Monday, June 30, 2008

Legendary Aviator Inducted Iinto The Navy's Hall Of Fame

By the 1950s, James. D. Ramage had survived attacks by Zeros and MiGs. But his superiors warned that a deadlier foe was aiming to destroy his career. It was Ramage's reputation. “I was becoming known as a throttle jock,” Ramage remembered. “I was told that I might never amount to anything in the Navy.” Pilots are trained to assess threats instantly, then act. At once, Ramage – call sign Jig Dog – knew what he had to do. He had to ignore those warnings. “I came to the Navy to fly,” he decided. “That's what I'm here for.” Good call. Ramage's long and distinguished career continued until his retirement in 1976 as a rear admiral. In four decades with the Navy, he commanded squadrons, an attack wing, a carrier air wing and the aircraft carrier Independence. His dress uniform glittered with the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. At 92, he lives with his wife, Ginger, in an oceanfront condo beneath North Island's flight path. The view out the windows is spectacular. The walls look shipshape, too, full of photos, paintings and plaques testifying to a busy and accomplished life. In May, Ramage received another honor. At the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla., he was inducted into the Hall of Honor.
James Ramage, at his Coronado condo, described a bombing mission using a model of the Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber that he flew in the South Pacific
Some would say the honor was overdue. Ramage is “a living legend among airedales,” wrote Capt. Melvin Ray Schultz, a naval aviator-turned-chaplain. Schultz, who died in 2005, flew combat missions as an enlisted aircrewman during World War II. Although Ramage, a Naval Academy graduate, spent his entire naval career as an officer, he felt that the enlisted fliers never received their due. “We pilots probably got more medals than we deserved. The combat aircrew, though, probably got a limp handshake,” he said. Aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise in World War II, the young officer was startled one day when the public address system announced the death of a popular pilot. No mention was made of the enlisted man who had also perished in the plane – not, that is, until Ramage tracked down the announcer and insisted he correct the oversight. “But that had a great impact on me,” Ramage said. “Riding backwards in the back of a dive bomber is not any great sport.” After his retirement, Ramage worked to establish the Enlisted Combat Aircrew Roll of Honor. He devoted years – and what Schultz described as “a generous sum of money” – to the cause. The small museum is now aboard the retired aircraft carrier Yorktown in Charleston, S.C. “I've loved doing that more than anything,” he said. Since boyhood, in fact, Ramage has had a passion for all things aeronautical. As a 13-year-old in Waterloo, Iowa, he attended a slide show presented by Richard Byrd, the aviator, explorer and admiral. “He wore his white service uniform, the gold wings – that was me.” This fascination was strong enough to trump other fierce emotions, including terror. He still remembers the day in 1943 when he spotted his first Zero. As the swift Japanese fighter closed with murderous intent, the American pilot fell in love. “I couldn't believe it. The performance was so good – it was fast, really a beautiful, beautiful airplane.”
James D. Ramage is shown in the 1950s aboard the aircraft carrier Oriskany. He retired in 1976 as a rear admiral.
Time was running out for that Zero pilot's comrades in arms, though, as the U.S. Navy swept relentlessly across the Pacific. Ramage flew in 11 combat operations; off Saipan in 1944, he was cited for bombing a Japanese carrier “and leaving it in a sinking condition.” Ramage later served in the Korean and Vietnam wars; trained a generation of pilots, including future astronauts James Lovell, Wally Schirra and Alan Shepard; and delivered Smithsonian-sponsored lectures on World War II air operations. At home, though, the retired admiral doesn't dwell on his aerial prowess. Instead, he continually steers the conversation to a modest theme. Go on, ask how his career began: “I was lucky enough to be assigned to the Enterprise out of Annapolis in 1939.” Ask about his 92 years and counting: “I've had a very lucky life.” Ask about anything: “I've always been so lucky.” Wasn't there some talent involved? “I certainly hope so,” he said, laughing. But even the most skillful aviator can run into trouble. When men and machines travel at high speed through an unforgiving sky, even the luckiest tempt fate. One night in 1959, Ramage landed on the deck of the Oriskany. While talking to another officer, the pilot was approached by a young sailor. “Sir, did you just land aboard?” “Yeah.” “Do you ever get used to that?” “Son,” Jig Dog said, “it just scares the hell out of me.”

