January 28, 2020

Azzo Rezori: Going on a cruise, and going on a ride

Of all the Sesame Street songs I’ve hummed and whistled to over the years, Going For A Ride is my favourite.

It runs over three verses.

A line in the first verse: “Gonna sit behind the wheel.”

In the second verse: “Gonna speed along the track.”

In the third: “Gonna sail the ocean blue.”

There’s already been a lot of ‘wheel’ and ‘track’ in my life, but not nearly enough ‘ocean blue’. So it’s always the third verse that comes to my mind when I think of the song.

Oh I’m going for a ride

I’m, gonna sail the ocean blue

And I’m gonna be a captain

And I’m gonna have a crew

Gonna sail the seven seas

On the water I will float

‘Cause I’m going for a ride

And I’m riding in a boat.

Well, that’s just what we did the week before last, my wife Brenda, our daughter Gaia, and I — we went on a cruise of the western Caribbean starting and ending in Miami. 

Our first cruise ever.

Getting away from our old selves

It was all about getting away, of course. Away from our same old selves. Away from the people around us who have their own vested interests in us being safely and predictably our same old selves. Away from this place which has played such a crucial role in shaping our same old selves.

Going on the cruise did the trick, even without any of us being the captain and having a crew.

There was no need to keep asking “How am I doing?” The question quickly became, “How’s the world doing?”, and the world replied, “Never mind how I’m doing. You wouldn’t understand anyway. I just am.”

That was good enough for me.  

There was the early morning stroll through the neighbourhoods around our Miami hotel with proof at every corner that things can be different, that the plants we can only cultivate inside up here do thrive outside down there, that coconuts do grow on trees, that Spanish-speaking people really are reclaiming Miami after they lost it to the United States two centuries ago.

Living in a floating village

There was the novelty of making a cabin our home for a week, of learning to find our way through the lanes and alleys of a floating village, of getting to know all kinds of people we’ll never see again. 

We were constantly torn between differences and similarities. No familiar whirling and screeching of sea birds greeted us as we docked at Cozumel Island off the Mexican coast, yet, like the wind-swept barrens of Newfoundland, the low-lying island was covered with its own kind of tuckamore, a tangle of dwarf palms and tropical trees. 

On the jungle trek to cave tubing in Belize we were shown a palm tree which carries small red berries that self-ignite after dropping to the ground and cause wild fires that regenerate the forests. There was also the killer tree which smothers other trees by wrapping itself around them.

The caves are mile-long tunnels with underground streams moving darkly past underground beaches, the walls and ceilings gnarled and twisted with formations that make you wonder how solid rock can flow. Next thing you find asking yourself what comes first in this crazy world, flow or pattern. And while you drift through another cave past another underground beach you realize there’s no either or, it’s all the same, flow and pattern are like energy and matter – two faces of the same thing.

While watching the sun set from our cruise ship balcony, we figured out how the ancients of Egypt and of the Americas came up with the same idea of building pyramids. 

No wonder they worshipped the sun

Was it the Egyptians who crossed the Atlantic and taught the Mayans, as some believe? Was it the Mayans who crossed first and taught the Egyptians, according to others?

It doesn’t have to be one or the other in this case either. Both the Egyptians and the Mayans were sun worshippers and would have noticed on their respective horizons how some sunsets send out shafts of rays that rise like pyramid-shaped altars over the sea and earth.      

In Roatan we spent the day on a small island set up as a sanctuary for rescued animals, while a reluctant jaguar gets dragged to the beach every day so tourists can have their picture taken with it in the water.

On the sandbar inside the barrier reef off Grand Cayman Island we swam with sting rays and weren’t sure who was mobbing whom, they us, or we them. 

The reef itself is slowly dying and looked through our snorkeling masks like a ruined city with tumbles upon tumbles of broken structures stacked on top of each other.

Nothing was obvious yet everything exotically self-explanatory. 

Amid all this diversity of being, our same old selves simply shrank away. And that was the whole point.

They came back though.

Not a single four-letter word of frustration passed my lips while we were on the cruise. I counted at least a dozen on my first day back to work.

So be it till the next ride.

Excerpt from:

Azzo Rezori: Going on a cruise, and going on a ride

Forde Minutes: Which teams still have something to prove?

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college basketball (glass slippers sold separately at a mid-major conference tournament near you):


Welcome, North Florida Ospreys (1), to this thing we call the Big Dance. It’s your first visit, and we hope you have the time of your life. Even if it only lasts 40 minutes. That should be long enough for us all to figure out what an Osprey is.North Florida fans storm the court after the Ospreys' Atlantic Sun tourney win. (Credit: Twitter/@Behoff21)North Florida fans storm the court after the Ospreys’ Atlantic Sun tourney win. (Credit: Twitter/@Behoff21)

Who is next on the newcomer list? Possibly St. Francis (2) – the New York Northeast Conference member, not the St. Francis Pennsylvania Northeast Conference member – which plays in the final of that league Tuesday. The Terriers are part of the Forgotten Five – the five programs that have been part of NCAA basketball for all 76 years in which the tournament has been in existence, without ever participating.

Heading into Monday there was a chance that the Forgotten Five would be downsized to four – until, alas, William & Mary (3) was walloped by Northeastern in the Colonial Athletic Association final. The wait continues for William. And Mary.

Odds are not good for Forgotten Five member Northwestern (4), which enters the Big Ten tournament as a No. 10 seed. Historic futility seems likely to continue for at least one more year.

Forgotten Fivers Army (5), already eliminated in the Patriot League, and The Citadel (6), eliminated in the Southern Conference, definitely have to wait until next year. And probably well past that.

Just once, across 76 Marches, you’d think they would have lucked into a magic run. Even Springfield College (7), no longer a Division I school, had its shot in 1940. Springfield was nipped 48-24 by eventual champion Indiana, but at least it isn’t on the forgotten list.


Last week, The Minutes started previewing the conference tournaments that will help fill the bracket for the NCAA tournament. This week, we finish the job:

American Athletic (8). When: March 12-15. Where: Hartford, Conn.

Top seed: SMU.

Dark horse: Connecticut. Shabazz Napier isn’t walking through that door, but the memory of last year’s NCAA tournament is hard to shake. And there are players who had key roles on that team still in uniform. The Huskies haven’t won four straight all season, which is what it would take to win this tourney. But they have won three in a row four times, and each of those streaks featured one big win: Dayton in the first, Cincinnati in the second, Tulsa in the third and SMU in the fourth. Don’t count out the champs yet.

Team that needs to prove something to the selection committee: Temple. Owls are right on the brink, still trying to ride that 25-point victory over Kansas in December into the Big Dance. Two victories here may put them on the right side of the bubble – but the second one likely would have to be over regular-season champion SMU, and the Mustangs have handled Temple twice already.

Team that needs to prove something to its own fans: Memphis (9). There has rarely been anything for Tigers fans to get excited about this season – 13 losses, a No. 5 seed and no shot at an NCAA at-large bid certainly don’t move the needle. It would take a lot to spin this year into a positive, but this is the last chance to do it.

Team most likely to bring fans: UConn. Tournament is in the Huskies’ backyard of Hartford, and they have a large and vocal following.

Team least likely to bring fans: Houston. Cougars can’t get many to come to their home gym, much less make the 1,700-mile trip to the northeast.Do Kevin Ollie and Ryan Boatright have another March Madness run in them? (AP)Do Kevin Ollie and Ryan Boatright have another March Madness run in them? (AP)

Coach who wins tournaments: Kevin Ollie, UConn. Has won his last six postseason games.

Coach who doesn’t: Jeff Lebo, East Carolina. This is his 17th season as a college head coach. Zero NCAA tournament bids.

Minutes pick: UConn. Huskies are the No. 6 seed, but they’ve done more improbable things within the last year, right? They’ll have a homecourt advantage and a player capable of dominating games in point guard Ryan Boatright. In a tournament that looks fairly wide open, those are reasons enough to go with the Huskies.

Atlantic-10 (10). When: March 11-15. Where: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Top seed: Davidson.

Dark horse: Rhode Island. Young Rams won 10 of their last 13 to secure a No. 3 seed and a bye into the quarterfinals. There they could meet a George Washington team going the wrong way. If they get some help from St. Bonaventure vs. Dayton in a potential quarterfinal matchup, Rhode Island could find itself in the final.

Team that needs to prove something to the selection committee: Richmond (11). The fourth-seeded Spiders have won their last six games to edge into contention for an at-large bid, but work remains to be done. First game in this tournament could be another battle with VCU – last one went double OT a couple weeks ago. If the Spiders can make the tourney final that may be enough, depending what happens elsewhere.

Team that needs to prove something to its own fans: VCU. The injury to defensive mix master Briante Weber has taken the steam out of the Rams, as they’ve faded from first to a tie for fourth in the league. With so much of VCU’s game predicated on pressure defense, can it still make a run – here and in the next tourney?

Team most likely to bring fans: Dayton. Flyers had an impressive turnout in Memphis last year for the NCAA South Regional, and they regularly have strong home crowds. They’ll travel to support an overachieving team that’s capable of winning this tourney.

