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Amtrak train that derailed was going just under speed limit

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Amtrak train that derailed was going just under speed limit

JOPLIN, Mont. (AP) — An Amtrak train that derailed in rural Montana over the weekend was going just under the speed limit at about 75 mph (121 kph) when it went off the track along a gradual curve, killing three people and possibly ejecting passengers, federal investigators said Monday.

ABC7 reports family members identified him as Zach Schneider from Fairview Heights, Illinois, just over the border from St. Louis.

Investigators do not know the cause of the accident, but they are studying video from the train and another locomotive that went over the same track a little over an hour earlier, National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said.

“We have experts that are studying the camera footage frame by frame to make sure that we see exactly what the engineer saw — or maybe didn’t see,” Landsberg said.

The train derailed before a switch in the line, where one set of tracks turned into two, on a stretch of track that had been inspected just two days before, he said.

The westbound Empire Builder was traveling from Chicago to Seattle when it left the tracks Saturday afternoon near Joplin, a town of about 200. The train, carrying 141 passengers and 16 crew members, had two locomotives and 10 cars, eight of which derailed, with some tipping onto their sides.

When asked about wooden ties that were seen along the side of the tracks, and whether there was recent maintenance on that section, Landsberg did not answer directly.

“That will be one of the questions that we look at,” he said. “Maintenance will be a really big concern for us. We don’t know, at this point, exactly what happened, whether it was a track issue, whether it was a mechanical issue with the train. So all of these things are open.”

He said a preliminary report on the derailment is expected within 30 days.

Investigators will look at “everything,” including the switch, wheels, axles and suspension systems, as well as the track geometry and condition, including any cracks, said Steven Ditmeyer, a rail consultant and former senior official at the Federal Railroad Administration. He said a switch like the one in Joplin would be controlled by the BNSF control center in Fort Worth, Texas.

Sometimes rail lines can become deformed by heat, creating buckles in the tracks known as sun kinks, Ditmeyer said. That was the cause of a derailment in northern Montana in August 1988, when an Empire Builder train veered off the tracks about 170 miles (274 kilometers) east in Saco, Montana.

The NTSB concluded that an inspection failed to catch a problem in the track, and officials did not warn trains to slow down on that stretch. The crew saw the track had shifted, but the train was going full speed and could not stop before derailing.

Temperatures were in the high 80s Saturday near Joplin, according to the National Weather Service.

Russ Quimby, a former rail-accident investigator for the NTSB, said heat is the most likely explanation. He is convinced because the locomotives in front did not derail, but eight lighter coach cars behind them did.

“This has all the earmarks of a track buckle also,” Quimby said. “Sometimes a locomotive, which is heavier, will make it through” a buckled track, “but the cars following won’t. You saw that in this accident,” he said.

A malfunction of the switch seems less likely, Quimby said, because the switch would have been inspected when the track was checked last week.

Another possibility was a defect in the rail, said railroad safety expert David Clarke, director of the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Tennessee. He noted that regular testing does not always catch such problems.

Speed was not a likely factor because trains on that line have systems that prevent excessive speeds and collisions, which appear to have worked in this case, Clarke said.

“Did the switch play some role? It might have been that the front of the train hit the switch and it started fish-tailing and that flipped the back part of the train,” Clarke said.

The site of the derailment is about 150 miles (241 kilometers) northeast of Helena, Montana, and about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the Canadian border. The tracks cut through vast, golden brown wheat fields that were recently harvested and roughly parallel to U.S. Highway 2.

Allan Zarembski, director of the University of Delaware’s Railway Engineering and Safety Program, said he did not want to speculate but suspected the derailment stemmed from an issue with the track, train equipment or both.

Railways have “virtually eliminated” major derailments by human error after the implementation of a nationwide system called positive train control, which is designed to stop trains before an accident, Zarembski said.

The derailment comes as Congress works toward final passage of a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package that includes $66 billion to improve Amtrak service. That’s less than the $80 billion that President Joe Biden — who famously rode Amtrak from Delaware to Washington during his time in the Senate — originally asked for, but it would be the largest federal investment in passenger rail service since Amtrak was founded 50 years ago.

The biggest chunk of money would go toward repairs and improvements along the rail service’s congested 457-mile-long Northeast Corridor as well as intercity routes with higher commuter traffic. About $16 billion also is aimed at building out Amtrak’s national service to wider America, particularly in rural regions.

Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said the company was working with the NTSB, the Federal Railroad Administration and local law enforcement and shared their “sense of urgency” to determine what happened in Montana.

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‘Holy grail‘ of American folk art discovered St. Louis yard

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‘Holy grail‘ of American folk art discovered St. Louis yard

ST. LOUIS – Art historians are calling it the holy grail of a find, a rare work of art found in a St. Louis front yard. What looked like a lawn ornament is now headed to a museum in New York.   