Sunday, June 29, 2008

U.S. Coast Guard Warning About Hoaxes

The U.S. Coast Guard says it's responded to several distress calls this month on Lake Michigan. One call in particular is prompting the organization to warn of the dangers associated with making a false distress call. On June first, the U.S. Coast Guard says it responded to a distress call made by a child near the Milwaukee area of Lake Michigan. After an hour and a half search, which involved a rescue boat and a helicopter, the Coast Guard realized the call was a hoax. The search though cost tax payers an estimated $14,000. "We treat every distress call as an actual emergency, we have to," says John Davis, with the Coast Guard. Davis says the costs can add up quickly when his crew goes out on a rescue or search. He says it costs about $400 an hour just in the salaries of his crew. Operating the boat costs an additional $1700 an hour and that's not including the cost of bringing in other rescue vehicles.But it's not just money that's taken by false distress calls. "Let's say a call comes in and our most probable position is up in Kewaunee," says Davis. "Well that's the farthest extreme of our area for operation for this unit. Then an actual emergency occurs in Manitowoc, well then we have a two hour transit to get back to where we started." He also says, "When our boat crew gets underway there's no boat crew back here on standby. It's not like the Green Bay Police Department where if they take a car out of the area and there's a car they can take from another area and backfill. We're it." Plus, Davis says, anytime a crew goes out on the water they are risking injury to themselves. "It could be flat calm and all the sudden a storm cell will come in and we're out there in the middle of it," he says. All reasons why Davis hopes people think before radioing in a hoax.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Greek Passenger Ship Runs Aground Iin Aegean Sea

A Greek Passenger ship "Theofilos," en route from Mytilene to Chios in east Aegean sea, ran aground off the island of Oinousses Saturday. According to Greek TV, the ship was carrying 475 passengers and has suffered a crack on its left side, after hitting an unmapped reef.
M/F Theofilos
The Ministries of Mercantile Marine said the ship was slightly damaged but was able to continue to Oinousses, which is around two kilometers away. Promptly responding to the emergency, the rescue teams consisting of two Super Puma helicopters and three warships to rush to the site, and a C-130 aircraft is on standby.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Cargo Ship Fire Breaks Out On Burrard Inlet

A large fire broke out on a cargo ship moored on the north side of Burrard Inlet on Thursday evening at about 7:15 p.m. The Coast Guard, North Vancouver fire department and RCMP dealt with the blaze, which appeared to start in the living quarters of the ship, and had it contained by 8:30 p.m. The ship, called the Antoine D, was moored by the Neptune Bulk Terminals in North Vancouver, located west of the Second Narrows bridge. Police said there were at least a dozen crew members on board.
Burrard Inlet
"There doesn't appear to be any injuries," said Cst. Mike McLaughlin of the North Vancouver RCMP. "Anytime you have an interior fire there will be significant smoke damage and water damage." McLaughlin said it was a large fire, but the full extent of it will be determined by fire inspectors. The ship is registered in Nassau, in the Bahamas, said McLaughlin.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dutch Ship Hijacked Off Somalia's Coast A Month Ago Is Freed

A Dutch shipping company says a freighter hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia a month ago is free, along with its crew, and sailing toward the Suez Canal. Spokesman Lars Walder of Reider Shipping BV says its freighter Amiya Scan and its crew of four Russians and five Filipinos are unharmed. “We've spoken to the captain, and the crew are fine, doing well given the circumstances,” he says.The ship was hijacked May 25 in the Gulf of Aden, bound for Romania, and freed Wednesday. Walder says it is expected to reach safe harbor within several days. He would not say whether any ransom is being paid, as is common in piracy cases around the lawless Somali coast, so as not to jeopardize negotiations over other ships and captives.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Haditha Marine May Sue Murtha

A Marine who was charged with failing to investigate the November 2005 killings of 24 Iraqis in the village of Haditha may sue Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., for libel and defamation of character. Attorney Brian Rooney made the comments during an interview with right-wing radio talk show host Michael Savage after a military judge dismissed the case against his client, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, on June 17 after finding that a general overseeing the case was improperly influenced by an investigator of the 2005 shootings. According to the report, Rooney said any suit against Murtha, as well as a Time magazine reporter who wrote the first major piece on the killings, would have to wait until Chessani is fully “out of the woods.” That’s not the case, yet, as prosecutors on June 19 filed a notice to appeal the dismissal. That move was made possible by the military judge’s decision to dismiss the charges against Chessani “without prejudice.” Nearly all the Marines originally charged in connection with the Nov. 19, 2005, killings have been cleared, which has only helped to fuel the anger of many against Murtha, who early on claimed the killings had been done in cold blood, not self defense.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani
“There was no firefight,” Murtha said in May 2006. “There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.” Rooney told Savage it would be difficult to sue a sitting congressman, but that it can be done. "If he leaves his realm of speaking from the congressman's point of view … then he can be sued for libel and defamation," Rooney said. Also eyed in a possible lawsuit is Tim McGuirk of Time. Rooney said the massacre story was planted by insurgents, and picked up on by McGuirk for his story.
John Murtha
Prosecutors appealing the dismissal of charges against Chessani have 20 days to file a written appeal, spelling out why they disagree with the ruling by the judge, Col. Steven Folsom. Defense attorneys then have 20 days to respond, said Chessani's military attorney, Lt. Col. Jon Shelburne. It is unclear from the one-page court filing what the prosecutor, Lt. Col. Sean Sullivan, will use as his grounds for appeal. A telephone call to the Marine Corps seeking comment was not immediately returned. Folsom also barred Marine Forces Central Command from future involvement in the case. Joint Forces Command and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were also excluded from filing future charges. It was not immediately clear who would take over the case and who would have authority to refile charges. Authorities originally charged eight Marines - four enlisted men with counts related to the killings and four officers in connection with the investigation. Charges were dropped against five men and a sixth, 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson of Springboro, Ohio, was acquitted of charges he hindered the investigation. Only one man currently faces prosecution - Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich of Meriden, Conn., who is charged with voluntary manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Four Die As Fishing Boat Capsizes Off Japan Coast

