National Guard plans exit from Baltimore

Things could be returning to normal in Baltimore: The city has lifted its curfew, the National Guard is preparing its exit and a mall that had been a flashpoint in the riots has been reopened.

The “goal,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake “has always been to not have the curfew in place a single day longer than was necessary.”

The mayor spoke following a tour of Mondawmin Mall, which reopened Sunday after recovering from rioting that police said was spawned by social media rumors of a “purge” following Freddie Gray’s death.

Because of the improving conditions in the city, she said, the National Guard will be wrapping up its operations, but don’t expect the troops to leave immediately.

“It’s not like you flip a switch,” she said. “They have to unwind their operations, and they’re going to do that over this next week.”

Asked if she thought it was premature to send the military home, she replied, “It will either be too long or too early. You’ll let me know afterward.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, speaking at a separate news conference Sunday, said it “will take a couple days, maybe about 72 hours” to complete the drawdown, at which point the state of emergency can be lifted.

“We’ve already started to withdraw. It will take a little while. We brought 4,000 people in,” he said.

The city can now take a breath and assess the events that rocked the city since Gray’s death.

Since April 23, police made 486 arrests at protests, rallies and other gatherings related to Gray’s death, police spokesman Capt. J. Eric Kowalczyk said Sunday.

Since last Saturday, 113 police officers have been injured. Forty-six people were arrested Saturday night, four of them juveniles, he said.

Two hundred Baltimore businesses — many of them minority-owned and many lacking insurance — were lost in the April 27 protests alone — the worst night of protests. It “will take a little while to get back to normal,” Hogan said, “but let’s get people back to normal, get people back in the city to visit devastated shops.”

The majority of stores inside Mondawmin reopened Sunday, Rawlings-Blake said, declaring it “a great day for this community.”

Six police officers have been charged in the death of Gray last month, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said Friday.

The 25-year-old died after suffering “a severe and critical neck injury” while being transported “handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained” inside a police van, she said. It is against police policy to transport a prisoner without proper restraints such as a seat belt.

The police union called for an independent prosecutor, saying Mosby has conflicts of interests. They also criticized her for not waiting until police were done with their inquiry.

“We are disappointed in the apparent rush to judgment, given the fact that the investigation into this matter has not been concluded,” said Gene Ryan, president of the police union. “Our officers, like every other American, are entitled to due process.”

Police officers arrested Gray on April 12. He slipped into a coma after suffering a series of injuries and died a week later.

Mosby said the incident began when two police officers on bike patrol “made eye contact” with Gray, who then ran.

When officers caught up to him, he surrendered and was placed on the ground, arms handcuffed behind his back. He said he couldn’t breathe and asked for an inhaler, but he did not get it, according to Mosby.


Russian hackers allegedly infiltrate White House

A US media report has said that Russians have penetrated a White House computer system. The Obama administration has confirmed the breach, but not who was behind it.
Russian hackers were able to reach sensitive, if unclassified, information from the White House computer system after intruding at the US State Department in the past few months, accessing non-public details of President Obama’s schedule, among other things.
According to CNN, who spoke to officials briefed on the investigation, the report from the State Department refers to a series of incidents beginning last October, when suspicious activity became apparent in a “network that serves the executive office of the president.”
The FBI, Secret Service, and NSA were all involved in the investigation. The White House went to lengths to stress that the system breached by the hackers was “an unclassified system…we do not believe that our classified systems were compromised” and refused to comment on CNN’s assertion that Russian hackers were behind the incident.
As CNN explains, even if the system is not top secret, information like the private details of the President’s schedule is sensitive information sought by foreign intelligence agencies. The hackers allegedly permeated the network using an email address as the jumping-off point for the infiltration.


