Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Living near the Texas/Mexico border makes security a complicated matter

As lawmakers in Washington debate how to reform America's immigration policy, the impact of any changes will be felt by those living along the U.S.-Mexico border. Here in Falfurrias, Texas -- more than 70 miles north of the border -- lie the graves of dozens of migrants who died trying to illegally cross the border. Baylor University's forensics students have exhumed 63 bodies in an effort to identify them.

Despite being dozens of miles away from the border, ranchers near Falfurrias, Texas, must secure their property from those crossing the border illegally. Here, Isaias Marquez cares for the dogs that patrol El Tule Ranch, where he works.
While ranchers are concerned about illegal immigrants, they know firsthand the need for migrant labor which keeps the Rio Grande Valley operating. Here, El Tule Ranch manager Lavoyger Durham surveys the property.
Ranchers and farmers often build ladders over their fences in hopes that migrants won't damage the fences when crossing.

Brooks County Judge Raul Ramirez is the top elected official in the county, where 129 bodies of illegal immigrants were found last year. It costs the rural county nearly $2,000 per body to process the remains.
A border patrol helicopter flies above the Rio Grande on July 14.
A border patrol helicopter flies above the Rio Grande on July 14.
A sign warns of security cameras on a farm near the border.
Part of the border fence in south Texas is made from 6-by-6-inch iron bars.
A storm drain in Mission, Texas is filled with soil and rocks in an effort to keep people from hiding in it.

A gun range target on the El Tule Ranch.

CNN) -- Joe Metz, a straight-talking Texas rancher on the U.S.-Mexico border, awoke recently to find 50 cows roaming freely in his front yard. Undocumented immigrants, he says, left a gate open as they crossed his land, which abuts the Rio Grande. For years, he's witnessed migrants and drug smugglers touch American soil for the first time on his property.
"We deal with this every day," he said.
But as a rancher in Hidalgo County, he also knows firsthand the need for labor to keep producers in the Rio Grande Valley operating. The traffic through his land frustrates him -- particularly the potentially dangerous drug traffic -- but he acknowledges that most crossers are looking for opportunity. It is an open secret that many of these undocumented immigrants will indeed find jobs in the local economy.
More than 1,700 miles away, U.S. lawmakers are engaged in their own debate over how to balance security concerns and immigrant labor needs. The Senate has proposed one solution in the form of a sweeping immigration bill that the chamber passed last month. Border security figures prominently in that bill, and is also a priority for members of the House, where the debate has moved.
Those who live and work on the border say there is a disconnect between the debate in Washington and the realities on the ground. Miles of border fencing built by the federal government -- actually a levy that was cut in half and reinforced with concrete to form a wall -- run across Metz's property near Mission, Texas. Two 40-foot gaps exist in the barrier so that workers can access all parts of the ranch, but there are no gates, creating a funnel for migrants and traffickers 
Metz's experiences make him hawkish on beefing up the border, but he doesn't just want more border patrol agents. He wants to see work permits granted the millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the United States. The agriculture industry in the Rio Grande Valley depends on immigrant labor, he said.
"They (the government) just need to face up to the situation and give all these people work permits," Metz said. Migrants will keep coming across the border as long as there is work and a chance to make money, he added.
"Farmers need the help, no doubt about that, because nobody wants to do the work," said Jimmie Steidinger, a farmer and agricultural producer, in Donna, Texas.
 "For those whose lands are traversed by migrants, the biggest concern is drug traffickers, more so than economic migrants", he said. " Putting undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship would provide not just more able hands, but the relief of knowing who is crossing the border ".
For others, securing the border is not about how many boots are on the ground. Border security means that people on both sides of the boundary feel safe, said Michael Seifert, coordinator of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network. That is not the case, he said. The Equal Voice Network represents 11 community-based organizations focused on the area's poorest residents.
To many of these residents, the border patrol is something threatening, Seifert said. Reports of heavy-handedness by border agents -- including use of force -- has bred mistrust among some border residents. In one case in Arizona last year, a border patrol agent shot and killed an adolescent who had been throwing rocks alongside several others at the border. The border patrol confirmed that agents were being assaulted with rocks and that after verbal warnings to stop, one agent fired his service weapon.
Many in the community hear the stories of alleged beatings or use of stun guns by border agents and have become wary of their presence.
"We have a completely different perception" than outsiders, Seifert said. The fears of the community are compounded by the fact that many families live in mixed-status households, where some members are living in the country legally and others aren't, creating fear of separation. Seifert said a further buildup along the border would be bad both for businesses and the welfare of the communities.
The Senate immigration overhaul bill passed only after being amended to include tough border security measures: Doubling the number of border patrol agents on the southern border to nearly 40,000, increasing fencing to 700 miles and deploying more technology.

