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EarthLink – News

Pain of scuba diving deaths off California felt across globe
By JULIE WATSON | Sat, September 7, 2019 03:11 EDT
Less than a year ago, Tia Salika was wearing an animal-print scuba suit and posing for a photograph in the depths of the iridescent blue ocean off South America with her parents and her best friend.
So it seemed only fitting that the high schooler would celebrate her 17th birthday with another adventure: A diving tour through California’s rugged Channel Islands, a national park off Santa Barbara’s coast.
That was how she and her parents lived their lives — as fearless world explorers like so many of the others who boarded the Conception vessel for the three-day excursion, friends said. Salika’s birthday ended in tragedy when fire erupted on the commercial dive boat, trapping the 33 divers and a crew member sleeping below deck.
The pain would be felt across California, the United States and as far away as Japan, India and Singapore.
The Conception brought together an exceptional group of people, who left behind a trail of photos and social media postings that serve as a testament to their lives. They were scientists, teachers, nurses, entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, photographers and activists. One woman, a water district employee, was dubbed the “Water Princess” for her work in urging people to conserve water. Another was a sales director who devoted her time advocating for the protection of sharks.
They worked in everything from the movie industry in Hollywood to research at Stanford University. Many had graduated from top universities with advanced degrees. Several spoke multiple languages. Two grew up in Singapore, and two others were from India. One had a mother in Japan.
After reading some of the names of those identified so far, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said, “This list is representative of the diverse makeup of the passengers and crew who were aboard the Conception on that fateful day. They were from our local area and from throughout California, from across the United States and from around the world. Their tragic loss has devastated countless family members, loved ones, friends and colleagues.”
Many had traveled, worked and volunteered in places around the globe from Antarctica to the Galapagos Islands. Their love of the Earth’s underwater worlds transcended into a passion for all living things. It bonded them — a physics teacher with his 26-year-old daughter, a family of five also on a birthday trip for the father, neighbors from Santa Monica and of course, the Salikas.
Tia Salika first put on a dive tank at the age of 6, said Tom Peyton, vice president of Kids Sea Camp, a scuba diving tour company. The Salika family felt like a part of Peyton’s family because they traveled with the South Carolina outfitter for about a decade, including last November to Bonaire island, off Venezuela’s coast, he said.
“This family was incredibly adventurous, very fearless,” he said.
Tia Salika’s father, Steve Salika, 55, who worked for 30 years for Apple, and her mother, Diana Adamic, 60, showed her the world, he said.
Adamic, who volunteered with Tia and her best friend, Berenice Felipe, had a “compassionate, inquisitive nature and personal experiences” that “drove her to seek innovative ways to make the community around her a better place,” Jen Walker, a former humane educator at the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter, posted on the shelter’s Facebook page.
Many aboard the Conception posted in blogs about being in awe of the planet’s wonders and wanting to capture it in photos.
Professional photographer Andrew Fritz, 40, who was on the boat with his wife, an environmental scientist who had done research in Antarctica, wrote on his website that he was so enamored at seeing a Cheetah run at the San Diego Safari Park he had to put down his camera and watch with his own eyes.
Many talked about living to inspire others or to be inspired.
Lisa Fiedler, a 52-year-old hairdresser and photographer, said on her photography website that the moment she picked up the camera, she realized “I enjoyed creating and sharing images that reflect the way I absorb the grandeur of nature.”
There were also dreamers and risk takers. Allie Kurtz, 26, quit her job in the movie industry to become a deck hand on the Conception. She was the only crew member of six to die because she was sleeping below deck where the divers were.
Marine biologist Kristy Finstad, 41, who led the tour, had just returned from spending several years sailing across the Pacific with her husband.
Like Tia Salika, she first put on a dive tank as a child. Finstad had done hundreds of dives in the Channel Islands, whose wind-swept beauty still captivated her.
Finstad credited her mother, who founded Worldwide Diving Adventures, with instilling in her an appreciation of the planet and the courage to explore it. Finstad studied damselfish and corals in the Tahitian Islands, dove for black pearls in the French Polynesian Tuamotus Islands and counted salmonids for the city of Santa Cruz, where she lived.
“Dragging your feet is no way to climb a mountain,” Finstad wrote in her blog before setting off on her sailing trip in 2015, “holding your breath is no way to dive.”

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Pope in Madagascar insists: “Poverty is not inevitable”
By NICOLE WINFIELD and TRISHA THOMAS | Sun, September 8, 2019 08:58 EDT
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) — Pope Francis insisted Sunday that poverty isn’t inevitable and that the poor deserve the dignity of work as he visited a hilltop rock quarry in Madagascar where hundreds of people toil rather than scavenge in the capital’s biggest dump.
