The Federal Aviation Administration announced Monday that it intends to fine Southwest Airlines $12 million for flying Boeing 737 airplanes without making proper repairs.
Beginning in 2006, Southwest began "extreme makeover" alterations to address cracking of aluminum skin on 44 jetliners, the FAA said in a news release.
The agency's investigation found that Aviation Technical Services Inc., a Southwest contractor, failed to follow proper procedures during repairs. "All of the work was done under the supervision of Southwest Airlines, which was responsible for ensuring that procedures were properly followed," the FAA contends.
Southwest then returned the jetliners to service even though they were not in compliance with federal regulations.
"Southwest Airlines has 30 days from the receipt of the FAA's civil penalty letter to respond to the allegations," the agency notes.
For our World Cafe: Next this week we are featuring the music of Sam Morrow's debut album, Ephemeral. Morrow is from the South. He's in his early 20s. His songs are almost all influenced by his recent struggle with addiction and the insights of its aftermath. But by no means is the album depressing — particularly the tracks we'll play today. Meet Sam Morrow.
- "Sure Thing"
- "Old Soul"
News about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues to go from bad to worse.
Last week a doctor leading the fight against the outbreak got sick in Sierra Leone. Now two American aid workers have tested positive for the virus in Liberia, and the outbreak has likely spread to a fourth country, Nigeria.
The Nigerian government said Friday that a Liberian man died of Ebola at a hospital in Lagos — Africa's most populous city, with more than 20 million people. Although the World Health Organization hasn't confirmed the Nigerian case, the hospital has been shut down and patients there quarantined, Reuters reported.
All the while, the total number of cases continues to climb. So far, there have been 1,201 cases, including 672 deaths, WHO said Friday.
The first American to catch Ebola in the outbreak is Dr. Kent Brantly. The 33-year-old family doctor from Fort Worth, Texas, was infected while treating patients in Monrovia, the nonprofit Samaritan's Purse said Sunday on its website.
Brantly is the medical director at an Ebola treatment center in Liberia's capital. The clinic, where he is now being treated, is run by Samaritan's Purse, a Christian aid group based in Boone, N.C. "He [Brantly] is in stable condition, talking with his doctors and working on his computer while receiving care," the Charlotte Observer reported.
Brantly's wife and two children were initially with him in West Africa, but his family had already returned to Texas when the doctor first noticed his own symptoms and admitted himself to the clinic.
The second American to catch the disease in Liberia is missionary Nancy Writebol, of Charlotte, N.C. She and her husband have also been working with Samaritan's Purse to help Ebola patients in Monrovia.
"It's just devastating news," Writebol's pastor, the Rev. John Munro, told the Charlotte Observer on Monday. "Initially, they thought it might be malaria. ... She's not doing well. It's grim news," he added.
Nigeria's first suspected Ebola case was Patrick Sawyer, who worked for the Liberian Finance Ministry. Sawyer flew to Lagos on Sunday, July 20. He collapsed at the international airport there and was immediately rushed to a hospital, where he died.
Liberia has closed many of its border crossings to try to stop the outbreak from spreading further, Reuters reported Monday.
- "Sure Thing"
- "Old Soul"
A U.S. company that supplies meat to some of the world's largest fast food chains in China has pulled all its products made by a Chinese subsidiary, after reports that it was selling expired products.
The food safety scandal that erupted in China in the last week has also spread overseas, affecting chain restaurants in Japan and Hong Kong and prompted calls for tighter food safety regulation in China.
The privately held OSI is headquartered in Aurora, Ill., and claims 50 manufacturing facilities worldwide. Its Chinese subsidiary, Shanghai Husi Food Co., Ltd., sells beef patties, chicken nuggets and, according to its web site, cooked frozen snail meat. Its customers in China include McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Papa John's and Starbucks.
An expose that aired July 20 on Shanghai television used a hidden camera to show workers picking meat off the floor and returning it to the production line and handling meat without ungloved hands. It also revealed documentation that the firm was falsifying production dates and selling expired beef and chicken to customers.
Following the reports, McDonalds restaurants in Japan have begun to source chicken from Thailand instead of China. Hong Kong McDonalds stopped selling McNuggets and chicken fillets from Husi. And the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that McDonalds outlets in Beijing and Shanghai had run out of both hamburgers and chicken.
