July 28, 2011

Autopsy reveals he died of the flue

"Autopsy reveals he died of the flue" wrote James Taranto in the Wall St Journal linking to this piece, Remains of Man Missing for 27 Years Discovered in Bank Chimney.

Joseph Schexnider, who was 22, disappeared from the town of Abbeville in January 1984, after missing a court hearing over charges of possessing a stolen vehicle.

It is thought his family did not report him missing because police officers had arrived at their home searching for him following the missed court appearance.

Mr Schexnider’s mother said at the time that he had been known to leave abruptly – including once to work on a circus – and was this time thought to be on a “rendezvous”.

However, human remains were discovered with a pair of gloves, a cigarette lighter, a watch and a wallet in a chimney during renovations carried out to Abbeville National Bank in May.

This week DNA tests by a Louisiana State University laboratory confirmed that the remains in the chimney, which was sealed off later in the 1980s, were those of Mr Schexnider.

Mary Manheim, the head of the lab, said Mr Schexnider “died within a few days maximum of when he went into that chimney”

It has been speculated that Mr Schexnider died of dehydration or starvation. However, Ms Manheim told ABC News, “Nobody will ever know” precisely how he died.

He had no bag with him so is not suspected of trying to rob the bank, police have said.

Lt. David Hardy, a local detective, said: “Hopefully this will give the family some closure. There's no signs of foul play in this investigation, so as of now it's going to be a closed case.”

“His mother is upset that she lost a son, of course, but she is at ease that she now knows where her son is”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:48 PM | Permalink

Gravestone technology

Alexis Madrigal visits the graveyard where his grandmother is buried and discovers "lasers had arrived in the death industry,"

As we circumnavigated the plots, we began to see a pattern. Shiny, black headstones lined vast tracts of lighter gray headstones "almost like stitching," Sarah observed. These headstones were different from the ones that had come before them. Not only were they a different color and texture, they also featured photorealistic portraits of the people buried underneath them. They were a new breed of monument. One look at them could have told you that no human hand had chiseled those drawings in the stone.
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... a small Fitchburg, Massachusetts company, Vytek, a subsidiary of Vinyl Technologies, decided that lasers could be used to make a better gravestone.

In 1989, Vytek began to sell laser systems specifically to the monument industry that could take a photograph or drawing and reproduce it on granite. The laser works almost like a printer, but instead of putting dark ink on white paper, the laser blasts away the polished surface of the granite to reveal the lighter rock underneath. Then, a worker goes over the lasered parts with a razor blade, scraping very lightly to remove any debris. The process produces a high-resolution grayscale image on the stone, a far cry from the thick line drawings that chiseling and sandblasting had allowed before. A name could have a face.
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Our death stones are shiny and global and technologized to display high-resolution portraits of our loved ones.

In the Atlantic, Lasers for the Dead: A Story About Gravestone technology

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:56 PM | Permalink

Awaiting scientific resurrection

Fighting death, he founded the cryonics movement, but death claimed Robert Ettinger at 92.

The Washington Post  obituary

He was 92 and had suffered declining health in recent weeks, said his son David, who could not specify a cause. “We’re obviously sad,” said the younger Ettinger. But “we were able to freeze him under optimum conditions, so he’s got another chance.”

Mr. Ettinger is widely considered the father of the cryonics movement, whose adherents believe they can achieve immortality through quick-freezing their bodies at death in anticipation of future resurrection.

Mr. Ettinger’s frozen body is being stored in a vat of liquid nitrogen at a nondescript building outside Detroit, home to more than 100 fellow immortalists — including his mother and two wives — who are awaiting revival.

If all goes as Mr. Ettinger envisioned, he will remain in a period of icy stasis for decades — or perhaps centuries — however long it takes for doctors, armed with technology of the future, to defrost him and restore him to good health.

“Our patients are not truly dead in any fundamental sense,”
he told a New Yorker reporter in 2010.

The London Telegraph, obituary

Robert Ettinger, who died on July 23 aged 92, was the intellectual father of the cryonics movement, whose members have themselves frozen at death pending scientific resurrection.

Ettinger preferred to style himself an "immortalist", since he argued that whole body or head-only freezing ("neurological suspension") was only one means of achieving indefinite life. His rationale for pursuing this goal was contained in his book The Prospect Of Immortality (1964), which revealed him as an unquenchable optimist about mankind's technological future.

Rand Simberg describes how Bob Ettinger would be 'deanimated.'

His body won’t be buried or burned, as most people in his non-metabolizing state are, because those methods of interment would result in a state that even he and they would have recognized as death. Instead, as his bodily functions progressively failed, with a tub of chilled water at bedside, he was declared legally dead so that he could have himself chilled down, his fluids replaced with an anti-freeze solution, ultimately to liquid nitrogen temperatures, to continue a quest on which he had spent most of his life to date: to live indefinitely long.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:47 PM | Permalink

July 26, 2011

Over the Vernal Falls

 3 Hikers Yosemitefalls

The three hikers presumed dead after climbing safety rail at Yosemite waterfall and ignoring calls to come back. 

These are the three hikers who jumped a guard rail at Yosemite National Park and were taking photographs close to a massive waterfall before being pulled away by raging water.

Hormiz David, 22, Ninos Yacoub, 27, and Ramina Badal, 21, all from California, are presumed dead after the incident at the park’s Vernal Falls. The three friends were playing and taking pictures in waters 25 feet away from the 317-foot falls despite urgings from onlookers to come back.

Their leisurely swim turned deadly as one of them slipped, fell and was dragged toward the falls.
Park spokesman Scott Gediman told the L.A. Times that the second victim tried to rescue the first, and the third victim tried to save the other two.
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A guardrail separates visitors from the water atop the falls, and signs in multiple languages warn of the danger created by slippery boulders.
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Other hikers, including several children in their group, could only watch as the rushing water swept all three students over the edge.
‘Everyone was screaming,’ witness Jake Bibee said. ‘People were praying.’

