June 30, 2009

Death in free fall

He went into shock during a parachute jump

A British parachutist plunged 13,000ft to his death yesterday after he apparently went into a state of shock during freefall.

Police said Richard Taylor, 34, fell 'like a lead weight' after he did not open his parachute.

His automatic emergency chute failed to deploy when a line became caught on his arm.

He was on a beginners' course in Spain with four British friends when he died on his fifth jump.

He had been in freefall for about a minute when he curled up into a ball, probably as a result of going into shock.

The instructor tried to catch him, but when someone is curled up that is impossible.

'The instructor gave hand signals telling him to open his chute, but he did not respond.'

'Eventually the instructor had to open his own parachute.

'Then the student´s automatic activation device attempted to open the emergency parachute.

'But because of the student´s position curled up in a ball, a line got caught on his arm and could not open properly.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:36 PM | Permalink

June 29, 2009

Common elements of a 'near death experience' (NDE)

Raymond Moody on the common elements of a near-death experience.

Ineffability. NDErs often express how it is impossible to express their experience, or “there are just no words to express what I am trying to say.”

Hearing the News. NDErs sometimes tell that they heard their doctor or others present during their dying event mention that they were dead.

Feelings of Peace and Quiet. NDErs often describe “wonderful feelings” of peace, bliss, comfort and ease.

The Noise. Some NDErs report unusual sounds at or near death. These sounds can be very unpleasant or in contrast, musical.

The Dark Tunnel. In some cases, NDErs report being pulled through what Moody called “a dark space,” but was also described as “an enclosure, a tunnel, a funnel, a vacuum, a void, a sewer, a valley and a cylinder.”

Neardeath 270X150

Out of the Body. NDErs often report being aware that they are separate from their earthly bodies. This experience for some participants can be filled with fear; for others, quite enjoyable.

Meeting Others. NDErs often report meeting other “beings” in their experience, and report them as deceased persons they new earlier in life or sometimes as “spirit beings.”

Being of Light. An experience with a very bright light often has long-term significance to NDErs. Moody said it “is certainly the element which has the most profound effect upon the individual.”

The Review. NDErs sometimes report a life review that is visual, fast, and might contain nearly every experience from their life.

The Border or Limit. Occasionally, NDErs described a place that they could not pass through, like a mist or body of water.

Coming Back. This is a common experience as NDErs did not die; they came back after having experiences. Moody said the accounts he had collected “present an extremely varied picture.”

Telling Others. Most NDErs do not receive acceptance at the relating of their NDE and often resolve to keep it private, believing that they are unique.

Effects on Lives. Most NDErs report having a change in perception after these experiences, and some acquire new abilities.

New Views of Death. Moody says that the NDE “has a profound effect upon one’s attitude towards physical death, especially for those who had not previously expected that anything took place after death.”

Corroboration. Occasionally, NDErs will explain what happened while they were “clinically dead” with accuracy to their doctor or other onlookers.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:02 PM | Permalink

On leaving Michael Jackson's death alone

The coverage of  and reaction to Michael Jackson's death has been so over the top, I feel no need and have no desire to add to it.  Clearly a very troubled man and a tortured soul, he had a tragic life.  May he rest in peace.  I'm going to keep mine and leave the whole celebrity and media circus alone

I wonder along with David Warren

I found myself close-up with a lady of early middle-age, who was distraught at Jackson’s passing. I thought at first she was dressed as a clown (as were many who turned out at the UCLA Medical Center), but no, she was costumed as a bicycle courier. Her grief appeared genuine: I was glad not to have made the flip remark then in my mind. The sufferings of other people are real, and the fact we ourselves put little value on what they have lost does not change their suffering.

Notwithstanding, how can anyone — a grown woman in this case — possibly have allowed herself to become so emotionally engaged with a screen image, as the crowds do now, as the crowds did for Diana?

The answer can only be that the image has power. Among people deprived of the sheet-anchor of religious faith, such images have an extraordinary power. And at the root, that power is self-destructive.

The Anchoress sets you straight on why Jackson was an IDOL, not an ICON.  An icon is a religious artifact; an idol can be anything.  Don't be dumb and confuse the two

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

June 25, 2009

Farrah Fawcett, R.I.P.

 Farrah Fawcett

For so long, she was such an icon of glowing health with her million dollar smile and tousled hair that every girl wanted and so did every guy, that it was shocking to learn that she had cancer.  Now she's dead at 52.

Farrah Fawcett, the blonde-maned actress whose best-selling poster and "Charlie's Angels" stardom made her one of the most famous faces in the world, died Thursday. She was 62....Ryan O'Neal, Fawcett's romantic partner since the mid-1980s, and her friend Alana Stewart were with Fawcett at Saint John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, when she died.
New York Times obituary

To an extraordinary degree, Ms. Fawcett’s cancer battle was played out in public, generating enormous interest worldwide. Her face, often showing the ravages of cancer, became a tabloid fixture, and updates on her health became staples of television entertainment news.

In May, that battle was chronicled in a prime-time NBC documentary, “Farrah’s Story,” some of it shot with her own home video recorder. An estimated nine million people viewed it. Ms. Fawcett had initiated the project with a friend, the actress Alana Stewart, after she first learned of her cancer.

 Farrah-Fawcett Poster

Ms. Fawcett’s career was a patchwork of positives and negatives, fine dramatic performances on television and stage as well as missed opportunities.

