Category: Opinion

Alabama abortion bill's restrictions weigh on Republicans ahead of vote… Developing…


OXFORD, Ala. – On Monday, a day before Alabama lawmakers were scheduled to vote on a bill that would all but ban abortion in the state, Republican Del Marsh, president of the state senate, asked a group of young mothers – toddlers bouncing on their laps – what they want the Legislature to do.

“How do y’all feel about banning abortion, even in cases of rape and incest?” he asked the women, who gathered at tables outside a Southern Girl Coffee truck here, on the edge of Talladega National Forest, about 100 miles from Montgomery.


“I’m praying for y’all, and I wouldn’t want your job,” sighed Lauren Holland, 32, her 2-year-old daughter climbing on her chest. She said she would have the baby if she were raped, but making that the law? “That there is real hard for women. I’m a Christian. One-hundred percent pro-life. But I don’t think I want that in the law.”


Marsh asked the women to keep praying for him as he navigates a contentious fight that could put Alabama on the leading edge of the anti-abortion push to get a state law in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. He, like many other Republicans here, has long been against abortion and wants the court to overturn Roe v. Wade – and he embraces the strategy of a bill that will force the issue. But he also long has been accepting of three exceptions to bans on abortion: cases that involve rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger.

Marsh and some others in the Republican majority here are struggling with Tuesday’s vote on an abortion ban, largely because it is so restrictive. Any unborn baby is innocent and deserves a chance at life, the bill’s backers argue, even those that are the result of violent or criminal origins.

“It’s just, I’m not real comfortable with having a law that forces a woman to carry a baby after rape,” Marsh said.

A move to amend the bill last week with exceptions for rape or incest led to a shouting match on the Senate floor, and the vote was tabled. Marsh asked legislators to go home and speak to their constituents, as he himself has done. A vote on the bill has been rescheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

The bill would outlaw most abortions in the state – except those that would protect a woman whose life is in danger because of the pregnancy – and make performing abortion a felony punishable by up to 99 years imprisonment. That part of the law would be considered extreme in some states but was without controversy here.


A majority of Alabama residents are firmly against abortion, and the sponsor of the bill, state Rep. Terri Collins, a Republican, says she has empathy for survivors of rape and incest. But she also wants to make sure the law is strong enough to force federal court intervention – something she and others hope will lead to national restrictions on abortion. To achieve that, she said, the bill must do nothing short of declaring that a fetus has rights from Day One.

“It has to be 100% a person at conception,” Collins said,

Collins said she would support states making their own decisions about exceptions. And she agrees “that rape and incest could be an exception in state law.

“But what I’m trying to do here is get this case in front of the Supreme Court so Roe v. Wade can be overturned.”

On Monday, the impending vote had lawmakers scrambling across the state. Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, a Republican, urged lawmakers to pass the abortion bill without exceptions and posted a video on Twitter urging Alabamians to call their senators.

“Abortion is murder,” he says in the video. “Those three simple words sum up my position on an issue that many falsely claim is a complex one.”

Conservatives see this year’s state legislative sessions as an important turning point, with governors and lawmakers across the country passing highly restrictive abortion bills in hope of attracting the attention of what they see as the most anti-abortion U.S. Supreme Court in decades.

“It’s getting closer and closer,” said Scott Dawson, an Alabama evangelist and Birmingham minister who ran for governor in 2018. “In this political landscape, it is time for action. Alabama could actually be the leader of the conservative voice in the United States.”

Alabama’s bill could serve as a test for the “personhood” strategy, especially if it passes without exceptions. But anti-abortion groups say that even if exceptions are added at the last minute, they won’t back down.

“We will never give up on protecting life in the womb,” said the Rev. Mike Crowe, who from the pulpit on Mother’s Day urged members of Southside Baptist Church outside Birmingham to get ready to be proud foster parents if the bill passes. “I’m sure there are families for those babies.”

Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, a senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the current round of anti-abortion legislation is more radical than in the past. Alabama is just the latest state to consider doing away with exceptions for victims of rape and incest. Georgia and Ohio recently passed “heartbeat” bills – which ban abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant – that would also apply to victims of rape and incest.

“It shows how extreme and how emboldened the people who are pushing these laws feel now,” she said. “Before, they knew they couldn’t get away with it. Now they think they can.”

The ACLU, she said, is preparing to sue if the Alabama measure passes – with or without exceptions.

“At the end of the day, an all-out abortion ban, whether it’s at six weeks or before, is blatantly unconstitutional whether those exceptions exist or not,” Kolbi-Molinas said.

The vote Tuesday is sure to elicit high emotions, especially after an effort last week to address the issue of exceptions by voice vote rather than by the standard roll call. Democrats saw the move as an attempt by Republicans to exclude the exceptions without going on record as voting to force victims of rape and incest to give birth. Democrats have vowed to try again Tuesday to amend the bill to allow abortions in cases of rape and incest.

With Democrats in the Senate expected to vote against the bill and Republicans divided, “it’s going to be real close,” Republican Sen. Cam Ward said in his home in suburban Birmingham, where his 7-month-old daughter was about to go down for a nap.

Ward said his stomach hurts over the idea of denying rape victims the opportunity to terminate a pregnancy.

“In California, I’d be to the right of Attila the Hun,” he said. “But in Alabama, I’m a moderate.”

Last week, Ward said, a young woman came to his office in the Statehouse and said she was raped by a relative when she was 14. She did not become pregnant, but she and her mother said she would have had an abortion had she conceived. As it was, she attempted suicide, was hospitalized for three weeks, struggled in school and is still in counseling years later.

“Her world got very small fast,” her mother wrote Ward in an email. “This bill is barbaric. Representatives need to think outside of themselves and their own life experiences.”

Ward said he can’t get her story out of his mind.

“Look, we are so pro-life in this state. But we’ve never faced anything like this,” Ward said, noting that he has concerns with a bill that doesn’t have exceptions for rape and incest.

“The question is, are we going to be the state that says this is OK?” he said. “Even if this is just a legal strategy, I also have a 16-year-old daughter. Would I want her to carry a baby from a rape?

“That’s where my stomachache comes in,” he said. “That’s where folks feel real sick about this.”

– – –

The Washington Post’s Arianna Eunjung Cha in Washington and Chip Brownlee, a freelance journalist based in Alabama, contributed to this report.







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COP: Short-circuit likely caused Notre Dame fire…


PARIS (AP) — Paris police investigators think an electrical short-circuit most likely caused the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, a police official said Thursday, as France paid a daylong tribute to the firefighters who saved the world-renowned landmark.

A judicial police official told The Associated Press that investigators made an initial assessment of the cathedral Wednesday but don’t have a green light to search Notre Dame’s charred interior because of ongoing safety hazards.

The cathedral’s fragile walls were being shored up with wooden planks, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak by name about an ongoing investigation.

Investigators so far believe the fire was accidental, and are questioning both cathedral staff and workers who were carrying out renovations. Some 40 people had been questioned by Thursday, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office.

The police official would not comment on an unsourced report in Le Parisian newspaper that investigators are looking at whether the fire could have been linked to a computer glitch or the temporary elevators used in the renovation work, among other things. The prosecutor’s office said only that “all leads must be explored.”

Since the cathedral will be closed to the public for years, the rector of the Catholic parish that worships there has proposed building a temporary structure on the plaza in front of the Gothic-era landmark, and City Hall gave its approval Thursday “subject to technical restraints.”

A Paris fire official said the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral would have fallen if firefighters hadn't deployed massive equipment and acted swiftly to fight the fire racing across the monument. (April 17)

“The rector has no cathedral for the moment. …. But I’m going to try to invent something,” Bishop Patrick Chauvet said.

A crypt containing vestiges dating from antiquity is located under the vast esplanade.