A Japanese fishing boat capsized and sank off the country's eastern coast Monday, leaving four crew members dead and 13 missing, Coast Guard officials said. Three other men on the Suwa Maru No. 58 were rescued by crew from four other fishing boats, Coast Guard spokesman Munekazu Yoshida said. The conditions of the rescued men were not immediately known, he added. Yoshida said all the crew members were Japanese. The Coast Guard has dispatched five patrol vessels and two aircraft to join the rescue effort at the accident site about 215 miles east of Cape Inubo in Chiba prefecture (state). Yoshida did not know what caused the accident.
Suwa Maru No. 58
Mitsuo Sugiyama, Captain of an accompanying trawler, said in an interview with public broadcaster NHK that the vessel capsized because high waves crashed into it. "It was not impossible to operate, but sort of a borderline situation," Sugiyama said. "Sometimes we were washed by heavy swells as high as 4 meters (13 feet)." In a phone call to his father in the northern town of Iwaki, 20-year-old deckhand Susumu Nitta - one of the three who was rescued - said the vessel capsized and sank after a 50-foot-high wave struck its side, NHK reported. Fighting back tears, the ship's owner Tetsu Nozaki said he had only received sketchy details of the incident. "I'm praying that all the missing crewmen are found alive and come home safely," Nozaki said in a televised news conference from his office in the northern port of Onahama.

Monday, June 23, 2008

800 Missing As Typhoon Philippines Ferry

Rescuers battled rough seas in the central Philippines on Sunday to search for more than 800 people missing after a passenger ferry sank as a powerful typhoon pummelled the country, officials said. A coast guard rescue ship reached the waters off Sibuyan Island, 300 kilometres south of Manila, where the MV Princess of the Stars sank after running aground on Saturday amid heavy rains and huge waves spawned by Typhoon Fengshen. "We still haven't found anything," coast guard spokesman Lieutenant Armand Balilo said. "We will continue with the search overnight." But Sulpicio Lines, owner of the 24,000-tonne ferry, said bad weather was preventing rescuers from reaching nearby islands where survivors could have drifted. "Sulpicio Lines has also dispatched one rescue vessel, but because of the bad weather, it has been difficult," said attorney Manuel Espina, a spokesman for the shipping company. "Even the coast guard ship had to anchor because of the huge waves."Espina said the Princess of the Stars was carrying 724 passengers and 121 crew members on its way to nearby Cebu province from Manila when it was battered by rough seas. The ferry left Manila Friday evening and was supposed to arrive in Cebu on Saturday afternoon. Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, said 10 bodies have been recovered from the shores of San Fernando town, bringing to 128 the death toll in the onslaught of Fengshen. Only four survivors from the ferry sinking have been found, according to town Mayor Nanette Tansingco. "We are seeking help from everyone who can assist in the search and rescue operations because we are still not seeing any more people in the area," she said. Inspector Reynaldo Reyes, police chief of San Fernando town, said among the recovered bodies was that of an old woman tied to a foam mattress she had apparently used as a floater. "There were few items found on the shores," he said. "We fear that more bodies are trapped inside the ferry." Among the survivors was Renato Lamorias, a janitor in the ferry, who said the vessel was forced to slow down "because the winds and the rain were strong.""We were eating lunch (on Saturday) when the boat suddenly tilted," he said. "We were told to put on our life vests and to abandon ship, and that's what we did." "Many of us jumped into the sea, but many were also left behind," he added. "Those who were not able to jump are probably dead already inside the ship." Lamorias said most of those who were unable to jump overboard were children and elderly passengers. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who left for a 10-day trip to the United States on Saturday, scolded coast guard chief Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo during a conference call for allowing the ferry to leave Manila despite a typhoon warning. Sea travel is a major mode of transportation in the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands. The country was the site of the world's worst peacetime shipping disaster in 1987, when more than 4,000 people perished in a collision between the ferry Dona Paz and an oil tanker off the central island of Mindoro just before Christmas.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Container Ship Burning South Of Dutch Harbor

