Nearly 18 years after 9/11, the federal air marshals program is in crisis

first_imgA Federal Air Marshal Service trainee runs up an inflatable evacuation slide. (TSA)(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Federal Air Marshal Service program has reached what critics describe as an acute crisis point marked by a recent rash of suicides, psychotic episodes, a murder-suicide, a bomb plot, devastating health problems and a pervasive sense of dread and depression among the ranks of the most elite cadre of marksmen and women in the nation, according to a month-long ABC News investigation into the secretive federal agency.The chaos, dysfunction and despair described by air marshals, as well as sporadic scandals among the marshals themselves, has been long in coming and well-documented in government reports, investigations and congressional hearings, whistleblower testimony, and heated internal correspondence between union, congressional and federal officials with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which oversees the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS).Despite a 2012 Harvard sleep study recommending strict scheduling practices to protect air marshals’ health and years of campaigning by two different air marshals unions, the agency remains without the protection of federally-regulated work schedules under which U.S. pilots, flight attendants, nuclear power plant operators and railroad and bus drivers operate. Those professions’ work schedules include mandated periods of rest between duty shifts and limit the number of continuous hours an employee can work on a given shift.Given the classified nature of the marshals’ work, their troubles as well as their triumphs have often played out largely behind the scenes.Yet interviews with nearly two dozen current and retired U.S. air marshals, as well as lawmakers, federal officials, psychologists and counselors who treat air marshals and reviews of thousands of pages of documents paint a picture of a once-proud unit grown physically and emotionally burnt out after years on the job — and desperate to reach retirement in one piece.These current and former marshals contend that the agency has been run for years by many supervisors whom they described at best as neglectful and at worst as abusive — who silence whistleblowers and punish complaints with grueling schedules that disregard the physiological limitations of the human body and endanger the flying public.“The crisis is here – it’s an epidemic,” Sonya Hightower LaBosco, president of the Air Marshal National Council, a union which represents thousands of U.S. air marshals nationwide, told ABC News.“If we don’t try and stop this, I am in fear that the next time I turn on a TV it’s going to be an airplane taken down,” she said, explaining her concern that when the critical moment comes when an air marshal is forced to take action, he or she will not be up to the task due to burnout.The situation took on renewed urgency in a July letter from Hightower LaBosco and union vice president David Londo to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which investigates allegations of whistleblower retaliation and unsafe working conditions within the Department Homeland Security (DHS), the sprawling federal bureaucracy that oversees the TSA.The letter accuses leadership at the FAMS and the TSA of “gross mismanagement” and describes “an unprecedented number of psychotic episodes suffered by air marshals, to include a recent murder suicide.”The TSA in not required to maintain records of the number of suicides among air marshals, but union officials in their letter said the agency was experiencing 3-5 suicides a year of active duty or recently-retired air marshals.Given its size, that would be equivalent of upward of 30-50 suicides a year in the 36,000-member New York Police Department, the nation’s largest. The NYPD has seen nine suicides of its members this year.After the third NYPD suicide in June, Commissioner James O’Neill declared the situation a “mental health crisis” and began a summer-long campaign of urging his department’s most troubled officers to get counseling if they feel they need it and increasing the number of counselors available to New York cops.The air marshal union letter to the OSC notes that just over a year earlier, TSA Administrator David Pekoske received an email from union officials “dated June 9, 2018 entitled ‘Concerned FAMS,’ where he was warned that unless immediate action was taken more tragedies would occur,” but failed to react.“Since that warning the agency has seen 4 suicides, a murder suicide, and its first on duty death,” the letter grimly notes.The letter is dated July 22, the same day last month that a Washington D.C.-based supervisory air marshal named William Sondervan, 46, was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.When word of Sondervan’s death surfaced, it was many of his fellow air marshals themselves who were least surprised, Hightower LaBosco told ABC News.“When we get together, all we can do is shake our heads.”Suicide is the product of complex psychological trauma, and no one among dozens of interviews for this article sought to blame recent air marshal suicides and other debilitating medical maladies entirely on the job.But an ABC News review of 14 suicides, attempted suicides, psychotic breakdowns and other incidents dating back to 2005 — four of which were cited in the union letter — suggests that in nearly every case prolonged, work-related stress may have played a role.In response to a detailed list of questions submitted by ABC News, the TSA this week issued a statement defending the FAMS program.“Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) are a critical and successful part of TSAs layered approach to transportation security,” the statement reads. “While FAA regulations, as they relate to airline pilots, do not apply to FAMs, scheduling parameters have been established using industry standards. TSA and the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) continually review and assess how FAMs are deployed, understanding the impact of proper rest while providing world class security to the traveling public. The health and welfare of every man and woman who serves in the FAMS is TSA’s highest priority. TSA and FAMS leadership take the care of every FAM very seriously and vigorously dispute any indication otherwise.”TSA officials declined to address specific incidents described in the letter to the OSC and the letter itself, saying that it could become part of an investigation. They declined to address specific incidents in this story, citing personnel and medical privacy restrictions, as well as restrictions on discussing sensitive or classified information.In congressional testimony in 2015, former TSA administrator Roderick Allison told lawmakers that each air marshal receives “a comprehensive annual physical, health and fitness program, and employee assistance resources,” and all have access to medical professionals around the clock. Allison noted that in his first 16 months, he’d personally visited all 22 FAMS field offices and conducted 50 town hall meetings with the rank-and-file flying marshals.Bomb plot, murder-suicide, psychosisThe