TIME Italy

Disgraced Concordia Captain Was ‘Trying to Impress Passengers’

ITALY-SHIPPING-TOURISM-DISASTER-TRIAL
Costa Concordia's captain Francesco Schettino attends the resumption of his trial on December 2, 2014 in Grosseto, Italy. Giuseppe Cacace —AFP/Getty Images

Francesco Schettino claims he wanted to give passengers a better view of a nearby island when the ship ran aground

The captain of the ill-fated Costa Concordia that crashed off the coast of Italy in January 2012 said his disastrous decision to sail into shallow waters was fueled by a desire to impress the ship’s passengers, according to the BBC.

While taking the stand for the first time during his trial for manslaughter in Grosseto, Italy on Tuesday, Francesco Schettino said he was aiming to give passengers a better view of the holiday island of Giglio, while also saluting a former captain who lived there and doing a favor to the vessel’s head waiter, who was from the island.

“I wanted to kill three birds with one stone,” explained Schettino.

He denied the rumor that he made the risky maneuver to impress a female friend.

Thirty-two people died after the ship crashed into rocks near the shore and the boat listed on its side. The resumption of Schettino’s trial comes a month after authorities successfully recovered the last body from the cruise ship’s wreckage.

The captain was vilified in the media and dubbed “Italy’s most hated man” after an audio recording revealed that he defied orders from the Italian Coast Guard and fled the ship after ordering an evacuation, while hundreds of passengers remained on board.

[BBC]

TIME India

Indians Mark 30th Anniversary of Bhopal Disaster

India Bhopal Anniversary
Members of student groups and activists of social organizations participate in a vigil to express solidarity with Bhopal survivors on the eve of its 30th anniversary in Bangalore, India, on Dec. 2, 2014 Aijaz Rahi—AP

Even today, thousands of children are born with brain damage, missing palates and twisted limbs because of their parents' exposure to the toxic gas

BHOPAL, India (AP) — Indians marked the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal gas leak tragedy Wednesday with protests demanding harsher punishments for those responsible and more compensation for the victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster.

On the morning of Dec. 3, 1984, a pesticide plant run by Union Carbide leaked about 40 tons of deadly methyl isocyanate gas into the air of Bhopal, quickly killing about 4,000 people. Lingering effects of the poison raised the death toll to about 15,000 over the next few years, according to government estimates.

In all, at least 500,000 people were affected, the Indian government says. Thirty years later, activists say thousands of children are born with brain damage, missing palates and twisted limbs because of their parents’ exposure to the gas or water contaminated by it.

The disaster remains an open wound in India, where many consider Union Carbide’s $470 million settlement with the Indian government an insult.

Ram Pyari, a Bhopal victim, said the tragedy haunts his life.

“Everything was destroyed,” he said Tuesday during an evening vigil. “And my sons and my daughter-in-law died, my leg was amputated. I have to drag myself. These killers did not heed anything. Why are they not brought to court? Why are they not hanged?”

Union Carbide is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Co. Dow says it has no liability however because it bought the company responsible for the plant more than a decade after the cases had been settled.

TIME tragedy

Ticket Waived for Teen Who Dozed at Wheel in Fatal Car Wreck

Five of his family members were killed in the accident

A ticket will be waived for a teen who dozed off at the wheel, causing a car crash that took the lives of five of his family members.

The Texas teen, whose name has not been released, said he fell asleep at the wheel of his family’s car around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The family was driving through Louisiana at the time, on their way to Disney World in Florida for Thanksgiving.

The car hit the median and ultimately flipped, causing six of the eight people in the car to be ejected from the vehicle. Five of those family members died. They included parents Michael and Trudi Hardman, and kids Dakota Watson, 15, Kaci Hardman, 4, and Adam Hardman, 7.

The driver was initially issued a ticket for the accident, but that was then waived. “This young man has been punished enough,” Louisiana Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones said, The News Star reports. “There is no need to add to his pain. The ticket will be dismissed.”

[The News Star]

TIME tragedy

Father of 12-Year-Old Shot by Cleveland Police: ‘Why Not Taze Him’

This undated photo provided by the family's attorney shows Tamir Rice, 12.
This undated photo provided by the family's attorney shows Tamir Rice, 12 AP

The father of a Cleveland boy who was fatally shot by local police on a playground Saturday raised questions about the use of live ammunition against his slain son on Sunday.