She first became famous when a poster of her in a red bathing suit, leonine mane flying, sold more than twice as many copies as posters of Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable combined. No poster like it has achieved anywhere near its popularity since, and, arriving before the Internet era, in which the most widely disseminated images are now digital, it may have been the last of its kind.
The poster that ignited Ms. Fawcett’s career was shot at the Bel Air home she shared with Mr. Majors. “She was just this sweet, innocent, beautiful young girl,” said Bruce McBroom, who took the photograph. Searching for a backdrop to Ms. Fawcett in her one-piece red swimsuit (which she chose instead of a bikini because of a childhood scar on her stomach), he grabbed an old Navajo blanket from the front seat of his 1937 pickup.
Ms. Fawcett herself described her career succinctly. “I became famous,” she said in her 1986 Times interview, “almost before I had a craft.”

The Guardian has the best obituary by far.
Fawcett herself recognised this when she commented about Charlie's Angels, the crime-busting TV series that made her a star: "When the show was number three, I figured it was our acting. When it got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra."

Consequently, Fawcett was mostly given roles where her trend-setting hairstyle was the most dramatic part of the film. However, when she was later offered meatier parts, she proved herself up to the task, and was nominated for three Emmy awards and five Golden Globes, though the juries always held back from giving her the actual prize.

The Telegraph
In the 1980s Farrah Fawcett bravely tried to reassert herself as a serious actress — no easy task with her teeth still gleaming on several million bedsit walls — and took hard-edged parts in made-for-television films.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:24 PM | Permalink

Dr. Jerri Nielsen, R.I.P

She was the doctor in Antarctica who diagnosed her own breast cancer when stationed at the Amudsen-Scott South Pole Research Center and then treated herself with chemotherapy drugs that were parachuted in by the U.S. Air Force.

While treating herself, Nielsen carried on her duties as the sole doctor for the 41-person research group. She consulted with her doctors in the United States by e-mail and teleconference. They recommended that she return as soon as possible for treatment.
Once she returned home and was treated, Nielsen's cancer went into remission, and she wrote about her experience in a best-selling book, "Icebound." She married and became a public speaker, Diana Cahill said.

But in 2005, Nielsen's cancer returned in her bones and liver, later spreading to her brain.

"My experience at the pole had to do with accepting things that most people fear most deeply and coming to feel that they need not be feared," Nielsen told Psychology Today magazine in 2006. "It certainly had far more to do with peace and surrender than it did with courage. Being 'on the ice' was a great good fortune: It created a much greater clarity for me about what was essential in life.

"I'm not afraid of death. I've come to accept it as being part of life, and I think I've come to accept it earlier than my years because of what's happened to me."

She said that after learning her cancer had returned, "after about three weeks of going through a kind of terror, I felt the most incredible peace come over me. Now I am very happy and excited about going forward with my life. The metastatic disease is now just another part of me, another thing that has happened to me."

Doctor rescued from Antarctica in 1999 dies at 57

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 AM | Permalink

Colorful tombstones

Colorful Tombstones in Chichicastenango, Guatemala

 Colorful Tombstones
photo by Susan Hardman

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 AM | Permalink

June 23, 2009

Charged for the bullets it took to kill their son

What chutzpah

Iran charges slain man's family $3,000 for bullets that killed him

The family of an Iranian man killed in a demonstration against the country's contested presidential election has been ordered to pay the equivalent of $3,000 for the bullets that took his life, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Kaveh Alipour, 19, was shot in the head in downtown Tehran on Saturday during one of the most violent clashes between protesters and security forces since the riots began last week.

Iranian authorities later told the family they would not turn over the slain man's body for burial until they received compensation for the bullets security forces used to shoot him.

All mosques in Tehran have been prohibited from holding memorials or publicly mourning the deaths of the riot victims, it emerged on Monday. According to official count in Tehran, 17 people have been killed in more than a week of demonstrations.

Nevertheless, Iran's defeated moderate candidate Mehdi Karoubi has called on Iranians to hold mourning ceremonies on Thursday for killed protesters, an aide told Reuters on Tuesday.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:47 AM | Permalink

June 22, 2009


Neda Agha Soltan, a 27-year-old student of philosophy, became known around the world in a matter of hours through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube because a video captured her death on a street in Tehran

 Nadia Falls

Neda falls in the street, shot in the heart by a Basiji sniper.  She is laid down by her companions when blood begins pouring from her mouth then across her face and it becomes clear that, in a matter of moments, she is dead  The very graphic YouTube video is here.

Some 19 people were killed on June 20, but Neda is the one who has come to symbolize the crisis in Iran. One university student describes the difference between the generations, How Neda Divided My Family.

Neda’s name means “voice” in Farsi. Even though she has been silenced by a Basiji bullet, her death has given new voice to our generation’s demand for reform. Our parents may not understand it yet, but soon they will have to come to terms with the fact that our voices are the future. They can no longer make decisions for their children—or for the Iranian nation yet to come.

 Neda-Agha-Soltan Dying

photos from LA Times

In an interview with the BBC, her fiancee said (scroll down to 1:03 pm)
Neda was not a firm backer of either Mousavi or Ahmadinejad -- she simply "wanted freedom and freedom for all."

