Congress takes aim at shrinking seats, legroom on airplanes
By KEVIN FREKING
Sunday, September 23
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration would be required to set new minimum requirements for seats on airplanes under legislation to be considered in the House this week, possibly giving passengers a break from ever-shrinking legroom and cramped quarters.
The regulation of seat width and legroom is part of a five-year extension of federal aviation programs announced early Saturday by Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate committees that oversee the nation’s air travel.
Congress faces a Sept. 30 deadline to keep FAA programs running. The Senate will also need to take up the bill this week or both chambers will need to pass a short-term extension.
The bill would prohibit the involuntary bumping of passengers who have already boarded a plane. But in a nod to the power of the commercial airliners, lawmakers declined to include language that would have prohibited airlines from imposing fees deemed “not reasonable and proportional.”
Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said lawmakers from both chambers agreed it was time to take action on “ever-shrinking seats.”
“Relief could soon be on the way for weary airline passengers facing smaller and smaller seats,” Nelson said.
In July, the FAA rejected the idea of setting minimum standards for airlines seats and legroom as a safety measure. But Congress appears determined to require the FAA to do so.
The room between rows — measured from a point on one seat to the same point on the seat in the next row — has been shrinking for many years as airlines squeeze more seats onto their planes. It was once commonly 34 or 35 inches, and is now less than 30 inches on some planes.
Lawmakers also included several provisions to address concerns about increased airport noise levels caused by new flight paths. The bill would require the FAA to study the potential health impacts of flight noise and the feasibility of amending existing departure procedures.
The bill would also mandate that flight attendants get a minimum of 10 hours of rest between their work shifts and require airlines to communicate better with customers during mass flight cancellations and groundings.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said he expects the House and Senate to move quickly to send the bill to the president’s desk.
Spray-on antennas unlock communication of the future
September 21, 2018
Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Drexel University
Ph.D. Student in Materials Science and Engineering, Drexel University
Research Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Drexel University
Yury Gogotsi is affiliated with the Materials Research Society (Board of Directors) and Jilin University (Distinguished Foreign Professor)
Asia Sarycheva and Babak Anasori do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Hear the word “antenna” and you might think about rabbit ears on the top of an old TV or the wire that picks up radio signals for a car. But an antenna can be much smaller – even invisible. No matter its shape or size, an antenna is crucial for communication, transmitting and receiving radio signals between devices. As portable electronics become increasingly common, antennas must, too.
Wearable monitors, flexible smart clothes, industrial sensors and medical sensors will be much more effective if their antennas are lightweight and flexible – and possibly even transparent. We and our collaborators have developed a type of material that offers many more options for connecting antennas to devices – including spray-painting them on walls or clothes.
Our materials science lab focuses on nanomaterials, which are more than 100,000 times thinner than a human hair. In 2011, researchers in the Drexel University Materials Science and Engineering Department developed a way to combine metals with carbon or nitrogen atoms to create a material that’s a few atoms thick, very strong and good at conducting electricity. We call these materials MXenes (pronounced “maksens”), and we can make them with different metals – including titanium, molybdenum, vanadium and niobium.
Our most recent work has identified that mixing MXenes with water lets us spray antennas on any surface, including a brick wall or a glass window – and even use an inkjet to print an antenna on paper. This creates new opportunities for smaller, lighter, more flexible antennas to accompany devices that are also being made from more varied and versatile materials.
Antennas aren’t quite everywhere – yet
Smart watches and electronic car key fobs might seem advanced, but researchers are working on many more options, including hospital gowns that can sense patients’ heart and breathing rates, and stitches that monitor healing after surgery. They’ll need antennas too – which are sterile, flexible, strong and even machine-washable.
Another type of antenna is making its way into the world, too. Many credit and debit cards, as well as U.S. passports, contain what are called RFID tags, tiny electronic chips that carry identifying information and transmit them to sensors that validate transactions or certify the identity of the document’s carrier.
RFID tags are even more commonly used in industry, tracking components in manufacturing processes, individual boxes and containers in large shipments and even controlling workers’ access to specific areas of an office or factory.
A wide range of uses
Since Drexel’s 2011 discovery of MXenes, researchers around the world have been testing out how they work in a variety of tasks. Some early successes have included energy storage devices, electromagnetic interference shielding, water filtration, chemical sensing, structural reinforcement, cancer treatment and gas separation.
How MXenes can shield electromagnetic radiation.
All of these approaches take advantage of the physical and electrical properties of MXenes: They’re transparent to light, electronically conductive, chemically stable and strong.
We have been exploring how to use another physical attribute MXenes have: They love water. When we mix sheets of two-dimensional titanium carbide MXene with water, we get a stable water-based ink. We can spray or print that ink on any surface, and when the water evaporates, what’s left behind is layers of MXene – an MXene antenna.
When we do this with a titanium carbide MXene, the resulting antenna is very good at transmitting and directing radio waves, even when it’s applied in a very thin layer. Our initial testing suggests it can perform as well as more commonly used antennas made of gold, silver, copper or aluminum. And because it’s so much thinner, an MXene antenna can be effective in spaces too small for other antenna materials – even as small as one-thousandth the thickness of a sheet of paper.