In the Republican-controlled House, border security is being touted as a prerequisite before any undocumented immigrants are placed on a potential path to citizenship.
"I understand the issues our borders face and am committed to making sure the first thing that must be addressed with any immigration bill is strengthening and protecting the border," said Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, a member of the bipartisan House group working on a bill.
But some who study the border say the boundary with Mexico is as safe as it's ever been, and it doesn't make sense to flood the place with border agents.
"It sounds good and it looks good politically, to add more agents", said Maureen Meyer, Senior Associate for Mexico and Central America at the Washington Office on Latin America, or WOLA. "Calls for border security don't always reflect reality."
Currently, the border patrol is already double the size it was in 2005. As the agency grew, the number of illegal crossers apprehended decreased. In 2005, each border agent -- on average -- apprehended 118 undocumented immigrants that year, according to data extrapolated by WOLA. Last year, that number fell to 19 apprehensions per agent. If the border patrol is doubled in size again, how much further would that number fall? Would there be a lot of agents standing on the border doing nothing?
About 70 miles north of the Rio Grande Valley lies Brooks County, a community that has seen the cost of illegal immigration up close, even though it is not located on the border.
The county includes the town of Falfurrias, the site of the last border patrol checkpoint on Highway 281. Make it past the checkpoint, and a smuggler or migrant could be home free.
Most migrants try to avoid the checkpoint altogether, choosing instead to go around it by hiking deep into the vast tracts of ranch land. But too often they become lost, or succumb to the unforgiving heat and die. In 2012, 129 bodies of migrants were found in Brooks County. At least 42 have been found so far this year -- 11 in the past two weeks.
It can cost the county nearly $2,000 to pick up a body, transport it, and perform an autopsy. The county is also burdened with the costs of sending its deputies to these scenes instead of patrolling the community. The counties that are right on the border have access to federal funds to offset law enforcement and other costs, but Brooks County does not.

The border "isn't secure, and I don't think they will ever secure it," Brooks County Judge Raul Ramirez said. Still, Ramirez says that doubling the border patrol and prioritizing border security before immigration reform is not the answer.
"I think they don't get it. I don't think that's the solution," he said.
More agents will not stop determined migrants, but will simply drive up the price that a smuggler charges, he said. It also raises the likelihood that smugglers will choose riskier routes, meaning that even more people may die from exposure, he said. What Ramirez would like to see is a deployment of current border agents to high-crossing areas, and a focus on catching drug traffickers. The border patrol would appear to have the most to gain from an immigration bill with a tough security component. It would mean more money and more manpower.
But Shawn Moran, vice president of the union that represents border agents, the National Border Patrol Council, says that is not the case. Rather than spending millions hiring and training 20,000 new agents, it makes more sense to properly fund the existing force to bring the border patrol up to 100% efficiency, he said. That alone would be the equivalent of 5,000 new agents.
Calls for increased technology, from sensors to unmanned aerial vehicles are nice, but they are just tools, Moran said. It takes an agent to make an arrest, he said.
"We appreciate the sentiment, but we think (the immigration bill) has to be tweaked a bit," he said.

US man 'abandoned' in US jail gets $4m in compensation

Daniel Chong file picture

A university student in the US city of San Diego has received more than $4m (£2.6m) from the US government after he was abandoned for more than four days in a prison cell, his lawyer said. Daniel Chong said he drank his urine to stay alive, tried to carve a message to his mother on his arm and hallucinated.
He was held in a drug raid in 2012, but told he would not be charged. Nobody returned to his cell for four days. The justice department's inspector is investigating what happened.

Mr Chong said he slid a shoelace under the door and screamed to get attention before five or six people found him covered in his faeces in the cell at the Drug Enforcement Administration's San Diego headquarters, the Associated Press reports. After Mr Chong was rescued, he spent five days in hospital recovering from dehydration, kidney failure, cramps and a perforated oesophagus. He also lost 15lb.

Mr Chong was one of nine people detained in the raid. Authorities determined that they would not pursue charges after questioning him. One of Mr Chong's lawyers said that a police officer then put him in the cell and told him: "We'll come get you in a minute." Mr Chong said he thought he was forgotten by mistake.
"It sounded like it was an accident - a really, really bad, horrible accident," he said.

The jail cell had no windows and Mr Chong had no food or water while he was trapped inside.
The incident prompted the head of the DEA to issue a public apology last May, saying he was "deeply troubled" by the incident.

Mr Chong's lawyer said that as a result of the incident the Drug Enforcement Administration had introduced new policies for detention, including checking cells daily and installing cameras inside them.

 Out of something bad comes something good. This will not happen to another innocent victim.
And four million dollars is not too shabby....Just saying.

New Discoveries Made by Scientists....Testing Inca Child Sacrifice Mummies



Tests on three mummies found in Argentina have shed new light on the Inca practice of child sacrifice.

Scientists have revealed that drugs and alcohol played a key part in the months and weeks leading up to the children's deaths. Tests on one of the children, a teenage girl, suggest that she was heavily sedated just before her demise.

Dr Emma Brown, from the department of archaeological sciences at the University of Bradford, said: "The Spanish chroniclers suggest that children were sacrificed for all kinds of reasons: important life milestones in the lives of the Incas, in times of war or natural disasters, but there was a calendar of rituals too."