From the LA Times, an a obituary for the young woman as Family, friends mourn Iranian woman whose death was caught on video

Her friends say Panahi, Neda and two others were stuck in traffic on Karegar Street, east of Tehran's Azadi Square, on their way to the demonstration sometime after 6:30 p.m. After stepping out of the car to get some fresh air and crane their necks over the jumble of cars, Panahi heard a crack from the distance. Within a blink of the eye, he realized Neda had collapsed to the ground.

"We were stuck in traffic and we got out and stood to watch, and without her throwing a rock or anything they shot her," he said. "It was just one bullet."

Blood poured out of the right side of her chest and began bubbling out of her mouth and nose as her lungs filled up.

"I'm burning, I'm burning!" he recalled her saying, her final words.

Neda in an undated photo

"She was a person full of joy," said her music teacher and close friend Hamid Panahi, who was among the mourners at her family home on Sunday, awaiting word of her burial. "She was a beam of light. I'm so sorry. I was so hopeful for this woman."

Security forces urged Neda's friends and family not to hold memorial services for her at a mosque and asked them not to speak publicly about her, associates of the family said. Authorities even asked the family to take down the black mourning banners in front of their house, aware of the potent symbol she has become.

But some insisted on speaking out anyway, hoping to make sure the world would not forget her.Neda Agha-Soltan was born in Tehran, they said, to a father who worked for the government and a mother who was a housewife. They were a family of modest means, part of the country's emerging middle class who built their lives in rapidly developing neighborhoods on the eastern and western outskirts of the city.

Like many in her neighborhood, Neda was loyal to the country's Islamic roots and traditional values, friends say, but also curious about the outside world, which is easily accessed through satellite television, the Internet and occasional trips abroad.

"All she wanted was the proper vote of the people to be counted."

 Neda's Photo Dying Poster

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:38 PM | Permalink

Death by cows

A vet who was walking her dogs was trampled to death by a herd of cows.

Cows are highly protective of their newly-born calves at this time of year and farmers warn walkers they may attack, especially if a dog is in their field.

The woman, who has not been named, was killed instantly and was dead when a holidaymaker found her shortly after the incident at 12.15 pm on Sunday.
Nothing enrages the usually sedate and peaceful cow more than the sight of a dog in the same field as her calves.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:21 PM | Permalink

June 17, 2009

" What can you say to the family of the 13 year old boy who died from gunshots and whose dead body then disappeared?"

Michael Leeden reprints an email from a medical student in Iran.

I am a medical student. There was chaos last night at the trauma section in one of our main hospitals. Although by decree, all riot-related injuries were supposed to be sent to military hospitals, all other hospitals were filled to the rim. Last night, nine people died at our hospital and another 28 had gunshot wounds. All hospital employees were crying till dawn. They (government) removed the dead bodies on back of trucks, before we were even able to get their names or other information. What can you even say to the people who don’t even respect the dead. No one was allowed to speak to the wounded or get any information from them. This morning the faculty and the students protested by gathering at the lobby of the hospital where they were confronted by plain cloths anti-riot militia, who in turn closed off the hospital and imprisoned the staff. The extent of injuries are so grave, that despite being one of the most staffed emergency rooms, they’ve asked everyone to stay and help—I’m sure it will even be worst tonight.

What can anyone say in face of all these atrocities?
What can you say to the family of the 13 year old boy who died from gunshots and whose dead body then disappeared?

This issue is not about cheating(election) anymore. This is not about stealing votes anymore. The issue is about a vast injustice inflicted on the people.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:04 PM | Permalink

June 16, 2009

"'The last three weeks of his life was the best relationship I had with him."

The musician Lenny Kravitz never got on well with his father, but when his father came down with leukemia, Lenny took care of him.


photo Jesse Frohman

Chris Heath from the London Telegraph interviews Lenny in Eleuthera in the Bahamas prior to his tour in Britain.

My mother taught me to respect my father and to love and take care of him, regardless of what he’d done. She’d always quote the Bible: it says, “Honour thy mother and thy father.” And it doesn’t say “unless…”, “except…”, or “if…”. That’s what it says and that’s what your job is to do. And I had a hard time with it, but I did it.’

Eventually, his father had to go to hospital. That’s where it happened.

'It sounds like…’ Kravitz begins, and then says, 'It’s going to sound like whatever it sounds like, but this is what it was. I mean, spiritually hospitals are very intense places. It’s like death’s doorstep. And he was in his bed one night and he looked at me, and he wasn’t on drugs, and he said to me, “There are these things flying around my bed, and these things crawling on the floor.” I said, “What are you talking about?” This is from my dad. He doesn’t do with any kind of spiritual thing. No heebie-jeebie kind of thing. And he’s, “There’s black-winged things and they’re flying around my bed… the things that are crawling on the ground, they look like they’re rats and they’re not… I see them.” I didn’t quite know how to take it. And he then began having this revelation and he accepted Christ – this is a non-religious Jewish man – and somehow the spirit world opened up to him. Almost like he had spiritually been bound his whole life and now this thing was released.’

