Director charged over crew death while producing Greg Allman biopic

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The director of a biopic about singer Gregg Allman, and two of the film’s producers, are facing involuntary manslaughter charges.

It follows a fatal train crash on the film’s set in south east Georgia in February, which led to the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones.

A grand jury charged Randall Miller, producer Jody Savin and executive producer Jay Sedrish…

Jones, 27, was hit by a train on the first day of filming Midnight Rider.

Seven other crew members were injured in the incident, which saw the camera assistant fatally struck after the crew placed a bed on the railway tracks in Doctortown while filming a dream sequence.

It is understood the crew were expecting two local trains to pass through, but a third had arrived unexpectedly. A warning whistle was blown, but they had less than a minute to remove the bed from the track.

Miller, Savin and Sedrish are each charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass, according to a statement from local district attorney Jackie Johnson…

It remains unclear whether the crew had permission to be on the tracks. Local police investigators say they did have permission to be on property nearby.

The manslaughter charges against the film team could bring a possible sentence of 10 years in prison under Georgia law…

Filming on Midnight Rider was suspended in the aftermath of the train tragedy, and actor William Hurt – who was due to play Allman – pulled out of the production.

I haven’t any personal insight into the case. Though I spent an important though small portion of my life with folks deeply committed to the craft of acting all I can say is there wasn’t any uniform opinion of producers or directors, film or stage. Most discussion resolved to questions of political courage or cowardice – for that was in the darkest days of the blacklist throughout this so-called land of freedom.

Thanks, Mike

NYC Police protocol questioned after 9 bystanders shot

The encounter was breathtakingly brief: a surveillance video showed a gunman outside the Empire State Building on Friday pulling a pistol, pointing it at two police officers, their firing at him and his falling to the sidewalk.

All the yelling and cries of pain occurred out of camera view, just north of where the gunman, Jeffrey T. Johnson, collapsed and died: nine bystanders were struck, cradling bloody arms or lying on the sidewalks and curbs.

The police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, confirmed on Saturday that all nine were wounded by police bullets, bullet fragments or shrapnel from ricochets. Mr. Kelly also confirmed that the shooter, Mr. Johnson, never fired another shot after killing a former co-worker, Steven Ercolino, moments earlier…

It was the second time in two weeks that police officers fired fusillades on the crowded streets of Midtown — 28 shots fired between the two episodes — and with it, there were once again questions of police protocol in urban settings. In the first shooting, no bystanders were struck when officers fired 12 shots at a man with a knife just south of Times Square…

In many police shootings, stray shots are almost inevitable; a study based on New York’s annual firearms discharge reports indicated that officers hit their targets 34 percent of the time…

The patrol guide, the department’s manual, states that officers should not fire their weapons when, “in their professional judgment, doing so will unnecessarily endanger innocent persons.”

Of the nine bystanders wounded, at least two remained hospitalized in stable condition on Saturday…

Most folks understand the danger of the job. Most folks can see the difficulty of getting into a shootout with a suspect in a heavy duty urban situation. That doesn’t excuse the overkill we see again and again, with dozens of wild shots.

RTFA for anecdotal tales of other shootouts in NYC, decisions offered by the city that sometimes make sense, sometimes nothing but covering blue butt.

Salt Lake City hotel evacuated because of bear repellent

A housekeeper was hospitalized Sunday after a can of bear spray discharged in the Marriott Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.

The woman was pushing her housekeeping cart on the 6th floor of the hotel, near 100 South and West Temple, when the cart bumped a can of bear spray that had been left on the floor of the hall.

The can sprayed when it was struck, shooting out a substance that “is like pepper spray, only 10 times stronger,” said Salt Lake City battallion fire chief Clair Baldwin. Investigators were trying to determine why the can was left in the hallway.

The woman was unable to open her eyes after being exposed to the spray, so she was taken to a hospital, Baldwin said. All guests at the hotel were evacuated for about a half hour while crews ventilated the building.

WTF? I never stayed in a hotel as snazzy as the Marriott when I used to be on the road in that neck of the prairie. My budget didn’t allow for that level of classiness.

But, even in the lower-priced motels near downtown, I don’t think anyone was ever worried enough about bears strolling in from the woods to bring a can of bear repellent indoors!

Bomb factory found in San Diego rental home

The man accused of turning his North County rental home into a makeshift “bomb factory” initially denied to authorities last week that he had anything explosive in his backyard, according to a search warrant affidavit returned Tuesday morning at Vista Superior Court.

Authorities who were called to the home on Via Scott on Thursday said George Djura Jakubec, 54, “appeared evasive and nervous during his conversation” with an Escondido fire captain, despite the fact that a gardener had just been injured in an explosion there, the warrant said…

After continued questioning, investigators got Jakubec to admit to possessing additional explosives and bomb-making materials that were in the backyard and inside the house, the court documents said.

