(ALGIERS, Algeria) — Islamist insurgents ambushed an Algerian military convoy in the mountainous Kabylie region, killing 14 soldiers, the state news agency reported Sunday. The attack came two days after Algeria’s presidential election.
The attack near the village of Iboudraren began at 10 p.m. Saturday night with 11 soldiers being killed immediately and another three succumbing to their wounds, the agency said.
A local official said a large group of insurgents hid on both sides of the road and opened fire with automatic weapons on the military bus as it drove by. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The area has been the site of past clashes between soldiers and militants but this attack represented the worst loss for the Algerian army in recent memory.
The soldiers were returning from securing polling stations for Thursday’s presidential election, which the government said was won by the country’s ailing, 77-year-old incumbent, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in a landslide.
Algeria fought a 10-year civil war against Islamic insurgents in the 1990s after the army cancelled a parliamentary election an Islamic party had been poised to win. Now the militants are largely confined to isolated regions such as the Kabylie mountains, 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Algiers, the capital.
The Kabylie mountains are populated by Berbers, North Africa’s original inhabitants, who speak their own language and have long been disaffected from the central government. The Tizi Ouzou region near Saturday’s attack site had the lowest participation rate in the presidential election in the entire country.
Updated 9:35 AM ET
(BYLBASIVKA, Ukraine) — A shootout took place Sunday at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, which the insurgents and the Ukrainian police said left one person dead and others hospitalized with gunshot wounds.
The armed clash appeared to be the first since an international agreement was reached last week in Geneva to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine, where armed pro-Russia activists have seized government buildings in at least 10 cities.
Ukraine and many in the West fear that such clashes could provide a pretext for Russia to seize more Ukrainian territory. Russia, which annexed the peninsula of Crimea last month, has tens of thousands of troops along its border with Ukraine.
Yuri Zhadobin, who coordinates the pro-Russia unit manning the checkpoint in the village of Bylbasivka, told The Associated Press he was with about 20 men celebrating Easter when unknown men drove up in four vehicles and opened fire about 3 a.m.
“We began to shoot back from behind the barricades and we threw Molotov cocktails at them,” Zhadobin said. Two of the vehicles caught fire and the attackers fled in the other two, he said.
Some of his men were wounded and one later died in the hospital, he said.
The Ukrainian Interior Ministry released a statement saying one person was killed and three wounded in the shootout, which took place near the city of Slovyansk. It said details of what happened were not yet clear.
In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry blamed the clash on the Right Sector, a nationalist Ukrainian group that has supported the interim government in Kiev, the capital, but is not part of it.
A spokesman for Right Sector, Artyom Skoropatskiy, denied any involvement in Sunday’s shootout, which he called a provocation staged by Russian special services.
Russian state media have been feeding fears among Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine that their lives are in danger because of the Right Sector.
Russian state television first reported five dead Sunday in the attack: three pro-Russia activists and two attackers. Rossiya television later revised its report to one dead and two wounded on the pro-Russia side and up to seven killed or wounded among the attackers.
(VATICAN CITY) — Celebrating Easter Sunday, Christianity’s most joyous and hopeful day, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine and Syria and for an end to the terrorist attacks in Nigeria that have targeted so many Christians.MorePope Gives a Lift to 2 Kids in St. Peter’s SquarePope Poses for ‘Selfies’ After Palm Sunday HomilyMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostPrince George Spends Easter at Australian Zoo People
More than 150,000 tourists — Romans and pilgrims, young and old — had turned out for the Mass he celebrated at an altar set up under a canopy on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.
So many came that they overflowed the huge square, which was bedecked with row after row of potted daffodils, sprays of blue hyacinths and bunches of white roses. Waving flags from the pope’s native Argentina as well as Brazil, Mexico, Britain, Poland and many other countries, they filled the broad boulevard leading from the square to the Tiber River.
Francis noted that this year the Catholic church’s celebration of Easter coincided with that of Orthodox churches, which have many followers in Ukraine.
Invoking God, he said, “We ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine, so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence.”
Tensions between pro-Russian supporters in Ukraine and those loyal to the interim government in Kiev have sparked bloodshed in recent days.
Francis also prayed that all sides in Syria will be moved to “boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue.”
Since March 2011, Syria has been wracked by a civil war that has cost 150,000 lives and forced millions to flee the country.
Francis makes a pilgrimage to Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel next month. On Easter, he prayed that hopes sparked by the resumption of Mideast peace negotiations be sustained.
He also recalled those suffering in Africa from an epidemic of deadly Ebola and urged a halt to “brutal terrorist attacks” in parts of Nigeria.
But Francis’ Easter message also stressed that people pay attention to the needy close to home. Reflecting the priorities of his papacy, he said the “good news” of Easter’s joy and hope means “leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast.”
Cheering and applauding, the crowd tried to catch a glimpse of the pontiff as he circled around in his white popemobile at the end of the ceremony before he went to the central balcony over the basilica to deliver his commentary on the violence and poverty staining the Earth.
A rainstorm had lashed Rome on Saturday night, with thunder competing with the sound of hymns when Francis led a vigil service in the basilica. Dawn brought clear skies and warm temperatures for Easter, the culmination of Holy Week, the day which marks the Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.
Reflecting the worldwide reach of the Catholic church, faithful read aloud prayers and passages from the Bible in Hindi, French, Chinese, German, Korean, Spanish, Italian and English.
