August 2, 2005

Here are some Canadian news sources to tap for updated coverage of the crash of the Air France jet at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport Tuesday afternoon:

The Globe and Mail
680 News: all news radio, Toronto — Listen to their live coverage at the top of the page.
CBC, Canada 
CTV (Canadian Television)
Pulse 24 — cable news, Toronto
Global TV, Toronto
The Toronto Star

Air France safety record

Here is a fantastic resource for covering crashes. The site often even has a schematic drawing of the crash site and quickly tracks the safety records of that kind of airliner.

The amazing story from the crash is that anybody survived at all.  I think a great story today might be to talk with flight attendants about how cavalier passengers are about emergency procedures. People (myself included) rarely pay attention while the flight attendants instruct us about how to save ourselves in the event of an emergency.

There are many online forums that include pilots and flight attendants, such as The Association of Flight Attendants Web site. This is a flight attendant safety manual.

HowStuffWorks explains “How Black Boxes Work.”

The standard time for evacuating an airplane is 90 seconds. That means that it is the maximum time that a crew should take to get every single person off an aircraft. Generally, in a crash, the smoke fills a plane in 30 seconds. Here are the FAA’s standards for training for evacuation.

In 1999, PBS aired a NOVA documentary about the history of aircraft survival science.

The Airbus A340-300: this is a mega site with tons of resources on this aircraft, which has never crashed before, according to Air France. Here is the Airbus A340 Web site. Here is a collection of Airbus accidents and photos.  

Map of Toronto airport: here is a close-up clickable map of the runways. Here is a summary of safety, crashes and accidents in Canada.

Here is a mega site listing crash histories by airline, date and more.

Here is a listing of the most recent airline disasters.

MSNBC has a nice collection of the lessons that commercial aviation has learned from various accidents.

A plane crashed in my area and I need information quick!
Go to It helps to identify problems with airlines and with individual planes. This powerful site will give you pilot backgrounds, aircraft safety records, specific maintenance records of planes (if you have a tail number) and tons of other details. Get familiar with this one — you will use it. Another helpful site is

Get pictures of thousands of commercial airplanes listed by N number.

Other aviation photo sites to check: PlanePictures.Net, PlaneSpotting Network, JetPhotos.Net.

Billing You for the Bill
Read this provision from the MCI Web site. They will be billing you if you get your bill in the regular mail:

Paper Billing Fee (GSA Section II.C.9.e)

Effective May 1, 2005, MCI® will assess a 99¢ monthly Paper Billing Option Fee to customers who receive a paper monthly invoice statement.

WCBS featured the charge in the “Shame on You” segment. Arnold Diaz says it is one of many phone companies and Internet providers who have been charging folks for paper bills. I will start looking. I have never even paid attention to this one.

Arnold found one insurance company that charged $6 for a printed detailed bill.

Boosting the Hurricane Forecast

The National Weather Service just boosted its forecast for hurricanes this season, predicting 18 to 21 tropical storms by the end of November. The previous estimate was for 12 to 15 tropical storms, seven to nine of them becoming hurricanes.

Already this year, we have seen two hurricanes blow by, in addition to five other named storms.

The NOAA Web site said:

“The tropics are only going to get busier as we enter the peak of the season,” said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, USAF (Ret.), director of the NOAA National Weather Service. “This may well be one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, and will be the ninth above-normal Atlantic hurricane season in the last eleven years.”

“Although we have already seen a record-setting seven tropical storms during June and July, much of the season’s activity is still to come,” said Gerry Bell, lead meteorologist on NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Seasonal Outlook. The predicted high levels of activity during the remainder of the season are consistent with NOAA’s pre-season outlook issued last spring, and are comparable to those seen during August to October of the very active 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Click here to learn more about why the National Weather Service says we still might see another dozen storms this year.

The Danger of Prescription Drugs

WSMV-4 (Nashville) Investigative reporter Nancy Amons (who will be a guest faculty member with me in our September Investigative Reporting seminar) discovered that more people in her state died of prescription drug overdoses than of meth or other illegal drugs.

The number of prescription drug deaths is rising sharply, Nancy reports.

The WSMV I-Team analyzed state autopsy reports of drug overdose deaths. The average victim is 38 years old, white and lives in a rural area. Part of the problem, experts told Nancy, is the notion that “if one pill can help you, two pills will help more.”

Peace Corps Option

The Washington Post reports:

The U.S. military, struggling to fill its voluntary ranks, is offering to allow recruits to meet part of their military obligations by serving in the Peace Corps, which has resisted any ties to the Defense Department or U.S. intelligence agencies since its founding in 1961.

