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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Police: 100-year-old driver hits 11 near LA school

accident in Los Angeles
A young victim is treated by Los Angeles city firefighters after a car driven by a 100-year-old went onto a sidewalk and plowed into a group of parents and children outside a South Los Angeles elementary school, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012, in Los Angeles. Nine children and two adults were injured in the wreck.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A 100-year-old man backed his car on to a sidewalk and hit 11 people, including nine children, across from an elementary school in South Los Angeles just after classes had ended Wednesday, authorities said.

Four of the children were in critical condition when firefighters arrived but they were stabilized and were in serious condition at a hospital, city fire Capt. Jaime Moore said. Everyone was expected to survive, he said.

The powder blue Cadillac backed slowly into the group of parents and children buying snacks from a sidewalk vendor, and the crowd banged on his windows and screamed for him to stop, but not before some of the children were trapped under the car, witnesses said.

LA County-USC hospital spokeswoman Rose Saca said one child remained in critical but stable condition, another would remain for observation overnight and another would likely go home later in the day. Others were treated and released.

Children's backpacks, shoes, candy and loose change were strewn about the scene behind a discount grocery store across from Main Street Elementary.

Police identified the driver as Preston Carter and said he was being very cooperative.

Carter talked to television reporters after the crash some five miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles. He said he has a driver's license and will be 101 years old Sept. 5.

"My brakes failed. It was out of control," Carter told KCAL-TV.

Asked about hitting the children, Carter said: "You know I'm sorry about that. I wouldn't do that for nothing on earth. My sympathies for them."

Carter was pulling out of the grocery store parking lot, but instead of backing into the street, he backed onto the sidewalk, police Capt. George Rodriguez said.

"I think it was a miscalculation on his part. The gentleman is elderly," Rodriguez said. "Obviously he is going to have some impairment on his decision making."

Older drivers have been involved in other tragedies. In 2003, an 86-year-old man mistakenly stepped on the gas pedal of his car instead of the brake and then panicked, plowing into an open-air market in Santa Monica. Ten people were killed and 63 injured.

According to California's Department of Motor Vehicles, people over age 70 must renew their driver's license in person, rather than via the Internet or by mail. Older drivers can also be required to take a supplemental driving test if they fail a vision exam, or if a police officer, a physician, or a family member raises questions about their ability to drive.

Rodriguez said the collision was being investigated as an accident, and Carter was not under arrest. He has a valid driver's license, Rodriguez said.


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Neil Armstrong, the moon’s mystery man dies at 82

Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong
"A lot of people couldn't figure out Armstrong."

With those words Tom Wolfe introduced Neil Armstrong, the astronaut hero of his nonfiction masterpiece, "The Right Stuff." Armstrong, of course, was a masterpiece himself: the commander of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission and the first man ever to walk on the moon. Armstrong died Saturday from complications relating to heart surgery. He was 82.

All these decades, Armstrong, the lunar Adam, has represented a code his admirers knew better than to try to crack. Not that, early on, great literary minds—besotted by the baby-faced genius—didn't try.

Wolfe continued: "You'd ask him a question, and he would just stare at you with those pale-blue eyes of his, and you'd start to ask the question again, figuring he hadn't understood, and— click —out of his mouth would come forth a sequence of long, quiet, perfectly formed, precisely thought-out sentences."

So Wolfe warned against understanding Armstrong in "The Right Stuff." And that warning was more or less heeded, somewhat miraculously, until Armstrong's dying day. Profilers kept their mitts off him. Hollywood starlets didn't swoop in to wreck his family. And, most mercifully of all, Carson and Merv Griffin and Dinah Shore and Ali G and Oprah didn't demand that he couch-surf with them.

This is astounding. In the 1960s and '70s , the national pastime was psychologizing postwar celebrities—John F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Muhammad Ali. And once a hero is cracked open by one Vanity Fair profile, the pile-on never ends. This one had a sex addiction; this one had a chip on her shoulder; this one could never live up to his big brother.

Let's not do that to Armstrong, Wolfe pleaded. In any case, the great man simply would not succumb. Armstrong was simply, at heart, not homo psychologico. He was homo machinator, homo ingeniator. The engineering man.

In an era when everyone was expected to evince the adolescent emotionality of Marlon Brando or Allen Ginsberg, Armstrong was resolutely adult and elegantly square. He was a Navy pilot from a small town who married a home-ec major at Purdue whom he had no recollection of courting or even proposing to. (Janet Armstrong, with whom he had three children, evidently didn't remember any courtship either.)

Though astronauts in the time were represented as hard-partying matinee idols, Armstrong always described himself as a "white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer." He wasn't boasting, though engineers are, of course, the hotshots of today: the hackers and technologists who keep pushing into the new breach—the postfinal frontiers of cyberspace.

Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong
Once in 1969, Norman Mailer bullied Armstrong into saying something—anything—romantic about going to the moon. (Armstrong would have to cough up the romance, Mailer wrote, or be considered "a spiritual neuter.") Armstrong stood his ground like a Buddha. "I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges," he said, defying Mailer. "It's by the nature of his deep inner soul ... We're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream."

Those words are perhaps the most gorgeous words the press-shy astronaut ever said, including his famous scripted line about the giant leap.

Michael Collins, an Apollo 11 crewmate, wrote that Armstrong "never transmits anything but the surface layer, and that only sparingly ... I like him, but I don't know what to make of him, or how to get to know him better."

Maybe we weren't meant to fully understand Armstrong. Only to hold him in awe. Like the moon itself.


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Hurricane Isaac makes landfall in La.

Hurricane Isaac makes landfall in La.
People play in the storm surge from Hurricane Isaac, on Lakeshore Drive along Lake Pontchartrain, as the storm nears land, in New Orleans, Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Hurricane Isaac raked the Louisiana coast and headed for a shuttered New Orleans late Tuesday, with brutal timing that made up for much of what it lacked in punch.

Just hours shy of the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Isaac's approach left deserted streets from New Orleans' famous French Quarter to Tampa 480 miles away, where Republican conventioneers pressed on with only a passing mention of the storm's arrival.

A Category 1 hurricane with winds at 80 mph, Isaac came ashore at 6:45 p.m. CDT near the mouth of the Mississippi River in southeastern Louisiana, drenching a sparsely populated neck of land that stretches into the Gulf of Mexico. But the worst was still to come as it zeroed in on New Orleans, 75 miles to the northwest.