‘They were honest, righteous Christians trying to live their lives the right way,’ said friend Ninos Piro, 36. ‘They were trying to be a good influence on everyone around them. That's why you see everyone so torn up around here.’
Yesterday afternoon, hundreds of tourists climbed the 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Fall after the path was reopened.  The path to the top of Vernal Falls, a three-mile trek with a 1,000-foot rise in elevation, is one of the most popular hikes in the park.

How tragic for their families and friends,  May they rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:47 PM | Permalink

Scot sabotaged the 'Bridge on the River Kwai' with termites

Hero who sabotaged bridge with termites

Kenneth McLeod, who has died aged 92, was captured by the Japanese in the Second World War and was one of the last surviving veterans who worked on the bridge over the River Kwai.
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He fought with the 2nd Battalion at the Battle of Slim River but was cut off behind enemy lines.  With a group of stragglers and carrying a wounded man for two days, he set off towards Singapore.  They had marched 100 miles before being ambushed.

He escaped into the jungle, but surrendered when his name was called out to save the others from being shot.
Both his legs became paralysed from poisoning and he was hospitalised in Kuala Lumpur. After recovering, he volunteered to go to Siam rather than return to Singapore with the wounded prisoners. This meant he was in No 1 work party which built two bamboo camps before starting the wooden bridge on the north side of the River Kwai at Tamarkan, immortalised in the epic film The Bridge on the River Kwai starring Alec Guinness.

Mr McLeod sabotaged his work by farming termite eggs which he placed at each joint and at the base of every upright.

After the railway was completed, the Japanese segregated Mr McLeod and the other officers from the enlisted men and marched them away. He later discovered they were all to be murdered.

Their lives were saved with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, forcing the Japanese surrender.

May he rest in peace and his memory preserved.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:27 PM | Permalink

Rudolf Hess's remains exhumed, cremated and scattered

After committing suicide in 1987 while serving a life sentence in Berlin for crimes against peace, Rudolf Hess, once deputy Nazi party leader and confidant of Adolf Hitler,  was buried in his family plot.

But in recent years he has come to be seen as a martyr by the far-Right and thousands of neo-Nazis have used the anniversary of his death on August 17 as an occasion to hold rallies in the town.

Rudolf Hess's remains taken from grave in dead of night, cremated and scattered after it became neo-Nazi pilgrimage site

The grave of Adolf Hitler’s deputy has been dismantled to stop  neo-Nazis using it as a pilgrimage point.
Rudolf Hess’s remains were exhumed from the burial plot in a cemetery in the Bavarian town of Wunsiedel. They will be cremated and scattered at sea in a secret operation.
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German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung said the descendants of Hess were initially against the idea of exhuming his body.  A granddaughter of Hess even filed a law suit to prevent it.  But the family eventually caved in to pressure from the local authorities and agreed to have his remains taken away.

Especially after Norway, we do not need Nazi graves as pilgrimage sites.  Municipal authorities acted wisely and so  did the family in acquiescing to the removal.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:25 PM | Permalink

Men grieve differently

Why is it surprising that men and women experience grief in different ways? 

Men in Grief Seek Others Who Mourn as They Do

The loss of a loved one is a profoundly heartbreaking experience, but it is not the same for everyone. Research increasingly suggests that men and women experience grief in different ways, and the realization has bolstered a nascent movement of bereavement groups geared to men throughout the country. Many of them are affiliated with hospitals and hospice centers.
Many will be not be prepared for the experience. The loss of a spouse often is crushing for men physically as well as psychologically. In a 2001 paper published in The Review of General Psychology, psychologists at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands confirmed earlier data showing widowers have a higher incidence of mental and physical illness, disabilities, death and suicide than widows do. While women who lose their husbands often speak of feeling abandoned or deserted, widowers tend to experience the loss “as one of dismemberment, as if they had lost something that kept them organized and whole,”
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The Harvard Bereavement Study, a landmark late 1960s investigation of spousal loss, found that widowers experienced the death of a wife as a multifaceted tragedy, a loss of protection, support and comfort that left many at sea. The men in the study relied heavily on their wives to manage their domestic lives, from household chores to raising their children, the researchers noted.

The grief of men is compounded, Dr. Caserta added, by the fact that so many have been reluctant to directly address real feelings of deep sadness; until recently, men were expected to be emotionally controlled and inexpressive.
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Sherry Schachter, director of bereavement services at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx and a grief specialist for 25 years, said in a telephone interview: “While women grieve intuitively, open to expressing their feelings, men are ‘instrumental’ grievers. They’re not comfortable with talking about their feelings, and they prefer to do things to cope.”

In a men’s group she has run for the last few years, she said, “I never ask, ‘How do you feel?’ Rather, I ask, ‘What did you do?’ ”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:15 PM | Permalink

21 hours in the morgue fridge, "How did I get here?"

When they heard someone crying for help inside of the morgue fridge, the owner, thinking it was a ghost,  called the police for backup with guns.

SAfrican man wakes after 21 hours in morgue fridge

A South African man awoke to find himself in a morgue fridge - nearly a day after his family thought he had died, a health official said Monday.

Health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said the man awoke Sunday afternoon, 21 hours after his family called in an undertaker who sent him to the morgue after an asthma attack.

Morgue owner Ayanda Maqolo said he sent his driver to collect the body shortly after the family reported the death. Maqolo said he thought the man was around 80 years old.

"When he got there, the driver examined the body, checked his pulse, looked for a heartbeat, but there was nothing," Maqolo told the Associated Press.

But a day after staff put the body into a locked refrigerated compartment, morgue workers heard someone shouting for help. They thought it was a ghost, the morgue owner said.

