Pic of the Day

Click to enlargeAP Photo/Wong Maye-E

Ben Atreu Flegel, 25, a German survivor of the Asian tsunami who lost his grandparents ten years ago in this very beach, stands facing the sea in quiet reflection during a commemoration and religious ceremony for German, Austrian and Swiss victims of the tsunami, Friday, Dec. 26, 2014, in Khao Lak, Thailand. Dec. 26 marks the 10th anniversary of one of the deadliest natural disasters in world history: a tsunami, triggered by a massive earthquake off the Indonesian coast, that left more than 230,000 people dead in 14 countries and caused about $10 billion in damage.

We watched the tsunami coming from thousands of miles away.

Kinfolk were visiting for the holidays and one of them – a science teacher – had an app on his iPhone for global alerts of planet-affecting events. We knew of the tsunami alert before the poor buggers on the beaches of Thailand.

Pic of the Day

Pearl Harbor survivor Stan Swartz bows his head after the national anthem at the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor at the WW II Valor in the Pacific National Monument in Honolulu, Hawaii December 7, 2012.

Let us remember absent friends.

Boat sinks – fisherman survives 26 hours floating in fish crate

Coast guard rescue swimmer, dropped from helicopter, readies Harris to be winched to safety

An Alaska fisherman survived for a day floating on frigid ocean waters in a plastic fish crate after his boat sank and said he kept up his spirits by singing.

Ryan Harris, 19, told the local newspaper in Sitka, Alaska, that he sang songs like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to keep himself awake through the night as the fishing crate bobbed on the waves.

Harris told the Sitka Sentinel that he gave himself a “pep talk,” saying for hours on end: “I’m Ryan Hunter Harris and I’m not going to die here.”

Harris and his fishing partner, boat skipper Stonie Huffman, went into the water late on Friday when their 28-foot vessel sank off Sitka, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Huffman found a survival suit in the debris, donned it and was able to swim to shore before flagging down rescuers, the Coast Guard said.

But Harris spent an estimated 26 hours in the plastic fish tote before he was found by another fishing crew, the Coast Guard said. The fishing crew called for help, and a Coast Guard helicopter crew hoisted Harris to safety on Saturday.

He was in relatively good shape when spotted by the other fishing crew, despite his ordeal at sea, Coast Guard Petty Officer Grant DeVuyst told Reuters…

“He was active. He was waving his arms,” DeVuyst said. “He was conscious…”

He did exactly the right things, he kept his wits about him, he kept his mind and spirits pumped up, he worked at being optimistic about survival and rescue.

I just wish he knew a better range of songs.

Lizard survives 3,000 miles in suitcase, ½ hour in washing machine

Sue Banwell-Moore and Larry the lizard

A hardy lizard that stowed away in a tourist’s suitcase survived a 3,000-mile flight from Cape Verde to the UK – and then endured a full cycle in a washing machine.

The lizard, which has been named Larry, is thought to have clambered into Sue Banwell-Moore’s suitcase as she packed following a two-week holiday on the islands off the west coast of Africa.

Larry survived the six-hour flight in the luggage hold of a passenger jet and arrived back at Banwell-Moore’s home in Somerset. But its ordeal did not end there. Banwell-Moore scooped up the hapless reptile in a pile of dirty clothes and stuffed it into her washing machine.

She only spotted the lizard as she was hanging out the washing following the 30-minute delicates cycle…

Larry is now being cared for at a wildlife park.

Larry has now made the rather less ambitious 25-mile journey to the Tropiquaria wildlife park in Williton, Somerset. Banwell-Moore added: “I realised what the poor thing had been through and I sort of fell in love with it. I keep ringing Tropiquaria and he seems to be doing OK…

Good for you, Larry.

One year after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords with her husband, Mark Kelly, led the pledge of allegiance
Photo: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

The sun had fallen and a crowd had gathered on a chilly Sunday night on the mall at the University of Arizona at the start of the last event marking the first anniversary of the mass shooting here a year ago. The event started with a leading of the Pledge of Allegiance.

And the person leading it was Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

The crowd responded with cheers and gasps as Ms. Giffords, wearing a bright red scarf, walked slowly across the stage, helped at times by Ron Barber, her chief of staff who was also shot that day and who was leading the vigil on Sunday. And with no apparent difficulty, Ms. Giffords led the crowd through the pledge, holding her right arm with her left hand. She finished with a clear, broad smile to the audience and slowly walked off the stage.

It was a dramatic footnote to the end of two days of ceremony here that were remarkable for how understated they were. A year ago, after the shooting spree that left 6 dead and 13 wounded, including Ms. Giffords, residents of this city gathered in an expression of grief and shock that lasted for weeks. There were a blur of funerals, a crush of flowers, candles and well-wishers on the expanse of lawn at the hospital where victims were taken, and a visit by President Obama that drew thousands.