At midnight Tuesday, the hurricane had slowed to a forward speed of 7 mph. It was forecast to slow even further over the next day or two as it drifts over the southeastern coast of Louisiana before heading inland, according to an advisory from the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

While much less powerful than Katrina in 2005, Isaac unleashed fierce winds and soaking rains that knocked out power to more than 100,000 homes and businesses.

The storm drew intense scrutiny because of its timing - just before the anniversary of the hurricane that devastated that city, while the first major speeches of the Republican National Convention went on in Tampa, Fla., already delayed and tempered by the storm.

While many residents stayed put, evacuations were ordered in low-lying areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, where officials closed 12 shorefront casinos.

One of the main concerns along the shoreline was storm surge, which occurs when hurricane winds raise sea levels off the coast, causing flooding on land.

A storm surge of 10.3 feet was reported at Shell Beach, Louisiana late Tuesday while a surge of 6.7 feet was reported in Waveland, Mississippi, the Hurricane Center said.

Ed Rappaport, the center's deputy director, said Isaac's core would pass west of New Orleans with winds close to 80 mph and head for Baton Rouge.

"On this course, the hurricane will gradually weaken," Rappaport said. He said gusts could reach about 100 mph at times, especially at higher levels, which could damage high-rise buildings in New Orleans.

As Isaac neared the city, there was little fear or panic. With New Orleans' airport closed, tourists retreated to hotels and most denizens of a coastline that has witnessed countless hurricanes decided to ride out the storm.

"Isaac is the son of Abraham," said Margaret Thomas, who was trapped for a week in her home in New Orleans' Broadmoor neighborhood by Katrina's floodwaters, yet chose to stay put this time. "It's a special name that means `God will protect us'."

Officials, chastened by memories and experience, advised caution.

"We don't expect a Katrina-like event, but remember there are things about a Category 1 storm that can kill you," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, urging people to use common sense and to stay off any streets that may flood.

Tens of thousands of people were told to leave low-lying areas, including 700 patients of Louisiana nursing homes, but officials decided not to call for mass evacuations like those that preceded Katrina, which packed 135 mph winds in 2005.

Isaac also promised to test a New Orleans levee system bolstered after the catastrophic failures during Hurricane Katrina. But in a city that has already weathered Hurricane Gustav in 2008, calm prevailed.

"I feel safe," said Pamela Young, who settled in to her home in the Lower 9th Ward - a neighborhood devastated by Katrina - with dog Princess and her television. "Everybody's talking `going, going,' but the thing is, when you go, there's no telling what will happen. The storm isn't going to just hit here."

Young, who lives in a new, two-story home built to replace the one destroyed by Katrina, said she wasn't worried about the levees.

"If the wind isn't too rough, I can stay right here," she said, tapping on her wooden living room coffee table. "If the water comes up, I can go upstairs."

While far less powerful than Katrina, Isaac posed similar political challenges, a reminder of how the storm seven years ago became a symbol of government ignorance and ineptitude.

Political fallout was already simmering. Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who canceled his trip to the convention, said the Obama administration's disaster declaration fell short of the federal help he had requested, and asked for a promise to be reimbursed for storm preparation costs.

"We learned from past experiences, you can't just wait. You've got to push the federal bureaucracy," Jindal said.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said such requests would be addressed after the storm.

Obama promised that Americans will help each other recover, "no matter what this storm brings."

"When disaster strikes, we're not Democrats or Republicans first, we are Americans first," Obama said at a campaign rally at Iowa State University. "We're one family. We help our neighbors in need."

In Tampa, the storm's landfall did not appear to affect prime-time coverage or the Republican National Convention speeches. One of the few mentions of the storm came in the opening remarks by Ann Romney, wife of the Republican nominee.

"Just so you all know, the hurricane has hit landfall and I think we should take this moment and recognize that fellow Americans are in its path and just hope and pray that all remain safe and no life is lost and no property is lost," she told the crowd.

Outside, though, the streets of downtown Tampa were eerily deserted, a result of nasty weather from Isaac's outer bands, tight securities that blocked off streets and a delay in convention events because of fears the storm might target that side of the Gulf.

While politicians from both parties were careful to show their concern for those in the storm's path, Gulf residents and visitors tried to make the best of the situation on the ground.

In New Orleans' French Quarter, Hyatt hotel employee Nazareth Joseph braced for a busy week and fat overtime paychecks. Joseph said he was trapped in the city for several days after Katrina and helped neighbors escape the floodwaters.

"We made it through Katrina; we can definitely make it through this. It's going to take a lot more to run me. I know how to survive," he said.

Maureen McDonald of Long Beach, Ind., strolled the French Quarter on her 80th birthday wearing a poncho, accompanied by family who traveled from three different cities to meet her in New Orleans to celebrate.

"The storm hasn't slowed us down. We're having the best time," she said.

But farther east along the Gulf, veterans of past hurricanes made sure to take precautions.

At a highway rest stop along Alabama's I-10, Bonnie Schertler, 54, of Waveland, Miss., said she left her coastal home for her father's place in Alabama "because of the `coulds.'"

"I just feel like the storm may stay for a few days and that wind might just pound and pound and pound and pound," said Schertler, whose former home in Waveland was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. A slow storm is more dangerous, she said, "'cause it can knock down just virtually everything if it just hovers forever."

Local officials, who imposed curfews in Mississippi's Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties. And in Theodore, Ala., 148 people took refuge in a shelter at the town's high school by midday Tuesday, with minds focused as much on the past as on the present storm.

Charlotte McCrary, 41, at the shelter with husband, Bryan, and their two sons, 3-year-old Tristan and 1-year-old Gabriel, recalled the year she spent living in a FEMA trailer after Katrina destroyed her home.

Seven years later, the storm reminds her that she still hasn't gotten back to same place.

"I think what it is," Bryan McCrary said, "is it brings back a lot of bad memories."


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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sleepy woman's epic 18-hr flight after she misses stop

Airport in Paris
A Pakistani (PIA) airbus

A Frenchwoman endured an 18-hour journey from the Pakistani city of Lahore to Paris and back again after sleeping through her plane's stop in the French capital, officials said on Wednesday.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) are investigating how ground crew failed to notice the woman during the plane's two-hour stopover at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

The woman, named as Patrice Christine Ahmed, who is married to a Pakistani, left Lahore at noon on Tuesday to fly to Paris via Milan, but did not wake up to get off the plane, airline spokesman Sultan Hasan told AFP.