work undertaken by federal air marshals – a tiny federal law enforcement agency which grew swiftly after the 9/11 attacks from several dozen to several thousand — is unique in the world of law enforcement. The job of an air marshal is to blend in with the flying public and remain undetected while scanning for potential threats. Air marshals work undercover, hiding behind cover stories in foreign ports and U.S. cities alike, and spending dozens and dozens of hours a month seated in the confined quarters of planes.The agency has the highest firearms proficiency rates of any law enforcement agency in the nation and its agents are trained specifically to take out a target with a “double-tap” head shot in a crowded tube made of thin aluminum flying tens of thousands of feet in the air, according to numerous air marshals.Months of rigorous training — which includes weeks of firearms training, martial arts and close quarter defensive tactics, as well as studies in aviation jurisdiction and international aviation treaties — are required just to qualify for the job, according to documents and interviews. Some of this training was featured in a video about FAMS posted to the TSA’s verified YouTube channel in 2015.2018 was a particularly grim year for the small, troubled community of roughly 2,500-3,000 active duty federal air marshals and several hundred more who have retired in recent years.In February, 38-year-old Broward County, Florida federal air marshal Rene Rios arrived home from work and opened fire at what he thought were a pair of burglars. He was hallucinating, he later testified, and psychotic from alcohol and sleeping pill withdrawal after using the toxic combination for years to meet his job’s demanding schedule, he said in an interview.The Miramar police officials who responded to Rios’ call of burglars in his home did not charge him with any crime, but they got a court order to have his guns taken away from him based on the shooting incident, Rios told ABC News in an interview.After seeking counseling, a judge ordered his weapons returned to him, Rios said.“I went to see a psychiatrist who said I was medically-cleared [to get his guns back], and the judge felt that — given my prior history in law enforcement — that I went through an episode based on what was happening at work, and he gave me the guns back,” said Rios, who said that he recently received a medical retirement from the agency.In May, a medically-retired air marshal named Julian Turk was indicted for plotting to blow up his former Newark, N.J. field office. Transcripts of Turk’s conversations with an undercover FBI informant indicate that Turk was intent on revenge against his superiors.“These [expletive] have gone out of their way to [expletive] with me in the worst possible way,” Turk told the informant, according to a criminal complaint. “And – frankly, I’ve had a [sic] Got damn nuff of it!” He went on to say that “I’ve come up with a plan to get them for what they’ve done to me.” Turk had sought out the informant to teach him how to make and use explosives, and also sought books and manuals on long range rifle shooting, according to the complaint.Turk later pleaded guilty to one count of interstate communication of threats and was released from prison earlier this year, according to partially-sealed court records. He referred an ABC News request for comment to his attorney, Caroline Cinquanto.Cinquanto said her client had made a mistake and paid for it.“I think a lot of the air marshals have a lot of stress,” she said. “There [are] issues with not being able to have any sort of routine schedule, they’re sleep-deprived … and, I don’t think, really appreciated for the service they’re rendering to the country — and I think sometimes that anxiety and frustration can lead to high levels of depression and an overall sense of hopelessness.”“I think that [Turk] was reacting to a situation where he could have obviously conducted himself in a more appropriate manner, but I think because of the stress and the pressure – it led him to respond in an inappropriate manner.”Last October, New Jersey air marshal Mario Vanetta, 41, fatally shot his wife and himself in a murder-suicide that orphaned three children. Last fall saw one air marshal suicide in San Francisco, and another in New Jersey, according to Londo.The agency’s air marshals have also been plagued in recent years by a raft of health problems, union leaders said, including early heart attacks, strokes and deep vein thrombosis (DVT), dangerous blood clots that usually form in the leg or thigh and can become life-threatening if they break loose and reach the lungs.Last year at least four active air marshals suffered major heart attacks due to suspected blood clots, and a fifth died duty in the bathroom of an aircraft on duty from a suspected blood clot, according to Londo and Hightower LaBosco. Their letter claims that the service’s medical branch has “substantial evidence” of still more potentially deadly blood clots suffered by active duty air marshals.Earlier this year, air marshal Frank Galambos suffered a fatal heart attack believed to be caused by a blood clot after leaving his San Francisco field office, Londo said — and in the past two months, two more air marshals died of early heart attacks.Barry Burch, a former U.S. Marine who retired in 2017 after 15 years as an air marshal said he suffered a heart attack in July, at 52.While he was recovering in the hospital, Burch told ABC News in an interview, “somebody in FAMS texted me and said ‘you’re the fourth [air marshal] this week to have a heart attack.’”Restricted sleep studyAt the heart of the longstanding conflict between federal air marshals and their FAMS and TSA supervisors is a lack of federally-regulated work schedules – which include mandated limits on, for example, hours of continuous work without a break, and a mandated minimum number of hours required on the ground between flights.The union letter also said that marshals are forced to “cross between 5-10 time zones a week,” and go through “routine” last-minute schedule changes.The work schedules for pilots, flight attendants, nuclear power plant operators – even bus drivers – are federally-regulated to protect employees’ health, sanity and safety over time.A critical sleep study conducted on active-duty federal air marshals by doctors from the Harvard University Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital concluded in 2012 that a lack of such mandated restrictions could lead to debilitating medical and psychological problems over time.After being submitted to the government, the study was labeled SSI — for Sensitive Security Information – which the TSA describes on its website as information that is sensitive but unclassified and that “if publicly released, would be detrimental to transportation security.”The study, which has since been made public with redactions, concluded that three-quarters of active federal air marshals were sleep-deprived or deficient, a figure that rose to 84 percent for international flight assignments. The report noted that 19 hours of continuous wakefulness is the physiological equivalent of being legally impaired by alcohol, and 24 hours is the equivalent of legal intoxication.