Coal trains double up — twice as profitable or twice as dangerous?

The new trains will be twice this length 🙂

Motorists’ wait time at U.S. rail crossings may double as CSX Corp. hooks trains together to boost efficiency amid plunging demand for coal shipments.

Bulk cargo is the latest focus in CSX’s effort to improve productivity. Getting more cars behind the locomotives is one way to do that — even if a longer, heavier load spends more time on the tracks…

A one-mile (1.6-kilometer) length, at least for trains carrying a single type of cargo, is an industry rule of thumb in the U.S. CSX, the largest railroad in the eastern part of the country, is looking to make each cargo train more productive because domestic coal carloads are expected to drop about 20 percent in the last three months of the year…

The company also is looking at stretching out some sidings, the short lengths of track running parallel to a main line that enable a train to move over so another can pass. Most of those are 10,000 feet, or a little less than two miles, and may need to be lengthened to 12,000 feet…

For now, drivers trying to cross railroad tracks will have to be patient at rail crossings because most North American carriers want their locomotives to pull more cars.

Union Pacific Corp., the largest publicly traded U.S. railroad, said in July it operated trains at record length in the second quarter and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. said its trains grew longer by 3 percent in the same quarter.

“Everybody has been pushing toward longer trains because that is one of the ways to get efficiency,” Ward said.

Am I silly for even bringing up the question of safety? I don’t imagine that doubling the length of trains can be as safe as previous. Not that we’re establishing any great records for rail safety in the United States in recent years.

Did the Bloomberg reporter think the question was unnecessary?

Children prescribed antibiotics twice as often as needed

Pediatricians prescribe antibiotics about twice as often as they’re actually needed for children with ear and throat infections, a new study indicates.

More than 11 million antibiotic prescriptions written each year for children and teens may be unnecessary, according to researchers from University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital. This excess antibiotic use not only fails to eradicate children’s viral illnesses, researchers said, but supports the dangerous evolution of bacteria toward antibiotic resistance…

Antibiotics, drugs that kill bacteria or stop them from reproducing, are effective only for bacterial infections, not viruses. But because doctors have few ways of distinguishing between viral or bacterial infections, antibiotics are often a default treatment.

Based on the prevalence of bacteria in ear and throat infections and the introduction of a pneumococcal vaccine that prevents many bacterial infections, the researchers estimated that about 27 percent of U.S. children with infections of the ear, sinus area, throat or upper respiratory tract had illnesses caused by bacteria.

But antibiotics were prescribed for nearly 57 percent of doctors’ visits for these infections, the study found.

Thousands die unnecessarily every year from illness caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There are no legitimate reasons for over-prescription. Only marketing and social pressures which should have nothing to do with the practice of medicine.

Thanks, Mike

Chile and China to double trade between the two nations by 2015

China’s Premier Wen Jiabao and Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Top metals consumer China and world no. 1 copper producer Chile plan to double their bilateral trade to $60 billion by 2015, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on Tuesday during an official visit to Chile.

China has made relatively few major investments in the Andean country, despite being its main trade partner and sharing a free trade agreement.

The president and I have agreed to double bilateral trade by 2015, to reach $60 billion in volume,” Wen said during a joint press conference with Chilean president Sebastian Pinera…The two leaders signed an agreement to give investors security for their investments in either of the two countries, Chile’s foreign minister Alfredo Moreno told Reuters…

Trade between the two Pacific rim countries is currently around $30 billion. The Asian giant’s avid demand for commodities has boosted the economies of many export-dependent Latin American countries.

Chinese renewable energy company Sky Solar, state-backed China Development Bank and Chilean industrial group Sigdo Koppers plan to make a Chinese firm’s biggest investment in the Andean country: a $900 million solar energy park, export promotion agency ProChile said earlier on Tuesday.

Perish the thought we might encourage that sort of investment in the United States. The last few times China has tried to do so, Cold Warriors in Congress put the kibosh on the deals. Someday, somehow, we will have a government that understands you can better get along with another nation by trucking business up and down a 2-way street.