The woman did not mention her mistake to cabin crew and the matter only came to light when she was stopped by immigration officials on arrival back in Lahore on Wednesday morning -- after a 12,000-kilometre (7700-mile) round trip.

Hasan said PIA were investigating the incident and the French subcontractor responsible for passenger handling in Paris.

"We have put questions to this French firm also about the incident but it is also the responsibility of the passenger to disembark at the destination," he said.

"It is a passenger's responsibility to check about the destination and disembark when the plane arrives at the particular airport."

PIA later arranged to send the woman back to Paris with another airline because none of its own flights were available, but said that the party responsible for the negligence will pay for the extra ticket.

"It depends who is at fault. If it is a mistake by the local firm, they will pay and if the woman herself is responsible than she will have to bear the cost," Hasan said.

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Grenades at Afghan mosque, bicycle bomb injure 23

Grenades at Afghan mosque
Afghan locals inspect the site of an bomb explosion in Herat on August 15, 2012.
KABUL: Nearly two dozen Afghan civilians were wounded on Wednesday when two grenades exploded inside a mosque compound and a bicycle bomb blew up in a city market, officials said. 

The violence came a day after bomb blasts around Afghanistan killed at least 50 people in the deadliest day for civilians this year, as Taliban insurgents and other militants ramp up violence across the country.

The Taliban summer offensive coincides with Afghan police and soldiers taking on more responsibility for security while international forces start to withdraw.

Separately, Nato reported that one of its service members was killed Wednesday in an insurgent attack in the east. Nato did not disclose the nationality of the soldier or provide any more details.

The US military reported that one of its soldiers died in a roadside bombing Wednesday, also in eastern Afghanistan.

So far this year, 286 international troops have been killed in Afghanistan.

At least nine worshippers were wounded when the grenades exploded during morning prayers at a mosque in Baghi Sara area, Khost police chief Sardar Mohammad Zazai said.

One exploded inside the mosque and the other went off in a courtyard outside. The third failed to detonate.

Zazai blamed Taliban insurgents for the attack.

“This was the work of the enemy,” he said. “It cannot be a private dispute. Why would anyone be so angry to throw grenades in a mosque while people are praying?”

He said many of the worshippers were Afghans who work at the nearby US post, Forward Operating Base Salerno.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid issued a statement that did not acknowledge the mosque attack but claimed an insurgent suicide bomber had attacked a US base in Khost, causing several American casualties.

A spokesman for the Nato military coalition said Wednesday that there was no attack on the Salerno base, which is close to the mosque in Baghi Sara.

Lt Col. Hagen Messer said the American personnel at the base reported hearing gunfire from the mosque but that Afghan police were investigating.

At least 14 people, including four women and a policeman, were injured when explosives set up on a bicycle exploded at a market in the city of Herat while people were shopping for an upcoming Muslim holiday, said Noor Khan Nekzad, a spokesman for the provincial police.

The latest violence follows a particularly bloody day for Afghanistan.

Suicide bombers launched multiple attacks in remote Nimroz province in southwestern Afghanistan near the Iranian border on Tuesday, killing dozens of people, including shoppers buying sweets for a Muslim holiday.

The bombings left charred and smoldering bits of cookies and dried fruit among the bodies on the ground.

A separate market bombing later Tuesday, this one in Kunduz in the north, killed 10 people, including five children.

And in the eastern province of Paktika, a car hit a roadside bomb.

Four children died in the blast, provincial spokesman Mokhlis Afghan said, bringing Tuesday’s death toll to 50,  11 police and 39 civilians.

At least 110 people were wounded in all the attacks.

The attacks came as the Taliban and their allies step up their assaults in a display of force that often results in civilian carnage.

Militants are especially trying to weaken the still-developing Afghan security forces, who are to assume control across their homeland in 28 months, when most foreign combat troops will have left.

The Taliban “want to expand their influence, show that they are everywhere,” said Afghan political analyst Jawid Kohistani.

“They want to show that the Afghan police are not strong enough, so they are targeting the security forces and the government.”

Gen John Allen, the top commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, said Tuesday’s attacks were “acts of intentional mass murder.”

“By targeting innocent civilians in populated areas, the insurgents have again shown they will kill non-combatants without hesitation to advance their backward-looking plans for Afghanistan,” Allen said in a statement. “Once again, I call on (Afghan Taliban leader) Mullah Omar to rein in his murderers. His intentions not to target civilians are hollow.”

In past statements, Omar has asked his fighters to avoid civilian casualties.

In one message in 2010, for instance, he said: “Pay attention to the life and property of the civilians so that … your jihad activities will not become a cause for destruction of property and loss of life of people.”

The UN reported last week that civilian deaths were lower in the first six months of 2012 than in the first half of 2011, but that an onslaught of summer attacks from insurgents were threatening to reverse that trend.

In all, 1,145 civilians were killed in Afghanistan between January and June of this year, according to the UN report.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

U.S. military tests hypersonic Waverider aircraft over Pacific

hypersonic Waverider aircraft of U.S.
An undated U.S. Air Force handout graphic depicts the X-51A Waverider in flight. The X-51A WaveRider, an unmanned aircraft that could reach speeds up to 3,600 mph (5,793 kph), will be launched from the wing of a B-52 on a test flight over the Pacific Ocean on August 14, 2012.
(Reuters) - The U.S. military conducted an unmanned test flight of its hypersonic Waverider aircraft, designed to move at six times the speed of sound using technology that bridges the gap between planes and rocketships, a military official said.

A B-52 bomber launched the remotely monitored, nearly wingless experimental aircraft, officially known as the X-51A, between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. (1700 and 1800 GMT) on Tuesday, John Haire, a spokesman for the 412th test wing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, said in a statement. Results of the brief test flight will be released on Wednesday, he said.

The plan had been to conduct the test flight over the Pacific Ocean after a staging at Edwards, said Deborah VanNierop, a spokeswoman for Boeing Co, which was involved in constructing the craft, said in a statement.

The Waverider is designed to reach speeds of Mach 6 or above, fast enough to zoom from New York to London in less than an hour. But rather than commercial air travel, the military has its eye on a more readily achievable application - using it to develop high-speed cruise missiles.

The X-51A was launched off the coast of California near Naval Air Station Point Mugu, which is northwest of Los Angeles, Haire said. It flew north over the Pacific through a range that is designed for test flights.

"The X-51 is not retrievable, in other words once you fly it, it's going to end up in the ocean," Haire said.