On this anniversary, there was the candlelight vigil, an interdenominational prayer service and a ringing of bells at 10:11 a.m., marking the moment of the attack, and the reading of the names of the victims. There was Ms. Giffords herself visiting places that have become landmarks of the attack: the Safeway supermarket at the parking lot where the shootings took place and the Internsive Care Unit at the University of Arizona Medical Center where those injured in the shootings were treated…

For Tucson, this is a turning point as it searches for a way to mark the tragedy — to give it meaning beyond the day itself — without the images from the Safeway parking lot becoming the first thing people think of at the mention of Tucson.

We refuse to let this tragic day define us,” Patricia Maisch, one of the women who wrested the gun from the shooter, said at a service memorializing the victims at a hall at the University of Arizona.

There will be no aid from the Governor of Arizona, her Republican counterparts in the state legislature or those Republicans elected to represent the people of Arizona in Congress. They will blithely trot out their “understanding” of the murders in terms hackneyed enough to be two centuries away from reality.

Republicans and teabaggers alike will give thanks to a Democrat Party so cowed by the political clout and lobbying dollars of the NRA and the gun industry’s predominant cartel, the Freedom Group, they wouldn’t say “boo” to a 12-year-old carrying an Uzi.

The survivors of the murders will carry on alone – except for the millions of Americans of good will and courage who care about freedom for those who defend Free Speech without needing concealed weapons.

Japan tsunami survivor rescued 10 miles out at sea

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

A 60-year-old man has been found on the roof of his floating house nearly 10 miles out at sea, two days after the tsunami that devastated the north-east coast of Japan.

Hiromitsu Shinkawa must have resigned himself to his fate when he was swept away by the retreating tsunami that roared ashore in his home town of Minami Soma in Fukushima prefecture…

Incredibly, he was spotted by a maritime self-defence force destroyer taking part in the rescue effort as he clung to the wreckage with one hand and waved a self-made red flag with the other. He had been at sea for two days.

Reports said that on being handed a drink aboard the rescue boat, Shinkawa gulped it down and immediately burst into tears. His wife, with whom he had returned home as the tsunami approached, is still missing.

He was quoted as saying: “No helicopters or boats that came nearby noticed me. I thought that day was going to be the last day of my life.”

Officials said Shinkawa was in good condition after being taken to hospital by helicopter.

“I ran away after I heard a tsunami was coming,” he told Jiji Press. “But I turned back to fetch something from home and was swept away. I was rescued while hanging on to the roof of my house.”

The self-defence forces said the good weather and calm waters had allowed Shinkawa to stay alive during his 48-hour drift.

We’ve had this discussion before. Some days you have good luck. Some days you have bad luck.

The only silliness that gets added on top of that is prattle about some invisible being or spirit guiding your destiny. Poisonally, I would save up to prepare a hell of a thank-you meal for the folks aboard the Choukai who finally spotted me.

Farmer aided by Shirley Sherrod is a USS Yorktown survivor!

Sinking of the USS Yorktown in the Battle of Midway

Roger Spooner, the farmer who appeared today on news shows backing up Shirley Sherrod’s story, and who was accused by Andrew Breitbart of being a liar and a “plant,” is not just a lifelong friend of Sherrod; he’s also a veteran of the Battle of Midway.

It’s been more than 67 years since Roger Spooner stood on the deck of the U.S.S. Yorktown, watching an air parade of kamikaze pilots dive into the carrier while he loaded 54-pound shells to fire at circling Japanese planes in a frantic attempt to keep the ship from sinking at the Battle of Midway.

While 165 men on the Yorktown died that day, 85 survived. Some of them remember portions of that day in June. Others remember most of what happened.

“I remember all of it,” Spooner said.

Spooner can almost smell the sea water mixed with oil when he talks about the day the Yorktown was sunk. Spooner and many of his mates spent about 10 hours bobbing up and down in the Pacific in nothing more than their skivvies and a life jacket.

“The dive bombers were coming down right on top of us, straight out of the sun,” Spooner said. “There was nothing we could do with them.”

Spooner said he remembers abandoning the Yorktown and diving into the ocean at about 2:30 p.m. He was rescued by a cruiser about 10 hours later.

That’s a long time to be alone with your thoughts.

“I thought about Iron City,” said Spooner, who joined the Navy in late October, 1941. Two weeks later, Pearl Harbor was bombed and Spooner was thrust straight into the war with no time to go home. “I didn’t think I was ever going to get back.”

I thought this might be the case the first time I saw Roger Spooner and his wife Eloise on TV. Not too many folks get to walk around with that Yorktown hat. Not too many left alive.

Most regulars here know I take a personal stake in the rights and needs of veterans. Especially World War 2 – because so many of my family and friends were personally affected by that war against fascism.

Creeps like Brietbart need to take their libertarian teabags and stick them where the sun don’t shine.