"I couldn't believe it!" Maqolo said. "I was also scared. But they are my employees and I had to show them I wasn't scared, so I called the police."

After police arrived, the group entered the morgue together.

"I was glad they had their firearms, in case something wanted to fight with us,"
Maqolo said.

He said the man was pale when they pulled him out.

"He asked, 'How did I get here?'" Maqolo said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 AM | Permalink

July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse, dead at 27

Amy Winehouse, 27, found dead at her London flat after suspected 'drug overdose'

 

A sad, but not surprising death for an extremely talented singer.  Looking at photos over the past several years shows which you can see at the link below  an extremely unhappy woman who sought relief in drink and drug abuse.

A death foretold: The rapid rise and tragic fall of Amy Winehouse, the deeply flawed soul prodigy

Amy Winehouse's death was one foretold by gruesome pictures of bloody plimsolls and near death experiences from drugs publicly retold by her lovers. It almost seems unsurprising that, in death, Winehouse joins many of her heroes - Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison - all of whom died aged just 27.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:04 PM | Permalink

July 21, 2011

"A peacemaker, he rescued child soldiers and bought slaves in order to set them free"

Born in Italy, ordained a priest in San Diego, Cesare Mazzolati  began his most challenging mission in  Sudan, almost 30 years ago.  In 1990, he was appointed apostolic administrator of the war-torn Diocese of Rumbek where "he zealously set to work, re-opening missions and negotiating humanitarian assistance and the freedom of very young slaves."

He was consecrated bishop in 1999 by Pope John Paul II.  The diocese stated: "He took to heart the mandate given to him on that day by the Holy Father, John Paul II, namely, to relieve 'a people who have suffered too much for too long' from 'the anguish of an unjust war' and 'to help them to restore the dignity of their human rights.'

Following the comprehensive peace agreement of 2005 and after decades of civil war,  South Sudan became an independent nation on July 9 of this year.  Bishop Mazzolati presided over the official opening prayer during the Independence Day celebrations.

Just one week later, the South Sudan Bishop died while celebrating Mass.

"A week later," a communiqué from the diocese announced, "God called home his faithful servant during Eucharist, at the moment of consecration. Surely, it was a privilege from God for Bishop Cesare Mazzolari to die in the presence of Jesus during the Eucharist, in his own cathedral and among his priests, religious and faithful."

The faithful of the diocese expressed "deep and heartfelt appreciation of his dedicated service and lifelong faithful witness to the Gospel among the people of South Sudan."

 Bishop Mazzolari2

A peacemaker, he rescued child soldiers and bought slaves in order to set them free.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

Salvador Allende's death a suicide

His remains were exhumed and a forensic analysis made by a team of Chilean and international experts who concluded that the Death of Chile's Ex-President Allende was a Suicide.

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — A new autopsy has determined that President Salvador Allende of Chile killed himself with an assault rifle, Chilean officials said Tuesday, dispelling doubts that have persisted for 37 years about the exact circumstances of his death, including whether troops storming the presidential palace had murdered him.
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Even as leftist supporters like Fidel Castro declared that Mr. Allende died in a gun battle on Sept. 11, 1973, the day of the coup, his family members had long found credible the original autopsy and accounts of witnesses, including palace detectives and doctors, who said he had taken his own life before the military entered the palace.  But doubts had lingered
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“We are in a position to assure that this was a violent death that was suicidal in nature,” said Dr. Francisco Etxeberría, a forensic expert appointed by the Allende family. “Of that we have absolutely no doubt.”
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For the Allende family, the team’s findings brought relief, confirming Mr. Allende’s suicide, which had come to be a source of family pride. He “made the decision to end his life before being humiliated or having to go through some other situation,” Senator Isabel Allende, his daughter, said Tuesday.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 AM | Permalink

July 17, 2011

Overwhelmed by a Legacy of Stuff

What to do with all the stuff left behind when a beloved dies?

Rita Emmett lays it out in A Legacy of Stuff

Another email explained the cost of two storage units filled with items from loved ones who have passed away. Payments for both units totaled over one thousand dollars a year, and he wrote that he had not visited them since he stashed everything into the units over four years ago.

So he is spending money he can't afford on units filled with stuff he not only does NOT need, he doesn't even remember what is in them.

He's stuck.

Sorting through, processing, moving on and getting rid of items after the death of a loved one is possibly the most difficult work to tackle. Partly because there is SO MUCH (a lifetime of accumulation), partly because it renews the deep grief in our hearts and partly because there is an odd feeling of "I'm keeping this because I love him so if I get rid of these tools that he loved so much….it might mean I don't love him ….or that he didn't love me…..or something very convoluted and confusing…."

Part 2 here

One woman told the story of how for seven years, all of her parents' belongings were stacked to the ceiling in her basement - furniture, clothes, stuff. So much so that they could not even make a path through it all.

Then her basement flooded and she lost everything. Afterwards, she was amazed at how relieved she felt and how good life was — living without all that stuff. She had zero regrets about what was lost.

And she asked, "Why do people have to wait for a disaster to wreck everything in order to get rid of it? Wouldn't it have been great to pass on those things to people who needed and would be happy to receive all of it?"

In fact, when we hang on to stuff we-don't-need-or-use and wasn't even ours to begin with, it usually as NOTHING to do with the thing itself, but with the tumult of feelings associated with it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:25 AM | Permalink

July 16, 2011

'Brain death' may not be real death

'Brain dead’ Quebec woman wakes up after family refuses organ donation

Last week, Madeleine Gauron, a Quebec woman identified as viable for organ donation after doctors diagnosed her as “brain dead,” surprised her family and physicians when she recovered from a coma, opened her eyes, and began eating.