Francis appealed for new development strategies to fight global poverty as he visited the Akamasoa project, or “City of Friendship,” which soars on a hillside above the dump in Antananarivo. The project is the brainchild of an Argentine priest who was so overwhelmed by the abject poverty of Madagascar that he set about creating ways for the poor to earn a living. Over 30 years, the Akamasoa quarry has produced the stones that built the homes, roads, schools and health clinics that now dot the pine-covered hillside.
In greeting the villagers and quarry workers, Francis gave thanks that God had “heard the cry of the poor.”
“Your plea for help – which arose from being homeless, from seeing your children grow up malnourished, from being without work and often regarded with indifference if not disdain – has turned into a song of hope for you and for all those who see you,” Francis told them. “Every corner of these neighborhoods, every school or dispensary, is a song of hope that refutes and silences any suggestion that some things are ‘inevitable.'”
“Let us say it forcefully: Poverty is not inevitable!”
Francis, the first pope from the global south, has long preached about the dignity of work, and the need for all able-bodied adults to be able to earn enough to provide for their families. He has frequently met with workers and the unemployed and used his moral authority to demand political leaders provide job opportunities, especially for young people.
The founder of Akamasoa, the Rev. Pedro Opeka, said the low salaries he can pay the quarry workers are an injustice. But he said they are at least better than what scavengers earn in the dump, and are enough to enable parents to send their children to school.
“Akamasoa is a revolt against poverty, it is a revolt against inevitability,” Opeka told The Associated Press ahead of the pope’s visit. “When we started here it was an inferno, people who were excluded from the society.”
Opeka, a charismatic, bearded figure who is beloved by many in this city, grew up in Francis’ native Buenos Aires and even studied theology at the same seminary where the future pope studied and taught. A member of the Lazarist religious order, he was working as a missionary in Madagascar when he was inspired to create Akamasoa after witnessing the degrading life led by the parents and children who lived off the dump.
The Akamasoa project, which is funded by donors around the world and recognized by the Madagascar government, says it has built some 4,000 homes in more than 20 villages serving some 25,000 people since its foundation in 1989. About 700 people work in the rock quarry, using simple mallets to chop chunks of granite into cobblestones or pebbles, while others work as carpenters or attend training classes. It says 14,000 children have passed through its schools.
Despite Madagascar’s vast and unique natural resources, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. The World Bank says 75% of its 24 million people live on less than $2 a day; only 13% of the population has access to electricity.
In his greeting to the pope, Opeka said much of Madagascar’s poverty is due to indifference, by society at large and its leaders.
“In Akamasoa, we have shown that poverty isn’t inevitable, but was created by the absence of a social sensibility on the part of political leaders who abandoned and turned their back on the people who elected them,” Opeka said. “This place of exclusion today has become a place of communion of brothers and sisters of the whole world.”
Francis said Akamasoa, built up the hill from the dump, was a concrete example of a faith capable of “moving mountains.” He said that faith “made it possible to see opportunity in place of insecurity; to see hope in place of inevitability; to see life in a place that spoke only of death and destruction.”
“Let us pray that throughout Madagascar and everywhere in the world this ray of light will spread, so that we can enact models of development that support the fight against poverty and social exclusion, on the basis of trust, education, hard work and commitment,” Francis said before heading to the rock quarry itself to deliver a prayer for workers.
Susane Razanamahasoa, 65, has worked in the quarry for 20 years, 9.5 hours a day, to provide for her six children. She said the pope’s visit recalled the dedication to the poor of St. Francis of Assisi, his namesake.
“He is an extraordinary man and the fact that he has taken the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi means he is thirsty to live like St. Francis,” she said during a break in her work. “I am so full of joy that he is coming.”
Francis began his day with a Mass on a dusty field in the capital, where the faithful who attended an evening vigil spent a cold, windy night securing spots for the Sunday service.
They roared and waved plastic Madagascar and Holy See flags as Francis looped through the crowd before Mass on his popemobile, kicking up red dust in his wake. Citing local organizers, the Vatican said an estimated 1 million people were in attendance.
In his homily, Francis told the crowd to not work only for their own personal agendas and goals, but for others.
“As we look around us, how many men and women, young people and children are suffering and in utter need!” he said. “This is not part of God’s plan. How urgently Jesus calls us to kill off our self-centeredness, our individualism and our pride!”
Monday, Francis travels to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius on the final day of his weeklong, three-nation Africa trip.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Spanish singer-songwriter Camilo Sesto dies at 72
Sun, September 8, 2019 08:52 EDT
MADRID (AP) — Spanish singer and songwriter Camilo Sesto, a popular star in the 1970s and 1980s, has died of heart failure. He was 72.
Sesto’s manager, Eduardo Guervós, confirmed his death to Spanish public broadcaster TVE, saying that he had died early Sunday in a hospital in Madrid after suffering two heart attacks.
Sesto, whose real name was Camilo Blanes Cortés, sold more than 100 million records worldwide over his 40-year career. His hits included “Algo de mí,” ”Perdóname,” and “Melina.”