The U.S. Coast Guard responded to fire aboard a container ship 700 miles south of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, in the Pacific, today. A spokesman in Juneau, Petty Officer Russ Tippets, says the fire was reported early Friday from 781-foot Malta-flagged India Lotus.The Coast Guard has dispatched a C-130 plane from Kodiak and the Cutter Mellon, which was 800 miles away in the Bering Sea. Tippets says there are 32 on board the burning ship and there are no reports of injuries.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Concerns About Fleet Lead Botanical Garden To End Boat Tours

For the first time in nearly 50 years, Norfolk Botanical Garden is not offering its popular boat tours of the grounds and Lake Whitehurst. The canopied boats, which are the original vessels launched in 1961, have been grounded because of safety concerns. Small holes were discovered in the steel hull of one of the boats this spring. Because the other two are the same age and model, all tours were suspended, possibly through the end of the year. "The last thing we want to do is have a paying guest go out on a boat and find their feet soaked in several inches of water," said Perry Mathewes, education program manager. Mathewes said the 25-passenger boats are too old to repair and need to be replaced. "It's gotten to the point that repairing them is more expensive than replacing them," he said. The staff is applying for grant money and seeking donations from Botanical Garden supporters. He estimates that two boats would cost at least $50,000. Boat tours are normally offered six times daily from April through October. Last year's fees were $4 for adults, $3 for members and $2 for children.The garden had to cancel a number of group boat tours that had already been reserved for about 1,000 people, resulting in a $3,000 loss in revenue, spokeswoman Amy Dagnall said. Not counting tour groups, about 10,000 people took the boat tours last fiscal year. That's about 16 percent of daily-admission visitors. During the year, there were about 201,500 entries into the Botanical Garden, including members, tour groups and special events such as weddings. The boat basin and canals were designed by noted horticulturist Fred Huette after a trip to Florida's Cypress Gardens to offer a different view of the Norfolk facility's 30 themed gardens covering 155 acres. The canals are in the form of a wishbone originating from the boat basin. The canal path allows for a 45-minute tour that includes Lake Whitehurst. The boat tours offer the best viewing of the Botanical Garden's eagle nest and of wildlife around Lake Whitehurst, Mathewes said. The water views of the rose garden and butterfly garden are also popular with tour participants, he said.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Japanese Defense Ship Will Visit China

A Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer carrying earthquake relief supplies will call at a Chinese port for the first time next week on a reciprocal visit after a Chinese Navy vessel visited Japan last year, Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba announced. The destroyer Sazanami will visit Zhanjiang in China's southern Guangdong Province from June 24 to 28, Ishiba said. It will be the first time for an MSDF vessel to visit China. The MSDF plans for the Sazanami to carry relief supplies for victims of last month's devastating earthquake in Sichuan Province. Supplies will include 300 Self-Defense Forces blankets, about 2,600 emergency canned meals, and medical supplies such as flu masks and adhesive bandages. After the earthquake, the government considered transporting aid items such as tents to stricken areas on Air Self-Defense Force transport planes. But it abandoned this plan after consulting with the Chinese government which was concerned about a backlash in public opinion over the proposed deployment. Transporting the relief supplies by the Sazanami is seen as an alternative to carrying the aid by ASDF aircraft.
JDS Sazanami DD-113 departs at Kure port for China
The destroyer's visit to Zhanjiang is part of an agreement made during talks in August between the two countries' defense ministers. They decided that both MSDF and Chinese Navy ships would make alternate visits to each other's country. In November, the missile destroyer Shenzhen became the first Chinese vessel to call at a Japanese port under the agreement. The MSDF originally planned for the Sazanami to visit Zhanjiang, where the Chinese Navy's South Sea Fleet is based, early this month, but the plan was put on hold after the earthquake. Meanwhile, Ishiba said he is making arrangements for a visit to China in mid-July. In a joint Japan-China statement made when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Japan in May, it was agreed that the defense minister would visit China before the end of the year. The visit would entail talks with the Chinese defense minister and other officials in Beijing. During the visit, Ishiba plans to discuss matters such as security in East Asia, as well as demanding a guarantee of transparency over China's ballooning defense expenditure. The minister also is considering an inspection of China's People's Liberation Army troops. The visit would be his first to China since September 2003, when he visited in the capacity of director general of the then Defense Agency.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Live Export Ship Braves Seas Again After Pirate Attack

A live export ship, shot at by pirates on its way to Australia, has been repaired and is finally due to arrive in Broome early next week. About 2300 head of cattle were left stranded in Broome, after the Hereford Express ran into trouble last week. Livestock manager for Landmark, Andrew Stewart, says the extra cattle have been a major disruption to operations out of Broome.
Hereford Express
He says explaining to the Kimberley pastoralists the reason behind the delay has been tricky. "The most (common) response was 'you're joking?' That was pretty much the response from everyone I've spoken to," he says. "I tried to explain that these things happen a fair bit apparently, even though it's the first I've heard of pirate attacks."