Con artist claims magic potion can double your money

An African man who claimed he could double your money simply by applying a magic potion to currency notes has been arrested at a Madrid bar where the Ecuadorean owner nearly fell victim to the ploy, said Spanish national police.

Police arrived in time to catch the suspected thief, from Cameroon, with 1,120 euros that had been handed over by the bar owner. The suspect, 28, alleged he had run out of magic potion and would need to go home to get some more, a police statement and spokesman said…

He told police the suspect had come to the bar a week earlier claiming he could double currency notes by applying a magic potion, the police statement said.

Taking a chance, the owner provided a 20 euro note, and the suspect mixed it with various white papers, applied a brown liquid and white power, and mixed it up with cotton. Presto, and there were soon three 20 euro notes visible, the owner told police.

“He returned my 20,” said Tepan, who’s lived 16 years in Spain and has owned the bar in central Madrid for 11 years. When the suspect came back last Saturday, the owner provided 1,120 euros in various currency notes, after the owner and the suspect agreed on how to split up the proceeds from the doubled money, the police said.

The suspect put the bills in an envelope and sealed it with tape. Then he applied the alleged magic potion, repeating this various times, but finally told the bar owner he had run out of the magic potion and would need to go home and get more. But he promised to leave the sealed envelope at the bar…

“I realized he was trying to take the money,” Tepan told CNN. A neighbor called the police and Tepan’s adult son arrived and locked the door to the street, with the suspect inside the bar.

The police arrived and opened the sealed envelope but found only white papers inside. Then they searched the suspect, and found the 1,120 euros hidden in his clothing, the police statement said.

This is one of the oldest cons in the world. Usually the bait is a bit more rational sounding – like found money. Falling for a magic potion is more than gullible.

Audi U.S. diesel sales double/triple forecasts

So far, 2010 has been a very good year for Audi in the U.S. market and diesel engines are playing a part in the surge. Right now, Audi is only offering two TDI models in this market: the big Q7 SUV and the compact A3. In both cases, diesel market share is far exceeding initial projections. Audi had expected diesels to account for about 18-20 percent of the sales of those models, but the TDI made up 56 percent of all A3 sales in February. The Q7 is now up to 40 percent TDI after several months in the low 30 percent range.

In the first two months of 2010, sales of the A3 have more than doubled compared to the same period a year ago with almost all of the extra sales being diesels. Like most other SUVs, the Q7 is down for the year but the availability of the TDI has definitely cushioned the blow. Perhaps the success of the A3 and Q7 will prompt Audi to expand the diesel lineup here, including their biggest volume model the A4.

One can only hope – including my personal hope that companies that offer a turbo-diesel pickup like Toyota might relent and start letting them into the United States.

The number of bugs underfoot has doubled in Britain!

Unnoticed by the people of Britain, a transformation has been happening beneath our feet. In the first study of its kind, scientists have analysed the soil the country depends on.

In just the top 8cm of dirt, soil scientists estimate there are 12.8 quadrillion living organisms, weighing 10m tonnes, and, incredibly, that the number of these invertebrates – some just a hair’s breadth across – which in effect make the soil has increased by nearly 50% in a decade. At the same time, however, the diversity of life in the earth appears to have reduced.

The most likely reason for both the increase in numbers and the decrease in types is the rise of annual temperatures and rainfall over the decade of the study, leading to warmer, wetter summers, said Professor Bridget Emmett, of the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), who led the study. The scientists’ theory is that the warmer, wetter soil encourages most of the bugs to breed faster or for longer, but that more marginal species have been unable to adapt to the new conditions.

They are less certain, however, about whether the changes are a threat or a boon: soil has a relatively high “species redundancy”, so there are many species that can do the same job, but all creatures are facing an onslaught of changes such as global warming, pollution and habitat destruction.

“If you look at the soil, most of it comes out of the back end of the animals,” said Emmett. She added: “The question is whether we have lost resilience in the soil. Is diversity important for the soil to bounce back after multiple pressures..?”

