Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Portable Shelters Couldn't Save Them

"Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."--Deuteronomy 31:6

From Fox News:

With no way out, the 19 elite firefighters killed in an Arizona wildfire Sunday night -- 14 of them in their 20s -- unfurled their foil-lined, heat-resistant tarps and rushed to cover themselves.

The tragedy all but wiped out the 20-member Granite Mountain Hotshots, a unit based at Prescott, authorities said Monday as the last of the bodies were retrieved from the mountain in the town of Yarnell. Only one member survived, and that was because he was moving the unit's truck at the time.

The team was known for working on the front lines of region's worst fires, including two this season that came before, MyFoxPhoenix.com reported.

The deaths plunged the two small towns into mourning as the wildfire continued to threaten one of them, Yarnell.

Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said he feared the worst when he received a call Sunday afternoon from someone assigned to the fire.

"All he said was, 'We might have bad news. The entire Hotshot crew deployed their shelters,'" Fraijo said. "When we talk about deploying the shelters, that's an automatic fear, absolutely. That's a last-ditch effort to save yourself when you deploy your shelter."

Arizona Forestry Division spokesman Mike Reichling said all 19 victims had deployed their emergency shelters as they were trained to do.

As a last resort, firefighters are supposed to step into the shelters, lie face down on the ground and pull the fire-resistant fabric completely over themselves. The shelter is designed to reflect heat and trap cool, breathable air inside for a few minutes while a wildfire burns over a person.

But its success depends on firefighters being in a cleared area away from fuels and not in the direct path of a raging inferno of heat and hot gases.

The glue holding the layers of the shelter together begins to come apart at about 500 degrees, well above the 300 degrees that would almost immediately kill a person.

"It'll protect you, but only for a short amount of time. If the fire quickly burns over you, you'll probably survive that," said Prescott Fire Capt. Jeff Knotek. But "if it burns intensely for any amount of time while you're in that thing, there's nothing that's going to save you from that."

Fire officials gave no further details about the shelters being deployed. The bodies were taken to Phoenix for autopsies to determine exactly how the firefighters died.

More than 1,000 people gathered Monday night in the gymnasium on the campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott as others throughout the state and beyond also mourned the firefighter deaths.

Arizona's governor called it "as dark a day as I can remember" and ordered flags flown at half-staff. In a heartbreaking sight, a long line of white vans carried the bodies to Phoenix for autopsies.

"I know that it is unbearable for many of you, but it also is unbearable for me. I know the pain that everyone is trying to overcome and deal with today," said Gov. Jan Brewer, her voice catching several times as she addressed reporters and residents Monday morning at Prescott High School in the town of 40,000.

The lightning-sparked fire -- which spread to 13 square miles by Monday morning -- destroyed about 50 homes and threatened 250 others in and around Yarnell, a town of 700 people in the mountains about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Department said.

About 200 more firefighters joined the battle Monday, bringing the total to 400. Among them were several other Hotshot teams, elite groups of firefighters sent in from around the country to battle the nation's fiercest wildfires.

Residents huddled in shelters and restaurants, watching their homes burn on TV as flames lit up the night sky in the forest above the town.

It was unclear exactly how the firefighters became trapped, and state officials were investigating.

Brewer said the blaze "exploded into a firestorm" that overran the crew.

Prescott City Councilman Len Scamardo said the wind changed directions and brought 40 mph to 50 mph gusts that caused the firefighters to become trapped around 3 p.m. Sunday. The blaze grew from 200 acres to about 2,000 in a matter of hours.

Southwest incident team leader Clay Templin said the crew and its commanders were following safety protocols, and it appears the fire's erratic nature simply overwhelmed them.

The Hotshot team had spent recent weeks fighting fires in New Mexico and Prescott before being called to Yarnell, entering the smoky wilderness over the weekend with backpacks, chainsaws and other heavy gear to remove brush and trees as a heat wave across the Southwest sent temperatures into the triple digits.

President Obama offered his administration's help in investigating the tragedy and predicted it will force government leaders to answer broader questions about how they handle increasingly destructive and deadly wildfires.

"We are heartbroken about what happened," he said while on a visit to Africa.

