Category Archives: World News

Westboro “Church” Picketing the Bridge Collapse Funerals

I’ve never wanted to throw up so badly in my entire life. At the same time, I’ve never wanted to take up arms so badly in my life.

The infamous ‘God Hates Fags’ group from Westboro Baptist “Church”, led by Fred Phelps, has announced plans to picket the funerals of those who died in the I-35W bridge collapse.

I don’t even want to quote from their press release, but basically Minneapolis and Minnesota by extension is a haven for homosexuals so God hates us. Plus when this group picketed in Minnesota before somebody stole their picket signs, so the bridge collapse is our punishment for persecuting these missionaries (urge to vomit rising). Plus they want their stolen signs back (I wish I was making that up).

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Blame I-35W Bridge Collapse on Pigeons

Here’s a new theory for the I-35W bridge collapse–blame the pigeons. Apparently “piles of pigeon guano” may have impeded inspectors from discovering the true state of the bridge:

Heaps of corrosive pigeon droppings obscuring parts of the bridge’s steel supports have been a bane to inspectors at least since 1994, documents show. The birds were nesting in welded steel box sections of the superstructure, gaining access through the same holes used by inspectors to peer inside to look for cracks. In 1999, MnDOT covered the inspection holes with plastic screens, but the problem persisted.

“The interiors of the box members have severe pigeon debris,” MnDOT workers wrote in their 2006 inspection report. (Star Tribune

Armchair Quarterbacking the I-35W Bridge Collapse

The armchair failure analysis that’s happening in the wake of the I-35W bridge collapse kind of makes me laugh.

  • We’ve had good stretch of 90+ heat in the Twin Cities, therefore the bridge couldn’t handle the expansion and collapsed. Please. In July 2006 we had more days above 90 than we did this year, never mind the stretches that were much hotter. I would expect any bridge would be designed to handle expansion in temperatures well above 90.
  • With the construction on the bridge and the lanes narrowed from eight in each direction to four the imbalance caused the failure. What?!
  • With bumper to bumper traffic on the bridge it had to carry the weight of traffic at a standstill as opposed to traffic at full speed. Weight is weight, no matter the speed. (poorly paraphrased from several different online forums)

I’ll be the first one to tell you I’m no physicist and can’t explain what happened or how it happened but some of these theories are so bizarre, as if the bridge had certain tolerances that we just happened to push too far on August 1. I suppose in a sense that’s what happened, but it’s most likely in conjunction with a major failure. The way people are talking it’s as if any bridge could fall over if we get too many days over 90 degrees or if too many fat people walk across a bridge at the same time. You don’t blame the heat or the fat people, you blame the structural failure.

For all the talk of “structural deficiencies” and the what not, this is most likely a bridge that had some issues but they didn’t appear to be catastrophic. Turns out we were wrong and it was catastrophic. But I don’t think there’s going to be any smoking gun of Joe Blow didn’t tighten a bolt or overlooked this massive hole in the steel truss. And while improving infrastructure is important, it’s not like this bridge would have been first in line for replacement if we had millions or even billions to spend on infrastructure. They talked about replacing it by 2020. We had systems in place and those systems were followed. Obviously those systems will now be closely inspected and hopefully some improvements made if possible

But bottom line: I think this was a simple accident. I doubt many changes in procedure or funding would have changed that. There are no conspiracies here or scapegoats we can easily blame.

Of course we’ll know for sure in about a year when the report comes out and we can all stop doing armchair failure analysis.

Trapped Bridge Collapse Victims

This is insane and heartbreaking:

Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said cars are still trapped beneath the water under crumpled concrete and that some bodies are in there.

During rescue operations Wednesday night, divers saw victims in submerged cars as darkness postponed the work.

Dolan said this morning at a news conference that several rescue workers had to make the difficult decision of leaving them there because it was unsafe to attempt a rescue.

He said several of the trapped motorists asked his officers and fire fighters to say goodbye to their loved ones.