President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants Notre Dame to be restored in five years, in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics, which Paris is hosting. Restoration specialists have questioned the ambitious timeline, with some saying it could take three times that long to rebuild the 850-year-old architectural treasure.

Earlier Thursday, Macron held a ceremony at the Elysee Palace to thank the hundreds of firefighters who battled the fast-moving fire at Notre Dame for nine hours starting Monday evening, preventing the structure’s destruction and rescuing many of the important relics held inside.

“We’ve seen before our eyes the right things perfectly organized in a few moments, with responsibility, courage, solidarity and a meticulous organization”, Macron said. “The worst has been avoided.”

The cathedral’s lead roof and its soaring spire were destroyed, but Notre Dame’s iconic bell towers, rose windows, organ and precious artworks were saved.

Macron said the firefighters will receive an Honor Medal for their courage and devotion.

Paris City Hall also held a ceremony in the firefighters’ honor Thursday afternoon, with a Bach violin concert, two giant banners strung from the monumental city headquarters and readings from Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Remarkably, no one was killed in the blaze that broke out as the cathedral was in the initial stages of a lengthy restoration.

A large swath of the island in the Seine River where Notre Dame is located was officially closed Thursday by police, who cited “important risks” of collapse and falling objects. The area had been unofficially blocked off since the fire.

Meanwhile, workers using a crane removed some statues to lessen the weight on the cathedral’s fragile gables, or support walls, to keep them from collapsing since they were no longer supported by the roof and its network of centuries-old timbers that were consumed by the inferno.

They also secured the support structure above one of Notre Dame’s rose windows with wooden planks.

Among the firefighters honored Thursday was Paris fire brigade chaplain Jean-Marc Fournier, who told the Le Parisian daily he was able to save the cathedral’s consecrated hosts. The paper said he climbed on altars to remove large paintings, but that he was especially proud “to have removed Jesus” from the Cathedral — a reference to the Catholic belief that consecrated hosts are the body of Christ.

An earlier report credited Fournier with helping salvage the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus at his crucifixion, but Fournier told France Info Thursday he arrived after rescuers had already broken the relic’s protective covering and an official who had the secret code needed to unlock it finished the job. He praised the action that preserved “this extraordinary relic, this patrimony of humanity.”

Among others honored was Myriam Chudzinski, one of the first firefighters to reach the roof as the blaze raged. Loaded with gear, they climbed hundreds of steps up the cathedral’s narrow spiral staircase to the top of one of the two towers.

“We knew that the roof was burning, but we didn’t really know the intensity,” she told reporters. “It was from upstairs that you understood that it was really dramatic. It was very hot and we had to retreat, retreat. It was spreading quickly.”

Benedicte Contamin, who came to view the damaged cathedral from afar Thursday, said she’s sad but grateful it’s still there.

“It’s a chance for France to bounce back, a chance to realize what unites us, because we have been too much divided over the past years,” she said.

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Associated Press writers Nicolas Vaux-Montagny and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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Read and watch all AP coverage of the Notre Dame fire at https://apnews.com/NotreDameCathedral



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MACK THE KNIFE FALLS ON SWORD; RULES OUT 2020…


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe won’t run for president in 2020, meaning establishment, centrist Democrats will have one less option in a nominating free-for-all that so far has highlighted the party’s leftward shift.

McAuliffe said Wednesday night that instead of joining a crowded Democratic field vying to challenge President Donald Trump, he will concentrate his efforts on helping Democrats win this year in Virginia — with the possibility that he runs for governor or president in the future.

“Where can you help people the most and change people’s lives?” McAuliffe said on CNN, arguing that he could “beat Trump like a rented mule” but doesn’t “want anyone in Virginia to think I’ve abandoned them.”

“I’m staying home to do what I need to do to help Virginians,” he added.

McAuliffe’s decision comes as former Vice President Joe Biden considers whether to enter the 2020 Democratic field. McAuliffe is widely viewed as part of the party’s mainstream, occupying much of the same political space as Biden.

