Monthly Archives: March 2014

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Lost Plane at Sea?

In March, a plane took off that was eventually lost in the ocean. The plane had extra fuel, the most sophisticated navigation equipment with triple redundancy, flight plans and contingency flight plans. There were communication points established along the way. All of the communication points were made until the plane was lost, believed to have crashed in the ocean. Shortly after the plane disappeared, extensive search ensued, but to date, no debris has been found. What happened? Will we ever know?

The above paragraph was written about Amelia Earhart. Her plane went missing almost 77 years ago on her attempted around the world flight.

Today, like 77 years ago, we are missing a plane; the Malaysia Jet MH 370 has disappeared. it’s kind of an eerie circumstance, don’t you think?

The Malaysia Jet was a Boeing 777, which according to all of the talking heads, is one of the safest and easiest to fly, containing a redundancy of all technologies. It took off on time on March 8th, carrying 239 passengers and a crew of ten. Their flight plan called for them to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, which should take just under six hours.

There were several check-in points along the route, all of which were met until after passing over Thailand and crossing out into the South China Sea, when something changed. From there, the puzzle began to develop, starting with the Malaysian Government. On the first day, they couldn’t or wouldn’t even confirm what time the plan went missing.

As of this date, there are very few pieces of evidence that help us build the story of what happened. Now, almost three weeks later, the inconsistencies continue to mount, which no one can begin to explain. I think this passage of time alone almost eliminates all possibilities of hi-jacking or terrorism. (Not completely, perhaps, but most likely.) Terrorists normally want a big show, but there has been no big show, yet!

We have been told that the jet operated for seven hours after the last communication point, and the jet went off its designated track. Frankly, the exact direction the plane traveled during those seven hours is unknown. Silhouette fedora

As we delve into the mystery, let’s start in the cockpit; it would have been occupied with the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer. Yet, researchers have focused only on the pilot, who was reported to have some personal issues. But for him to turn off two transponders, plus one below the flight deck, would likely imply he had some assistance. Did that assistance come from the other occupants of the flight deck? During the seven hour unmonitored portion of the flight, was only one deck officer involved, and were either or both of the others subdued? This doesn’t make sense. I have also heard that the pilot was suicidal. If so, are we to believe he subdued the crew, then took a joyride over the ocean for seven hours, and then flew it into the water? Hmmm?

Now, somehow they didn’t know where the jet was located, but yet they know the jet reached a flight altitude of 45,000 feet, which could have caused the pressurized cabin to fail and could have impacted the oxygen system, thus taking out the passengers, whether permanently or temporarily. Do you find it weird, as I do, that they knew the flight altitude, but not the flight path? It also has been reported that the jet eventually dropped down to 5,000 feet, in essence to fly below radar detection. Again, how can they know that, without knowing where it was? Come on.

Now let’s focus on the route the jet took. At first, it successfully passed the scheduled waypoints along the route. Then came the story that the flight plan was altered just before or shortly after take-off. How did they know that? Just after crossing over Thailand, out over the South China Sea about two hours into the flight, the jet went off in a different direction. Climbed up, then dropped down, then—presto magic!—it disappeared!

Now let’s get back to the Malaysian Government’s report. After the jet was in the air and disappeared, they reviewed the manifest of passengers, and it was discovered that two Iranians, who paid cash for their tickets, were on that flight using stolen passports. Reports came out that this is not unusual in Asia or other third-world countries, as a large number of passports aren’t checked. And by the way, they then discovered then that these passports were stolen and had been illegally used. Crack detective work!

Now, here is where the story gets even stranger. Didn’t countries have satellites that could provide information on the flight path? Haven’t we been told that the CIA has satellites that can read license plates on cars, which are clearly smaller than a jet? Then it was reported that there were no satellites covering the Indian Ocean, along one of the speculated flight paths. Hmmm, I thought there were satellites covering the entire earth. I’ll bet Al Queda loved hearing this little tidbit.