The aircraft is known as the Waverider because it stays airborne, in part, with lift generated by the shock waves of its own flight.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne designed the X-51A's "scramject" engine, which uses the forward motion of the craft to compress air for fuel combustion, according to a description of the project from the military.

After being dropped from the B-52, a solid-rocket booster is used in the initial phase of the plane's flight to bring it up to speeds that can allow its scramjet engine to take over, by inhaling air through the craft's forward momentum.

In 2004, NASA reached a speed of Mach 9.6, or nearly 7,000 miles per hour, with a jet-powered aircraft. But that vehicle, known as X-43, only flew for a few seconds and its copper-based engine was not designed to survive the flight.

Engineers have hoped to see the hypersonic X-51A travel for five minutes of powered flight. For protection from extreme heat, it uses insulation tiles, similar to those on the NASA space shuttle orbiters, according to a 2011 military description of the project.

Hypersonic flight is normally defined as beginning at Mach 5, which is five times the speed of sound.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Deadly twin earthquakes strike Iran, kill 180 and injure 1,500

Two Earthquakes in Iran
(Reuters) - Two powerful earthquakes killed 180 people and injured about 1,500 in northwest Iran where rescuers frantically combed the rubble of dozens of villages through the night into Sunday.

Thousands fled their homes in panic, and stayed overnight in makeshift camps or in the streets after Saturday's quakes and about 40 aftershocks hit the area.

Casualty figures are expected to rise, Iranian officials said, as some of the injured were in a critical condition while others were still trapped under the rubble in inaccessible places and rescue efforts were hampered by the darkness.

Six villages were destroyed and about 60 sustained more than 50 percent damage, Iranian media reported.

Photographs posted on Iranian news websites showed numerous bodies lying on the floor of a white-tiled morgue in the town of Ahar, and medical staff, surrounded by anxious residents, treating the injured in the open air as dusk fell.

Other images showed collapsed buildings and cars crushed by rubble.

Iran is situated on major fault lines and has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years, including a 6.6 magnitude quake in 2003 that reduced the southeastern historic city of Bam into dust and killed more than 25,000 people.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured Saturday's first quake at 6.4 magnitude and said it struck 60 km (37 miles) northeast of the city of Tabriz at a depth of 9.9 km (6.2 miles). A second quake measuring 6.3 struck 49 km (30 miles) northeast of Tabriz 11 minutes later at a similar depth.

Officials said 180 people had been killed and about 1,500 injured, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The second quake struck near the town of Varzaghan. "The quake was so intense that people poured into the streets through fear," Fars said.

COLLAPSED BUILDINGS

Hundreds of people were rescued from under the rubble of collapsed buildings but the night-time severely disrupted emergency efforts.

"Unfortunately there are still a number of people trapped in the rubble but finding them is very difficult because of the darkness," national emergency head Gholam Reza Masoumi was quoted as saying by Fars.

The state news agency IRNA quoted Bahram Samadirad, a provincial official from the coroner's office, as saying: "Since some people are in a critical condition ... it is possible for the number of casualties to rise."

The hospital in Varzaghan, staffed by just two doctors and with a shortages of medical supplies and food, was struggling to cope with about 500 injured, the Mehr news agency reported.

"I was just on the phone talking to my mother when she said, 'There's just been an earthquake', then the line was cut," one woman from Tabriz, who lives outside Iran, wrote on Facebook.

"God, what has happened? After that I couldn't get through. God has also given me a slap, and it was very hard."

The earthquakes struck in East Azerbaijan province, a mountainous region that neighbors Azerbaijan and Armenia to the north and is predominantly populated by ethnic Azeris - a significant minority in Iran.

Its capital, Tabriz, is a major city and trading hub far from Iran's oil-producing areas and known nuclear facilities. Buildings in the city are substantially built, and the Iranian Students' News Agency said nobody in the city had been killed or hurt.

Homes and business premises in Iranian villages, however, are often made of concrete blocks or mud brick that can crumble and collapse in a strong quake.

Red Crescent official Mahmoud Mozafar was quoted by Mehr news agency as saying about 16,000 people in the quake-hit area had been given emergency shelter.

Iranian health minister Marzieh Vahid Dastejerdi said the government had despatched 48 ambulances and 500 blood bags to the worst affected areas, IRNA reported.

Fars quoted Iranian lawmaker Abbas Falahi as saying he believed rescue workers had not yet been able to reach between 10 and 20 villages. Falahi said people in the region were in need of bread, tents and drinking water.

A local provincial official warned of more aftershocks over the next 48 hours and urged people in the area to stay outdoors.

The Turkish Red Crescent said it was sending a truck full of emergency supplies to the border. Turkey's Foreign Ministry said it had informed Iran it was ready to help.

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US women win 5th straight gold, rout France 86-50

U.S. women's basketball Olympic champion-2012
United States' Diana Taurasi, right, and Candace Parker bite their gold medals after beating France in the women's gold medal basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012, in London.
LONDON (AP) -- The names change, not the results. Just call the U.S. women's basketball team Olympic champion - again.

The Americans won their fifth straight gold medal Saturday, routing France 86-50 and putting more distance between themselves and the rest of the world heading into the 2016 Rio Games.

"It just shows the depth and talent in our country. Women's basketball, it's our sport - it's our sport," said Diana Taurasi, who has been a part of the last three gold medals. "We grew up playing since we were little and give it every single little bit of energy we have."

Candace Parker scored 21 points, including eight straight during the game-changing run in the second quarter as the U.S. won its 41st straight Olympic game.

This one was special.

Taurasi, who said she doesn't get emotional, cried receiving her gold medal and then paraded around draped in an American flag.

"A little trip down memory lane," Taurasi said. "The track record was going through my head. My parents, Coach was there. It was just a lot of things hit me at once and that's what happened."

The winning streak started in the bronze medal game in 1992. In that stretch, the Americans have won by nearly 30 points a game. Only one team has stayed within single digits of them, and they've lost just once in major international competitions, to Russia in the semifinals of the 2006 world championship.

Coach Geno Auriemma didn't want to get drawn into the debate of where this team ranks among the five that have won the gold.

"The United States has had great teams since 1996 and we are just another one on the list," he said. "We accomplished the same thing they did and I don't know if that separates us. I think it just makes us equal."

Teresa Edwards, Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie got the amazing run started, and Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings have continued it.

With young stars Parker, Maya Moore and Tina Charles a big part of the success in London it doesn't look like the run will end anytime soon.