“Most safety-sensitive occupations have regulations limiting work hours, either by federal statutes or by other governing bodies,” the study warned, above a chart outlining the federally-regulated work hour limits for pilots, flight attendants, nuclear power plant and railroad operators, as well as truck and bus drivers.“Scheduling practices that respect the basic physiological principles of alertness and performance are vital,” the study concluded.While the TSA generates air marshals’ schedules based on federal guidelines, a dozen active air marshals at all levels within the agency’s hierarchy who spoke to ABC News unanimously contended that even the guidelines are commonly disregarded by scheduling supervisors.TSA officials declined to detail the scheduling guidelines because they are classified. The officials did not dispute the classification of the sleep study as SSI, but declined to say why it was originally categorized this way.Air marshals say the guidelines approach isn’t working.“Last week, I had a [flight to the] West Coast on Monday, back [East] on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I’m over in Europe,” said one active duty air marshal in an interview. “That would be typical for us and that would never happen if you’re a pilot. We’re on the ground between 16-20 hours [for international flights] and they’re down for an entire extra day.”Londo, the union official, said that air marshals fly about twice as many international trips as U.S. airline pilots each month, and that unlike pilots, there’s no maximum on the shift hours an air marshal can fly on any given day.‘Playing with dynamite’George Taylor, who joined FAMS along with a wave of military and law enforcement veterans after the 9/11 attacks, said that after becoming president of the air marshal unit of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, he was one of the driving forces behind the sleep study.“We really early on started seeing this trend of suicides,” he said.Taylor, 59, a decorated Navy veteran, said that in the rush to rapidly staff up an agency full of elite marksmen and women, the long-term consequences of the new mission were not a primary focus.“Pretty much from day one there was … not a lot of thought went into the medical effects of flights on individual,” he told ABC News. “I worked tirelessly to get them to conduct a study. There had never been a study on the medical effects of the air marshals’ schedules.”“Ultimately the suicide rate became so bad at the air marshals service that I sat down with Bob Bray and literally begged them to conduct a study,” he said, referring to then-director of the air marshal service.“They did. They stepped up to the plate,” he continued. “They employed Harvard. And as soon as that study was complete and they were getting ready to publish, the DHS immediately classified the study [as SSI] — for one reason,” Taylor argued.“The study from Harvard had shown the effects of [TSA] flight scheduling,” he continued. “If air marshals wanted to read the study, they had to actually go in and sign a document saying they wouldn’t disclose it to the media.”The study chronicles a variety of routes to sleep deprivation.“Chronic sleep deprivation … results in sleep debt,” the study reported. “Loss of as little as 2 hours of sleep per night for 5 to 7 consecutive nights resulted in decrements in neurobehavioral performance comparable to those seen after 24 hours of sleep deprivation.”Taylor said he was devastated when he learned that the study had been labeled sensitive, and said that he saw the decision as an insult to air marshals.“Basically, an air marshal has to come out from wherever he’s located and be out of the holster in a second and half and take a headshot, and to ensure when that round hits it’s going to take the individual out,” while avoiding civilian casualties or damage to the aircraft, Taylor asserted.“The fact is that, once you’ve impaired an individual — through fatigue, or to the level of the equivalent of being intoxicated — once you have that dynamic, the skill sets to take that head shot, or to perform, deteriorates rapidly. And if you add in abuse of alcohol or sleep drugs? You’re playing with dynamite at that point.”He said the tedium of relentless flying is broken up every three months by mandatory firearms proficiency testing.“Every 3 months, even today, the men and women literally – when you go into the range, you are shooting for your job,” he said. “If you have a bad day they’re going to remediate you, but if you have as second bad day that’s going to be the end. So every 3 months you go in knowing you have to be on your game and shoot to keep your job.”Then it’s back into the skies.“You can’t disclose who you are,” he said. “You’re isolated by yourself on an airplane. You’re just sitting there waiting for that event you hope that it never comes — but knowing that you have to deal with it if it does. You’re not wearing a uniform, undercover every day. You’re required by the government to lie, you have a cover story, [or] you may have multiple cover stories, depending on the country you’re going to, and even overseas you have to lie about who you are. It’s just absolutely…it’s crazy.”“I retired after 37 years in the military and I have done some hard things in my life, and also in government, but once I switched to the air marshals, it’s the hardest job I’ve ever done in my entire life. Just the physical, the mental,” he said, pausing. “It’s the toughest job I’ve ever done.”Taylor retired from FAMS in 2015, but said that he follows closely news within the air marshal community — and was crushed to learn last month of Sondervan’s death.“It just literally breaks my heart, because it’s really unnecessary.”‘Falling apart’Virginia-based psychologist Kathy Christian spent 14 years working at NASA before joining FAMS in 2012, where she trained counselors for the agency’s Critical Incident Response program for four years before she hit what she described as an ethical wall.“I retired two years early,” Christian told ABC News in her first interview since leaving the agency. “I had to take a hit on my retirement. I couldn’t do it anymore. It was so ugly. It was killing me.”She, too, described field offices full of air marshals plagued by early heart attacks and strokes, blood clots, as well as drug and alcohol dependency and a palpable, agency-wide despondency.“There’s a lot of alcohol to sleep — they drink themselves unconscious,” Christian said.“They know they’re supposed to stop drinking 10 hours before their shift, but most of them don’t make that cutoff time. The families end up falling apart. These guys are stressed.”“I’m a psychologist because I want to help people — and I became part of the leadership that was damaging people, and that was my red line when I left. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I couldn’t be a part of an organization that was harming the people working for them.”“I don’t know of any other profession — except maybe medical residents, but they’re not carrying a gun and in danger — I can’t think of another vocation where you’re carrying a gun, you’re a mess, and you’re chronically sleep-deprived, so — the suicides, the homicides,” she said, slowly exhaling before beginning again.