McAuliffe said “most” of the current Democratic candidates could defeat Trump, though Biden was the only potential contender he called out by name. “I love Joe Biden,” he said.

The former governor’s decision also follows a series of scandals that weakened Democrats in Virginia during a key election year, when partisan control of the state legislature is up for grabs.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring both admitted in February to having worn blackface as young men, while Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has been accused by two women of sexual assault, which he denies. Some top Democratic state lawmakers have urged McAuliffe to focus on raising money for Democrats this year and then run for governor in 2021. Virginia bars governors from serving consecutive terms, but McAuliffe could run again after serving from 2014-18.

He demurred on CNN when pressed about whether he’d run for governor in 2021, saying he’s committed to Virginia Democrats first and foremost to help this year and in federal elections next year.

One state lawmaker, Democratic Sen. Dick Saslaw, said that he’s been urging McAuliffe to run for governor.

“He didn’t rule it out,” Saslaw told The Associated Press before McAuliffe’s CNN appearance.

McAuliffe, once best known as a top Democratic money man and close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s, reinvented his image during a largely successful four-year term as governor that saw him tirelessly market the state, make major transportation deals and restore more voting rights than any other governor in the country.

In a presidential race, McAuliffe’s record as a business-friendly centrist — he proposed a corporate tax cut and backed a massive new natural gas pipeline that environmentalists detest — would have been a liability with more progressive primary voters.

Yet McAuliffe had made clear to friends and associates that he believed he’d make a good candidate and an excellent president. He’s been open about his belief that Democrats should not stray too far to the left, particularly on health care and other economic issues. He sees himself as a politician in line with the party’s positions on social issues while representing a mainstream liberalism that could appeal to more moderate voters.

According to aides, McAuliffe had spent the last several weeks meeting with policy advisers talking about how to make concrete economic and health care proposals that could appeal across the political spectrum but that would stop short of Sanders’ pitch for single-payer health insurance. Among those he met with was Chris Jennings, a top health care policy adviser in President Barack Obama’s White House when the Affordable Care Act was passed and implemented.

Part of McAuliffe’s pitch to powerbrokers in early voting states was his ability to make Democratic inroads in Virginia, which has become reliably Democratic in recent elections. In the 2017 elections, the last year of McAuliffe’s four-year tenure as governor, 15 House of Delegates seats shifted from Republican to Democratic control, reducing the GOP’s majority to two seats.

“I took a red state and made it blue,” the former Democratic National Committee chairman said last month during a swing through South Carolina. “We had the biggest pickups in 140 years under my four years as governor, and if we did it there, we can do it here in South Carolina.”

McAuliffe stepped into the national spotlight as governor as a leading voice on certain social issues, winning kudos for undoing a vestige of the state’s Jim Crow era and restoring voting and other civil rights to felons who have completed their sentences. McAuliffe’s blunt criticism of the white nationalists who sparked a deadly rally in Charlottesville last summer also drew a sharp contrast with Trump’s shaky response.

Trump gave $25,000 to McAuliffe’s 2009 gubernatorial bid, and the two were once acquaintances. But McAuliffe has been unsparing in his criticism of the president in the last year or so, telling a national television audience he’d knock Trump to the floor if the president ever tried to intimidate him.

Another factor in McAuliffe’s decision is the dissipating shadow of the Clintons in Democratic presidential politics. McAuliffe has been friends with the couple for more than 30 years and served as DNC chairman during part of Bill Clinton’s tenure. McAuliffe has been unapologetic about his ties with the Clintons and his years as a party money man for them and other candidates, saying he has always worked within the existing campaign finance rules to elect Democrats up and down the ballot, even as he acknowledges that big money — particularly from corporations and super PACs — has become anathema to many in the Democratic base.

___

Barrow reported from Atlanta.



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American flags on police cars sparks backlash in Laguna Beach…


“There was like a little panic going on, and I was like, ‘What’s happening?’ ” Prelitz said. The hubbub, he discovered, was over a cluster of police cars that had arrived at the scene. “When one of them’s there, it works. But all of a sudden, I saw, wow, when there are three, maybe four of them together, folks thought it was a SWAT team, federal agents. So it had a very striking, strong impact, so much so that I think there might be some unintended consequences.”



