Whenever Geneva resident Thomas Kerns sees a Chevrolet Cobalt, especially models from the early 2000′s, he gets very uneasy. “These are killer cars and they’re on the highway,” said Kerns. In recent weeks, Kerns has been reliving a nightmare that was nearly 6 years ago. “The car was crushed pretty good,” he said as he pointed to a picture of a completely wrecked, white car. The picture contained the crushed remains of Kerns’ 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt. His daughter in law, Megan Phillips, was driving the car on October 24th, 2006, with her friends Natasha Weigel and Amy Rademaker. They were all in their teenage years when the Cobalt took a deadly flip into the air. Phillips was the lone survivor.
“When you’re the driver of the vehicle and you lose someone, it doesn’t matter if you know it’s not your fault. It’s something that tears you apart,” said Kerns’ wife, Sarah, who also experienced a fatal accident recently. Fault speculation shifted to a defective ignition switch that Phillips was driving. At least 12 other fatalities in the nation point to this explanation as well. General Motors auto company is facing a significant lawsuit. Over a million of its cars were recalled. “A lawsuit of this size is almost surreal,” said Kerns. Tests in the past showed that some Chevrolet Cobalts and Pontiac G5′s had ignition switches that easily slid from a “run” position to a mode that stops power within the vehicle. “The ignition cylinder was loose and it would turn to the accessory position while in drive,” said Kerns.
The accessory mode is used when the car is at a standstill. It’s usually parked, the power steering is off, the engine is off, but the driver is able to use the radio or open and close the car windows. Before Phillips’ accident, the key somehow slipped back and turned the car into accessory mode. The car’s power went off and Phillips lost control of the car. The car flipped over a driveway into a tree. “So if you hit a bump, the potential for it to flip over to accessory mode was way easier,” said Kerns. In 2004, GM was aware of at least one similar report. Tests by engineers replicated this problem, but no action was made. In 2005, a new ignition configuration was proposed, then later cancelled. Also, in 2009, 14 Cobalt crashes were studied by experts. Databases showed that the ignition was in the accessory position for half of them. Kerns calls them killer cars, but not only because of personal experiences. He sees a potential danger for the buyer, as well as the public.
For years, people have assumed that puzzles kept the brain active. But Prof Clive Ballard, professor of age-related disease at King’s College London, said those who wanted the best chance of staving off dementia should opt for a run or a brisk walk. It has long been known that those who take exercise are less likely to develop the condition, but it was only last month that a study at the University of Pittsburgh showed that instead of the brain shrinking – as it does normally at a rate of about 1 per cent a year – it grew by about 2 per cent in those who took a brisk 40-minute walk three times a week. Among those aged between 55 and 80, exercise increased the size of the hippo-campus – the brain’s memory hub – knocking almost two years off its biological age.
Prof Ballard, who was until recently director of research for the Alzheimer’s Society, is leading a study investigating the long-term impact of brain training on older people. The project has already found that puzzles appear to have little short-term impact on the brain. Prof Ballard said some exercises seemed to have some impact in protecting against general cognitive decline, yet had no effect on Alzheimer’s disease. “If people enjoy a crossword that’s great, and it’s possible it does some good. But if people want the best chance of protecting themselves from dementia the answer is to go for a run or a brisk walk, the evidence is clear,” he said. Studies have also suggested social interaction can help to protect against the disease.
For years now a huge cross section of businesses — enterprises ranging from utility operators to civil engineers to real estate brokers to wedding photographers — has been waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration to clear unmanned aerial systems (UAS), more commonly known as “drones,” for commercial use. It turns out they need not have waited at all. A federal judge has decided that the FAA’s commercial drone prohibition is not actually federal law and that the FAA has no authority over small unmanned aircraft, a ruling that immediately opens U.S. skies to at least some kinds of commercial drone use. Judge Patrick Geraghty of the National Transportation Safety Board has dismissed a case in which the FAA sought to fine drone operator Raphael Pirker $10,000 for using a lightweight, remotely-piloted styrofoam aircraft to capture aerial footage of the University of Virginia as part of an advertisement for the university’s medical school. Pirker and attorney Brendan Schulman appealed the fine to the NTSB, and late last week Geraghty handed down a decision siding with Pirker.
The grounds: The FAA has prohibited the use of drones for commercial purposes since issuing a policy statement back in 2007, but it failed to go through the proper channels to codify that policy into federal law. Further, the decision reads, the FAA has never before defined small model airplanes like the one used by Pirker and most drone hobbyists as “aircraft” subject to broader FAA oversight, and therefore FAA rules and regulations that apply to “aircraft” don’t, by rule, apply to these small model aircraft. “In plain language it says that there’s no federal aviation regulation concerning model aircraft, or what are now more commonly referred to as ‘drones,’ and that those devices are not considered to be ‘aircraft’ for purposes of the FAA’s rules and regulations,” Schulman, a special counsel at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel in New York City. “In reaching that conclusion it also says that the 2007 policy statement from the FAA that implemented a ban on the commercial use of drones is not enforceable as a regulation.”