The mummified remains were discovered in 1999, entombed in a shrine near the summit of the 6,739m-high Llullaillaco volcano in Argentina. Three children were buried there: a 13-year-old girl, and a younger boy and girl, thought to be about four or five years old.

Their remains date to about 500 years ago, during the time of the Inca empire, which dominated South America until the Europeans arrived at the end of the 15th Century.
"The preservation is phenomenal - they've been called the best preserved mummies in the world," explained Dr Brown. "These three children look like they are asleep."

The international team of researchers used forensic tests to analyse the chemicals found in the children's hair. They discovered that all three had consumed alcohol and coca leaves (from which cocaine is extracted) in the final months of their lives. Historical records reveal that these substances were reserved for the elite and often used in Incan rituals.

An analysis of the teenage girl's hair, which was longer than the hair of the younger victims, revealed more.  The girl, known as the "Llullaillaco maiden", was probably considered more highly valued than the younger children, because of her virginal status.

Tests on her long braids revealed that her coca consumption increased sharply a year before her death. The scientists believe this corresponds to the time she was selected for sacrifice. Earlier research also reveals that her diet changed at this point too, from a potato-based peasant diet to one rich in meat and maize.

Dr Brown explained: "From what we know of the Spanish chronicles, particularly attractive or gifted women were chosen. The Incas actually had someone who went out to find these young women and they were taken from their families."

The results also revealed that the girl ingested large amounts of alcohol in the last few weeks of her life. It suggests she was heavily sedated before she and the other children were taken to the volcano, placed in their tombs and left to die.
"In the case of the maiden, there is no sign of violence. She is incredibly well looked after: she has a good layer of fat, she has beautifully groomed hair, beautiful clothes," said Dr Brown.
"In this case we think with the combination of being placed in the grave with the alcohol and the cold - the mountain is over 6,000m above sea level - she would have passed away quietly."

The mummies are now housed in the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology in Salta, Argentina.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mysterious Medieval Tomb Discovered at Richard III Burial Site

 Mysterious tomb found at the site of Richard III's burial
 Archaeologists find another tomb alongside Richard III's body

 Burial site of Richard III
 Skeleton of Richard III
 Tiles from the floor of the original monastery
Grey Friars Monastery rediscovered

King Richard III's rediscovered resting place is turning out more mysteries this summer. Excavators finally lifted the heavy lid of a medieval stone coffin found at the site in Leicester, England, only to reveal another lead coffin inside.

The "coffin-within-a-coffin" is thought to have been sealed in the 13th or 14th century — more than 100 years before Richard, an infamous English king slain in battle, received his hasty burial in 1485.
The team of archaeologists from the University of Leicester thinks this grave in the Grey Friars monastery might contain one of the friary's founders or a medieval knight.
"The inner coffin is likely to contain a high-status burial — though we don't currently know who it contains," reads a statement from the university.

The outer stone coffin measures about 7 feet (2.1 meters) long and 2 feet (0.6 meters) wide at the head and 1 foot (0.3 meters) at the feet. Eight people were needed to remove its lid.
The lead funerary box inside has been carried off to the university, where researchers will conduct tests to determine the safest way to open it without damaging the remains. But so far, they've been able to get a look at the feet through a hole in the bottom of the inner coffin.

The archaeologists suspect the grave may belong to one of Grey Friar's founders: Peter Swynsfeld, who died in 1272, or William of Nottingham, who died in 1330. Records also suggest "a knight called Mutton, sometime mayor of Leicester," was buried at the site. This name may refer to the 14th-century knight Sir William de Moton of Peckleton, who died between 1356 and 1362, the researchers say.
"None of us in the team have ever seen a lead coffin within a stone coffin before," archaeologist Mathew Morris, the Grey Friars site director, said in a statement. "We will now need to work out how to open it safely, as we don't want to damage the contents when we are opening the lid."

Richard III, the last king of the House of York, reigned from 1483 until 1485, when he was killed in battle during the War of Roses. He received a quick burial at the Grey Friars monastery in Leicester as his defeater, Henry Tudor, ascended to the throne.

Richard's rise to power was controversial. His two young nephews, who had a claim to the throne, vanished from the Tower of London shortly before Richard became king, leading to rumors that he had them killed. After his death, Richard was demonized by the Tudor dynasty and his reputation as a power-hungry, muderous hunchback was cemented in William Shakespeare's play "Richard III." Meanwhile, Grey Friars was destroyed in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation, and its ruins became somewhat lost to history.

Setting out to find the lost king, archaeologists started digging beneath a parking lot in Leicester last summer where they believed they would find Grey Friars. They soon uncovered the remains of the monastery and a battle-ravaged skeleton that was later confirmed through a DNA analysis to be that of Richard III.

