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Ex-ABCNEWS staffer, fired by CBS, denies leaking Epstein bombshell…


Megyn Kelly launched her news comeback Friday with an exclusive interview with a former ABC News producer who was accused of leaking the Amy Robach “hot mic” clip— but who tearfully denies doing so.

The producer, Ashley Bianco, 25, was fired from a new job at CBS last week after her former bosses identified her — wrongly, she insists — as the leak.

“I’m not the whistleblower,” she sobs at one point.

“I just want my career back. I want people to know I didn’t do it. That’s all I want.”

“Did you leak the tape?” Kelly asks Bianco, as the interview begins.

“No, I did not,” Bianco answers.

“Not to anyone?” Kelly asks.

Again, Bianco insists, “No.”

Bianco had been at her desk at ABC on Aug. 19, the day of the hot mic mishap.

She told Kelly that she watched live as Robach, who co-hosts “Good Morning America” and “20/20,” blasted into her bosses during a break from taping show promos for the network’s affiliate stations.

Apparently not realizing she was miked, Robach claimed that three years prior, the network had buried her reporting on the Jeffrey Epstein sex-slave scandal — a claim she later backed off of.

“Everyone in the office was freaked out by what she was saying,” Bianco said of watching the live faux pas. “And everyone was watching it.”

Bianco admitted she immediately marked and copied Robach’s fiery comments, but insisted she never removed the clip from the network’s internal system.

“I essentially marked it in the system. I never left the system. We do it all the time,” Bianco told Kelly.

“I did it just for the office gossip, you know?” Bianco explained.

“Part of my job is, I’m like a video editor. You know, I clip off moments all the time. I put together, you know, funny anchor reels, of them off-camera doing funny stuff to use it later in the show.”

Bianco said she had nothing but fondness for ABC, and no intention or motive to embarrass the network.

“I only left purely because CBS had had offered me a good contract,” she told Kelly. “So I, you know, I left and I was just really, really excited to start a new job.”

But the clip was leaked to the conservative media critics at Project Veritas, causing a firestorm at ABC.

Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe has since confirmed that Bianco was not the source of the leak.

“She is not our source,” O’Keefe told The Dana Show Friday.

“CBS fired a woman, Ashley Bianco is apparently her name, she is not the person who is our Project Veritas insider.”

The actual leaker has also come forward — anonymously, on the Project Veritas website — to clear Bianco.

Realizing that Bianco had copied the clip, ABC called CBS — where Bianco was fired just four days into her new job, she said.

“I begged, I pleaded, I didn’t know what I had done wrong,” Bianco sobbed to Kelly, who looks on consolingly.

“I wasn’t even given the professional courtesy to defend myself. I didn’t know what I was accused of. It was humiliating. It was devastating,” Bianco cried.

 She never made contact to anyone at Project Veritas, she insisted.

Asked by Kelly for her reaction on learning that ABC had called her new bosses, Bianco said, “Devastated. I mean, it’s like I’ll never get a job anywhere else.”

Kelly answers reassuringly, “You’ll get a job. You’ll definitely get a job.”

Kelly had promoted the interview earlier Friday in an inaugural Internet post, telling potential viewers, “We just sat down with her, and we got the full story, and I think you are going to be fascinated by it.”

The Robach hot mic clip had left network bigs scrambling to contain the fallout.

In the clip, which was leaked to the conservative media gadflies at Project Veritas, Robach blasts her bosses for responding to her reporting by asking her “Who’s Jeffrey Epstein?”

Kelly has been mostly off the air for the past year and is launching an independent news venture rather than return to Fox News, despite an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show last month.

In Friday’s Instagram teaser, Kelly promises the “really interesting” interview will be available on Instagram and YouTube.

“I think you’re going to find it just as riveting as we did,” she said. “See you soon.”



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Whips, chains and fancy food: S&M fetish restaurant opens to rave reviews…


Diners are flocking to a bizarre S&M website that sees bondage gear-wearing staff serve you dinner.

Outlaw Erotic Cuisine, which is located in Bangkok’s Red Light District, sees kink-loving customers eat their food while watching bondage erotica.

Sexy displays involve slave collar-waitresses’ bottoms being whipped by a “dom” member of staff and nurse costume-clad ladies kissing.

Restaurant co-owner Romain Guiot has said there is still a huge focus on eating incredible food, saying guest chefs will constantly be coming in to mix-up the menu.

