Oops of the day!

A Royal Navy commander crashed a nuclear-powered submarine into a large rock in the Red Sea after misreading a number one as seven on a navigational chart…

Commander Steven Drysdale, who was in charge of HMS Superb, had ordered the vessel to take a shorter route to make sure it reached a rendezvous point in time for an operation. The submarine dived to reach deeper water so that it could travel faster, the hearing at Portsmouth naval base was told.

A pinnacle jutting out from the seabed was marked as being at a depth of 123 metres, but Drysdale misread it as 723. Thinking that the boat would clear the obstruction easily, the submarine was directed towards it and it grounded…

Captain Stuart Crozier, prosecuting, told the hearing that the submarine had been suffering from technical problems, causing it to lose speed, at the time of the incident in May 2008. He said there was pressure on Drysdale to ensure the submarine arrived in the Gulf on time for planned operations…

When the new route was charted by the plotting officer, who does not face the court martial, all three defendants failed to spot that the pinnacle marked on the map was only 123 metres deep, the only shallow point in the area.

Crozier said that when the submarine collided with the pinnacle, the vessel was brought to an almost immediate halt. “The submarine collided with the underwater obstacle reducing its speed from 16 knots to three knots in a very short time,” he said. “There was a significant amount of damage to the forehead of the submarine, but no casualties…”

Commander Alison Towler, representing Drysdale, told the court that the commanding officer had since been moved to a desk job. She said the service had also stopped Drysdale from taking up the high-profile position of Royal Navy staff officer submarines in Washington DC shortly after the incident…

The submarine, which came into service in 1976, was decommissioned in September 2008 and the MoD has said the accident did not lead to the submarine being taken out of service earlier than planned.

Sounds like an expensive oops to me. Most I ever took out was a double-stacked pallet-load of truck mirrors.

New Ford Police Interceptor gets 25% better mileage

Disclaimer: I own enough Ford stock to buy the tyres

At private event for police fleet buyers in Las Vegas on Friday, Ford finally unveiled the replacement for its dinosaur-era Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. The car that Ford hopes will pick up the mantle (and 70 percent market share) of the Crown Vic is a heavily modified version of the new Taurus.

Traditionally, most police vehicles have been powered by brawny V8 engines. However, the Taurus is does not offer any V8 option. Instead Ford will offer two variants, one with a normally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 putting out 263 horsepower and the second using the 365 hp Ecoboost V6 from the Taurus SHO. The normally aspirated version is flex-fuel capable.

According to Ford, the new Taurus-based Police Interceptor will get 25 percent better fuel efficiency than the outgoing V8 Crown Vic while offering significantly better performance. If true, that should give police agencies a real incentive to opt for the Ford since it should come in with higher numbers than any of its competition. With cities everywhere facing tight budgets, anything that can reduce their operating costs will help.

I’ll second that. Plus, purpose-built police cars make all the difference in the world when it comes to durability and reliability.

The venerable Crown Vic outlasted any of the crap cop cars offered by General Motors in the past couple of decades. The Impalas you may see are frail – according to the coppers in my neck of the prairie. Year-end they’re re-introducing the Caprice, hopefully with brakes that work, this time. Chrysler sells copified Chargers which are juicy hardware for rookies looking to drag race on municipal fill-ups.

Along with the purpose-built and diesel-powered Carbon E7, the new Ford Taurus would be my only recommendation.

Low-caste Indians rally to mark 25 years of their party

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Hundreds of thousands of people have rallied in the Indian city of Lucknow to mark the 25th anniversary of a party which represents low-caste Hindus. Large parts of the city were turned blue, the colour of the Bahujan Samaj Party which has a huge following among Dalits (formerly “untouchables”).

Party leader Mayawati said she would champion Dalit rights until she died.

Ms Mayawati is India’s first Dalit woman chief minister

Lucknow, the capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, was draped in blue lights and every single hoarding leading to the rally ground was blue for Monday’s celebration.

The massive ground was packed to capacity with thousands of supporters spilling out into nearby areas. Some estimates say nearly 400,000 people turned up to hear Ms Mayawati speak…

Supporters cheered and clapped, and some even danced, throughout her 95-minute address.

She has governed Uttar Pradesh and its 180 million people since state elections in 2007…

The BBC’s Geeta Pandey in Delhi says Ms Mayawati’s critics accuse her of wasting precious government funds in one of India’s most backward states.

Her supporters…seem unconcerned by the criticism – analysts say the turnout at Monday’s rally proves they still have faith in her leadership.

“For us, she is a Goddess. She has empowered us. Given us a voice which now people are listening to,” one woman at the rally told the Associated Press news agency.

Yup. Political leaders who truly come from the poorest of the poor may not have absorbed all the niceties of polite, ethical society. Having stood shoulder to shoulder with the rank-and-file in comparable movements here and there around the globe, I must say that average folks – like me – recognize the question with a small measure of concern – and a smile.

If the established rulers of nations, from the poorest to the wealthiest, would get off peoples’ backs – perhaps they might not suffer a scrape or two when people stand up and shrug them off.

$11 Million spent – this month – to sway wimp Democrats!