“It was ugly. And after being at NASA — which isn’t perfect but people love working there …I go from there — heaven on earth in terms of government agencies — to hell on earth.”Christian said it grew distressing over time to witness the rapid physical deterioration of such highly-trained professional firearms experts.“These are, by and large, white middle-aged men — former law enforcement and or military. These guys that they hired? The originals? These are the best shots they could find — and now they’re falling apart.”Another breaking point for Christian came when copies of a training video she had made featuring two active-duty FAMs who were in recovery from alcohol dependency were seized by supervisors from each of the agency’s nearly two dozen field offices and destroyed after one of the men committed suicide.“I had made this really fantastic video” in 2014, Christian said. “I got two guys who were still FAMs who had gone through recovery to be in it.”She said that in the video, the two air marshals discussed their drinking problems and their work at recovery after seeking counseling support to combat their dependencies. Christian said the video had been distributed to all the FAMS field offices nationwide as a required training video in late 2014 or early 2015.After the air marshal in the video — a military veteran — committed suicide, “leadership went around and demanded copies of the video from every field office and destroyed them, much to the consternation of the FAMs,” she said.“They saw this move as gross disrespect of his service in the FAMs and his courageous participation in the video. I spoke to several FAMs who worked at HQ [headquarters] who echoed this sentiment.”Christian said even now she remains stunned by the confiscation of the video.“That was their reaction?” Christian wondered aloud of her former superiors.“And you think to yourself, ‘What’s the psychology behind that move?’”“I went to the guy’s funeral at Arlington [National Cemetery],” Christian said — recalling that the man’s wife asked her ‘Are they still showing the video to the FAMs?’”“She was really proud that he was a part of that,” said Christian, the tension rising in her voice.“I just lied to the wife. I couldn’t say to her, ‘No, we destroyed it. He’s an embarrassment.’”“What is the mentality in that?”TSA officials did not dispute the seizure of the training videos, but declined to say why they were recovered from the field offices or whether they were destroyed.In 2017 testimony before the House Oversight committee, then-DHS Inspector General John Roth described the TSA as an agency overly-focused on protecting its public image.“We have found that TSA has a history of taking an aggressive approach to restricting information from being made public, especially with respect to a category of information known as sensitive security information,” Roth told lawmakers.“In addition to these inconsistent SSI designations, we have encountered instances in which the TSA redacted information so widely known that redaction bordered on absurd.”‘Come get my gun’The accumulation of years of staggered schedules and alleged mismanagement has compounded the existing stress of working as an undercover air marshal, numerous former air marshals told ABC News.Retired air marshal Kevin Molan said that burnout from his job prompted one of the most harrowing moments of his life.Molan said he returned home to Boston two years ago on a red-eye overnight flight from the West Coast at the end of a 3-day trip, exhausted, and pulled into his driveway. He took a cold shower and headed outside to trim the hedges.Suddenly, he recalled, a voice in his head started insisting that he “do a good job because it’s the last job you’re going to do.”“I couldn’t get that voice out of my head,” he said.Molan said that he grew hauntingly certain that the only way to still the voice was to go into the house and get one of his guns and kill himself.“I was manic,” he remembered. “I went from giggling like a schoolboy with a firecracker to crouched down in the driveway between mine and my daughter’s cars and crying.” Eventually, Molan said, he became determined to get a gun, and marched into the house, cold-eyed and hollow inside.“The only thing saved me – my oldest daughter is now 18 — she was 16 at time — she was, amazingly enough, awake at 8:30 in the morning on the couch,” he continued.“And it slapped me in the face so hard — that I didn’t want my daughter’s last thought to be seeing me like this. I ran back outside. I knew the call I was going to make was going to end my career. I called one of my supervisors and told her I needed help and they need to come get my gun because I cannot trust myself around it.”“She’s like, ‘Are you feeling like you’re going to harm yourself?’ And I said, ‘I wouldn’t be calling if I wasn’t.’”“The super gave me an 800 number – OK, great, but you call a suicide prevention hotline and they’re in Nebraska. So she’s trying to find me local psychologists to talk to and all that’s going through my head is ‘hang up the phone and get the gun.’ I’m one of those guys — I’ve never in my life contemplated suicide. I always thought it was the coward’s way out, but your brain thinks it’s the only way to handle it.”“I hung up with the suicide hotline and called my friend who is a [local law enforcement] deputy, and he comes flying down the street, sees me crouched between the cars. I’m crying, and he’s holding me, and I’m going “Dude, go in the house and get my guns. Get them away from me.”Molan told ABC News that he – like many ex-military and law enforcement officers — had multiple guns locked in safes in different parts of his home. But he said that all he could think about was his duty weapon, locked in a safe on the first floor, where he got dressed for work at odd hours so as not to wake his sleeping wife.“My duty weapon wasn’t the only weapon I had, but in my mind grabbing my duty weapon was kind of an ‘FU’ to the government. And I’m not blaming the government for where I’m at. I probably should have gotten counseling long ago. I was a [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] border patrol agent,” he said. “I’ve seen some of the worse things a person can do to another human being. But you say, ‘it’s okay, I can handle it — and you tuck it away.’”“The lack of sleep, the day-to-day bullshit — if you go down that path, then it’s going to end one of two ways: sucking on your gun or ending up without a career. I ended up without a career.”One veteran air marshal, who spoke to ABC News on the condition of anonymity because he said that he is close to retirement and fears TSA retaliation for speaking out publicly, insisted that Molan is not alone.“There’s 50 other Kevin Molans out there. Let that sink in,” he said.“There’s 50 other guys out there – right now — hanging by a thread.”The Suicide Prevention Center Hotline can be reached at (877) 7-CRISIS or 877-727-4747. Click here for its website.The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255. Click here for its website. Those who would rather not talk on the phone can text the Crisis Text Line. Text the word “listen” to 741741.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.last_img read more