In an effort to learn more about the church where Richard was buried — as well as the other people buried alongside him — a fresh dig at the site began in early July.
A King Richard III visitor center is being built at the site and arrangements are being made to reinter the king's bones. The Cathedral of Leicester recently unveiled its $1.5 million plan to rebury the monarch in a new raised tomb inside the church, with a week of celebrations leading up to the reinterment.

Plague-infected squirrel closes Los Angeles park

California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi)

Parts of a national forest in California have been evacuated and closed down after a squirrel was found to be infected with the (bubonic) plague.  Los Angeles officials say visitors were ordered to leave the Angeles National Forest as a precaution after the rodent was trapped in a routine check.

They said no people in the area were believed to have been infected with the disease, known as the Black Death. The plague killed millions of Europeans during the Middle Ages.

It sounds like a screenplay for a B-movie: bubonic plague-infected squirrels descend on Los Angeles. But despite the excitement among Angelenos on social media about the "Black Death"  found at  the popular California campsite, health officials say this is not a problem for urban squirrels.
City conditions do not lend themselves to having fleas co-existing in large numbers as they would in a forested area, they say. ( Okay, if you say so)

It is a bacterial infection which can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas.
If not treated with antibiotics, it is usually deadly.  Further testing of squirrels in the region will be carried out before the campgrounds are re-opened to the public.

Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said that agriculture workers would dust squirrel burrows in order to reduce the flea population. He said that while the area was closed to camping, people would still be able to hike through. He advised that anyone who wished to  hike in the area so should use insect repellent .

Geez Louise ! That's put the kibosh on my holiday plans. I will not be hiking through, camping in or even flying over that particular piece of America for quite a while, (even if I bathed in insect repellent). Bubonic Plague decimated the population of Europe. The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, killing from 100 million/ 200 million people and peaking in Europe in the years 1348–50.
It is thought to have started in China . It then travelled along the Silk Road and reached the Crimea by 1346. From there, it was most likely carried by rat fleas living on the black rats that were regular passengers on merchant ships. Spreading throughout the Mediterranean and Europe, the Black Death is estimated to have killed 30 to 60% of Europe's total population and influenced culture, religion and changed the course of history.

 Picture this: Death carts rattling through the towns, collecting bodies and the mournful cry of, "Bring out your dead", echoing down the near empty streets. The corpses, thrown in piles and buried in deep pits...mass graves.  Okay, we have antibiotics now and it probably would not kill most people but the whole association is creepy, nasty and F***ing terrifying.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Science is powerful but it can't explain all phenomena

 The Hum
It creeps in slowly in the dark of night, and once inside, it almost never goes away.
It's known as the Hum, a steady, droning sound that's heard in places as disparate as Taos, N.M.; Bristol, England; and Largs, Scotland.

But what causes the Hum, and why it only affects a small percentage of the population in certain areas, remain a mystery, despite a number of scientific investigations.

Reports started trickling in during the 1950s from people who had never heard anything unusual before; suddenly, they were bedeviled by an annoying, low-frequency humming, throbbing or rumbling sound.

The cases seem to have several factors in common: Generally, the Hum is only heard indoors, and it's louder at night than during the day. It's also more common in rural or suburban environments; reports of a hum are rare in urban areas, probably because of the steady background noise in crowded cities.

Whether we call it gut feelings, a 'sixth sense,' or something else, we have all experienced intuition at one time or another. Of course, gut feelings are often wrong (how many times during aircraft turbulence have you been sure your plane was going down?), but they do seem to be right much of the time. Psychologists note that people subconsciously pick up information about the world around us, leading us to seemingly sense or know information without knowing exactly how or why we know it. But cases of intuition are difficult to prove or study, and psychology may only be part of the answer.

From the Shakespeare play "MacBeth" to the NBC show "Medium," spirits of the dead have long made an appearance in our culture and folklore. Many people have reported seeing apparitions of both shadowy strangers and departed loved ones. Though definitive proof for the existence of ghosts remains elusive, sincere eyewitnesses continue to report seeing, photographing, and even communicating with ghosts. Ghost investigators hope to one day prove that the dead can contact the living, providing a final answer to the mystery.

Mysterious Disappearances
People disappear for various reasons. Most are runaways, some succumb to accident, a few are abducted or killed, but most are eventually found. Not so with the truly mysterious disappearances. From the crew of the Marie Celeste to Jimmy Hoffa, Amelia Earhart, and Natalee Holloway, some people seem to have vanished without a trace. When missing persons are found, it is always through police work, confession, or accident never by 'psychic detectives'). But when the evidence is lacking and leads are lost, even police and forensic science can't always solve the crime.

There is no doubt that UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) exist — many people see things in the skies that they cannot identify, ranging from aircraft to meteors. Whether or not any of those objects and lights are alien spacecraft is another matter entirely; given the fantastic distances and effort involved in just getting to Earth from across the universe, such a scenario seems unlikely. Still, while careful investigation has revealed known causes for most sighting reports, some UFO incidents will always remain unexplained.

