Friday, July 1, 2016

Louvre Museum closes due to flood

With consecutive days of torrential rain in Paris raising the Seine’s water levels to riverbank bursting flood volume, officials at the world famous Louvre museum have decided to close up on Friday to give them time to evacuate their priceless artwork to higher ground in the face of a seemingly inevitable deluge.

The downpours making Paris miserable this week are expected to last over the weekend according to BBC. Already the unusually heavy rains in Europe have damaged much and proven deadly in France and Germany.

As explained on the museum’s Twitter account, the Friday closure of the Louvre, which lies on the north bank of the Seine, aims to facilitate the transfer of works of art from its more vulnerable locations, such as the basement levels, to the upper floors, where they should remain safe if the situation does not deteriorate further.

Another museum, the Musee d’Orsay on the Seine’s south bank, has already closed its doors Thursday to take similar precautionary measures. Both museums have drilled extensive this year to prepare for such emergency action in case of floods. The Louvre’s evacuation plan sees them clearing out their underground reserve within seventy two hours – in a March drill, they successfully moved all their Islamic art pieces from its underground display section in a day. The Musee d’Orsay meanwhile, has a ninety six hour timetable, hence their earlier closure.

French President Francois Hollande has already declared a state of natural disaster in the country’s most flood-affected areas, in a move to quickly release emergency funds to local authorities.

The national meteorological service, Meteo-France, indicated that the worst-flooded waterway has been a Seine tributary, the Loing. Already floodwaters from the river have struck the nearby town of Nemours, 80 kilometers south of Paris, on Thursday. Residents had to be evacuated by rescue workers on boats.

But while The Loing seems to be calming down now, the Seine itself continues its alarming rise, already at five meters its normal level Thursday afternoon. Emergency barriers have been put up along the river after it burst its banks. The waters have already submerged an island close to the Eiffel Tower’s locations, and the riverbank quays have been washed out. The Seine has been closed to traffic from pleasure craft and commercial barges.

This has been a stunning blow to Paris which has been preparing to host the Euro 2016 Football Tournament Friday next week. If the Seine flooding continues unabated, experts believe that a special “fan zone” constructed at the Champs de Mars that could accommodate up to a hundred thousand spectators may well be submerged completely.

The latest Meteo-France forecasts may be a silver lining to all this, as they suggest a period of drier weather to come soon.

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US Fighting Planes crash in Colorado and Tennessee

Thursday June 2 was a bad day overall for flight demonstration squadrons of the US military when two separate and unrelated incidents in Colorado and Tennessee saw the loss of two flight demonstration aircraft and the death of one pilot.

USA Today tells of Marine Captain Jeff Kluss, 32, of Durango, Colo. and part of the renowned Navy Blue Angels Squadron, who was killed when his F/A-18 crashed in Smyrna, Tenn. moments after takeoff during a practice flight in preparation for The Great Tennessee Air Show this coming weekend.

Navy spokespersons interviewed in the aftermath have said that the cause of the crash was already being investigated. Captain Kluss, according to The Tennessean, graduated 2006 from Fort Lewis College in Colorado and was commissioned in the Marine Corps that same year as a Second Lieutenant, joining the prestigious Blue Angels in 2014. The public affairs officer at Fort Lewis College has expressed their sorrow over Kluss’s fate and extended condolences to his family on behalf of his alma mater and fellow. 

Before the tragic event, the Blue Angels had urged fans in the local area through Facebook to watch the skies at 9:40 AM local time in order to see them as they make their way to the air show at Smyrna, but not before performing a flyover over Nashville International Airport.

In the other incident, a pilot with the US Air Force Thunderbolts Squadron crashed his demonstration F-16 in the middle of a flyover for the Air Force Academy’s graduation rites near Peterson AFB in Colorado. Air Force officials confirmed the crash. The pilot, a Major Alex Turner, was able to pilot his crippled plane to an open and unpopulated area before safely ejecting, unharmed.

In something of an auspicious moment, President Barack Obama was present at the AF Academy graduation to deliver the commencement address, as confirmed by the White House to The Guardian. Spokesman Josh Earnest said that a military helicopter providing air support for the Presidential motorcade was ordered to break formation in order to locate the crash site. A Secret Service agent aboard the chopper, who was also a trained medic, gave an assessment of the pilot alongside first responders on the scene. Maj. Turner was safely flown to Peterson for treatment while the military chopper returned to support Obama’s motorcade.