The 76-year-old woman was hospitalized at the Hospital Sainte Croix de Drummondville for an inflammation of the gums, which required a brief operation.  During her recovery, hospital staff gave the elderly woman solid food, which she had been unable to consume in her family home for some time, and left her unattended.  Choking on the food, she fell into a coma, after unsuccessful resuscitation.

Medical staff contacted her family, explaining to them that their mother was “brain dead,” with no hope of recovery.  Citing Gauron’s eyes as particularly viable, the doctors asked if the family would agree to organ donation.

While supporting the possibility of donation, her shocked family first demanded further medical tests to prove Gauron was really dead.

The next day, the family was astonished to learn that Gauron had awakened.  Shortly afterwards, she sat up in bed and ate yogurt.

“If we had decided to donate her organs, they would have killed her,” said her son.
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As anecdotes similar to Gauron’s continue to pile up, “brain death” as a legitimate diagnosis of actual death is increasingly being questioned by concerned family members and medical professionals, some of whom have charged that the “brain death” criteria was created simply to ensure that harvested organs are fresh.

Until I read this story, I had no idea how many people have recovered from 'brain death'. 

“Brain Death” is Life, Not Death: Neurologists, Philosophers, Neonatologists, Jurists, and Bioethicists

If a patient is able to process oxygen from the lungs into the bloodstream, maintain a normal body temperature, digest food and expel waste, grow to normal adult size from the age of four to twenty, and even carry a child to term, can he or she be considered dead? Can a person who is "dead" wake up and go on later to finish a university degree? Can a corpse get out of bed, go home and go fishing? Can he get married and have children?

These are among the real-life stories of patients declared "brain dead" presented by medical experts at the "Signs of Life" conference on "brain death" criteria held near the Vatican in Rome last week. Ten speakers, who are among the world’s most eminent in their fields, sounded a ringing rebuke to the continued support among medical professionals and ethicists for "brain death" as an accepted criterion for organ removal.

One neurologist told the Rome conference, “Brain Death” Test Causes Brain Necrosis and Kills Patients

One of the medical world’s key diagnostic tools for determining "brain death" preliminary to organ retrieval, actually causes severe brain damage it purports to determine, neurologist Dr. Cicero Coimbra told attendees at a conference held in Rome last week. With the so-called "apnoea test," Coimbra said, brain damaged patients who might be recoverable are deprived of oxygen for up to ten minutes, rendering the injuries to the brain irreversible.
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Since the world-wide adoption of the "brain death" criteria, developed at Harvard University in 1968, Dr. Coimbra said, "The lives of thousands of human beings, including children, adolescents and young adults, are lost every year in each country."

The premise of the standard Harvard Criteria for "brain death" is that lack of brain function implies absence of blood circulation to the brain, which is what causes brain necrosis, or the irreversible death of brain cells. But since the definition of the Harvard Criteria, he explained, medical scientists have discovered that the absence of discernable brain function cited by the criteria is not the same as "brain necrosis," or true brain death. In many cases where there is no discernable brain activity, patients have recovered with appropriate treatment.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:14 PM | Permalink

'Brain death' may not be real death

'Brain dead’ Quebec woman wakes up after family refuses organ donation

Last week, Madeleine Gauron, a Quebec woman identified as viable for organ donation after doctors diagnosed her as “brain dead,” surprised her family and physicians when she recovered from a coma, opened her eyes, and began eating.

The 76-year-old woman was hospitalized at the Hospital Sainte Croix de Drummondville for an inflammation of the gums, which required a brief operation.  During her recovery, hospital staff gave the elderly woman solid food, which she had been unable to consume in her family home for some time, and left her unattended.  Choking on the food, she fell into a coma, after unsuccessful resuscitation.

Medical staff contacted her family, explaining to them that their mother was “brain dead,” with no hope of recovery.  Citing Gauron’s eyes as particularly viable, the doctors asked if the family would agree to organ donation.

While supporting the possibility of donation, her shocked family first demanded further medical tests to prove Gauron was really dead.

The next day, the family was astonished to learn that Gauron had awakened.  Shortly afterwards, she sat up in bed and ate yogurt.

“If we had decided to donate her organs, they would have killed her,” said her son.
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As anecdotes similar to Gauron’s continue to pile up, “brain death” as a legitimate diagnosis of actual death is increasingly being questioned by concerned family members and medical professionals, some of whom have charged that the “brain death” criteria was created simply to ensure that harvested organs are fresh.


Currently, more than half of Swedish intensive care nurses who care for purportedly brain dead patients have doubts about methods for establishing brain death, according to a recent survey released by Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:01 PM | Permalink

July 15, 2011

How a Bishop dies

Bishop Michael Evans faced death as a gateway to eternal life

I did not know Bishop Michael Evans, who has died at the sadly young age of 59 after a long illness, but I feel that the manner of his departure provides us with much food for thought.

The bishop knew he was ill, and that his condition was terminal, and (I was going to write “but”, but “and” is correct) he faced up to the prospect of death with Christian resignation.

In January 2011 Bishop Evans broke the news to his diocese that he did not have long to live. He wrote: “Rather than resign, I would like to continue among you as your bishop and the father of our diocesan family until this stage of my life ends. I do not know how long that will be. I am most grateful for the ways you have cared for and so prayerfully supported me in recent years. You remain very much in my thoughts and care.

“As I live now under the shadow of death, my prayer is very much that of St Paul that I may know something of the power of Christ’s Resurrection and a share in his sufferings, trusting that the Lord is with me. I pray that even now I can joyfully witness something of the good news we are all called to proclaim.”

I am sure that I am not alone in finding this exemplary. We are all going to die, and we will all have to deal with that one day. The bishop’s way of dealing with it – low-key, seeing death as just one stage in life, not making a fuss, not appealing to the emotions, but rather to the facts of faith – is a pretty excellent template we could all follow.
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Robin Lane Fox, in his interesting book, Pagans and Christians, attributes the triumph of Christianity over paganism (if memory serves) to one factor above all others: Christianity could deal with the fear of death, whereas paganism could not. In other words the Christians had the answer to the great question raised by Epicurus, namely how to face up to the prospect of personal extinction.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink

On believing in an afterlife

What Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams when Abigail Adams died.