Police approached Tamir Rice, age 12, with weapons drawn, after a caller told emergency services a “guy with a gun was pointing it at people” in Cudell Commons Park, Cleveland.com reports. Police say Rice reached for the handle of a BB gun tucked into his waistband, which they mistook for a real weapon. The caller reportedly said on two occasions that the weapon was most likely a “fake.”

The responding officers fired two shots, one of which struck Rice in the abdomen.

“Why not taze him,” Gregory Henderson asked in a Sunday press conference following the shooting. “You shot him twice, not once, and at the end of the day you all don’t shoot for the legs, you shoot for the upper body.”

The department will open a lethal force investigation, which will be submitted to the prosecutor’s office within 90 days, officials said during a Monday press conference. They declined to release video footage capturing the incident on tape or to comment on the officer’s conduct, except to say that he was “very distraught” over what happened.

“The facsimile weapon in this incident was indistinguishable from a real firearm,” said police Chief Calvin Williams.

NBC reported Monday afternoon that a grand jury will hear the case.

Asked if the city was prepared for protests similar to the ones that shook the city of Ferguson, Missouri, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson replied, “Whatever comes, we’re prepared to handle it.”

[Cleveland.com]

TIME shooting

Connected to Both Sides, Relatives in Washington Shooting Seek Answers

Students and community members attend a vigil at the Grove Church, after a school shooting that occurred at Marysville-Pilchuck High School earlier in the day in Marysville, Wash., on Oct. 24, 2014 Matt Mills McKnight—EPA

Compounding the tragedy of the Marysville high school shooting in Washington State on Friday is the fact that many people in the small community are connected to both the attacker and the victims.

And the young relatives of the boy who opened fire at a Washington high school on Friday — killing one student and seriously injuring four before fatally shooting himself — said they just can’t figure out why the shooter decided to do what he did.

“It’s just confusing, a lot of questions aren’t answered, I just don’t know why,” Austen James, who said he’s related to the shooter.

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

TIME Health Care

Terminally Ill Woman Explains Her Decision to Die

"I don't want to die"

A 29-year-old terminally-ill woman in Oregon defended in a new interview Tuesday her decision to forgo aggressive cancer treatment in favor of physician-assisted suicide.

“I don’t want to die,” Brittany Maynard said on CBS.”If anyone wants to hand me, like, a magical cure and save my life so that I can have children with my husband, you know, I will take them up on it.”

In the interview, Maynard’s husband and mother explain how they came to terms with Brittany’s decision.

“The idea of wanting my wife at my side forever—that was the original plan, right?” said Dan Diaz, Maynard’s husband “But the reality that I guess that feeds into the argument of quality of life versus just quantity.”

Maynard said her goal is to make it to Nov. 1 before allowing herself to die. She moved to Oregon because it allows certain types of physician assisted-suicide.

[CBS]

TIME tragedy

Co-Founder of a Refuge for Elephants Is Accidentally Killed by an Elephant

Jim Laurita
Jim Laurita, executive director and foounder of Hope Elephants, feeds a carrot to one of the two retired circus elephants at his not-for-profit rehabilitation and educational facility in Hope, Maine on Nov. 13, 2012. Robert F. Bukaty_AP

Hope Elephants, which cares for two aging former circus elephants, described James Laurita's passion for the animals as "boundless"

A retired circus elephant has unintentionally killed a founder of the shelter where it lived.

James Laurita, a veterinarian and co-founder of Hope Elephants, died on Tuesday when one of the Maine-based refuge’s elephants stepped on him, the Portland Press Herald reports. His death has been ruled a tragic accident.

“The elephant was not aggressive in any way,” Mark Belserene, administrator for the state medical examiner’s office, told the Associated Press. “It was clearly an accident.”

Officials said Laurita, 56, was found unresponsive in the nonprofit’s barn in Hope, some 87 miles northeast of Portland, Maine. He appeared to have fallen down and hit his head before the elephant stepped on him, officials said.

Laurita first worked with elephants as a juggler and elephant handler in the Carson & Barnes Circus in the 1970s and ’80s, according to the Portland Press Herald. He later opened a veterinarian practice in Camden, Maine, but in 2011 sold it to found Hope Elephants with his brother, who had been a ringmaster in the same circus. The center tended to two elephants, Rosie and Opal, with whom Laurita had worked in the traveling circus and who suffered from a range of medical problems related to their big-top careers.

Laurita lived with his family in the Portland area.

