April 20, 2010

Pt 1: Risky Open Skies - European Union transport ministers have agreed to open up some flight zones across Europe. This after five days of air-traffic deadlock caused by a cloud of ash from a volcano in Iceland. Airlines have lost an estimated one-Billion dollars. We look at what goes into doing good risk assessment and what other factors can get in the way. (Read More)

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Pt 2: Upside of Grounded Flights - With the lack of airplanes overhead, London, England has sounded like a very different place for the last six days. We consider the upside of being grounded. (Read More)

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Pt 3: Extreme Work - We continue our on-going series, Work In Progress with a look at the allure and the effects of working in extreme isolation. Meet a doctor who spent 370 days working in an isolated station in the Antarctic. (Read More)

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Whole Show Blow-by-Blow

It's Tuesday, April 20th.

Iraq's Prime Minister approved a secret prison where hundreds of people were illegally detained and tortured.

Currently, it's called "Afghanistan".

This is The Current.

Risky Open Skies - Jonathan Astill

Parts of Europe are beginning to air travel today. European Transport Ministers have agreed to open up some -- but not all -- of the flight paths over the continent. This, after reports that the volcano eruption in Iceland has strengthened and a new ash cloud is spreading towards the United Kingdom.

Aviation experts fear this is the worst air travel disruption since World War Two. It has cost European airlines an estimated one-Billion-dollars. And many in the airline industry say the call to open up the skies should have come days ago.

Jonathan Astill is the head of operations at the Scottish Centre of the UK's National Air Traffic Control Services. The organization responsible for the decision to close U.K. airspace. He was in Prestwick, south of Glasgow.

Risky Open Skies - Jo Gillespie

As you heard, the decision to shut down flight paths across Europe was based on the perceived risks posed by the clouds of volcanic ash. But according to Jo Gillespie, officials made the call without really knowing what those risks were. He is a retired pilot and a former accident and safety investigator. He's now a member of the Washington based International Advisory Committee of the Flight Safety Foundation and a partner with Gates Aviation Consulting. Jo Gillespie was in Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

Risky Open Skies - Dan Gardner

Dan Gardner thinks the decision to shut down European airspace tells us a lot about how our brains perceive and analyze risk. He's a columnist with the Ottawa Citizen. He's also the author of Risk - The Science and Politics of Fear. He was in Ottawa.


Upside of Grounded - Larry Miller

The birds are chirping in Chiswick Park in West London. For all anyone knows, they do that every morning. We can't be sure because Chiswick Park is right underneath a flight path. So when European airspace isn't closed because of a volcano in Iceland, those birds could be singing arias and no one would know it.

For Larry Miller, that's been one of the nice things about the last six days. He's a correspondent for CBS & NPR. He has lived in London for the last 35 years.

Upside of Grounded - Tony Leroux

A busy metropolis such as London, England is alive with sounds ... both natural and man-made. So it may seem odd that removing just one sound out of thousands -- in this case the rumble of an airplane -- could have such a noticeable effect on the city. But for Tony Leroux, it makes perfect sense. He's a professor of audiology at the University of Montreal. He was in Montreal.

Upside of Grounded - Elisabeth Rosenthal

Elisabeth Rosenthal is an environmental reporter with The New York Times. Last Wednesday, she had what was supposed to be a one-night stopover in London. She ended up leaving yesterday by train. And while she was grounded, she gathered a few stories from her fellow travelers. We aired a clip.

Upside of Grounded - George Monbiot

For George Monbiot, silence isn't the only upside to the grounding of airplanes in Europe. He's a columnist with the British newspaper The Guardian and the author of several books including, Heat: How to Stop The Planet from Burning. He was in Mid Wales, England.

And we aired one more story from New York Times reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal.


Extreme Work - Christian Otto

This summer, six volunteers will step into a claustrophobic metal module in northern Moscow. The door will shut behind them. And the crew will live in windowless isolation for the next 520 days. It's the third phase of the Mars 500 project, a study designed to simulate the conditions that would be involved in a flight to Mars.

A real mission to Mars may be decades away. But in the meantime, officials want to learn as much as they can about what it will take for a mission to be successful. In particular, they want to know how people would cope with the stress, fatigue and claustrophobia involved in such a mission.

This morning, as part of our on-going series, Work In Progress, we're asking what it means to work in such extreme environments. Canadian doctor, Christian Otto hasn't been to space. But he did spend 370 days straight as the only doctor at an isolated station in Antarctica. He's now a Senior Scientist with NASA and he was in Houston, Texas.

Extreme Work - Peter Suedfeld

Peter Suedfeld has spent more than 25 years studying the psychological effects of working in extreme environments such as Antarctica or space. He is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Last Word: Nazia Quazi

We wanted to end the program today with an update on a story we brought you earlier this month. Nazia Quazi is a Canadian citizen who is stuck in Saudi Arabia, against her will. Under Saudi law, she needs her male guardian's permission to leave the country. In her case, that's her father. And he refuses to grant her permission.

After hearing our conversation with Nazia Quazi, Mark Brousseau decided that he wanted to protest against her situation. He's a retired Chief Petty Officer, second class, with the Canadian Navy. This morning he is going to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia to return a medal, one given to him by the Saudis, and one that he has treasured for twenty years. We gave him the last word this morning.


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