Let’s review another fact: we have been told the jet flew for seven hours after the transponders were turned off. I wondered then, how did they know that? Well, about seven days after the jet disappeared, it was reported that when these jets are constructed, Boeing places monitors on the engines that provided data as long as the jets’ engines are in operation, but the Malaysians didn’t purchase that feature when they purchased their Boeing 777s. But it took Boeing seven days to provide reporters that data? Were they all on vacation and when they came back, somebody walked into that room and said, “Hey look what I just found? Who knew?”

Let’s look back for a minute at the fact that there were 239 passengers and now seven other members of the flight crew that flew seven hours off course. What happened to them? No one attempted any phone calls during that time? Yet, four days after the jet disappeared, it was reported that the cell phones indicated they were still working. Has anybody dropped their phone in the water? Does it work? I personally know the answer; it’s a big fat no!

So by the second week following the disappearance, a number of countries were providing search equipment, including the Chinese, as China is the residence of most of the passengers. And just then, the Malaysian Government announced that there were some valuable items on the jet, including, but not limited to, a large quantity of lithium batteries. Hey, it might have been nice to know that earlier, but hey, these guys sent text messages to the families that their relatives were dead. That is very touching, don’t you think? Who said they are a third-world country?  Talk about utilizing modern technology!

By now, the speculations include alien spacecraft, black holes and the jet being hidden in a hanger in Pakistan. If I have one guess, I’ll guess that it is not in Pakistan. The US Government has satellites and so many drones in the air over that country that we almost have to have traffic controllers watching them. So the odds are you that you could never sneak a jet in there.

Finally this week, I heard that a French satellite found 122 items in the water that could be from where the jet crashed in the water. The French found it, but the US and China didn’t? Am I the only one who finds this strange?

What are your thoughts and opinions of what happened to the missing Malaysia Jet MH 370? Let’s discuss!

 

The Vietnam Conflict

I became draft eligible at the end of the Vietnam Conflict. During the last years of the draft, I was in college. The US Draft Board was running lotteries for selection, based on date of birth. And to use a sports acronym, I just barely squeaked into the top twenty, thus I had an immediate 1-A. In just over a week, I received my notice to report for my physical. I was running on the college track team, so I was certain to pass. I was torn by my future decision. Enlisting would mean committing four years of my life, but it would put me in the service of choice, versus two years of assignment to a random branch of service.

My father said, “You could end up chest-deep in a rice paddy, holding your gun over your head, while bullets are zinging past.” Obviously, my father wanted me to continue in his footsteps, entering the US Air Force. You see, when my father was seventeen, he enlisted in the US Air Force shortly after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

I took a lot of time and thought hard about the decision. I did not rush my choice. Just over a week before I was to report for my physical, President Nixon called an end to the draft. I can tell you that at that point, I still had not decided whether to enlist.

About two years ago, I decided to write a book, or a series of books, on the Vietnam Conflict. Why? Well, I lived it from the beginning to end. The year of my birth, 1954, was the beginning of Vietnam, and it ended while I was in college. When I was about nine years old, a friend of our family had a son killed in Vietnam. I remember sitting in their home with them, but—typical of a ten year old—it had no impact on me then. 

When I was in junior high, the youth of America quickly began to turn against the Vietnam Conflict, but again, I really didn’t understand. Richard Nixon was elected President as I was entering high school, but the war was still too far off to impact me, even when they talked about doing away with college deferments. During the time, the momentum grew against the conflict, and President Nixon discussed ending it. I noticed that, as our soldiers came home, I felt they were not treated properly. And sadly, the silent majority of people sat silent as to how these soldiers were treated. Now, please understand that I am aware there was a great misunderstanding of the two peoples; the Vietnamese people did not understand the American soldier, and many of the American soldiers disrespected the Vietnamese people.

Why, then, did all this hit me so hard two years ago? The Vietnam Wall came to my hometown of Parkersburg, WV. I couldn’t wait to see it. Plus, I wanted to find the name of the friend-of-the-family’s son. I wanted to know why and how he died. Talk about a fateful moment . . . when I asked the men in the tent where I could find his name, a lady who sat writing down names looked up at me and said, “I wanted to marry him!” How startling! That statement alone humanized the book project for me.