Team least likely to bring fans: Fordham. It’s not a terribly difficult commute from the Bronx to Brooklyn, but the 9-20 Rams may not be worth the subway fare.

Coach who wins tournaments: Bob McKillop, Davidson. Won seven Southern Conference tourneys; now we’ll see if his March magic translates to the A-10.

Coach who doesn’t: John Giannini, La Salle. Nineteen seasons as a Division I head coach and he’s never won a conference tourney. That includes a 4-8 record at La Salle, with never more than one postseason win in a given season.

Minutes pick: Davidson. Wildcats are red hot, having won nine straight games – the last two by 27 and 29 points. They’re playing with great precision offensively, thriving with guard Jack Gibbs back in the lineup. Good McKillop teams are a joy to watch, and this is a good one.

Atlantic Coast (12). When: March 11-14. Where: Greensboro, N.C.

Top seed: Virginia.

Dark horse: North Carolina State. The Wolfpack have plenty of pieces, and Mark Gottfried has worked some postseason mojo in the past. But are they consistent enough to string together multiple big wins?

Team that needs to prove something to the selection committee: Miami. The Hurricanes are teetering right on the bubble, which makes their Wednesday game against either Wake Forest or Virginia Tech a must-win affair – and they’ve already lost to the Demon Deacons once this year. They may need another victory after that, against Notre Dame in the quarterfinals.Roy Williams' Tar Heels have lost six of their last 10 games. (Getty)Roy Williams’ Tar Heels have lost six of their last 10 games. (Getty)

Team that needs to prove something to its own fans: North Carolina. Tar Heels have lost 31 games the last three seasons, and their seven ACC losses are the most since the 2010 rebuilding year after the last national championship. Being swept by Duke and under NCAA investigation adds to the unrest. This hasn’t been a happy time at Carolina.

Team most likely to bring fans: North Carolina. Greensboro is Carolina country, and the Heels need all the fan support they can get in this tourney.

Team least likely to bring fans: Syracuse (13).

Coach who wins tournaments: Rick Pitino, Louisville. Won the American tourney last year. Won the Big East tourney the two years before that. Brings a 10-game conference tournament winning streak into another new league.

Coach who doesn’t: Roy Williams, North Carolina. Last time he won this was 2008. Ol’ Roy has rarely cared about this tourney in the past, but this seems like a good time to put some effort into it.

Minutes pick: Duke. Blue Devils are 5-1 against the prime competition: Virginia, Notre Dame, Louisville and North Carolina. They haven’t lost since late January. They’re playing at a high level and have the best player in Greensboro in Jahlil Okafor. Write it down.

Big 12 (14). When: March 11-14. Where: Kansas City, Mo.

Top seed: Kansas.

Dark horse: Baylor. Fourth-seeded Bears have swept quarterfinal opponent West Virginia, and could flex their offensive rebounding muscles against a depleted Kansas in the semifinals. Wouldn’t be a shock to see them in the final.

Team that needs to prove something to the selection committee: Texas. Longhorns’ opening-round game against Texas Tech is non-negotiable – a win is mandatory to remain in the hunt for a bid. Depending what’s happening elsewhere, they may need to knock off Iowa State in the quarterfinals, too.

Team that needs to prove something to its own fans: Kansas. With Cliff Alexander in NCAA limbo and Perry Ellis’ return from a knee sprain still uncertain, do the Jayhawks have enough interior players to win this tournament?

Team most likely to bring fans: Kansas (15). Proximity plus passion leads to a pro-Jayhawk venue.

Team least likely to bring fans: TCU. A lot of fans unplugged from the team when it moved to an off-campus arena this year while the home gym is being renovated. They’re not going to plug back in now.

Minutes pick: Iowa State. This tourney may be the biggest crapshoot in the nation, especially with Kansas’ roster in flux. Cyclones have superior firepower to anyone else, and if they can get enough stops they can repeat as champions.

Big East (16). When: March 11-14. Where: New York.

Top seed: Villanova.

Dark horse: Xavier. Musketeers split with quarterfinal opponent Butler and swept potential semifinal opponent Georgetown. Not a stretch to envision them playing Saturday night.Villanova hasn't lost since Jan. 19. (Getty)Villanova hasn’t lost since Jan. 19. (Getty)

Team that needs to prove something to the selection committee: No true white-knuckle bubble teams in this league, so The Minutes will say Villanova has the most to prove in making its point for a No. 1 seed.

Team that needs to prove something to its own fans: Georgetown. Actually, next week is when the Hoyas need to prove it, when they’re usually being upset in horrific fashion.

Team most likely to bring fans: Villanova. The businessmen who come to the Garden will jump on the St. John’s bandwagon if the Red Storm gets on a run, but mostly they’re just there for the beer. The Wildcats will have an actual fan following.

Team least likely to bring fans: DePaul (17). Would you pay to make that trip to see that team? No, you would not.

Coach who wins tournaments: There aren’t many. Ed Cooley of Providence won this tourney last year, and Greg McDermott won the Missouri Valley in 2012 and ’13. Prior to that, you have to go back to John Thompson III at Georgetown in 2007.

Coach who doesn’t: Jay Wright, Villanova. The last time Wright’s team played in a conference tournament final was 2001, at Hofstra. Villanova hasn’t been to the Big East final since 1997.

Minutes pick: Butler. Villanova is the top-heavy favorite for good reason, but as the above shows they don’t have a great conference tournament history. On the off chance ‘Nova gets knocked out before the final, it could open the way for the Bulldogs.

Big Sky (18). When: March 12-14. Where: Campus sites.

Top seed: Montana.

Dark horse: Northern Arizona. Lumberjacks come in having won six of their last seven games.

Minutes pick: Eastern Washington. The Eagles won in Assembly Hall early. They also won 10 of their last 13 games, with the three losses by a combined seven points. Efficient offensive team that can blister an opponent from the 3-point line.

Big Ten (19). When: March 11-15. Where: Chicago.

Top seed: Wisconsin.

Dark horse: Michigan State. The Spartans should get Branden Dawson back from a concussion by the time they play Friday. They were swept this year by potential semifinal opponent Maryland, but it’s hard to see Michigan State losing three times to the Terrapins.

Team that needs to prove something to the selection committee: Indiana (20). Hoosiers have four quality wins: SMU, Butler, Maryland and Ohio State. They also have just four victories in their last 12 games, and half of those are against Rutgers. With losses to Eastern Washington and Northwestern, Indiana is in a must-win situation in its first game.

Team that needs to prove something to its own fans: Indiana. Hoosiers need to do something to stop the howling about their head coach. Beating Northwestern would be a start. Losing to Northwestern (again) might spark a mutiny.

Team most likely to bring fans: Wisconsin. Plenty of Badgers backers live in Chicago, and plenty more can make the short drive south.

Team least likely to bring fans: Rutgers. When the Scarlet Knights take the court Wednesday, it will be exactly two months since their last victory. The losing streak will carry over into 2015-16.Will Thad Matta's Buckeyes take the Big Ten tournament by storm again this season? (USAT)Will Thad Matta’s Buckeyes take the Big Ten tournament by storm again this season? (USAT)

Coach who wins tournaments: Thad Matta, Ohio State. He’s won four of these things, and three of the last five. Matta and Tom Izzo have divvied up the last five.

Coach who doesn’t: Mark Turgeon, Maryland. Not only has he never won a conference tourney in 15 previous seasons as a head coach, he’s never been to the finals.

Minutes pick: Wisconsin. Badgers looked locked in to end the regular season at Ohio State, and if that carries over to Chicago this tournament could be a walkover.

Big West (21). When: March 12-14. Where: Anaheim, Calif.

Top seed: UC-Davis.

Dark horse: Hawaii. Rainbow Warriors beat Pittsburgh, Colorado and Nebraska early – all on the island, of course – but it shows they can compete with quality opponents.

Minutes pick: UC-Santa Barbara. Gauchos have won eight of their last nine and earned a split with UC-Davis. Coach Bob Williams has won this league tourney a few times.

Conference USA (22). When: March 11-14. Where: Birmingham, Ala.

Top seed: Louisiana Tech.

Dark horse: UAB. Blazers didn’t finish regular season well but get the tournament in their hometown. Should catch Louisiana Tech in the semifinals, and UAB beat the Bulldogs by 20 in Birmingham last month.

Minutes pick: Old Dominion. Jeff Jones took Virginia and American to the NCAA tournament; time to add a third school to that list. Monarchs play the best defense in the league and finished the season well.

Mid-American (23). When: March 9-14. Where: Cleveland.

Top seed: Central Michigan.

Dark horse: Kent State. Eight of the Golden Flashes’ last 10 games have been decided by six points or less, and they’re 5-3 in those games. If the ball bounces right, maybe they win a few more nailbiters.

Minutes pick: Buffalo. Bobby Hurley’s team takes a six-game winning streak into this tourney and it should be eight coming out. Double-bye doesn’t hurt.

Mid-Eastern Athletic (24). When: March 9-14. Where: Norfolk, Va.

Top seed: North Carolina Central.