Curry’s return an important addition for the Gophers

first_img“My teammates helped me through everything,” Curry told the media. “My mom, my coaches — they kept me positive. There were times when it got really tough, and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m ever going to come back.’ But they just kept my head on straight.”As a freshman in 2016-17, Curry proved effective off the bench, averaging 5.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game. This season, head coach Richard Pitino has been careful not to rush Curry back, knowing he’s making steady progress toward becoming the productive player he was two years ago.“Slowly but surely,” Pitino told the media last week. “He’s not going to be ready 100 percent right away. That’s going to take some time, but I like what I’ve seen from him.”When he is on the court, senior Dupree McBrayer said that Curry brings energy and versatility to the lineup, adding a new dimension to the Gophers’ defense.“He talks a lot on defense, so that makes everything easier,” McBrayer told the media. “We definitely need that. We can switch a lot more things because [Curry] can cover guards. That gives so much more room to switch, so just having him out there we get different looks defensively.”Minnesota will need all the help they can get on defense and offense on Tuesday night when they travel to Ann Arbor to play Michigan, who suffered their first defeat of the season Saturday at Wisconsin. Curry’s return an important addition for the GophersThe forward is back on the court and playing well after missing over a year with injuries.Jack RodgersForward Eric Curry shoots the ball at Williams Arena on Saturday, Jan. 19. The Gophers defeated Penn State 65-64. Nick JungheimJanuary 21, 2019Jump to CommentsShare on FacebookShare on TwitterShare via EmailPrintThree minutes and 45 seconds into the Gophers’ game against Mount St. Mary’s on Dec. 30, Williams Arena erupted into cheers as redshirt sophomore Eric Curry checked into the game. It was the first time in 654 days the 6 foot, 9 inch forward stepped onto the court in a competitive game.“It was amazing. I couldn’t even sleep at night,” Curry told the media after that game, a 71-53 Gophers’ victory. “I couldn’t wait to get back on the court in front of our fans. It was amazing seeing all the fans giving me a standing ovation.”In August 2017, Curry suffered a serious injury in his left knee, tearing his ACL, MCL and meniscus. He missed the entirety of the season, a disappointing 15-17 campaign in which the team was plagued with losses to key players. Curry was expected to make his much-anticipated return to the lineup at the beginning of this season. Unfortunately, after playing in a preseason scrimmage against Creighton, he experienced swelling in the same knee that kept him sidelined the year prior. Soon after, the team announced that Curry would require another operation that ultimately kept him out for the first 12 games of the season.Over the games Curry missed, Minnesota amassed a record of 10-2. The Gophers’ front court was still in good shape without him, thanks largely to All-Big Ten senior Jordan Murphy. Filling in for Curry at the five was freshman Daniel Oturu, a four-star recruit who quickly established himself as a rising star for the Gophers. Oturu’s play has steadily improved throughout the year. He currently averages 10.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.“[They are] two of the great players in the conference,” Curry told the media regarding Murphy and Oturu. “It’s been amazing going against those two guys in practice and they’ve been great helping me along the way, just like I’ve helped them along the way too.”While his minutes are still limited, Curry has been the first forward off the bench in most games since his return, adding much needed depth at forward. Entering the game to a chorus of cheers and applause on Dec. 30 was the culmination of a difficult path to recovery for Curry.last_img read more


first_imgAddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to FacebookFacebookFacebookShare to TwitterTwitterTwitterShare to LinkedInLinkedInLinkedIn As the public will be aware STORM FRANK will bring a period of windy and very wet weather over the next 24 to 48 hours.This is has been a record breaking month for rainfall in some parts of the UK, with exceptional amounts of rain falling onto already saturated ground.During this period of unsettled weather, people are advised to stay up to date with the latest Met Office forecasts and National Severe Weather Warnings and find out what to do in severe weather so they can plan ahead for the weather in store.Throughout this unsettled spell the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are working round the clock with our partners to keep the public safe and allow them to plan and prepare for the expected weather.The main risks normally associated with weather patterns such as this are flooding and loss of power due to the wind and rain. As a result the public may find themselves in a situation where their homes are affected.The Fire Service would like to remind anyone who finds themselves without power or water entering the home that they can take a few simple steps to ensure, they are not placed in any additional risk from fire.When using candles never leave them unattended and make sure you blow them out when you leave the house or go to bed.■Make sure that when in use, candles are secured in a proper holder and away from materials that may catch fire – like curtains, Christmas trees, decorations and toys.■Children and pets should not be left alone with lit candles.■Put candles out when you leave the room, and make sure they’re put out completely at night.■Trim the wick to ¼ inch each time before burning. Long or crooked wicks can cause uneven burning, dripping or flaring.■Don’t move candles once they are lit■Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on burn time and proper use.■Do not burn several candles close together as this might cause flaring (mainly with tea-lights).■Always make sure tea-lights are placed in a proper holder. The foil container which tea lights come in can get very hot. They can melt through plastic, such as a bath, and have the potential to start a house fire.■Use a snuffer or a spoon to put out candles. It’s safer than blowing them out when embers can fly.The public can get further information on safety when using candles by using the link below;We are not trying to get on your wick but remember to stay safe around candles. your home suffers a loss of power or is flooded and you are using portable heaters to heat or dry out your home here are some simple tips to keep you safe; Keep heaters away from curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes. Unplug or switch off portable heaters when you go out or go to bed. Secure portable heaters in position to avoid the risk of them being knocked over. Only use gas or paraffin heaters in well-ventilated areas. Heaters consume oxygen and in enclosed spaces can produce harmful gases and/or cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Fit a Carbon Monoxide detector in all rooms containing gas or paraffin heaters. Never use portable gas cylinder heaters in high rise flats Always change gas cylinders in the open air. Never change gas cylinders in an enclosed space.SFRS would like you to have a very happy, safe Christmas and New Year. If you or someone you know is vulnerable or may be at risk from fire please get in touch and arrange a FREE home fire safety visit with local firefighters by calling 0800 0731 999 or visit wide range of tips on how to keep yourself and your home safe from fire are available on the SFRS website: information from partners on the severe weather is available;The Environment Agency updates its flood guidance every 15 minutes on its website at, and you can follow the Environment Agency on Twitter at @EnvAgency and look us up on Facebook.SEPA flood updates are available at read more