The President would later visit Maj. Turner, who was up and walking about, at Peterson, thanking him for his service and expressing relief at his not being worse off. Obama also saluted the responders who recovered the pilot from where he ejected.

Back in Tennessee, fans of the Blue Angels have flooded their Facebook page with condolences for their loss and well wishes.

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Gun Shooting Incidents in the United States

It is a horrible truth, but school shootings have become routine in the United States. In fact, a very alarming development has been picked up by the Everytown for Gun Safety advocacy group.

Believe it or not, a gun has been fired in a school grounds somewhere in America at a ridiculous rate of almost once every week. Starting from December 14, 2012 when 20 schoolchildren and six adults were shot dead in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a total of 186 campus shootings have been reported, close to filling out an incident for every week from then until this week.

Everytown for Gun Safety has compiled a record of these incidents in their website, wherein they classified all such events as school shooting if a firearm was discharged within a school building or on campus grounds, as related in news accounts that are the group’s sources. Their classification thus included shootings that did not target other people such as suicides or accidental discharges. They have collated these reports on an interactive graphic map on their site’s front page, which plots all shooting incidents on dots all over the Continental US, selectable according to year of occurrence. Each dot when clicked names the location, the school involved and its level (elementary, high school or college / university), a generalized description of the incident (accidental fire with no injury or with injury / death, deliberate attack on others) and a brief summary of the events. Also accessible elsewhere on the

Everytown site are a list of the group’s resources and articles on issues regarding school violence and gun safety. Everytown for Gun Safety has also shared their findings with the LA Times, with them creating their own graphic map. Their version has color-coded dots designating actual deaths (red), injuries (gold), and other events like misfires and suicides (blue). Details on each dot are sparser than in the

Everytown map, merely a date, name, school, and a generalized checklist of details ticked off (gun fired, deaths, suicide attempt, etc.). It was also made clear here that the list of incidents does not include events where guns were found in school but not fired, or guns fired elsewhere off campus after being brought in and out of school.

According to the trend in the maps, from 2013 to 2016 the lion’s share of school shooting incidents has been in the eastern half of the US. On the West Coast for instance, only California has the most shootings with Washington State a close second (and most incidents in close proximity). Other shooting hotspots are the states of Texas, North Carolina and Florida. Remarkably, no significant school shootings have been reported in Alaska or Hawaii, although in an increasingly cynical world view, the question doesn’t seem to be if these two states could keep their record clean, but when they too shall join list of the bloodied.

The Times map can be viewed at since-newtown/, while the original Everytown for Gun Control map is on their website at

Prince's Sudden Demise

It took forty two days, but now some light has been shed on the how and maybe the why concerning the death of entertainer Prince in his home and recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. 

According to USA Today, when details on the artist’s autopsy began to leak online via “anonymous sources” to the Associated Press and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Minnesota finally publicized the entirety of the report, detailing both cause and manner of Prince’s sudden demise.

CNN reported that the cause of death was toxicity by fentanyl, currently the most powerful opium derived painkiller available – often used on cancer patients – and that the manner of death was a self-administered accidental overdose. Prince has allegedly been suffering chronic pain for decades, owing to numerous concert performances while wearing his trademark high-heeled shoes. Only days before he was found dead, the artist’s staff engaged the services of a specialist in opioid addiction to help him with a medical emergency, believed to be a dependency on prescription painkillers.

Fentanyl, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is a synthetic opiate analgesic similar to but about a hundred times more potent than morphine. It is typically used to alleviate severe pain, such as that suffered after surgery, and dosage is given in patches or lollipop form. The Drug Enforcement Administration also adds that fentanyl, like most opiates, originated in China, and has recently been in the spotlight for a rash of numerous overdose deaths in the United States. The toxicology report on Prince however, did not specify how the drug was administered by him, or whether it was prescribed for him or illegally obtained.