"The players give back. You have players coming back for a third Olympics to show the younger players what it takes to win a gold medal," said Parker, a two-time Olympian. "I learned a lot from Tina Thompson, Lisa Leslie, Katie Smith and now Dee, Tamika, Sue. It's just the passing down of what it takes to win. That commitment to USA Basketball."

Catchings said the Americans "just wanted to keep that legacy going."

Edwards, a five-time Olympian, said no worry there.

"The legacy is real," said Edwards, who had a front-row seat Saturday night. "What these kids have been doing is amazing. Without much time to practice. In the middle of the WNBA season. And they look good. It's like the whole world knows who we are. I'm really proud of them.

"They're definitely among some of the best" U.S. teams.

The U.S. faced its only challenge of the London Games when Australia took a four-point halftime lead. It was the first time in 12 years that the Americans had been trailing at the half. There was no panic or worry. They just stepped up their defense and vanquished the Australians, winning by 13 points.

"It's not easy to just be put together and be expected to win a gold medal," Taurasi said. "It's a special feeling."

France, which came into the gold medal game unbeaten, stayed with the U.S. for the first 12 minutes before Parker took over. She scored eight straight points during a 13-2 run that gave the U.S. a 37-23 advantage. Twice the 6-foot-4 Parker grabbed the rebound on the defensive end and dribbled up through the defense scoring on the other.

While Parker - who also had 11 rebounds - was providing the offense, the Americans turned up their defense, holding France to just one basket over the final 7:25 of the half.

"We always felt like as long as we played our best ... we'd be all right," Bird said.

The U.S. led by 12 at the half and poured it on in the third quarter. France got within 41-31 but the U.S. scored 13 of the next 14 points any thoughts of a monumental upset were forgotten.

On one sequence, Catchings got a steal and passed to Bird, who hit Moore in perfect stride for a finger-roll lay-in down the lane. It only got worse from there for France, which was making its Olympic debut.

The Americans bottled up France's flashy point guard Celine Dumerc, who made only field goal in the first half and finished with eight points.

"I'm just happy to have this medal around my neck," Dumerc said of her silver. "We lost to a very good team and we made history for women's basketball in our country."

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Naked ambition: Diners pay $500 to eat sushi off NUDE MODELS at Florida restaurant

naked models
Staff: The restaurant's waiters volunteered to take their clothes off for extra cash
Who needs plates when you have a naked model to eat off? One controversial Miami restaurant is saving on washing up by giving diners the chance to eat sushi directly off the bare bodies of good looking men and women - but you have to pay a whopping $500 for the privilege.

Customers can order up to six feet of sushi and sashimi at the Catalina Hotel & Beach Club's Kung Fu Kitchen and Sushi - enough to feed 15 hungry diners - and the Japanese cuisine comes strategically placed along the length of the model's body. 'You basically get to dine off a naked human body,' the restaurant's owner, Nathan Lieberman, told Local 10 News. 'It's mostly for groups, parties, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, birthday parties. 'You call in advance or pop in and hopefully we have someone that wants to take their clothes off and lie on a table.'

Diners use their chopsticks to eat directly off the 'human platter'. They can nibble nori rolls off nipples if they choose, in the controversial deal that is being offered until September 30, during Miami's restaurant month. The sushi joint has had three naked sushi parties so far, ABC reported.

And Lieberman hasn't even had to fork out for real models.

'I have a very good-looking staff,' he told the TV station. 'They said, 'We want the money, and we like to be naked.''

When a bachelorette party requested a male model, they used one of their sushi chefs, 'a real stud,' Lieberman said.

The practice of serving food off naked bodies was banned in China in 2005.

But Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation hasn't got a problem with it as long as the restaurant is being hygienic.

'Generally speaking, as long as the restaurant is adhering to FDA rules regarding no bare skin contact, it should be in compliance,' spokesman Sandi Poreda told ABC.

Lieberman said the models are scrubbed 'like surgeons' before being decorated.

They have leaves and lettuce covering their private parts and their nipples are covered in plastic - as well as wasabi.


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Raisman finishes Olympics in style with floor gold


Raisman finishes Olympics in style with floor gold
Bronze medallist for the balance beam Alexandra Raisman from the U.S. celebrates during the artistic gymnastics women's apparatus finals at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012, in London.
LONDON (AP) — Aly Raisman is going home with two gold medals, just like teammate Gabby Douglas.

The U.S. captain won the title on floor exercise Tuesday, about an hour after getting a bronze on balance beam. Add in her gold with the Fierce Five, and she leaves London with three medals, most of any of the Americans.

It's the first Olympic gold on floor exercise for a U.S. woman.

Catalina Ponor of Romania won the silver, and Aliya Mustafina of Russia got the bronze.

World champion Jordyn Wieber was seventh. The pre-Olympic favorite failed to win any individual medals

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Oscar-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch dies at 68

Oscar-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch
FILE - This undated file image originally provided by Columbia Artists Management Inc. LLC shows Marvin Hamlisch. Hamlisch, a conductor and award-winning composer best known for the torch song "The Way We Were," died Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 in Los Angeles.
Marvin Hamlisch, who composed or arranged the scores for dozens of movies including "The Sting" and the Broadway smash "A Chorus Line," has died in Los Angeles. He was 68.

Hamlisch collapsed and died Monday after a brief illness, his publicist Ken Sunshine said, citing the family. Other details were not released.

Hamlisch's career included composing, conducting and arranging music from Broadway to Hollywood, from symphonies to R&B hits. He won every major award in his career, including three Academy Awards, four Emmys, four Grammys, a Tony and three Golden Globes.

The one-time child prodigy's music colored some of Hollywood and Broadway's most important works.

Hamlisch composed more than 40 film scores, including "Sophie's Choice," "Ordinary People," "The Way We Were" and "Take the Money and Run." He won his third Oscar for his adaptation of Scott Joplin's music for "The Sting." His latest work came for Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant!"

On Broadway, Hamlisch received both a Tony and the Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for the long-running favorite "A Chorus Line" and wrote the music for "The Goodbye Girl" and "Sweet Smell of Success." He was scheduled to fly to Nashville, Tenn., this week to see a production of his musical "The Nutty Professor," Sunshine said.

Hamlisch even reached into the pop world, writing the No. 1 R&B hit "Break It to Me Gently" with Carole Bayer Sager for Aretha Franklin. He won the 1974 Grammys for best new artist and song of the year, "The Way We Were," performed by Barbra Streisand.

"He was classic and one of a kind," Franklin said Tuesday after learning of his death, calling him one of the "all time great" arrangers and producers. "Who will ever forget `The Way We Were'?"