Huge Win For T-SAT Builders

One of the most important program decisions of this administration was made on Tuesday last week. After years of dithering, the Pentagon’s Deputy’s Advisory Working Group (known affectionately as the DAWG) approved Tier 2 -- the next stage of the Transformational Satellite Communications system. For a program that had just been whacked by $4 billion over the fiscal 2009 Program Objective memorandum’s five years this is a remarkable achievement and is testament to the enduring need for enormous amounts of protected communication bandwidth. Lockheed Martin and Boeing executives, who just four months ago feared the program was headed for the trash heap of history, were elated. Lockheed partners with Northrop Grumman and Juniper Networks on the program. Boeing partners with Cisco and Hughes. T-Sat, aside from providing the vaunted comms on the move capability, will provide something even more important – enough bandwidth for the Army’s future Combat System and other key joint systems to function.There are two separate T-Sat programs -- the ground segment and the satellite segment. The DAWG meeting approved going ahead with the satellites and the plan is to build five of them and one spare. The June 10 decision came as quite a surprise to several industry players. One told us Thursday that their company “could not believe” that the Pentagon leaders had approved the program unanimously. The DAWG’s action spells an end to several years of questions about whether to go with what many people have called T-Sat light, which would have been basically a fifth version of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite. Congressional staff had been leaning increasingly to such a solution to cover what they feared might be an 18-month gap in protected comms coverage as the old MILSTAR satellites began to fail. The gap is no longer a concern, according to a senior Pentagon source, adding that launch is now set for 2018. This source says that the DAWG locked in the T-Sat requirements. Doing that basically means that this program – barring major technical or schedule screwups – is likely set for a long life.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ghost Hunters Want To Search Retired Ferries

It's worth saying boo about. A psychic believes she discovered a ghost aboard the Washington State Ferries. Now a Snohomish County group wants to use scientific equipment to hunt for paranormal activity aboard the recently retired 81-year-old Steel Electric-class ferries. They're throwing a new scare into the ferry system that goes way beyond problems with corroded hulls. "I expect to find residual energy," said Georgia Kalasountas, a psychic who said she felt the presence of a ghost while riding a ferry to Bainbridge Island. "I would expect people to communicate with me who say, 'Yes, I was here.'" Haunted souls, lingering spirits and echoes from the past may inhabit the state's oldest ferries, she and others contend. The Washington State Ghost Society, based in Mukilteo, has been trying for more than a year to get permission to board the ferries to collect evidence of ghosts and other signs of what they described in their written proposal as "energy surpassing the finite state of death." If the group's wishes are granted, it would be the first time paranormal research has been attempted on the ferries with state approval. The ghost society has looked statewide inside private homes, hotels and public buildings, including the old Carnegie Library in Snohomish. At the library, the group reported they detected signs of the ghost of a former librarian. "She revealed that she remains because she was so heartbroken at being fired or laid off," the group said on its Web site. "She loved that place. It was her heart. She didn't want to leave, and so she never has."Over the years, crew members on the aging ferry fleet have reported experiencing different paranormal phenomena, said Marian Smith, who coordinates the research studies for the ghost society. Kalasountas said she is one of the group's "sensitives," a specially trained psychic who is tuned in to picking up wavelengths from the beyond. On a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island more than a year ago, Kalasountas believed she had an onboard encounter. "I remember having this feeling of energy," she said. "It's a sensation you feel. It's something that you recognize. It feels like a connection to a person." That's when the ghost hunters sent their formal proposal to the ferry system. They outlined their mission, the benefits of their paranormal research and their methodology. "We do it to benefit the scientific community and the general public," Smith said. "Some people think it's off the wall and some people believe there's something to it." The ferry system turned them down. "I was delighted by the request. We just weren't able to accommodate it," ferry spokeswoman Marta Coursey said. The ferry system gets all sorts of requests, she said. One group wanted to convert one of the aging Steel Electrics into a floating shopping mall, another wanted to sink a ferry and make it into an underwater destination for scuba divers. This is the first time in recent memory a group has wanted to look for ghosts, she said. "They're old boats. It's sort of like an old house," Coursey said. "People think that an old ferry never dies." Officials couldn't justify the time it would take to allow the ghost hunters aboard. Plus, there were safety and security concerns. Crew members weren't sure about chaperoning people with infrared cameras, digital audio recorders, thermometers and electromagnetic field detectors as they roamed engine compartments, gangways, galleys and passenger areas. In November, after the four Steel Electrics were pulled from service due to corrosion problems and safety concerns, the team of paranormal researchers saw an opportunity.With the vessels "put out to pasture," the ghost hunters believed they might be able to move forward with their investigation, Smith said. The historic nature of the Steel Electrics, which carried thousands of passengers across Admiralty Inlet from Port Townsend to Keystone, made them prime settings for paranormal research, said Jeffrey Marks, the ghost group's president. "Maybe something in the past stayed behind and maybe we can go in with some of our equipment and capture that," he said. There's more to ghosts than Casper, bed sheets and frightening visitations from Christmas Past, Marks explained. "I think it's finding the nature of consciousness and reality," he said. Unlike the movies, the paranormal researchers said they are trying to understand the communications from the other side, not exorcise spirits and ghosts. "We try to distance ourselves from ghost-busting because people don't take them seriously," Smith said. The researchers' quest to look for ghosts on the state's oldest ferries may have reached a bitter end. The vessels no longer carry Coast Guard certification and that makes it nearly impossible for any member of the public to go aboard, Coursey said. The last hope the researchers have to inspect the ferries may be if a buyer steps forward and grants permission to the group. The ferry system is now trying to sell the vessels. Until the ghost hunters get the green light, they can't verify stories about the lingering spirits of ferry passengers or crew members who still ride the boats. "Until we can get on there and do our thing, then we can't say this is for sure," Smith said.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Blaze Engulfs Oilrig Support Ship Berthed At Leith Docks