It’s a sculpture of two sisters that sat in the front yard of a St. Louis home that’s been on quite a journey. First rediscovered in 2019 by a gentleman named John Foster, an art historian.     

For years the sculpture entitled “Martha and Mary” sat on a bench in the city of St. Louis before an art historian saw it while out on a stroll. 

“That didn’t look like the commonly seen concrete lawn ornament that we are used to seeing,” said Valerie Rousseau, senior curator American Folk Art Museum & Exhibition chair. 

Sally Bliss had inherited this Martha and Mary sculpture, and it sat outside her home in New York when she was a ballet dancer. Years later after her first husband died, she moved to St. Louis when she met her second husband, Jim Connette. 

“I had it and put it out in my garden in Long Island, which was our main house, and brought it with me and put it on the bench,” Bliss said.

“I knew it was valuable. But I knew that nobody would steal it because it looked like it was part of the bench and would be really difficult to pick up that bench and steal the whole thing.” 

This lawn sculpture was originally made by artist William Edmondson, the famed black sculptor from Nashville, Tennessee.

The ‘two sisters’ sculpture had been featured at the Museum of Modern Art in 1937 in New York and later Paris, France. 

Today, William Edmondson is considered a preeminent black sculptor, although he didn’t start sculpting until 1934 when he was 60 years old, and only made 300 sculptures over the course of 15 years. 

Using limestone from demolished buildings.  

“Like most museums, we have to have supporters to acquire such artwork,” Rousseau said. “Prices for Edmundson sculptures can be $350,000 to $800,000.”   

And after some conversations and a cleaning, Martha and Mary are headed back to New York. This time, the sculpture will be the centerpiece of the American Museum of Folk Art. Debuting this January on the celebration of the museum’s 60th year. 

Thanks to the generosity of a man named Brian Donnelly, this sculpture and its wild ride of a story will reside in the Big Apple.  

“I was sad,” Bliss said. “But I knew that this was the right place for it to go and especially to New York and so many people will see it and he will get his due and to me, that’s more important than me having to be sad because I’m losing that work of art.” 

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Working Strategies: Quitting your job Part 2 — Consider your personal finances

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Working Strategies: Quitting your job Part 1: What to do at work

Do you know what the problem is for people who quit jobs? It’s the timing. People tend to wait too long, then quit all of a sudden, leaving themselves with a pile of unfinished business.

Amy Lindgren

Sometimes that business is emotional, with workers’ feelings of being unappreciated accumulating to a toxic level by the time they exit. There’s usually some unfinished business in the job itself, and in the worker’s career as well, not to mention the feeling of being unprepared personally or financially.

Which brings us back to timing: What’s with that pattern of staying too long and suddenly exiting? For one thing, it’s usually a difficult decision. Most people will delay the real or perceived conflict of quitting for as long as they can, opting to adapt to difficult situations instead.

Others may not recognize that their sense of discontent in life may be rooted in a job that no longer challenges them. If the job itself is reasonable, it’s easy to disregard the nibbling sense that something doesn’t quite fit.

And others may just prefer the known downsides of the current job over the potential (but unknown) upsides of a new position.

Regardless of the reasons for a delay, the truth is, most people eventually do leave their jobs and you probably will too. If you’re near the end of your career, the leave-taking might be through retirement or illness, but otherwise you’re likely to quit for reasons that range from new employment to business startup to just needing time off.

Once you acknowledge that fact, you can take more control of the timing. Instead of disregarding the mounting discontent until you can’t take any more, you can plan steps and processes to follow. Whether these unfold over the course of weeks or years is up to you – which is exactly the point.

To help you organize those steps, last week’s column provided five things to do in your current job before quitting. Today we’ll look at five things to do in your personal finances, and next week’s column will finish the series with a look at five things to do in your career before stepping out the door.

Organize (or pay down) your debt. It’s a rare person who doesn’t have debt, whether that’s a mortgage, car loan, student loan, credit cards, or a combination of all of these. The reason to review these accounts while you’re working is three-fold: One, what you discover may influence your timing; two, if you want to make a major purchase, that will be easier while you’re still working; and three, strategies such as refinancing your mortgage to achieve lower payments will be more difficult after you quit.

This step holds true even if you’re quitting to start a new job, because longevity in your position is often considered in lending decisions. And it’s a hundred times more true if you’re quitting to start a business — one of the most difficult positions from which to re-organize one’s debt.

Retirement accounts. Decisions to roll over a 401(k), to set up a new retirement account, or to convert an IRA to a Roth are all things best considered before quitting, while you have the most options available.