After this spiritual experience, his father started answering some of the questions Kravitz would never get answers for. When Kravitz asked him before, “Why did you do what you did? Why did you do this to Mom?”, his father would stonewall. 'That’s just the way it is,’ he would say. But a couple of nights after the experience, sitting in hospital with Lenny and his two half-sisters, Sy started talking. 'He apologised to us in the most sincere, heartfelt manner. “I am sorry for what I’ve done, how I’ve been, how I’ve treated you, and I love you.” Real. And it was shocking… And what he said to me is that he always wanted to change his life, and he felt there was this thing on his back and he couldn’t get it off. His whole life, he knew inside himself that he wanted to change. But, he said, “I couldn’t.”

There would be one further unexpected moment: 'As he got closer to his death, another night in the hospital, he was really tired and he looked over at me and he goes, “There’s angels all around the room. Because of Jesus.” And that was it. He turned and looked away. If you knew my dad – it was the furthest thing from him.’

These were the last words Sy Kravitz would say of this kind. But for the son, something real happened in those hospital days that changed everything. 'The last three weeks of his life was the best relationship I had with him. And it cancelled out the 40 years before.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:03 PM | Permalink

June 15, 2009

White Crosses Mark Murders

Xeni Jarden from Boing Boing is just back from Guatemala where some 20 murders a day take place and 98% of all violent crime goes is not investigated and not prosecuted.

White Crosses to Mark Murders

 Guatemala-White Crosses

Prensa Libre today, caption: "Today, the principle roads of the city appeared painted with white crosses, an action of the Civic National Movement to remember the victims of violence and impunity."

(Photo: Prensa Libre: Óscar Estrada)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 PM | Permalink

Lethal anti-age drug

An extraordinary story Oxford graduate dies after sister injects her with the family firm's 'anti-age' drug

An Oxford University graduate died after being injected with an experimental anti-ageing drug by her sister, a GP.

Yolanda Cox, 22, suffered a massive allergic reaction after being given three times the normal dose as part of a test of the unlicensed drug invented by their mother.

Mrs Cox had been married for just nine months when she agreed to be a guinea pig for the drug, which the family also believed to be effective against cancer and diabetes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 PM | Permalink

June 12, 2009

Appointment in Samarra

The Italian woman who arrived too late to board the doomed Air France Flight 447, managed to get a flight the next day from Rio.  She and her husband were driving in Austria  when it crashed into an oncoming truck and she was killed, her husband gravely injured.

Woman who missed Flight 447 is killed in car crash

 Appointment Samarra

It reminded me straightaway of Appointment in Samarra.  Wikipedia provides the summary

The title is a reference to W. Somerset Maugham's retelling of an old story, which appears as an epigraph for the novel:

A merchant in Baghdad sends his servant to the marketplace for provisions. Shortly, the servant comes home white and trembling and tells him that in the marketplace he was jostled by a woman, whom he recognized as Death, and she made a threatening gesture. Borrowing the merchant's horse, he flees at top speed to Samarra, a distance of about 75 miles (125 km), where he believes Death will not find him. The merchant then goes to the marketplace and finds Death, and asks why she made the threatening gesture. She replies, "That was not a threatening gesture, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:23 AM | Permalink

“The railroad job from hell”

Earlier this week I posted Haunting Video Released in Murder Trial of Meredith Kercher

Now from the New York Times comes a story about the defendant Amanda Knox, the "angel face" from Seattle, on trial for murder: An Innocent Abroad by Timothy Egan.

The case against Knox has so many holes in it, and is so tied to the career of a powerful Italian prosecutor who is under indictment for professional misconduct, that any fair-minded jury would have thrown it out months ago.

But it is also about Amanda Knox, an equally high-spirited student whose life has been nearly ruined by this collision of predatory journalism and slipshod prosecution – “the railroad job from hell,” as one outside expert hired by CBS News concluded.

She started seeing an Italian student, Raffaele Sollecito, the son of a prominent doctor. They spent the night of the murder at his apartment, she said, and no reliable witness or credible evidence has ever placed them at the crime scene. But within days of the killing, these two would be painted across Europe as thrill-seekers who killed a woman in a drug-fueled orgy.

That may sound like a preposterous motive for a murder by college kids, but it’s a recurring obsession for the prosecutor in the Knox case.
She spent nearly a year in jail without being charged. This, despite the fact that the only physical evidence found on the murder victim’s body was from someone else – a drifter with a drug problem named Rudy Guede.

Shortly after the crime, Guede fled Italy for Germany. His prints and his DNA were found in Kercher’s room and on the body. After being arrested, he underwent a fast-track trial and was found guilty last fall of complicity in the murder, and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

All trials are about narrative. In Seattle, where I live, I see a familiar kind of Northwestern girl in Amanda Knox, and all the stretching, the funny faces, the neo-hippie touches are benign. In Italy, they see a devil, someone without remorse, inappropriate in her reactions.

In the end, of course, this is about the victim. Meredith Kercher is gone, a daughter no more, leaving behind the “brutality, the violence, and the great sorrow it has caused,” as her mother said in court last week.

But one life taken should not keep anyone from asking the right questions before ruining two others.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

June 11, 2009

Round-up of untimely deaths

When it comes to untimely or unusual death, you can't beat the British press.

D-Day hero, 93, starved himself to death after care home 'refused to let him go home to his wife'.

Alfred Tonkin, 93, went on hunger strike when he was prevented from being reunited with his wife of 68 years, Joyce.

The great-grandfather, who lost a leg to a Nazi machine gunner, was initially admitted to hospital with a blood disorder.\
But when social services became involved in his case they declared he was suffering from dementia and insisted a round-the-clock care package would have to be arranged before he could return home.