Starbucks to give workers a full ride for college

Want to get a college degree for free? Try getting a job at Starbucks.
Starbucks (SBUX) said Monday it will offer employees full tuition at Arizona State University’s online program, giving them the chance to earn a bachelor’s degree for free.
The coffee chain already offers its baristas two years of undergraduate tuition at ASU under its existing college achievement program. Now the company is extending that to four years for most of its workers.
Here are more details:
Who can apply: All full and part-time U.S. employees who do not already have a four-year degree. Starbucks says 70% of its workers do not have a bachelor’s degree.
Who’s not eligible: Workers at Starbucks’ “licensed stores,” such as those located inside grocery stores.
Can you leave Starbucks after graduating: Yes. Employees will have no obligation to remain at Starbucks after they graduate.
How does it work: Starbucks employees who qualify will receive a scholarship from ASU that covers 42% of the cost for each credit of course work. Starbucks will pay the remaining 58%, minus any other scholarships the employee receives.
How often will Starbucks reimburse you: Starbucks will reimburse tuition costs at the end of each semester, as opposed to the end of each year as it currently does. So, employees who drop out or leave the company will be responsible for paying tuition for that semester.
More than 140,000 out of a total of 191,000 employees are eligible for the program.
Starbucks says the tuition reimbursement program is aimed at helping its staff, particularly underprivileged young workers, afford the education they need to succeed.
Currently, there are about 2,000 Starbucks workers enrolled in ASU online courses.
“For me, working at Starbucks is the opportunity for a better future,” said Markelle Cullom, a three-year Starbucks employee enrolled in the program, according to the company’s news release.
Tuition for ASU’s online program is about $15,000 per year. The university offers 49 online bachelor’s degree programs, in subjects ranging from business administration to art history.
Over the next 10 years, Starbucks plans to spend at least $250 million to help 25,000 employees graduate.
In addition to helping employees get ahead, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said the economy will benefit from having more educated workers in the labor force.
“By giving our partners access to four years of full tuition reimbursement, we will provide them a critical tool for lifelong opportunity,” said Schultz.
The company points out there are nearly six million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not working or in school. With the proper education, Starbucks says these so-called “opportunity youth” represent a “huge, untapped talent pool for American businesses.”
Schultz has been outspoken on a number of controversial social issues, including same-sex marriage and race relations.
The CEO has also cultivated a reputation for being supportive of workers’ rights at a time when low-wage workers have been agitating for higher pay and better benefits.
In addition to tuition reimbursement, Starbucks offers benefits including healthcare and 401(k) matching for both full and part-time workers.


New Bergdahl letter outlines torture

Washington (CNN)House Speaker John Boehner said Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is “innocent until proven guilty” after the U.S. military charged him with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, but emphasized in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Dana Bash that he was more concerned about the circumstances of his release.

Bergdahl’s attorney also released a statement on Wednesday, outlining his defense of the soldier and containing a two-page letter from Bergdahl describing the torture he endured, which included months spent chained to a bed and further years spent chained on all fours or locked in a cage.

“Well, like any American, you’re innocent until proven guilty. And these charges are coming. There will be a trial,” he told Bash in an interview taped Wednesday to air Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Boehner said the “more troubling part of this” is the fact that the U.S. government traded five Taliban fighters for Bergdahl’s release, and that recent reports indicate one has returned to the battlefield. He expressed concerns about other detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, which President Barack Obama is working to close, “ending up back on the battlefield and threatening Americans here and abroad.”

Obama “violated the law” in failing to alert Congress before the prisoner swap occurred, Boehner added.

“And I still believe that’s the more troubling part of this,” he said. “We’ve made clear in the past that we won’t negotiate with terrorists, and but yet here we did.”

Military officials announced Wednesday afternoon they would charge Bergdahl with one count each of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Bergdahl left his post in Afghanistan before being captured and held captive for five years. For that, he faces charges that carry a maximum penalty of life in a military prison, and he could also have to forfeit pay and be stripped of his rank, Army Col. Daniel King said as he announced the charges.

Bergdahl faces a military procedure similar to a grand jury that will whether charges are appropriate, King said. Then, he could face court martial proceedings.

The decision comes nearly a year after Bergdahl returned to the United States as part of a prisoner exchange and since the Army began a formal investigation into his disappearance from his unit in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009.

The Army concluded its investigation into the circumstances of Bergdahl’s capture in December. Until now, it has been in the hands of Gen. Mark Milley, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, who made the decision to charge Bergdahl. Several U.S. military officials CNN has spoken with suggested privately that the process took longer than expected.

Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, officials said Milley only had a few choices. Though the sense had been that Bergdahl must be held accountable for his actions, there had been little appetite for a lengthy term in military confinement given the five years Bergdahl was held by the Taliban.

Shortly after the charges were announced, Bergdahl’s attorneys released a lengthy statement that includes a letter sent to Milley earlier this month outlining their defense of the soldier.