The nine to 12 pounds of chemicals — hexamethelyne triperoxide diamine, pentaerythritol tetranitrate and erythritol tetranitrate — turned out to represent the largest such find in a single location in the United States, prosecutors later said. Thirteen grenades wrapped with shrapnel and nine detonators also were found.

Bomb technicians were still determining Tuesday how to clear the home of the highly dangerous and volatile cache of chemicals, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Caldwell. The house remained sealed off, and the residents of two neighboring houses have not been allowed to return home.

Jakubec remains jailed in Vista on $5 million bail. He has been charged with 26 counts of manufacturing or possessing explosives. He also was charged with robbing two banks in San Diego this year…

The gardener who was injured, Mario Garcia, was recovering from his injuries at home and said Tuesday he gives thanks every day that he survived the blast. He and his wife are staying with their daughters in Fallbrook after losing their home to foreclosure a few months ago.

RTFA. One of those cautionary tales that suggests you treat your neighbors with due respect – but, keep an eye on what they bury in the backyard.

Soldier injured in Afghanistan denied holiday refund

A soldier badly injured while fighting in Afghanistan has been left £700 out of pocket after travel agents refused to refund his cancelled holiday.

Lance Sergeant David Hesketh was due to fly out to Majorca with his wife Heather on June 20. He had been due back to the UK for a two-week break from the frontline in time for the holiday and Mrs Hesketh, 30, had planned the four-day getaway as a surprise.

But the 36-year-old. from Penwortham, Preston, suffered severe burns in a blast in Helmand Province last month and spent two weeks in a military hospital. His injuries are so severe he cannot expose them to UV light for at least 12 months.

But when his wife tried to cancel the holiday, London-based Fleetway Travel refused to give a refund…

Mr Hesketh, who has a three-year-old daughter Charlotte and two stepchildren, Jack and Sophie, added: “We just wanted to have a break to relax. It had been a hard tour and Heather was going to surprise me with it when I came home on leave. Then Fleetway told us that as a goodwill gesture they would give us part of the money back if we sent them an email. They wouldn’t let us change the names, so we couldn’t sell it on.

“But when we sent the message they sent us an email back saying the offer had expired and they’re not going to give us anything. It’s just not fair.”

A spokesman for Fleetway Travel said: “Whilst we genuinely sympathise with Mr Hesketh’s situation, we do encourage clients to take out travel insurance to cover any eventualities that may occur which prevents them from travelling.

“Finally, we wish Mr Hesketh a speedy and full recovery.”

Fleetway Travel can stick their best wishes for David Hesketh – and their business – where the sun don’t shine!

Federal Court reinforces standards limiting the use of Tasers

Police officer defending himself from kitty scratch post

In a case that could set the first broad judicial standards for the use of Tasers, a federal appeals court in California has ruled that the police can be held liable for using one of the devices against an unarmed person during a traffic stop.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, said the electrically disabling device constituted excessive force when used against an unarmed man who did not pose a threat, and it refused to allow a police officer immunity for its use.

In a vividly worded opinion issued by the court this week, Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw described a “bad morning” for Carl Bryan, a 21-year-old Californian who drove over large stretches of Southern California to retrieve car keys mistakenly taken by a friend and ended up being Tasered by a Coronado, Calif., policeman and breaking four teeth when he fell to the ground.

Mr. Bryan was stopped twice on his driving odyssey, once for speeding and once for not wearing his seat belt. After the second stop, he was “agitated, standing outside his car, yelling gibberish and hitting his thighs, clad only in his boxer shorts and tennis shoes,” the court said.

The judge noted, however, that Mr. Bryan did not threaten the officer, Brian McPherson, and was not trying to flee — all elements of a three-part test that the United States Supreme Court has used to determine when significant force is justified. As for the third factor in the court’s test, the severity of the offense at issue, the Ninth Circuit judges observed that “traffic violations generally will not support the use of a significant level of force.”

The court found that the policeman’s use of force so exceeded the threat posed by Mr. Bryan that it denied his request for immunity for his actions and for a quick dismissal of the case against him. Instead, the judges will allow the case to go forward.

Ah-hah! Wouldn’t it be nice, once in a while, if our government stepped away from the usual Federalist rationales and actually developed standards for law and jurisprudence – instead of wallowing around for several years, state by state, up through regional jurisdictions – just to establish something as simple as reasonable procedures?

Let the dweebs who refuse standards-based law waste their money on appeals.

Should hospitals be allowed to deport illegal immigrants? – UPDATED

Old Hospital Photo

On his ride back to Indiantown from a landscaping job one afternoon nearly a decade ago, Luis Alberto Jimenez’s destiny collided with the front end of a stolen van. The impact killed two passengers in the car he was in and landed the van’s drunken driver, Donald Flewellen, in prison for nearly 10 years on a DUI manslaughter charge.