Dark horse: Delaware State. The last MEAC team to seriously threaten to beat the Eagles was the Hornets, who went down by a point in a wild game on the road in late January.

Minutes pick: North Carolina Central. Thirty-four straight MEAC victories and counting for LeVelle Moton’s program. One of the great runs in league history.

Mountain West (25). When: March 11-14. Where: Las Vegas.

Top seed: Boise State.

Dark horse: Colorado State. Efficient offensive team that could (and has) beat anyone in the league. Getting stops will be the challenge.

Minutes pick: Boise State (26). Broncos are an improved defensive team this season, and correspondingly could be the best team in school history. They’ve won 14 of their last 15 and swept San Diego State, both wins by double digits.

Pac-12 (27). When: March 11-14. Where: Las Vegas.

Top seed: Arizona.Sean Miller's Wildcats only lost to UNLV, Oregon State and Arizona State this season. (USAT)Sean Miller’s Wildcats only lost to UNLV, Oregon State and Arizona State this season. (USAT)

Dark horse: Arizona State. It’s been a while since the Sun Devils have done anything in this tournament, but they beat first-round opponent USC and potential quarterfinal opponent UCLA in their only meetings this year, and split with potential semifinal opponent Arizona.

Team that needs to prove something to the selection committee: UCLA. Bruins have won seven of their last 10 to improve their bubble standing, but may need multiple wins in Vegas to secure a bid. A potential semifinal matchup with Arizona could be huge. Bruins have beaten the Wildcats each of the last two Pac-12 tourneys.

Team that needs to prove something to its own fans: Washington (28). Huskies showed a glimmer of promise in upsetting Utah to end the regular season, but their 5-13 Pac-12 record, and 1-3 mark in the last three league tourneys, doesn’t inspire confidence.

Team most likely to bring fans: Arizona. Good basketball fans backing the best team. They’ll paint the Strip red and blue.

Team least likely to bring fans: USC. Not many basketball fans even when the team is good. And at 11-19, this team is not good.

Coach who wins tournaments: Dana Altman, Oregon. Won six Missouri Valley Conference tournaments at Creighton, and a Pac-12 title in 2013 as a No. 3 seed.

Coach who doesn’t: Herb Sendek, Arizona State, and Sean Miller, Arizona. Sendek is 3-8 in the Pac-12 tourney and has lost five of his last six. Miller, despite having the best program in the league for years, has never won the tourney title.

Minutes pick: Arizona. Wildcats somehow have avoided winning this thing since 2002. That mystifying drought will end this week.

Southeastern (29). When: March 11-15. Where: Nashville.

Top seed: Kentucky.

Dark horse: Vanderbilt. Young team with some firepower has pieced it together over the last month, winning eight of its last 10.

Team that needs to prove something to the selection committee: Texas A&M. Losses in the last week to Florida and Alabama have put the Aggies in jeopardy of missing the tournament.

Team that needs to prove something to its own fans: Arkansas. Razorbacks have lost their first SEC tournament game each of the last six years.

Team most likely to bring fans: Kentucky (30). They’ll have 80 percent of the fans in Nashville. At least.

Team least likely to bring fans: Missouri. They don’t go to the home games, so don’t expect many to show up in Nashville to watch the school’s worst team in nearly half a century play out the string.

Coach who wins tournaments: Billy Donovan, Florida. Has won this four times overall, but only once (last year) since 2007. John Calipari hasn’t won it since 2011.The big question: Will Kentucky stay perfect? (AP)The big question: Will Kentucky stay perfect? (AP)

Coach who doesn’t: Anybody at Tennessee. Volunteers last won the SEC tourney in 1979.

Minutes pick: Um, Kentucky?

Southland (31). When: March 11-14. Where: Katy, Texas.

Top seed: Stephen F. Austin.

Dark horse: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Islanders are 1-1 this year against the two teams that have dominated the league, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State.

Minutes pick: Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks are 86-12 over the past three seasons, dominating the league. Last year they were 20-0 through the conference tournament, and this year would be 19-1 with two wins in Katy this week. SFA won a game in the NCAAs last year and is capable of doing it again.

Southwestern Athletic (32). When: March 10-14. Where: Houston.

Top seed: Texas Southern.

Dark horse: Prairie View. The Panthers have won eight of their last nine, and split the season series with Texas Southern in a pair of close games.

Minutes pick: Prairie View. Last year Texas Southern won the rubber match in the SWAC tournament to earn the league’s bid. This year the rubber match goes the other way.

Sun Belt (33). When: March 12-15. Where: New Orleans.

Top seed: Georgia State.

Dark horse: Louisiana Lafayette. Closed regular season on a six-game winning streak, and if the basketball team performs in the Big Easy as well as the football team does each New Orleans Bowl, there could be another Ragin’ Cajuns party in the French Quarter.

Minutes pick: Georgia State. Last year the Panthers dominated the league but were shocked by one point by Louisiana Lafayette in the tourney. This year the separation from the rest of the league is smaller, but Georgia State once again is a solid favorite.

Western Athletic (34). When: March 11-14. Where: Las Vegas.

Top seed: New Mexico State.

Dark horse: Seattle. The only WAC team to beat New Mexico State this season.

Minutes pick: New Mexico State. The Aggies are No. 93 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. Nobody else in the league is in the top 250. In other words, it would be a colossal shock if anyone else won this tourney.


… But does have a one-game playoff Saturday at the storied Palestra to decide its NCAA representative: the Ivy League (35). This should be good: Yale vs. Harvard, a pair of No. 1 seeds academically who split their two meetings during the regular season. The Bulldogs all but had their first NCAA bid since 1962 locked up before Dartmouth’s Gabas Maldunas beat the buzzer Saturday. Now Yale has to beat preseason favorite and defending Ivy champion Harvard for the second time in eight days to advance to the Dance.


Demarcus Daniels (36), North Florida. He’s a junior who has started just one of the 93 games he’s played in college. Sunday he picked an ideal time to score a career-high 22 points – 35 percent of his team’s total – in leading the Ospreys past USC Upstate and into the NCAA tournament for the first time.


Rick Byrd (37), Belmont. Earlier this year, Byrd won his 700th career game. Saturday, Byrd guided the Bruins to their seventh NCAA appearance, shocking heavy favorite Murray State in the Ohio Valley Conference championship game by a point on a late 3-pointer by Taylor Barnette. The night before, Belmont beat Eastern Kentucky by a point. With only one senior starter, this Belmont team is a year (or two) ahead of schedule.

COACH WHO SHOULD TAKE THE BUS TO WORKIs it time for Jim Boeheim to part ways with Syracuse? (AP)Is it time for Jim Boeheim to part ways with Syracuse? (AP)

Jim Boeheim (38), Syracuse. No-showing the postgame press conference at North Carolina State the day after his program was hit with major NCAA sanctions made this a rather easy call.


When hungry and thirsty in Columbus – as many college basketball fans will be next week, when that city plays host as one of the NCAA sites – The Minutes heartily recommends a visit to Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails (39). The pot roast sandwich – with swiss and mustard on a pretzel roll – is so good that Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton assuredly would approve (and eat six). Accompany it with a Bell’s Hopslam (40) – in a 10-ounce glass, because the ABV is serious – and thank The Minutes later. (Special commendation to the heroic Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated for the original tip.)

Continue at source:  

Forde Minutes: Which teams still have something to prove?

Both TransAsia plane engines lost power before Taiwan crash

Search and rescue divers continue to search for missing persons at the site of a commercial plane crash in Taipei, Taiwan, Friday, Feb. 6, 2015. TransAsia Airways Flight 235 with 58 people aboard clipped a bridge shortly after takeoff and crashed into a river in the island’s capital of Taipei on Wednesday morning. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

TAIPEI, Taiwan — One of the two engines on TransAsia Airways Flight 235 went idle 37 seconds after takeoff, and the pilots apparently shut off the other before making a futile attempt to restart it, Taiwan’s top aviation safety official said.

It was unclear why the second engine was shut down, since the plane was capable of flying with one engine. Taiwan’s official China News Agency said investigators were looking into the possibility of “professional error.”

Wednesday’s crash into a river in Taipei minutes after takeoff killed at least 36 people and left seven missing. Fifteen people were rescued with injuries after the accident, which was captured in a dramatic dashboard camera video that showed the ATR 72 propjet banking steeply and scraping a highway overpass before it hurtled into the Keelung River.

There would be no reason to have shut down the good engine, experts said.

“It’s a mistake,” said John M. Cox, a former US Airways pilot and now head of a safety-consulting company. “There are procedures that pilots go through — safeguards — when you’re going to shut down an engine, particularly close to the ground. Why that didn’t occur here, I don’t know.”

Multi-engine planes, whether jets or turboprops like the ATR, are designed to fly on one engine. When an engine quits, one technique that pilots often use, Cox said, is to identify and tell each other which engine is still running, then for one of them to place a hand behind the throttle controlling that good engine — guarding against an accidental shutdown.

Cox said it is too early to draw certain conclusions but it’s likely that the crew’s failure to control the plane and shutting down the operating engine “will be part of the causal factors to this accident.”