He was transferred to a care home and was still there four months later when he was rushed to hospital suffering from dehydration and malnourishment.

On May 28, a GP wrote to social services to protest at the length of time it was taking for him to be reunited with his wife and recommend an immediate discharge.

She pointed out a psychiatric assessment in January had found Mr Tonkin was depressed in care and anxious to leave.

The letter went on to warn intense frustration over the delays had led to him refusing food.

Three days later Mr Tonkin was rushed back to Watford Hospital with renal failure but died after failing to respond to drips.

His son, who works for Royal Mail, added: 'My dad had no one to talk to in the home and he lost the will to live.

He got on the No.26 bus at about 12:30 am and twenty minutes later, CCTV footage shows him slumped over in his sight.  The bus driver "forgot " about him when he left to go home for the night.  The cleaners didn't clean the bus.  So overnight, Pawel Modzelewski who had overdosed, lay dying or dead all night long on the upper deck of a London bus until the next morning when a passenger found him.

Wife found dead in wheelie bin may have been murdered Three years ago

Mrs Wallner was found after a neighbour spotted a foot sticking out of the bin in Cobham, Surrey. One theory is that she was killed before August 2006 and her body stored somewhere.

No one noticed she was missing!

An inquest heard evidence of the Lazarus syndrome man pronounced dead comes back to life for two days.

A man came back to life - like the Biblical Lazarus - half an hour after doctors told his family he had died.

Michael Wilkinson, 23, 'died' in hospital of a previously undiagnosed heart condition after his mother found him collapsed in bed.

Doctors failed to revive the roofer and pronounced him dead, and he was given the last rites.

But 30 minutes later medics found a pulse and told relatives he was actually alive.

There was no communication from the man who spent those last two days of his life in intensive care.

Man catches best friend's horror road death on camera as they race motorbikes at 170 mph.

Bowden, a car mechanic, had intended to take his son for a ride that day but Mr Prowse, his friend since school, arrived at his house and suggested they go for a ride.

Mr Prowse, ...then fitted his video camera to Bowden's petrol tank and the pair raced along the A30.

With a camera strapped to his motorbike Fred Bowden followed Andrew Prowse as the pair broke the speed limit 30 times in just 20 minutes.

Bowden was still filming after 25 miles when his friend clipped a car with his Kawasaki ZX10R and was thrown under an oncoming camper van. Mr Prowse, 46, was decapitated and died instantly.

Flying wreckage from Bowden's motorcycle knocked Bowden off his own matching 1,000cc machine. 

Bowden, a 42 year old father of 4, pled guilty to dangerous driving but escaped a jail term.  His sentence was suspended and his license too for three years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:20 PM | Permalink

June 10, 2009

Domestic jihadist murders U.S. soldier in Little Rock, Arkansas

Private William Long, newly out of basic training was on a short-term assignment as a military recruiter,  was shot three times and killed outside the Army-Navy Career Center in Little Rock Arkansas by a domestic jihadist who also wounded another soldier.

The alleged killer Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 23,  was born in Tennessee as Carlos Leon Bledsoe and converted to Islam as a teen-ager.  He just opened fire on the soldiers with an SKS assault rifle and he said he fully intended to kill them, in fact, he would have killed more if he could, he told police.

From Maggie's Notebook
He had been under FBI investigation - - the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force - since he returned from a trip to Yemen.
He was carrying a false Somali passport and was arrested at that time. The same report says Muhammad had "ties to a number of global locations linked to extremists, including Yemen, Somalia and Columbus, OH..

Atlas Shrugs reports that he was arrested for serious weapons possession and gun running, but prosecutors filed only a single charge that was dismissed four months later.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the suspect said he didn't think the shooting was murder because U.S. military action in the MIddle East made the killing justified- "Islamic justified".

"I do feel I'm not guilty," Abdulhakim Muhammad told The Associated Press in a collect call from the Pulaski County jail. "I don't think it was murder, because murder is when a person kills another person without justified reason...what I did is Islamic justified"

"Yes, I did tell the police upon my arrest that this was an act of retaliation, and not a reaction on the soldiers personally," Muhammad said. He called it "a act, for the sake of God, for the sake of Allah, the Lord of all the world, and also a retaliation on U.S. military."

Private Long was laid to rest as a Soldier, Hero


The day before he died, U.S. Army Pvt. William Andrew "Andy" Long floated the Buffalo River with his sister, Vanessa Rice. If he had his way, she said, the pair would have gone skydiving.

"I'm so blessed to have had that day with Andy," Rice tearfully told guests at her brother's funeral Monday at Harlan Park Baptist Church in Conway. "My brother meant the world to me. Andy loved to be outdoors, to travel, and he couldn't wait to get to Korea to serve his country."

The service was followed by a burial with full military honors Monday at the Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock.


Pastor Johnny Harrington of Long's church, Sunny Gap Baptist Church in Conway, praised Long's commitment to the Army and recent appointment to the Army's Hometown Recruiter Assistance Program in Little Rock. He said Long is a fourth-generation armed services member. Long's father, Daris Long, is retired from the U.S. Marine Corps.

"No one is more military, no one is more patriotic than this family right here," Harrington said. "Military runs through their hearts and their blood. No one is more dedicated to it than they, and I know that they couldn't be prouder of Andy and his desire to serve his country.