“Jim’s passion for all animals, but especially elephants, was boundless,” wrote the Hope Foundation in a statement posted to their Facebook page. “It was Jim’s ability to share that passion with all around him that not only helped to make our organization a reality, but also enriched and enhanced the lives of all those who had a chance to know Jim.”

The refuge has one other elephant handler on staff and an emergency plan is in place to ensure that the animals are cared for, according to the Portland Press Herald. Meanwhile, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been called to investigate the center, the newspaper said.

Hope Elephant’s Twitter account, last updated in December 2012, described the two elephants as acclimating well to their new home in Maine, munching on hay and lounging in the sunshine.

“Opal is throwing sand and trumpeting,” reads the last post. “Seems like joy from where I stand.”

TIME Accident

Chicago Church Sorry for Falling Gargoyle That Killed Mom

Chicago Cityscapes And City Views
The Second Presbyterian Church in Chicago, Illinois on April 1, 2011. Raymond Boyd—Getty Images

Second Presbyterian Church remains open

A historic Chicago church apologized Friday to the family of a woman who was killed Thursday when she was struck by crumbling pieces of a gargoyle that fell off the church steeple.

The church said it is “deeply sorry at the death,” Reuters reports. Sara Bean, 34, was walking to lunch with her fiancé Thursday when the gargoyle pieces fell on her. She was a nurse’s aide and a mother of two boys, ages 10 and 14. The fiancé, her longtime boyfriend, is the children’s father.

Second Presbyterian Church, located in the South Loop neighborhood near downtown Chicago, dates from 1873 and is one of the oldest buildings in the city. It moved quickly to put protective scaffolding around the structure, Reuters reports.

The building has no outstanding complaints but in 2011 failed an inspection due to problems that included a failure to maintain exterior walls. After repairs were made that case was dismissed. The church was made a historic landmark last year and will remain open despite the tragedy.

[Reuters]

TIME tragedy

Steven Sotloff’s Parents Deliver Statement in Wake of Son’s Killing

Arthur Sotloff, father of slain journalist Steven Sotloff, leaves their family home in Pinecrest, Florida on Sept. 2, 2014.
Arthur Sotloff, father of slain journalist Steven Sotloff, leaves their family home in Pinecrest, Florida on Sept. 2, 2014. Andrew Innerarity— Reuters

“He was no hero. He was a man who tried to find good in a world full of darkness.”

The family of Steven Sotloff released a statement Wednesday, breaking silence for the first time since the journalist was brutally murdered by militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“Steve had a gentle soul that this world will be without,” said representative Barak Barfi, reading remarks from Sotloff’s parents before crowd of reporters in Miami. “But his spirit will endure in our hearts.”

The statements read by Barfi revealed intimate details about Sotloff, who wrote for TIME among other outlets. He was a fan of South Park, junk food and the Miami Dolphins, who always found time to Skype his dad about his golf games. He was also a passionate journalist who “merely wanted to give a voice to those who had none.”

“He was no hero,” Barfi said. “He was a man who tried to find good in a world full of darkness.” The family also offered condolences to the family of James Foley, another American journalist killed by ISIS terrorists. Barfi said Sotloff’s family has asked for privacy in the wake of his death before delivering an additional statement in Arabic.

Though the Sotloff family’s statement clearly expressed their grief, they noted that they will “emerge from this ordeal.”

“Our village is strong,” Barfi said. “We will not allow our enemies to hold hostage the sole [thing] which they possess, fear.”

 

TIME Crime

Boston Bombing Suspect Requests Trial Delay

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev FBI/AP

The trial is currently scheduled to begin in November

Lawyers for Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev filed a petition Friday asking a federal judge to delay the start of his bombing trial to September 1, 2015 or later. The defense argues that it needs more time to prepare given the volume of evidence to sort through and the severity of the charges.

“The trial in this case is currently scheduled to begin just 16 months after the defendant was indicted,” the petition said. “It is critically important that any trial be fair, which means giving both sides, not just the government, enough time to uncover and present all relevant evidence.”

Earlier this month defense lawyers argued that media coverage in Boston would unfairly harm Tsarnaev’s defense and asked that the trial be moved from Boston.

Tsarnev is accused of carrying out the April 15, 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon with his brother Tamerlan. Three bystanders were killed and hundreds were injured during the bombing. A police officer died in subsequent shootings, and Tamerlan died after he was shot in the head during a manhunt for the two brothers.

The trial on charges of using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death is currently scheduled to begin in November.

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