In 1975 he starred in the Spanish version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Spain’s caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, tweeted that “Spain and all of Latin America mourn the loss of Camilo Sesto. His melodies will always be part of our memory.”
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Air Force disputes Alaska crew favored Trump Scottish hotel
By MARK THIESSEN | Sun, September 8, 2019 12:34 EDT
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Military officials are disputing a report that claims a joint Air Force and Alaska Air National Guard unit on a refueling mission to Kuwait went miles out of their way to spend the night at a resort in Scotland owned by President Donald Trump.
Politico first reported that the military transport that took off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage in March spent the night at the Turnberry resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow.
The disclosure comes as Trump last week denied he had any role in Vice President Mike Pence booking a room at a Trump resort in Ireland or Attorney General William Barr booking at holiday party at a Trump property in Washington, D.C., actions which Democrats and critics claim enrich the president at taxpayer’s expense.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has opened an investigation into the matter.
Military flights making stopovers in Scotland are not unusual, and there were no rooms closer to the airport, an Air Force spokesman said Saturday in an emailed statement to The Associated Press.
“As our aircrews serve on these international airlift missions, they follow strict guidelines on contracting for hotel accommodations and all expenditures of taxpayer dollars,” Brig Gen Edward Thomas wrote. “In this case, they made reservations through the Defense Travel System and used the closest available and least expensive accommodations to the airfield within the crews’ allowable hotel rates.”
The routine airlift mission was on a C-17 shared by the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard at the Anchorage base. The crew on this flight consisted of seven active-duty Air Force and Alaska Air National Guard members.
The flight took off from Anchorage on March 13, making stops at bases in Nevada and New Hampshire before going to Glasgow Prestwick Airport and eventually Ali Al Salem base in Kuwait. The crew was back in Alaska on March 19.
A local government contractor made the Scotland reservations, and indicated there was not a room closer to the airport than the Trump resort, 54 miles away, Thomas said.
That, Thomas said, was not a remarkable distance to travel to receive the government rate for the rooms.
He said the Trump resort had rooms for $136 a night, cheaper than a Marriott, which charged $161 a night. However, he said both are under the per diem rate of $166.
“While we are still reviewing the trip records, we have found nothing that falls outside the guidelines associated with selecting stopover airports on travel routes and hotel accommodations for crew rest,” said Thomas, the director of Air Force Public Affairs.
He said records are being reviewed, but it appears the crew stayed at a Marriott near Glasgow on its return trip to Alaska.
___
This story has been corrected to say that the airplane used in the mission was a C-17.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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State media: Mugabe to be buried next Sunday
By FARAI MUTSAKA | Sun, September 8, 2019 12:04 EDT
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe is expected to be buried next Sunday, state media reported.
Mugabe, an ex-guerrilla leader who became the southern African country’s first leader following independence from white minority rule in 1980 and held on to power until he was forced to resign in 2017, died in Singapore on Friday.
His body will arrive in Zimbabwe on Wednesday, the Sunday Mail Quote: d presidential spokesman George Charamba as saying.
Mugabe enjoyed strong backing from Zimbabwe’s people after taking over in 1980 but that support waned following decades of repression, economic mismanagement and allegations of election-rigging.
He is still regarded by many as a national hero, though, with some even beginning to say they missed him after his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former ally turned foe, failed to revive the economy and used the army to crush dissent.
According to Charamba, Mnangagwa and family members will receive the body at the airport named after the former president in the capital, Harare. The body will be taken to his rural home, about 85 kilometers (53 miles) southwest of Harare before being placed in a giant stadium for public viewing.
Mnangagwa, who described Mugabe as a “a great teacher and mentor”, declared him a national hero, the highest posthumous award in the country and said official mourning will only end after the burial at the National Heroes Acre, a hilltop shrine reserved exclusively for Zimbabweans who made huge sacrifices during the war against white-minority rule.
In death, Mugabe received praise from his former political and military allies, who propped up his rule for close to four decades before forcing him out in 2017.
“He died a very bitter man,” family spokesman and nephew to Mugabe, Leo Mugabe told reporters at the family’s rural home Saturday. “Imagine the people that are guarding you, that you trusted the most, turn against you.
At a Roman Catholic cathedral where Mugabe used to attend Mass, a priest on Sunday opened the church service by paying tribute to the former ruler and asking congregants to forgive him.
“He did a lot of positive things for our country but not everything that he did was right. We should learn to forgive for all the wrongs he may have committed. May God grant him mercy,” said Father Richard Mushuku.
“Being a Catholic, he tried his level best to live according to Christian values and I know people have mixed feelings in the way he practiced his Christian values,” Kennedy Muguti, the vicar-general of the archdiocese of Harare, told The Associated Press after the Mass.
Alex Ngwena, a parishioner, said “current leaders must learn from his mistakes.”

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