I wanted to write a book shedding positive light on the American soldiers in an attempt to honor these men who served over there. These men who were chest-deep in a rice paddy with a gun over their head as the bullets whizzed by. Plus, I wanted to show how the American public changed during the course of the Vietnam Conflict. After extensive research, I decided that the best place to start was at the first point of the conflict—the coup of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. This event had tentacles that were entwined around the entire fabric of the conflict.Silhouette fedora

What are your experiences with and perceptions of the Vietnam Conflict? If you are younger, or if you remained stateside, has any revelation regarding our soldiers surprised you, as I was startled by that woman’s statement? I would love to hear from you! Where do you think the Vietnam Conflict first started, and why?

Little Boy Versus the Pharmaceutical Company Chimerix

This post might be better titled “David Versus Goliath, Part 2.” In case you haven’t heard, there is a little boy named Josh Hardy who lays dying at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Josh is seven years old, and in his very short lifespan has had four bouts with cancer, plus heart failure. Recently, he received a bone marrow transplant. Apparently during a routine examination in November 2013, it was discovered Josh had a bone marrow disorder of some kind—a result of earlier cancer treatments.

Before a bone marrow transplant, doctors basically lower your system, taking it down as low as they possible can without killing you, so that the new bone marrow won’t be attacked by your healthy immune system. Well, Josh developed a virus called adenovirus, something any healthy immune system would fight off, but Josh’s could not.Silhouette fedora

Tuesday morning I was sipping coffee and reading the sports section, when my wife got real emotional about something she saw on a morning news program. This just caused me to pull up the paper to hide and ignore the news program, of course, and I mumbled something under my breath that I care not to put in writing. She knows it kills me to see anything about children getting sick, so I prefer to shut it out or leave the room. Today, I wasn’t finished reading the sports scores, so I just ducked down and tried to shut it out, until she said, ”Look at that picture. He looks like a little boy we might have had.”

So I took the bait. I looked up, just as they were showing Josh in a baseball hat. I was hooked, struggling not to become emotional, but trapped in the story, just the same.

Now, the mother’s version of the story is that a drug company named Chimerix produces a drug called Brincidofovir that could likely save the little boy’s life. However, Chimerix was not willing to provide the medicine. Both the Mother and a news reporter had talked to the CEO of Chimerix, but they claimed they had donated too much of this drug and were concerned about future ramification; i.e., profits.

Naturally, I started to do a little research. I could not verify all of this, since I am guessing the CEO would not take a call from me, but later I found out that a charitable foundation called the Chimerix CEO and offered to donate a large sum of money to pay for this drug. They stood their ground. No drug!

Now don’t get me wrong; I support pharmaceutical companies that make great products—lifesaving, life-altering, life-sustaining products, and I understand they have to make a profit to do this. We have some of the best chemists, best doctors, and best visionaries who come up with these drugs, and these individuals don’t work cheap, nor should they. Lord knows, I have seen their work up close and personal in my wife’s own life, as she suffers from MS. So I was trying to stay neutral, until I found that the US government purportedly gave Chimerix over $72 million to develop the drug! With that fact, I took sides!

Get that drug to Josh, before it’s too late!

With this being a national story, it could be a great PR move for Chimerix, so there is really nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Well, this morning, back in my usual position with sports section in hand, trusted coffee cup on one side, my wife on the other, I heard that Chimerix agreed to get Josh the drug. I guess the outrage and the campaign that had picked up so much steam in the last 36 hours turned out to be the stone from David’s slingshot that fell the giant Goliath or Chimerix, after all.

Now all we can do is pray the drug will be administered in time.

This Day in History – March 5, 1953 – The Death of Joseph Stalin

Today, March 5th in 1953 marks the 60th anniversary of the death of Joseph Stalin ending the reign of one of the most brutal butchers of the twentieth century.  He was the General Secretary of the Soviet Union and was the uneasy, untrusting ally of the United States and Great Britain during World War II.As soon as the war was over, he became the first face of the United States’ arch enemy in the Cold War.  Literally, tens of millions of common people and hundreds of political leaders from the Soviet Union died as a result of Stalin’s direct orders.