The U.S. has 110 Hotshot crews, according to the U.S. Forest Service website. They typically have about 20 members each and go through specialized training.

The National Fire Protection Association website lists the last wildfire to kill more firefighters as the 1933 Griffith Park blaze in Los Angeles, which killed 29. The biggest loss of firefighters in U.S. history was 343, killed in the 9/11 attack on New York.

In 1994, the Storm King Fire near Glenwood Springs, Colo., killed 14 firefighters who were overtaken by an explosion of flames.

A makeshift memorial of flower bouquets and American flags formed at the Prescott fire station where the crew was based.

Prescott resident Keith Gustafson showed up and placed 19 water bottles in the shape of a heart.

"When I heard about this, it just hit me hard," he said. "It hit me like a ton of bricks."

Monday, July 1, 2013

Hire More English Majors

"The law is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

--Samuel Johnson

The following article from WFTV.com will illustrate how important it is to pay attention in English class.

When you grow up and become, for example, a state representative fighting on the side of the good you may find that if you make a poorly articulated or poorly thought out law that curtails "evil" activities, the evildoers may demand you apply that same law (because of how it's worded) to activities you approve of as fun, nice, innocent, harmless, positive, and such.

In other words, if they can't pass out their bitter, you can't pass out your sweet. You can't play an innocent game of marbles if they are not allowed knock out your eyes with them.

Let's just put both of our candies and marbles back in our pockets and go home.

Brush back your tears as they stick out their tongues, make farting sounds, and sing, "Nah, nah'na, naaah, naaaaah."

The solution, you ask? Go rewrite the law .. . but that takes a lotto time and a lotto, lotto money.

And when you finish writing it, millions and millions of dollars later, they'll point out another way that their bad deeds are similar in the minutiae of wording to your good deeds.

And so it goes, on and on forever, or until you get the wording right or you give up and make a compromise that allows you to act in ways that are favorable to the public and they to act in ways that are unfavorable, but now legal.

Brrrrrrrrr. Wag your finger and chastise, "Naughty, naughty, poo-poo. Shame on you."

And shame on you for letting the bad guys get all the English and philosophy majors because they pay better.

Shame on you, goodhearted, noble, you--for not paying attention in class.


If you want an idea of how powerful, crafty, and downright (dare we say) "evil" Legalized Gambling and its support system (with its better English majors) are, read this.

WFTV.Com 9



The statewide gambling scandal that led to more than 50 arrests and the resignation of the lieutenant governor is now being blamed for what some call a "bad law," 9 Investigates learned.

Reacting to the Allied Veterans of the World racketeering case, lawmakers passed swift and far-reaching legislation aimed at shutting down internet gambling centers.

WFTV investigative reporter Christopher Heath discovered the law is having unanticipated consequences, and sending nonprofits out of the state for fear of prosecution.

Earlier this year, the state raided the Allied Veterans of the World gaming center in Seminole County, setting off a chain of events that would end with millions of dollars seized, dozens of arrests across the county and state, and the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll.

In addition, both political parties were forced to hand back thousands of dollars in campaign cash.

With many of the suspects still waiting to bond out of jail, the legislature sprang into action, crafting two bills designed to shut down internet casinos and stop illegal gambling.

Now, those same bills, which have become law, are preventing people like Linda Sacks from entering a nation-wide AARP sweepstakes contest.

"I think somebody needs to pay better attention to the bills being passed," said Sacks, an Ormond Beach resident.

Sacks, a national child-welfare advocate, wanted to enter the AARP's "New Face of 50" contest.

Upon reading the fine print, she discovered Florida is the only state where the contest is not being held.

"This cannot be possible. What did Florida do to be excluded?" Sacks asked.

Heath asked AARP why it is excluding Florida, and the organization responded in a statement that the new anti-gambling law prohibits its contest because the prize includes $5,000 and a photo-shoot. The statement added that the group "was surprised by the consequences of this new law."

Heath visited a former internet casino location in central Florida, noting that the gaming center is shut down and even missing the handle to its front door.

The same law that shut the operation down is now getting challenged in court with operators saying it isn't just poorly written, it may also be unconstitutional.

The lawsuits, filed in Broward County, have yet to go before a judge.

Sacks hopes the state will reexamine the unintended consequences of some of the laws it passes.