Monticello, November 13, 1818

The public papers, my dear friend, announce the fatal event of which your letter of October the 20th had given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medicine. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.

In Controversy over Heaven, Gary Smith looks at the controversy over Seven in Heaven Way, a street in Brooklyn renamed to honor seven firefighters who died trying to rescue victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks which the New York City Atheists Organization are protesting saying it violates the separation of church and state.

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice asserted that “the claim that somehow ‘Seven in Heaven Way’ violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is absurd. Acknowledging religion is not an endorsement of religion, and to suggest that this street name somehow crosses the constitutional line of establishing a religion is nonsense.”

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Polls consistently find that high percentages of Americans believe in heaven and expect to spend eternity there. Various polls show that 80-90 percent of Americans believe in heaven. A Gallup Poll reported that 77 percent of Americans rated their chances of getting to heaven as “good” or “excellent.” Several near-death experience accounts of heaven — Don Piper’s “90 Minutes in Heaven,” “Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back,” and “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” — are all best sellers. Given this and the deep impact of 9/11 on Americans, the lively debate over the naming of this street in Brooklyn is not surprising. Belief in heaven has provided millions of Americans with hope as they face earthly struggles and death and has frequently helped inspire them to improve conditions on earth.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:47 AM | Permalink

July 14, 2011

Death by water times three

Three terrible deaths by water.

David Potts was vacationing on Hawaii with his infant son and long-time girlfriend as she recuperated from chemotherapy and prepared to undergo surgery, a double mastectomy,  when he was hit by a freak wave from behind that pushed him into a Maui blow hole to his death.

Dancing and frolicking in the spray, this is the moment seconds before a California man was sucked into a Maui blow hole to his death.

 Maui Blow Hole

Mr Potts briefly came up to the surface, before tragically disappearing again when the next wave hit.
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'It's just too much and we barely know where to begin or what to do first,' family friend Lisa Christensen, who was holidaying with the couple
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The blowhole, which is a popular tourist attraction, was created by pounding surf that undercut and wore away a lava shelf.  Every wave pushes water and air through the hole, creating an eruption similar to a geyser, before the water is then sucked back into the blowhole.

An experienced swimmer drowned and a life guard is in critical condition after 'breath holding' exercises at a Staten Island pool that was only 3 feet deep.

They were practicing techniques similar to those used in military training.
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Parks Commissioner Adian Benepe said two of Vitenko and Proce's friends were also in the water but were not taking part in the training exercises.  He said: 'It's a tragic and almost incomprehensible accident, the pool is three-and-a-half feet across the entire surface.

Two lifeguards and 20 swimmers failed to spot them.

It's not clear if the duo was following an official training program, or if they had devised their own workout, said Lt. Col. Robert Roy, head of Air Force recruiting in New York.
Either way, the military advises against certain breath-holding exercises or swimming underwater at length to avoid "shallow water blackout," which can lead to drowning.

And a third, Girl, 13, sucked to her death by swimming pool circulation pump after workers forgot to replace grille

'The pump was so strong that as she swam it had the effect of a whirlpool and pulled her under and sucked her in,' said a police spokesman.  'It was a terrible way to die.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 PM | Permalink

July 11, 2011

Death by rollercoaster

What a horrific story.

Double amputee Iraq war veteran dies after he was flung off roller coaster at 50 mph

An Iraq war veteran who lost both his legs to an IED attack has died after being flung from a roller coaster.
Sergeant James Hackemer, 29, died after falling from the Ride of Steel roller coaster at Darien Lake Theme Park, Syracuse, New York.

He was visiting the park with his daughters, sisters and other members of the family. He was on the ride with his nephew, Ashton, a sophomore at the University at Buffalo, when the tragic accident happened.

 Sgt James Hackemer

According to park officials, Mr Hackemer was travelling at 50 mph in the front row of the roller coaster when he was ejected. Investigators say nothing mechanical was wrong with the ride and both the safety harness and restraining bar were working.

Speaking to 9WSYR.com, Heather Comer - who was at the park at the time of the accident - spoke to a witness who saw the accident.

Mrs Comer said: 'She was shaking pretty bad and she said yeah some guy just fell out of the superman like in front of me. 'And, supposedly, they said he didn't have any legs. And so he went over a hill and he had fallen out.'

In March 2007, Mr Hackemer nearly lost his life after both legs were blown when his vehicle hit an IED. Mr Hackemer had spent three years of rehabilitation before his March 18 release from Walter Reed Army Medical Centre.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

Cemetery visitor for hire

A new niche.

For Hire: A Visitor to the Grave of Your Dearly Departed

A paralegal and married mother of three trying to earn extra money in a tough economy, Mrs. Marotta-Lopriore, 57, embarked last month on a new career: cemetery visitor for hire.

Advertising in a local newspaper and in fliers she distributed in surrounding towns, she offered her services: “Continue your signs of love and respect for your loved ones who have passed. If you are unable to visit your loved ones for whatever reason, I can help. Whether you need flowers delivered, prayers said or just a status on the condition of the site, I will visit any Westchester or Putnam County cemetery on your behalf. Proof of my visit will be either e-mailed or sent to you through the mail.”
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“I had never heard of anyone doing anything like this, and I just thought it was a great idea,” said Ms. Akyildiz, who was five months pregnant when Cristy was stillborn. “Though I do go to the cemetery to see my daughter, I’m often busy with work and my two other children and I can’t always get there.”