“In light of the nearly five years of harsh captivity Sgt. Bergdahl endured, the purpose of his leaving his unit, and his behavior while a prisoner, it would be unduly harsh to impose on him the lifetime stigma of a court-martial conviction or an other than honorable discharge and to deny him veterans benefits,” attorney Eugene R. Fidell writes in the letter.

The statement includes a two-page accounting from Bergdahl of his time in captivity, in which he recounts months spent chained to a bed, then further years spent chained on all fours or locked in a cage.

Bergdahl said for years his body and health declined due to malnourishment, and sores on his wrists and ankles from the shackles grew infected.

“My body started a steady decline in constant internal sickness that would last through the final year,” he said.

Bergdahl was frequently beaten, at times with copper wire or a thick rubber hose, and forced to watch Taliban videos, he said. He had no concept of time, and was repeatedly told he would be killed and would never again see his family.

“I was kept in constant isolation during the entire five years, with little to no understanding of time, through periods of constant darkness, periods of constant light, and periods of completely random flickering of light and absolutely no understanding of anything that was happening beyond the door I was held behind,” he wrote.

Bergdahl tried a dozen times to escape, he wrote.

Now 28, Bergdahl was taken by the Haqqani terrorist network. But the circumstances of Bergdahl’s departure from his base and how willingly he left have not been clear.

King said he couldn’t offer those details on Wednesday, and that they’re being treated as evidence for the upcoming proceedings against Bergdahl.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Arizona, called the charges an “important step” on Wednesday.

“This is an important step in the military justice process towards determining the accountability of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl,” he said in a statement. “I am confident that the Department of the Army will continue to ensure this process is conducted with the utmost integrity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, meanwhile, lambasted the “unevenness” of Obama’s swap of five Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl.

“I wouldn’t have done this trade for a Medal of Honor winner,” he told CNN. “No military member should expect their country to turn over five Taliban commanders to get their release. Nobody should expect that. It’s not the nature of his service that drives my thinking it’s just the illogical nature of the swap.”

Some members of Bergdahl’s platoon have criticized him, labeling Bergdahl a deserter.

“I was pissed off then, and I am even more so now with everything going on,” former Sgt. Matt Vierkant, a member of Bergdahl’s platoon when he went missing on June 30, 2009, told CNN last year. “Bowe Bergdahl deserted during a time of war, and his fellow Americans lost their lives searching for him.”

Bergdahl was freed in May when President Barack Obama agreed to swap five Taliban prisoners who had been detained in Guantanamo Bay to secure Bergdahl’s freedom, sending those detainees to Qatar.

Obama announced Bergdahl’s release to fanfare in the White House Rose Garden, flanked by the Army sergeant’s parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl. His hometown of Hailey, Idaho, had planned a parade to celebrate Bergdahl’s homecoming but later canceled that celebration amid security concerns stemming from the unanswered questions surrounding his disappearance and the resulting controversy over his release.

After returning to the United States, Bergdahl had been on active duty at an administrative job at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. There, the Army assigned Bergdahl a “sponsor” to help him adjust to life in his new post. Upon returning, Bergdahl refused to meet with his parents — and months later, Army officials had said he was communicating with them but still had not met them face to face.

The five figures the United States exchanged to secure Bergdahl’s release were Khair Ulla Said Wali Khairkhwa, Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Nori, Abdul Haq Wasiq and Mohammad Nabi Omari. They were mostly mid- to high-level officials in the Taliban regime and had been detained early in the war in Afghanistan because of their positions within the Taliban, not because of ties to al Qaeda.

The detainee swap for Bergdahl has become increasingly controversial in recent weeks after a report published by the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said one of the 17 intelligence agencies operating under its umbrella had judged that a prisoner released in the exchange had since contacted the Taliban.

complete auto protection

Red Auto Protection’s “Dealer Connect” Program Captures the Attention of Major U.S. Auto Dealerships and Receives Top Honors by Headline News

Red Auto Protection’s “Dealer Connect” Program Captures the Attention of Major U.S. Auto Dealerships and Receives Top Honors by Headline News

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NEW YORK, March 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — HeadlineNews.Guru – Red Auto Protection officially launches their “Dealer Connect” to dealerships across the country and sparks immediate demand.