The details on the engines were presented at a news conference in Taipei by Aviation Safety Council Executive Director Thomas Wang as preliminary findings from the flight data recorder.

Wang said Friday the plane’s right engine triggered an alarm 37 seconds after takeoff. However, he said the data showed it had not shut down, or “flamed out” as the pilot told the control tower, but rather moved into idle mode, with no change in the oil pressure.

Then, 46 seconds later, the left engine was shut down, apparently by one of the pilots, so that neither engine was producing any power. A restart was attempted, but the plane crashed just 72 seconds later.

Several Internet aviation sites, including Flightradar24, questioned whether the pilots may have mistakenly turned off the wrong engine in an attempt to restart the idled one.

Anthony Brickhouse, a safety-science professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said investigators won’t really know what happened to the engines until they do a “tear-down” and actually examine them — not just rely entirely on information from the flight-data recorder — to determine whether one or both were still producing power.

TransAsia said in a statement that all 71 of its ATR pilots would retake proficiency examinations as requested by the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

The pilot had 4,900 hours of flying experience, said Lin Chih-ming of the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

Taiwanese Vice President Wu Den-yih, mindful of the island’s reputation as a tourist destination and its tense relations with China where most of the flight’s passengers were from, went to a Taipei funeral parlor for prayer sessions to pay respects.

At the parlor, where bodies are being stored, Wu expressed condolences and praised pilot Liao Chien-chung, who died in the crash. The pilots may have deliberately steered the plane away from buildings and into the river in the final moments.

“When it came to when it was clear his life would end, (the pilot) meticulously grasped the flight operating system and in the final moments he still wanted to control the plane to avoid harming residents in the housing communities,” Wu said.

“To the plane’s crew, the victims … I here express condolences.”

Divers with a local fire agency found one female and three male bodies Friday along the muddy Keelung River bottom about 50 meters (yards) from the crash site, a Taipei City Fire Department official surnamed Chen said.

The agency suspects the eight bodies that are still missing may be in equally murky areas and has sent 190 divers to look for them. Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense dispatched three S-70C rescue helicopters to search along a river system that runs into the ocean off Taiwan’s northwest coast.

More than 30 relatives of victims cried wildly, prayed or were comforted by Buddhist volunteers at the riverside crash site as divers in black wetsuits brought back the four bodies. Some divers came ashore with their hands joined in prayer for the people they brought back.

The pilot’s and co-pilot’s bodies were found earlier with their hands still on the controls, Taiwan’s ETToday online news service said.

Wang said the engines had shown no problems before the flight and repeatedly stated that the plane would have been able to take off and fly even with only one engine working.

Evidence that the TransAsia pilots may have shut down the wrong engine drew comparisons with the 1989 crash of a British Midland Airways Boeing 737 jet shortly after takeoff from London’s Heathrow Airport.

In that accident, a fan blade failure in the left engine led to vibrations and smoke and fumes in the cockpit. The pilots believed that the right engine had failed and reduced power to it, which caused the vibrations to stop, convincing the crew that they had identified the troubled engine. As the pilots tried to make an emergency landing, the left engine quit, and attempts to restart the right engine failed. The plane crashed a half-mile short of the runway, killing 47 people; 79 survived.

Originally posted here: 

Both TransAsia plane engines lost power before Taiwan crash

Looking for something competitive to do in February (and get a weekend away)? Here’s a few ideas

Feeling the urge for a bit of competition in the coming month? We’ve got you covered with these few suggestions.

Here, we’ve gone for cycling in west Clare, running through mud in north Dublin or doing your first duathlon – and having an excuse to head down to Cork.

So dust off the lycra, pump up those tyres and fill up that tank.

Junior Tour Sportives

What? The Junior Tour is by far and away the best race on the Irish domestic racing calendar for 16-18 year olds. In its 35+ year history the event has attracted some of the best talent from around the world – many of whom have gone on to have long and distinguished careers.

However, the race has run into financial difficulty with the organisers announcing last year that this year’s event – and indeed the future of the race, is in jeopardy as main sponsors have withdrawn their support and there isn’t the requisite funds to run it.

Three cycling sportives have been organised this month in an effort to raise the money needed to keep the race alive.

There’s one in Dublin this Sunday (enter here) featuring 2 routes of 100 and 50 kilometres, respectively while on Saturday week there’s one in Derry, details to be found here and later in the month, there’s a third one in Whitegate, Co. Clare. Details for that can be ascertained here.

When? Sunday, 1 February (that’s tomorrow), Saturday, 8 February and Saturday, 28 February.

Where? Baldonnell, Co. Dublin and Bellaghy, Co. Derry and Whitegate, Co, Clare


Fota Island Challenge Series Sprint Duathlon

What? A duathlon is a three-part race and this event consists of a 4.8 kilometre run followed by an 18 kilometre cycle and another 4.8 kilometre run to finish.

It’s only the second year of the event but such was the success of the inaugural race in 2014 that it’s now a part of the National Series. The standard will be a real mix, with the top competitors competing for points in respective age groups, and those just out for a bitta craic having the opportunity of a good workout in a stunning location.

Registration is open the day before from 7am to 9.45 am and again from 5pm to 7pm while you can also register on the day in the Recreational Building at Fota, in close proximity to the hotel.

As the event is Triathlon Ireland sanctioned, a race license is required and the fee per participant is €39 and €75 for relay teams. There will be three different categories on the day from individual to relay teams and minimum age is 16.

When? Saturday, 28 February

Where? Fota Island, Cobh, Co. Cork


Swords Cross County Race

What?  Ballyheary Park in Swords hosts the very attractive-looking North Country Farmers Cross Country race the weekend after next and anyone over the age of 18 can enter.

The event is part of the Business Houses Athletics Association (BHAA) but you don’t need to be a BHAA member to race, you don’t need to be an employee of any business and you don’t even have to be a member of a running club to compete.

However, to race on the day as a non-member will cost you €15, as opposed to €10 if you are a member.

The event format sees two races happening on the same course with the same start time of 11.30am. The park has two fields with a wide foot bridge connecting both. The small lap involves a loop of the start/finish area field and the longer lap takes in the second field.

The ladies race is two mile course which is one small lap and one large lap. The mens race is 5 miles which involves 3 and 3/4 large laps. It should be noted that ladies are welcome to run in the longer 5 mile race if they wish to do so.

When? Saturday, 7 Feb 2015 at 11:30am

Where? The race headquarters is in Fingallians GAA , Swords. If driving it is recommended to take the M1 Motorway using the Exit 4 – Lissenhall interchange.

Check out the BHAA website for more details.

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Looking for something competitive to do in February (and get a weekend away)? Here’s a few ideas

Five years after quake, Haiti struggles to reopen its doors to the world

Growing up on the Haitian island of Ile-a-Vache, Exerre Dieunest used to hate going to school in the rainy season. It was bad enough that there were no buses, but there were also no roads. He walked two hours each way from Kay Kok, and when the paths turned to deep mud, he could hardly manage the trek.

It’s different for kids today. Kay Kok now has a school, “and it’s thanks to tourism,” says Mr. Dieunest. Tourists came, saw the need, established a foundation, and funded the building of a school. Tourist donations also helped expand a local orphanage.

Ile-a-Vache residents see great potential in hospitality, but when the central government tried to launch a major tourism plan here in 2014, it sparked protests from locals who feared a land-grab. The tourism ministry has since achieved buy-in from much of the community, but now it faces another challenge: Keeping the confidence of investors as Haitian democracy teeters on the brink.

Recommended: Where does Haiti stand three years after its 7.0 earthquake?

Just over five years ago, Haiti looked relatively ripe for investment. Crime was low, there was a reprieve from anti-government demonstrations, and democratic institutions seemed to be functioning better than ever. Haitian and foreign leaders said Haiti was stable, and ready to grow.

That’s when a 7.0 earthquake struck the country, killing tens of thousands of people.

Today, Haiti is rebuilding, still mired in the poverty people had hoped to escape before the earthquake, and now trying to avoid a massive political upheaval – one that could scare off the very investors who could help the country develop. 

The prime minister was deposed in December, and on January 12 most legislators’ terms expire – with no one to replace them due to a failure to hold elections. Popular protests against President Michel Martelly have grown, along with fears he will rule by decree – unless Parliament approves on Monday an agreement reached Sunday night between President Martelly and opposition leaders.  

Ile-a-Vache feels far from the tumult of the capital, but its struggles may exemplify Haiti’s challenges in democracy and development. 


Ile-a-Vache is a 16-square mile jewel of an island, with rolling hills, paths connecting sweet cottages on a candy-colored bit of Caribbean Sea. But its residents – roughly 15,000 farmers and fishermen – say the government has continuously left them in the dark, literally, with no electricity or roads. Health care and potable water aren’t delivered by the government, and tourism remains at a trickle.

But this might change.

After the 2010 earthquake, a government came in with the motto, “Haiti is Open for Business.” The government wooed investors – with massive tax breaks and supportive infrastructure supplied by foreign aid – to take part in an industrial park and capital city hotels. They drew up plans for massive tourism developments, including one on Ile-a-Vache complete with roads, an airport, a port, a marina, 1,000 hotel rooms, and an 18-hole golf course.