"I asked Daris what's the one word he'd use to describe Andy, and he said two: soldier and hero."

Private Long's father was at work when he got the call; his mother was in the center's parking lot waiting to give their son a ride home.  She heard the shots.

Most moving of all is the interview of Darius Long, father of the slain soldier, gracious and grateful in his grief.  (HT Ace).    My condolences to all his family.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

Tragic death at golf club

Originally from Uganda, the eminent hematologist Dr. Salim Vergee was dropped off at the golf club by his two sons  who then began an impromptu driving lesson that would change the rest of their lives.

Father dies after learner driver son crushes him with Mercedes at prestigious golf club.

The car lurched towards him as it pulled away, crushing Dr Verjee's leg. As golfers ran to his aid, Dr Verjee suffered a cardiac arrest but although paramedics were able to restart his heart using a defibrillator, the father-of-two died later in hospital.

It is understood the car was being driven by Dr Verjee's eldest son, Zoolfikar, 33, who was being taught at the wheel by his younger brother Ash, a 30-year-old musician and composer.

'After he was dropped off, one of the sons, who was learning to drive, was being given a lesson by his sibling,’ he said.

'Unfortunately the car lurched into the elderly father and knocked him down.

'The boys were distraught after they saw what had happened. They went in a separate ambulance from their father.'

During his medical career he has written a number of medical journals on haematology, and specialised in blood stem cell harvest work.

Yvonne Milward, practice manager at Kennington Health Centre, said her former colleague was a 'superb GP'. She added: 'He was loved by colleagues, patients and friends alike.

'He was a true gentleman in every way, with a unique sense of humour.'

My heart goes to the two sons who have not only lost their father, but must come to grips with such a tragedy, a mighty burden they will carry for the rest of their lives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

Scanning the Dead

From Kevin MD, the Benefits of Scanning War Corpses.

In the past five years, every soldier who was killed in Iraq and Afghanistan has been given a CT scan. Why? In the hopes of creating a database of war injuries, which can be used to better equip and treat future soldiers.

The effort has already paid dividends. While examining the data, it was noticed that chest tubes used to treat pneumothoraces in the field were too short. The standard tubing would have been appropriate for 50 percent of soldiers, versus longer tubing that would fit 99 percent.

Also, it was because of these “autopsy scans” where it was noticed that many of the troops died from wounds in the upper torso, which could have been prevented with the appropriate body armor. On the basis of these findings, the military rushed more armor plates to Iraq.

It’s an interesting piece, and goes on to discuss the sensitive implications of the findings to family members:

The possibility that a relative burned to death is a particular source of anguish for families, and one area in which CT can outperform an autopsy. In a body damaged by flames, CT can help pathologists figure out whether the burns occurred before or after death. The scans can also tell whether a person found in water

It’s truly remarkable to see how much that can be learned after death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 AM | Permalink

June 8, 2009

"I'm not busy dying, I think I'm living better"

Melrose priest's terminal cancer brings new life to his calling

The Rev. James A. Field has spent years helping others cope with death and dying. He has anointed the sick, buried the dead, and comforted the bereaved.

But now he is confronting his own mortality, much earlier than he had expected. He is 58 years old and he has pancreatic cancer, an incurable and fast-moving disease that he knows he can't survive. And, in a step that has rallied the Parish of the Incarnation of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ around its pastor, Field is bringing the congregation along on his uncommonly public final journey, preaching and writing about each up and down. "This is what I got, and this is how I deal with it," he says. "I'm a teacher, and this is a teachable moment."

More from the priest who knows he is dying as well as a short video on the Boston Globe site at the link.

"This is a time when you have to figure out - do you believe this or not," he says. "You've been saying this your whole life. Is this really the truth or not? And, so far, it feels like the truth."

For the first time in his life, he has insomnia, and that, he says, gives him more time to think.

"When you're awake at 2 in the morning, your alternatives are to watch "Bridezillas," or the vacuum cleaner ads, or to pray," he says. "Sometimes I just go through my life and look at the blessings, the goodness. Honestly, before I was sick, I didn't have time to do that. You take a long lens and look at your life."

Father Field 3

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 AM | Permalink

Haunting video released in murder trial of Meredith Kercher

'You send your daughter away to study and she doesn't come back. We will never, ever get over it.'

A quite spectacular murder trial is underway in Italy.  British student Meredith Kercher was found murdered in her apartment in the Umbrian town of Perugia, her throat cut.  She shared the apartment with an American girl from Seattle with an 'angel face', Amanda Knox, who is charged with the murder along with her former lover, Raffaele Solllecito.    Another man, Rudy Guede, described as an "Ivory-coast drifter," was charged in the murder as well and is now serving a 30-year sentence.

Details of the murder can be found in a Wikipedia entry.

Kecher's family released a music video starring the murdered British student that's quite eerie.  Haunting I would call it.

 Meredithkercher Musicvideo

He said: 'It was made by a group of Meredith's friends sometime during 2007 - I think she knows the lead singer.
'The people on the video are friends of hers who were at Leeds University and it is unreal to see her in the video and to know that a few months later she was murdered.

'It was a very emotional experience for them to come and give evidence but they coped very well.

'They just wanted the court to know what a special and much loved person Meredith was not just to her family but all her friends as well.'

