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Arts Culture STEM Competition Wednesday 22nd May 2024 Industry Opinion Local Nations

Piedmont Airlines Conducting Inquiry into Montgomery Airport Tragedy

In a tragic incident at Montgomery Regional Airport on December 31, 2022, 34-year-old Courtney Edwards, a Piedmont Airlines ground service agent, lost her life after being pulled into a jet engine. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently concluded its investigation, revealing critical safety lapses that might have averted the fatal accident.

According to the OSHA report released on Wednesday, Piedmont Airlines, a subsidiary of American Airlines, could have prevented the incident through proper training and enforcement of safety procedures. The report indicates that had the ground crew followed required safety protocols, Edwards might have avoided the fatal injuries sustained from the spinning turbines.

OSHA Area Director Jose A. Gonzalez emphasized the importance of safety measures even in routine assignments. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had previously released preliminary findings, noting that safety protocols were not adhered to, potentially preventing harm to individuals near the aircraft.

Piedmont Airlines now faces $15,625 in proposed penalties as per federal statute. OSHA cited the airline for one serious violation, exposing ground crew workers to ingestion hazards during various tasks.

In response to the findings, Piedmont Airlines contested the citation, asserting that their current policies comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements. They emphasized their commitment to safety, stating that ongoing collaboration with unions ensures a secure working environment for their team members.

Edwards' tragic death has left a profound impact on her colleagues, friends, and the union representing her. The Communication Workers of America (CWA) set up a GoFundMe page to support Edwards' family, surpassing its $25,000 goal within days. Colleagues remember Edwards as a dedicated and motivated worker, raising concerns about the mental wellness of those who witnessed the accident.

As investigations continue, both OSHA and the FAA are closely examining the circumstances that led to this rare and unfortunate industrial accident. The incident serves as a sobering reminder of the critical importance of strict adherence to safety protocols in the aviation industry, where lapses can result in devastating consequences.

Terlingua Community Comes Together to Create New Library and Community Space

In the enchanting town of Terlingua, a thrilling project is underway to bring a new library and community space to life. This ambitious endeavor is made possible through the collaborative efforts of Brewster County, Terlingua CSD, and the Big Bend Citizens Alliance (BBCA). Recently, the BBCA concluded an extensive survey project, gathering valuable community input while also seeking financial support from those who cherish this unique area.

Until last year, the Terlingua library found its home on the Terlingua CSD campus, serving not only district students and parents but also welcoming library users from the wider community. Unfortunately, concerns about school security prompted the district to permanently close its doors to the public.

While community members could still request materials over the phone and pick them up at the front desk, this new arrangement deterred many regular patrons from utilizing the library. Determined to find a solution, BBCA President Joselyn Fenstermacher and Terlingua CSD Superintendent Reagan Reed approached the Brewster County Commissioners Court for assistance.

Responding to the call, the commissioners amended the county's library contract and dedicated a portion of their American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the cause. The BBCA was then entrusted with raising the remaining funds and utilizing community input to bring this inspiring project to fruition.

To gather valuable insights, the organization embarked on an extensive survey project spanning the vast and remote region from Lajitas to Big Bend National Park. Surveys were distributed at key community locations such as the Terlingua Post Office and the Terlingua Ranch Lodge, ensuring widespread participation.

One of the driving forces behind the survey project, BBCA member Barbara Hines, revealed that approximately 70% of the responses came from full-time locals. Their requests included a wide range of services such as adult education classes, tutoring programs, and a food pantry, highlighting the community's diverse needs.

Among the envisioned amenities of the new library, Hines emphasized the importance of a private space for Zoom calls. While internet connectivity is available, connection speeds in the area can be slower compared to urban centers. Providing a reliable connection and a peaceful environment for telemedicine and court-related matters could unlock limitless possibilities.

The future library will be situated on BBCA-owned land adjacent to the school, inspiring members to envision a space that fosters community engagement. Ideas such as a community garden and a public park have gained popularity during brainstorming sessions.

Hines believes that this project will transform the area by not only providing a gathering place but also offering a haven for contemplation. Libraries, she asserts, offer an avenue for individuals to meet others without spending money and provide a tranquil space for introspection.

As an avid book lover, Hines recognizes the profound value of libraries in exposing people to new perspectives and ideas. She stresses the importance of having access to a diverse range of literature and views libraries as invaluable repositories of knowledge.