Hamlisch's interest in music started early. At the age of 7 he entered the Juilliard School of Music, stunning the admissions committee with his renditions of "Goodnight Irene" in any key they desired.

In his autobiography, "The Way I Was," Hamlisch admitted that he lived in fear of not meeting his father's expectations. "By the time Gershwin was your age, he was dead," the Viennese-born musician would tell his son. "And he'd written a concerto. Where's your concerto, Marvin?"

In his teens, he switched from piano recitals to songwriting. Show music held a special fascination for him. Hamlisch's first important job in the theater was as rehearsal pianist for the Broadway production of "Funny Girl" with Streisand in 1964. He graduated to other shows like "Fade Out-Fade In," "Golden Rainbow" and "Henry, Sweet Henry," and other jobs like arranging dance and vocal music.

"Maybe I'm old-fashioned," he told The Associated Press in 1986. "But I remember the beauty and thrill of being moved by Broadway musicals - particularly the endings of shows. The end of `West Side Story,' where audiences cried their eyes out. The last few chords of `My Fair Lady.' Just great."

Although he was one of the youngest students ever at Juilliard, he never studied conducting. "I remember somebody told me, `Earn while you learn,'" he told The AP in 1996.

"The Way We Were" exemplified Hamlisch's old-fashioned appeal - it was a big, sentimental movie ballad that brought huge success in the rock era. He was extremely versatile, able to write for stage and screen, for soundtracks ranging from Woody Allen comedies to a somber drama like "Ordinary People."

He was perhaps even better known for his work adapting Joplin on "The Sting." In the mid-'70s, it seemed everybody with a piano had the sheet music to "The Entertainer," the movie's theme song. To this day, it's blasted by ice cream trucks.

Hamlisch's place in popular culture reached beyond his music. Known for his nerdy look, complete with thick eyeglasses, that image was sealed on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" during Gilda Radner's "Nerd" sketches. Radner, playing Lisa Loopner, would swoon over Hamlisch.

Hamlisch was principal pops conductor for symphony orchestras in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Dallas, Pasadena, Seattle and San Diego at the time of his death. He was due to lead the New York Philharmonic during its upcoming New Year's Eve concert.

He was working on a new musical, "Gotta Dance," at the time of his death and was scheduled to write the score for a new film on Liberace, "Behind the Candelabra."

He leaves behind a legacy in film and music that transcended notes on the page. As illustrative as the scenes playing out in front of the music, his scores helped define some of Hollywood's most iconic works.

He is survived by his wife of 25 years, Terre.


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Sunday, August 05, 2012

NASA rover Curiosity lands on Mars after plummet

NASA rover lands on Mars
In this photo provided by NASA, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team welcomes White House Science and Technology Advisor John Holdren, third standing from left, as he stops by to meet the landing team and to say "Go Curiosity" as NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, second from left, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory Director Charles Elachi, far left look on, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012 at JPL in Pasadena, Calif.
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- In a show of technological wizardry, the robotic explorer Curiosity blazed through the pink skies of Mars, steering itself to a gentle landing inside a giant crater for the most ambitious dig yet into the red planet's past.

A chorus of cheers and applause echoed through the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Sunday night after the most high-tech interplanetary rover ever built signaled it had survived a harrowing plunge through the thin Mars atmosphere.

"Touchdown confirmed," said engineer Allen Chen. "We're safe on Mars."

Minutes later, Curiosity beamed back the first black-and-white pictures from inside the crater showing its wheel and its shadow, cast by the afternoon sun.

It was NASA's seventh landing on Earth's neighbor; many other attempts by the U.S. and other countries to zip past, circle or set down on Mars have gone awry.

The arrival was an engineering tour de force, debuting never-before-tried acrobatics packed into "seven minutes of terror" as Curiosity sliced through the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph.

In a Hollywood-style finish, cables delicately lowered the rover to the ground at a snail-paced 2 mph. A video camera was set to capture the most dramatic moments - which would give earthlings their first glimpse of a touchdown on another world.

The extraterrestrial feat injected a much-needed boost to NASA, which is debating whether it can afford another Mars landing this decade. At a budget-busting $2.5 billion, Curiosity is the priciest gamble yet, which scientists hope will pay off with a bonanza of discoveries.

"We're on Mars again," said NASA chief Charles Bolden. "It's just absolutely incredible. It doesn't get any better than this."

Over the next two years, Curiosity will drive over to a mountain rising from the crater floor, poke into rocks and scoop up rust-tinted soil to see if the region ever had the right environment for microscopic organisms to thrive. It's the latest chapter in the long-running quest to find out whether primitive life arose early in the planet's history.

The voyage to Mars took more than eight months and spanned 352 million miles. The trickiest part of the journey? The landing. Because Curiosity weighs nearly a ton, engineers drummed up a new and more controlled way to set the rover down. The last Mars rovers, twins Spirit and Opportunity, were cocooned in air bags and bounced to a stop in 2004.

The plans for Curiosity called for a series of braking tricks, similar to those used by the space shuttle, and a supersonic parachute to slow it down. Next: Ditch the heat shield used for the fiery descent.

And in a new twist, engineers came up with a way to lower the rover by cable from a hovering rocket-powered backpack. At touchdown, the cords cut and the rocket stage crashed a distance away.

The nuclear-powered Curiosity, the size of a small car, is packed with scientific tools, cameras and a weather station. It sports a robotic arm with a power drill, a laser that can zap distant rocks, a chemistry lab to sniff for the chemical building blocks of life and a detector to measure dangerous radiation on the surface.

It also tracked radiation levels during the journey to help NASA better understand the risks astronauts could face on a future manned trip.

Over the next several days, Curiosity was expected to send back the first color pictures. After several weeks of health checkups, the six-wheel rover could take its first short drive and flex its robotic arm.

The landing site near Mars' equator was picked because there are signs of past water everywhere, meeting one of the requirements for life as we know it. Inside Gale Crater is a 3-mile-high mountain, and images from space show the base appears rich in minerals that formed in the presence of water.

Previous trips to Mars have uncovered ice near the Martian north pole and evidence that water once flowed when the planet was wetter and toastier unlike today's harsh, frigid desert environment.

Curiosity's goal: to scour for basic ingredients essential for life including carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, sulfur and oxygen. It's not equipped to search for living or fossil microorganisms. To get a definitive answer, a future mission needs to fly Martian rocks and soil back to Earth to be examined by powerful laboratories.