(MOKPO, South Korea) — The confirmed death toll from South Korea’s ferry disaster rose past 50 on Sunday as divers finally found a way inside the sunken vessel, quickly discovering more than a dozen bodies in what almost certainly is just the beginning of a massive and grim recovery effort.MoreSouth Korea Ferry Death Toll Rises to 58Rescuers Battle Elements in Search for Ferry MissingMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostKate's Royal Tour Style Gets the Thumbs Up Down Under People
About 250 people are still missing from the ship, the vast majority of them high school students who had been on a holiday trip. Anguished families, waiting on a nearby island and fearful they might be left without even their loved ones’ bodies, have vented their fury, blocking the prime minister’s car during a visit and attempting a long protest march to the presidential Blue House.Popular Among Subscribers Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness Subscribe Shinzo Abe: The PatriotRock With Michael Jackson (Again)
The ferry Sewol sank Wednesday off South Korea’s southern coast, but it took days for divers to get in because of strong currents and bad visibility due to foul weather. Beginning late Saturday, when divers broke a window, and continuing into Sunday, multiple teams of divers have found various routes into the ferry, discovering bodies in different spots, coast guard official Koh Myung-seok said at a briefing. Thirteen bodies have been found in the ship, while six other bodies were found floating outside Sunday, bringing the official death toll to 52, the coast guard said.
Divers, who once pumped air into the ship in the slim hope that survivors were inside, have yet to find anyone alive there.
A 21-year-old South Korean sailor, surnamed Cho, also died from injuries he sustained Wednesday while working on a warship going to help rescue passengers in the ferry, said Cmdr. Yim Myung-soo of the South Korean navy.
The penetration by divers into the ferry follows the arrest of the captain Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a rookie third mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred.
The Sewol sank during a trip from port of Incheon to the southern holiday island of Jeju with 476 people on board, including 323 students from Danwon High School in Ansan. The 16- and 17-year-old students make up only 75 of the 174 survivors, and about 225 of the missing. At least 23 of those confirmed dead are students, according to coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in.
On Jindo island near the submerged ferry, about 200 police in neon jackets blocked about 100 relatives of missing passengers who’d been walking on a main road in an effort, they said, to travel to the presidential Blue House in Seoul to voice their complaints to the president. The relatives have been staying at gymnasium on the island, waiting for word of their loved ones.
“The government is the killer,” they shouted as they pushed against a police barricade.
“We want an answer from the person in charge about why orders are not going through and nothing is being done,” said Lee Woon-geun, father of missing passenger Lee Jung-in, 17. “They are clearly lying and kicking the responsibility to others.”
Earlier Sunday morning, relatives of the missing blocked the car of Prime Minister Chung Hong-won and demanded a meeting with President Park Geun-hye, as Chung made a visit to Jindo. Chung later returned to the gymnasium, but met only with a number of representatives of the family members in a side office.
Relatives are desperate to retrieve bodies before they decompose beyond recognition, Lee said.
“After four or five days the body starts to decay. When it’s decayed, if you try to hold a hand it might fall off,” he said. “I miss my son. I’m really afraid I might not get to find his body.”
The cause of the sinking remains under investigation, but prosecutors say the ship made a sharp turn just before it began to list. The captain, Lee Joon-seok, initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and took at least half an hour to issue an evacuation order. By that time, the ship was listing at too steep an angle for many people to escape the tight hallways and stairs inside.
Lee faces five charges, including negligence of duty and violation of maritime law, and the two arrested crew members each face three related charges.
Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin said Lee violated the law because he was not on the bridge helping his crew when the ferry passed through the tough-to-navigate area where it sank. He also said Lee abandoned people in need of help and rescue; video shows Lee among the first people to reach the shore by rescue boat.
Yang said the two crew members arrested failed to reduce speed near the islands and failed to carry out necessary measures to save lives. Prosecutors will have 10 days to decide whether to indict the captain and crew, but can request a 10-day extension from the court.
Three vessels with cranes arrived at the accident site to prepare to salvage the ferry, but they will not hoist the ship before getting approval from family members of those still believed inside because the lifting could endanger any survivors, said a coast guard officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.
This question is more than a mind-bender. For thousands of years, certain people have claimed to have actually visited the place that, Saint Paul promised, “no eye has seen … and no human mind has conceived,” and their stories very often follow the same narrative arc.MoreMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostKate's Royal Tour Style Gets the Thumbs Up Down Under PeopleWarriors outlast Clippers for Game 1 109-105 shootout win Sports Illustrated'Orphan Black' recap: Only the Clonely Entertainment Weekly
A skeptic, a rogue or an innocent suffers hardship or injury: he is hit on the head, he suffers a stroke, he sustains damage in a car crash or on the operating table. A feeling of disconnection comes over him, a sense of being “outside” himself. Perhaps he encounters an opening: a gate, a door, a tunnel. And then, all at once, he is being guided through other worlds that look and feel to him more “real” than the world in which he once existed. These realms are both familiar and strange, containing music that doesn’t sound like music and light brighter than any light, and creatures that may or may not be angels, and the familiar faces of loved ones lost as well as figures from history and sometimes—depending on the narrator—even Jesus himself. The tourist is agape. Words fail. He leaves reluctantly to reoccupy his body and this earth. But the experience changes him forever. Convinced as he is of a wholly different reality, he is calmer, more self-assured, determined to persuade the world of heaven’s truth. He tells his story to the masses. “Heaven is real!” he proclaims.Popular Among Subscribers Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness Subscribe Shinzo Abe: The PatriotRock With Michael Jackson (Again)
The Book of Enoch, written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, tells a version of this story and so does the Book of Revelation, Christianity’s most foundational description of the sights and sounds of heaven. So do the medieval visionaries whose accounts were to the Middle Ages what reality TV is to the 21st century: “real” events marketed as popular entertainment (with an edifying Christian message thrown in). And despite—or perhaps because of—the increasing rationalism of our times, this narrative genre thrives today. Ninety Minutes in Heaven (2004), about a Christian pastor who ascended to God after a car wreck; Heaven Is for Real (2010), about a child who sees heaven during surgery; and Proof of Heaven, by a Duke-trained neurosurgeon who traveled to heaven in 2012, have all been bestsellers, all following the same storyline. The neurosurgeon, Eben Alexander, said in Newsweek in 2012 that his experience convinced him that his consciousness (the soul, or the self) exists somehow separate from or outside the mind and can travel to other dimensions on its own. “This world of consciousness beyond the body,” he wrote, “is the true new frontier, not just of science but of humankind itself, and it is my profound hope that what happened to me will bring the world one step closer to accepting it.”