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Red Auto’s dealer connect program gives auto dealers the ability to remarket and build customer loyalty at no cost.  This is done by utilizing professional and well-trained sales agents, mixed with state of the art technology. The program is backed by one of the leading and most reputable providers in the United States.

With Red Auto Dealers Connect portal, dealerships can log in to this easy to use program and monitor their customers’ sales, services, have their customers called upon for necessary oil changes, maintenance, and offer extended warranty coverage for the current vehicle.

According to Red Auto Protection’s CMO Trevor Smith, “Only about 20% of the used vehicles sold at dealerships actually buy vehicle protection, this is not because the policy is bad, but because the salesman is trained to sell cars not explain the benefits of auto protection policies. This standard practice among dealerships is literally leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenues for dealerships, agents, administrators, and more importantly, it’s leaving hundreds of thousands of customers without a protection plan.

Bob Youbanker, Sales manager from Newport Beach Lexus says, “Red Auto Protection has A+ Better Business Bureau rating and is Rip Off Report verified, and they use administrators that actually pay their claims, they are in a class all of their own.”

For dealerships it appears to be a win-win relationship in that they get to remarket to a customer base that for all intents and purposes, is often lost to a competitor; the best part is, it’s completely free to the dealership.

Better quality automobiles and their increased maintenance complexity and costs has led to Red Auto Protection’s newest dealer connect program. According to corporate executives, this program has been in development for a couple years and their enthusiasm about the program and the revolutionary program is transparent through their interviews.

IJR NEWS ( spoke to Drew Edward Gilkey from Warranty Quote, who said, “Being a division of Red Auto Protection has been a great experience and honor. As their media correspondence leader, we have discovered along the way that they are a company that stands behind their product and takes care of their customers. This type of customer service is nice to see in this day and age, let’s eat.”

Red Auto Protection’s CEO, Elijah Norton, was also interviewed and said, “It’s pretty simple, many companies forget about the value of standing behind a product and the value of relationships with dealerships. We don’t, we select the top dealerships and match them with qualified and well-trained auto protection agents to tackle their remarketing needs and open great revenue streams. This program puts an awesome product in the control of a customer that, in the event of a breakdown, their budgets and livelihoods are protected.”

To learn more about Dealer Connect, call (877)-580-7750 or

Headline News Guru
Editor In Chief – CJ Green
657 222 7074

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©2012 PR Newswire. All Rights Reserved.


Ex-Navy SEAL faces up to 12 years for scheme that ensnared brothers in arms

A Navy SEAL who shattered the elite special force’s code of brotherhood by stealing from his brethren to finance his luxurious lifestyle and gambling faces up to 12 years in prison, not to mention the scorn of men who served with him but now consider him “the most repugnant scum on Earth.”

Jason Mullaney, part of SEAL Team Five until 2003, convinced 11 SEAL team members and one civilian to invest a collective $1.2 million into his company, Trident Global Financial Holdings.

Named after the Trident SEAL symbol, Mullaney said his company would award loans to credit-challenged small businesses and individuals for high interest rates, secured with assets that covered the principal and profit. Investors would receive back their investment plus a 24 percent profit within a year, Mullaney pledged.

“Jason, I wish you the worst and hope that you rot in Hell for what you did to all of us – you are the most repugnant scum on Earth.”- Former Navy SEAL Alexander Sonnenberg

Instead, Mullaney ran a pyramid scheme, and, rather than repay investors, he spent their money on a new Mercedes Benz, an extravagant home and on gambling in Las Vegas, according to prosecutors.

The SEALs had no idea they were cheated until some tried to collect on their investment. Mullaney, they reported to the FBI and San Diego District Attorney on April 27, 2011, had vanished with their money.

Former Navy SEAL Alexander Sonnenberg lost $160,000.

“The worst part of my experience with Jason Mullaney is the reprehensible way he calculatingly misrepresented himself to solicit former teammates that he knew would trust him as a brother…,” Sonnenberg said in a written statement.

Navy SEAL Kevin Blackwell lost $10,000. “[Jason] made fools of all of us and, in the end, only looked out for his own interests. He didn’t care about my daughter’s college fund or anyone else, their financial futures, impacts on their families, or their livelihood.”