Mrs. Marotta-Lopriore, who lives in Hastings-on-Hudson and charges $25 to visit a Westchester cemetery and $35 for the longer trips to Putnam County, said, “Some people might look at visiting cemeteries as creepy or morbid, but those are people who are capable of visiting their loved ones.”

“But what about the people who are too old or too busy to go and pay their respects?” she asked. “What about the people who have moved out of state?”

Some religious-based services for the dead do exist. A small percentage of observant Jews in the United States partake in pre-burial rituals that include washing and clothing the bodies, and some Jewish volunteer groups keep constant vigil beside the deceased until burial. Also, Catholic priests say Mass for the dead. But Mrs. Marotta-Lopriore may be the first to have tapped into this particular niche market.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:04 AM | Permalink

July 8, 2011

She escaped by playing dead

 Big Grizzly

Wife of man killed by bear escaped with her life after playing dead

It was a one in three million occurrence park rangers said, when a grizzly bear charged at Brian Matayoshi and his wife, Marylyn, fatally mauling him during a hike through Yellowstone National Park.

Miraculously, Marylyn survived, after the sow bit into the backpack she was wearing, and threw her into the air.

She landed back on the ground uninjured and managed to escape, by playing dead.

Mr Matayoshi, a retired pharmacist and father, was in in the middle of a three-week trip with his wife when they saw a grizzly and her two cubs about 100yds away along the popular Wapiti Lake Trail at 11am on Wednesday.

She said they turned in the direction they had come but when they looked back, the sow was charging.

Yellowstone Superintendeint Dan Wenk reported Mr Matayoshi told his wife to run and she hid behind a falled tree. He was unable to find shelter as the bear attacked.

The woman told park officials she didn't see the bear attack her husband. When the bear went for her, she dropped to the ground, which likely saved her life, Mr Wenk said.

A group of hikers heard her calls for help and were able to call authorities, who arrived within 20 minutes.
Mrs Matayoshi suffered scrapes and bruises but didn't seek medical attention. Her husband died at the scene, according to park spokesman Al Nash.

There had been no fatal attacks by grizzlies for 25 years.

Yellowstone park rangers will not hunt killer bear...because it was protecting its cubs

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:10 PM | Permalink

'Please check on my son"

'Please check on my son': Fireman's final words as he lay dying after falling in front of seven-year-old son as he tried to catch ball at baseball game

A fireman who fell to his death in front of his seven-year-old son when he toppled over a railing at a baseball game cried out 'Please check on my son', as he lay dying on the ground.

Shannon Stone, 39, was trying to catch a foul ball for his young son at the Texas Rangers Ballpark when he plunged 20 feet as he reached out for the ball as it was tossed up to the stand.

In his final words, the firefighter called: 'Please check on my Son. My son was up there by himself', as his young son Cooper watched in horror from above, witnesses report

Brad Ziegler, who was stood close to where Mr Stone fell, said: 'The people who carried him out reassured him. "Sir, we'll get your son. We'll make sure he's OK".'

Mr Stone was watching the game at the ballpark in Arlington when he shouted out for outfielder Josh Hamilton to throw him the ball.

The player duly tossed it up to the stands but as he leaned out to catch it he lost his balance and fell over the railings landing on the concrete below.

There was an audible gasp from the stands as baseball fans watched the man plummet down a gap behind the scoreboard.

 Fireman Shannon Stone

Rest in Peace

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:09 PM | Permalink

July 6, 2011

The Complicated Family Tree

Can a child enforce a claim against the estate of a sperm or egg donor?

Who’s on the Family Tree? Now It’s Complicated

Many families are grappling with similar questions as a family tree today is beginning to look more like a tangled forest. Genealogists have long defined familial relations along bloodlines or marriage. But as the composition of families changes, so too has the notion of who gets a branch on the family tree.
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Tracing a family tree, though, is more than just an intellectual exercise. There are medical and legal implications, particularly when it comes to death and inheritance. Families, said Melinde Lutz Byrne, president of the American Society of Genealogists, are mostly concerned with who inherits property when a biological relative dies.

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When Ms. Ashmore and her husband, Lee, learned a few years ago that they could not conceive a child, Ms. Williams stepped in and offered to become pregnant with a donor’s sperm on behalf of the couple, and give birth to the child. The baby, Mallory, was born in September 2007 and adopted by Ms. Ashmore and her husband.

Then the sisters began to ponder: where would the little girl sit on the family tree?

“For medical purposes I am her mother,” Ms. Williams said. “But I am also her aunt.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:13 AM | Permalink

Archduke Otto von Hapsburg, R.I.P.

London Telegraph obit

Archduke Otto von Habsburg, who died on July 4 aged 98, began his public life as the infant Crown Prince of the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire, and ended it as Father of the multinational European Parliament.
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Within that neatly closed circle lay all the major political dramas of the 20th century, most of which he witnessed and some of which he influenced. He was centre stage for one of them — the unequal struggle against Hitler for the survival of his Austrian homeland, which he tried to conduct as an exiled Pretender in the 1930s. Not for nothing did the Führer call the triumphant march-in of March 12 1938 “Operation Otto”.

 Habsburg Statue

The New York Times obit


Otto von Hapsburg, the onetime heir to the imperial throne of Austria-Hungary, who during a long career in European politics was a strong proponent of unifying the divided continent, died Monday at his home in Pöcking, Germany. He was 98.

Otto was the eldest son of Charles I, the last emperor of Austria-Hungary, who ruled for just under two years, until the end of World War I also brought an end to his multiethnic empire in the heart of Europe and sent the family into exile.

Otto did not, however, fit the part of the exiled would-be monarch waiting for his throne to be restored. He remained deeply involved in the turbulent events of the last century, opposing the Nazi annexation of Austria and later serving two decades as a member of the European Parliament.