The next crucial step for the organization is to secure private donors who can help transform their dreams into reality. Hines recognizes the significance of this undertaking, stating, "We don't have a lot here in South County. I think having a library down here will be a great asset to the community."

Addressing the noise problem in America's fastest-growing sport

Pickleball, the nation's fastest-growing sport, has a noise problem that is causing a rift between players and neighbors. The distinctive pwock sound of plastic balls hitting paddles has become the soundtrack of summer, but for those living near courts, it's a constant annoyance. Bob Unetich, a retired engineer and professor, has taken up the challenge to tackle the noise issue. With his makeshift lab near Pittsburgh, he explores various aspects of pickleball to find solutions.

Pickleball is louder than expected, with racket-ball collisions reaching around 70 dBA, surpassing the noise level of a typical tennis match. The average noise level during pickleball games is approximately 59 dBA, accompanied by a high-pitched frequency of 1.2k Hz. Unetich humorously dubs this frequency "the most annoying of all frequencies."

Unetich's quest started in Florida when the noise from growing pickleball games disrupted his retirement plans. He experimented with absorbent fiberglass material to reduce the echoes of pwocks, which attracted the attention of other communities seeking noise reduction.

Recognizing the demand, Unetich founded Pickleball Sound Mitigation LLC, collaborating with acoustical engineers Barry Wyerman and Dale Van Scoyk. Together, they provide sound reports and propose noise standards for pickleball, gaining recognition from players and residents alike.

Unetich advises maintaining average sound levels emitted from courts to nearby homes at 50 dBA or lower. Suburban areas generally tolerate this level, while in noisier city settings, a 3 dBA limit above background noise is suggested. Achieving these targets involves careful planning, considering court placement and sound barriers.

Unetich also examines equipment noise, finding that softer plastic balls and thicker, softer-faced paddles significantly reduce sound levels. He aims to incentivize manufacturers to produce quieter equipment by collaborating with USA Pickleball to establish noise standards for recreational players.

As pickleball's popularity expands globally, Unetich raises concerns about noise issues in densely populated areas. He envisions a harmonious future, where pickleball brings enjoyment without disturbing neighborhoods.

Unetich's unwavering determination to bring tranquility to pickleball courts nationwide fuels the ongoing efforts to silence the pwock. With the anticipation of quieter equipment, we hope that pickleball's sound will become a source of joy for all, bridging the gap between players and neighbors.

Redefining Exploration: The Vast Open World of Zelda's Sequel

Nintendo has done it again with the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Following the groundbreaking success of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the pressure was on for Nintendo to deliver an even better sequel. And they did just that.

Tears of the Kingdom builds upon the original game's core philosophy of discovery and takes it to new heights. The world is more immersive than ever, with no shortage of surprises and challenges. Gone are the hand-holding mechanics that many gamers have come to expect. Instead, players are left to navigate a world that is unforgiving and demands their full attention.

The story picks up shortly after the events of Breath of the Wild, with Link and Zelda venturing into the depths of a dark tomb in search of answers. However, their exploration takes a turn for the worse when they awaken the reanimated Demon King Ganondorf, who wreaks havoc on the kingdom. The game sets a new tone of urgency, as players must race against time to save Zelda and restore order to the world.

One of the game's standout features is its expansive open world, which has undergone significant changes since the last installment. Towns are in ruins, and the emergence of islands in the sky has transformed the landscape. Players are now able to explore the world in three dimensions: the surface, the sky, and below ground. The map has tripled in size, offering endless opportunities for exploration.

In addition to the vast world, Tears of the Kingdom reintroduces traditional dungeons, which were absent in Breath of the Wild. These dungeons are more epic and challenging than ever before, providing players with unforgettable experiences. The game also introduces new companions for Link, who actively participate in the battles and add depth to the narrative.

Nintendo has not only expanded on the game's world and story but also enhanced its physics-based gameplay. Players are given even more tools and abilities to experiment with, allowing for creative problem-solving and endless possibilities. The game encourages players to think outside the box and rewards them for their ingenuity.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom is a masterpiece that exceeds expectations. It combines a captivating story, a sprawling open world, memorable characters, and innovative gameplay mechanics. Nintendo has once again set the bar high for the gaming industry.

European Union Agrees on €43 Billion Plan to Boost Semiconductor Industry and Start Green Industrial Revolution

In a bid to catch up with the United States and Asia and ignite a green industrial revolution, the European Union (EU) has finalized a €43 billion ($47 billion) plan for its semiconductor industry. The EU Chips Act, proposed by the European Commission and confirmed by Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, aims to double the bloc's global chip output share to 20% by 2030, following the footsteps of the U.S. CHIPS for America Act.