The island was finally getting attention, but residents weren’t happy. In early 2014, protesters took to the newly carved roads. A presidential decree declared the island a tourism development zone, property of the government. Waterfront residents were driven from their homes without compensation and roadside dwellers lost fruit trees vital for their livelihoods. Riot police appeared on the island to back up the few officers already there.

But when the tourism minister met with community leaders, gave checks to those robbed of their land, and implemented projects for the community – like drinking wells, a community center, and subsidized community cafeterias – many residents began to show support for the government’s tourism plans, in spite of lingering fears.

An elderly islander named Myltha Boulot says there is no knowing whether or not the government will take her land, but when it comes to tourism: “That’s another thing entirely. If tourists come, they’ll give jobs to the poorest men and women, so people can survive.”

Yet now, if locals don’t block the tourism plan, would-be investors might.

Haiti has peaks and valleys of instability, says Mark Schneider, a long-time Haiti-watcher and senior vice president of the International Crisis Group. “I think we’re at a point close to a peak,” Mr. Schneider says, prior to Sunday’s agreement.  That is, if there is no executive-legislative agreement, Martelly might rule by decree, causing more protests, and possibly violence, Schneider says. In which case, “there’s no way for investors to tell their boards or financial backers that the situation is on its way to being resolved and they can go back to expanded plans for development.”

Pamela Cox, who was the World Bank’s vice president for Latin American and the Caribbean at the time of the earthquake, says when nascent democratic institutions fumble, everyone gets spooked.

“Any time there’s huge political uncertainty, it scares investors away,” Ms. Cox says, especially in countries like Haiti, where there’s a lack of domestic trust in the government, and likely civil unrest.

In the coming days, Haiti’s political leaders will signal to investors and constituents whether or not their country is on solid ground.

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Five years after quake, Haiti struggles to reopen its doors to the world

Top Asian News at 4:30 p.m. GMT

SINUI ISLAND, South Korea (AP) — He ran the first chance he got. The sun beat down on the shallow, sea-fed fields where Kim Seong-baek was forced to work without pay, day after 18-hour day mining the big salt crystals that blossomed in the mud around him. Half-blind and in rags, Kim grabbed another slave, and the two disabled men headed for the coast.

PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia (AP) — After nearly a week of searching for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501, rescue teams battling monsoon rains had their most successful day yet on Friday, more than tripling the number of bodies pulled from the Java Sea, some still strapped to their seats. Of the 30 corpses recovered so far, 21 were found on Friday, many of them by a U.S. Navy ship, according to officials.

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AP) — If AirAsia bounces back from its first fatal disaster, much of the credit will go to its effusive founder Tony Fernandes and a well-oiled communications machine. From the highly visible compassion shown by Fernandes to details such as changing the airline’s bright red logo to a somber gray online, experts say the Malaysia-based budget carrier’s initial response to the tragedy is a textbook example of how to communicate in a crisis.

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AP) — At the muddy gravesite where Hayati Lutfiah Hamid was buried, something was missing. Though around 150 villagers had gathered to lay the first identified victim of AirAsia Flight 8501 to rest, the people who would mourn her most were not there. Her husband, Djoko Suseno, 9-year-old daughter, Naura Kanita Rosada Suseno, and mother-in-law, Soemanik Saeran, are all still missing in the Java Sea after their plane went down Sunday, killing all 162 people on board.

SHANGHAI (AP) — Like hundreds of thousands of other revelers, 24-year-old Pan Haiqin decided to ring in the new year on Shanghai’s famed riverfront as the skyscrapers flashed and sparkled. But as the crowd grew and then turned into an out-of-control crush of bodies, the real estate professional never made it up steps to a viewing platform to see the dazzling lights. Nearly 20 hours later, her parents and friends identified her trampled body in a city morgue, one of 36 people killed in one of the deadliest accidents in this showcase Chinese city. Some 49 others were injured.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Brothers of an Australian Al-Jazeera English journalist held in Egypt for more than a year said Friday that their lawyers were focusing on deportation at President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s command as their best option. An Egyptian appeals court on Thursday ordered the retrial of three Al-Jazeera English journalists including Peter Greste held on terror-related charges, a ruling that their lawyers hoped was a step toward resolving a case that brought a storm of international criticism on Egypt’s government.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — Two Afghan soldiers have been arrested in connection with the deaths of at least 28 people, mostly women and children, who were killed by artillery fired from military checkpoints at a wedding party, an official said Friday. Gen. Sultan Mahmoud, the head of the army in southern Helmand province, where the incident took place on Wednesday night, said the soldiers were arrested late on Friday. Another eight soldiers were still under investigation, he told The Associated Press.

BEIJING (AP) — A senior Chinese diplomat has been removed from his position and is being investigated for an unspecified disciplinary violation. A two-sentence statement from the Foreign Ministry did not offer more details Friday about the removal of Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng. The China News Service reported that Zhang was the head of the ministry’s protocol department.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Prince Norodom Ranariddh, a former prime minister of Cambodia who was ousted in a coup and later expelled from the political party he helped found, is seeking a comeback. Ranariddh said in a letter to current leaders of the royalist Funcinpec party that he was accepting their invitation to reassume its presidency. It had removed him in 2006 for alleged incompetence.

In this photo by Heng Sinith, a Cambodian farmer climbs a sugar palm tree to collect palm juice. The farmer, 42-year-old Sam Leng, earns $5 a day by selling juice, a popular refreshment in Southeast and South Asia. It is extracted by cutting the stalk bearing the flowers and hanging a bamboo container to collect the juice, usually overnight. The sweet, fresh juice, normally harvested between November and March, is sold in containers carried by vendors over the shoulder or on bicycles.

BEIJING (AP) — Images of bodies and wreckage floating in Indonesian waters gave relatives of those lost aboard AirAsia Flight 8501 anguish and grief, but they also provided the answers that other families have sought in vain for nearly 10 months. Those with loved ones aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 can only imagine what has happened to them, and can only hope to one day know for sure.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a New Year’s speech Thursday that he is open to more talks or even a summit with his South Korean counterpart, a statement welcomed by Seoul, which in turn urged the North to take concrete steps toward normalization of relations. Kim’s call for improving inter-Korea relations comes as Pyongyang is facing heightened criticism over its human rights record and souring ties with Washington over allegations it was involved in the massive hacking attack on Sony Pictures linked to “The Interview,” a dark comedy that portrayed an assassination attempt on Kim.

Revelers crowded New York’s Times Square and converged on the beaches of Brazil and skyscrapers of Dubai to say good riddance to a turbulent 2014 marred by terror woes, Ebola outbreaks and a horrific series of airline disasters. But tragedy struck in Shanghai, Baghdad was on edge and protesters in the United States delivered a sobering reminder of one of the year’s biggest stories.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A huge blaze believed to have been ignited by firecrackers razed nearly a thousand shanties and killed three people in a creekside slum in the Philippine capital, one of more than a dozen fires across the country linked to raucous New Year’s celebrations. Strong winds fanned the flames racing through nearly a kilometer (half a mile) -long row of shanties in a village in suburban Quezon city in metropolitan Manila before dawn Thursday, said village officer Noel Carino. Firefighters struggled to get near the burning shanties because of narrow alleys.

An AirAsia jet with 162 people on board crashed Sunday morning while flying from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore on a scheduled two-hour flight. Here’s a look at the latest developments: ___

Read original article: 

Top Asian News at 4:30 p.m. GMT

AirAsia #QZ8501: Search for black box recorders could 'take a week'; one body returned to family

(Click to see larger version)(Click to see larger version)

REPORTING FROM SINGAPORE [Times are in GMT+8, unless specified]


– Bad weather continues to hamper search efforts.

– Five bodies recovered from the search area for AirAsia flight QZ8501 arrived in Surabaya for identification, where forensic investigators’ preliminary findings reveal they have been dead for three days. They will be identified Thursday, and their families will be informed first.

– A total of nine bodies have been recovered so far, says BASARNAS.

– Search teams are anxious to locate the jet’s fuselage — its main body — on the likelihood that some bodies are trapped in there, alongside its all-important flight data recorders, more commonly known as “black boxes”. Officials say it could take a week to find the recorders.

– Naval vessels and aircraft from a range of countries continue to arrive in the vicinity to assist in the retrieval effort.


Indonesia air traffic control lost contact with AirAsia flight QZ8501 on Sunday morning. The flight was en route to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia, with 162 people on board. The plane was last seen on radar over the Java Sea between Belitung island and Pontianak, on Indonesia’s part of Kalimantan island, barely an hour after it left Juanda International Airport. Communications logs suggest the pilot was approved to veer left because of poor weather conditions. He then asked air traffic control for permission to climb to 38,000 feet from 32,000. There was no further communication after that.

We’ve also put together the stories of some of the passengers and crew on board the plane. Read them here.


Thursday, 1 January

9.29pm: The RSS Valour, deployed by the Singapore Navy, has recovered pieces of debris and equipment from QZ8501, says Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

7.15pm: General Moeldoko, Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces tweeted that bad weather and rough seas are hampering search efforts.