April Riel, then a forensic investigator with the Office of the San Diego District Attorney, found Mullaney loaned a quarter of the $1,154,327 he took from his investors, repaid $55,050 to one investor, and spent the rest to enhance his lifestyle.

Layne Austin Pollack told San Diego investigator Micheal Brown he was with Mullaney at the Hard Rock Restaurant & Casino Las Vegas when Mullaney blew $40,000 at a blackjack table. He added Mullaney owned a $1.4 million home, an Aston Martin and a Range Rover, and frequently used cocaine with him.

In a July 30, 2012, declaration in support of an arrest warrant, Brown said Mullaney was dangerous and a flight risk. Brown cited an interview he’d conducted with Ruben Cuevas, who was threatened and assaulted by Mullaney after he was unable to repay a loan from Trident in full.

In 2010, when he met Mullaney about the debt, Cuevas said he pulled out a semi-automatic handgun, pointed it at Cuevas’ head and ordered Cuevas to get on his knees. After Cuevas complied, he said Mullaney struck him on the head several times with the butt of the gun, and then pointed at the shower door, where Cuevas said he saw a pair of garden sheers, a blowtorch, a metal hammer and some zip ties.

Cuevas said Mullaney told him he planned to use the items to smash or cut Cuevas’ fingers. Mullaney then bound Cuevas’ hands and feet and placed duct tape over his eyes and mouth. He let Cuevas choose which finger he would cut, and after Cuevas indicated his pinky, Mullaney cut his finger and then used the blowtorch to cauterize the bleeding. Mullaney told Cuevas he had to repay the loan or Mullaney would hurt or kill his family.

When Cuevas reported the incident to police, they documented bruises on the back of his neck, red marks on his wrists and ankles consistent with being bound, Brown said in his report. Mullaney was never convicted in that alleged incident.

However, on July 30, 2012, Mullaney was charged with 35 counts — including grand theft, securities fraud and tax fraud.

San Diego Deputy District Attorney Hector Jimenez told Judge Frederick Maguire the manner in which Mullaney carried out his crimes indicated “planning, sophistication and professionalism.”

Mullaney pleaded guilty to four charges on Sept. 8, 2014, including three counts of grand theft and one count of securities fraud.

In an Oct. 6 sentencing memorandum, Jimenez wrote, “The defendant stole from multiple victims over a long period of time.”

Mullaney asked to withdraw his guilty plea at his October sentencing, but thejudge denied the request Jan. 21, saying there was no “buyer’s remorse.”

When he is sentenced March 17, Mullaney faces up to 12.8 years in prison. Until then, he is at the Vista Detention Facility.

One family is struggling to recover from their financial dealings with Mullaney. Navy SEAL Commander Steven Elias and his wife Kirsten hired Mullaney in 2008 to sell their investment property.

Mullaney, who worked separately as a real estate agent with First California Funding and McJab Realty, sold their house in June 2008 but, according to Steven, never turned over the $345,000 profit.

Meanwhile, the Elias family suffered a series of personal tragedies.

In 2009, after Steven Elias’ mother’s home caught fire, they learned she had Alzheimer’s, and had to be put in a home. She died in Oct. 2009.

Fifteen days later, Elias was deployed to Beirut.

Three days after Christmas that year, Elias and his wife learned their 2-year-old son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Elias returned home so he and Kirsten could find a cure.

“Our family was stricken with the worst situation any parent could possibly have to face,” Kirsten told the judge.

Their son died 11 months later, on Nov. 8, 2010.

All the while, they were unable to get Mullaney to return the $345,000.

Steven Elias told law enforcement officials he discovered forged escrow instructions that ordered the money wired to Mullaney’s personal bank account.

After 30 years of service, Elias was eligible to retire, but had to sign up for another five-year tour to pull the family out of debt.

“Mullaney has completely betrayed my family and me,” Elias told the judge.

The family was in such financial duress, they were unable to bury their son in a cemetery nearby.

“We are devastated beyond belief,” Kirsten Elias said.

Born in WallaWalla, Wash., Mullaney and his two sisters moved frequently with their parents because their father was in the U.S. Air Force.

After graduating from high school in 1990, Mullaney enlisted in the military, and was accepted to the SEAL program. He received multiple commendations, certificates, honors and awards. Mullaney obtained his real estate license and opened his company Trident while he was on active duty.