Deja vu
Deja vu is a French phrase meaning 'already seen,' referring to the distinct, puzzling, and mysterious feeling of having experienced a specific set of circumstances before. A woman might walk into a building, for example, in a foreign country she'd never visited, and sense that the setting is eerily and intimately familiar. Some attribute deja vu to psychic experiences or unbidden glimpses of previous lives. As with intuition (see #3), research into ,human psychology can offer more naturalistic explanations, but ultimately the cause and nature of the phenomenon itself remains a mystery.

Near death experiences and life after death
People who were once near death have sometimes reported various mystical experiences (such as going into a tunnel and emerging in a light, being reunited with loved ones, a sense of peace, etc.) that may suggest an existence beyond the grave. While such experiences are profound, no one has returned with proof or verifiable information from "beyond the grave." Skeptics suggest that the experiences are explainable as natural and predictable hallucinations of a traumatized brain, yet there is no way to know with certainty what causes near-death experiences, or if they truly are visions of "the other side."

Psychic Powers and ESP
Psychic powers and extra-sensory perception (ESP) rank among the top ten unexplained phenomena if for no other reason than that belief in them is so widespread. Many people believe that intuition (see #3) is a form of psychic power, a way of accessing arcane or special knowledge about the world or the future. Researchers have tested people who claim to have psychic powers, though the results under controlled scientific conditions have so far been negative or ambiguous. Some have argued that psychic powers cannot be tested, or for some reason diminish in the presence of skeptics or scientists. If this is true, science will never be able to prove or disprove the existence of psychic powers.

The body/mind connection
Medical science is only beginning to understand the ways in which the mind influences the body. The placebo effect, for example, demonstrates that people can at times cause a relief in medical symptoms or suffering by believing the cures to be effective — whether they actually are or not. Using processes only poorly understood, the body's ability to heal itself is far more amazing than anything modern medicine could create.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Seven Killed In Shoot-out with SWAT in Miami

Published on Jul 27, 2013
By Marian Smith and Matthew DeLuca, NBC News:
SWAT officers shot and killed a gunman early Saturday after he killed 6 people, ending an hours-long standoff near Miami, Fla., police said.
Two people were rescued alive and unharmed from an apartment building where they were being held hostage, Hialeah police spokesman Sgt. Eddie Rodriguez told NBC News.
The SWAT team found the gunman barricaded on the fourth floor of the building, where they killed him and saved the two hostages.

NBC Miami
The building manager and her husband were found dead in a hallway and three others, two females and one male, were found in one of the apartments, Rodriguez said. Another man was found dead in the lobby of a building across the street.

"This is one of the worst shootings we've probably had ever in Hialeah," police spokesman Carl Zogby told NBC Miami.
Police first responded to a 911 call at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday. They evacuated the apartment complex and shut down several surrounding streets.
Negotiators were talking to the gunman before the shootout and police sent a robot onto the scene.
"The end result: seven people have lost their lives in this incident, six innocent victims and the one shooter," Zogby told the station. "Now starts the investigation, how and why this happened."

A young woman told NBC Miami that two of the victims of the shooting were her parents.
"I guess there was an altercation and the person opened fire on both of them. My mom was dead the moment that she was shot and my dad still had a pulse when I got to him," the woman said.
One of the victims appeared to have been shot at across the street from the main scene, police said, when the gunman opened fire from a balcony.

It's a joke Folks



Discovery Channel’s campaign for its annual chomp-fest is drawing harsh criticism.

 It's just a few days now until the arrival of Discovery Channel‘s annual “Shark Week,” a seven-day celebration of all things sharp and toothy. The cable network promos for the Aug. 4 premiere have been causing controversy for a couple of months. Its first major commercial features the instantly lovable Snuffy the Seal, and while the video has been passed around the internet and has had millions of hits it has also been receiving some backlash.
In the commercial, a fake news broadcast shows the beloved Snuffy — who was recently rescued— being lowered back into the ocean, only to be snatched up and swallowed by a hungry shark.

YouTube Commenters React To ‘Disgusting’ Commercial

Naturally, Discovery Channel posted the instant viral sensation on its YouTube page — and so naturally, the usual 'not quite with it'  commenters express their outrage.
“It’s not funny people its a dear seal!!!!” says one user.
“Disgusting. Even if this is not real.” adds another.
“I love Shark Week but this ad is in poor taste…” complains a commenter.
 Do you find it offensive? It does help if you have a sense of humor. But How can you guage if a joke is over the top...if it has gone too far ?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Spanish Train Crash Caught on Security Video

One of the drivers of a train which derailed in north-western Spain killing at least 80 passengers, Wednesday, has been put under formal investigation, court officials have said. Speed will be a factor in the inquiry, as a security camera captured the train crashing as it hurtled round a bend. The Madrid to Ferrol train's data recording "black box" is now with the judge in charge of the investigation.