Tales like these are thrilling in part because their tellers hold the passionate conviction of religious converts: I saw it, so it must be true. According to a Gallup poll, about 8 million Americans claim to have had a near-death experience (NDE), and many of them regard this experience as proof of an afterlife—a parallel, spiritual realm, more real, many say, than this one. Raymond Moody, who wrote Life After Life in 1975, one of the first popular books about NDEs, told CNN in 2013 that among people who have had such experiences, conviction about an afterlife transcends the particulars of religion. “A lot of people talk about encountering a being of light,” he said. “Christians call it Christ. Jewish people say it’s an angel. I’ve gone to different continents, and you can hear the same thing in China, India and Japan about meeting a being of complete love and compassion.” Moody was one of the founders of the International Association for Near-Death Studies, a group devoted to building global understanding of such experiences.
It’s an inversion, almost, of the old philosophical puzzle: If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? If you are certain that you saw something (or felt something or heard something), does it mean that it’s empirically proven? And if you are predisposed to want to see something, are you likelier to see it, the way Harry Potter saw his dear departed mother in Hogwarts’s magic mirror? And finally, if you see something while you are stressed or unconscious or traumatized in some way, does that circumstance delegitimize the veracity of your vision? This is the trouble with NDEs as a field of scientific study: you can’t have a control group. Most people on the brink of dying do die (and so cannot describe what that process is like), and those who survive approach the brink in such different ways—car accident, stroke, heart attack—that it’s impossible to compare their experiences empirically. But over the years, science has posited a number of theories about the connection between visions of heaven and the chemical and physical processes that occur at death.
Andrew Newberg is a neuroscientist and professor at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital and has made his reputation studying the brain scans of religious people (nuns and monks) who have ecstatic experiences as they meditate. He believes the “tunnel” and the “light” that NDE-ers so frequently describe can be easily explained. As your eyesight fades, you lose the peripheral areas first, he points out. “That’s why you’d have a tunnel sensation.” If you see a bright light, that could be the central part of the visual system shutting down last.
Newberg puts forward the following scenario, which he emphasizes is guesswork: When people die, two parts of the brain that usually work in opposition to each other act cooperatively. The sympathetic nervous system—a web of nerves and neurons that run through the spinal cord and spread to virtually every organ in the body—is responsible for arousal or excitement. It gets you ready for action. The parasympathetic system, with which the sympathetic system is entwined, calms you down and rejuvenates you. In life, the turning on of one system promotes the shutting down of the other. The sympathetic nervous system kicks in when a car cuts you off on the highway; the parasympathetic system is in charge as you’re falling asleep. But in the brains of people having mystical experiences, and perhaps in death, both systems are fully “on,” giving a person a sensation both of slowing down, being “out of body,” and of seeing things vividly, including memories of important people and past events. It is possible, Newberg asserts—though not at all certain—that visions of heaven are merely chemical and neurological events that occur during death.
Since at least the 1980s, scientists have theorized that NDEs occur as a kind of physiological defense mechanism. In order to guard against damage during trauma, the brain releases protective chemicals that also happen to trigger intense hallucinations. This theory gained traction after scientists realized that virtually all of the features of an NDE—a sense of moving through a tunnel, an out-of-body feeling, spiritual awe, visual hallucinations, intense memories—can be reproduced with a stiff dose of ketamine, a horse tranquilizer frequently used as a party drug. In 2000 a psychiatrist named Karl Jansen wrote a book called Ketamine: Dreams and Realities, in which he interviewed a number of recreational users. One of them described a drug trip in a way that might be familiar to Dante, or the author of Revelation. “I came out into a golden Light. I rose into the Light and found myself having an unspoken exchange with the Light, which I believed to be God … I didn’t believe in God, which made the experience even more startling. Afterwards, I walked around the house for hours saying ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.’ ”
For some scientists, however, purely scientific explanations of heavenly visions do not suffice. Emily Williams Kelly is a psychologist who works at the University of Virginia’s Division of Perceptual Studies, which treats the study of NDEs as legitimate science. Her résumé is impressive: she has degrees from Duke, the University of Virginia and the University of Edinburgh—not institutions one usually associates with the study of the supernatural or paranormal. Kelly has spent her career researching, as she puts it, “the interface between the brain and the mind.” Practically speaking, she interviews dying people and tries to find patterns among their similarities. Kelly believes the experiences of people who have had near-death visions demonstrate that consciousness exists even after normal brain function ceases. (She would seem to provide some corroboration for Eben Alexander’s claims.) This theory, she argues, could suggest explanations for the afterlife: “If our conscious experience totally depends on the brain, then there can’t be an afterlife—when the brain is gone, the mind is gone. But it’s not that simple. Even when the brain seems to be virtually disabled, people are still having these experiences.”