Spraying MXene antennas on surfaces.
Comparing to other antennas
When we made MXene antennas slightly thicker – more like one-tenth the thickness of a piece of paper – it could still outperform antennas made of other high-tech nanomaterial-based antennas, including carbon nanotubes, graphene and nano-silver ink.
In addition, the MXene antennas were far easier to make. Other nanomaterials fabrication processes require mixing the electronically capable ingredients with other materials to help them stick to each other, and heating them all together to strengthen their interconnections. Our MXene antennas are made in two steps: Mix the MXenes with water, and spray it on with an airbrush.
This means antennas could be airbrush-sprayed almost anywhere, by almost anyone, for nearly any purpose. This new material type opens a wide range of new possibilities for electronic devices that can be anywhere and still communicate effectively.
Comments: Margaret M. Glaser
If only your “bright antenna future” were based on a clean wireless bill of health. But it’s not. There are biological consequences. Read the research.
Yury Gogotsi, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Drexel University
In reply to Margaret M. Glaser
There are contradictory data in the literature, as far as I can see. We see mobile phones everywhere, kids start playing with them before they learn how to walk, and mobile communication is spreading anyway. We are simply offering a better material for antennas and are leaving discussion regarding health effects of electromagnetic radiation to experts in the field.
Parents face tougher rules to get immigrant children back
By GISELA SALOMON and CLAUDIA TORRENS
Saturday, September 22
MIAMI (AP) — Armando Tabora desperately wants to get his teenage daughter out of the government detention facility where she has been for more than three months. He has been stymied at every turn.
The Florida landscaping worker took the bold step of going to a government office to submit fingerprints and other documents required for immigrants to get their children out of government custody — and now that information is being shared with deportation agents. He was then told that the woman he rents a room from would also need to submit fingerprints, something she refused to do. He then sought out friends who are here legally to help him out, to no avail.
“I don’t know what to do,” said Tabora, an immigrant from Honduras who has lived more than a decade in the shadows without being detected. “My daughter is desperate, crying. She wants to get out of there.”
The drama of parents being separated from their children at the border dominated the headlines this year, but thousands of immigrant families are experiencing a similar frustration: the increasing hurdles they must surmount to take custody of sons, daughters and relatives who crossed the border on their own.
The Trump administration has imposed more stringent rules and vetting for family members to get these children back as part of an across-the-board hardening of immigration policy.
As a result, family members are struggling to comply with the new requirement, keeping children in detention longer and helping the number of migrant kids in government custody soar to the highest levels ever. Federal officials insist the policies are about ensuring the safety of children.
More than 12,000 children are now in government shelters, compared with 2,400 in May 2017. The average length that children spend in detention has increased from 40 days in fiscal year 2016 to 59 in fiscal year 2018, according to federal data.
The requirements include the submission of fingerprints by all adults in the household where a migrant child will live. These sponsors — the term the U.S. uses for adults who take custody of immigrant children — are also subject to more background checks, proofs of income and home visits, lawyers say.
And this information will now be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement — something that did not occur in the past. ICE said this week that the agency has arrested 41 sponsors since the agencies started sharing information in June.
Lawyers and advocates say that change has had a chilling effect because many family members live in the country illegally and have been deterred from claiming relatives for fear they will be deported.
“They are saying: ‘We are going after the people trying to take care of them (children),’” said Jen Podkul, director of policy at Kids in Need of Defense.
The government has long required families to go through some vetting to serve as sponsors. The issue has become more prevalent in the last five years when tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras started coming across the border.
Since October 2014, the federal government has placed more than 150,000 unaccompanied minors with parents or other adult sponsors who are expected to care for the children and help them attend school while they seek legal status in immigration court.
Under Trump, the rules have been toughened in what the administration says are necessary steps to keep children from ending up in the homes of people with criminal records and other issues that could endanger kids.
“If somebody is unwilling to claim their child from custody because they’re concerned about their own immigration status, I think that de facto calls into question whether they’re an adequate sponsor and whether we should be releasing the child to that person,” Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families, said when the policy was announced in May.
The issue of sharing information with ICE arises because children and adult immigrants are handled by separate federal government agencies. Children are in the custody of the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement, while adults are handled by ICE.
Until the new fingerprinting policy took effect, the government rarely shared such information with immigration officials unless a fingerprint match showed that a potential sponsor had a particularly alarming record, said Holly Cooper, co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the University of California, Davis.
The tougher rules have put many immigrants in the position of doing something that once seemed unthinkable: turning over their fingerprints and other information knowing that it’ll be shared with ICE.
Marvin Puerto did just that to get custody of his 9-year-old son, Nahun. Puerto crossed the border in 2014 and has been trying to live in Missouri in the shadows since then. He and his wife, Eilyn Carbajal, waited two months to get custody of the boy.
“I did not want to do the fingerprints, but I had no choice”, said the 29-year-old construction worker. “Now they have all my information. I feel they are going to accuse me of smuggling family members.”