Dozens of people were hurt, 32 seriously, in the incident near Santiago de Compostela.
Spain will hold three days of mourning over the crash, one of its worst. At least 130 people were taken to hospital after the crash, and 95 are still being treated, health officials say.  Children were among the 32 critical injuries. King Juan Carlos visited survivors and the families of victims at Santiago's University Hospital.
"All Spaniards are united at this moment," he said.
People from several nationalities are among the wounded, including five Americans and one Briton. One American was among the dead.

A crane removes one of the derailed train carriages at the site of a train accident near Santiago de Compostela

Overturned carriages of derailed train near Santiago de Compostela, Spain, on 24 July 2013

A still from footage from a trackside camera apparently shows the moment the train derailed
 Accident caught on video

Rescue workers search for victims inside overturned train carriage on 24 July 2013

A spokeswoman for the Galicia Supreme Court said the driver, who was slightly injured in the crash, was under investigation.  Named by Spanish media as Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, he is expected to face questioning by police on Thursday. It was unclear whether anyone else was subject to investigation. The train's carriages have been removed from the track by cranes and sent for analysis.

Elena Regueiro, survivor: "I was covered by seats and luggage and bodies"

The president of railway firm Renfe, Julio Gomez Pomar, was quoted by El Mundo newspaper as saying the driver, who was aged 52, had 30 years of experience with the company and had been operating trains on the line for more than a year. He said the train which derailed had no technical problems.
"The train had passed an inspection that same morning. Those trains are inspected every 7,500km... Its maintenance record was perfect," he told Spanish radio.

But Mr Garzon, who was trapped in the cab after the accident, is quoted as saying moments after the crash that the train had taken the curve at 190 km/h (118mph) despite a speed limit on that section of 80km/h, unidentified investigation sources have told Spanish media. If this is the case, it remains to be seen whether a systems failure or driver error was the cause, correspondents say.

Spain has invested huge amounts of money in its rail network and has a relatively good safety record.   According to official figures, the crash is one of the worst rail disasters in Spanish history.

In 1972, a frontal train crash in Andalusia, in the south, left dozens of people dead. The figures given at the time ranged between 76 and 86.  In 1944, hundreds of people were believed to have been killed in a crash in Torre del Bierzo, in Leon province - though the official account in days of heavy censorship during the early rule of Gen Francisco Franco gave the figure as 78 killed.

Renfe said the train came off the tracks about 3 or 4km (2-2.5 miles) from Santiago de Compostela station at 20:41 local time (18:41 GMT) on Wednesday. It was on the express route between the capital, Madrid, and the port city of Ferrol on the Galician coast, with 218 passengers on board - in addition to an unknown number of staff and crew.

Firefighter Jaime Tizon, one of the first to reach the site of the crash, described the scene as "hell".
"I'm coming from hell, I couldn't tell you if the engine was on fire, or one of the carriages or what..." he told Spanish newspaper ABC after dragging the injured and bodies from the train.

One witness, Ricardo Montesco, described how the train carriages "piled on top of one another" after the train hit the curve.
"A lot of people were squashed on the bottom. We tried to squeeze out of the bottom of the wagons to get out and we realized the train was burning... I was in the second wagon and there was fire. I saw corpses all around me," he told Spanish Cadena Ser radio station.

The derailment happened on the eve of Santiago de Compostela's main annual festival where thousands of Christian pilgrims were expected to flock to the city in honour of St James.


Halliburton to Plead Guilty to Destroying Gulf Spill Evidence

BP and Halliburton are locked in a legal battle and a damages trial over the disaster

 US company Halliburton will plead guilty to destroying evidence relating to the 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill. The plea agreement, which is subject to court approval, means Halliburton will have to pay the maximum possible fine.

The spill occurred at BP's Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico and was the worst in US history. A blast at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 workers. BP had accused Halliburton, its contractor, of destroying evidence and asked it to pay for all damages.

"A Halliburton subsidiary has agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanour violation associated with the deletion of records created after the Macondo well incident, to pay the statutory maximum fine of $200,000 and to accept a term of three years probation," the company said in a statement.

Halliburton is the third of three major companies at the heart of the oil spill to admit criminal wrongdoing. Oil giant BP and rig operator Transocean have already pleaded guilty to charges related to the disaster.

The US Department of Justice said that prior to the blowout at the rig, Halliburton had recommended to BP that the Macondo well contain 21 centralizers - metal collars that can improve cementing.
However, BP chose to use only six.

The justice department said that Halliburton had run two computer simulations of the Macondo well's final cementing job to compare the impact of using six versus 21 centralizers.  It said the results of these simulations indicated that there was little difference. The department said that Halliburton's programme manager "was directed to, and did, destroy these results".
"Efforts to forensically recover the original destroyed Displace 3D computer simulations during ensuing civil litigation and federal criminal investigation by the Deepwater Horizon Task Force were unsuccessful," it added. "In agreeing to plead guilty, Halliburton has accepted criminal responsibility for destroying the aforementioned evidence." Halliburton, along with other firms, is also facing a civil trial over the oil spill.