The autopsy also included several particulars on Prince’s final physical condition. In the end the 5-foot- 3 artist only weighed 122 pounds, was scarred in the left hip and lower right leg, and found dressed in a predominantly black clothing ensemble. Further details will not be released by the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson, was found unresponsive inside an elevator in his Paisley Park complex in April 21 by two of the singer’s staff and Andrew Kornfeld, son of Dr. Howard Kornfeld, the opioid addiction specialist contacted by Prince’s team. The younger Kornfeld was supposed to make a preliminary evaluation on the artist’s health for his father, who couldn’t come immediately, as well as enter Prince for pain management treatment. Federal prosecutors consider their investigation on the performer’s death as a criminal investigation, and are trying to determine where Prince obtained his medication and from whom.

An added wrinkle in the case is the now-chaotic condition of Prince’s multi-million dollar estate due to the lack of a last will and testament. A special administrator has been tasked to track down all his possible assets and all potential heirs.

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Meet President Duterte's Cabinet

A day after not gracing with his presence his proclamation in Manila as the duly elected President of the Philippines – something he has been known to do even in past proclamations to new governmental positions – President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has announced a greater part of his prospective appointments to his cabinet upon taking office in June 30.

In an evening press conference held at the Department of Social Welfare and Development guesthouse in Panacan, Davao City, referred to by Philippine media networks as the “Malacañang of the South”, Duterte related that after an earlier three-hour meeting with his transition team and several of his incoming cabinet members, he was ready to publicly reveal who he has chosen to head his executive departments and other important agencies, which he could personally vouched for as not being “tainted” with corruption. It was also a very good reason for him not to show at his proclamation as the formation of his cabinet was deemed more important.

Under the Office of the President, Duterte has named Salvador Medialdea as Executive Secretary, Salvador Panelo as Pres. Spokesman, Jesus Dureza as the Advisor on the Peace Process, and retired AFP chief of staff Hermogenes Esperon as National Security Advisor.

Included on the list are former South Cotabato Governor Mike Sueño as Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, incumbent DOST undersecretary Fortunato dela Peña as new Secretary, retired Major Delfin Lorenzana as Defense Secretary, Anakpawis Rep Rafael Mariano for Agrarian Reform and Judy Taguiwalo for Social Welfare – both recommended by the leftist National Democratic Front for Duterte’s “inclusive government).

Other departmental secretary positions filled were Emmanuel Piñol (Agriculture), Benjamin Diokno (Budget), former national treasurer Leonor Briones (Education), Alfonso Cusi (Energy), Carlos Dominguez III (Finance), Perfecto Yasay Jr. (Foreign Affairs), Vitaliano Aguirre (Justice), Silvestre Bello III (Labor), Mark Villar (Public Works), and Arthur Tugade (Transprtation). No one has yet been named to other departments such as Health, Tourism and Trade.

For non-departmental agencies, Duterte has called on some retired police officials like former PNP director Isidro Lapeña (PDEA), former NCRPO director Edgar Galvante (LTO), NBI Davao Regional Director Dante Gierran as the new agency chief, and former Davao City Police Chief Jaime Morente to the Bureau of Immigration. Former military personnel also get some prime cabinet spots like retired Army Brig. General Ricardo Jalad for the NDRRMC and even notorious rebel Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon for the Bureau of Customs.

Asked about some of his more unorthodox appointments, Duterte explains that the formation of a Presidential Cabinet was no simple job, comparing it to the story of a man carrying a burning torch during the day; when asked by someone why he was carrying a lit torch during the day when he can see everything, the man simply remarked that he “was looking for someone honest”, like the other man who asked him the question. The “inclusivity” of his government was also such that in addition to the communists he was considering someone from the Moro sector for a Cabinet posting.

The outgoing Davao City Mayor and President-elect also made several comments on what a Duterte administration would be like. As expected, he would be very heartless when it comes to stamping out corruption in government agencies, owing it to the 16 million or so Filipinos who voted for him, “a city mayor from Mindanao” to clean up the country. But he will also leave his appointees to do their work in peace with minimal to no interference on his part.

As for the moment, Duterte has no inkling as to what cabinet appointment he might give to Vice President-elect Leni Robredo, as he had been expecting to work with Robredo’s closest competition in the polls – Senator Ferdinand “BongBong” Marcos. He does not however rule out the possibility for Robredo to receive a posting, but not immediately.

Photo Credit to CNNPhilippines