Health insurance. You don’t need to be reminded, but just in case: Be sure you know what health insurance options will be available after you leave your job. If any steps can be handled now, you’ll appreciate not having that burden later, when the timing could be more critical.

Take your sick days. Speaking of health … have you used your sick time? Those days have been set aside for you to use in taking care of your health, so now’s the time to schedule your preventative care. This is especially smart if your sick days are “use it or lose it” in terms of payout.

Figure out your cash flow. If you’re taking another job, this step may be built-in, since you’ve already negotiated your next salary. But if you’re leaving without another source of income, you’ll enjoy the getaway more if there’s gas in the car. Don’t just assume that your savings will cover you. Make a decision about how much of your savings you’re willing to spend before you need a new income source.

If all of these personal finance steps are starting to kill your enthusiasm for quitting, don’t worry. You’ll get your motivation back next week when you review the steps to take in your career to ensure a good transition.

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‘I’m an American, I do what I want’: ‘Squid Game’ VIP actor once ranted, advocated dating Thai women

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Geoffrey Giuliano squid game vip 4

Geoffrey Giuliano, the actor who plays one of the controversial VIP characters in the latest hit drama “Squid Game,” was previously filmed going on a rant in a supermarket in Thailand. Users online are now calling him the “real life” version of his villainous character. 

The supermarket incident: A 2017 DailyMail story showed the actor, now 68, swearing at another customer while purchasing items at a Big-C supermarket in Pattaya. 

  • The customer, an unnamed French expat, claimed that Giuliano jumped in front of him in an express “10 items or less” checkout line and proceeded to throw roughly 25 items on the conveyor belt.  
  • As he began to film the incident, Giuliano said to him, “You’re not intimidating me by that camera, I’m an actor.”
  • In the video, the French customer can be heard replying, “I’m just waiting for the next round, because what you said about America was very interesting.”
  • Giuliano becomes visibly irate and swears at the customer: “Go f*** yourself, OK. Go f*** yourself, OK, let’s get it real straight. You can go f*** yourself, OK.”
  • He continues: “​​I’m an American, I do what I want, we’re the kings of the world, OK. We’re professional a*******. We have taken being a******* to the highest possible f****** level in this world.” 
  • The customer said that Giuliano was initially “aggressive” with how he threw his items down. He started to film once Giuliano spoke about “being American and being able to do what he wanted.”
  • Both Giuliano’s wife and child were present during the ordeal. His wife was described as “friendly” and that she “looked embarrassed by his behavior.” 
  • The story resurfaced on the controversial subreddit r/Aznidentity, with users pointing out the similarities between Giuliano and his character, identified on the show as VIP Four. 

More on Giuliano’s past: In 2016, one year before the grocery store incident, the actor made news when he was involved in an investigation for missing iconic photographs. That same year, he also promoted a website aimed toward men who want to date Thai women. 

  • A Mail on Sunday investigation of the missing photos of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s wedding led an undercover reporter to Giuliano, who reportedly claimed to have the photos’ negatives worth over $100,000 up for sale. Giuliano put the reporter in contact with a mysterious middle-man. ​
  • ​”Giuliano said he had been instructed to sell the negatives on behalf of a friend but the deal soured when Giuliano suspected the reporter was acting for Ono and refused to sell them before launching into a vile tirade against her,” the report said.
  • In the same year, the actor posted several videos on his YouTube channel promoting a website called “Date Thai Ladies.” Each of the videos show him expanding on several stereotypes of Thai women. 
  • In one video, he addresses the question, “Why Should a Beautiful Thai Lady Want Me?” His answer: “All you want is the love and respect you deserve, the same thing that Thai ladies want — which, quite frankly, they don’t often get from Thai men.” In another video titled “If I Date a Thai Girl I will be Ridiculed by My Friends?” he assures any potential clients that “Thai women are the most beautiful, sensual women in the world.” Finally in another video, he compares his experience of being with Thai women to his 30-year marriage with an American woman. “These Thai ladies are really quite sincere. They’re looking for a family, they’re family-oriented.” 
  • According to his IMDB page, the actor recently appeared in a small role in the Netflix movie “Kate.” He’s also coming out with a TV series titled “Last Tango In Thailand” which features the actor “homing in on the infamous Vietnam era sex-for-sale, seaside town of Pattaya, where he takes a wild ride through the mean streets of the global swinging capitol of the world.”
  • Early on in his career, the actor played McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald before he became a vegetarian and turned his back on the fast food company. He’s been featured in the 1997 documentary “McLibel” about the lawsuit by McDonald’s against environmentalists.

Featured Image via “Squid Game” (left), Daily Mail (right)

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