It’s one tool in the safety arsenal.”

School transportation officials say that bus cameras shouldn’t be compared to red light and speed cameras, which a number of cities and states have jettisoned recently after drivers complained of stiff fines, and controversy erupted over the reliability of the equipment, enforcement, and the amount of money paid to vendors.

Many state legislators have a different attitude when it comes to using cameras for pedestrian student safety.

“These bills authorizing school bus cameras are much more targeted and they continue to pass year after year,” said NCSL’s Shinkle. “Overall, the cultural tolerance for illegally passing a school bus is about as low as it gets. I think that you can find a lot of bipartisan agreement on protecting children.”

In Wyoming, which does not use red light or speed cameras, members of both parties supported the school bus cameras, said Republican state Senator Hank Coe, who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

Coe said the state’s joint House and Senate education committee sponsored the school bus camera legislation in large part because of MaKayla Strahle’s death.

“I think it had an effect on the legislators,” Coe said. “There are lots of complaints about cars just blowing by school buses every year. Even in a small, rural state like Wyoming, it’s a big issue.”

Many legislators did oppose the bill, calling it another form of government intrusion or saying that drivers’ privacy would be violated by the video recordings — arguments that have been used in other states to defeat legislation allowing outside cameras on school buses.

“I had major concerns about this bill,” said former Republican state Representative Matt Greene, who voted against the legislation. “We were not only allowing, but we were requiring spying on Wyomingites by passing this. Big Brother is watching.”

But the measure ultimately passed, and the legislature agreed to provide up to five million dollar to reimburse school districts 100 percent of the cost of installing cameras on the state’s fleet of 1,511 buses.

“When you put the cameras on there, if a car does drive by, it’s recorded and the license plate is recorded and charges can be pursued by law enforcement. It’s a pretty important deal,” Coe said. “This makes the public more aware that if they blow by a school bus, they’ve got a good chance of getting caught.”

While the mandate requiring outside cameras technically doesn’t become effective until the 2016-17 school year, some districts have already used the state funds to install equipment on their buses, said David Koskelowski, the Wyoming Department of Education’s program manager for traffic safety and pupil transportation.

Koskelowski said the cameras photograph the vehicle model, color, and front or back license plate. The bus driver then calls in the incident on the radio or marks it on the video, which contains the date, time, and GPS location. A supervisor then makes a copy of the video and contacts police, who can review it and decide whether to pursue the case and issue a citation.

But it’s left to police agencies and prosecutors in each county to decide whether video evidence is acceptable as the sole standard to determine whether a driver illegally passed a school bus.

Koskelowski said that in some school districts, police don’t come and get the video, so nothing happens. That’s because they believe that unless the driver is positively identified, a citation can’t be issued.

“We’re working to build those relationships with law enforcement to pursue these cases,” Koskelowski said. “We can’t get 100 percent positive facial recognition on every video. It’s unrealistic to expect that.”

Photo: Jay Cross via Flickr

A Natural Bridge To Nowhere But Beauty

The United States has some of the most glorious natural formations in the world, and some of those are the bridges and arches formed over millions of years by the forces of water, wind, and the earth’s uplift. CNN takes us to 15 of the world’s best, many of which are right here in the lower 48 in Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, California, and Virginia.

But just what is the difference between and arch and a bridge?  “The Natural Arch and Bridge Society, whose Indiana Jones-like members go hunting for these rock formations around the world, makes this distinction: A natural arch is made of rock, with a hole formed by natural forces, they say. A natural bridge is a type of arch, where water is the natural force making the hole.”

And yes, all the erosion that went into forming these natural wonders will someday result in their destruction.  But right now just go and enjoy them.

Photo: Wikimedia

Fire Rages At Wyoming Natural Gas Plant; Town’s Evacuation Lifted

By Paresh Dave, Los Angeles Times

Soaring flames kept a major natural gas plant in southwestern Wyoming closed Thursday, affecting fuel supplies across the West.

The fire followed an explosion Wednesday afternoon at one of the five natural gas processing units at a Williams Cos. plant near the town of Opal. About 40 workers immediately left the plant, shutting off incoming and outgoing pipes on the way out. No one was injured.

The entire 88-acre town was evacuated Wednesday and some 60 residents who spent the night in hotels were allowed back into their homes at about noon Thursday, Opal Mayor Mary Hall told the Los Angeles Times.

Authorities used air monitoring equipment to see whether methane levels were low enough for the town to be safe, Williams spokesman George Angerbauer told the Times.

Firefighters haven’t been able to safely reach the scene, Angerbauer said.

“What you really got to do is let it burn,” he said of the fuel.

A camera mounted on a drone and a news helicopter have given authorities a better picture of the fire, and they were hoping to further cut off fuel to just the affected unit midday Thursday.

The entire facility has been recently processing nearly 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, close to its maximum capacity of 1.5 billion.

Stockpiles of natural gas in the West totaled 178 billion cubic feet at the end of last week, about half the supply available a year ago, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Thursday.

The natural gas supply decreased significantly in recent months as homes and businesses sought to warm up during the harsh winter. Natural Gas Intelligence reported Thursday that although prices for natural gas rose in the wake of the Opal fire, the effect could have been much worse had the explosion happened at the tail end of winter.

The processing units at Williams’ plant take in natural gas from fields in Wyoming and Utah, bring it to low temperatures and then churn out purified fuels, including liquefied natural gas, for shipping on pipelines that stretch to the West Coast, including Southern California.

The company said the cause of the explosion would not be known until officials can inspect the site.

Hall credited Williams for buying the city an emergency evacuation siren three years ago. The siren was activated after Wednesday’s explosion. Emergency alerts on social media and local radio and via direct calls to residents also were used to notify people, Hall said.

“Williams is great neighbor,” Hall said. “They go through training every single year for this kind of event and the town’s been very progressive about being prepared.”

A pressure vessel rupture and subsequent leak and fire at a Williams tank storing liquefied natural gas in Plymouth, Washington, on March 31 injured a handful of people and forced dozens of residents nearby to stay away for two days. In the wake of the incident, nearby residents called for an automatic evacuation warning system.

In West Virginia, a Williams pipe carrying unprocessed natural gas ruptured and flamed April 7. No one was injured.

Tim Evanson Flickr