Thick plumes of black smoke were blown across Leith Docks in Edinburgh yesterday after a disused boat caught fire. Around 35 firefighters were called to tackle a blaze aboard the Viking Vulcan after a security guard raised the alarm at 4:30am. Fire crews with five fire engines and five specialist vehicles continued to battle the fire last night, using hose-reel jets and water from the boat's engine room. The Viking Vulcan began to list because of the weight of the water being used to put the blaze out. The vessel was then pumped out to allow it to right itself. Fire crews were due to try to move the ship, using tugs berthed at the dock last night. The fire investigation branch was expected to be able to enter the boat today, to establish the cause of the fire, according to Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue.The Viking Vulcan, once used as a support vessel for oilrigs, has been berthed at the Edinburgh docks, Bath Road, at the Forth Ports terminal, since 1999. It is registered to the National Shipping Company of Egypt and is believed to have been destined for scrap. There were no crew on board when the boat caught fire and no-one was injured. A spokesman for the Forth Ports Authority confirmed services would continue as normal at the docks and there would be no disruption to traffic. Leith Docks recovered from a period of decline after the Second World War and is now a busy port, with visits from cruise liners and is home to the former Royal Yacht Britannia. Two massive spare propellers for the Royal Yacht Britannia worth £14,000 were stolen from Leith Docks earlier this month in a raid.

Friday, June 13, 2008

'CVN 73' Manga Unveiled in Yokosuka

The adventures of Petty Officer 3rd Class Jack Ohara, the fictitious Japanese-American Sailor stationed aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73), hit the streets of Yokosuka, Japan. "CVN 73," a manga or comic book featuring Ohara, his shipmates and the aircraft carrier they serve aboard was received with fanfare from local citizens of U.S. Navy's host community. Yokosuka resident Sato Hikaru waited patiently in the line that stretched several hundred meters down Route 16 for her chance to get a copy of "CVN 73," because she said it was a good opportunity to learn about the U.S. Navy. "The reaction is quite incredible," said Cmdr. David Waterman, commander U.S. Naval Force Japan public affairs officer. "It's very, very popular from every level of the government, the U.S. government, Japanese government, and of course, the citizens." In Japan, manga are very popular and read by people of all ages. They often cover a wide-range of topics, ranging from action-adventure to business. "You can see the popularity is quite fierce," Waterman said. "What we did was find a way to get across our messages to the Japanese public in their favorite reading material--a great, fun way to learn about it. There are some people in the Japanese populace who are a little worried about GW's (George Washington) arrival and this is one way we can get messages across about the professionalism of the Sailors, the safety of the ship, how we train for all types of contingencies." "It's a very good idea to make a manga," said Hikaru.Rainy weather didn't deter manga fans or interest in unveiling "CVN 73" to the public. Approximately 800 copies were given away during the first three hours of distribution, as the artists who created the comic were available to meet enthusiasts and sign their copies. Ohara, the main character of "CVN 73," illustrates the pride and professionalism of U.S. Sailors. Readers follow Ohara as he gets accustomed to his new ship and learns that life ashore is much different than life at sea. Ohara goes through many new challenges, including getting used to the tight spaces on the ship, dealing with the loud and busy environment of the flight deck and learning his duties during his first general quarters drill. "It's a great story," Waterman said. "It's a story about a young Japanese-American Sailor who gets on board George Washington in Hawaii, he transits on its way to Yokosuka, he learns about himself, and he learns about the ship." The Navy hopes their new comic book will give Japanese citizens a better understanding of how the Navy operates and introduce them to the many struggles Sailors experience when adjusting to life in a new country. Approximately 25,000 copies of "CVN 73" will be distributed to Yokosuka area residents at open base events and at other Navy functions. The Navy isn't alone in hoping the manga brings a better understanding of naval life to the Japanese public. Hikaru said she hopes the manga will bring Japan and America closer to each other.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Barge Bashes Bridge