The yearlong legislative fight over health care is drawing to a frenzied close as a multimillion-dollar wave of advertising that rivals the ferocity of a presidential campaign takes aim at about 40 House Democrats whose votes will help determine the fate of President Obama’s top domestic priority.

The coalition of groups opposing the legislation, led by the United States Chamber of Commerce, is singling out 27 Democrats who supported the health care bill last year and 13 who opposed it. The organizations have already spent $11 million this month focusing on these lawmakers, with more spending to come before an expected vote next weekend…

Several on-the-fence Democrats said they were scrambling to sort out their constituents’ views…

“On-the-fence” is Congress-speak for too cowardly to be capable of leadership.

The Chamber of Commerce is leading the opposition to the health care bill with a coalition called Employers for a Healthy Economy. In two weeks, the group has bought more than $7 million in television advertising and plans to spend up to $3 million more. Americans for Prosperity, a group financed by David Koch, the oilman, is also jumping into the fray with an advertising campaign of nearly $1 million…

We have a shiny new congressman named Harry Teague in downstate New Mexico who rode the Obama coattails into office. He was ready and willing to sell out almost immediately.

Coming from a conservative district dominated by agribiz and oil interests – which is where Harry made his bucks, btw – I guess Ol’ Harry figures if he kisses their collective butts, they won’t oppose his re-election campaign. Har. It is to laugh.

Conservative political organizers know that voters have little respect for politicans who bow with the wind, who offer few alternatives, who have already proved they’re more driven by fear than principle.

Harry will cave in on health care hoping it will get him conservative support – and re-elected. It won’t and he won’t be.

Last snow of the spring – we hope!

This is supposed to be the last snow storm of springtime.

El Niño has been good to Lot 4 and our high desert country. Precipitation has been well above normal, mostly powder snow. Base up at the Santa Fe ski area is 10 feet – before last night’s storm.

That moisture will perc down into the Ancha aquifer and do us all nothing but good.

NHTSA and factory investigators clear Balloon Boy Prius

Technicians who tested a Toyota Prius after its owner claimed its gas pedal stuck were unable to recreate the same condition, according to a draft congressional memo obtained…by CNN.

In addition, owner Jim Sikes’ claim that the car kept going even though he slammed on the brake while his gas pedal was stuck to the floor does “not appear to be feasibly possible,” said the draft, obtained from sources familiar with the investigation.

The memo, written for members of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, summarizes the observations of a representative present at the testing of the Prius, as well as another car “allegedly involved in sudden unintended acceleration events.”

Contacted by CNN, Sikes declined to comment but said he stands by his story. He said his attorney will be making a statement on his behalf…

Eventually, a California Highway Patrol officer caught up to Sikes and used the patrol car’s public address system to instruct Sikes to apply the brakes and the emergency brake at the same time. That tactic worked, and he was able to stop the car…

Sikes said he’d been afraid to shift into neutral at 90mph because he was afraid the car would flip over!

Technicians from Toyota and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took Sikes’ Prius on a test drive and attempted to duplicate the same experience, the memo said, but were unsuccessful. A congressional staffer and another Toyota technician tested another Prius.

“Every time the technician placed the gas pedal to the floor and the brake pedal to the floor, the engine shut off and the car immediately started to slow down,” the memo said. “NHTSA and Toyota field representatives reported the same results with the 2008 Prius owned by Mr. Sikes.”

These findings certainly raise new questions surrounding the veracity of the sequence of events that has been reported by Mr. Sikes,” said Kurt Bardella, spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, and ranking member on the committee.

I can’t testify with any accuracy about Mr. Sikes’ truthfulness. BUT – he’s a bankrupt realtor $700,000 in debt including months of payments on his leased Prius. Which I imagine Toyota has threatened to repo.

The bankruptcy statement isn’t clear on how much he makes from his AdultSwingLife website.

Salaries soar for heads of British universities

Charlie Weis’ last year at Norte Dame was 6 – 6 for $2 million

The income of thousands of the most senior British academics has soared over the past decade, far outstripping growth in average lecturers’ pay, according to a Guardian inquiry.

More than 80 university heads, generally known as vice-chancellors, now earn more than the prime minister, and some have seen their annual earnings double or even triple in 10 years. Some got 15% or 20% pay rises last year alone, compared with a 45.7% rise over 10 years for average higher education teaching professionals.

The hightest-paid VC gets £474,000, and 19 get more than £300,000, including employer pension contributions. By contrast, the prime minister, Gordon Brown, gets £197,000 plus a pension…

The Guardian has identified eight universities at the head of a league table based on a combination of chief executive pay and the proportion of high-earning staff.

In order of vice-chancellor income they are: the London Business School; UCL; Liverpool; Imperial College; Nottingham; Oxford; Kings, London; and Bristol.

The Guardian findings led the general secretary of the lecturers’ union, UCU, Sally Hunt, to protest about “snouts in the trough”.

She said: “The pay rises senior staff, in particular vice-chancellors, have enjoyed in recent years have been a constant source of ridicule. There is no transparency for the arbitrary rises they receive. Those at the top hide behind the clandestine world of remuneration committees as an excuse for their massive salaries.”

Cripes. Some of these executives earn almost as much as a football coach at an American university. And may contribute just as little to the education of students.