The crash also left Jimenez, an illegal Guatemalan immigrant, with debilitating injuries and the cognitive ability of a fourth-grader.

Jimenez has become the center of a legal battle between the hospital that flew him back to Guatemala after spending more than $1 million on his care and Jimenez’s family members who say the hospital falsely imprisoned him and deported him so it would no longer have to pay to treat him. The case is at the forefront of national debates on health care and immigration…

Against objections from Montejo (Jimenez’ cousin) and his attorney – after two years – a judge eventually sided with Martin Memorial. Montejo filed an appeal, but less than a day later hospital officials took Jimenez to Guatemala on a chartered jet…

An appeals court in 2004 overturned Judge Fennelly’s decision, saying he had no jurisdiction to authorize the return…

Martin Memorial officials declined last week to comment on the specifics of the case. They said their situation reflects those of hospitals across the country.

“Unfortunately, the cost of providing that care is rising and the burden of paying the health care bill for many undocumented immigrants is falling on hospitals and health systems that simply cannot afford to pay it,” hospital communications director Ronda Wilburn said in an e-mail.

I don’t know of another country that spends so much time feeling guilty over the plight of those who enter the country illegally. Educating children, providing medical care, job assistance – in some jurisdictions, the needs of illegal migrant laborers seem to take precedence over American citizens, whether by birth or naturalization.

Should be an interesting case to follow.

UPDATE: The Jury found on behalf of the hospital.

Drop a computer on your head, lately?

Home computer-related injuries have increased more than sevenfold, with children hurt most often, data reveal.

Over 78,000 patients were treated for such injuries in US hospitals between 1994 and 2006, and 93% of the trips, bumps and falls occurred in the home.

Over the 13-year study period the injury rate increased by 732%, which is more than double the increase in household computer ownership.

Children under five had the highest injury rate, mainly due to falls after tripping over cables or head injuries from falling monitors.

Similarly, in the UK computer-related accidents in the home sharply increased from around 800 in 1995 to more than 1,800 in 1999 and 2,100 in 2002 – the latest figures available.

A third of the incidents in 2002 involved a child under the age of 15, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa).

Although most result in minor bumps and bruises, some injuries can be more serious. One case in 1998 involved a six-year-old boy who was burned by a fire caused by spilling a drink on a computer.

So, is the problem caused by these critters being purchased and set-up by consumers – who don’t have a clue about safety? Or are the children of the Western World simply becoming klutzier?

I think it’s the former. After all, we’re talking about people who try to pick up lawnmowers to trim the hedge.

From the Front Lines in the Swat Valley…

They used to attack early in the morning or after dark. They would always go for an ambush,’ said Lieutenant Zaigham, wounded in battle with the Taliban and lying in a hospital.

Zaigham – who did not give his full name – sustained shrapnel wounds from fierce street fighting in the Swat valley and is a patient at the Combined Military Hospital in Rawalpindi, away from the combat in the northwest.

Lying in bed with bandaged wounds, he and fellow soldiers spoke of intense battles against heavily-armed insurgents, who put up stiff resistance and are often able to outflank Pakistan’s well-equipped and motivated soldiers…

From May 4 to May 17, when Zaigham was wounded, his unit advanced slowly from Khwazakhela in northern Swat to the nearby town of Matta, which has long been under Taliban control.

‘There were strong resistance during the entire journey but we managed to clear the area. They buried mines and planted IEDs (improvised explosive devices) every 50 metres,’ he said…

‘They positioned snipers in holes made out of the walls of houses. They used civilians as human shields. They used to attack from houses and roofs.’

‘They are well equipped, they have mortars. They have rockets, sniper rifles and every type of sophisticated weapons,’ said Zaigham.

‘I am certain that foreign elements are behind these militants. Can I ask something very simple – who are their sponsors? What their sources of funding? Who runs their logistics?’ he said.

Only a few of the questions raised by this report from the front lines.

A useful and informative report. Classic journalism helping the people of a nation and citizens of the whole world to understand the course of Pakistan’s battle against insurgent Islamist brutality.

Danger of heavy toilet seats to male toddlers – OMG

UK doctors have expressed considerable concerns about the growing trend for heavy wooden and ornamental toilet seats after a number of male toddlers were admitted with crush injuries to their penises.

Dr Joe Philip and his colleagues at Leighton Hospital, Crewe, report on four boys under the age of four, who were admitted with injuries serious enough to require an overnight stay.

“As Christmas approaches many families will be visiting relatives and friends and their recently toilet trained toddlers will be keen to show how grown up they are by going to the toilet on their own,” he says.

“It is important that parents check out the toilet seats in advance, not to mention the ones they have in their own homes, and accompany their children if necessary.

The four boys, aged from two to four, all attended as urological emergencies. All had been recently toilet trained and they were using the toilet on their own. They had lifted the toilet seats, which had then fallen back down, crushing their penises.

Eeoouw! That’s gonna leave a mark.