A southbound tow pushing 15 barges struck a support of the Julien Dubuque Bridge closing the bridge to traffic and sending several loose barges south down the river, according to Dubuque city officials. The barge hit the bridge at an angle, crashed into a column with a loud screeching noise, and propelled concrete dust into the air as cables snapped apart, according to several eye witnesses. Ben Minger, 34, of Dubuque, was near the riverfront with his family and watched the barge approach the bridge just after 8 p.m. The crash sounded like a car ramming a concrete wall head-on, he said. "It was going very fast," Minger said. "We watch barges all the time, and we've never seen a barge going that fast before." Greg Cyborski, 60, of Potosi, Wis., also said it appeared as if the towboat was traveling faster than normal as it approached the bridge. It neared the Illinois side instead of the large gap open to river traffic on the Iowa side of the bridge, he said. Three runaway barges filled with corn still were lodged against bridge supports, said Dena Gray-Fisher, spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Transportation.The bridge closed immediately after the crash, and department officials will try to inspect the bridge this morning, if weather conditions allow, she said. "But with flooding you never know," Gray-Fisher said. Authorities didn't know why the tow didn't clear the bridge, Assistant Dubuque Fire Chief Scott Neyens said. One of the barges pinned against the bridge had started to take on water, he said. Several towboats succeeded in corralling all the barges that had floated down the river, according to a press release issued by the city of Dubuque. Ten of the barges were carrying corn, four carried soybeans and one had iron ore. Pat Reidy, 50, of Dubuque, was on the Spirit of Dubuque excursion boat when the captain announced that they would be coming upon the loose barges, he said. One barge was caught on the Illinois side of the river, and several others floated nearby, but he said the boat and its passengers never appeared to be in danger. There was no report of injuries.

US Navy Rescues 70 Off African Coast

A US Navy destroyer operating between Somalia and Yemen has rescued a boat in distress which was loaded with about 70 people. The Navy Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, says the USS Russell responded to a distress call on Sunday from the boat that had been adrift for two days after experiencing engine problems."There were approximately 70 personnel on board the vessel, some of whom were in need of immediate medical attention," a statement said. The statement adds that the boat and passengers were being towed to Somalia to be turned over to the authorities. The Navy has not identified the people on board, but similar journeys are frequently made by desperate African migrants using small poorly-equipped vessels.
USS Russell (DDG 59)
The United Nations has said more than 1,400 clandestine immigrants died trying to cross from Africa in 2007, while more than 28,300 managed to reach the Yemeni coast. The crossing takes two days at best and is made especially dangerous by shark-infested waters, strong currents and inhumane conditions on poorly maintained vessels open to the elements.

Gates Promises Halt to Air Force Personnel Cuts

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that he plans to "immediately stop" all further reductions in Air Force personnel. Gates made his promise while addressing Airmen at Langley Air Force Base, Va., To discuss his ouster of Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley. Along with the usual Airmen lost through normal attrition, Air Force leaders had planned to cut an additional 6,800 Airmen from the rolls in fiscal 2009, Capt. Michael Andrews, an Air Force spokesman for personnel matters told Stripes. Of those, 4,700 would have been enlisted members, and 1,900 officers, Andrews said. In his address at Langley, Gates said the American public's focus on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is mostly about the Army. However, Gates said, "the reality is that our Airmen and women, and those in the other services are under strain as well," Gates said. "In fact, you have been forward-deployed, and at war for 17 years -- since the first Gulf War." Pentagon leaders know this, Gates told the Airmen, "and are working to ease the burden." And his first step, Gates said, is to stop the Air Force's personnel cuts.Unlike the Marines and Army, which are both expanding, the Air Force has had a "Force Shaping" plan in effect since 2002, when Air Force leaders announced that they would said cut 40,000 personnel over the course of the next five years, and use the money they saved to modernize the Air Force's aging air fleet. Air Force were planning to release their "force shaping" plan later this month, which would have spelled out exactly which groups of Airmen were vulnerable to the cuts and the mix of voluntary incentives and bonuses and involuntary force reduction boards personnel officials planned to use to get them off the payroll, Andrews said. Gates also told the Airmen about his choice of replacements for Wynne and Moseley: Michael Donley, the Pentagon's Director of Administration and Management, to replace Wynne, and Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, to succeed Moseley. Schwartz had previously announced that he would retire in 2009. Gates nominated the Air Force's current Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Duncan McNabb, to take the Transcom spot, citing extensive experience of "three-plus decades" in airlift, refueling and logistics as making him "an ideal candidate to assume the helm." Air Force Lt. Gen. William M. Fraser III, who is assistant to Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was nominated to succeed McNabb as Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, Gates said.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Navy Halts Helicopter Flights To Hospital Ship After Taking Fire