What is she saying? That upon death, people really go to another realm? And that science can prove it? Kelly shrugs. NDEs “tell us to open our minds and think there may be a great deal more to mind and consciousness—that’s as far as I’m willing to go.”
When Alexander published his book in 2012, drawing on the work of Kelly and her husband, Edward, he drew derision, as he knew he would, from broad segments of the rationalist and scientific communities. Having fallen into a coma after contracting bacterial meningitis, he saw incredible things. “I was a speck on a beautiful butterfly wing,” he said in an interview, “millions of other butterflies around us. We were flying through blooming flowers, blossoms on trees, and they were all coming out as we flew through them…[There were] waterfalls, pools of water, indescribable colors, and above there were these arcs of silver and gold light and beautiful hymns coming down from them. Indescribably gorgeous hymns. I later came to call them ‘angels,’ those arcs of light in the sky.” This experience convinced him beyond any doubt of the existence of a loving God and the ability of souls to travel to the realms where God lives. The idea of a godless universe “now lies broken at our feet, ” he wrote in his book. “What happened to me destroyed it, and I intend to spend the rest of my life investigating the true nature of consciousness and making the fact that we are more, much more than our physical brains as clear as I can.”
The rationalist author Sam Harris, who is also a neuroscientist, aimed a fierce critique at Alexander’s account of his NDE. On his blog, Harris wrote that while he had no particular convictions about the essence or origins of consciousness, he was quite sure Alexander’s argument was specious. No one’s cerebral cortex shuts down entirely during coma, Harris pointed out. Additionally, the doctor showed no understanding of the kinds of neurotransmitters that can be released by the brain during trauma, including one called DMT, which produces hallucinations. “Let me suggest that, whether or not heaven exists, Alexander sounds precisely how a scientist should not sound when he doesn’t know what he is talking about, ” Harris concluded.
My own concern is somewhat different, relating back to the tree-in-the-forest conundrum. I believe Alexander (and all the others who testify to having visited heaven) saw what he says he saw, but one person’s vision, seen during trauma, does not add up to proof. Further all the emphasis on Alexander’s scientific credentials that accompanied the marketing of his book is disingenuous and entirely beside the point: the veracity of a vision of heaven would have nothing to do with where one went to medical school.
Adapted from Visions of Heaven: A Journey Through the Afterlife, available wherever books are sold.
(LOS ANGELES) — A man suspected of making threatening statements about a shooting and forcing the lockdown of the Los Angeles Times building was being held Saturday for a mental health evaluation, police said.
A psychologist requested a 72-hour hold for the 28-year-old man at a hospital after he was detained Friday night, Sgt. Keith Green said. The sergeant didn’t identify the man.
The man works at a call center that rents office space in the Times building. Officer Norma Eisenman told the newspaper that after he was reprimanded by his supervisor, he gave her a pillowcase containing ammunition and told her: “I’m not afraid to shoot people, but I don’t want to go to jail.”
He also told his supervisor that he was depressed and that he carried a weapon because he felt bullied at work, Eisenman said.
Green said officers seized the ammunition and determined it belonged to the man.
The Times building is across the street from Los Angeles Police Department headquarters. Officers quickly searched the building and found no weapon inside.
(TORONTO) — Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri let loose a profanity about the Brooklyn Nets during a pregame address meant to pump up a group of fans outside Air Canada Centre before Saturday’s opening game of the NBA playoffs.
Several hundred fans gathered outside the downtown arena for a party and to watch the game on a huge screen above the west entrance.
Ujiri, the NBA’s reigning executive of the year, apologized in a brief news conference at halftime, saying he’d made the “wrong choice of words” and was “just trying to get our fans going.”
Asked if the profanity represented his feelings about the Nets, who have been accused of tanking in order to face Toronto in the first round, Ujiri said: “You know how I feel. I don’t like them, but I apologize.”
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said he had no problem with Ujiri’s colorful language.
“It doesn’t offend me whatsoever,” Casey said after the Nets won 94-87 in Game 1. “That’s Masai. That’s why our team plays like that. He’s a fiery guy. That should represent how we feel.”
Toronto guard Kyle Lowry echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“(Ujiri) is a very passionate guy,” Lowry said. “He believes in what we have and what we’re doing.”
Nets coach Jason Kidd, meanwhile, claimed not to have heard about either the controversial comments or Ujiri.
“I don’t even know who the GM is,” Kidd said.
Ujiri’s remarks weren’t the only dig aimed Brooklyn’s way. The front page of Saturday’s Toronto Sun billed the first-round series as “Raptors vs. Dinosaurs,” in reference to the ages of Brooklyn stars Paul Pierce, 36, and Kevin Garnett, 37.
“It’s all good,” Garnett said. “It’s motivation.”
(NEW YORK) — Animal welfare activists picketing Liam Neeson’s home on Saturday said they don’t agree with him that the city’s carriage horses should keep working.MoreBill Clinton Jokes with Actor Kevin Spacey at Benefit ConcertPeaches Geldof Funeral To Be Held on Easter MondayMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostKate's Royal Tour Style Gets the Thumbs Up Down Under People
Neeson didn’t appear as about 50 demonstrators filled the sidewalk in front of his apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Police watched, and doormen photographed protesters hoisting signs with such slogans as “Liam Neeson: Stop Supporting Cruelty!” and “Worked to Death!” with an image of a dead horse in a park.
Holding the second sign was Peter Wood, an animal protection investigator for various organizations that say it’s cruel for the horses to be subjected to traffic, pollution and possible accidents.
“It’s 2014, not 1914. It’s time for a change,” said Wood, who lives in Manhattan.