In the opening sequence, Meredith is seen walking down a flight of stairs and makes several other appearances including a haunting scene where she walks through a set of doors and looks straight at the camera.

In another shot, she again looks directly at the camera before glancing at the singer, as snow appears to be falling around.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

June 5, 2009

David Carridine, R.I.P.

When anyone dies under suspicious circumstances that look a lot like suicide, shocked family members and friends think back to see whether the deceased showed any signs of depression and whether they could have done anything. 

In David Carradine's case where the actor was found deed in a luxury hotel room in Bangkok,  the consensus seems to be absolutely not.  Famous actors or anyone in public life do not enjoy the same privacy and lack of scrutiny that most of us have.  So the question had to be asked What was in doing in a closet with a rope around his head and 'another part of his body'?

Now just what the circumstances of his death were are being speculated about all over the world, to his shame.

I remember his character as the half-Chinese, half American Shaolin monk who traveled through the American wild west, like a Chinese Gary Cooper, armed only with his skill in martial arts,in search of his lost half-brother.  The 1970s television series Kung Fu may have been the first to introduce some Asian philosophy into the mainstream of American culture in the form of childhood flashbacks to the sayings and  teachings of his old master.    More recently his career enjoyed a resurgence with  his role as Bill in Quentin Taratino's widely popular Kill Bill vol 1 and 2.

His obituaries, published around the world, will have to include some mention  of the suspicious  circumstances of his death.  How far will they go?

 David Carradine

I suspect we'll read more than we ever wanted to know about his five wives and his drinking and drugging.

London Telegraph  David Carradine found dead in wardrobe in suspected sex game gone wrong

The London Times keeps its focus on his career and many achievements in David Carradine: The Times obituary

The New York Times skirts around the circumstances in its obituary

John Nolte at Big Hollywood is not interested in hearing the story or passing it on, instead prefers to appreciate his Carradine's skill as an actor especially his performance as Woodie Guthrie in the Harold Wexler's film, Bound for Glory.

Thanks to a real screen presence and a quiet, understated performance, Carradine carries the film all on his own thin, angular frame. He inhabits most every scene and quickly makes you forget all that “Grasshopper” stuff. His Woody Guthrie is mostly silent but always fascinating; conflicted by ambitions and a loathing for what it takes to fulfill them, he’s willing to risk death in order to rouse the working man to stand up for himself, but can’t summon the everyday decency to remain faithful to his own wife. And that’s Carradine singing the songs and playing the guitar, but not one note is impersonation, just pure performance.

It's a shame all around, the way he died, the attention that is paid to how he died, our knowledge of how he died, and the shame his widow and children must feel that can only compound their grief. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 PM | Permalink

June 3, 2009

They just couldn't live without Sam

The sad story of the parents who so grieved the death of their son 5 who had been paralyzed in a car accident and died of pneumonia that they carried off his body in a rucksack and, in a final family outing,  drove to a seaside cliff where they leaped  to their deaths.

They just couldn't live without Sam...their happy little miracle.

Loving Neil, 34, and Kazumi, 44, had given up their jobs to care for Sam after a car crash paralyzed him from the neck down at the age of 16 months.
Proud Neil wrote: “Even though Sam can’t move below his neck he fills a room with his character and chat and it is an absolute joy to us to see what he will say next.

“It is normally, ‘If I am good can I have another present please!’

“All this from a boy given no chance of survival after the accident. He is growing up so quickly and is so intelligent and mischievous. We cannot thank all of you enough for your help.”

Just months before meningitis struck, the couple wrote: “Sam loves his life and he is simply the happiest boy in the world.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 AM | Permalink

The role of death

Professor Margaret Somerville continues her exploration of euthanasia and how it muffles our proper emotional response to a person's passing.

The role of death

research shows that dying people who request euthanasia do so far more frequently because of fear of social isolation and of being a burden on others, than pain.
But surely the answer to loneliness and grief is not to help the person commit suicide? As I once suggested to a Dutch physician who had carried out euthanasia on an old woman in similar circumstances . . . "Did you think of buying her a
Legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide causes death to lose its moral context and us to lose our proper emotional response to it, a loss which recent research shows detrimentally affects our ethical judgment.

It delivers a "better off dead" message that treats dying humans as disposable products. As one Australian politician expressed this: "When you are past your 'use by' or 'best before' date, you should be checked out as quickly, cheaply and efficiently as possible."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink

Life can change in an instant

Now that they have found a debris trail, we are beginning to learn what happened to Air France 447.  France is sending a research ship equipped with two mini-subs but the chances of retrieving the "black box" in the vast deep ocean remain slim.

But whether lightening and heavy turbulence , an electrical failure or a bomb took it down remains to be seen or may never be known. 

A past flight may offer clues  that a computer system may have gone rogue.

"It was horrendous, absolutely gruesome, terrible," passenger Jim Ford told Australian radio. "The worst experience of my life." Passenger Nigel Court said he was terrified to watch people not wearing seat belts — including his wife — fly upward. "She crashed headfirst into the roof above us," he told a reporter. "People were screaming," said Henry Bishop of Oxford, England. A Sri Lankan couple said they were thrown to the ceiling when their seat belts failed. "We saw our own deaths," said Sam Samaratunga, who was traveling with his wife Rani to their son's wedding. "We decided to die together and embraced each other."

