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What a Burke!

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

In 1987 one David Augusts Burke  downed an entire commercial airliner, killing the crew and passengers as well as himself, in retaliation for his recent  dismissal from work.  The story is worth telling, not just for the incident itself but for the subsequent investigation and the minutiae of the tragedy that emerged:

On the 7th of December 1987 Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771, flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles, crashed in Cayucos, California, as a result of a murder–suicide by Burke.  All 43 passengers and crew aboard the plane died, five of whom, including the two pilots, were seemingly shot dead before the plane crashed. The above-named Burke, was a former aircraft cleaner for USAir, the parent company of PSA, who had been terminated for petty theft from in-flight cocktail receipts. 

He had also been suspected of involvement with a narcotics ring.  After meeting with Ray Thomson, his manager, in an unsuccessful attempt to be reinstated, Burke purchased a ticket on Flight 1771, on which Thomson was a regular commuter passenger, then, using  USAir employee credentials that he had not yet surrendered and armed with a .44 Magnum , he was able to bypass the normal passenger security checkpoint at LAX.  On board he wrote a message on an airsickness bag:

Hi Ray. I think it's sort of ironical that we end up like this. I asked for some leniency for my family. Remember? Well, I got none and you'll get none. The cockpit voice recorder (CVR) recorded the sound of someone entering and then leaving the lavatory, probably Burke, where he drew his revolver before killing Thomson. Captain Gregg Lindamood and First Officer James Nunn were asking air traffic control about turbulence when the CVR picked up the sound of two shots being fired in the cabin. 

The most plausible theory as to what happened was deduced from the pattern and audible volume of the shots on the CVR.  It is likely that Burke first shot Thomson twice, 2 bullet holes being found in the recovered seat. First Officer Nunn immediately reported to air traffic control that a gun had been fired, but no further transmissions were received from the crew. The CVR then recorded the cockpit door opening and flight attendant Deborah Neil telling the crew, "We have a problem!", to which Lindamood replied, "What's the problem?" A shot was heard as Burke shot the flight attendant dead and announced "I'm the problem."

He then fired two more rounds, incapacitating, if not outright killing both pilots. Several seconds later, the CVR picked up increasing windscreen noise as the airplane pitched down and accelerated. The remains of the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) indicated Burke had pushed the control column forward into a dive. A final gunshot was heard, followed by silence. It is most likely that was Burke killing Douglas Arthur, PSA's chief pilot in Los Angeles, who was also on board as a passenger and who may have been trying to reach the cockpit to save the aircraft. 

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were joined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the crash investigation. After two days of digging through what was left of the plane, they found the parts of a handgun containing six spent cartridge cases and the note on the airsickness bag written by Burke. FBI investigators were even able to lift a print from a fragment of finger stuck in the revolver's trigger guard, which positively identified Burke as holding the weapon when the aircraft crashed.  This disproved earlier speculation that  Burke shot himself and indicated that he was alive and he was holding the gun until the moment of impact.

Apart from being an amazing  illustration of the investigative skills and  professional thoroughness of the FAA and FBI  in uncovering the events as they played out in the skies above California, this is an extreme example of an employee with a grudge combined with severe mental health issues. However, a recent survey has indicated that the desire to kill one’s boss is a lot more common that we might like to suppose.

The question “Do you hate your boss?”  was recently asked of a a scross-section of British workers by the  London-based entrepreneurial research  group, Focus, intent on finding out the state of employee/employer relationships.  Now, if you replied yes, when you read that, then you’re not alone – it turns out 22% of people feel the same, and unhappily admit to hating their boss

The unhappiest industries
Sadly, more than one third of respondents said they dread going to work every day, and two thirds said they ‘live for the weekend’. One in five also said they ‘hate their job’, with 52% naming their boss as the main cause of their dissatisfaction. In fact, one in five people would forego a pay rise in exchange for having their boss fired. The unhappiest industry was retail, with 30% of retail workers claiming to hate their job. This was closely followed by construction (27%), and public sector workers (25%).

The most ‘murderous’ industries

While the Jennifer Anniston movie, Horrible Bosses, might be a work of fiction,  the survey revealed that it may not be all that far from the truth. Unbelievably, 12% of respondents admitted to having actually imagined killing their boss.  Construction workers emerged as having the worst relationship with their line managers with nearly a quarter admitting to murderous thoughts (22%) followed closely by those working in media (15%)

Construction                                    22%
Media & Communications               15%
Science & Technology                    14%
Arts & Entertainment                      13%
Retail                                              13%
Transport                                        12%
Finance                                          12%
Public sector                                  11%
Energy                                            9%
Health      & Social workers            7%
Admin                                             7%
Hospitality & Leisure                      7%

Over in Japan, the phenomenon is even greater, with a quarter, or 25%, of workers admitting to murderous thoughts toward their boss.  Psychologists are quick to point out that there is a quantum leap between thinking and doing;  that an employee might fantasise about murder but only as a form of mental catharsis, a harmless way of  righting  workplace wrongs, imagined or real,  no different to joining the local gym and using a punchbag to represent the hated figure of authority and absorb some pent-up aggression. 

Of course for most disgruntled employees, that’s as far as it goes.    However there are at least 18 further instances in the United States of former employees returning to their former place of work and killing their ex boss, often taking out a few current employees at the same time and 7 such instances in Japan. 

The high incidence in the US can be attributed partly to the ease of obtaining guns and ammunition but nonetheless it’s still a worry how a murderous thought can tip over to intent and follow-through in what would be appear to be a similar state of mind to the French ‘crime passionnel’  – a temporary loss of balance of mind caused by a severe emotional upset.  When we consider how long we spend at work, what a large part of our lives our job comprises and how vital it is in terms of income and lifestyle, it’s scarcely surprising that sudden unemployment through termination or retrenchment can deal a devastating blow.

Putting those statistics into proportion, they add up to only a minute number of misguided people who see murder as the appropriate revenge for dismissal.   But as one media boss remarked when those UK stats were published ‘It does make me wonder if I should be looking over my shoulder more often’!

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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