"To be excluded is just not fair," Sacks said.

Heath spoke with state Sen. John Thrasher, the sponsor of the bill in the Florida Senate. Thrasher said the AARP case was the first he had heard of a non-profit being excluded as a result of the new law. He added that excluding legitimate nonprofits was not the intent of the law.

The state won't be able to fix the problem until state legislature meets again in 2014.

Go Heat!

We win! We win! We win!

Back to Back NBA CHAMPS!

Nothing bad can be said about the San Antonio Spurs, who are a class act even in defeat. But if we go back to game six . . .



Gambling Loopholes

This from the Miami Herald

"Gambling loopholes grow as state waits to reform rules"

By Mary Ellen Klas


Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE -- Days after an administrative law judge ruled last month that the barrel races held at a fledgling North Florida racino were not a legitimate pari-mutuel sport, state regulators crafted a license to allow for “flag-drop” races, the first of its kind, to replace them.

In the last two years, the same regulators have allowed for slot machine operators to run electronic roulette and craps games in Miami-Dade and Broward, allowed a dormant jai alai permit to be used to expand the number of slot machines at Magic City Casino, and allowed Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Racetrack to run a one-time race in June so they could offer thoroughbred races via simulcast year-round.

These are just among a handful of decisions by state regulators that have effectively expanded the gambling footprint in Florida under Gov. Rick Scott.

“There are a couple of clever lawyers out there and we’re seeing a lot of strange decisions,’’ said Kent Stirling, executive director of the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, told the Herald/Times. “If the law doesn’t specifically say no, the answer from the department seems to be, always, yes.”

The rulings have not gone without notice by top legislative leaders who have ordered up a comprehensive study of gambling in Florida. They say they want the debate to include the loophole-driven expansion of gambling, as well as a discussion about whether to authorize destination resort casinos being pushed by the world’s gambling giants.

On Monday, legislators will receive the first of a two-part, $388,000 study ordered from Spectrum Gaming Group, a New Jersey-based expert in gambling analysis. The second part will come in October and legislators expect to recommend changes in March that could include whether or not to approve destination gambling.

“It behooves the Legislature to walk through all the statutes very deliberately with the goal of possibly rewriting those statutes to add clarification,’’ said Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee that will conduct the review next session.

Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, a veteran of the gambling law fight who once lobbied on behalf of the Jacksonville greyhound track, believes the Legislature’s failure to reform its gambling laws has led to the inadvertent expansion of gambling.

“There are people who are looking at loopholes and these things expand gambling,’’ he said. “I’m for closing loopholes. I’m not for expanding gambling in Florida.’’

Lawyers at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, wouldn’t comment Friday when asked about the pattern of rulings.

“DBPR is a regulatory agency that implements the laws created by the Legislature,’’ said Ronnie Whitaker, DBPR chief of staff.

A draft of the first part of the Spectrum report suggests that “the overall financial trend for Florida pari-mutuels has been on a steady downward spiral.” But if the Legislature refrains from putting together a comprehensive gambling plan, as it has in the past, the report warns there will be consequences.

“Based on our research and experience in Florida and elsewhere, gaming will evolve in Florida whether or not the Florida Legislature develops a plan and puts that plan into action,’’ the draft report concludes. “Absent any plan, however, that evolution would be haphazard and would be far less likely to address or advance any public-policy goals.”

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@MiamiHerald.com and on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas

Lipshitz 6

Lipshitz 6
Reading T Cooper for Christmas

Punk Blood

Punk Blood
Jay Marvin

Breath, Eyes, Memory

Breath, Eyes, Memory

Anonymous Rex

Anonymous Rex
Reading Eric Garcia for Christmas

Vinegar Hill

Vinegar Hill
Reading A. Manette Ansay for Christmas

Nicotine Dreams

Nicotine Dreams
Reading Katie Cunningham for Christmas

Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz
Pulitzer Prize Winner!!!

Edwige Danticat

Edwige Danticat
New Year's Reading


This Brother Is Scary Good

One More Chance

One More Chance
The genius Is At It Again/The Rapper CHIEF aka Sherwin Allen

Sandrine's Letter

Sandrine's Letter
Check out Sandrine's Letter To Tomorrow. You will like it, I insist.