Ghana’s squad numbers

first_imgJordan Ayew would be wearing the number 13 jersey for Ghana as he makes his African Nations Cup debut.This followed the submission of the registered 23 man list to the Confederation of African Football on Wednesday.The shirt, previously used by senior brother, Andre has been handed over to the Olympique Marseille youngster.Andre opts for the number 10 shirt while Kwadwo Asamoah goes for the number 20 shirt.Goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey who is also making his tournament debut has settled for the number 16 jersey.Squad in numbers 1 – Daniel Agyei2 – Daniel Opare3 – Asamoah Gyan4 – John Paintsil5 – John Mensah 6 – Anthony Annan7 – Samuel Inkoom8 – Agyemang Badu9 – Derek Boateng10 – Andre Ayew 11 – Sulley Muntari12 – Prince Tagoe13 – Jordan Ayew14 – Masahudu Alhassan15 – Isaac Vorsah 16 – Adam Kwarasey17 – Lee Addy18 – Jonathan Mensah19 – Charles Takyi20 – Kwadwo Asamoah 21 – John Boye22 – Ernest Sowah23 – Mohammed AbuSource: Ghanafa.orglast_img read more

Delight as Cloughaneely Language Forum hold first ever meeting – Pic Special

first_imgOver 100 members of the community attended the first ever meeting of the Cloughaneely Language Planning Forum Halla Fionnáin, Falcarragh on Tuesday last.The forum has being established to help the language planning committee in their efforts to implement the local Irish-language plan.Under the direction of the facilitator, Páraic Mac Donncha, the forum made a number of key decisions as regards the direction the language planning process and it is hoped to put implement the recommendations made at the meeting over the next year. Representatives from many of the area’s community and voluntary groups, organisations sports clubs and businesses attended the forum.There was robust debate and many innovative opinions and recommendations were put forward.Among the actions decided on at the meeting was the implementation of a signage system in local businesses so as customers and visitors know where services in Irish are available.The creation of a forum for young people was also discussed, where they can decide on what social activities should be provided for them in Irish, and the creation of parent and toddlers groups in Irish. Committee members hard at work at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonAoife Nic an Iomaire taking notes at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonTom Feeney, Eddie Curran and John Fitzgerald at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonMicheal Mac Aoidh, Paraic Mac Donncha and Bearnai O Gallchoir at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonThe packed hall at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonCommittee members, Máire Nic Fhearraigh, Máire Ni Bhaoil, Mary Cassidy, Caitlin Uí Lafferty and Mary Nic Phadein at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonPáraic Mac Donncha, The Facilitator at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonCarmeal and Eibhlín Curran at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonCaitríona Ní Cheallaigh at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonBearnaí Ó Gallchóir, Chairperson of Cloughaneely Language Planning at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonPaul Bonnar and Manus Ó Ceallaigh in discussion at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonTommy Francis speaking at the event at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonMicheal Mac Aoidh, the Language planning officer for Cloughaneely at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive WassonThe Facilitator, Páraic Mac Donncha who oversaw the event at the inaugral meeting of the Cloughaneeely Language Planning Forum in Falcarragh on Tuesday night last. Photo Clive Wasson Delight as Cloughaneely Language Forum hold first ever meeting – Pic Special was last modified: March 2nd, 2019 by Shaun KeenanShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:CloughaneelyCloughaneely Language Planning Forumlast_img read more

Andre Brink wins top writers’ prize

first_img5 March 2003Prominent South African novelist Andre Brink has won the African regional leg of the Commonwealth Writers Best Book Award for The Other Side of Silence, published last year by Secker & Warburg.Brink, the author of a number of award-winning novels over the past three decades, including Looking on Darkness and A Dry White Season, joins an impressive list of past South African winners, including JM Coetzee, Zakes Mda, Nadine Gordimer, Pamela Jooste and K Sello Duiker.The African region’s Best First Book award went to Helon Habila for a novel set in Nigeria and entitled Waiting for an Angel, published by Hamish Hamilton. Both awards will be carried forward to the finals in May in Calgary, Canada, where an Overall Best Book and Best First Book will be announced from among winners in four regions, including Canada and the Caribbean; Eurasia; and South East Asia and the South Pacific.The Other Side of Silence tells of Hanna X, a 19th century German orphan who travels to what is then South West Africa in search of a better life. Brutalised and discarded by the German officer to whom she is sold, she survives to start a new search, this time for self-realisation.“Written with the skill of a master storyteller,’ write the judges, “the narrative is a fine blend of fantasy, historical fact and chilling description.’Waiting for an Angle is the story of a young journalist, arrested during the era of military rule, who writes love poems for his jailer’s fiancee in exchange for petty favours. The judges found that the book “boldly innovates both the content and the themes of post-colonial African fiction’.Judges for the African region were professors Andries Oliphant (South Africa), Mary Kolawole (Nigeria) and Ayeta Wangusa (Uganda). Oliphant chaired the panel.The panel considered fiction written in English from Botswana, Cameroon, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, the Seychelles, Seirra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and reporterlast_img read more