According to a pretrial services report, Mullaney claimed that in 2008 he was diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD and schizophrenia, and is currently on several medications. His psychiatric evaluation is not public.

Several friends wrote letters in support of Mullaney. One, former Navy Seal Brian Mackey, said: “When I first heard of what happened to Jason, I was shocked that anyone could think so low of an individual who had done so much to help many people like me.”

But Sonnenberg’s statement to Mullaney is likely more reflective of the SEAL community’s views: “Jason, I wish you the worst and hope that you rot in Hell for what you did to all of us – you are the most repugnant scum on Earth.”

People shop during day after Christmas sales at Citadel Outlets in Los Angeles, California December 26, 2014.

U.S. retail sales drop biggest in 11 months, but seen as a blip

(Reuters) – U.S. retail sales recorded their largest decline in 11 months in December as demand fell almost across the board, tempering expectations for a sharp acceleration in consumer spending in the fourth quarter.

Economists, however, cautioned against reading too much into the surprise weakness, noting that holiday spending made it difficult to smooth December data for seasonal fluctuations.

“Faulty seasonal adjustments from shifts in holiday spending patterns are probably more to blame for the December decline,” said Steve Blitz, chief economist at ITG in New York. “Looking at the last three months, spending is not collapsing.”

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday retail sales fell 0.9 percent, the biggest decline since last January, after increasing 0.4 percent in November.

Economists had expected only a 0.1 percent drop. Against the backdrop of a strengthening labor market and lower gasoline prices, they said sales should bounce back in January, with some saying December’s decline could be revised away.

Bricklin Dwyer, a senior economist at BNP Paribas in New York, said fewer post-Black Friday shopping days in November than normal threw off the so-called seasonal factor used to adjust the data, resulting in a lower December sales number.

“For January 2015, this seasonal factor will boost sales by the largest factor since 2006,” said Dwyer.

“This combined with the fact that we have seen a massive boost to consumer’s wallets as a result of the rapid decline in gasoline prices, suggests that January could be a big month that reverses much of the December drop,” he said.

The Lake of the Ozarks electricution

Brother, sister electrocuted during lake swim, Missouri authorities say

The Lake of the Ozarks, where two children were electrocuted on Wednesday, near Osage Beach, Missouri, is pictured in 2011.
The Lake of the Ozarks, where two children were electrocuted on Wednesday, near Osage Beach, Missouri, is pictured in 2011.
(CNN) — A 13-year-old girl and her 8-year-old brother were electrocuted Wednesday while they were swimming in the Lake of the Ozarks near Osage Beach, Missouri, authorities said.

The two were swimming near a private dock in the lake when they were killed, according to a press release from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

“The children screamed when the initial shock hit and when the adults dove in (to attempt rescue) they could feel the electricity in the water,” said Highway Patrol Sgt. Paul Reinsch. Then the adults turned off the electricity to the dock” before pulling the siblings out of the water and attempting CPR, Reinsch said.

The children, who were from Ashland, Missouri, about 60 miles north of the scene of the accident, were taken to Lake Regional Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

Reinsch told CNN the water was electrified because of “a problem with the wiring going to the dock from the house,” although he stressed that investigators could not pinpoint which of several electrical components on the dock caused the accident.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol Marine Operations Division and the Division of Drug and Crime Control were investigating, and autopsies were planned, authorities said.

Afghan women use graffiti as a medium as a voice

An Afghan woman’s tryst with graffiti to bring in positive changes in her country…

Inspiration can manifest itself in any form. Sometimes, it might seem too bizarre to relate to whereas at other times it might appear to be quite discernible that people would be just falling in love with it altogether. The other important aspect of this is that it’s not time-bound at all. One can say that it’s always a spontaneous reaction inside a human brain which is considered very opportune.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in war-torn places of the world where people struggling do have the guts to let their lives be an example of some great achievements. They want to make sure that deep beneath the constant shelling and bombing there is at least an element of eternal peace and harmony which can create a harmonious environment. One such volatile region is Afghanistan, still mired into sectarian violence and bedlam but at the same time trying hard to pick up the pieces after what has been a devastating experience almost on all fronts. More often than not, it’s mostly women who dream of getting rid of the inhumanely beleaguered past to start a new life.

