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Belatedly following the lead of more than 30 other countries, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has ordered the immediate grounding of the entire Max series of Boeing jetliners.
The action to halt all flights of the new planes in American airspace is a quick and sudden reversal of the stance taken by the manufacturer, the U.S. airlines flying them and the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump that there was no reason to order a grounding despite fatal nose-dive crashes of the Max planes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
“I didn’t want to take any chances,” Trump replied when asked by reporters in the White House Roosevelt Room after he announced Wednesday afternoon that all the newer 737 variants would stop flying temporarily. “We just felt it was the right thing to do.”
The action was “a very tough decision from the standpoint of a company of Boeing,” added Trump, contending that while he could have further delayed the decision, “I felt it was important both psychologically and in a lot of ways.”
The president cited “new information and physical evidence that we’ve received from the site and from other locations and through a couple of other complaints.”
Trump predicted Boeing will solve the problem: “Hopefully, they will very quickly come up with the answer. But until they do, the planes are grounded.”
The flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder from the crashed Ethiopian Airlines flight arrived Thursday in France where they will be analyzed by the government’s BEA air accident investigation authority for more information about what caused the plane to go down.
Boeing, shortly after Trump concluded his remarks Wednesday, issued a statement saying that while it continues to have full confidence in the safety of its 737 Max series, it has determined, after consultation with the FAA, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and aviation authorities and its customers around the world, that “out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety” it recommended a temporary suspension of operations of the entire global fleet, which totals nearly 400 planes.
Several U.S. carriers use the Max series: Southwest Airlines has 34 Max 8 planes in service; American Airlines has 24 and United Airlines has 14 planes of the slightly larger Max 9 version. Together those aircraft account for nearly 300 daily flights.
“We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements, and help ensure this does not happen again,” said Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg.
The FAA, in its statement, said the decision to ground the jets was made as a result of additional data gathered, as well as new evidence collected at the site and analyzed on Tuesday.
“This evidence, together with newly refined satellite data available to FAA this morning, led to this decision,” according to the agency.
Canada, earlier Wednesday, temporarily banned flights of all Max 8 aircraft, which has crashed twice in fewer than five months, killing nearly 350 people.
That decision was made after receiving new satellite data that showed a possible similarity to the Ethiopian crash, Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau told reporters in Ottawa.
Canada’s action followed confirmation that the pilot of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 reported internal control problems, while pilots in the U.S. filed at least five complaints in recent months about the aircraft model. Some of the anonymous complaints appear to involve the same anti-stall system, according to the FAA database.
Ethiopian Airlines spokesman Asrat Begashaw said the pilot asked to return to Addis Ababa, where the flight had departed. “In fact, he was allowed to turn back,” Begashaw told the Reuters news agency.
Muilenburg confirmed the pilot’s problems in interviews with The Wall Street Journal and CNN.
The Trump administration had continued to resist growing domestic and international calls to ground the 737 Max 8, even as Trump discussed the issue Tuesday in a phone call with Muilenburg. The Boeing executive reassured Trump the aircraft is safe, the company and White House officials confirmed.
Muilenburg called Trump after the president complained Tuesday on Twitter that planes “are becoming far too complex to fly.” The call was in the process of being scheduled before Tuesday. The two men have developed a relationship since Trump was elected.
Boeing lobby and donations
Boeing donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund and the two men met later at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida to discuss the new Air Force One presidential aircraft that Boeing is constructing. Trump applauded Muilenburg last June at a National Space Council meeting, calling the CEO a “friend of mine. A great guy.”
As a key military contractor, Boeing is a major lobbying force in Washington. Boeing spent $15 million on lobbying last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Boeing also has close ties with the U.S. government, particularly with the Federal Aviation Administration.
After decades of using outside experts to certify the safety of aircraft, the FAA changed its approach in 2005 with the creation of a new program through which Boeing and other U.S. aircraft manufacturers could select their own employees to help certify their planes.
About two-thirds of the Boeing 737-Max 8, the company’s newest plane, were pulled from service within two days of Sunday’s crash.
U.S. House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio has suggested the FAA could be conflicted by its roles as an aviation industry advocate and regulator. The U.S. Senate plans to conduct a hearing on airline safety.
Trump had resisted calls for the jet to be grounded until the cause of the crashes is found and planned modifications of software are installed for the aircraft’s automatic anti-stall system, which may have played a role in both accidents.
The software fix is expected to take months, FAA officials said on Wednesday, although the agency’s acting administrator, Daniel Elwell, said he does not know for how long the Max series will be grounded.
The initial crash of the Max 8 involved a Lion Air domestic flight in Indonesia on Oct. 29, 2018. The plane plunged into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board.
During Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines ill-fated flight, the plane nosedived minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa on an international flight to Nairobi, Kenya, according to witnesses. (VOA)
Scientists temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for lifesaving transplants.
Pigs have been the most recent research focus to address the organ shortage, but among the hurdles: A sugar in pig cells, foreign to the human body, causes immediate organ rejection. The kidney for this experiment came from a gene-edited animal, engineered to eliminate that sugar and avoid an immune system attack.
Surgeons attached the pig kidney to a pair of large blood vessels outside the body of a deceased recipient so they could observe it for two days. The kidney did what it was supposed to do — filter waste and produce urine — and didn't trigger rejection.
"It had absolutely normal function," said Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led the surgical team last month at NYU Langone Health in New York. "It didn't have this immediate rejection that we have worried about."