Protect and support each other

first_imgSam Nzima with his iconic photograph (Image: Denis Farrell) A depiction of the so-called Bantu Education system. (Image: City of Joburg) The June 16, 1976 Memorial at the Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto. (Image: Enoch Lehung, City of Joburg) Ahead of Youth Day, Sam Nzima urges the young people of South Africa to protect and support each other. (Images: MEDIA CONTACTS • Kwezi Gule  Curator for the Hector Pieterson Museum   +271 725 3130 RELATED ARTICLES • Youth Day: lessons from 1976 • Playing a part to give youth a future • Let’s learn and honour Children’s Act • How does Mandela Day inspire you?Cadine Pillay“Take back your courage!” declares Sam Nzima, former apartheid photojournalist, urging young people of South Africa to assume the strength and courage of their predecessors. Nzima took the legendary photograph of the fatally wounded 12-year-old Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo, while Hector’s sister Antoinette Sithole runs alongside. It is a photograph that captured and exposed not just the Soweto uprising on 16 June 1976, but the entire struggle of black people during apartheid.That event is commemorated on the annual Youth Day, 16 June, and the whole month around the day is focused on strategies to develop and uplift South Africa’s young people.The government’s theme for Youth Month 2012 – Together we can do more to build infrastructure and fight youth unemployment – is an ambitious one, but conveys hope to many South Africans who recognise the struggles that were overcome.Ahead of the countrywide celebrations, Nzima conveys a message to young South Africans in his gripping and courageous story, and carefully reflects on the events of that fateful day.June 16, 1976 revisitedNzima, 78, is a warm-spirited man who remembers that day as if it were yesterday.“I will never forget that day in Soweto,” he says with candour in his voice. “It is in my blood and now part of me.”On 16 June 1976, thousands of South African schoolchildren marched in protest of the so-called Bantu Education system – the rest is history.  Nzima arrived in Soweto early that morning, assigned to cover what he thought would be peaceful protests.“I thought it would just be an ordinary day,” he says. “I had no idea it would be a day that would go down in the history books of South Africa, or that a child would be killed.“The students were just going to protest their rights and take a memorandum of demands to the education department,” he recalls and then pauses. “They did not even reach their destination.”Nzima watched from a distance as students painted signs that said “Afrikaans must be abolished” and “We are being fed the crumbs of education” – at the time black students were forced to study a sub-standard curriculum and were taught in Afrikaans, the language that, to them, represented their oppressor.As they began marching, the students were confronted by the police and began to sing “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” – the national anthem of South Africa today, but a protest song that was banned back then.The police began shooting, and Nzima saw a boy fall. The tall Mbuyisa Makhubo, then just 18, quickly picked him up and began to run. Nzima took six pictures as the wounded boy was taken to the nearest car, driven by a colleague from his newspaper, and rushed to a clinic. There, he was pronounced dead and identified as Pieterson.Nzima, working at a time when restrictions on reporting on conflict were draconian, removed the film and hid it in his sock. Later, police forced him to expose the film in his camera, but the photos of Pieterson were safe.Pieterson was one of the first to die from police gunfire after Soweto students were ordered to disperse. Reports varied on the number of people killed – some say about 180, others 400. Trials of the man behind the photographThe police were enraged by the attention his photograph drew, and Nzima left Johannesburg and his newspaper, fearing for his life. For a long time he lived under house arrest, and was constantly harassed by the police. But his photograph continued to garner attention and would later go right around the world.Nzima now enjoys a peaceful existence in his hometown of Lillydale in Mpumalanga, where he is a humble community leader.Although he was honoured on Freedom Day 2011 with a National Order for his contribution to photojournalism and for exposing apartheid brutality, the fame the photograph has brought him is equally matched with loss as it resulted in the end of his career, and banishment from Johannesburg, to live in abject poverty.Despite these unfortunate circumstances, Nzima does not regret the path fate chose for him that day.“At first I hated the picture, because I thought I would be killed for taking it,” he says. “But even though it was the end of my journalism career and my life in Johannesburg, it gave back so much tenfold.”Nzima’s photograph tells a courageous story because it has lived for over three decades and made its way to the 18-year-old democratic South Africa.“You don’t even need a caption to see that something terrible has happened,” Nzima says, describing his photograph.The heartfelt photograph has received worldwide recognition over the years and has even been honoured in the Hector Pieterson Schule in Berlin – a school named after the young victim.“I’m happy that the Germans saw the opportunity to name one of their high schools after Pieterson,” Nzima says. “This means the picture I took left its mark on them as well.”Nzima wishes to one day open a photojournalism school of his own for young people. He hopes in turn they will go out and take truthful photos of history that the whole world will see and remember.‘Young people must carry each other’Nzima’s advice to teenagers and young adults of today is clear as it is in his photograph – young people must carry each other.“Every day is a struggle for young people today and that is all the more reason they should protect and support each other,” he says.Back then, Nzima reflects, young people were so eager to learn that they fought for it.“Today’s youth do not appreciate their freedom because they did not struggle for it. It was given to them and therefore they do not know the worth.“If protesting students did not take into their own hands the fight for their right to education 36 years ago, the youngsters of today would not enjoy their freedom and education.“Fighting for a better education is not something that is demonstrated these days by the younger generation. Today, they have so much of freedom that they are fighting HIV/AIDS, alcohol and drug abuse and rape instead.”Nzima remembers the restrictions black people had during apartheid.“We could not even enter a grocery store. If we wanted to buy groceries we had to purchase them through the windows in the back. We could not walk around freely and do as we please because of those restrictions.”‘Take back your courage’“Take back your courage”, is the message from Nzima.“The respect of the younger generation must be strengthened, and at the same time children must be guided,” he asserts.Every year the children of South Africa are born further away from 1976, and memories of those long-ago Sowetan students are fleeting. The country has just one day a year to recreate and remember, and educate young people on the sacrifices that were made so they could enjoy free and equal education.“They need to learn about June 16 and the Soweto massacre every day, not just one day a year,” Nzima says.Although the history of apartheid and the Soweto Uprising are taught in schools across South Africa, it is imperative for young people to acknowledge the sacrifices made for them, in every aspect of their lives today – not by force or obligation, but out of willingness, respect and appreciation.While some still suffer the aftermath of apartheid, we can take comfort in knowing that today every child is born into a free South Africa with the right to education.Former president Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”It is important, says Nzima, for the young people to remember how far we all have come and recognise the people who helped get us here. Most importantly we must remember – much like back then – that the courage of the youth ensures the victory of our country.last_img read more

