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From the Alps to Cruz, top news explained

From the Alps to Cruz, top news explained

From the Alps to Cruz, top news explained
March 26
00:08 2015

The Editorial Board

The U.S. began bombing missions in Tikrit Wednesday in an effort to oust Islamic State combatants who have controlled the city for three weeks. The House managed to pass balanced a budget, one that would increase defense funds, but trillions in spending cuts. But two topics in particular are dominating the news cycle this week. Here it is, the major stories in the news cycle, explained.

Tragedy in the French Alps

UPDATED Saturday, March 28 at 11:51 a.m.

The co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, who is alleged to have deliberately crashed the Germanwings jetliner with 149 other people on board, may have had vision problems that could have affected his ability to fly.

The investigation turned toward Lubitz when audio records from the blackbox picked up breathing sounds from within the cockpit as the captain beat on the door, demanding reentrance after stepping out briefly.

The 27-year-old co-pilot sought treatment for his vision and treatment for an undetermined psychological issue. Authorities are unsure at this time whether or not the two medical issues are related.

At his home in Düsseldorf on Thursday, investigators found a doctor’s note excusing him from work, saying he was too ill, had been torn and disregarded in the trashcan. Similar notes were also found.

Investigators are suspicious that Lubitz hid his medical condition from the airliner. He had been evaluated at a clinic as recently as March 10. The clinic denied that Lubitz sought treatment for depression, and did not say whether he receive eye treatment there.

The actions of the German co-pilot puzzled the world  when it descended from a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet, lost contact with air traffic controllers and smashed into the French Alps during a routine flight from Barcelona to Düsseldorf on Monday, killing all 150 American, Spanish, French and German passengers and crew on board.

Lubitz was in control of the aircraft when it crashed. He ignored air traffic controller requests for transponder information. Brice Robin, a prosecutor from Marseille in charge of the now-criminal investigation, said in a press conference that no declaration of emergency or distress was given from the Germanwings flight, and “the most plausible and probable interpretation for us is that the co-pilot, by voluntary abstention, refused to open the door to the cockpit to the flight captain.”

Blackbox audio recordings show a pilot was not in the cockpit just before the 10-minute descent. The pilot made a routine exit of the cockpit, but was unable to return. On Wednesday, a military investigator told the press the pilot can be heard lightly tapping at the cockpit door. When there was no answer, the pilot began hitting the door harder and louder with no response. The development is especially concerning, given the silence from the cockpit during the descent. The cockpit is to remain locked at all times, and is controlled from within.

It is unclear whether or not Lubitz used the plane to commit suicide, but officials are currently investigating on that assumption. The prosecutor added that was a legitimate question.

 The audio recorder was mostly intact, but the data recorder — which stores about 1,300 statistics, including the plane’s alarms, position and speed — was found without its memory card, intensifying the investigation until revelations about the co-pilot’s control came to light.

Because of the time it took from altitude to impact, many aviation experts speculated the Airbus was in pilot control. The Air France jet that crashed in 2009 fell three and half minutes from 38,000 feet before impacting the Atlantic Ocean.

When controllers lost contact with the flight at 10:41 a.m. local time, the Airbus was squawking at about 6,000 feet in a mountain area ranging from 2,000 to 9,000 feet. According to data from Boeing, only about 10 percent of flights crash during the cruising phase of the flight (38,000 is cruising altitude).

Officials say weather conditions were particularly fair over the Alps. During the cruising phase, the plane is under less stress, but heavy winds — sometimes equal to 800 or 900 mph, according to a Forbes report — pound the aircraft. Modern jets, especially the A320, are built to withstand such wind forces. From 1959 to 2013, Boeing data indicates A320/321/319/318 jets accounted for 0.14 fatal accidents per million flights. The Airbus is built for heavy passenger short-haul trips.

The White House initially ruled out terroristic activity in association with the crash, but the latest development could indicate otherwise.

News stories highlight the variety of passengers on board. A class of 16 German students were on the flight, along with two teachers. Two opera singers were killed as well.

Presidential race officially underway

On Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) announced his bid for the Oval Office, signaling the start of what will be an interesting race.

Cruz is a Tea Party favorite, and is characterized as a difficult-to-work-with, right wing, radical conservative with a different approach to governing. He has made it clear he will repeal “every word” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as it’s affectionately known around Congress. Cruz’s approach to healthcare reform would dismantle government involvement and push private programs.

In his announcement pep rally at Liberty University, he implored voters to “imagine” him as president. “I want to ask each of you to imagine, imagine millions of courageous conservatives, all across America, rising up together to say in unison, ‘We demand our liberty.’”

His target voter will likely be conservative Christians, who Cruz says largely don’t vote. “Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values,” he said.

“Imagine abolishing the IRS.” Yes, among his thickheaded and doltish political plans, ridding the IRS is right up there. While all Americans — who would approve of tax reform — routinely find it difficult to interact with the IRS, don’t let Cruz sell you here. This idea comes straight out of anti-Obama politics. In 2014, Cruz often pointed at the Obama administration for supposedly covering up an IRS scandal. He even called for Attorney General Eric Holder’s impeachment.

He’s not going to win the election, and he won’t even make it out of the GOP primary. He’s branded himself as a radically different politician, and radically different just doesn’t work in American politics. His stances are so rooted in dissent that it’s annoying and painful to hear him out. He won’t be able to raise near enough money to even be a contender in the GOP primary.

Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, has that taken care of. He’s been in politics his whole life, and his father and older brother, George W., are so well connected that Jeb is shaping up to be a formidable Republican candidate. But his policies have yet to be tested, as the focus has been on his fundraising.

Money aside, GOP candidates will likely wait a few weeks to declare their bid for the White House. It would be a politically wise move because Cruz will be old news. When other candidates announce, they will steal the show, forcing Cruz to be even more offensive and seek more attention as to gain voter share.

Featured Image: Senator Ted Cruz speaks at CPAC 2014 in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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