It is expected to be one of the biggest and costliest trials in decades and will determine the causes of the spill, and assign responsibility to the parties involved, including Halliburton, BP, Transocean, and Cameron, which manufactured the blowout preventer meant to stop oil leaks. In April, Halliburton said that it was in talks to settle claims in the trial.

However, some observes said the guilty plea by Halliburton may indicate a weakness in its position in negotiating a settlement.
"Their willingness to plead to this may also indicate that they'd like to settle up with the federal government on the civil penalties," said Edward Sherman, a law professor at Tulane University.
"It may indicate a softening of their position."

Halliburton has already made a voluntary contribution of $55m to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. For its part, BP put aside $7.8bn when it agreed to pay compensation for the oil spill in 2012.

Fifteen Foot Dinosaur Tail Found in Mexico

An artist rendering provided by the National Geographic Society shows what a hadrosaur is believed to have looked like

A team of archaeologists have discovered the fossilized remains of a 72 million-year-old dinosaur tail in a desert in northern Mexico, it has been announced.
The 'unusually well-preserved' five yard-long tail is the first ever found in Mexico, said Francisco Aguilar, director of the country's National Institute for Anthropology and History.

The team, made up of archaeologists and students from INAH and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, identified the fossil as a hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur.

Relic: The researchers found the ancient dinosaur tail in Coahuila State in Mexico
Relic: The researchers found the ancient dinosaur tail in Coahuila State in Mexico
The 'unusually well-preserved' five yard-long tail was the first ever found in Mexico. It is 72 million years old
The 'unusually well-preserved' five yard-long tail was the first ever found in Mexico. It is 72 million years old
The tail, found near the small town of General Cepeda found in the border state of Coahuila, likely made up half the dinosaur's length, Aguilar said.
Archaeologists found the 50 vertebrae of the tail completely intact after spending 20 days in the desert slowly lifting a sedimentary rock covering the creature's bones.
Strewn around the tail were other fossilized bones, including one of the dinosaur's hips, INAH said.

Precision: Archaeologists painstakingly excavate the tail
Precision: Archaeologists painstakingly excavate the tail
Speaker for the dead: The tail, from a hadrosaur, will enable experts to learn about bone conditions that affected the colossal beasts
Speaker for the dead: The tail, from a hadrosaur, will enable experts to learn about bone conditions that affected the colossal beasts
Despite Mexico's rich heritage in paleontology, this is the first dinosaur tail found in the country
Despite Mexico's rich heritage in paleontology, this is the first dinosaur tail found in the country
Strewn around the tail were other fossilised bones, including one of the dinosaur's hips
Strewn around the tail were other fossilised bones, including one of the dinosaur's hips
Dinosaur tail finds are relatively rare, according to INAH. The new discovery could further understanding of the hadrosaur family and aid research on diseases that afflicted dinosaur bones, which resembled those of humans, Aguilar said.

Scientists have already determined that dinosaurs suffered from tumors and arthritis, for example. Dinosaur remains have been found in many parts of the state of Coahuila, in addition to Mexico's other northern desert states.
'We have a very rich history of paleontology,' Aguilar said.

He noted that during the Cretaceous period, which ended about 65 million years ago, much of what is now central northern Mexico was on the coast. This has enabled researchers to unearth remains of both marine and land-based dinosaurs.

The presence of the remains was reported to INAH by locals in June 2012. After initial inspections, excavation began earlier this month. The remains of the tail will be transferred to General Cepeda for cleaning and further investigation.

The hadrosaurs are known as the duck-billed dinosaurs due to the similarity of their head to that of modern ducks. The whole front of the skull was flat and broadened out to form a beak, which was ideal for clipping leaves and twigs from the forests of Asia, Europe and North America.
However, the back of the mouth contained thousands of teeth suitable for grinding food before it was swallowed. Hadrosaurs likely grazed on horsetails and vegetation close to the ground, rather than browsing higher-growing leaves and twigs.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy,
I'm a very sad woman . I work and take care of my home  and kids . My husband and I had trouble getting pregnant  with the second child  and after months of trying  we went to a fertility clinic . It was a difficult time  and I was not giving my husband  all the attention he needed .
One day he was at my friend's house  and a female acquaintance  of hers was there . This woman was in the middle of her own divorce and she and my husband began a conversation . She told him if he wasn't happy, he should divorce me  and be happy for himself  instead of worrying about his wife and kids . My husband filed divorce papers  while I was pregnant  . Now the two of them are together  and he thinks I don't know .
What kind of woman thinks this is OK to do ? I have two small kids  and love my husband  with all my heart . I know I have things to work on . Where is respect for women out there ?
Broken Heart

Dear Broken Heart,
While I agree  that women shouldn't go after married men (and vice versa), you are blaming  the woman when it is your husband  who strayed . He wanted an excuse  to get out of his responsibilities, and she was simply the match that lit the flame .
Please see a lawyer  immediately so you can protect yourself and your children . Then ask your husband to go  with you for counseling  to see whether  you can reconcile . But if he is determined to get out of the marriage, the counseling will help you develop coping  strategies  for the future . Your children need you to be strong and capable.