“Horses don’t belong in traffic, surrounded by buses. They don’t belong in the city; it’s outdated, it’s cruel,” he said, adding, “Life attached to a carriage with a poop bag attached to your rear end — that’s no life.”
Neeson, whose movies include “Schindler’s List,” ”Taken” and “Non-Stop,” is a vocal supporter of the city’s carriage horses, which are kept in stables he toured recently with lawmakers. He says the horses are not being mistreated.
“It has been my experience, always, that horses, much like humans, are at their happiest and healthiest when working,” Neeson wrote in an April 14 editorial in The New York Times.
He called the horse carriage trade a “humane industry that is well regulated by New York City’s Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene and Consumer Affairs.”
Neeson said the city’s horse-drawn carriages have made an estimated 6 million trips in traffic in the past 30 years, most ending up in Central Park. Four horses have been killed in collisions with motor vehicles, with no human fatalities.
“In contrast to the terrible toll of traffic accidents generally on New Yorkers,” Neeson wrote, “the carriage industry has a remarkable safety record.”
His publicist declined to comment on Saturday’s protest.
The City Council must vote on the issue, but legislation has yet to emerge.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, has pledged to ban the carriages and replace them with electric vintage-style cars, commissioned by a group called NYCLASS.
On Saturday, NYCLASS’ members joined protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They noted that the horse-drawn carriage trade was ended in at least three other cities: London in 1947, Paris in 1965 and Toronto in 1998.
The electric vehicle was unveiled several days ago at the New York International Auto Show. But Neeson said it can’t replace the horse-drawn carriages, which he calls a “signature element of New York’s culture and history.”
(MCEWEN, Tenn.) — A preliminary investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has determined that a deadly explosion at a Tennessee ammunition plant was accidental.
ATF spokesman Michael Knight said it will now be up to the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration to determine fault and whether there were any safety violations at the plant.
The explosion Wednesday afternoon at Rio Ammunition killed Rodney Edwards and injured three others. Joey Clark was listed in stable condition at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Saturday. The other two victims were discharged earlier in the week.
A news release from Rio parent company Maxam said the Tennessee plant produced shotgun cartridges, and the blast occurred during the company’s cartridge loading operations.
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(WORCESTER, Mass.) — The body of a small boy apparently cast off the side of a highway has been confirmed as a missing 5-year-old, authorities said Saturday.
The body found Friday off Interstate 190 has been positively identified as Jeremiah Oliver, Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said. No charges were immediately announced related to Jeremiah’s death.
He was last seen by relatives in September but wasn’t reported missing until December. Authorities had said they feared the Fitchburg boy was dead.
Early said in a statement Saturday that the autopsy report is not complete. The investigation is continuing, he said.
“It appears to be a homicide,” the prosecutor said at a news conference Friday.
Early said the body was found at about 9 a.m. Friday by a police search team about 40 feet off I-190 near Sterling, which is about 12 miles from Fitchburg. He said it was wrapped in blanket-like material and packed in material that resembled a suitcase.
He would not say what led authorities to the location or how long the body may have been there. He said the site is near an area that is regularly mowed on the side of the highway but would not have been visible to passing cars.
Jeremiah’s mother, Elsa Oliver, 28, pleaded not guilty in March to charges including kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and reckless endangerment. Her boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, 23, pleaded not guilty to similar charges.
The family was being monitored by state social workers since 2011. And after Jeremiah’s disappearance, their case led to intense scrutiny of the state Department of Children and Families.
Three employees of the agency — a social worker, a supervisor and an area manager — were fired after an internal investigation. Officials said the social worker had not made required monthly visits to the family.
The governor asked the Child Welfare League of America to review DCF but resisted calls from some lawmakers to fire Olga Roche, the agency’s commissioner.
In an initial report filed by the league last month, it recommended that Massachusetts take a number of steps to shore up its child welfare system, including boosting staffing levels to reduce social worker caseload.
A separate report from the state’s Child Advocate, Gail Garinger, suggested that state social workers missed nearly one in five home visits during a recent 12-month period, though state officials said the figure was likely overstated.
Roche assured state legislators in January that DCF had accounted for the safety of all other young children in its care.
Oliver and Sierra, who were indicted by a Worcester County grand jury, are both being held on bail — $100,000 for Oliver and $250,000 for Sierra.
Three other people have been charged with interfering with a criminal investigation and misleading police in connection with the case.
Crowds poured into the Sahara Tent at the Coachella Valley Music Festival last weekend to see Anton Zaslavski, better known by his stage name Zedd, put on a high-energy show with big beats and dazzling visuals.MoreCyrus Ill, Postpones U.S. Tour, Resumes in AugustPrince Reaches Agreement With Music LabelMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostKate's Royal Tour Style Gets the Thumbs Up Down Under People
The 24-year-old German-Russian DJ – who has produced hits for the likes of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber – exploded onto the EDM scene after releasing his debut album Clarity in October 2012. The album’s title track won him a Grammy for “best dance recording” earlier this year.Popular Among Subscribers Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness Subscribe Shinzo Abe: The PatriotRock With Michael Jackson (Again)
Before taking the stage, Zedd spoke with TIME about his musical influences, upcoming album and the musicians he wants to collaborate with most.
You’ve played a lot of big venues, a lot of festivals. What’s special to you about Coachella?
Coachella is one of the most important festivals in the world. I played here two years ago, and it was an incredible experience, but I played very early on. Obviously, you kind of want to have a nighttime slot, and now I have one of the best slots I could ever dream of. I love the Sahara tent and the vibe in there. From the first moment people get in there, there is an energy that I haven’t seen on any other stage of the festival.
You won a Grammy for Clarity. What was that moment like?