Singapore’s Ministry of Defence says the RSS Kallang will arrive in the search area on Friday. The vessel has underwater search operations capabilities. It has also flown in an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle.

5.49pm: An eighth body found at the search site has arrived at Pangkalan Bun.

One body that arrived on Wednesday has been identified as Hayati Lutfiah Hamid, and has been handed over to her family. Meanwhile, four more bodies – two females and two males – have arrived in Surabaya, reports Channel NewsAsia.

Police officers and family members of Hayati Lutfiah, a passenger of AirAsia QZ8501, pray next to her coffin at Bhayankara Hospital in Surabaya January 1, 2015. REUTERS/Athit PerawongmethaPolice officers and family members of Hayati Lutfiah, a passenger of AirAsia QZ8501, pray next to her coffin at …

3.00pm: Divers looking for the wreck of an AirAsia Indonesia jet off Borneo were unable to resume full-scale operations on Thursday in poor weather and heavy seas and an air safety official said it could take a week to find the black box flight recorders. None of the black box “pings” have been detected. More details here.

1.40pm: Five bodies retrieved from the Java Sea will be flown to Surabaya, reported TODAY. BG Arthur Tampi, Chief of Medicine and Health told the media that the bodies were in varying stages of decomposition. A small window of fine weather closed, giving way to rising seas which have dogged the search from the start. More details here.

12:48pm: A reporter for Channel NewsAsia in Pangkalan Bun says another body has arrived at its hospital. This takes the total number of retrieved bodies arriving on land to seven.

12:42pm: About an hour ago, Malaysia’s chief of navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar tweeted an image of the waves from KD Lekiu, one of the Malaysian navy ships in the search area:

11:59am: Four bodies departed from Pangkalan Bun in a Hercules C130 plane for Surabaya at 11:30am Singapore time, reports Malaysia’s New Straits Times. According to Channel NewsAsia, they consist of three women and a man.

11:09am: A ship from Indonesia’s survey and technological agency has arrived at the search area, said Channel NewsAsia’s correspondent in Jakarta, citing BASARNAS from a morning press conference. Among the technology available on the ship is a multi-beam sonar that it is hoped will detect the wreckage of the plane at the bottom of the Java Sea.

BASARNAS also confirmed this morning that four bodies are set to depart from a hospital in Pangkalan Bun for Surabaya to be identified by forensic investigators, adding that several sorties are heading out from Jakarta for the resumed air and sea search.

Separately, two South Korean aircraft have joined the aerial search, Singapore daily The Straits Times reports citing BASARNAS as well.

10:39am: The first two bodies to arrive at Surabaya’s Bhayangkara Police Hospital on Wednesday have been identified, says a Channel NewsAsia reporter there, citing a police spokesperson. Families of the two victims will be informed first, he said.

Over in Pangkalan Bun, says the same reporter, four more bodies now at a hospital there are scheduled to depart for Surabaya at 11am Singapore time.

9:41am: Malaysia’s chief of navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar has tweeted today’s search area, which has roughly doubled in size from yesterday’s. In all, 31 ships are deployed between four sectors.


AirAsia stewardess Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi, 22, studied law at Indonesia's Universitas Sriwijaya. (Photo: The Malaysian Insider)AirAsia stewardess Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi, 22, studied law at Indonesia’s Universitas Sriwijaya. (Photo: The Malaysian …

Channel NewsAsia reports that the body of the female cabin crew member has been identified. Citing local media, the Singapore-based regional broadcaster said 22-year-old flight attendant Khairunisa Haidar Fauzi‘s name tag was still pinned to her uniform when she was found.

Separately, the Associated Press reports that a break in bad weather on New Year’s morning allowed search and recovery efforts to resume. A Channel NewsAsia correspondent on the ground in central Kalimantan said on Thursday morning, however, that weather was forecast to take a turn for the worse, with wind speeds forecast at between 6 and 60km/h, and waves predicted to be between 1.3 and 3 metres high.

Indonesians hold candles to pray for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 in Surabaya, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. Bad weather hindered efforts to recover victims of the jetliner on Wednesday, and sent wreckage drifting far from the crash site, as grieving relatives prayed for strength to endure their losses. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)Indonesians hold candles to pray for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 in Surabaya, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. …

Overnight, New Year celebrations were largely cancelled throughout East Java province, while hundreds attended a candlelight vigil for the plane victims in Surabaya. Over in Jakarta, reporters on the ground said celebrations were muted, and festivities kicked off with a prayer for those on the flight.

8:40am: Officers of the National Search And Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) carry a victim's body of AirAsia flight QZ 8501 from a boat to an ambulance at Kumai port in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. A massive hunt for the victims of the jet resumed in the Java Sea on Wednesday, but wind, strong currents and high surf hampered recovery efforts as distraught family members anxiously waited to identify their loved ones. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)Officers of the National Search And Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) carry a victim’s body of AirAsia flight QZ 8501 …

The above and other images we have received from the Associated Press showing rescuers transferring a victim’s body from a boat to an ambulance at Pangkalan Bun’s Kumai Port appear to suggest that the Bung Tomo, which was reportedly carrying five of the first seven bodies found, has overnight reached land.

Singapore daily TODAY published pictures saying two bodies retrieved by the Indonesian navy are at a hospital in Pangkalan Bun awaiting the trip back to Surabaya for identification. A Channel NewsAsia reporter cited hospital staff saying the two arrived last night, while three more are slated to arrive there later today.

Provided the weather clears sufficiently for planes to take flight, the bodies brought to land should make it to Surabaya for identification today.

8:17am: The Wall Street Journal reports that the Malaysian navy has identified one of the bodies that have been found so far, reportedly from a wallet found on his body. Kevin Alexander Soetjipto was a finance student at Australia’s Monash University, the news agency said.

In a statement on its Facebook page confirming this, Monash University said Soetjipto would have turned 21 today.

Overnight, we reported Malaysia’s Chief of Navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar as saying that Royal Malaysian Navy ships found four bodies and an evacuation slide from the plane, although it is not clear if the four bodies they found are part of the seven confirmed by Indonesia’s search and rescue agency BASARNAS.

Separately, the Indonesian navy ship Bung Tomo, which was on Wednesday bound for Pangkalan Bun carrying the five bodies that could not be air-flown to land, reportedly found 28 items from the water. These included an exit door, “several suitcases”, snacks, instant porridge and three umbrellas, according to AFP citing a local news channel whom the ship’s commander reportedly spoke to.

The full story:

Bad weather hampered search efforts again on the first day of 2015. A small window of fine weather closed, and teams were unable to locate the wreckage of AirAsia QZ8501.

An official said it could take a week to locate the black box recorder. So far, search teams have not detected any “pings” from the black box.

An eighth body was brought to Pangkalan Bun. Two bodies were identified on Thursday – Hayati Lutfiah Hamid, and university student Kevin Alexander Soetjipto. Hayati’s body has been handed over to her family for burial.

Teams are now combing a larger search area of 13,500 square nautical miles, about twice the size of Wednesday’s search area, said Malaysia’s Chief of Navy Abdul Aziz Jaafar.

Singapore’s RSS Kallang will arrive in the search area on Friday to assist with search efforts. BASARNAS added that equipment that can detect material underwater has also arrived.

Indonesian police officers carry the coffin of Hayati Lutfiah, a passenger of AirAsia QZ8501, at Bhayankara Hospital in Surabaya January 1, 2015.  REUTERS/Athit PerawongmethaIndonesian police officers carry the coffin of Hayati Lutfiah, a passenger of AirAsia QZ8501, at Bhayankara Hospital …

Unforgiving weather conditions drove recovery efforts to a near-halt on New Year’s eve, as waves of up to 3m in height and strong winds swept bodies and debris from the ill-fated AirAsia flight QZ8501 some 50km eastward from where pieces of the plane were first found just a day earlier.

Ships were on Wednesday dispatched to stand by near the shores of Kalimantan, in case bodies eventually washed up there. Rescuers are racing against time to locate victims and debris from the flight, in a search area that will expand as the recovery effort wears on.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes said in a press conference on Wednesday evening that sea search operations are planned to proceed round the clock, even as weather forced aerial search to halt by 5pm Indonesia time. He also said Indonesian search authorities are moving all their mobilised search assets to two spots where they think the aircraft might be.

“The weather unfortunately is not looking good for the next two or three days. That is slowing us down,” he said.

Officers of the National Search And Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) carry a body of one of the victims on board the ill-fated AirAsia Flight 8501, from a helicopter upon arrival at the airport in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. A massive hunt for the victims of the jet resumed in the Java Sea on Wednesday, but wind, strong currents and high surf hampered recovery efforts as distraught family members anxiously waited to identify their loved ones. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)Officers of the National Search And Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) carry a body of one of the victims on board the ill-fated …

Indonesia’s search and rescue agency BASARNAS nonetheless made some headway on day 4 of the effort, with the retrieval of a total of seven bodies they confirmed to be found in the waters of the search area. This, in turn, was on Wednesday restricted to a 28 by 56 nautical mile region.