Leading the motivating crusade to change the status of the country through her art works is Shamsia Hassani, 24. She teaches sculpture at Kabul University as an associate professor and she loves her profession a lot. Besides, she also heads a modern-day art group ROSDH as its founding member. In the entire country, she is the only female graffiti artist supported by a male graffiti artist Qasem Foushanji who too works on issues that people have to grapple with on a daily basis. He is also one of the members of her association ROSDH. “We are the two trying to shine light on the state of affairs our country is ducked in, “said she.

The capital which used to be a prime target of numerous bomb attacks and assassinations has now emerged as the popular hotspot for showcasing one’s artistic acumen like hers. Amidst the ruins of Kabul’s cultural heritage, she has displayed her own specialty in graffiti by drawing a spray-art work of a female hiding her face behind a sky-blue veil. Likewise, all other spray-paintings of women have been done to convey different messages to society which is still embroiled into mischief of the past. “The images reflect the impenetrable dimensions of women’s survival in Afghanistan. They are anguished about their way of life as it stands. I planned all this secretly at the destroyed Russian Culture Center here in Kabul because it was a safe place to do so, “said she. 

Making sure that its message is decoded well by people while they see it, she has buffed it up with a beautiful verse. “If a river lies in a dried state, it could get filled with water any time but once the creatures living inside it are dead because of this, they can never come back ever again” is her translated version of the poem already embedded into cavernous holes which were created inside the walls due to heavy shelling.  In reply to this anguish bursting through her illuminating face, she said, “The moment I realized what it was about, I could only think of it reflecting the lows and highs of Afghans. More importantly, those who lost their lives can no longer be with us”.  

So what led her to tap into this medium to demonstrate the aspect of ‘Yes, we can’ against the odds? Was it her fondness for graffiti because of its direct connection to people’s consciousness? Her interest in graffiti arose thanks to an artist from Britain named Chu who had visited the country way back in 2010 for the purpose of rendering the know-how of street art to the budding artists here. And that’s how she became a pupil of his training and got a chance to know about this people’s friendly medium at first-hand. Initially, she used to sketch her works and paint them in oil which she still does as part of her teaching at Kabul University.

Since her training session with Chu in the field of graffiti, she had become a well-versed at this in every way, letting the sore feelings or emotions flow on the surface. “It’s easy to persuade a big crowd to come peer at your graffiti-the street magic of art which an exhibition cannot do. Therefore, I prefer to use spray cans and stencils than otherwise to glorify my work as more society-centered in the context of its larger aims.


“Art like this is more accessible to people from all walks of life including those who aren’t well-read in society. More or less, each Afghan will be aware of what art is if graffiti is ubiquitously splashed on the walls and fences.” Every second is important for her and she finishes her graffiti accordingly. “Usually I am very fast when it comes to doing graffiti because I may not be so lucky next time to find some other opportunity to continue my work. Therefore, the value of time in my case is quite significant, “said she.

With a sad note, the excitement just gets overshadowed by the conservative elements that are still rampant across the country and barging with their dictatorial agendas which try to suppress the voice of women. “There is always the possibility of women being harangued unnecessarily in our intolerant society, making it difficult for them to step outside their homes, “said she.


When one’s determination is too strong to evaporate, there is no chance that obstacles will stand in the way to create unnecessary incongruity. “What one could refer to as unusable stuff could also be utilized if one’s frame of mind is in a positive tenor. I am displaying my works in buildings which have been left bare open as a result of infighting going on but they seem to be a perfect corner where people could relate to what they are going through, “said Shamsia.

As prejudices of all sorts continue against women, she favors virtual graffiti which gives her a lot of scope to send the clear message without being bogged down by hateful comments from men in the street. This is what she does. She captures the shots of places liked by her and then tries to work upon them using latest tools like Photoshop where she makes the entire thing digitally attractive. Sometimes, she publishes an image of the street on which to insert graffiti dimensions with the help of a paintbrush. When she is done with all this, she puts the painted images in a scanner to get their print outs looking quite authentic. But they are not. Every now and then, after printing the pictures she does graffiti with brush, oil and acrylic color on the picture walls. What else could she do in such fragile circumstances?

Whatever graffiti works she has been able to do so far, most of them have shown women wearing burqas. Nonetheless, she has given a modern touch to them by bringing in new contemporary silhouettes with sexy hips and shoulders. In some of her works, there are fishes mired in an immovable state inside their soggy territory.