This research is "a significant step," said Dr. Andrew Adams of the University of Minnesota Medical School, who was not part of the work. It will reassure patients, researchers and regulators "that we're moving in the right direction."
The dream of animal-to-human transplants, or xenotransplantation, dates to the 17th century with stumbling attempts to use animal blood for transfusions. By the 20th century, surgeons were attempting transplants of organs from baboons into humans, notably Baby Fae, a dying infant, who lived 21 days with a baboon heart.
With no lasting success and much public uproar, scientists turned from primates to pigs, tinkering with their genes to bridge the species gap.
Pigs have advantages over monkeys and apes. They are produced for food, so using them for organs raises fewer ethical concerns. Pigs have large litters, short gestation periods and organs comparable to those of humans.
Pig heart valves also have been used successfully for decades in humans. The blood thinner heparin is derived from pig intestines. Pig skin grafts are used on burns, and Chinese surgeons have used pig corneas to restore sight.
Kidney ready for transplantation from a live donor Image credit: wikimedia commons
In the NYU case, researchers kept a deceased woman's body on a ventilator after her family agreed to the experiment. The woman had wished to donate her organs, but they weren't suitable for traditional donation.
'Good could come from this'
The family felt "there was a possibility that some good could come from this gift," Montgomery said.
Montgomery himself received a transplant three years ago, a human heart from a donor with hepatitis C because he was willing to take any organ.
"I was one of those people lying in an ICU waiting and not knowing whether an organ was going to come in time," he said.
Several biotech companies are in the running to develop suitable pig organs for transplant to help ease the human organ shortage. More than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for kidney transplants. Every day, 12 die while waiting.
The advance is a win for Revivicor, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics, the company that engineered the pig and its cousins, a herd of 100 raised in tightly controlled conditions at a facility in Iowa.
The pigs lack a gene that produces alpha-gal, the sugar that provokes an immediate attack from the human immune system.
In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved the gene alteration in the Revivicor pigs as safe for human food consumption and medicine.
But the FDA said developers would need to submit more paperwork before pig organs could be transplanted into living humans.
"This is an important step forward in realizing the promise of xenotransplantation, which will save thousands of lives each year in the not-too-distant future," said United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt in a statement.
Experts say tests on nonhuman primates and last month's experiment with a human body pave the way for the first experimental pig kidney or heart transplants in living people in the next several years.
Raising pigs to be organ donors feels wrong to some people, but it may grow more acceptable if concerns about animal welfare can be addressed, said Karen Maschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Center, who will help develop ethics and policy recommendations for the first clinical trials under a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
"The other issue is going to be: Should we be doing this just because we can?" Maschke said. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Transplant, Pig, Human, Kidney, FDA
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Developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, a Decision Support System (DSS) that extends the ability of the existing air quality early warning system (AQEWS) to have decision-making capability for air quality management in Delhi-NCR was launched on Tuesday.
The website for the DSS (https://ews.tropmet.res.in/dss/) is designed to help the Commission for Air Quality Management for NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) by delivering quantitative information about the contribution of emissions from Delhi and its 19 surrounding districts; the contribution of emissions from eight different sectors in Delhi; and the contribution from biomass-burning activities in the neighbouring states.
These information would assist in managing the air quality in a timely manner, a release from the Ministry of Earth Sciences said.
The need was stated by the CAQM, which was formed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, during a meeting held in January 2021.
Recently, the Commission reviewed the progress made by IITM and had in principle approved the current version of DSS for air quality management in the Delhi-NCR. The IITM has also developed a new website for DSS with the entire system made operational, the release said.
Union Minister of State for Earth Sciences, Jitendra Singh, while launching the website for AQEWS on the occasion of 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' week organised by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said, "DSS is a significant contribution to 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' on behalf of MoES and IITM and suggestions are invited on this issue."
The website also has a feature whereby the users can create their own emission reduction scenarios (from 20 different districts, including Delhi) so as to examine the possible projected improvement in air quality in Delhi for the next five days.
"This information would explicitly highlight the most important emission sources responsible for the degradation of air quality in Delhi and suggest possible solutions to ameliorate the same. With a plethora of quantitative data, the AQEWS integrated with DSS could become a user-friendly tool for air-quality management in and around Delhi," the release said. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Delhi, India, Pollution, IITM, Ministry of Earth Sciences
On the first day of the two-day meeting of BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders on Tuesday, discussions were held on important issues related to education and the National Education Policy-2020. Apart from senior RSS leader Suresh Soni, representatives of various organisations associated with the Sangh Parivar -- working in the field of education -- were present in the meeting in New Delhi.
According to sources, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who attended the meeting on behalf of the government, shared information related to the National Education Policy-2020 and the government's policy on important issues related to the education sector. Pradhan also shared details of the efforts being made by the government in the field of education.
Discussions were also held regarding the impact of the situation arising out of Corona and how much it has affected the education sector. In the meeting, the RSS leaders asked several questions and provided suggestions to the Union Minister regarding the education policy of the government.
According to the sources, RSS wants the policy to be implemented expeditiously. All aspects related to the policy were discussed in Tuesday's meeting. On the second and the last day of the meeting on Wednesday, special issues related to education will be discussed in which representatives of various organisations of the Sangh, Union Ministers and several BJP leaders will be take part.
Meanwhile, in order to convey its point of view to the government on various issues, the Sangh keeps on calling such coordination meetings related to specific issues, in which RSS representatives -- working in that particular area -- provide feedback to the government. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: BJP, RSS, New Education Policy, Education, India