The Navy has temporarily halted flights to and from the San Diego-based hospital ship Mercy after one of the vessel's helicopters took gunfire in the Philippines on Monday, Navy officials said. The Mercy has been anchored near the city of Cotabato as part of Pacific Partnership 2008, the first stop on the ship's five-country, five-month mission in the western Pacific Ocean.Medical personnel from several countries and U.S. civilian aid groups are helping the Navy. On Monday, an MH-60 Seahawk helicopter went to pick up 11 passengers about 50 miles inland, said Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Navy spokesman. When it returned to the ship, two bullet holes were found in the tail section. No one was injured and no one heard the bullet hit the helicopter, Davis said.The aircraft is from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21, based at North Island Naval Air Station in Coronado. It's not clear who fired at the helicopter. Cotabato is in the southern Philippines' province of Mindanao, home to some communist and Islamic rebels. “It's something that we find very troubling, and we want to assess the situation before we continue,” Davis said.

Monday, June 09, 2008

WWII Liberty Ship May GoFfrom The Ghost Fleet Tto Greece

One of the last Liberty ships from World War II, anchored for years in the James River "Ghost Fleet," is likely headed for a new home: Greece. Its federal caretaker, the U.S. Maritime Administration, announced an agreement this week with the Greek government that would move the 7,000-ton relic, the Arthur M. Huddell, to a port near Athens where it would become a museum piece. "It is great to be able to save a bit of history from both our nations," said Sean T. Connaughton, who heads the maritime administration, at a ceremony Wednesday in Piraeus, Greece. The Greeks bought or were given many Liberty ships after World War II to build up their merchant marine fleet, which was decimated by the fighting. U.S. troops often were carried to Europe during World War II in Liberty ships. There, they fought alongside Greek forces against the Italians and Nazis, who occupied Greece. Under the proposed deal, the Huddell would likely be donated to Greece and become a floating centerpiece at a museum in Piraeus celebrating Greek shipping and history, said Susan Clark, a maritime administration spokeswoman in Washington. Clark said several details still must be ironed out, including a purging of toxic materials on board the Huddell, including lead, mercury and waste fuel. A 2002 inventory of Ghost Fleet ships listed the Huddell as holding 80.6 long tons of oil. Its hull scored a "3," or about average, on a scale measuring the potential for leaks. "We're committing ourselves to moving forward with the deal," Clark said.
SS Arthur M Huddell.
American shipyards built 2,751 Liberty ships during World War II, the largest such effort in history. The vessels carried troops and supplies around the globe. The Huddell, named after the former President of the International Union of Operating Engineers, was converted into a pipelayer in 1944 and set fuel lines across the English Channel in the wake of the D-Day landings in France. It was stored in Suisan Bay near San Francisco in 1946 but was later used to lay cable for AT&T in the 1950s and '60s. The Huddell was retired in 1984 and has been sitting in the Ghost Fleet, off Fort Eustis in Newport News, since then. If the dinosaur goes on display in Greece, it would join two other Liberty ships as museum pieces. The John W. Brown is in Baltimore, the Jeremiah O'Brien in San Francisco. Most of the other Liberty ships have been scrapped or sunk or converted to fishing reefs. The Huddell is the last one in the James River fleet and the last one managed by the maritime administration. The U.S. government first announced its intention to donate the Huddell to Greece in 2006. But the transfer bogged down in red tape and environmental concerns, though most of those issues now seem to be dissipating. A Rhode Island state senator of Greek descent, Leonidas Raptakis, has been active in pushing the deal for years.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Man Dies In Falgout Canal Boat Wreck

A boater was killed and another critically injured in a single-vessel wreck on Falgout Canal according to Wildlife and Fisheries officials. A third passenger, Willie Miller, 28, was not seriously injured. Officials say the cause of the wreck in still under investigation. At 11:20 p.m. the Terrebonne Sheriff’s Water Patrol unit responded to the incident, deputies say. The three male passengers were thrown from the boat and onto the marsh about a quarter mile from the Falgout Canal Marina off La. 315.
Willie Miller leans on a fire truck after talking with officials outside the Falgout Canal Marnia.
The men were boating recreationally, said Sgt. Richard Purvis of Wildlife and Fisheries. A passerby took Miller to the marina as deputies responded to the wreck. Miller “by the grace of God, got out with a scratch on his leg,” Purvis said. The driver of the boat received what officials described as critical injuries and was taken to Leonard Chabert Medical Center. Officials said the vessel was a bass boat. The name of the deceased boater and the injured passenger have not been released because family members have not been notified.

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