After seemingly an eternity — in reality, the nosedive lasted 20 very long seconds — the flight crew wrested control of the plane from its wayward computer and made an emergency landing at a remote military and mining airstrip 650 miles short of Perth.

Neo writes  about the initial emotional impact on the families.

This tragedy, already almost unbearable for the loved ones of those who died, contains the added painful possibility that the bodies of the lost may never be recovered. And all of this happened in an instant; families and friends were waiting at the Paris airport for an ordinary happy arrival, and then they received the dreadful news that will change their lives forever.

Now  are learning about the 228 people lost .  Among the victims on Air France Flight, Doctors, Dancers and Royalty.

They were dancers and doctors, engineers and executives, and even royalty. Many were parents, and eight were children.
The airline said victims included 2 Americans, an Argentine, an Austrian, a Belgian, 58 Brazilians, 5 Britons, a Canadian, 9 Chinese, a Croatian, a Dane, a Dutch citizen, an Estonian, a Filipino, 61 French citizens, a Gambian, 26 Germans, 4 Hungarians, 3 Irish, an Icelander, 10 Italians, 5 Lebanese, 2 Moroccans, 3 Norwegians, 2 Poles, a Romanian, a Russian, 3 Slovakians, 2 Spaniards, a Swede, 6 Swiss and a Turk.

So sad.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

June 1, 2009

Ancient Manuscripts

Ancient Manuscripts in a Digital Age The slideshow

In an increasingly digital era, researchers are racing to track down and digitize rare, ancient manuscripts. Father Columba Stewart, a Benedictine monk from Minnesota, is at the forefront of the fight. He's traveled to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Georgia to search for endangered Christian manuscripts to digitize before they are looted or destroyed. Similar efforts are under way around the world as companies and foundations finance major efforts to digitally preserve culturally significant artifacts

 Benedictine Preserving-Ancient Manuscripts

The article

While conservationists are quick to stress that pixels and bytes can never replace priceless physical artifacts, many see digitization as a vital tool for increasing public access to rare items, while at the same time creating a disaster-proof record and perhaps unearthing new information.

One of the most ambitious digital preservation projects is being led, fittingly, by a Benedictine monk. Father Columba Stewart, executive director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John's Abbey and University in Minnesota, cites his monastic order's long tradition of copying texts to ensure their survival as inspiration.

His mission: digitizing some 30,000 endangered manuscripts within the Eastern Christian traditions, a canon that includes liturgical texts, Biblical commentaries and historical accounts in half a dozen languages, including Arabic, Coptic and Syriac, the written form of Aramaic. Rev. Stewart has expanded the library's work to 23 sites, including collections in Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, up from two in 2003. He has overseen the digital preservation of some 16,500 manuscripts, some of which date to the 10th and 11th centuries. Some works photographed by the monastery have since turned up on the black market or eBay, he says.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

Known for food

Peach melba, melba toast, crepes suzette, salisbury steak, eggs benedict, cobb salad, granny smith apples, caesar salad, fettucini alfredo,  graham crackers and sandwich.

10 People who gave their name to food.

The famous singer Nellie Melba born as Helen Porter Mitchell in 1861

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:05 AM | Permalink

In our dying, we need to given the opportunity to leave a legacy of meaning

Jean Vanier is the founder of L'Arch, a organization that provides a life-long home for intellectually disabled people.  In an exchange of letters with Ian Brown, a writer for the Globe and Mail, who has a disabled son, they explore the profound issues posed by death and all that leads to it.

Dying: The last great act of living by Margaret Somerville

Vanier's writings gently show that among the many gifts disabled people can offer us are lessons in hope, optimism, kindness, empathy, compassion, generosity and hospitality, a sense of humour (balance), trust and courage. But, as he recognizes, to do that they must be treated justly; given every person's right to the freedom to be themselves; and respected as members of our community. That requires us to accept the suffering, weakness and fragility we see in them, which means, as Vanier emphasizes, we must first accept those realities in relation to ourselves. Most of us find that an enormous challenge and flee.

Even terminally ill people can have hope -- what we can call "mini-hopes" -- for instance, to stay alive long enough to see a grandchild born, to attend a daughter's wedding, to see an old friend the next day or to see the sun rise and hear the birds' dawn chorus.

Like hope, leaving a legacy also connects us to the future, one we will not see. Palliative care professionals try to help people to identify their legacy, their gifts to those who remain, because they know that can help them to die more peacefully. But those gifts must be accepted and valued by the receiver.

We must accept old or dying people's gifts, especially those gifts that are of the essence of themselves, recognizing that they and the person who gives them are unique and precious, as are their lives or last days on earth. In confirming the worth of these gifts we confirm the worth of the giver, and the old or dying person needs that confirmation.

And might we be able to deal with old age and death with greater equanimity, if we can experience a sense of gratitude for life and might the gifts we can leave help us to feel that?

The challenge is to maintain death as the last great act of human life, a final human act through which we can still find meaning and, I suggest most importantly, pass meaning on to others.

In other words, in our dying, we need to be given the opportunity to leave a legacy of meaning. We are meaning seeking beings -- that seeking is of the essence of our humanness. Euthanasia is a predictable response to a loss of meaning in relation to death and its practice would augment that loss. Even if we believe that doesn't matter, we should be concerned, because our capacity to find meaning in life may well depend on our being able to find meaning in death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 AM | Permalink