Diners are not allowed to touch performers

The restaurant also aims to serve excellent food

He said: “It’s eating in an art gallery, and you get erotic shows.

“Guest chefs will be coming and take turns. It’s going to be like a chef’s table.”

And as well as experimenting with the food, Guiot says they aim to meet everyone’s sexual desires, adding they would also like to have male and trans performers.

But demand for the erotic shows is high, with customers having to reserve tables at least three days in advance and pay a 50% deposit.

There is a strictly-enforced no-touching policy at the restaurant, with only the performers being allowed to touch customers.

The restaurant requires people to book days in advance

Guest chefs will come in to change up the menu

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Patrons are also not allowed to take phones inside with them, but can purchase photos of their experience afterwards.

“It’s about expanding the sensual experience of dining, adding a level of quality onto the street, more than just go-go erotic,” Messner said.

“We need you to savor the moment, fully experience it with all your sensories,” fellow co-owner Michael Messner explained.

Erotic-themed restaurants have been tried in the past.

Thes have included sushi bars where salmon rolls are served on women’s naked bodies and cafes where diners must strip off to eat.



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CLAIM: NASA forced to cut ISS feed when UFOs appear…


NASA has its “hands tied” and is forced to cut the International Space Station (ISS) live feed when UFOs turn up, according to a campaigner who has studied alleged alien phenomena for years.

Conspiracy theorists have often claimed the US space agency covers up the existence of extraterrestrial life by terminating the live feed from the ISS at the exact time UFOs appear.

This has never been proven and, according to the message that pops up when the feed is cut, it is simply down to a “temporary loss of signal with the International Space Station”.

But Stephen Bassett, who has been relentlessly campaigning since 1996 for the government to declassify its supposed knowledge of aliens, believes NASA’s hands are tied.

NASA live feeds are sometimes cut and replaced with this message

He told Daily Star Online: “They have been in a really tough spot and I feel for them and so if they are turning off the video cameras because something is flying by the space station it is not NASA being the bad guy.

“It’s them essentially obeying the law, which is what the National Security Act is, and simply not doing anything which would, quote, endanger the truth embargo because under the act of national security it has to remain.”

Stephen is the Executive Director of the Paradigm Research Group, an organisation set up to end the supposed government-imposed “truth embargo” on extraterrestrial presence on Earth.

This truth embargo, he explained, is what is stopping information on aliens being released to the public and something that NASA is also the victim of.

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UFOs, Aliens and Outer Space

“I greatly respect NASA but they are in an impossible position,” he continued.

“NASA was formed in 1958 by the Space Act and by then the government was well aware of the extraterrestrial presence but they had to have a civilian space program because the Russians were obviously in space and we had to respond.”

But according to Stephen, the civilian space program had a problem because it was known that it was “very likely” phenomena would be encountered.

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In his exclusive chat with this site, he refused to call them UFOs and instead used the term UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) in line with the US Navy’s recent clarification.

He continued: “And so what the government did, what congress did, was to put a clause in the Space Act right there up the front that says anything which involves national security, deemed to be national security matters, that NASA encounters will be completely turned over and deferred to the Department of Defence and NASA will say and do nothing.

“And so since 1958, NASA has been between a rock and a hard place.

The ISS is a joint project by NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA

“They are out there, they probably see things, but they can’t address it, it has to go to the Pentagon, and they have to lie if they are pressed and that’s just it, that’s the law.”

Stephen thinks NASA staff would throw parties if the existence of aliens was publicly revealed and which would prompt a goldrush for space research.

He said: “Obviously, ending the truth embargo of disclosure will be a massive boom for NASA, oh my God.

This blurry object captured by the ISS live feed has been subject to conspiracy theories

“First of all, the burden of having to maintain this posture, essentially a blind posture, will be gone and the interest in space and space research will expand and explode and NASA will be the recipient of that.

“And so they will be throwing some serious parties at various NASA facilities around the country the day after the head of state finally confirms the ET presence.”

Military testimony – such as the USS Nimitz UFO which was spotted by baffled US Navy pilots — is often seen by UFO researchers as credible evidence that the US government has been hiding the existence of extraterrestrials for decades.

A US Navy veteran claimed the strange “tic-tac” UFO appeared to have legs in clearer footage, while a NASA scientist suggested that the purpose of the object was to look for something hidden in the ocean.