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'It's okay to be white' flyers posted at another university…


MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — Flyers with the slogan “it’s okay to be white” were posted on the University of Idaho campus and around Moscow last week as part of a provocation campaign by white nationalist groups.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports the flyers were an apparent repeat of a year-old campaign stemming from online message boards, intending to create strong reactions.

Washington State University Communications Director Phil Weiler says the Pullman campus was the site of the same campaign last year.

He says the flyers are not harmless, “they’re interested in being provocative, trying to upset people, trying to intimidate people.”

University President Chuck Staben says he is disappointed to see such flyers on campus, but personnel would not remove the ones posted on authorized surfaces, noting the university supports free speech.

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Information from: The Moscow-Pullman Daily News, http://www.dnews.com



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Air Force falcon expected to recover from 'life-threatening' injuries after West Point prank…


The Army’s military academy issued an apology Sunday for an apparent prank in which a live Air Force mascot falcon was abducted and injured ahead of the weekend’s Army-Air Force football game in West Point, N.Y.

“The U.S. Military Academy sincerely apologizes for an incident involving USMA cadets and the Air Force Academy falcons, which occurred Saturday,” said the post on West Point’s Facebook page. “We are taking this situation very seriously, and this occurrence does not reflect the Army or USMA core values of dignity and respect.

“An apology was given to the U.S. Air Force Academy for this unfortunate incident.”

Aurora, the 22-year-old white gyrfalcon that had accompanied the team for the game against Air Force’s service rival, is expected to make a full recovery, the academy tweeted Sunday evening, after she was examined by a master falconer and veterinarians at Fort Carson.

After bringing her home Saturday, academy officials were encouraged that the injuries weren’t as severe as they first appeared because she was able to fly around in her pen.

“It’s an extremely good sign that she’s flying,” said Troy Garnhart, associate athletic director for communications.

The injuries to the bird’s wings initially had been described as life-threatening given her advanced age. Gyrfalcons’ life expectancy in captivity is around 25 years, according to tetonraptorcenter.org.

“We are grateful for the outpouring of support for Aurora and are optimistic for her recovery,” Garnhart said.

Aurora was being kept in the home of a volunteer sponsor, an Army colonel, as is customary whenever the Air Force team is on the road, Garnhart said.

No details about when the mascot was abducted, by whom and how she was injured have been released by either academy.

But the New York Times reported Sunday that Aurora and Oblio, a peregrine falcon about seven years younger, were taken by two West Point cadets on Friday night.

The cadets threw sweaters over the birds, and later stuffed them into dog crates, Sam Dollar, the Air Force Academy’s falconry team adviser, told the newspaper. When the cadets returned the birds Saturday morning, Aurora had blood on her wings from abrasions likely caused by thrashing around in the crate, Dollar said.

“I think they had them for a couple hours and then they realized it was a bad mistake,” the Times quoted Dollar. “When Aurora started thrashing around in the crate, they decided that wasn’t a good thing.”

Aurora’s injuries have risen to the highest level at the military schools.

AFA spokeswoman Lt. Col. Tracy Bunko said AFA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria has been in contact with his counterpart at West Point, Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams.

Aurora was the grand dame of the school’s heralded falconry program, which includes a half-dozen birds managed by a dozen cadets.

Animal abuse, specifically to an animal on the government’s payroll, is a crime in the military. The crime of “abuse of a public animal” has been on the military’s books since the Army was founded, and has been used primarily to charge those who abused pack animals, such as mules and horses.

While Aurora is a mascot, the statute could apply, with a conviction potentially resulting in up to a year behind bars and a dishonorable discharge.

The Gazette’s Tom Roeder contributed to this report.