But you get a much better sense of the man when you read Lunch With the Holy Roman Emperor by Seth Lipsky

So, your excellency," I said during a lull in the conversation, "What do you make of the speculation that Waldheim, during part of his time at the United Nations, was a Soviet spy?"

That's when the Holy Roman Emperor turned to me, put down his fork and said, "I don't have the slightest doubt that Waldheim was a Soviet spy throughout his entire time at the United Nations." He surmised that the Soviet regime had known about Waldheim's service with the Nazis in Yugoslavia and had been using its knowledge against him throughout the postwar years.

 Otto Hapsburg

Europe bemoans death of the last heir to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire

Habsburg “peacefully passed away” yesterday morning (Mon), his family announced. They explained all of his seven children were at his death bed in Pöcking, Bavaria, Germany. He will be laid to rest at the Imperial Crypt (Kapuzinergruft) in the Austrian capital Vienna on 16 July. Viennese Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schönborn will hold a requiem mass at the city’s St Stephen’s Cathedral earlier on the same day.
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“Whole Europe is crying,” Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Othmar Karas said when being informed about the death of Habsburg.

Austrian Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann praised Habsburg for his clear stance against fascism, while CSU boss Horst Seehofer said he did a lot to help tearing down the Iron Curtain.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:00 AM | Permalink

Federal official bans "God" from veterans' funerals.

The director of the Houston National Cemetery, Arleen Ocasio, has taken upon herself to ban the words "God" and "Jesus Christ" from the burial ceremonies of deceased veterans. 

This federal bureaucrat - unelected of course - wants to personally approve each prayer in advance of a burial service just to make sure that those awful words don't sneak in.

I was gobsmacked when I first read about this.  A federal official censoring prayers, forbidding the mention of God at funerals for deceased veterans, sounds like a sick joke but it's not.  Where do they find these officious, meddling, preening, intolerant officials?

National Cemetery's Anti-Religious Policy Is an Injustice That Must Be Corrected

The thought that someone would have the audacity to censor religion and speech anywhere in this country is despicable. Censoring the funeral services of the veterans who spent their lives protecting the First Amendment is particularly malicious and simply unforgiveable. Director Ocasio is an unelected bureaucrat, non-veteran who is clearly out of touch with our veterans and the constitution.

She has apparently removed the Bible and the cross from the chapel. Shortly after she arrived at the cemetery, she shut down the chapel and turned it into a “meeting facility.” It is not the business of the federal government to be engaged in anti-religious activity, especially at what is considered by many to be a religious ceremony—the burial of one of our veterans. The philosophy behind such policies is anti-Christian, anti-religion and anti-American. According to the Constitution, it is the job of the federal government to protect speech and religion, not assail it.

The First Amendment is sacred; funerals are sacred, and when our veterans are buried, that soil becomes sacred. If these allegations are true, the director of the Houston National Cemetery should be terminated. The Houston National Cemetery is the final resting place for thousands of veterans who fought in places all over the world. The government’s attack on the very freedoms that they lived and died for is a blatant violation of the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion promised to all Americans in the Constitution.

UPDATED.  Michael Angley discusses the antecedents

In the case of the Houston cemetery’s bad attitude about faith, there are antecedents in both the civilian community and in the military. For decades, a vocal minority of anti-religious fanatics has taken the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and wrapped it around a lead pipe to beat people of faith into silence and to deny them their free exercise rights. We’re all familiar with the endless efforts by the ACLU to banish any form of religious expression in public schools and in the halls of government. Unfortunately, the military has not been immune from this kind of dysfunctional liberal overreach.
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In 2005, the USAF issued “Interim Guidelines Concerning Free Exercise of Religion in the Air Force.” These rules essentially prohibited military chaplains from performing anything but non-denominational prayers outside of a formal chapel service or mass. The problem for Christian chaplains, however, was that their faith required them to pray in the name of Jesus. Soon after, the other services began ramping up their anti-faith policies, and Navy chaplain LT Gordon Klingenschmitt found himself under fire for daring to disobey the ban. His insistence on praying in Jesus’s name resulted in his court-martial and dismissal from the service. Dissuading a Christian chaplain from praying in the name of Jesus is like telling a pilot that he cannot climb into the cockpit and fly the plane
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:38 AM | Permalink

July 4, 2011

For lack of a helmet

NY motorcyclist in helmet protest hits head, dies

A man riding bareheaded on one of about 550 motorcycles in an anti-helmet law rally lost control of his cycle, went over his handlebars, hit his head on the pavement and died, police said Sunday.

The motorcyclist, 55-year-old Philip A. Contos, likely would have survived the accident if he'd been wearing a helmet, state troopers said.

The accident happened Saturday afternoon in Onondaga, a town in central New York near Syracuse.

Contos was driving a 1983 Harley-Davidson on a helmet protest ride organized by the Onondaga chapter of American Bikers Aimed Towards Education, or ABATE, troopers said. The organization states that it encourages the voluntary use of helmets but opposes mandatory helmet laws.

Contos, of Parish, hit his brakes, and his motorcycle fishtailed and went out of control, flipping him over the handlebars, police said. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
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No other motorcycles were involved in the accident.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

July 3, 2011

Inventor of the Weed Eater, George Ballas dies at 85

In the Los Angeles Times, by Valerie Nelson,  George Ballas dies at 85; intrepid inventor created the Weed Eater

"He was laughed at by major corporations, who told him to take his idea and take a hike," his son said. "He started making it anyway, and it caught on like wildfire."

Within months of inventing the Weed Eater at his Houston home, Ballas had streamlined the design into a single strand of fishing line spun around by a lightweight motor.

"Simplicity of design was the key to its phenomenal success," Mechanix Illustrated magazine said in 1983.