The FAA’s blanket prohibition on using drones for commercial purposes may no longer be valid, Schulman says, but that doesn’t necessarily mean companies can now take to the sky with UAS and do anything and everything they want to do. There are state and local laws that come into play, as well as privacy issues and matters of insurance and liability that have yet to be hashed out. Nonetheless, it does open up the skies to commercial drone users who can abide by the letter of state and local laws already in place. And it firmly takes the operation of such aircraft out from under the purview of the FAA, at least for the time being. That’s a welcome development for a large swath of businesses large and small that have been waiting a decade or more for the FAA to issue guidelines and regulations allowing them to leverage UAS technologies to their advantage. The legal use of commercial drones is expected to have an economic impact between $80 and $90 billion in the first decade after the aircraft are cleared to fly, as everyone from Big Agriculture to small aerial photography businesses takes advantage of the cost savings and enhanced capabilities that UAS offer. Oil and gas companies want to use UAS to inspect flare stacks and pipelines, engineers want eyes in the sky over construction projects, utilities want to use drones to keep an eye on their infrastructure, and even mom-and-pop real estate shops want to use them to take better imagery of their properties.
Then there’s the drone hardware business itself. Big aerospace players like Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Boeing (BA) and have significant interests in the commercial UAS industry, and several dedicated small UAS makers like Monrovia, Calif.-based Aerovironment, Canada’s Aeryon, and Flyterra, and Hong Kong-based DJI all see significant upside in relaxed restrictions on U.S. domestic drone use as businesses large and small either purchase their own UAS or enlist the services of drone engineers and operators (remember Amazon’s “drone delivery” stunt late last year?). The FAA could appeal the decision, though it’s unclear if it will or even if it’s in the agency’s best interests. A set of proposed rules governing UAS flight is already expected from the FAA later this year, and following a period of commentary from industry and government a finalized set of regulations for domestic drone use will follow (likely in 2015 or 2016). Fighting the court’s decision now might not lead to any meaningful decision before the proposed FAA rules come out later this year, and a decision that goes against the agency might further tie its hands during the rule-making process.
All that means that — for the time being at least — commercial drones are now free to fly in U.S. airspace, though, as Schulman points out, just because a business can fly a drone doesn’t necessarily mean that it should. “The decision indicates that there’s no federal regulation that directly addresses the commercial operation of drones, and as a general proposition in the United States if there’s no regulation prohibiting conduct then as American citizens we’re free to engage in that conduct,” Schulman says. “But that’s still subject to standards of negligence and tort law that might apply in the event that someone actually gets hurt or property is damaged. It’s not a free license to do anything you want.”
The Texas Tech School of Law’s Estate Planning & Community Property Law Journal will host its 2014 Continuing Legal Education and Expo on Friday. Beginning at 7:30 a.m. in the Lanier Professional Development Center, estate planning professionals and professors will speak to attendees, according to a law school news release.
Attendees will have the opportunity to network with legal practitioners and others in their prospective field of work. Speaker topics will include trust decanting, 2013 estate planning legislation and same-sex estate planning, according to the journal’s website.Participants will receive 6.75 CLE or Continuing Professional Education hours in addition to 1.25 ethics hours, according to the release. The event will conclude with a banquet starting at 4:20 p.m., according to the journal’s website.
Google Inc is all set to release a software development kit for wearable devices towards the end of this month to enable the hardware firms to use Android in their smart watches, fitness trackers and other gadgets. Sundar Pichai, senior vice president of Android, Chrome and Apps announced this at the SXSW conference in Austin. “In about two weeks, you will see us launch the first SDK for what we think of as Android for wearables,” said Pichai, after outlining Google’s vision of the wearable technology market.
Google Aiming The Wearable Tech Market
He said that wearable’s always need a platform. Sensors are small and powerful, and could collect a lot of information that can be useful for users. He added that the company is building the right APIs for this world of sensors. Pichai said that the smart watches and fitness gadget are the two most popular devices, in the wearable category. Keeping this in consideration, Google Inc is expecting that SDK would enhance the development of a range of new devices. Pichai kept silence on the Hardware subject, and gave no indication about the company making its own hardware. He said that from his point of view, as well as team’s standpoint, it would be better to focus on the platform and API.
Chromecast Sales Number Rising
When asked about the Google Inc Chromecast devices, Pichai deferred from giving the exact sales number of the USB dongle for TVs, but added that Google is upbeat by the performance so far. Pichai said that the sales has reached in millions and increasing ahead. Pichai, also, said that Chromecast would be available in other countries, as well, in the coming weeks. He said that the company has a business relationship, licensing relationship and users like to use Google services, in addition to the Android. However, it is not possible to use Android without Google. Pichai took the responsibility of Android in 2013 after founder Andy Rubin moved to other projects inside the Google. Pichai, in his interview, said that Android is one of the most open systems, and it is designed from the ground to become a very powerful customizable platform. The senior executive denied that Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) is too controlling.