Industry players warmly welcomed the confirmation of the EU Chips Act, as it promises to bring manufacturing capabilities, skills, and advancements in research and development. The plan has already attracted over €100 billion in public and private investments since its introduction last year, according to an EU official.

Commission Vice-President Margrethe Vestager emphasized the significance of chips in powering digital and green transitions, as well as healthcare systems. However, analysts caution that the EU may face challenges in closing the gap with its competitors. Paul Triolo, a China and tech expert at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, highlights the importance of relocating supply chains and the associated costs as crucial factors for the EU's success in the industry.

Originally proposed to fund cutting-edge chip plants only, the scope of the plan has been expanded by EU governments and lawmakers to encompass the entire value chain, including older chips and research and design facilities. Hendrik Bourgeois, VP European Government Affairs at U.S. chipmaker Intel, expressed approval of the deal, viewing it as a testament to the EU's commitment to securing its future prosperity. The EU's ambitious endeavor to boost its semiconductor industry and usher in a green revolution holds significant implications for its economic and technological standing in the global arena.

Lord of the Rings Box Set

J.R.R. Tolkien

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The Art of War

Sun Tzu

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Conor McGregor's Unexpected Role in NBA Finals Skit Leaves Heat Mascot Injured

The NBA Finals took an unexpected turn in Game 4 as the Miami Heat faced a devastating loss against the Denver Nuggets. But the real casualty of the night was none other than Burnie, the Heat's beloved mascot. In a bizarre skit featuring Conor McGregor and his pain-relieving spray, Burnie found himself on the receiving end of some unintended blows.

Sporting a comically oversized pair of boxing gloves, Burnie bravely challenged the former UFC champion. McGregor, known for his explosive punches, delivered a swift knockout to the mascot's costumed head. And if that wasn't enough, McGregor followed up with another punch while Burnie was down on the floor. To add insult to injury, he sprayed the pain-relieving spray on the hapless mascot.

This unexpected turn of events left Heat staffers scrambling to come to Burnie's aid. Sources close to the situation have revealed that while fighters have participated in similar skits before, this is the first time an actor playing Burnie has been injured. However, there is some good news. According to reports, Burnie's actor received medical attention at the hospital, was given pain medication, and has since been released. Thankfully, he is now doing well.

As for McGregor, he remained at the game throughout, fully immersed in the NBA Finals atmosphere. Since his last UFC bout, which ended in a loss to Dustin Poirier in July 2021, McGregor has been contemplating his next move. Rumors are swirling that he may face Michael Chandler later this year, eager to make a triumphant return to the octagon.

But what does Burnie's knockout mean for the Heat? Will it be a metaphorical sign of their ultimate fate in the NBA Finals? Only time will tell as the series heads back to Denver for Game 5. The Nuggets now have the opportunity to clinch their first NBA Finals title on their home court. The stage is set, the tension is high, and the fate of the series hangs in the balance.

Astrologers Shed Light on Quaoar's Astonishing Ring system

In a remarkable celestial discovery, astronomers have uncovered a hidden secret encircling the dwarf planet Quaoar. Move over Saturn, because Quaoar has joined the ringed celestial club, and it's rewriting the rules of ring formations in our Solar System.

First discovered in 2002 by astronomers Michael Brown and Chadwick Trujillo, Quaoar resides in the icy outskirts of our cosmic neighborhood, known as the Kuiper Belt. This mysterious world orbits at a staggering distance of 45.1-45.6 astronomical units from the Sun, taking a leisurely 284.5 years to complete a full revolution.

However, the recent revelations surrounding Quaoar have left scientists in awe. Researchers, led by Chrystian Luciano Pereira, a Ph.D. student at Brazil''s Observatório Nacional, observed stellar occultations to study the planet''s newfound ring system.

To their surprise, not only did they confirm the existence of Quaoar''s initial ring, dubbed Q1R, but they also stumbled upon an unexpected second ring, aptly named Q2R. Unlike the rings seen around other celestial bodies, Quaoar''s rings exist beyond the traditional boundary known as the Roche limit, where gravity would typically cause them to coalesce into solid objects or disintegrate into particles.