Workers at The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama say that after the Office of Refugee Resettlement started sharing information with ICE in June, two to four sponsors a week did not show up for appointments and a few who did visit refused to get fingerprinted.
After the New York Civil Liberties Union sued in February on behalf of a detained Salvadoran teen and his mother, the government was required to release case files on 45 children held under similar circumstances. In about half a dozen of those cases, reluctance to provide fingerprints was a factor in holding up children’s release, forcing some sponsors to scramble for another place to live and others to drop out of the application process, the NYCLU said.
If unaccompanied minors are not placed with sponsors they can end up in a federal foster care program. Some could be deported to the same dangers from which they fled.
Many of the parents and other relatives trying to secure their children’s release are poor and, to cover expenses, often share homes with others who are unrelated or in the country illegally. Many of those roommates have been reluctant to submit their fingerprints.
For Adan, a 27-year-old Guatemalan living in south Florida, leaving his 17-year-old sister in detention was out of the question. He followed the process and was given custody of her. Now, he wants to leave his apartment.
“I feel I need to move to have a sense of security”, said the landscaper about ICE knowing where he lives. He did not provide a last name because of his immigration status.
Associated Press Writer Adam Geller contributed to this report from New York.
Opinion: Teens Have It Tough; Why Are We Making Things Harder?
By Jesse Kelley
Being a teenager is the worst. For teenagers, everything is changing — both physically and emotionally. Moreover, these young people are confronted with some of the most intense situations in life: discovering heartbreak, experiencing worry, suffering low self-esteem and working to avoid peer pressure along the way.
Teens are often moody due to hormonal and physical changes that happen during puberty, and when mental health issues become involved, it can be difficult to discern “normal teenage behavior” from the symptoms of depression, anxiety and other emotional troubles.
When passionate responses to teenage-angst are exacerbated by mental health problems, youth sometimes act out criminally. Of the 2 million young people touched by the juvenile justice system each year, between 65 percent and 70 percent have a mental health disorder.
For those young people involved with the criminal justice system, detention and incarceration only make matters worse. Particularly in those states where young people can be held in adult facilities, the strain of being placed in isolation — as well as the fear experienced during incarceration generally — can intensify mental health issues.
In order to rehabilitate justice-involved youth with mental health issues, judges and juvenile probationers must limit their use of detention — especially when it involves incarcerating teens in adult facilities — and opt for community-based rehabilitation or diversion programs whenever possible.
Limiting detention is better for teens with mental health issues. Because juvenile detention facilities don’t always provide adequate mental health services for those detained, placing juveniles in detention can aggravate their existing conditions — and even trigger new ones. According to a study released by the Justice Policy Institute, one expert believes that mental health issues and conditions of confinement combine to make it more likely that incarcerated teens will engage in self-harm or commit suicide.
Another psychologist found that one-third of incarcerated youth diagnosed with depression are diagnosed after being incarcerated. When held in adult prisons, teens suffer even more.
Curtailing youth incarceration in adult prisons is paramount. Four states still automatically place 17-year-olds in the adult system, and more than triple that number allow prosecutors to directly file cases against minors in adult court. Moreover, federal law requires that youth incarcerated in adult prisons must be separated by “sight and sound” from adult inmates, meaning that youth often effectively end up not only without access to education or mental health treatment, but in a perpetual state of solitary confinement.
The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law conducted a study on the effects of solitary confinement on those with mental illness and found that “the stress, lack of meaningful social contact, and unstructured days can exacerbate symptoms of illness or provoke recurrence.” The study also found that isolation can further deteriorate a person’s mental condition, leading to hospitalization and even suicide.
In order to best provide for justice-involved teens, the juvenile justice system should rely more heavily on local programming and rehabilitation outside of the detention setting. One option, community-based mental health care, involves a variety of programs and services designed to meet local needs, including individualized counseling, peer support groups and easily accessible continuing care. These programs are run by community agencies and through hospitals or health clinics and offer a promising alternative to incarceration.
Some advocates of community-based health care efforts are building toolkits for communities that are willing to develop these options. For example, Getting To Outcomes (GTO), a collaborative project between researchers at the RAND Corporation and the University of South Carolina, offers a process to “help communities plan, implement and evaluate the impact of” programs that seek to prevent criminal behaviors in youth. GTO models can be used to bolster community-based mental health outreach for at-risk youth and have helped produce outstanding results.
Another type of out-of-detention program for justice-involved teens involves what are known as “diversion programs.” These programs intervene in the lives of young people who have shown some risky behavior but have not yet become severely delinquent. Diversion programs keep young people out of detention facilities, provide meaningful individualized rehabilitation services, and are particularly beneficial when they are completed within a teen’s own community.
Youths passing through the troubling teenage years need all the support they will accept — particularly those young people who may suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues. When involvement with the juvenile court system is added to the already complicated life of a teenager, we should be asking how we as a community can help rather than make things more difficult.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jesse Kelley is a policy analyst and state affairs manager for criminal justice at the R Street Institute. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.