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Frenchwoman accuses Polanski of raping her as teen…


Paris (AFP) – A French former model and actress on Friday accused Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski, whose new film on the persecution of French Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus premieres next week, of raping her in a Swiss ski resort when she was a teenager.

It is the latest accusation against the 86-year-old Polish-born director who fled to France in 1978 from the US after admitting the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl.

Valentine Monnier told Le Parisien newspaper that the alleged rape occurred in 1975 when she was 18 at Polanski’s chalet in Gstaad.

“I had no links with him, neither personal nor professional, and hardly knew him,” Monnier, a former model who worked in New York, said.

She said the alleged rape was “extremely violent”, adding: “He pummelled me until I gave in and then raped me, making me do all sorts of things.”

Monnier said she recounted what had happened to her that very night to two women who were also staying in Polanski’s chalet: her best friend and another woman who became Polanski’s girlfriend for four years.

Both women were contacted by Le Parisien and confirmed Monnier’s version.

Monnier, who acted in a few films in the 1980s, said she had finally decided to speak out as Polanski’s new film about an error of justice was due to come out.

Following the Harvey Weinstein scandal Monnier said she had written letters about the alleged rape to Los Angeles police and to French first lady Brigitte Macron.

Polanski’s lawyer Herve Temime said the director “firmly denies all accusations of rape,” adding that the allegations “which date back 45 years have never been reported to judicial authorities”.

– ‘Allegations baseless’ –

Polanski has also been accused of sexual assault by others. In 2010, British actress Charlotte Lewis accused him of “sexually abusing” her in 1983 when she was 16.

Another woman, identified only as Robin, accused him in August 2017 of sexual assault when she was 16 in 1973.

In September 2017, former actress Renate Langer filed a new complaint alleging she had been raped by Polanski in 1972 when she was 15.

Polanski’s lawyer said all the allegations were baseless.

Polanski, who directed “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown”, was accused of drugging a 13-year-old girl before raping her at film star Jack Nicholson’s house in Los Angeles in 1977.

He admitted statutory rape after a number of more serious charges were dropped, and spent 48 days in custody to undergo psychiatric evaluation before being released.

In 1978, convinced a judge was going to scrap his plea deal and send him to prison for decades, Polanski fled for France and has been a fugitive from the US justice system ever since despite repeated attempts to have him extradited.



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Divisions rife as Germany marks 30 years since Berlin Wall fell…


AFP/File / Patrick HERTZOG
The fall of the Berlin Wall brought the communist regime crashing down and led to German reunification a year later

Germany on Saturday marks 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall that ushered in the end of communism and national reunification, as the Western alliance that helped secure those achievements is riddled with divisions.

Two days before the date that brought epochal change, France’s President Emmanuel Macron dropped a bombshell, declaring that transatlantic partnership NATO was suffering from “brain death” and that Europe itself was “on the brink”.

Chancellor Angela Merkel responded with uncharacteristic sharpness, saying Thursday “I don’t think that such sweeping judgements are necessary”, and the ensuing storm over NATO laid bare the growing differences among traditional allies.

The bad tempered prelude to the festivities stood in sharp contrast to celebrations five years ago, when former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and ex-Polish president and freedom icon Lech Walesa were present.

AFP / Jochen GEBAUER
The Berlin Wall

This time, leaders of former Cold War powers will be absent, as Donald Trump’s America First policy, Britain’s Brexit struggles and Russia’s resurgence put a strain on ties.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit ended Friday while Macron is only planning a flying visit on Sunday, leaving the actual anniversary on November 9 without globally prominent figures.

Pompeo also left behind a stark warning: “As we celebrate, we must also recognise that freedom is never guaranteed.

“Today, authoritarianism is once again rising,” he said, namechecking China and Russia.

– ‘Naive complacency’ –

Carrying a similar message, the EU’s incoming chief Ursula von der Leyen noted that the euphoric optimism over liberal democracy and freedom that characterised November 9, 1989 has dissipated.

AFP / John MACDOUGALL
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned during a visit to Berlin to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel that “freedom is never guaranteed”

“Today, we have to admit that our complacency was naive,” said von der Leyen.

Russia is “using violence to shift established borders in Europe, and is trying to fill every vacuum that the US has left behind.”

And hopes that China would develop closer to the Western liberal democracy model has not been fulfilled, she said.

Mikhail Gorbachev, whose decision not to send the Soviet army to prop up the East German regime was seen as crucial to preserving peace during the Cold War, told Spiegel magazine in an interview that there is “no nostalgia” for that period of division.

