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fuelling the fire

STUART WHITE
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

A chance call on a phone-in radio show this week highlighted a problem I didn’t even know existed and I suspect many of you are also unaware.  The discussion topic was on the inherent dangers of the recently-introduced ‘smart motorways’ in the UK with no hard-shoulder for breakdowns and other emergency situations.

One tow-truck driver called in to point out the high rate of fatalities from members of his profession attending to incidents on such roads after dark.  He then went on to point out a very modern danger to which he and his colleagues are exposed – the potential of electrocution or conflagration from the lithium ion batteries in electric cars involved in accidents. The incidence of post-crash fires has already been highlighted as an increasing problem in such cars.  In May 2018 a German driver died after a Tesla car he was driving crashed into a guardrail in Switzerland and burst into flames.  Following the accident the local fire brigade posted a Facebook comment suggesting the vehicle's lithium ion batteries could have triggered a phenomenon involving a "rapid and unstoppable increase in temperature" the accident, though the comment was later retracted.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating a further two fires involving Tesla vehicles, a Model S that caught fire after crashing into a wall in Florida, trapping two 18-year-olds who died in the flames and the company's semi-autonomous Model X SUV which crashed into a barrier on a California highway. The driver in that incident also died, but Tesla said he was pulled from the vehicle before it caught fire.  

According to industry safety group the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), fuel-saving petrol-electric hybrid and all-electric cars and trucks powered by sizable battery packs and high voltage motors could present a new kind of danger at serious accident scenes.  The report highlighted risks to first responders and tow operators from potential electric shock from damaged systems not disengaged during or immediately after a crash.

"As electric vehicles enter the marketplace in greater numbers, it's an appropriate time to recognize best practices that facilitate a safe response when these vehicles are in an accident," said Todd Mackintosh, chairman of the SAE technical committee.  The group recommended automakers install switches that would kill battery power in the event of an accident. The location of those switches should be standardized for safety.  Another recommendation would create a guide for emergency workers, to quickly identify the location of high-voltage components allowing them to be disabled. Tow truck drivers also need better information and training on how to handle hybrids and electric vehicles without receiving an unexpected jolt, the report said.  

More than one million battery powered electric and hybrid electric vehicles were sold in the United States last year, raising the chances of such vehicles being involved in road traffic accidents.  In May, auto industry officials and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Energy Department discussed potential dangers faced by first responders from electrical charges produced by hybrid and electric cars. NHTSA later issued interim guidance for consumers, emergency responders and tow truck operators to increase awareness about specific dangers.  Dangers can be reduced if responders have easy access to battery packs and if auto manufacturers create common disconnect locations in all hybrid and electric vehicles, NHTSA said.

The potential problems of such vehicles are not, of course, confined to Tesla and car manufacturers  are getting the message out to drivers and responders. Nissan places the battery pack of its LEAF all-electric car in a steel case. The Japanese automaker also designed the battery pack to sense a crash and disable its electrical charge when involved in an accident.  Ford has published a guide for first responders encountering its Focus EV involved in accidents. The Focus EV includes what Ford calls "Electric Badges," which are clearly marked logos on the doors and trunk lid to warn responders of possible electric shock.

Cables wrapped in orange high-voltage warning sleeves are located under the hood of the Focus EV.  General Motors, maker of the Chevy Volt, is also helping to prepare fire service and other first responders. Moreover, GM took steps to better protect the Volt battery pack following a fire that flared after a crash test in 2011. NHTSA found no defect with the lithium-ion battery system nor were any real world crash-fires ever reported. But the case highlighted potential safety concerns for first responders.

For those of a technical bent this is the science behind the danger.  What happens with a lithium ion battery fire is typically a short circuit within one or more of the battery's cells, which generates heat. The heat can then ignite the chemicals within the battery. That can cause problems in the adjoining cells and lead to the condition known as "thermal runaway" in which the fire spreads and builds. That's apparently what happened in a fatal Tesla crash in Switzerland.  The big difference between a lithium ion battery and petroleum fire  is the time it takes to ignite.

Petrol fires start almost immediately when the fuel comes in contact with a spark or flame, and spreads rapidly. Battery fires typically take some time to achieve the heat necessary to start the fire.  In some instances, that delay is good because it means the occupants of a car involved in a crash can exit the vehicle before the fire starts. But it can pose its own problems. Sometimes a battery can be damaged, perhaps by the car running over some debris, and the driver might not be aware of the damage. And then a fire can start well after the initial incident. That could theoretically cause a fire after the car is parked in a garage. And even when the battery fire is obvious, Tesla warns first responders that it can take 24 hours for a it to be fully extinguished.

The fire risk for electric cars will undoubtedly be reduced in the years to come.  Research is taking place for new materials that might not only make batteries lighter and more efficient, but could possibly make them safer. Steven Risser, senior research leader at Battelle, a non-profit research and development firm, and one of the leading experts on the risk of fires in electric vehicles  makes a valid point.  "Gasoline is a very risky material. We have had 130 years of designs and experience to make a gasoline powered vehicle as safe as possible. We're still at early stages of understanding how to make lithium ion batteries safe.” To paraphrase Aldous Huxley, it’s a brave new world we’re entering into and clearly with new technologies come new dangers.  Let the buyer (of an electric car) beware.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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