Button dedicates Indian Grand Prix to Wheldon, Simoncelli

first_imgThe inaugural Indian Grand Prix was a great success on every count, with double champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull clinching his 11th win of the season.But for the drivers, there were mixed reactions as during the lead-up to the race, the motorsport world was rocked by the twin tragedies involving British IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon and Italian MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli, who lost their lives.McLaren driver Jenson Button led the way in expressing his grief, saying that it was an emotional time for everyone.”The last two weekends have been very, very difficult. We have had two fatalities so it is very difficult, especially with Dan. I knew Dan from a very early age.”He was the guy we always had to beat in the early Formula series. So I think we should dedicate this first Indian race to Dan and obviously Marco, another super-talented youngster. He was the most amazing guy to watch on a bike so I think we should dedicate this to them,” Button said after the race on Sunday.Vettel too said that despite his near-perfect performance, the memories of the deaths were still fresh in everyone’s minds.”On the one hand I am very, very happy. It is the first Grand Prix in India and I am very proud to be the first winner. But on the other hand, looking back to last weekend, we lost two of our mates.”I didn’t know Dan Wheldon but he was a big name in motorsport. I got to know Marco Simoncelli this year and our thoughts are with them. Yes, we are ready to take certain risks when we jump into the car but we obviously pray that nothing happens.advertisement”But sometimes you get reminded and it is the last thing that we want to see. So, as I said, it is a bit (of) mixed emotions and our thoughts are with them at this moment,” the Red Bull champion said.Talking about the race, Vettel – who broke Nigel Mansell’s 19-year-old record for most laps led in a single season – said that managing the tyres on the dusty Buddh track was a challenge.”It was a very good race for us. I enjoyed the time in the lead very much.”I had a little bit of a fight with Jenson. It was always around four seconds and strangely he kept closing in around the pitstops.On the circuit, it was crucial to manage the tyres and make sure that you have enough of them left in the end.”The car was very well balanced. I felt even a little bit more confident on the hard tyres at the end, but overall it was a fantastic performance. Thanks to the whole team,” he said.Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was happy that he managed to get on the podium and also stave off a stiff challenge from Red Bull’s Mark Webber.”We didn’t make the perfect start today. To be on a new circuit and starting on the ‘clean’ side, I think we didn’t have the grip that we were expecting.”Then we raced with Mark until the second pit-stop where, a little bit surprisingly, he decided to stop and we did two extra laps.So I was able to overtake him and I am extremely happy to win the podium in this first race here in India. To taste the champagne is always nice in the first race in a new country,” the Spaniard said.last_img read more

Here’s the Dope on Culture Machine’s latest online series

first_imgBored of the same ol’ boring serials on television. Fret not. Here’s the Dope.The Dope is a unique weekly YouTube web series that will air on the BollywoodG*ndu’s YouTube channel and will be hosted by comedian Karan Talwar. The show’s content aims to highlight the most popular Indian trends for the given week and present them to the audience with a satirical and comical twist.The show is divided into various segments that focus on themes such as Bollywood, reality television shows, mainstream news, sports and viral YouTube content. So you know you won’t have to look far for your daily entertainment dose.Find out what the Dope is all about.The idea for the show stemmed from the understanding that there is a huge segment of young Indians, in India and abroad who are looking for humour as an avenue for entertainment. They read the news, watch sports, and watch a lot of movies. And this is the place where we all line up together.The Dope’s core thought is to capture what people are talking about and present it in the funniest way possible using YouTube as a medium.Check out the video:last_img read more

Special Olympics athletes forced to sleep on LA university gym floor

first_imgSpecial Olympics competitors arriving in Southern California were greeted by a logistics mess that forced many to sleep on a gymnasium floor before they were finally shuttled to their host cities on Wednesday.At least 1,500 athletes and coaches spent the night at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles after flights and buses arrived late on Tuesday, Special Olympics spokesman Rich Perelman said.By midday Wednesday, the athletes from Norway, Mexico, Venezuela, Kenya, the Cayman Islands and other countries were on their way to their host cities. That was just in time to clear the campus for the arrival of thousands more scheduled to show up Wednesday afternoon.”It really wasn’t bad,” said Collins Marigiri, the Kenyan team’s swim coach, adding with a smile that it was his and his team’s first trip to the USA, so even getting stuck overnight in a college gymnasium was a new and interesting experience for them. “The athletes didn’t have any problems. They had food. They had water. They had a place to sleep. There were no medical issues.”The Red Cross provided blankets and water.last_img read more