But “we have to admit that after the end of the Cold War new leaders failed to create a modern security architecture, especially in Europe.”

“As a result, new lines of divisions have emerged, and NATO’s eastward expansion … shifted these lines to the Russian border.”

– ‘Half a century’ –

Beyond the cracks surfacing in the global arena, a new chasm is opening up within Germany itself with the far-right gaining a strong foothold in the former communist states.

Underlining the problem herself, Merkel said those who earlier thought the differences between the former communist east and the capitalist west could be ironed out now see “that it would take half a century or more.”

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On November 9, 1989, East German border guards, overwhelmed by large crowds, threw open the gates to West Berlin, allowing free passage for the first time since it was built

Debate has also opened up more intensively over the differences between the east and west as “nationalist and protectionist trends have gained ground worldwide, thereby fuelling more discussion too from a national perspective,” Merkel told Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Amid the sombre mood, a serious political programme is planned for Saturday, with central European presidents to headline the official ceremonies.

They will join Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to mark their countries’ “contribution … to the peaceful revolution” that led to the collapse of the communist regime.

Merkel will speak at the Chapel of Reconciliation, which stands on a stretch of the former wall border strip where local people jumped from windows the day it was built to escape the communist East, while others later dug tunnels towards the West.

Steinmeier will also make a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in the evening, before a series of concerts including one by the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

On November 9, 1989, East German border guards, overwhelmed by large crowds, threw open the gates to West Berlin, allowing free passage for the first time since the wall was built.

The momentous event would end up bringing the communist regime crashing down and lead to German reunification a year later.



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Fish with 'human face' spotted swimming in lake…


Recently an adorable dog went viral for having a face that looked more human than canine.

The cute pooch, named Nori, baffled people online who thought his face had been digitally altered.

But now there’s another strange animal shocking people on the internet, only this one lives in water instead of on land.

A rather unusual fish has been spotted in a lake in China, which appears to have some very odd markings on its face, causing it to look quite human.

It looks like it has a human face

 

A visitor to a village outside the city of Kunming in south China captured a video of the creepy carp.

The video was shared on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform and in the clip the fish can be seen swimming to the edge of the lake and poking its head above the surface of the water.

On the fish’s head are dark dots which look like two eyes, two vertical lines which resemble the sides of a nose and one horizontal one underneath where a mouth would be.

During the clip a woman can be heard saying: “The fish has turned into a fairy.”

The fish was spotted in China

 

People were understandably freaked out by the sight.

One person commented: “This is scary.”

Another replied: “Who dares to eat it?”

The video was later shared on Twitter by a user called @Unexplained where it creeped out more people.

“Holy s***,” proclaimed one user.

Someone else wrote: “I am so freaked out right now.”

Others compared the fish to Voldemort, an alien and the animated fish from the 2004 film Shark Tale.

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This isn’t the first time someone has seen a human-like carp.

Back in 2010, a 44-year-old British man claimed that a carp he had bought five months before had begun to develop human-like facial features.

Brendan O’Sullivan from Dagenham, Essex, said: “It was astonishing. I could easily make out from the markings two eyes, a nose and a mouth.

“I thought I was suffering from sunstroke.”

The fish was believed to be worth an estimated £40,000.



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Georgian police arrest more than 25 in clashes at gay movie premiere…


By Umberto Bacchi

TBILISI, Nov 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Police in Georgia said on Saturday they had arrested more than 25 people after ultra-nationalist protesters attempting to derail the premiere of an award-winning movie about gay love clashed with security forces.

A few hundred demonstrators blocked the road outside a cinema in the capital’s city centre on Friday ahead of the first screening of “And Then We Danced”, which tells the story of two young male Georgian ballet dancers falling in love.

Chanting “Long live Georgia” and “Shame”, the protesters – some holding crosses and religious icons – tried to force their way inside the cinema but where held back by riot police.

“This is not just a movie. This is an insult to our faith, our traditions and all that is holy for us,” said Guram Damenia, who came dressed in a traditional Georgian costume.

Two police officers and a young woman, who was trying to go watch the film, were injured, police said.

The movie premiered at the Cannes film festival in May and has won awards at festivals around the world.

But reception has been mixed in the conservative Caucasian nation where same-sex relationships remain largely taboo and dance is revered as part of the nation’s heritage.