The mission comes as NASA retools its Mars exploration strategy. Faced with tough economic times, the space agency pulled out of partnership with the European Space Agency to land a rock-collecting rover in 2018. The Europeans have since teamed with the Russians as NASA decides on a new roadmap.

Despite Mars' reputation as a spacecraft graveyard, humans continue their love affair with the planet, lobbing spacecraft in search of clues about its early history. Out of more than three dozen attempts - flybys, orbiters and landings - by the U.S., Soviet Union, Europe and Japan since the 1960s, more than half have ended disastrously.

One NASA rover that defied expectations is Opportunity, which is still busy wheeling around the rim of a crater in the Martian southern hemisphere eight years later.

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Ambulance carrying crash victim has head-on collision with another vehicle in horror smash

recent car and ambulance head-on collision
A tragic accident saw a VW Golf plough into the front of an ambulance, killing the Golf's male driver instantly
A horrific car crash between a car and an ambulance left one man dead and four others injured on the A49 in Shropshire yesterday.

The collision happened when a black H-reg Volkswagen Golf careered into the front of the ambulance, which was carrying a 29-year-old woman who had been in an earlier car accident.

The force of the impact almost tore the bonnet off the emergency vehicle while the Golf was left embedded in its front.

The Golf's driver, a man in his 20s, was killed instantly while the ambulance driver was trapped inside the crushed vehicle for two hours.

She was cut free by firefighters and airlifted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham with serious injuries to her head, leg and pelvis, where her condition is said to be 'comfortable'.

A woman in her 20s, the Golf's passenger, had to be cut out of the car and was airlifted to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire with serious head and chest injuries.

She is said to be in a 'critical but stable' condition.

A female paramedic travelling in the back of the ambulance suffered a wrist injury and was taken to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

Investigators suggested the Golf crossed into the ambulance's path at the scene near Wem, Shropshire.

The ambulance was not making an emergency journey and did not have its siren or blue lights on.

Steve Parry, from West Midlands Ambulance Service, said: “Crews arrived on scene to find a car and ambulance had been in collision.

'Despite the best efforts of ambulance staff, the driver of the car was confirmed dead at the scene.

'At the time of the collision, the ambulance was taking a female patient injured in an earlier road traffic incident to Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.'

A spokesman for West Mercia Police said: 'A full investigation is being carried out to establish the circumstances leading up to this tragedy.

'We are appealing for witnesses to come forward if they saw either the collision or the vehicles involved being driven immediately beforehand.'

The main A49 road north of Shrewsbury was closed until just before 10pm last night while emergency services attended the scene.


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Delta flight delayed when thousands of honeybees descend on plane's wing

honeybees at delta flight's wing
A passenger flight from Pittsburgh to New York was delayed on Wednesday when bees descended on the aircraft's wing, pictured
A Delta flight from Pittsburgh to New York was delayed on Wednesday after tens of thousands of bees descended on the plane's wing.

The commuter flight loaded with passengers was about to take off from Pittsburgh International Airport when the swarm settled on the aircraft.

A local beekeeper had to be called in to collect the insects.

'They were getting ready to fuel and they came around the corner of the plane and right there on the wing is a cluster of honeybees,' Master beekeeper Stephen Repasky of Meadow Sweet Apiaries told CBS pittsburgh.

'It was a shocker to a lot of people.'

Mr Repasky said bees were a common occurrence at the airport, which he suspects has a colony living somewhere on the premises.

Honeybees like those that settled on the Delta plane, pictured, regularly terrorise the Pittsburgh International airport
 At least four swarms have already been caught terrorising planes and airport equipment this year.

In May, around 30,000 bees landed on the Taxiway-C light, according to CBS.

As honeybees are a protected species, they can't be killed so Mr Repasky took them home in a box and will release them at a later date.

He said when bee colonies grow too large, the queen takes off with half of the bees in search of a new home.

'So it could be a tree 40-feet up, it could be the wing of a jet liner,' Mr Repasky said.


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Saturday, August 04, 2012

Who needs to fly to Sydney? Pictures that prove you can watch a stunning volleyball game in Britain as the women's teams electrify Horse Guards Parade

beach voleyball stadium london
Beach volleyball has proven to be one of the most popular events at the Game

These stunning aerial pictures show how the London 2012 beach volleyball stadium has been remarkably squeezed into the heart of the city.

Thousands of cheering spectators can be heard from surrounding Whitehall and nearby Trafalgar Square, just out of view in this picture.

But for those lucky enough to secure tickets for the popular event, the scenes inside are far more reminiscent of those seen on the beaches of Brazil or California.

Inside the stadium, the sun, sand and bikinis, plus beach balls and the smell of sun-tan lotion transport the lucky crowds to somewhere far more exotic.

Forgetting they are plunged in the centre of the thronging, bustling, noisy capital, the crowds have been entertained with exotic dancers in bikinis.

cheerleaders in bikinis
Cheerleaders perform during the women beach volleyball round of 16 match between Germany's Laura Ludwig and Sara Goller against compatriots Katrin Holtwick and Ilka Semmler

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Wind-whipped Oklahoma wildfires destroy homes

Oklahoma wildfires destroy homes
A home burns during a large wildfire Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Luther, Okla. A wildfire whipped by gusty, southerly winds swept through rural woodlands north and south of Oklahoma City on Friday, burning several homes as firefighters struggled to contain it in 113-degree heat.
NOBLE, Okla. (AP) -- The gusty, southerly winds that whipped wildfires through rural woodlands north and south of Oklahoma City started to die down early Saturday, but not before burning dozens of homes.

Hundreds of people were told Friday to leave their homes in at least four counties, while smoke and flames prompted authorities to close parts of Interstate 44, the main roadway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and two state highways. I-44 reopened late Friday night.

"A man refused to leave. From what I know, he wanted to protect his property, but your life has to be more valuable than property," Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said late Friday night.

The sheriff said at least 25 homes, a daycare center and numerous outbuildings had burned in a fire that may have been deliberately set near Luther, a town about 20 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.

Deputies were looking into reports about someone in a pickup truck who was seen throwing out newspapers that had been set on fire. By Friday night, the blaze had spread across 80 square miles, but officials said it had calmed some due to lighter winds and higher humidity.

About 40 structures were destroyed by a blaze near Tulsa. And yet another blaze destroyed at least 25 structures, including a handful of homes, after starting near Noble, about 30 miles south of Oklahoma City, and moving toward Norman, home to the University of Oklahoma.

