A Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix to Sacramento was forced to make an emergency landing at an Air Force base after a three-foot hole opened up in the roof of the plane, causing the cabin to depressurize. Hundreds of planes were grounded and will be inspected as a result of the incident, and the initial rumors that a manufacturing error at the Boeing plant was at fault was confirmed on Monday as loose rivets were found elsewhere on the plane. It is still undetermined whether this defect is unique to the Southwest plane, or if this is a more widespread problem. The chief of the FAA, Randy Babbit, has argued that the current methods of inspection are inadequate, and wondered at one press conference – “are we looking at the right things?” This was not the first time the roof of a Boeing 737 has ruptured – in 1988, the top of an Aloha Airlines flight ripped completely off, resulting in one flight attendant being sucked out of the plane.
The Food and Drug Administration is charged with overseeing the quality and safety of the drugs Americans consume. It was the agency that was supposed to make sure the quality of the pharmaceuticals released on the market and those imported into the U.S. are safe, but it missed a deadly bacterial contaminant in an imported batch of the drug Heparin, resulting in the death of at least 81 people. The infected drug, which is used as an anticoagulant, came from a processing plant in China, and was manufactured poorly. Currently, several congressmen, including Texas Representative Joe Barton, are demanding the agency release documents about why it took so long to recall the tainted shipment, and as to whether the FDA misrepresented the scope of the damages.
In the past few months, nine different air traffic controllers around the country have been caught sleeping or making serious mistakes as the result of fatigue, leading to public outcry and several revelations of near-catastrophes as a result of exhausted employees. While much disdain has been directed at the individual controllers who were held responsible, it is clear that these incidents are part of a larger trend of the Federal Aviation Administration failing to properly oversee one of the most crucial public jobs in the country. According to reports, the National Transportation Safety Board had been recommending reforms for years that would reduce fatigue and eliminate issues like controllers manning the towers alone in the middle of the night. The Head of the Air Traffic Organization – which is part of the FAA – resigned earlier this month, citing the scandal as his reason for leaving. It is unclear whether he was forced out or resigned willingly.
The Bureau of Privacy and Identity Protection, which is part of the FTC, “safeguards consumers’ financial privacy” and “investigates breaches of data security…” In March, the servers of marketing services firm Epsilon were hacked from an unknown source. After the security breach took place, the company announced that the email addresses and names of thousands of customers of more than 100 companies were stolen. Epsilon was quick to announce that credit card information or passwords had not been exposed, nevertheless, a great deal of personal information, including users’ medical conditions and interests, were compromised. This is only the latest in the seemingly unending series of security breaches at major marketing companies, making the FTC’s Bureau of Privacy and Protection seem largely impotent in doing what its name suggests – protecting identities and privacy.
A research organization called Genomics issued a report it conducted on meat sold at supermarkets around the country. The shocking results were that nearly half of the meat studied at 26 different stores contained an antibiotic-resistant strain of the harmful bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus, more commonly known as Staph. While the bacteria can be eliminated if handled properly, mishandling the contaminated meat, either through under-cooking or spreading to other surfaces, food, and people it comes in contact with during preparation. These cases can lead to serious illness or death. According to the study, the reason the bacteria is drug-resistant resistant is because farmers overused antibiotics in meat-producing farm animals, something the USDA should have known. Worse still, at the time of the report, Staph was not even on the list of bacteria that the government screened for when inspecting meat.