“The truth is that sometimes politicking is not the right way to resolve matters relating to people’s interests. Rather, they could be addressed amicably by different means which teaches no divide at all. And the prowess of art is a genuine method to bringing an end to conflicts, “said she.

Her family’s roots are etched in Kandahar (Taliban’s safe haven) where she comes from. Strangely, her birth took place in Iran. Her parents had fled to this country as a result of continuing violence where they lived like refugees.

“I chose art just as everybody did during my childhood. The road wasn’t that easy. A lot of them simply gave in and went to do something else. Though there were no art teachers to guide me, I was determined to go on and spruce up my knowledge about art as a whole.”

While living in Iran there was another hurdle waiting to striker her. As she got promoted into ninth grade (the appropriate time for learning art lessons in the country), her face became pale after hearing that such lessons were forbidden for Afghans, forcing her to opt for accountancy.

However, Shamsia and her parents decided to come back to their own native land. Soon afterwards, she enrolled at the University art department in Kabul to make up for what she had missed. Though there were conventional barriers here and there, she kept her spirits high and moved on with doing research on contemporary art. Since she is a professor at the University, she wishes to launch a graffiti course in her bid to make as many Afghans familiar with art as possible. “I have inkling that my city can be a backyard of stirring graffiti adorning every wall if this course comes into being, “said she.

That’s why graffiti is the most sought-after phenomenon among youths fighting for their rights worldwide. And certainly Shamsia Hassani is no exception but someone to be really admired for her forward-looking essence in a region where nothing is predictable.

By Nagmani

International Correspondent/ Writer, IJRNews

Madrid wins Europe championship

Football: Atletico Madrid win Europa League

Colombian striker Falcao celebrates after his two goals hand Atletico Madrid victory in the Europa League final.
Colombian striker Falcao celebrates after his two goals hand Atletico Madrid victory in the Europa League final.

(CNN) — Atletico Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 3-0 in the all-Spanish final of the Europa League in the Romanian capital Bucharest.

The game was won in the first half an hour after Colombian international Radamel Falcao scored two stunning individual goals.

Athletic Bilbao held on until half time, regrouped, and had most of the possession in the second half but couldn’t make the breakthrough.

Instead Falcao came close to scoring a hat trick when he hit to post before Diego scored a late goal on the breakaway.

The build up to the Europa League final, Europe’s second continental club competition after the Champions League, focused on the fact it was an all-Spanish affair.

Yet that only tells half the story.

Both teams may hail from the same league but their philosophies, history, catchment area and even language are a country apart.

Athletic Bilbao is a Basque team to its marrow. The team come from the northern city of Bilbao and have never been relegated from Spain’s top tier.

The Basque region has long walked a different beat to the rest of Spain, having a distinct language, culture and history. The terrorist group ETA has taken hundreds of lives fighting for Basque independence.

The Athletic Bilbao team is made exclusively of talent nurtured in its youth academy or from players who can trace their ancestry to the Basque country.

But in that context, their Argentine coach comes from a different planet.

Marcelo Bielsa is arguably the most innovative coach in world football. Known for his intellect, temper and idiosyncratic behavior on the sidelines and on the training pitch — behavior that has earned him the nickname “El Loco” — Bielsa has had to rely on tactically out thinking his opponents rather than outspending them.

The highlight of the campaign came in an earlier round when Bielsa’s team ripped Manchester United apart over two matches.

For the final “El Loco” was up against Diego Simione who played for Bielsa when he was in charge of the Argentina national team.

But it was Bielsa’s young protégé that came out on top, the second time Atletico Madrid have won the title in three years, largely thanks to the performance of Falcao.

His two goals gave Madrid a decisive advantage. In the second half Athletic Bilbao besieged Madrid’s goal without having many clear cut opportunities. Instead Madrid waited and broke on the counter attack, scoring a third and effectively ending the contest with five minutes to go.

By then even the usually boisterous “El Loco” sat quietly on the bench, resigned to his fate.

“I am disappointed, we did not play a good match,” Bielsa told AFP after the match.

“I am in charge of the strategy of the squad who failed to achieve its objective, which makes the disappointment even greater. Atletico deserved their win, but the scale of it was excessive.”