Malaysia’s chief of navy also said on his Twitter account that two ships under his purview, KD Lekir and KD Pahang, had collectively found four bodies and an evacuation slide from the plane on Wednesday, although it is not clear if these are among the seven that were confirmed by BASARNAS.

The agency successfully transported two victims — a woman and a teenage boy — by helicopter to land at Pangkalan Bun in central Kalimantan, where they were cleansed, placed into wooden coffins with floral wreaths laid on top, and flown in a Hercules C130 plane to Surabaya’s Lanudal air base.

Indonesian soldiers carry coffins containing bodies of victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 upon arrival at Indonesian Military Air Force base in Surabaya, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014. A massive hunt for the victims of the jet resumed in the Java Sea on Wednesday, but wind, strong currents and high surf hampered recovery efforts as distraught family members anxiously waited to identify their loved ones. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)Indonesian soldiers carry coffins containing bodies of victims of AirAsia Flight 8501 upon arrival at Indonesian …

They were then transferred to Bhayankara Police Hospital where forensic investigators commenced the identification process. Investigators determined from decomposition levels of the two bodies that they had died three days ago, in a preliminary report they shared with media at the hospital. Identification and cause of their deaths, they said, will take a longer time to work out.

In a separate update from Channel NewsAsia’s on-ground correspondent in Pangkalan Bun, Indonesian navy ship Bung Tomo, which is believed to be carrying the other five out of the initial seven bodies found, was on Wednesday plying a seven-hour journey to Pangkalan Bun, and was expected to arrive by 9pm Indonesia time.

The Bung Tomo. (Merdeka.com photo)The Bung Tomo. (Merdeka.com photo)

The ship will stay in deep water, while the bodies are transferred to a smaller ship to be brought nearer to shore. They will then be brought over land to a local hospital for cleansing, placed into coffins, and provided the weather clears on Thursday morning, will be flown to Surabaya for identification.

The Bung Tomo also reportedly retrieved a backpack, a child’s shoes and food from the water in the course of its search effort on Wednesday.

Families are slowly being ferried from Juanda International Airport, where they were initially stationed for updates on the flight and their loved ones, to accommodation near the hospital, so they can better assist in identifying the bodies brought over. The family support centre will also be closed and moved to the hospital.

In a bid to quicken the process, local police have also collected DNA samples and identifying information from the immediate relatives of 93 passengers and crew. At Bhayankara hospital, cold containers are ready to store up to 150 bodies, while 130 ambulances stand ready to transport bodies as they arrive at Lanudal.

Indonesian military personnel load a casket containing the body of a AirAsia flight QZ8501 passenger, recovered off the coast of Borneo, into a vehicle at a military base in Surabaya January 1, 2015. …


Indonesian military personnel load a casket containing the body of a AirAsia flight QZ8501 passenger, recovered off the coast of Borneo, into a vehicle at a military base in Surabaya January 1, 2015. Divers looking for the wreck of the Indonesia AirAsia jet off Borneo were unable to resume full-scale operations on Thursday in poor weather and heavy seas and an air safety official said it could take a week to find the black box flight recorders. REUTERS/Sigit Pamungkas(INDONESIA – Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT MILITARY)


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Thu, Jan 1, 2015 2:36 PM SGT

Meanwhile, a team of crash site investigators from Britain, France, the US and Singapore is on its way to Pangkalan Bun on an Indonesian navy ship. Once they arrive, they will start examining the debris that has been retrieved and brought to land.

Speaking on Tuesday evening, Indonesian president Joko Widodo stressed that the key focus of the country’s efforts is on the retrieval and evacuation of passengers and crew from the area, alongside debris from the plane. “We all pray that all families will be given the strength to face this tragedy,” he said.

He had on Monday night also directed Indonesia’s transport ministry to review aviation procedures while seeking comprehensive weather reports from met agency officials for greater airline safety.

A specialist from Singapore's Ministry of Transport's Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) showcases a set of underwater locator beacon detector that will be used to assist in locating the flight recorders of the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 plane, at Changi Airport in Singapore December 29, 2014. The missing AirAsia jet carrying 162 people could be at the bottom of the sea after it was presumed to have crashed off the Indonesian coast, an official said on Monday, as countries around Asia sent ships and planes to help in the search effort. REUTERS/Edgar Su (SINGAPORE - Tags: TRANSPORT DISASTER)A specialist from Singapore’s Ministry of Transport’s Air Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) showcases …

Singapore’s two specialist teams with two underwater locator beacon detectors have been dispatched to the sea search area to assist in locating wreckage and the plane’s black boxes beneath the surface. It now has a total of five ships deployed in the search — the RSS Kallang, a Bedok-class mine counter-measure vessel, set sail for Indonesian waters on Wednesday afternoon.

Malaysia also has several ships and aircraft deployed in the region. A destroyer from the US, the USS Sampson, has arrived at the search area, and a ship from China is also on its way, as are surveillance planes from China and South Korea, to back up the ongoing effort.

On board the missing AirAsia plane are a total of 162 people — 138 adults, 16 children and one infant, making up 155 passengers along with seven crew members (two pilots, four flight attendants and one engineer).

The passengers comprise one Singaporean, one Malaysian, one British, three South Koreans and 149 Indonesians, while the crew consists of six Indonesians and one French (the co-pilot). See the full manifest here, and read more about their stories here.

Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority said a total of 40 registered passenger next-of-kin have been flown to Surabaya to join hundreds of other relatives there. It said it will continue assisting and feeding updates to relatives who choose to stay in Singapore.

Moving messages have been pinned to a board at Terminal 2 of Singapore’s Changi Airport, where people penned thoughts expressing their sadness and support over the disaster and loss of lives in post-it notes. The coloured squares were pasted on a board placed outside the relatives’ holding area on Level 3.

Messages for passengers on board the missing AirAsia flight 8501 are placed on a board at Changi International Airport, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014 in Singapore. Searchers combing the Java Sea to find and recover debris and bodies from the AirAsia jet that crashed there have the advantage of working in much shallower waters than those found in the open ocean, but also face challenges that include monsoons, murkiness and trash. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)Messages for passengers on board the missing AirAsia flight 8501 are placed on a board at Changi International …

QZ8501 lost contact with Indonesian air traffic control after 6:14am Indonesia time on Sunday, 42 minutes after departure and slightly more than an hour before it was scheduled to land in Singapore.

Reuters reports that the aircraft was between the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pandan and the town of Pontianak, in West Kalimantan on Borneo island, when it went missing without a distress signal.

The plane stayed on its submitted flight plan route before it asked for permission to deviate to avoid “bad weather” described by officials as dense storm clouds, strong winds and lightning.

State navigation operator AirNav Indonesia revealed the details of the last messages sent between the plane and Indonesian air traffic control, saying that the pilot on board had not explained why he wanted to ascend to 38,000 feet. [Click here]

After giving immediate approval at 6:12am Indonesia time to veer left, which the plane then did, Indonesian air traffic control could not permit the jet to rise to that altitude as AirAsia flight QZ8502 was already cruising at that level. The Jakarta Post reports that Indonesian air traffic control then coordinated with its counterpart in Singapore to determine an approved 34,000 feet altitude. When they informed the pilot of the approved height to ascend to at 6:14am, however, they did not receive any response.

The pilot in command, Captain Iriyanto, had a substantial total of 20,000 flying hours and over 10 years’ experience as a pilot trainer. The first officer, Remi Emmanual Plesel, a total of 2,275 flying hours, said AirAsia, adding that the jet underwent its last scheduled maintenance on 16 November this year.

Air Asia chief Tony Fernandes confirmed the plane had been given the all-clear by aviation technicians, was in “good condition” and “has never had any problems whatsoever”.

Airbus said it would provide full assistance to authorities in charge of the investigation.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Inmarsat vice president of external affairs Chris McLaughlin as saying that AirAsia had started deploying satellite communications on some of its A320s that would provide position updates every two minutes, but the QZ8501 plane was not yet upgraded.

Essential information

AirAsia has established an Emergency Call Centre that is available for family or friends of those who may have been on board the aircraft. The number is +62 212 927 0811 or 031- 869 0855 or 031- 298 6790 (Surabaya).

Relatives of passengers are asked to call the following dedicated hotlines:

Malaysia: +60 321 795 959
Indonesia: +62 212 927 0811
Singapore: +65 6307 7688
Korea: 007 9814 206 9940

AirAsia will release further information as soon as it becomes available. Updated information will also be posted on the AirAsia website at www.airasia.com.


AirAsia #QZ8501: Search for black box recorders could 'take a week'; one body returned to family

Jailed grandmother tells of ordeal

A 72-year-old woman jailed for hugging her granddaughter in breach of a court order has been freed by a judge – but branded her ordeal “humiliating”.

Kathleen Danby apologised to the court paving the way for a reduction in the three-month jail sentence, handed down earlier this year at Birmingham’s Court of Protection, to be cut to time already served.

However, outside court the defiant pensioner described a lengthy ordeal which had seen her arrested and “bundled” from a Ken Dodd show in Liverpool on Sunday, before being driven on a 200-mile trip between court and prison.