The formation and stability of these rings continue to puzzle scientists. Speculations point to a potential connection between Quaoar''s rotation speed and the orbital speeds of the rings, much like what has been observed with Chariklo and Haumea. Additionally, Q1R displays intriguing variations in width and opacity, featuring dense and opaque regions alongside wider, less opaque areas.

One possible explanation for these unique characteristics lies in the gravitational influence of Quaoar''s moon, Weywot, which orbits at a distance of 24 Quaoar radii. By analyzing the interplay between these elements, astronomers hope to gain deeper insights into the formation and evolution of our Solar System.

This groundbreaking discovery challenges long-held assumptions and prompts a reconsideration of the classical Roche limit theory for smaller planetary bodies. As Chrystian Luciano Pereira suggests, "A better understanding of this process would help us better understand the formation and evolution of our Solar System."

While the secrets of Quaoar''s rings remain shrouded in cosmic mysteries, scientists are excited to continue unraveling the enigma surrounding this remarkable dwarf planet. With each new finding, our knowledge of the universe expands, reminding us of the boundless wonders that await us beyond Earth''s atmosphere.

The study disclosing these extraordinary findings has been published in the esteemed journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, capturing the attention and imagination of stargazers and astronomers worldwide.

Private Equity's Clock is Ticking, Warns Verdad Advisers

In a recent report by Verdad Advisers, the health of private companies owned by private equity and venture capital firms has raised concerns due to rising debt costs, compressed margins, and negative cash flow. Verdad Advisers' founder, Dan Rasmussen, describes the situation as "pretty scary," noting the deterioration in the margin, debt, and valuation landscape.

The report examines a subset of companies owned by private equity and venture capital firms that are publicly listed or have issued public debt. These companies exhibit characteristics such as sponsor ownership of at least 30 percent, going public since 2018, and being headquartered in North America. Among the 350 companies analyzed, with a combined market cap of $385 billion, around 40 percent were technology companies.

Verdad's analysis reveals that these companies trade at a significant premium to public markets on a GAAP basis. However, they require substantial pro-forma adjustments to achieve comparability. This subset of companies eligible for going public skews towards the higher end of successful outcomes, but their underlying financials paint a different picture.

While the analyzed companies have stronger sales compared to S&P 500 companies, their EBITDA margins have been notably lower, with significant margin compression over the past few years. The research also highlights that 55 percent of the private equity-backed firms had negative free cash flow in the previous year, and 67 percent accumulated additional debt over the past 12 months.

The report indicates that the median leverage for companies with net debt stands at 8.8, corresponding to a Triple-C credit rating, significantly higher than the median leverage for S&P 500 companies at 1.7. Interest costs devour a substantial portion of EBITDA for private equity and venture capital firms, with 43 percent going towards interest payments, compared to 7 percent for S&P 500 companies.

The increase in debt levels, coupled with potentially inevitable multiple compression on exit, poses challenges for these companies. Rasmussen and Verdad Advisers suggest that the companies analyzed are likely among the best offerings from private equity. Despite these concerns, private equity remains a favored asset class for sophisticated investors, with some endowments and family offices approaching a 40 percent allocation.

As private equity's popularity has been fueled by strong trailing returns, low volatility, and a tech-focused approach, the landscape is evolving. Rasmussen points out that valuations have soared due to the influx of capital, particularly through sponsor-to-sponsor deals. However, the current situation suggests that adjustments are necessary.

The Verdad Advisers report underscores the financial challenges faced by private companies in private equity and venture capital, serving as a reminder of the evolving dynamics within this asset class.

Salvador Dalí's Illusory Legacy in the Battle Against Counterfeit Art

In the realm of art, the battle against counterfeit masterpieces rages on. Recently, a client from Alabama sought the expertise of Bernard Ewell to appraise a work purportedly by the renowned surrealist Salvador Dalí. The artwork in question, titled "Lincoln in Dalívision," featured a mosaic print of Dalí's wife, Gala, cleverly resembling the face of Abraham Lincoln when viewed from a distance. Unfortunately, Ewell revealed the bitter truth: the print was nothing but a fake, created as part of a series produced by two brothers from Alabama. Even the signature was a fabrication.

This incident is just one example of the ongoing predicament faced by collectors and appraisers alike in the world of Dalí art. Despite Dalí's passing over three decades ago, the prevalence of fake reproductions continues to plague the market. During the 1980s art investment boom, countless counterfeit Dalí artworks flooded circulation, resulting in fraudulent sales amounting to millions, if not billions, of dollars.