It was entirely unreal. I brought my family out. I was kind of nervous because I thought maybe they expected me to win, and if I didn’t, it might be kind of awkward. It’s the first time they’ve ever been to America. My whole team was there also…
So I saw the names on the big screen and then somehow everything started moving in slow motion… I didn’t even realize they called my name until everyone around me screamed in my ear, and I’m like ‘alright, I got to think of something to say now.’
I had nothing prepared. I would have felt weird if I prepared a speech and didn’t win, and at the same time, I thought that if I didn’t prepare something, at least it will be really honest and real, and it was.
How did you get to work with Lady Gaga?
I remixed songs for [Gaga's] label, and I told the label that my dream would be to one day to make a song for her… And then one day, there was a point where they wanted to take my remix [of one of her songs] as a single version. They wanted me to meet her, so I played a show in London, and she was there. I got to talk with her for a minute, and she was like “lets make music together.”
Then I wrote this little song – it was a minute and a half – and she heard [it] and called me immediately and basically wanted me to make the album. So it was a lucky thing. I wrote this piece and I didn’t even think she would love it, but I thought it was really good and different and didn’t sound like anything else out there. And then we slowly started working, and been working on tour together in Asia and after the shows we sat down and started writing songs. And then we were in the studio for months. So it’s been wild.
Are there any other artists you would love to work with?
There are a million. There are people like Adele, and I love Katy Perry. There are also all the artists that inspired me to write music that I write today, like Radiohead, so I would love to work with and see what that would be like. Empire of the Sun is a band I love – I got to make a remix for them. Feeder is another one.
Who is your biggest musical influence?
Tough question. Daft Punk was a huge inspiration for getting started in electronic music. Queen has been one of the most inspirational bands for me over the course of the last years…because I’ve listened to their music and realized how much we don’t do in electronic music and how big the field is to bring in ideas from other worlds. Radiohead is a band that has been very inspirational for me. Silverchair is another one. Mostly not electronic music acts to be completely honest.
Do you find yourself trying to incorporate those artists into your music?
I do. I’m working on my new album now. There’s a song I started writing 2 and a half years ago, and I loved it, but I didn’t have the right spot for it [on Clarity]. Now I’ve come back to it. I took all the synths out, and replaced them with guitars. That’s something I would not have done a year ago. I think other genres definitely inspire me and make me do things I usually would not do or maybe that other people in the genre do.
What can you tell me about the new album?
It will sound a little different. I have a lot of song ideas, and I’ve started slowly producing and picking singers, which for me is the most important part. I think it will be similar to Clarity, but wider [and] more inspiration from other genres.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m not the kind of person who says when I see a beautiful landscape I’m inspired to write about song. To me, it’s music that inspires music. Whenever I hear a chord progression I haven’t heard before, I’m always like, ‘damn, why didn’t I think of this?’ That’s why I love Queen so much. One song of theirs has as much range as an album of other people’s music. When I hear something I didn’t expect to hear, that’s what gives me a push.
Massive, destructive wildfires have increased over the past 3o years in the western United States due to rising temperatures associated with climate change, an new study shows, and could get worse over the coming decades.
The number of sizable wildfires increased by a rate of seven fires a year between 1984 and 2011, according to the study published this week in Geophysical Research Letters. The total area damaged by fire increased at a rate of nearly 90,000 acres per year.
Scientists only included fires of greater than 1,000 acres in their data set in 17 Western states, using satellite data that has only been available since 1984, USA Today reports.
Man-made climate change was very likely a factor, the study’s authors said. “We looked at the probability that increases of this magnitude could be random, and in each case it was less than 1%,” said Philip Dennison, a geographer at the University of Utah and lead author of the paper.
This year could be a disastrous year for wildfires after long months of terrible drought in California, which saw wildfires in the normally quiet month of January.
The Easter proclamation is perhaps the strangest and most radical message ever given: “Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.” The words have become so commonplace that we’ve perhaps forgotten how weird and how wonderful they truly are. Along with that, there have been attempts by religious scholars in the past two centuries to reduce this resurrection message into a mythical story or a mere statement of God’s faithfulness to his people.MoreBeyond Death: The Science of the AfterlifeWhy Focus On The Cross?Men Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere's An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostKate's Royal Tour Style Gets the Thumbs Up Down Under People
But as we come again to the great and climatic feast of our Christian faith, it’s time again to reconsider those wondrous words as if for the first time:Popular Among Subscribers Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness Subscribe Shinzo Abe: The PatriotRock With Michael Jackson (Again)
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
The disciples’ first reactions to this news were remarkable. You can feel their excitement jump off every page of the New Testament. The Gospel writers give an eyewitness account of what happened. Every detail mattered to them. Remember, as John tells us, the disciples were not expecting Jesus to be resurrected. After all, he was brutally executed by the Roman regime and buried in a grave. This wasn’t some hack job; this was a professional execution by the most powerful government in the ancient world.
But after an encounter with the resurrected Jesus, Peter goes back to downtown Jerusalem and—filled with a new spirit—gives the first great Christian sermon. He tells the crowds the startling news that the Nazorean who was executed and buried had been raised from the dead. It’s important to note that this wasn’t some vague claim about God’s faithfulness or about a future hope for immortality. Peter’s Easter faith wasn’t an abstraction. It was the result of a lived experience with Jesus of Nazareth. He had experienced for himself that complex drama about the goodness of creation, the pain of sin and brokenness and the power of God’s redeeming love.
Recall that Peter himself was crucified in Rome years later under the regime of Nero. He didn’t die for defending a faith in mythical and philosophical claim, but for defending a faith in a historical person and event.