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Candidate: 'Demanding apology culture' not healthy…


On Sunday, TMZ caught up with Dan Crenshaw, a Republican candidate for Congress in Texas who lost his eye in Afghanistan and found himself the butt of a tasteless Saturday Night Live joke.

SNL’s Pete Davidson made light of Crenshaw’s war injury during the most recent live show, saying: “I’m sorry. I know he lost his eye in war or whatever … Whatever.”

That jab prompted calls for an apology — and even a CNN panel slamming the attempt at a joke — but Crenshaw doesn’t think an apology is needed.

In fact, he said that the culture of apology-demanding is just not healthy for America.

“I want us to get away from this culture where we demand an apology every time someone misspeaks,” Crenshaw said.

He added: “I think that would be very healthy for our nation to go in that direction. We don’t need to be outwardly outraged. I don’t need to demand apologies from them. They can do whatever they want, you know. They are feeling the heat from around the country right now and that’s fine.”

He then stressed that he would like Davidson and SNL to recognize that “veterans across the country probably don’t feel as though their wounds [that] they received in battle should be the subject of a bad punch line.”

Finally, the veteran and candidate said the “real atrocity” was Davidson’s attempt at a joke wasn’t even funny but “just mean-spirited.”

Watch above, via TMZ

[image via screengrab]

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AMAZON hiring fewer holiday workers, a sign robots replacing…


Amazon is staffing up for the holiday rush with around 100,000 additional hires. As big as that number sounds, it’s actually fewer people than the e-commerce giant added in either the 2016 or 2017 holiday seasons, when it brought in 120,000 additional workers.

Citi analyst Mark May says he thinks the reduction in seasonal hiring is strong evidence that Amazon is succeeding with plans to automate operations in its warehouses.

“We’ve seen an acceleration in the use of robots within their fulfillment centers, and that has corresponded with fewer and fewer workers that they’re hiring around the holidays,” May told CNBC on Nov. 2. He added that 2018 is the “first time on record” Amazon plans to hire fewer holiday workers than it did the previous year.

“Since the last holiday season, we’ve focused on more ongoing full-time hiring in our fulfillment centers and other facilities,” Amazon spokesperson Ashley Robinson said in an email, adding that the company has “created over 130,000 jobs” in the last year. “We are proud to have created over 130,000 new jobs in the last year alone.”

Amazon bought robotics company Kiva Systems for $775 million in 2012, and began using its orange robots in warehouses in late 2014. By mid-2016, it had become clear just how big a difference those robots were making. The little orange guys could handle in 15 minutes the sorting, picking, packing, and shipping that used to take human workers an hour or more to complete. In June 2016, Deutsche Bank predicted Kiva automation could save Amazon nearly $2.5 billion (those savings dropped to $880 million after accounting for the costs of installing robots in every warehouse).

Robinson said Amazon has added 300,000 full-time jobs since 2012. ”It’s a myth that automation replaces jobs and destroys net job growth,” she said by email. “Our teams work alongside more than 100,000 robots at over 26 fulfillment centers worldwide and we are excited to continue increasing the technology we use at our sites while growing our global workforce.”

The success of robots thus far may also have contributed to Amazon’s Oct. 2 decision to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour for all US employees, affecting around 250,000 full-time employees and 100,000 seasonal workers. That move is less financially risky if Amazon sees itself rapidly replacing these human workers with robots and other automated systems.

In an Oct. 15 research note, Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak was optimistic about Amazon’s ability to offset higher wages through automation. Nowak noted that Kiva robots were already enabling smaller Amazon warehouses to handle the same capacity as other centers, and leading to a drop in fulfillment costs. “We think improved fulfillment efficiency is set to offset the aforementioned wage increase,” he wrote.

In other words, the 2018 holiday season could be a harbinger of what’s to come.



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Bus ride from Hell: Panicked passengers jump out windows…


A frightful bus ride that was supposed to be a short jaunt from a downtown Long Beach parking lot to the Queen Mary’s “Dark Harbor” event wound up in Carson instead.

