February 26, 2013

The name of the missing boat is the Charmblow.     Photo: Guillaume Paumier/Flickr

Coast Guard Search for Missing Family (Update)

Bears similarity to hoax distress calls

The U.S. Coast Guard is still searching for a family who is thought to have gone missing in a sailboat about 60 miles from Monterey Bay in California after transmitting distress signals this past weekend.

The Coast Guard received the distress message at around 4:20 p.m. Sunday afternoon. The caller said the ship was taking on water.

About an hour after the first message, the radio operator onboard said the ship was sinking and that the whole family was abandoning her: "Coast Guard, Coast Guard, we are abandoning ship. This is the Charmblow, we are abandoning ship." They also said they had fashioned a raft made of water coolers and life vests.

The boat did not have a working GPS system and officials are still unsure of the identities of the people aboard, according to the Monterey Herald.

In the radio messages, the Coast Guard was only able to determine that the four included a man, his wife, their four-year-old son and his cousin.

"There is still no information on where the boat was coming from, where it was going, or who the people on board are," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Mike Lutz.

The agency said it hopes that someone will be able to identify the voice from the distress call.

The Coast Guard has posted audio of the crew's final message on their website.

The search has included ships, helicopters, and airplanes, but rough seas this past weekend and water temperatures between 40-50 degrees make chances of long-term survival unlikely.

The Coast Guard frequently responds to distress calls from stranded, disabled, or sinking ships off U.S. coasts, but they have also been the victims of prank calls, particularly recently. In May and June of 2012 the Coast Guard responded to calls in Texas and New Jersey that involved sinking ships that turned out to be non-existant. The search effort in New Jersey cost as much as $85,000.

CNN asked the Coast Guard if this could be a similar hoax given that no one has come forward. A Coast Guard spokesman said that all reports are treated as legitimate unless evidence proves otherwise.

UPDATE: The Coast Guard has suspended its search and rescue mission citing a possible hoax, according to CNN.

The U.S. Coast Guard is suspending its search off the California coast for a distressed 29-foot sailboat that was carrying a couple and two children, and said Tuesday the incident is "possibly a hoax."

The mission's cost has reached several hundreds of thousands of dollars since Sunday, said Cmdr. Don Montoro.

Searchers have been scouring the water off San Francisco for the people distress calls said were on the boat. That included the couple, their four-year-old child, and the child's cousin, who the Coast Guard said was younger than eight.

Coast Guard investigators will look into the incident and "prosecute it and investigate it to the best of their ability," Montoro said. "We're not investigating it directly as a hoax, but we are pursuing every avenue. It's certainly a possibility."

The penalty for making a false distress call is up to 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

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    Photo: Creative Commons

Anchor to Mo Farah: 'Haven't You Run Before?'

Yeah, I ran a few races in London

Mo Farah won the New Orleans half-marathon over the weekend in a record time of 1 hour, 59 seconds. Mo Farah also won gold medals in the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter distances at the London Olympics this past summer. But you already know that because Farah, a Somali-born Brit, was one of the public faces of the Olympics, particularly his post-10,000-meter, wide-eyed, oh-my-God-I-think-I-left-the-stove-on face.

It’s possible, sure, that you don’t know who Mo Farah is, that you aren't one of his 780,000 followers on Twitter. But, presumably, you would find out who he was—and the distance he ran—if it was your responsibility to interview Farah after his win this past weekend. Unless, that is, you are WDSU anchor LaTonya Norton, who asked Farah: “Haven’t you run before?” and “What does it take to prepare for a marathon like this?” followed by an encouraging, "Well, you're certainly off to a great start!"

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    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

19 Dead in Hot Air Balloon Crash in Egypt

Worst accident of its kind

Nineteen are dead after a hot air balloon carrying 20 foreign tourists and a pilot crashed near the Egyptian city of Luxor on Tuesday morning. Witnesses describe hearing a loud explosion before turning to see the balloon descending toward the ground in flames as passengers leapt to their deaths trying to escape.

According to ABC News, it is suspected that the balloon was in the process of landing when a cable became caught on a helium tube and ignited the tank. The canister exploded and the balloon plunged into a sugar cane field.

Eighteen of the passengers died on impact while another succumbed to his wounds soon after. Authorities have so far identified nine tourists from Hong Kong, four from Japan, and three Britons among the dead. A British tourist and the Egyptian pilot suffered severe burns and were flown to Cairo for treatment.

Hot air ballooning is a popular activity in Luxor, where tourists can float above the breathtaking Valley of the Kings. The death toll is among the highest ever involving a hot air balloon accident. Tourism has been badly hurt by political instability in the region and Egyptians fear this most recent incident will drive the country’s ailing industry into further decline.

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El Capitan     Photo: Mike Murphy

Sexagenarians to Climb Nose in a Day

Donini, Lowe have extensive resumes

Two sexagenarian legends of alpine climbing will attempt to climb the Nose of El Capitan in a single day in May.

Between the two of them, Jim Donini, 69, and George Lowe, 68, are responsible for a haul of serious alpine first ascents, including Torre Egger and the Infinite Spur on Mount Foraker.

Speaking to Climbing magazine, Donini, a former president of the American Alpine Club, said he was motivated to return to El Capitan because of the challenge of re-acclimating himself to Yosemite's granite. "It's important to break out of your comfort zone or else you stagnate," he said.

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    Photo: Associated Press

Source Reveals Armstrong's Defense

Argues statute of limitations

An unidentified source close to Lance Armstrong's legal defense team told USA Today that his lawyers will argue that much of the case against the former Tour de France champion is beyond the statute of limitations. Cyclist Floyd Landis filed the case in 2010 under the False Claims Act. It argues that Armstrong and others doped in violation of their USPS contracts and that the government should get its money back. The U.S. Department of Justice announced late last week it would join the suit against Armstrong.

USPS paid $31 million to sponsor Armstrong's team from 2001 to 2004. Under the False Claims Act, Landis can seek to recover triple that amount for the government—possibly more than $90 million, with Landis getting at least 25 percent as the whistleblower who brought the case to the government's attention.

Armstrong's attorneys will argue that the whole case should be thrown out because of the six-year statute of limitations, which started when Landis filed the case in 2010. At best, they will say the six-year statute bars all but one year of the USPS sponsorship from the suit—2004. In response, Anikeeff said the government is expected to argue that the fraud was concealed and that the six-year rule shouldn't apply.

Armstrong's legal team will also argue, according to the source, that doping rumors were swirling around the USPS team early in the decade and the government should have investigated the cyclists then. Instead, they promoted the team.

"The law is that if the government knew of the fraud, you can't prosecute someone for fraud," attorney Tony Anikeeff told USA Today. "(The government's argument) will be that he denied it vociferously for years and kept them in the dark."

On Thursday, cyclist Floyd Landis, USADA CEO Travis Tygart, cycling reformer Jonathan Vaughters, and professor Thomas Murray, who is the chair of the ethical issues review panel for WADA, will talk at the Yale Law School about doping in cycling. The discussion will be chaired by Jacob Stewart Hacker, the director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale. Landis told Cycling News that he hopes that a discussion in front of a generation of young lawyers might lead to new solutions.

"It's just that until now there hasn't been any conclusion for the generation of riders I was involved with and things are ongoing and developing," he said. "Now I think it might not be a bad time to sit down and say here's where we think we are and here's what's been effective and what hasn't. It might be that bright and fresh perspectives from some law students will be effective."

For more on Armstrong's defense, read the latest in USA Today. For more on Landis' conference, go to Cycling News. For more on Lance Armstrong, check out Outside's archives.

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