“The recovery involving those vehicles and the people who may be in those vehicles is going to take a long time,” Dolan said. “We’re dealing with the Mississippi River. We’re dealing with currents, and we’re going to have to do it slowly and safely.” (from the Star Tribune, emphasis mine)

Update: CNN included this bit:

“There’s an individual case where an individual was severely injured and was talking to a medical personnel and was able to say his goodbyes to his family [before] he passed on,” Dolan told a news conference.

I hope that means there weren’t any victims left alive in submerged cars that rescuers had to give up on due to the darkness. That’s what the Star Trib report makes it sound like, and that’s just horrifying. The CNN report is still heartbreaking, but sounds like a situation where nothing could be done.

I-35W Bridge Collapse Aftermath: What Can We Do?

It’s the next morning and the dead/injured toll has risen (9 dead, 60 injured, 20 missing). I’m feeling a similar kind of shock I felt after 9/11 (though not nearly as extreme), where I can’t tear myself away from the coverage. I know there’s not much new to report, but I keep wanting to check in, to search for more photos, more video, more snippets of something.

I’m also feeling an incredible voyeuristic/rubbernecking thing where I want to go down there and see it for myself. I think a lot of people feel the same way. I keep trying to think of something productive I could do–donate blood, donate money, pray. None of it seems solid or real enough to matter (though I know it does).

  • I want to find out if there’s one of those impromptu memorials where people put up photos and flowers and light candles.
  • I want to know if I can go down near the scene without causing more problems.
  • It’s ridiculously early for this, but I think there should be some kind of permanent memorial, a statue or a sculpture or something, there on the shore of the Mississippi.
  • I want to go to a memorial/benefit concert or just do something.
  • I want to find a way to funnel this voyeuristic feeling and impulse to go down to the scene into something productive. You just know loads of folks like me are thinking the same thing and the Stone Arch Bridge is going to be packed, I’d bet even into the weekend. I wish there was a way all those people could do contribute to something productive and uplifting.

I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis Collapses into Mississippi River

Wow. Breaking news as the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed during rush hour, sending as many as 20 cars into the Mississippi River below. From the pictures it looks like the entire length of the bridge fell, not just one section, with parts of the destroyed bridge submerged and parts above the water.

A few concerned relatives called to make sure we were OK, and we’re fine. We hadn’t even heard about it until we got the call. It’s actually pretty rare that we take I-35W, even more rare that we’d take that bridge. Though ironically, Lexi and I took that bridge on Tuesday and were in the area near the river on Monday (see a pic with a vague view of the bridge).


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Gas Prices Drop, Energy Prices Rise

I paid $2.10 per gallon for gas today, a 30% drop from what I paid two months ago when it was $2.99 per gallon. The media has finally realized that gas prices are dropping, though in my area at least they’re falling far below pre-Katrina levels. I’m not complaining, but this seems pretty bizarre.

Especially considering that oil company profit margins were up 62% in the third quarter. Oil company incomes for 2005 are up 30 to 50 percent over 2004. Apparently I’m not the only one scratching my head. The Senate is also investigating high oil company profits following the recent spike in gas prices.

Of course Congress doesn’t have to look far for the blame—the energy bill passed in August gave $4 billion in tax breaks to the oil industry, equivalent to 40% of Exxon-Mobil’s net earnings last quarter, which were already up 75% over the same period last year.

So was the Katrina price-spike for real? I’d like to believe quick responses in the wake of disaster brought the prices back down, but I’m not so sure.

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Overwhelmed by Katrina

Nobody really cares what someone a few thousand miles away has to say, but Hurricane Katrina just overwhelms me. Initially I paid little attention to the news reports. It sounded like another hurricane. Sucks to live in the path of a tropical storm. Made me appreciate the midwest.

Then on Wednesday I started to hear stories about levies breaking and dire situations. On Thursday I finally tuned in for real and it just blew me away. Everything about it just breaks my heart. And pisses me off. And then breaks my heart again.

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Hurricane Katrina Aftermath

I’m shocked watching the news about everything that’s happening in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It saddens me that there could be so much devastation and so many people killed. But it maddens me to see that the response hasn’t been enough, that it’s too little, too late.

Sheesh, this is America.

Why is it so hard to mobilize a relief effort? We put a man on the moon 40 years ago, but we can’t stop the chaos after a hurricane.

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