For the followers of Jesus, the historical resurrection of Jesus from the dead changed everything. The excitement of the early Church even bordered on arrogance. Paul’s holy taunt embodies this: “O death where is your sting! O hell, where is your victory!” While the disciples’ journey with the resurrected Jesus transformed their lives, it sometimes appears to not have the same effect on today’s Christians. As Pope Francis has recently complained, “there are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.”
When Mary Magdalene encountered the empty tomb, she ran to tell the others the news. Today’s Christians must imitate Mary’s posture. We too must make haste to share the impossibly good news that God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and that through his great love, our lives and our society can be given a new horizon and a decisive direction.
The growing temptation to make Christianity a bourgeois faith that is reduced to mere ethics and platitudes must be rejected. That isn’t a faith that will change our lives or have any effect on society. It’s a faith without a future.
This Easter invites Christians to again to re-center our faith on the person of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead. We mustn’t forget the story of our people: that God pitched a tent among us and shared our human lot in Jesus Christ. To the poor, Jesus proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom and to those in sorrow, joy. In his death, our death was destroyed, and in his resurrection, our lives were restored. And that we might live no longer for ourselves, he gave us a Holy Spirit to serve others and to renew the face the earth. In spite of our continual failings as individuals and as a society, God has never grown tired of loving us.
This Easter story isn’t simply for us, but also for the transformation of our families, our communities, our Church, our country and the entire world. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead gives us a chance to reimagine and reconstruct human life and society once again.
It allows us to become collaborators in God’s great dreams for a world where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven and where every man, woman and child experiences the salvation that Christ won for us in his death and resurrection.
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! This is our faith, and this is the faith of the Church. Two millennia later, and it is still good news indeed.
Christopher Hale is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He helped lead national Catholic outreach for President Obama’s re-election campaign. You can follow him on Twitter@chrisjollyhale.
Golf advocates are desperately coming up with new tricks and gimmicks to combat dwindling engagement with the sport, including enlarging golf holes to the size of pizzas and introducing soccer balls to the game.
Golf has lost five million players in the last decade and 20 percent of the remaining 25 million golfers are likely to quit in the next few years, according to the National Golf Foundation. The major complaints include the difficulty of the game and the tiresome array of rules.
At golf courses around the country, however, new measures are being considered to keep young people interested, the New York Times reports.
Some new rules introduced allow a mulligan, or do-over at each hole, and increasing the size of the hole, like the 15-inch-hole event introduced at the Reynolds Plantation resort in Georgia. Another alternative is a kind of cross between soccer and golf, which includes kicking the ball to the hole instead of using a club.
The changes come despite calls by purists to maintain the longstanding rules of the game.
“A nonconforming club or ball does not corrupt the game,” Mr. Miller said. “Not if it encourages people to try a very intimidating game. That will be beneficial to golf for 50 years.”
When Helen Felumlee died at the age of 92 last Saturday morning, her family knew it wouldn’t be long before her husband Kenneth followed. The two had been married for 70 years and by all accounts were near inseparable all their lives.
So the family wasn’t surprised when Kenneth, 91, died only 15 hours after his wife.
“We knew when one went, the other was going to go,” said daughter Linda Cody. “We wanted them to go together, and they did.”
The couple met when they were 18 and 19 years old and immediately got along, dating for three years before sneaking off to wed secretly in February 1944, reports the Zanesville Times Recorder. The couple had eight children in Nashport, Ohio, with Kenneth working as a railcar inspector and rural mail carrier.
The couple visited almost all 50 states by bus after Kenneth retired, and even in their final days, they ate breakfast together while holding hands.
Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk claimed Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to restore the Soviet Union, as pro-Kremlin separatists occupying government buildings in several eastern Ukrainian cities continued to defy an agreement to deescalate the crisis.
“President Putin has a dream to restore the Soviet Union,” said Yatsenyuk. “And every day, he goes further and further. And God knows where is the final destination.”
In an interview to be aired Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, Yatsenyuk pointed to President Putin’s influence in Ukraine, where Russia’s geopolitical interests appear to have contributed to mass unrest. Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March, after Ukraine deposed its pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych. Tens of thousands of Russian troops remain amassed on the border, emboldening separatist groups who have taken over government buildings in the eastern cities of Ukraine.
Yatsenyuk highlighted Putin’s supposed nostalgia for the Soviet Union, citing Putin’s proclamation in 2005 that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century.
“And I believe that you do remember his famous Munich speech saying that the biggest disaster of the former century is the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Yatsenyuk said. “I consider that the biggest disaster of this century would be the restoring of the Soviet Union under the auspices of President Putin.”
Ukraine has launched operations against pro-Kremlin separatists occupying buildings in eastern Ukraine, but has called a truce for Easter.
The Ukrainian Prime Minister also had some harsh words for what he called the “bastards” apparently seeking to impose a tax on Jews in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. (The alleged author of the fliers has told Russian media that they are fakes, and other Ukrainian separatists told TIME they are a “sophisticated trick.”)
“We got information that these so-called peaceful protesters with light ammunition in their hands, that they sent a number of bulletins saying that everyone who is a Jew to be indicated as a Jew,” said Yatsenyuk. “And today in the morning, I made a clear statement urged Ukrainian military and security forces and Ukrainian Department of Homeland Security urgently to find these bastards and to bring them to justice.”
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(DETROIT) — General Motors waited years to recall nearly 335,000 Saturn Ions for power steering failures despite getting thousands of consumer complaints and more than 30,000 warranty repair claims, according to government documents released Saturday.Popular Among Subscribers Barbara Brown Taylor Faces the Darkness Subscribe Shinzo Abe: The Patriot10 Questions with Gene Baur
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government’s auto safety watchdog, didn’t seek a recall of the compact car from the 2004 through 2007 model years even though it opened an investigation more than two years ago and found 12 crashes and two injuries caused by the problem.