While tickets for the scheduled three days of screenings at a handful of cinemas in Tbilisi and the port city of Batumi sold out quickly, the influential Orthodox Church denounced the film as an attempt to undermine Christian values and legalise “sin”.

Demonstrators set fire to a rainbow flag and threw firecrackers and smoke bombs at the entrance of Tbilisi’s Amirani cinema, as moviegoers, many young, tried to get inside.

“I don’t think it is normal to have so many policemen here to save me and my friends from people who think that I should not watch a movie,” said 22-year-old Tina Iukhutashvili.

“I should not be scared to go to see a movie”.

Police said they detained 25 people, one for attacking the woman and 24 for hooliganism and disobeying police orders.

Three more were arrested over similar incidents in Batumi and investigations were continuing, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

“Photo and video materials on the incidents are being processed to identify wrongdoers and provide appropriate legal response,” the ministry said.

About a dozen anti-LGBT+ demonstrators and several priests held prayers outside another Tbilisi cinema.

Georgia has witnessed a cultural clash between liberal forces and religious conservatives over the past decade as it has modernised and introduced radical reforms.

It has passed anti-discrimination laws in an effort to move closer to the European Union but homophobia remains widespread, LGBT+ rights groups have said.

Director Levan Akin, who has described the movie as a “love letter” to Georgia and its traditions, said he felt “so much pride” that no cinema had cancelled the screenings.

“I am so inspired and moved by all the brave moviegoers who stood their ground and would not be intimidated,” the 39-year-old, who was born in Sweden to parents of Georgian descent, posted on social media.

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith @BeeGoldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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Female jihadis filmed slaughtering soldiers in 'Baghdadi revenge strikes'…


Shocking footage has emerged of female jihadis attacking soldiers in revenge for the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – the first to show women on the ISIS frontline.

The group’s cowardly former leader blew himself up last month during a US raid on his hideout in northern Syria.

Militants afterwards attacked an army outpost in northern Mali and killed 53 soldiers and one civilian, with ISIS claiming responsibility.

Daily Star Online has since obtained video of female terrorists taking part in the assault, recorded by the Islamic State of Greater Sahel (ISGS).

One jihadi totes her rifle in celebration in the immediate aftermath of the slaughter

In the disturbing clips, one jihadi totes her rifle in celebration in the immediate aftermath of the massacre.

Another is heard narrating the footage as she rallies round the fanatics.

David Otto, counter-terrorism and organised crime expert at Global Risk International, told Daily Star Online: “This is the first time that we have seen female jihadist fighters on the forefront.

“It shows women are playing not just a passive role, they’re much more active within jihadist ranks – especially in the Sahel.

Another is heard narrating the footage as she rallies around the fanatics

“ISGS is demonstrating that jihadist fighting is not just for men.”

Earlier this year, the UN warned that jihadi bride stereotypes are causing the group’s female members to be underestimated.

The organisation said only a tiny fraction of an estimated 4,700 female foreign ISIS members had returned to their home countries, compared with their male counterparts.

Mr Otto added: “The idea that women are passive in terms of their roles they play as brides and in recruitment is not valid.

They attacked an army outpost in northern Mali, killing 53 soldiers and one civilian

“They are taking the shape of conventional military organisations, in the sense that women and men are inclusive.

“I think this is going to escalate to other groups, who will want to copycat and also show that they are also involving women in active battlefront roles.”

The Mali attack unfolded in a village called Indelimane in the Menaka region, as the terrorists bombarded the troops with shellfire.

A French soldier was killed in a later ambush, also claimed by ISIS, after his vehicle was targeted by an improvised explosive device.

ISIS claimed it was in revenge for the death of its former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

The terror group is likely to attempt further revenge attacks after the death of Baghdadi, experts have warned.

Syrian Democratic Forces claim he was identified and tracked down after an undercover agent obtained his underwear and sent them for a DNA test.

Baghdadi’s sister and her family have since been arrested , and the Turkish government confirmed its security forces have detained his first wife.



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In Bahamas, hard-hit island beckons again…



Tip Burrows dropped a low-grade expletive when she saw the beach by Banana Bay Restaurant, on the south side of Grand Bahama Island.

“Holy (bad word)!” said the islander, peering into a freshly carved trench. “That wasn’t here before.”

