April 3, 2013

A Tibetan mine     Photo: Evan Saunders via Flickr

At Least 66 Die in Tibetan Landslide

Environmental policies blamed

After a massive landslide buried a mining camp in Tibet's Gyama Valley on Friday, rescue workers have recovered the bodies of 66 mine workers buried beneath the rock and mud. No survivors have been found, and hopes are fading as the search continues for the 17 that are still missing.

The possibility of secondary landslides halted search efforts earlier this week, with operations resuming Tuesday morning. Rescuers are searching a debris field that covers about two miles.

This tragedy has sparked an unprecedented amount of criticism from Chinese bloggers of the government's environmental policies in Tibet. In recent years, Chinese companies have moved to expand mining operations across the Tibetan Plateau, drawing protests from locals who must bear the environmental costs of these projects. Though official statements blame weather for the landslide, other reports blame recent aggressive efforts to expand the Gyama mine, which have exacerbated the risk of such disasters.

The Gyama mine is one of the largest in the area. It is also one of the most controversial. Mining operations there have displaced 100 nomadic families, threatened local water quality, and posed a barrier to those who wish to visit the revered Gyama Valley, famous as the birthplace of Tibet's first king. The mine largely employs Han Chinese workers, taking jobs from locals. Of the 83 workers at Gyama, just two were Tibetan.



Airline to Charge Passengers by Weight

86 percent of Samoans overweight

A new airline in Samoa has become the first carrier to begin charging its passengers by weight—the weight of their bags and of their bodies. Samoa Air will charge passengers flying between American Samoa and Samoa between 93 cents and $1.06 per kilogram, the Calgary Herald reports. "The plane can only carry a certain amount of weight and that weight needs to be paid," Samoa Air CEO Chris Langton said on Tuesday. "There is no other way."

While the new pricing may be a boon to svelte travelers, it will likely jack up fares for many people in Samoa, where the population of obese people has swelled in recent decades. According to a 2011 report by the World Health Organization, Samoa is the fourth fattest country, with 86 percent of Samoans registered as overweight.


John Diehl Hit-and-Run

John Diehl Hit-and-Run     Photo: Evan Wilder

Former Cop Offered Deal in Bike Crash

Lied about hit-and-run

A 57-year-old former Metropolitan police officer has been offered a plea deal after an accident in which he swore at a cyclist, hit him with his truck, drove from the scene, and then lied about the incident. John W. Diehl of Washington, D.C., has pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a crime an accident.

Washington D.C.'s WTOP detailed the sentence.

Diehl is required to complete 25 hours of community service, undergo anger management counseling, complete a driver safety course, and complete drug and alcohol treatment over the next year, according to Machen's office.

If Diehl complies with those conditions, prosecutors have agreed to dismiss the case. But if he fails to live up to his end of the deal, the court will proceed with sentencing. His next hearing is set for April 2, 2014, Machen's office says.

Cyclist Evan Wilder filmed the entire August 31, 2011, incident—which you can watch below—on his helmet cam. Diehl swore at Wilder out of the passenger side window of his Toyota Tacoma, told him to move over, then appeared to swerve into the cyclist, knocking him down and causing road rash, scrapes, and bruises—and damaging Wilder's bike. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association posted Wilder's video on YouTube, which included a shot of Diehl's license plate. The police contacted the former cop.

Shortly after the crash—after he received a letter from police that his truck had been involved in a hit-and-run crash—Diehl denied involvement.

According to the affidavit in support of an arrest warrant, Diehl told police, "I wasn't there. I didn't do it. I know nothing about it."

The Tacoma had a dent on the passenger side rear fender. Wilder was vocal about the delay in bringing Diehl to court and The Washington Times reported on the fact that two judicial summons were not delivered to Diehl's home and that he had never been served the bench warrant that had been issued. After calls from a reporter, Diehl eventually turned himself in—in early June of 2012.


    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Search For California Teens Enters Third Day

Got lost in Trabuco Canyon

Authorities from four different counties are entering the third day of their search for two California teens that went missing in Trabuco Canyon in Cleveland National Forest. Nicholas Cendoya, 19, and Kyndall Jack, 18, had contacted authorities on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. via cellphone to request assistance, saying they were about a mile from their car and couldn’t find their way back. Authorities found the car but the teens were nowhere nearby, their cellphone battery presumably dead.

Over 50 search and rescue crews with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department are currently hunting for the pair on foot and via helicopter, according to KTLA. Hundreds of friends and family have turned out to volunteer as well.

Authorities say they believe the teens are still alive. “I believe they took a detour, I believe they did get off the trail and that’s where the trouble started,” said Orange County sheriff’s Lt. Erin Guidice. “The growing concern would be that they have injured themselves and they are under the tree cover and we’re unable to find them by air.”

In a promising sign, a K9 unit is believed to have picked up their scent near Holy Jim Canyon. Rescuers are now focusing their efforts on that area.