The documents, posted on the agency’s website, show yet another delay by GM in recalling unsafe vehicles and point to another example of government safety regulators reacting slowly to a safety problem despite being alerted by consumers and through warranty data submitted by the company.
Both GM and NHTSA have been criticized by safety advocates and lawmakers for their slow responses to a deadly ignition switch problem in 2.6 million GM small cars. GM admitted knowing about the problem for more than a decade, yet didn’t start recalling the cars until February. The company says it knows of 13 deaths in crashes linked to the ignition switches, but family members of crash victims say the number is much higher.
The Ion was one of a few GM cars included in a March 31 recall of 1.5 million vehicles worldwide to replace the power steering motors; the recall also covered some older Saturn Auras, Pontiac G6s and Chevrolet Malibus. If cars lose power steering, they can still be steered, but with much greater effort. Drivers can be surprised by the problem and lose control of the cars and crash.
NHTSA closed its investigation into the Ion because GM had decided to recall the cars, according to the documents released Saturday.
In a statement issued Saturday, GM admitted that it didn’t do enough to take care of the power steering problem. A NHTSA spokesman told The Associated Press he was checking into the matter.
The number of complaints and claims with the power steering issue appears to be high when compared with other recent recalls that were preceded by NHTSA investigations. In March, three recalls — none of which were GM vehicles — were issued after two or fewer complaints. There were 29 warranty claims in one case, 263 in another and none in the third investigation. All three cases covered fewer vehicles than the Ion recall.
A search of the agency’s database records shows that Ion owners started complaining about power steering failures as early as June 2004, and the first injury accident was reported to NHTSA in May 2007. The owner of a 2004 Ion reported driving 25 mph and tried to turn the steering wheel, but it locked, and the car crashed into a tree.
“Saturn stated the vehicle is not a defect,” the complaint said.
Another driver who filed a complaint in July 2010 said that one evening, “midway around a bend, my vehicle’s electric power steering went out and straightened my wheel, putting me into oncoming traffic.”
“I could have died and killed another driver,” said that person, who also owned a 2004 Saturn Ion.
The government does not identify people who file complaints with NHTSA.
Some of the people who complained about the Ion power steering found on the Internet that GM had recalled the Chevrolet Cobalt for the same problem in 2010. The Cobalt is nearly identical to the Ion.
“Very disturbed that the Cobalt was recalled for this problem and not the Saturn,” one owner wrote in 2010. “Makes no sense since the power steering is the same in both vehicles.”
GM spokesman Greg Martin wouldn’t comment directly on the Ion power steering Saturday, but pointed out a quote from the company’s new global safety chief Jeff Boyer when GM issued the power steering recall.
“We have recalled some of these vehicles before for the same issue and offered extended warranties on others, but we did not do enough,” Boyer said in March. “With these safety recalls and lifetime warranties, we are going after every car that might have this problem, and we are going to make it right.”
Martin also said GM has created a team that includes safety in the company’s product development.
(LAGOS, Nigeria) — Nigeria’s Islamic extremists are claiming responsibility for the massive explosion at a busy bus station that killed at least 75 people in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, this week.
It comes in a new video received Saturday. The leader of the Boko Haram network threatens more attacks saying “We are in your city, but you don’t know where we are.”
Abubakar Shekau makes no mention of the abductions of more than 100 girls and young women from a remote northeastern school. Officials say dozens of the girls have managed to escape but 85 remain unaccounted for.
Parents and townspeople have joined security forces and vigilantes searching the dangerous Sambisa Forest for the kidnapped girls.
Boko Haram says Western education and influence have corrupted Africans and only Islamic law can save Nigeria.
Apple is known for inventing the iPhone and revolutionizing personal technology, but now it is famous for solving one of the enduring mysteries of man’s encounters with the uncanny: it has found the Loch Ness monster.
Or so claim Loch Ness theorists, who point to a satellite image on Apple maps that shows a mysterious shape in the Scottish body of water where the famous monster is said to dwell, reports the Daily Mail.
The image appears to show a large ripple in the water, similar to the wake of a boat. But monster conspiracists see something else altogether. After a comprehensive analysis, enthusiasts at the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club have concluded that the figure is “likely” the fabled beast:
“It looks like a boat wake, but the boat is missing. You can see some boats moored at the shore, but there isn’t one here. We’ve shown it to boat experts and they don’t know what it is,” Club president Gary Campbell told the Mail. “Whatever this is, it is under the water and heading south, so unless there have been secret submarine trials going on in the loch, the size of the object would make it likely to be Nessie.”
The image was spotted by two people who noticed it at the end of last year on their phones, who said they were just perusing Apple maps when they found the mysterious image. The map image can only be seen on some iPads and iPhones and beamed by the Apple satellite map app.
So next time you’re on Apple maps, keep an eye out for the Yeti in your backyard.
This video about an army of evil, dancing turds is no joke. It’s part of a targeted campaign by UNICEF that addresses one of India’s biggest public health problems – the widespread practice of public defecation.
The series of videos, online games and public announcement which began late in 2013 reveal some startling facts. About 620 million people in India defecate in the open, and only half the population uses toilets. The leading causes of malnutrition, which affects 48 percent of children in India, are from diarrhea and worms associated with microbial contamination of drinking water.
The ‘Poo2Loo’ campaign may seem a bit silly but it’s sparked a conversation in India about a health crisis in a country of over 1.2 billion people.