Stalin’s rise to power was as brutal as his rule. He had tentacles everywhere providing him information, including Lenin’s private office, where Stalin’s wife worked. In early 1923, Lenin believed Stalin was too rude and would not be tactful enough to handle the power that comes with the position of General Secretary. Lenin went so far as to write this.

As Lenin’s health failed, due to complications from a failed assassination attempt, Stalin would become his messenger. Also, with Lenin ailing, Stalin knew he would have to move and move quickly to seize power. Stalin set out to create conflict within the party and remove potential contenders.  At Lenin’s funeral, Stalin stated, “Leaving us, comrade Lenin left us a legacy of fidelity to the principles of the Communist International. We swear to you, comrade Lenin, that we will not spare our own lives in strengthening and broadening the union of laboring people of the whole world – the Communist International” (Simkin).  Stalin believed that he could present Lenin to the world as the “new Jesus Christ” and communism would soon displace Christianity (Simkin).

Following Lenin’s death, Stalin continued to divide and conquer within the Politburo, always finding allies and alienating enemies. Once his new allies would start working with him, he would have his enemies either sent to Siberia or killed. His internal power within the Communist Party came out of fear more than respect.

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Stalin’s rule came at a heavy price to the Russian people. Most of them had little to eat and many would starve to death during the harsh Russian winters. All this was done during the early 1930s when the world’s economy was so bad that there were no countries to offer help. This didn’t slow down Stalin at all, next he turned his attention to purge the Red Army of his detractors, based on his belief that the army was planning a military coup. By the time he was finished, an estimated 30,000 military personnel were executed. Lastly, Stalin turned against his own secret service, the NKVD.

As Stalin was finishing off the so-called “fascist elements” (Simkin) with his secret service, and he felt he had cleaned up his own backyard, he turned his focus on Hitler’s potential movements in Europe. Stalin wanted to build an alliance with other European countries, believing Hitler would not attack a united Europe. First, he reached out to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who didn’t trust or like the communist dictator Stalin. When the British rejected him, the paranoid Stalin believed that the British were encouraging Germany to attack east (Russia), rather than west (France and Great Britain). While Chamberlain has long been vilified for his opinion of Hitler, he was spot on with his evaluation of Stalin. Surprisingly, Churchill, who opposed Chamberlain’s position on Hitler, wished to form the alliance with Russia, despite the fact that Churchill disliked and did not trust Stalin.

Once Hitler started his quest through Europe, Stalin believed that Germany would not attack the Soviet Union until they had conquered both France and Britain. However, Stalin had one other move to get his union with the Allies; he would form an alliance with United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This would put him into an alliance with Great Britain. And so it was. Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt would form an uneasy alliance for the next five years. Roosevelt and Churchill would turn a blind eye to the atrocities carried out by their ally Stalin, while in the same breath condemn those of Hitler. All three allies spied on each other throughout the war. Currently, I am writing a book about the Soviet’s spying on the United States.

One of the factors in the United States’ decision to drop the atomic bombs on Japan was not only to end the Pacific War, but to keep Stalin from taking over China and other countries in Asia. This was an ironic thought process, considering their division of Europe among the Soviets, the French and the British, and the Americans basically handed the Soviet Union to Eastern Europe to rule. The Soviet Union believed that if the United States was the only one with nuclear weapons, they would be at great risk. Stalin knew the Soviet Union must possess the atomic bomb, if he was to have any chance of advancing communism around the World. Stalin acquired the bomb through abduction of scientists and spies in the United States and Great Britain.

All this happened sixty years ago today. Today’s American headlines again discuss the threat of a Russian show of force using nuclear weapons. Do we see any similarities today between Stalin’s actions and those of Putin in the Ukraine?

 

WORK CITED

Simkin, John. “Joseph Stalin.” Spartus Educational. N.p ., Web. 5 Mar. 2014.