Posted at 9:24 AM on January 15, 2008
by Bob Collins
Come on, Delta, one leak. That's all we need: one little leak from your board of directors meeting last week at which, it was reported, you were to decide whether you were going to try to gobble up Northwest Airlines or United Airlines.
This morning, we got it, apparently. The answer is ... both.
Of the two other airlines, Northwest, based in Eagan, Minn., is considered the more likely of the two partners, according to people involved in the matter. Mr. Anderson is the former chief executive of Northwest and remains close to Douglas M. Steenland, his successor there. Tammy Lee, a spokeswoman for Northwest, declined to comment.
Great. So now we've got two major negotiations going on that play one party against the other. The Twins are still shopping Johan Santana to either the Red Sox or Yankees. In both, the smart money seems to be on Minnesota losing.
If Northwest leaves, the Minnesota economy may take a hit, according to a story today from Minnesota Public Radio's Annie Baxter. But it's our psyche that may be damaged if we lose another corporate headquarters. The possibility of that seems real, despite a deal between the Metropolitan Airports Commission and Northwest to maintain a headquarters here. That, according to the story, is an unenforceable deal.
Last year, the MAC sharpened the language of its agreement with Northwest, stipulating that Northwest's senior management be located here in order to satisfy the company's promise to be headquartered in Minnesota.
But MAC and state officials say the agreement cannot force Northwest to keep a headquarters here. So, Governor Pawlenty set up a team just last week to look at issues like the cost of Northwest leaving.
Wells Fargo moved its headquarters to San Francisco a few years ago when Norwest Bank merged (maybe there's hope for a name change. There's still a norwest.com). State officials here note, however, that Wells Fargo has more employees here than in San Francisco. But so what? Norwest was ours, now it's theirs.
When The St. Paul Companies merged with Travelers Insurance in 2004, the headquarters stayed here as the St. Paul Travelers Company. Then, the company dropped St. Paul from the name and we got to understand how Mr. Roebuck felt.
As much as we fret about Northwest, other cities have even more to lose. It's expected that Minneapolis will remain a hub for "Norlta" or "Delwest." But they've resigned themselves to doom in Memphis. And out in Salt Lake City, they're rooting for Northwest to be Delta's choice. "If it's United, your hub is toast," one analyst is telling a Salt Lake City newspaper.
The legion of Mac followers camped out (funny blog from last year's campout here) in chilly San Francisco overnight last night, in advance of today's super secret speech by Apple boss Steve Jobs at Macworld. It's occasions like this that Jobs announces spiffy new gadgets, as he did with iPhone. Predictions this year include some sort of video service and a super-light Mac laptop.
11:06 a update - Twitter server goes belly up. I like to think I had something to do with it. How do you like them apples, Jobs!
11:30 a update - The server is back up.
11:31 a update - Down again. I think we can fairly conclude that Twitter is a lousy news platform. Rest easy, mainstream media.
12:19 p update As mentioned above, the announcement is video rental on iTunes, refinements to iPhone, and a slim laptop. Jon's got it on his Twitter page (which is back up). Get it while you can.
Jon also reports the HD version of movies will cost more. And that brings up a subject that nobody seems to be talking about as we go to mandatory HDTV. Why does it have to cost more?
We're being forced by government edict to buy only HDTVs. The cable company charges more for HD service. Movies cost more to rent. Why?
When analog "goes away," will they lower the price? They say TVs are going to come down in price. When?(2 Comments)
Posted at 12:46 PM on January 15, 2008
by Bob Collins
The National Transportation Safety Board today said the gusset plates -- steel plates that attach several different components -- were responsible for the collapse of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis last August. Read the full report here (pdf). That pretty much confirms what many of the media reports said -- reports the NTSB dampened -- in the aftermath of the bridge tragedy.
But here's the thing: the bridge was built as it was designed. The problem is the design was flawed and the NTSB investigator said there are over 400 bridges across the United States designed the same way.
That's bound to get the attention of transportation officials all across the country (perhaps even around the world), many of whom adopted a "it can't happen here" attitude in the wake of the bridge collapse, even when gusset plates were first mentioned as a possible cause.
"The issue is underdesign," said NTSB chair Mark Rosenker, who wants states to recalculate the design of similar bridges.
"We've never seen anything like this, nor anticipated anything like this," he said. "Gusset plates are usually the most robust parts of a bridge... Why didn't we find it 10 years ago? No one in the hundreds of years of bridge design had found that a gusset plate that was underdesigned and thereby caused a collapse. It was not something people recognized as a weak point."
"We do not believe it's a systemic problem in the United States with regard to bridges, but we feel it's critical we share it with the industry so that we can guarantee there isn't something we don't know about."
Still unknown, however, is what was "the straw that broke the camel's back," Rosenker said. "What was different on August 1st." They think they know what gusset plate failed first, triggering the collapse. They just don't yet know why.
The revelation counters all attempts by the NTSB to dampen focus on the gusset plates when it first sprouted as a possible cause a week after the collapse. At the time, an NTSB spokesman called media reports "overblown.", and going so far as to say the plates were not a problem.
The company that designed the bridge was Sverdup & Parcel.
For his part, Gov. Tim Pawlenty used the occasion to launch a broadside against political opponents and reporters:
“Since the bridge collapse, I have encouraged politicians and members of the media not to make judgments about the cause of the collapse until the NTSB investigation is complete. Unfortunately, my suggestion was not widely followed.
“Some individuals have leapt to premature conclusions. The NTSB clearly stated today the original design flaw was unrelated to subsequent inspections or maintenance of the bridge.
“Again, while the NTSB investigation is not complete, the focus of the investigation appears headed in a direction different than many of the political claims that have been made. It is our hope that at least now people will reserve further judgment until the investigation is complete and that we strive to address these matters in a fair, factual and non-political manner."
MPR's Sea Stachura will have reports tonight on All Things Considered and tomorrow morning on Morning Edition.
Update 3:53 p.m. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters has now sent an advisory to transportation officials in other states.
Now we know why they call it a "waiting room."
A study from Harvard today finds that the length of time one has to wait in an emergency room is increasing. The study found waiting times in ERs increased 36 percent for all patients from 1997 to 2004, which translates to an average of 30 minutes per patient. But as many as a quarter of heart attack patients had to wait 50 minutes or longer.
Are emergency rooms at the breaking point? Many hospitals are closing their emergency rooms. The ones that are opened are said to be understaffed and overwhelmed. And with cutbacks in -- in Minnesota's case -- subsidized health care plans, politicians and others have warned that people without coverage will show up in ERs. Has that happened? Spokespersons for two of the largest ERs in Minnesota -- Regions Hospital in St. Paul and Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis -- did not return my phone calls on Tuesday.
Have you had an emergency room experience lately? Feel like sharing?(3 Comments)
Posted at 3:57 PM on January 15, 2008
by Bob Collins
The online site for Editor & Publisher magazine has a lot of love today for Jeff Cagle, a reporter for the Owatonna People's Press, who wrote a series of articles about Ava Cowell. She had less than a year to live without a liver transplant. She got the liver earlier this month, and Cagle wrote a very touching piece on the donor last week.
"The nicest compliment I ever received, and both of the families said this, they’re saying I’m the one who saved Ava’s life,” Cagle told Editor & Publisher. “I don’t think of journalists with that kind of title. I usually think of lifesavers as firefighters and doctors and nurses, never journalists. But when you hear that, it makes you feel really good.”