The decrease in the variety of species found was much smaller – 11% – and the scientists warn that further research is needed to be sure of the trends, because too little is known about whether climate, pollution and land management affect soil bugs and, if so, how.

Cripes. Now my curious bump is going to force me to track down similar info for the United States – or hopefully my own neck of the prairie. I’ve already noted on this blog species changes in lizards and birds.

Actually, I don’t doubt that extension bureaus, local farm bureaus, may already have comparable information – though I can easily guess what they will show for American agricultural regions. We’ve been using pesticides and chemical fertilizers for so long – striving for monocultures – I’ll bet diversity is down as much as mass may well be.

That’s only a guess. Kudos to the Brits for continuing and advancing their Countryside Study.

CSI sleuths target 16th-century Italian murder

As seen on TV

Police in Sicily have called in an international team of forensic scientists and criminologists to help solve the case of a murdered Baroness, 447 years after the crime.

The investigation in Carini — a small town near Palermo — centers on the castle where Baroness Laura Lanza was killed in 1563 with her lover Ludovico Vernagallo when they were caught in bed together…

The Baroness’s father Cesare confessed to the honor killing in a letter to the king, which is currently archived in the Chiesa Madre church in Carini.

“Legend has it, however, that Cesare Lanza did not act alone, but was helped by his son-in-law, Don Vincenzo La Grua,” said the Mayor…

“The idea for the investigation began as a joke,” Marco Strano told Reuters. “I visited Carini in June and when I met La Fata I teased him for not having resolved the murder yet, so he challenged me to solve it.”

And the tourism biz can always use a boost.

UPDATED: 8-year-old boy charged in double homicide

It’s a crime that police officers in a small eastern Arizona community can hardly fathom yet have to deal with: an 8-year-old charged in the fatal shootings of his father and another man.

“Who would think an 8-year-old kid could kill two adults?” said St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick.

The crime that unfolded Wednesday evening sent shock waves through St. Johns, a community of about 4,000 people northeast of Phoenix. The boy had no disciplinary record at school, and there was no indication he had any problems at home, prosecutors said.

“It was such a tragedy,” said the boy’s defense attorney, Benjamin Brewer. “You have two people dead; you have an 8-year-old in jail. It tugs at the heart strings. It’s a shocker, no doubt about it.”

On Friday, a judge determined there was probable cause to show that the boy fatally shot his father, Vincent Romero, 29, and Timothy Romans, 39, of San Carlos with a .22-caliber rifle. The boy faces two counts of premeditated murder.

Melnick said officers arrived at Romero’s home within minutes of the shooting Wednesday. They found one victim just outside the front door and the other dead in an upstairs room…

The boy went to a neighbor’s house and said he “believed that his father was dead,” said Apache County attorney Brad Carlyon. Police later obtained a confession from the boy, Melnick said.

Brewer said police overreached in questioning the boy without representation from a parent or attorney and did not advise him of his rights.

“They became very accusing early on in the interview,” Brewer said. “Two officers with guns at their side, it’s very scary for anybody, for sure an 8-year-old kid.”

A judge has ordered a psychological evaluation of the child, who was being held at the Apache County juvenile detention center.

Prosecutors aren’t sure where the case is headed, Carlyon said.

A lot more information in this updated story. I still wonder what details will come out about this?

Hookers double your stimulus rebate

Air Force Amy at Moonlite BunnyRanch

Nevada brothels that cater to long-haul truckers are offering gas cards and other promotions after seeing business decline as much as 25 percent from a year ago.

Geoffrey Arnold, president of the Nevada Brothel Owners’ Association, said truckers account for up to 75 percent of business at the state’s rural brothels along Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 95…

Under a promotion under way at the Moonlite BunnyRanch near Carson City, the first 100 customers who arrive with government stimulus checks receive twice the services for the same regular price.

“We’re calling it double your stimulus,” said BunnyRanch owner Dennis Hof. “The brothel industry is having to get more creative just like all consumer products in America. Everybody has got to deal, and we’re doing the same thing.”

Hey, if Wal-Mart and Best Buy are doing it. Why not the rest of the pimps business community?

Thanks, K B