Dear Maxy,
I'm a senior citizen . My companion of 16 years passed away a few years ago . I've had a few dating lunches  since then , but nothing serious . Several weeks ago, while looking over hot dishes  at a local health store, I heard a voice  behind me saying , "I can't eat some  of the choices  because they are a little too spicy ." I turned around  and said , "I didn't know there were other people with those issues."
He grasped my hand, shook it  and we chatted a bit . When I saw him again at the cash register  he said , "maybe we'll see each other at lunch sometime ." I said, "I hope so, it's been a pleasure ." I wish I had taken more notice  of his features . Thereafter, I looked for him at every store, but by then my sister was hospitalized  and I was always running around, too busy to spend  too much time there .
I am so sad  now, because his handshake was of a true gentleman  and it stole my heart . I hope he reads your column and tries again .
A fan

Dear Fan ,
While I am not running  a matchmaking  service, I can see you are distraught by having missed  an opportunity . But also , if you were not interested  enough  to pay more attention  to this gentleman the first time, it is possible  that you are over romanticizing the encounter  in hindsight . So recognizing  that you may be disappointed, I recommend  you spend  a little more time at  the health store since you know he frequents  the place . If you should see him, you will have to take the initiative  and say hello . He may have assumed your brush-off was intentional . Good luck .

Dear Maxy,
I ran into my ex-crush  at an event  last week , and I got go flustered . I had such a big crush on this man  for years . We tried dating some time ago . Well, I should say that I tried to get him to date me but it never quite happened . In the end, we stopped hanging out so things  could cool off . Seeing him the other day brought all that emotion back in a flood . I was kind  and cordial . I definitely didn't do anything weird, but I realize I still cared a lot about him . How do I handle these emotions ? I don't want to go back into that crazy state  of trying to get him to like me again . I do not think that will work .
All Mixed Up

Dear All Mixed Up ,
As challenging as it may be for you , please take a deep breath and step back . Whenever you find  yourself in a situation where you feel overcome by emotion, the smartest thing you can do is to be still . Do not act on that emotion... Allow it to pass  rather than over take you or control you . It's important to remain composed.
In order for you to stand a chance of having a healthy friendship with this man, you have to choose to let go of the emotional grip your bond has over you right now . Otherwise, every time you run into this man, the same thing  will happen, you will get flustered and overcome by your emotions . Assess your feelings, consider why  you get so caught  up . Did  he do something  in particular  that is inexplicably attractive  to you ? Can you identify what triggers  your emotional swell ?
Chances are, some of the intensity is about  what you wish for rather  than what you have . Choose to move  forward  and see what is before your eyes, not what you want to see there .

Proud Name for a Royal Baby

Prince George of Cambridge: the royal baby finally has a name.

The new royal baby, at last, has a name: George Alexander Louis.
Kensington Palace revealed Wednesday that the third-in-line to the throne will be known as His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. The last British royal named George was the child’s great-great-grandfather King George VI, who was Queen Elizabeth’s father.

That George was born Prince Albert, but chose to rule under the name of King George VI when he ascended the throne following the abdication crisis of his brother Edward VIII, to signify the continuity of the monarchy.
St. George, a Christian martyr from the 4th century, is also the patron saint of England. Alexandra is the Queen’s middle name, and may have inspired the name "Alexander.” It’s also the name of three Scottish kings. Royal historian Carolyn Harris said that at a time when Scotland is considering devolution, the name may have been chosen to reinforce the monarchy’s relationship to Scotland.

Louis -- to be pronounced “Lou-ee,” not “Lewis” -- is one of Prince William’s middle names, as well as one of the middle names of the baby’s grandfather, Prince Charles. Both were named after Louis Mountbatten, Prince Charles’ great uncle, the last British viceroy of India, who was assassinated by the IRA in 1979.

The baby's name was just one of the many popular bets related to the pending arrival of the latest royal. Online betting house William Hill had George as the 5/2 favourite on Monday, with James second, at 5/1 odds.

Prince William and his wife, Kate, welcomed their firstborn son to the world on Monday afternoon and presented him to the waiting public on Tuesday, on the steps of St. Mary’s Hospital in London.
After leaving the hospital, the couple brought their newborn to Kensington Palace to introduce him to his uncle, Prince Harry, and to his great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. Then they headed to see Kate's parents at their country estate in the village of Bucklebury, near London. Palace officials say the family is now spending "private and quiet time for them to get to know their son."

Next on the agenda for the new parents will be to select a photographer to take their son’s first official portrait.
Some have wondered why it took the royal family two full days to release the child’s name, especially since the family had nine months to prepare for the birth. But in the context of the British royal family, the decision came relatively quickly.
The Palace took one week to reveal Prince William’s name and close to a month to reveal that of Prince Charles.

Welcome Prince George! Have a long and happy life.