Monday, April 4, 2011

Monday Must Read: Southwest Finds Cracks in Three More Planes; California May Move to Popular Vote in Presidential Elections

By Robert Gammon
Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 7:04 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Southwest Airlines has found fuselage cracks in three more of its grounded Boeing 737-300 airplanes, raising questions as to whether the same-types of jets owned by other airlines have similar problems, AP reports. There are 931 such planes in use worldwide of which 288 are in the US fleet. Southwest grounded 79 of its 737-300s on Friday and canceled 600 flights over the weekend after a five-foot section of fuselage ripped off in flight on a plane headed for Sacramento. The incident forced an emergency landing in Yuma, Arizona, but no one was hurt. And then yesterday, a Southwest flight made an unscheduled landing in Los Angeles because of a burning smell in the cabin. Southwest said it was unrelated to the fuselage problem.

2. California may join a nationwide trend to change how presidential elections are won, the Chron reports. Under a bipartisan-supported bill in the legislature, the state would award all of its electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote — instead of the current system, which awards them to the candidate with the most votes in the state. Four other states, including Illinois and New Jersey, have passed similar measures. The California Legislature approved the bill in 2008, but then-Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it. Governor Brown, however, has expressed support for it. The bill is expected to increase California’s influence on presidential campaigns.

3. Governor Brown’s pension-reform plan is superficial and won’t solve the state’s public-employee pension problem, according to CoCo Times columnist Daniel Borenstein, who has written extensively about the issue. Borenstein likes Brown’s proposal to eliminate pension spiking and of requiring public employees to pay for their own pension contributions, but argues that the state’s retirement funding program needs a major overhaul.

4. The increasing use of energy-efficient bulbs is creating environmental problems because consumers don’t recycle the mercury-laden bulbs, the CoCo Times reports, citing a new study. Compact fluorescent light bulbs now make up one-quarter of all light-bulb sales, but only 2 percent of consumers are recycling them. And sales of the bulbs will continue to rise because California will ban traditional incandescent bulbs in 2013, and they will be phased out nationwide in 2014, because they waste energy.

5. And radioactive rain from the Japanese nuclear crisis fell on Berkeley in recent weeks with radiation levels that were 181 times higher than national drinking water standards, the Bay Citizen reports. Health officials, however, continue to downplay the radiation findings, claiming they pose no risks.

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