Steve Palladino, operations chief for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, said six Oklahoma National Guard helicopters will be dispatched to the fires on Saturday. Palladino said three were sent out on Friday.

"I loaded the kids up, grabbed my dogs, and it didn't even look like I had time to load the livestock, so I just got out of there," said Bo Ireland, who lives a few miles from where the Noble-area fire started. "It looked to me that, if the wind shifted even a little bit, I would be in the path of that fire. It was just too close."

There were no immediate reports of injuries or livestock losses.

Dayle Bishop said he may not have made it out of his home had a woman not knocked on his door and woken him up. Standing in a convenience store parking lot about 2 miles away from his home, he was pessimistic about its chances.

"I know it's gone," said Bishop, who works nights as a nurse. "Didn't even have time to get anything out." But he noted, "it's just stuff."

Charles Wright was with his daughter, Christina, along with their cat, at a makeshift evacuation center doubling as a staging area for fire engines, ambulances and other emergency equipment. He said law enforcement ordered them to leave their home in Norman.

"Praying for miracles. Praying for the best, that's all we can do," said Wright, who managed to pack some clothes, jewelry and legal papers before fleeing.

Ruth Hood splashed water onto two Chihuahua puppies that she grabbed along with several other animals and her children, and left as flames burned in her neighbor's yard. She said she couldn't be sure her home would survive.

"No guarantee," Hood said.

With the ongoing drought, high temperatures and gusty winds, it took little for fires to begin and spread - and there was little crews could do to fight them.

"It's difficult for the firefighters to get into the area because it's heavily wooded on either side of the smaller roads. When the winds are blowing 25 mph it just blows the embers and fireballs across the roads as if they weren't even there," said Jerry Lojka with the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

At mid-afternoon Friday, the temperature in Norman hit 113 degrees, and winds were gusting at 24 mph. "I can tell you the temperatures and the wind are not helping the situation at all," said Meghan McCormick, a spokeswoman for the Cleveland County Sheriff's office.

Russell Moore, 53, who lives in the Noble area, said he was outside in his yard when a sheriff's deputy drove down the road and told people to leave. He and his son went to a shelter set up at Noble City Hall.

"About all we saw was smoke and a little bit of ash raining down from the sky," Moore said. "Everybody was piling into their vehicles and leaving as we were."

The state was monitoring 11 fires by Friday afternoon. Gov. Mary Fallin announced a statewide burn ban as the fire danger heightened. She previously had announced a state of emergency for all 77 counties due to the extreme drought.

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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Jackson says she was kept from communicating

Prince Jackson, Prince Michael II
FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2011 file photo, from left, Prince Jackson, Prince Michael II "Blanket" Jackson and Paris Jackson arrive on stage at the Michael Forever the Tribute Concert, at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The mystery of Michael Jackson's mother's disappearance was clarified Thursday with the release of court papers that said she was kept from communicating with outsiders while at a resort and was unaware she had been reported missing. Katherine Jackson declared in the documents that she learned she was the subject of a search when she accidentally heard a TV report. Before that, she said, she was kept virtually incommunicado without access to a phone or her iPad. She said her stay at the Tucson resort was unplanned, and she went there after she was told her doctor had ordered her to rest. Before that, she had intended to take a cross-country RV trip to see her sons perform in concerts. "While there was a telephone in my room, the telephone was not functioning and I could not dial out," she said in the documents. "In addition, there was no picture on the television in my room." She told of asking repeatedly to have the TV fixed. "One morning I woke up to the sound of the television," she said. "While there was no picture, I heard a broadcast that stated I was missing." Her declaration was attached to papers filed in a request to be reinstated as guardian of Michael's children, Prince, 15, Paris, 14 and Blanket, 10. Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff granted the request Thursday and temporarily named her nephew, TJ Jackson, as co-guardian. Beckloff said last week that he didn't believe Katherine Jackson had done anything wrong but suspended her guardianship duties because she had been out of contact with her grandchildren for 10 days. While at the resort, Jackson said, she was unaware that her grandchildren were worried about her and that her lawyer had flown to Tucson to contact her. "While I was away, I had no reason to question whether the people with whom I placed trust would inform me that Prince, Paris and Blanket were trying to reach me," she said. She said she had asked about the children and was told they were fine. "The day before I was brought home from Tucson, I was finally permitted to use the phone to speak with Prince, Paris, Blanket and TJ," she said. Some of Katherine Jackson's comments appeared in conflict with a statement she made to ABC News before she left Tucson. Seated with her children Randy, Janet and Rebbie next to her, she read from a prepared statement saying she had not been held against her will "My children would never do a thing to me like that, holding me against my will," she said. "It's very stupid for people to think that." She said then that she was devastated at learning she had lost guardianship of her grandchildren and said the action "was based on a bunch of lies." In the aftermath of what her attorney Perry Sanders Jr. called "the chaos," Katherine Jackson asked for a meeting with TJ Jackson and the lawyer to find out what was going on. As a result, she said, she decided that TJ Jackson, who had been an unofficial co-guardian of the children, needed legal authority in case something happened in her absence. Beckloff said during a hearing after Jackson resurfaced that an investigator who looked into the children's care found the late pop star's 82-year-old mother was an excellent guardian and the children love her. "I think the kids are in terrific hands," the judge said. "It appears from the report that Katherine Jackson has done a wonderful job and cares about the children very much." Beckloff noted that the children also have a close relationship with their 34-year-old cousin TJ Jackson, who was named temporary guardian last week after working closely with Katherine Jackson since Michael Jackson died. TJ is "incredibly respectful" of the family matriarch and she is respectful of him, the judge said. Beckloff said he will finalize the arrangement later this month but for now will issue letters of co-guardianship allowing both Jacksons to make decisions about the welfare of the children. TJ Jackson's new co-guardianship status is temporary, but the judge could make it permanent when he convenes the next court hearing on Aug. 22. The shared guardianship plan is apparently designed to remove pressure from Katherine Jackson who was previously named in her son's will as the children's sole guardian. Sanders has said the arrangement will allow her to focus on the children's upbringing and not on home or logistics issues. The changes in guardianship come on the heels of family dissension over Michael Jackson's will, which left nothing to his siblings when he died three years ago. Several of them signed a letter that was leaked to the media alleging the will was a fake and calling on executors of the estate to resign. On Wednesday, Jermaine Jackson issued a plea for peace in the family and withdrew his support of the letter. He wrote that the family is still raw from Michael Jackson's death, and his mother has endured incredible stress and pressures since then. 

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