"I sincerely apologize to all of our customers in China," OSI's CEO Sheldon Lavin said in a statement. "We will bear the responsibility of these missteps, and will make sure they never happen again."
This latest scandal joins a long list of similar recent incidents in China. These include milk tainted with the industrial additive melamine, "gutter oil" salvaged from drainage ditches and reprocessed into cooking oil, rat meat being sold as lamb and extensive soil poisoning of agricultural land.
Meanwhile, to the fury of many Chinese taxpayers, their nation's leaders are insulated from such risks, as their food is procured through "special supply" channels, grown on pesticide-free, organic farms, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Still, China's government has moved quickly to address the problem, arresting five people, including the head of Husi, and shut down nearly 600 restaurants. China is currently revising its food safety laws, amid calls for stiffer penalties for lawbreakers.
Shanghai-based food safety expert Lin Rongquan says the incident is a good opportunity to push for improved food safety management.
"At first, there was a lot of discussion among consumers, who were shocked that such problems could occur at this kind of company," he says. "But I think consumer confidence will recover quickly, and the incident's impact will not be too great."
Indeed, a weekend meal at a Western fast food restaurant remains a commonplace and attainable symbol that a Chinese family has reached the middle class. Many Chinese consumers expect quality and hygiene standards at these chains to be a cut above their less-standardized Chinese counterparts.
Critics in China see the larger issue of food safety problems in the same light as pollution and industrial accidents: part of the high cost of blindly pursuing GDP growth - something China's leaders vowed to end more than a decade ago.
China's situation bears some resemblance to what the U.S. went through early in the last century, when shockingly unsanitary conditions in the meatpacking industry became a target of the progressive movement, including the 1906 novel The Jungle by muckraking journalist and author Upton Sinclair.
China's government appears to be giving state-run media limited leeway to rake some muck of their own on the food safety issue, especially when the scandals occur at foreign-owned enterprises.
- "Sure Thing"
- "Old Soul"
Margot Adler, one of the signature voices on NPR's airwaves for more than three decades, died Monday at her home in New York City. She was 68 and had been battling cancer.
Margot joined the NPR staff as a general assignment reporter in 1979. She went on to cover everything from the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic to confrontations involving the Ku Klux Klan in Greensboro, N.C., to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"Her reporting was singular and her voice distinct," Margaret Low Smith, NPR's vice president for news, said in an announcement to staff. "There was almost no story that Margot couldn't tell."
The granddaughter of renowned Viennese psychiatrist Alfred Adler, Margot was born in Little Rock, Ark., but spent most of her life in Manhattan.
More recently, Margot reported for NPR's Arts Desk. She landed the first U.S. radio interview with author J.K. Rowling, and she recently released Out for Blood, a meditation on society's fascination with vampires.
Margot explained to NPR's Neal Conan that research for the book began when her husband of 33 years was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
"He was the healthiest man on the planet, I mean literally," Margot said. "You know, he was a runner. Unlike me, he'd never done any drugs in the '60s. He'd never smoked. He ate perfectly, you know, one of these people. And he only lived nine months."
During that time, Margot read 260 vampire novels.
"Basically I started out, it was a meditation on mortality and death, and I started realizing that some of the different attitudes that he and I had about death, he was definitely kind of the high-tech guy, rage, rage, rage, you know, take every supplement, blah, blah, blah, blah," she said. "And I was kind of more like we're all part of the life process, you know."
Margot had a long-standing interest in the occult. "Margot was not only a brilliant reporter, she was also a Wiccan priestess and a leader in the Pagan community," Low Smith notes. "That was deeply important to her, and she wrote a seminal book about that world: Drawing Down the Moon. She also wrote a memoir called Heretic's Heart."
In a note she sent to NPR's staff last week, Margot explained that she had been fighting cancer for 3 1/2 years. Until three months ago, she had been relatively symptom-free.
What began as endometrial cancer had metastasized to several parts of her body.
"She leaves behind her 23-year-old son, Alex Dylan Glideman-Adler, who was by her side caring for her throughout her illness," Low Smith notes.
- "Sure Thing"
- "Old Soul"