All or Nothing

All or Nothing

Editorial Reviews of All or Nothing

New York Times--". . . a cartographer of autodegradation . . . Like Dostoyevsky, Allen colorfully evokes the gambling milieu — the chained (mis)fortunes of the players, their vanities and grotesqueries, their quasi-philosophical ruminations on chance. Like Burroughs, he is a dispassionate chronicler of the addict’s daily ritual, neither glorifying nor vilifying the matter at hand."

Florida Book Review--". . . Allen examines the flaming abyss compulsive gambling burns in its victims’ guts, self-esteem and bank accounts, the desperate, myopic immediacy it incites, the self-destructive need it feeds on, the families and relationships it destroys. For with gamblers, it really is all or nothing. Usually nothing. Take it from a reviewer who’s been there. Allen is right on the money here."

Foreword Magazine--"Not shame, not assault, not even murder is enough reason to stop. Allen’s second novel, All or Nothing, is funny, relentless, haunting, and highly readable. P’s inner dialogues illuminate the grubby tragedy of addiction, and his actions speak for the train wreck that is gambling."

Library Journal--"Told without preaching or moralizing, the facts of P's life express volumes on the destructive power of gambling. This is strongly recommended and deserves a wide audience; an excellent choice for book discussion groups."—Lisa Rohrbaugh, East Palestine Memorial P.L., OH

LEXIS-NEXIS--"By day, P drives a school bus in Miami. But his vocation? He's a gambler who craves every opportunity to steal a few hours to play the numbers, the lottery, at the Indian casinos. Allen has a narrative voice as compelling as feeding the slots is to P." Betsy Willeford is a Miami-based freelance book reviewer. November 4, 2007

Publisher’s Weekly--"Allen’s dark and insightful novel depicts narrator P’s sobering descent into his gambling addiction . . . The well-written novel takes the reader on a chaotic ride as P chases, finds and loses fast, easy money. Allen (Churchboys and Other Sinners) reveals how addiction annihilates its victims and shows that winning isn’t always so different from losing."

Kirkus Review--"We gamble to gamble. We play to play. We don't play to win." Right there, P, desperado narrator of this crash-'n'-burn novella, sums up the madness. A black man in Miami, P has graduated from youthful nonchalance (a '79 Buick Electra 225) to married-with-a-kid pseudo-stability, driving a school bus in the shadow of the Biltmore. He lives large enough to afford two wide-screen TVs, but the wife wants more. Or so he rationalizes, as he hits the open-all-night Indian casinos, "controlling" his jones with a daily ATM maximum of $1,000. Low enough to rob the family piggy bank for slot-machine fodder, he sinks yet further, praying that his allergic 11-year-old eat forbidden strawberries—which will send him into a coma, from which he'll emerge with the winning formula for Cash 3 (the kid's supposedly psychic when he's sick). All street smarts and inside skinny, the book gives readers a contact high that zooms to full rush when P scores $160,000 on one lucky machine ("God is the God of Ping-ping," he exults, as the coins flood out). The loot's enough to make the small-timer turn pro, as he heads, flush, to Vegas to cash in. But in Sin City, karmic payback awaits. Swanky hookers, underworld "professors" deeply schooled in sure-fire systems to beat the house, manic trips to the CashMyCheck store for funds to fuel the ferocious need—Allen's brilliant at conveying the hothouse atmosphere of hell-bent gaming. Fun time in the Inferno.

World Series of Poker


At Books and Books

At Books and Books
Me And Vicki at Our Reading


Preston L. Allen is the recipient of a State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature and the Sonja H. Stone Prize in Fiction for his short story collection Churchboys and Other Sinners (Carolina Wren Press 2003). His works have appeared in numerous publications including The Seattle Review, The Crab Orchard Review, Asili, Drum Voices, and Gulfstream Magazine; and he has been anthologized in Here We Are: An Anthology of South Florida Writers, Brown Sugar: A Collection of Erotic Black Fiction, Miami Noir, and the forthcoming Las Vegas Noir. His fourth novel, All Or Nothing, chronicles the life of a small-time gambler who finally hits it big. Preston Allen teaches English and Creative Writing in Miami, Florida.