Nearly two months after Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas, Tip, who runs the Humane Society of Grand Bahama, was still discovering new evidence of destruction. On this mid-October afternoon, she had unearthed an inlet on Fortune Beach. As if that weren’t alarming enough, the storm surge that had swept away a section of the beach had not come from the ocean lapping at Fortune’s feet. It had traversed the island from the north and pushed the sand out to sea like a scene from an eco-horror film.

“We lost two feet of beach,” said Danilo Rulli, the restaurant’s owner, “but it will slowly come back.”


And so will the Bahamas, at possibly an even faster clip than Mother Nature.

“We’re going to bring the sparkle back to Grand Bahama,” said Steven Johnson, an official with the Grand Bahama Tourism Office who is already working on new initiatives, such as expanding the West End as a seafood destination.

To be sure, Dorian was devastating. The strongest storm ever to strike the Bahamas caused at least 65 deaths and damaged or destroyed more than 13,000 homes on Grand Bahama Island and the Abaco Islands, both in the upper reaches of the 500-mile-long archipelago. Economic loss could rise to $7 billion, more than half of the country’s gross national product. But the Bahamas are moving forward – rebuilding homes, reopening businesses, and restoring the spirit of the islands and its people.

“We’ll be back bigger and better than before,” exclaimed a resident who lives in the East End, the hardest-hit area on Grand Bahama Island.

The Bahamas can soon breathe a tiny sigh of relief. Hurricane season ends Nov. 30, and the tourism high season, which runs from mid-December to mid-April, is just around the bend. While recovery efforts proceed, the country has started singing a refrain common among destinations rebounding from a natural disaster: If you want to help, come visit. Money spent on a vacation is a direct deposit to the country’s economy. Plus, you can show the islanders that the world cares, that you care. Is a trip to a hurricane-ravaged destination easy? Not always. Is it gratifying? Absolutely.


– – –

When we say Dorian hit the Bahamas, we need to add a qualifier. The hurricane didn’t pummel the entire country, only the top portion of the 700-island archipelago – specifically, Grand Bahama Island and the Abaco Islands.

To clear up the confusion, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation unveiled a campaign a week after the hurricane highlighting the 14 islands that were unaffected by the storm. It assured travelers that airports, cruise ports, hotels and attractions were open. To further entice visitors, it listed deals and incentives on its website. Individual hotels and the islands’ tourism boards also spread the message through special promotions and hurricane-related programs, such as Baha Mar’s Pack With Love. Guests staying at any of the chain’s three resorts in Nassau can help assemble parcels of supplies bound for the neighboring islands. They can also distribute goods at Nassau shelters housing evacuees, or simply drop the items in donation boxes set up in the lobbies.

The information from the Bahamas travel industry is useful if you want to soak up the sun on any of the 14 unaffected islands. However, I wanted to travel to the other two. One, I learned after some pre-departure and on-site research, was ready for me and other low-maintenance travelers; the other was not.

“The airport is running on a generator. The water is back on in Marsh Harbour, but it’s trickling in slowly and is not consistent,” Patricia Clarke, who works at the Leonard M. Thompson International Airport on Marsh Harbour in the Abacos, told me. “It’s going to be a long, long time before we come back.”

Patricia is the mother of De’yanza Hanna, a veterinarian with the Bahamas’ Department of Agriculture who helps out at the Humane Society. De’yanza put her on speakerphone while I was visiting the shelter. She confirmed my suspicions: The Abacos are still nose-deep in recovery efforts. Parts of Great and Little Abaco, the two main islands, plus the smaller cays, still lack electricity and running water. The few hotels fit to open their doors are housing relief workers. For now, the concept of “helping through visiting” does not apply.

The situation is much less dire on Grand Bahama Island. The island, home of Freeport, the country’s second-largest city, is quickly hitting its goals. The majority of its hotel rooms – more than 1,200 out of 1,670 – are welcoming guests. Carnival Cruise returned on Oct. 13 and will sail to Freeport nearly 40 more times before the new year. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line has resumed its infinity loop of two-night cruises from West Palm Beach, Florida; Balearia is ferrying passengers to and from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Most of the beaches are open, especially around the main tourist areas of Freeport and Lucaya. All but the zip-line is operating at Pirate’s Cove Zipline and Waterpark; the adventure park is just waiting for an official to test the ride’s safety. At Crystal Beach, the 22 pigs are back in the water, porcine-paddling for apple slices. And on a recent Saturday night at Port Lucaya Marketplace, visitors and residents crammed into the warren of restaurants and bars. I had to wait in line for a drink at Blu – with pleasure.