The consequences of this fraud were severe. Unscrupulous dealers and gallery owners faced legal repercussions, the value of authentic Dalí works plummeted, and unsuspecting art collectors discovered the worthlessness of their prized possessions.

Dalí's popularity and prolific output made him an attractive target for counterfeiters. His recognizable persona and extensive body of work, including prints, lithographs, and etchings, provided ample opportunities for the fabrication and sale of fake reproductions. Dalí's inner circle, including his wife Gala, even capitalized on the growing demand by producing prints bearing Dalí's signature.

Authenticating Dalí artworks became a daunting task due to the limited nature of prints and Dalí's inconsistent approach to signing them. The lack of expertise among sellers, coupled with the trust placed in certificates of authenticity and Dalí's signature, allowed the fraudulent sales to persist. Even reputable institutions like Christie's refrained from selling Dalí limited-edition prints due to doubts surrounding their authenticity.

However, amidst the chaos, appraiser Bernard Ewell emerged as a beacon of hope. Through meticulous study of texture, ink, and watermarks on Dalí prints, he became adept at identifying fakes. Ewell's expertise played a crucial role in the prosecution of fraudulent sellers, including the conviction of William Mett, who sold millions of dollars' worth of fake Dalí artworks.

Nevertheless, the market remains ensnared in uncertainty, with genuine Dalí prints suffering a decline in value due to the prevalence of fakes. Collectors and experts must remain vigilant in their quest for authentic works from the surrealist master.

In this ongoing battle against counterfeits, the legacy of Salvador Dalí lives on, tangled in a web of deception, as art enthusiasts navigate the treacherous terrain in pursuit of true artistic treasures.

People Help Each Other Every Couple of Minutes, Study Finds

A groundbreaking study conducted by an international team of researchers from prestigious institutions including UCLA, Australia, Ecuador, Germany, the Netherlands, and the U.K. has shed light on the remarkable human capacity for cooperation. Led by UCLA sociologist Giovanni Rossi, the study, published in Scientific Reports, reveals that people across cultures rely on each other for assistance on a constant basis.

The researchers delved into behaviors observed in towns and rural areas in various countries, aiming to understand how people signal their need for help and how others respond. Astonishingly, the study found that individuals worldwide make small requests for assistance approximately every couple of minutes. Even more striking, people overwhelmingly comply with these requests rather than decline them.

The research team analyzed over 40 hours of video recordings capturing everyday life situations involving more than 350 individuals from diverse geographical, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds. The study examined moments when one person indicated a need for help, whether through direct verbal requests or visible struggles with a task, and another person responded.

Out of more than 1,000 requests analyzed, occurring at an average frequency of once every two minutes, compliance prevailed over rejection or ignorance. People complied with small requests a remarkable seven times more often than they declined them, with rejection occurring only 10% of the time and ignorance 11%. These figures indicate that individuals are far more likely to provide assistance unconditionally than to refuse it.

Significantly, the preference for compliance transcended cultural differences and remained consistent whether the interaction involved family or non-family members. Furthermore, while individuals sometimes helped without providing an explanation, when declining assistance, they offered explicit reasons 74% of the time.

These findings challenge prior research that emphasized cultural variations in rules and norms governing cooperation. Previous anthropological and economic studies often highlighted disparities in sharing practices and motivations among different communities. However, this study suggests that, at the micro level of social interaction, the human inclination to help when needed becomes universally visible, surpassing cultural distinctions.

"Cultural differences have long been a puzzle in understanding cooperation and helping among humans. Are our decisions shaped by the culture we grow up with, or are humans inherently generous and giving?" questioned Rossi, the paper's lead author.

The study's results indicate that being helpful is an ingrained reflex within the human species. While cultural variations play a role in special occasions and high-cost exchanges, such as sharing the spoils of a whale hunt or contributing to large-scale projects, the tendency to give help when needed emerges as a universal trait.

N. J. Enfield, the paper's corresponding author and a linguist at the University of Sydney, remarked, "Our findings challenge existing research, suggesting that a cross-cultural preference for compliance with small requests is not explained by resource-sharing and cooperation studies. This indicates that local norms, values, and adaptations to the environment do not significantly impact the universal tendency to provide assistance."

This groundbreaking study offers new insights into the cooperative nature of humanity, highlighting the underlying similarities in people's behaviors across diverse cultures. It reaffirms the fundamental human inclination to help one another, a testament to our shared capacity for global cooperation.

The Iliad & the Odyssey

Homer

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Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

David Grann

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