Net sales rose from about $570,000 in 1972 to $41 million in 1976. The next year, Ballas sold the business to Emerson Electric Co. for an undisclosed amount.
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Within months of inventing the Weed Eater at his Houston home, Ballas had streamlined the design into a single strand of fishing line spun around by a lightweight motor.

"Simplicity of design was the key to its phenomenal success," Mechanix Illustrated magazine said in 1983.

Net sales rose from about $570,000 in 1972 to $41 million in 1976. The next year, Ballas sold the business to Emerson Electric Co. for an undisclosed amount.

Son of a Greek immigrant , a bombardier in the Army Air Forces during World War II, he met his future wife when he saw her perform the flamenco. 

Ballas worked in dance studios, managing Arthur Murray and Fred Astaire locations and trouble-shooting for franchises.  After he sold his dance hall in 1970, he went into commercial real estate and a year later invented the weed-eater.

While driving through an automatic carwash in 1971, George Ballas watched the whirling nylon bristles glide around the contour of his vehicle and wondered if he could adapt the technology to remove the weeds around trees in his yard.

At home, he punched holes in a tin can, threaded it with wire and fishing line and bolted it to a rotating lawn edger. He called it the Weed Eater, and when he couldn't sell the concept, he founded his own company and built it into a $40-million-a-year business. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:07 PM | Permalink

"One less dog"

Muslim gangs disrupt Christian funerals in Holland

From a news broadcast by the Dutch network Uitgesproken, a report on Muslim thugs who purposefully interrupt, usually violently, Christian funeral processions

Members of the "Religion of Peace" taunt the grieving family and friends with shouts of "one less dog!" in reference to the dearly departed.

Video at the link.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:35 PM | Permalink

July 2, 2011

Federal official bans "God" from veterans' funerals.

The director of the Houston National Cemetery, Arleen Ocasio, has taken upon herself to ban the words "God" and "Jesus Christ" from the burial ceremonies of deceased veterans. 

This federal bureaucrat - unelected of course - wants to personally approve each prayer in advance of a burial service just to make sure that those awful words don't sneak in.

I was gobsmacked when I first read about this.  A federal official censoring prayers, forbidding the mention of God at funerals for deceased veterans, sounds like a sick joke but it's not.  Where do they find these officious, meddling, preening, intolerant officials?

National Cemetery's Anti-Religious Policy Is an Injustice That Must Be Corrected

The thought that someone would have the audacity to censor religion and speech anywhere in this country is despicable. Censoring the funeral services of the veterans who spent their lives protecting the First Amendment is particularly malicious and simply unforgiveable. Director Ocasio is an unelected bureaucrat, non-veteran who is clearly out of touch with our veterans and the constitution.

She has apparently removed the Bible and the cross from the chapel. Shortly after she arrived at the cemetery, she shut down the chapel and turned it into a “meeting facility.” It is not the business of the federal government to be engaged in anti-religious activity, especially at what is considered by many to be a religious ceremony—the burial of one of our veterans. The philosophy behind such policies is anti-Christian, anti-religion and anti-American. According to the Constitution, it is the job of the federal government to protect speech and religion, not assail it.

The First Amendment is sacred; funerals are sacred, and when our veterans are buried, that soil becomes sacred. If these allegations are true, the director of the Houston National Cemetery should be terminated. The Houston National Cemetery is the final resting place for thousands of veterans who fought in places all over the world. The government’s attack on the very freedoms that they lived and died for is a blatant violation of the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion promised to all Americans in the Constitution.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

July 1, 2011

I buried my mother 15 years ago... but now she's turned up ALIVE

You can't beat this headline.

I buried my mother 15 years ago... but now she's turned up ALIVE

A woman who thought she had buried her mother 15 years ago got a shock when the old woman turned up alive and in Florida.

Grace Kivisto, 56, from Knox County, Illinois, was told human remains found in a local brickyard in 1996 belonged to her mother.

But investigators using DNA analysis last week told her family the remains were not those of their missing relative.

Then, yesterday, detectives told Mrs Kivisto her missing mother had been found, alive and well, in Jacksonville, Florida.

She told WQAD.com: 'I was out gardening, and a detective came to tell me that they had found my mother. Alive!'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

"The water got murkier and murkier"

The little boy who was with Marie Joseph on Sunday went to the lifeguard to tell him that she had fallen into the pool, the state-run Veterans Memorial pool at Lafayette Park in Fall River, Massachusetts.

He was ignored.

 Mariejoseph Poolvictim

Sunday, Monday, people swam in the pool and never noticed the dead body in the deep end.  Neither did the lifeguards.

Monday, health inspectors came by and noticed the city permit had expired, but they didn't notice the dead body.

The pool had not been inspected in about a year, and its permit had expired Dec. 31

State inspectors returned on Tuesday to inspect the pool.  They called the water "cloudy," yet passed the pool anyway because the chlorine and pH level checked out normal.

It was a young couple that jumped the pool's fence for an late night illicit swim who discovered the body of Mary Joseph.

Edward Lambert Jr., DCR commissioner and former Fall River mayor, said he also put the “pool’s entire staff” on administrative leave, the same step Flanagan took for his health inspectors.

“We express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Marie Joseph,” Lambert said in a statement yesterday, adding his agency is cooperating with a police probe.
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Yet city officials charged with inspecting pools elsewhere said a pool as cloudy as Fall River’s should never have been opened.

“It’s a safety hazard. If that pool is so murky you couldn’t see the bottom, you couldn’t see that there was a corpse there, then there’s something really wrong with the clarity of that pool,” said Frank Singleton, director of Lowell’s Health Department. “It should have been closed and had the clarity restored.

Lifeguards and swimmers who were at the pool Monday and Tuesday told investigators the water had become murky since Sunday, raising the grisly possibility the body’s decomposition may have been contributing to the decreasing clarity.

“The water got murkier and murkier,’’ said Gregg Miliote,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:15 AM | Permalink