I did encounter a few stumbling blocks – some foreseen, others surprising. For instance, only domestic flights can land at the Freeport airport, so international travelers must fly to Nassau and catch a connecting flight on Western Air or Bahamasair, the regional carriers. (Officials say international air service will start Nov. 15.) To avoid the multi-flight hop, I flew to West Palm Beach and booked a cabin on the Grand Celebration, a Bahamas Paradise ship. The one-way trip was 14 hours longer than the flight, but I easily passed the time eating, drinking, salsa dancing and grimacing at the twerking contest.

To spend more time on the island than the ship’s allotted eight hours, I booked the cruise-and-stay option, which included two nights at the Lighthouse Pointe at Grand Lucayan. When I checked in at the terminal, the employee told me the hotel was closed. Her colleague concurred. When I showed them my reservation, they shot me a concerned look that read: Hope you brought a beach blanket and pillow as backup.

The hotel was indeed open, but maybe it shouldn’t have been. There was no air conditioning. No fans, either, except for the giant propeller that blasted hot, humid air at me every time I crossed through the lobby. My room was on the ground floor, so I couldn’t keep the porch door open. Instead, I sat on my bed and stared hard at the ocean, trying to cool off through visualization. (A Florida firefighter who was helping repair a church told me the Pelican Bay Hotel, a few steps away, had air conditioning. He was ready to throw down the extra $30 a night to escape the heat.)

I also unexpectedly swallowed a mouthful of Dorian. The storm surge had penetrated the aquifers, contaminating the water with a high level of salt. I learned about the water issue only after drinking a glass of water from the bathroom sink; it tasted like a shaker’s worth of Morton. To avoid another salty sip, I marched back to the lobby and filled my arms with bottled water. Thankfully, the resort is all-inclusive.

– – –

“Hello! Can I get you some cold water? You want a food bag? Do you have a kitty cat?” shouted Cheryl Waugh at a man crouching in the door frame of a hollowed-out home. The young islander approached Cheryl, who was standing by the back of her pickup truck. She reached into a teetering mound of supplies that, with one ill-placed tug, seemed poised to topple over. Unfazed, she started handing the man rice packets, baby wipes, cheese crackers, toilet paper and water chilled on ice. Cold water was a luxury. She gave the man an extra bottle.

Since mid-September, Cheryl has been picking up passengers from Grand Celebration who had chosen volunteering as their shore excursion. (The cruise line ended the program Oct. 22; visitors can email Cheryl at clcresources@yahoo.com and she will help match them with volunteer opportunities.) Three of us signed up. Cheryl referred to us as MAM, or Mat-Andrea-Melanie.

“This to me is a really good reason to be here,” said Mat Everhart, “even if it’s just for one day.”

The married Pennsylvania couple, who own a timeshare on the island, last visited in July. Their love for the country was apparent: Mat said he almost quit his job as a chef to assist with recovery efforts, and Melanie sported a tattoo of the Bahamas tourism logo. A heart marked the spot we were driving through.

Cheryl had a long list of jobs she wanted us to complete before the two Ms had to sail back to Florida. We started at the Humane Society, where we dropped off shoes and clothing for the staff. The women held up the jeans to their waists, eyeballing the sizes. The men strapped the empty backpacks on their backs, modeling for each other. We next drove to a warehouse run by CrossReach, which has been providing groceries to low-income families for 20 years. Sundries covered every inch of space. The group has distributed more than 6,000 meal bags since the hurricane.

“We’ve literally done 10 years of distribution in six weeks,” said Steve Crane, a team leader.

At the Garden of the Groves, a botanical attraction with birds, butterflies, trails and a cafe, we met Wayne Hall, who manages the aquaponics farm. His boss, Erika Gates, also owns Grand Bahama Nature Tours, which operates bike, Jeep, ATV, kayaking and birding tours. Before Dorian, many of her excursions included a stop at the garden for shopping and lunch. However, until the property reopens on Dec. 1, she will send guests on bikes and ATVs to Banana Bay Restaurant instead. Erika also had to alter the Lucayan National Park kayak and nature tour while park staff restore access to Gold Rock Beach, and she suspended the brewery and perfume tour. You can still find Bahamian Brewery beer on the island; you just can’t see how the booze is made.