Wearing a large red coat, Mrs Danby said she was finding it “difficult” to believe the lengths the authorities had gone to bring her before the family court today.

In April, a judge sentenced her to prison in her absence after watching CCTV evidence of Mrs Danby greeting the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, with a hug outside a pub.

But reducing the sentence of Mrs Danby, of Kirkwall on the island of Orkney, Judge Sally Dowding told the pensioner “I am satisfied she fully appreciates the difficulties of her position and what she must do, and I am confident she will comply in future.”

Contempt of court proceedings were brought by Derbyshire County Council, which is responsible for looking after Mrs Danby’s now 19-year-old granddaughter.

The local authority had alleged the pensioner was in breach of court orders made in September 2013, and January and April 2014.

Those orders banned the frail Mrs Danby from any communication, save a single supervised monthly phonecall, or visiting the granddaughter’s home town, college, or going within 100m of the girl.

In court, Mrs Danby’s solicitor Sarah Huntbach said her client “sincerely apologised” for being in the town where her granddaughter now lives, explaining she was only there “to meet a friend”.

It was, she added, while stood outside a pub her granddaughter – who has a learning disability and emotional difficulties, approached her and they embraced.

“She did not intend or want to be in breach of these (court) orders, or dishonour the court in any way”, said Mrs Huntbach.

Mrs Danby denied intentionally going to meet her granddaughter, but “apologised for any nuisance that has arisen as a consequence”.

Judge Dowding said it was “very sad” Mrs Danby had “failed to comply” with the court orders, which evidence showed had had “a detrimental effect” on the granddaughter’s behaviour, “with consequences serious and profound”.

However, she said it was Mrs Danby’s right “to purge her contempt” before the court.

The spirited pensioner has been in custody since her arrest on Sunday in Liverpool, where she had been enjoying a performance by the comedian Ken Dodd.

She was escorted in to court by four security officers, and wearing handcuffs, but smiled and seemed unflustered as she walked into Court 11A.

Mrs Dowding said she noted the judgment of Judge Martin Cardinal, in April, who had been satisfied Mrs Danby “had engineered a meeting” with the granddaughter – named during proceedings as B, despite Mrs Danby’s explanation.

“There is very clear evidence these events brought about a detriment in B’s behaviour and the consequences were serious and profound,” added Mrs Dowding.

She said it had never been the case the local authority was “seeking to isolate the child from her family”, pointing out that the granddaughter’s maternal family “have regular contact”.

The judge added “the door is now open to Mrs Danby to seek, at any stage, to enter into constructive dialogue with the local authority – but must understand the granddaughter’s needs”.

Mrs Dowding said otherwise, the pensioner had the options of applying for a contact order or to vary or discharge the orders she has breached.

Outside court, Mrs Danby said she had been put through “a humiliating ordeal”.

Asked if she had been scared in jail however, she laughed, replying: “No, I wasn’t scared.

“I don’t scare easily.”

She described how the day after her arrest she was taken to the Birmingham court but claimed “nobody knew what was going on”, when she arrived with security officers.

“I was sat there for three hours, wasting time,” said Mrs Danby.

“Then a lady came from the court and said ‘Mrs Danby wasn’t supposed to be taken here, she was supposed to be taken to (HMP) Foston Hall (in Derby)’.

“So, this is then a 200-mile journey, so they took me in a rickety old van, while I was suffering a loss of sleep.”

At the all-women prison, she was allocated a cell and claimed the medication she needs to treat her liver disease was taken off her because it could not initially be identified.

“It is very difficult because I cannot believe they’ll go to these lengths to pursue a 72-year-old woman who’s got a liver disease, just in order to keep control over my granddaughter, which is what they’re trying to do.

“I can’t tell you anymore about my granddaughter.”

Asked about what her views were on the county council’s decision to apply for contempt of court proceedings, she replied: “You really don’t want to know – there aren’t words to describe what I think of Derbyshire County Council.”

MP John Hemming, who is calling for family law to be reformed and is chairman of the Justice for Families Campaign Group, was at court supporting Mrs Danby.

The Liberal Democrat member for Birmingham Yardley was made aware of her case by political party colleague Alistair Carmichael, as she is a resident of his Orkney and Shetland constituency.

Mr Hemming said her case was one among many, affecting families up and down the country.

“You’ve got this poor old granny being traipsed around in handcuffs because she hugged her granddaughter,” he said.

“It is ordinary people subject to an abuse of power, and there’s many more of these cases going on.

“These are the strange sorts of things that happen in this country.”


Jailed grandmother tells of ordeal

On the Dutch coast, an experiment in sand

By Alister Doyle

TER HEIJDE, Netherlands (Reuters) – A pile of sand about eight times the volume of the Great Pyramid of Giza is shaping up as a cut-rate model for protecting coasts from rising seas.

The “Sand Engine” is 28 million cubic yards (21.5 million cubic meters) covering an area 1.2 miles (2 km) long and half a mile wide. Dumped along the shore here in 2011, the sand pile marks a shift from the Dutch tradition of armoring the coast with dikes and other hardware.

Instead, the hope is that as all that sand is slowly blown and washed along the coast, it will feed nearby beaches and dunes for 20 to 30 years, providing the low-lying coast with long-term protection from erosion. That would make unnecessary a ritual of dredging the shore and replenishing the beaches every few years.

The project isn’t without risks. A string of storms shifted more sand than expected, and if the sand travels too far, it could choke ports on the coast.

But so far, the 70 million euro ($95.48 million) Sand Engine “is doing more or less what was predicted, moving a bit faster than we thought,” Jasper Fiselier, an environmental planner at engineering consultants Royal HaskoningDHV, said during a recent inspection. His company was one of several involved in the project, funded by the Dutch water board, Rijkswaterstaat, and the provincial authority of South Holland.

One way in which the project saved money: a bulk discount. The sand cost 2.5 euros ($3.40) per cubic meter, far less than the usual three to six euros per cubic meter, Fiselier said. The sand was supplied from the seabed by Dutch dredging specialists experts Royal Boskalis Westminster and Van Oord.

The Sand Engine has also become a recreation spot. About 20 kite surfers were in a lagoon formed by the hook-shaped sandy peninsula one day last summer, many of them beginners flailing with yellow, green or red sails in a stiff breeze.

Elsewhere, a group of Dutch farmers is deliberately pouring saltwater onto crops. In plots on Texel Island, where brackish water is seeping under dikes and onto farmland, they hope to breed varieties of potatoes, carrots, grass or barley that can resist salt.

“For farmers, talking about salinity is about as popular as talking about an infectious disease in your family,” said Marc van Rijsselberghe, head of SaltFarmTexel, set up in 2006.

Twenty-six percent of the Netherlands lies below sea level, and seawater is seeping under dikes in many regions. “Sea level rise … adds pressure on the outside of the dikes,” said Arjen de Vos, a scientist at VU University Amsterdam, a sponsor of the experimental farm. “There are many places on Texel where the water in drainage canals is really salty – cows can no longer drink it,” he said.

The project could ultimately yield results that help farmers around the world who are dealing with salinity from rising sea levels, from Bangladesh to tiny Pacific islands, he said.

King Willem-Alexander visited the salt crop project in May, lending it implicit royal endorsement. “We’ve changed from being revolutionaries to being innovators,” de Vos said of the visit.

SaltFarmTexel includes rows of potatoes, barley, carrots, onions and cabbage irrigated with varying levels of saltwater. The project has a few clients, ranging from farmers to golf course owners who test grasses suited to salty soils. They typically pay 15,000 euros for a small plot experimenting with different crop varieties and salt concentrations.

(Edited by John Blanton)

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On the Dutch coast, an experiment in sand

Team Brunel holds Volvo Ocean Race 2nd-leg lead

ALICANTE, Spain (AP) — Three teams have held the Volvo Ocean Race second leg lead within the last 24 hours as the fleet sped toward the stage’s conclusion in Abu Dhabi.

Dutch team Team Brunel, led by 51-year-old Bouwe Bekking, held a slim advantage by 0940 GMT on Sunday on the 5,200-nautical mile leg between Cape Town and the Emirates. Bekking is contesting the race for a record-equaling seventh time, after first competing in 1985-86. He has never won it.

They led by just three nautical miles from Chinese entry Dongfeng Race Team with first leg winner Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, two nautical miles further adrift. The three boats have swapped the lead through the weekend.

Only six boats are contesting the second of nine stages in the nine-month global offshore race after Danish entry Team Vestas Wind was forced to pull out at the start of the week when its boat was grounded on a reef in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

The nine-man crew escaped their disintegrating vessel to reach a tiny island, Íle du Sud, which is part of the St. Brandon archipelago and surrounded by sharks. They remained there for two days until a small fishing boat took them to Mauritius on Wednesday.

The fleet is expected to start arriving in port in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

Latest placings: 1 Team Brunel (Netherlands), 2 Dongfeng Race Team (China), 3 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, 4 MAPFRE (Spain), 5 Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.), 6 Team SCA (Sweden).

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Team Brunel holds Volvo Ocean Race 2nd-leg lead