The recruitment program has sparked debate and rising opposition among current and former Peace Corps officials. Some welcome it as a way to expand the cadre of idealistic volunteers created by President John F. Kennedy. But many say it could lead to suspicions abroad that the Peace Corps, which has 7,733 workers in 73 countries, is working together with the U.S. armed forces.

The story continues:

Congress authorized the recruitment program three years ago in legislation that drew little attention at the time but is stirring controversy now, for two reasons: The military has begun to promote it, and the day is drawing closer when the first batch of about 4,300 recruits will be eligible to apply to the Peace Corps, after having spent 3 1/2 years in the armed forces. That could happen as early as 2007.

You can find specific mention of the program on the Veterans’ Affaris Web site.

Saddam’s Trial on TV

It is interesting to me that the trial of Saddam Hussein will reportedly be televised for the world to watch, when our own federal courts still do not allow cameras in the courtroom.

Detroit Lowers Prices

It is not just the “employee discounts” making headlines. Ford and GM now say they are actually lowing prices on a lot of models. The Detroit Free Press said:

Under GM’s new strategy, the price of the Chevy Silverado Crew Cab will drop more than $3,000 to $27,990. Buicks will get standard quiet tuning packages and other features. Certain Cadillacs, meanwhile, will get satellite radio. And those are just a few of the highlights.

Consumers should check GM’s Web site ( for prices on specific models because the changes are not across the board, and prices for a few vehicles will increase. Prices for the Chevy Cobalt, for example, will go up, but the car will get more standard features.

“We’re trying to restore some sanity to the pricing environment in our industry,” Mark LaNeve, GM’s vice president of North American sales and marketing, said Monday in an interview promoting the new strategy on CNBC. “We’re trying to get very simple pricing.”

The pricing changes at Ford also vary by model. Prices on the Ford Explorer SUV will drop $635 to $2,110, to a range of $27,175 to $36,585, depending on body style. Other changes can also be viewed on Ford’s Web site (

The moves by the domestic automakers seemed a stark contrast to the strategy at Toyota Motor Co., which announced Friday that its 2006 prices would be 1.2% higher than the current model year. That means Toyota is planning to bring in about $255 more per vehicle on average, said Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong.

CA Court Rules on Same-Sex Case

The California Supreme Court ruled that businesses, such as banks, must give the same deal to same-sex couples as they do to married partners. The Los Angeles Times says:

Businesses that provide discounts, special services or other privileges to married couples must extend the same rights and benefits to same-sex couples registered as state domestic partners, the California Supreme Court decided 6-0 on Monday.

The ruling will affect a broad range of businesses, including banks and mortgage lenders, auto insurers and health clubs. Lenders will have to consider domestic partners’ joint income in making loans, and insurers will have to offer the same multiple-driver discounts they give married couples.

NASCAR News Service

It will be interesting to see who picks up NASCAR’s latest effort to get the kind of coverage it wants from news outlets. AdAge says:

NASCAR CEO Brian announced last week that NASCAR is creating a media division that he intends to make “the AP of NASCAR.”

The media company is in the conceptual stage of what could include a wire service and, potentially, a cable network. It’s already experimenting with podcasts via its password-encrypted media Web site.

“I’ve been told by our organization that you can’t control [editorial coverage],” Mr. France said, lamenting his case last week to 3,400 cable marketers at the annual CTAM Summit in Philadelphia. “So you’re going to see us get into the content business, not to distribute live events, but similar to the NFL channel in that it is a 24/7 promotion channel.”

NASCAR is the second-highest-rated regular-season sport on TV, according to Nielsen Media Research. But you wouldn’t know that by watching the Sunday-night sports highlights or reading the morning paper, said a NASCAR spokesman. “We are redoubling our efforts to educate editors, producers and reporters on the sport and to help to make NASCAR easier to cover,” he added. NASCAR feels particularly snubbed by large markets and those in the Northeast.

The story continues:

NASCAR wants to develop content for those radio stations, TV affiliates and large-market newspapers that lack staff schooled in motor sports or don’t have the budget to send reporters and crews to weekend races or race shops for midweek coverage. Yet some sports-advertising executives say NASCAR simply has “a bad case of NFL envy,” and its desire for an all-NASCAR cable network has been fueled by the NFL Network.

The NFL claims 165 million fans to NASCAR’s 75 million.

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Editor’s Note: Al’s Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed, and a link will be provided, whenever possible.

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Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer,…
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