Wayne lost a greenhouse, 20,000 plants and all but seven of his 4,000 tilapia. Make that five: Birds swooped in and ate two. To help Wayne, we donned work gloves and cleaned out a storage building swamped by five feet of water. Many seeds in the germination room survived. Ever hopeful, Wayne said he expects to have baby greens by Thanksgiving.

For the remainder of the afternoon, we drove around the East End, doling out supplies house by tent by house. The mountain of goods dwindled to nothing. We popped over to Smith’s Point, which hosts the Wednesday night fish fry, and ordered a round of beer. Next door, a wedding party streamed out of a church. Life, and love, goes on.

– – –

I stood between the spooners and the loaders, ready with a pair of pink towels.

My job that morning was to help pack up the 18,000 to 20,000 meals prepared daily by World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit established by Washington, D.C., chef José Andrés. The assembly line started to my right. Two women in hairnets transferred rice and meat from coolers into large aluminum pans. Another volunteer placed the tops on the containers. Then I was up, sealing the lid and pressing the corners so the covers didn’t fly off during transport. Speed was important, but so was safety. I was frequently warned of the sharp edges and reminded to use the towels.

I didn’t need any food service experience to volunteer at the kitchen, nor did I have to undergo any training. I just showed up one morning and was handed a pair of disposable gloves. I learned about lids – and the operation – on the fly. Some volunteers spend all day at the site, churning out the twice-daily meals that churches will pick up and deliver around the island. I stopped at the 200th meal, a nice, round, fulfilling number.

The Humane Society also accepts volunteers. Until the center starts to rebuild its facility later this year, its most pressing need is for visitors to play with the animals: cats, dogs and two piglets. In addition, guests can check out a dog for a hike or beach jaunt.

On my first visit to the shelter, I met Lily, a border collie mix discovered roaming around the East End. The staff did not know whether she was a stray or belonged to family. They posted her photo on the center’s Facebook page, praying for a reunion. A day later, no one had claimed her. So I did – for an hour. I put Lily in my car and drove to Taino Beach. We watched two men set up beach chairs and cooled our ankles in the surf. At Tony Macaroni’s Conch Experience, a seafood shack, I waved and Lily barked at an employee.

As I wiped the sand off Lily’s paws, I updated my feelings about walks on the beach. Seaside strolls are always better with a dog, but they’re even more magical when the beach happens to be on Grand Bahama Island and the dog is a hurricane survivor.

– – –

IF YOU GO:

WHERE TO STAY

– Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line

1 E. 11th St., Riviera Beach, Fla.

888-530-2775

bahamasparadisecruise.com

The cruise line offers two-night cruises between the Port of Palm Beach and Grand Bahama Island or Nassau. For more than a day on shore, consider the cruise-and-stay package. At the moment, two of the four hotels are available: Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach and Lighthouse Pointe at Grand Lucayan. At Grand Lucayan, rates for the cruise and two nights’ hotel start at $318 for hotel only and $519 for the all-inclusive. The cruise line also has a special that includes a $100 onboard credit, five free drinks per stateroom, a free specialty meal and more. Book by Jan. 21.

WHERE TO VOLUNTEER

– Humane Society of Grand Bahama

Coral Road, Grand Bahama Island

242-352-2477

humanesocietygb.org

Volunteers can help socialize the animals, which entails playing with cats, dogs and two rescue piglets. The center also allows visitors to sign out a dog for a beach trip or other excursion.

– World Central Kitchen

Off Sea Horse Road, Freeport

wck.org

Volunteers can help assemble the free daily meals prepared by the nonprofit created by Washington chef José Andrés. The facility welcomes helpers – spooners, packers, loaders – from about 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sign up at wck.org/volunteer.

INFORMATION

– bahamas.com



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Bolsonaro asks 'not to give ammunition'…


Brasília (AFP) – Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro asked his supporters Saturday “not to give ammunition to the scoundrel,” the day after popular leftist leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva walked free from jail.

Breaking his silence on the release of his arch-nemesis, Bolsonaro told his Twitter followers: “Lovers of freedom and good, we are a majority. We cannot make mistakes.”

He added Lula was “momentarily free, but guilty.”

Lula’s exit from jail on Friday came a day after a controversial Supreme Court ruling that could release thousands of convicts.

In an impassioned address to hundreds of supporters who greeted him as he left the federal police headquarters in the southern city of Curitiba, Lula vowed to keep fighting for poor people.

He also denounced the economic policies of Bolsonaro, who was swept to power in 2018 in an election Lula had been widely tipped to win.



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