The incident wasn’t an attempted kidnapping – as at least some panicked passengers on board feared – but the result of a driver getting lost, police said on Friday.

The 60-year-old driver, who lives in Los Angeles, left the parking structure at The Pike with 20 to 30 revelers headed to the annual Halloween attraction at about 7:30 p.m. Thursday, when he became disoriented by street closures and missed his destination, police said.

As the bus drove through Carson, passengers started getting worried that they were being kidnapped and one of them confronted the driver, police said.

“Patrons began exiting the bus through various emergency exits while stopped at a traffic light,” said Officer Alvino Herrera, a Long Beach police spokesman. “We understand how this situation evolved into fear. … However, through their investigation, detectives learned the driver was simply lost.”

The driver pulled into a gas station at Central Avenue and Del Amo Boulevard in Carson, and sheriff’s deputies detained him until Long Beach police arrived to question him, Herrera said. Someone had called police.

A passenger signed a private-person arrest for the driver for suspicion of battery, police said. Police did not detail the confrontation, but did say the driver had previously had a disagreement when the passenger tried to bring an open container of alcohol aboard.

The driver was released pending an investigation.

One passenger, identified by KABC-TV as Brian Corbitt, told the station that the driver “nailed” him in the stomach, knocking him back into a seat.

“I told him straight up, I’m like, ‘Listen, at this point it’s kidnapping, you can’t hold us like this,’ ” Corbitt told the station.

Corbitt declined to speak with a reporter Friday morning, saying he needed to consult his attorney. It is unclear if he was the passenger who filed the private-person arrest form.

The shuttle bus was run by a private contractor.

Lee Piatelli, of San Pedro, said he was so unnerved by the ride he’s considering getting a lawyer, too. The driver was still moving the bus as Piatelli and others jumped out of the windows, he said.

“When you’re trying to drive a bus and people are trying to get off, that’s (expletive). Somebody’s going to get run over and get hurt,” Piatelli said.

If the driver was lost, he should have said so and pulled over, Piatelli said. Instead, the driver ignored everyone who was frantically asking what was going on, he said.

“We all started freaking out,” he said. “All we wanted was one more night of Halloween, and we got the bus ride from hell.”

Piatelli said he never saw an altercation on the bus over alcohol.

“His job is to get us from point A to point B and he took us to point outer space,” he said.

Piatelli’s group, he said, never made it to the event.

In a statement, a representative for the Queen Mary said, “The safety and security of our guests are paramount. We are working with all parties involved to learn more about the incident with this vendor, and will provide updates as more information develops.”



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Japanese island disappears…


TOKYO: Missing – A tiny island in northern Japan. Or so authorities fear, prompting plans for a survey to determine if the outcrop has been washed away, ever-so-slightly shrinking the country’s territorial waters.

The island, known as Esambe Hanakita Kojima was only officially surveyed and registered by Japan’s coastguard in 1987, who couldn’t even say exactly how big it was.

Until recently, it rose 1.4-metre above sea level, and was visible from the very northern tip of Japan’s northern Hokkaido island.

But now, it has disappeared.

“It is not impossible that tiny islands get weathered by the elements,” a coastguard official told AFP.

The disappearance of the island “may affect Japan’s territorial waters a tiny bit”, she added, but only “if you conduct precision surveys”.

Japan pours resources into protecting its outer islands, particularly the remote Okinotori islands in the Pacific, which secures a significant portion of the nation’s exclusive economic zone.

It is also locked in disputes with neighbours, including China and South Korea, over the sovereignty of several islands in the region.

Prone to earthquakes and severe weather, Japan has found itself not only losing, but sometimes gaining territory thanks to natural disasters and extreme weather.

In 2015, a 300m strip of land emerged from the sea and attached itself to the coast of Hokkaido.

Initially, the phenomenon raised fears of mysterious seismic activity, but geologists said it was probably the result of a landslide that pushed the underwater surface up.

And in 2013, a volcanic island appeared around 1,000km south of Tokyo, engulfing an existing island and continuing to grow.



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