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Canadiens take 2-0 series lead over Senators

Alex Galchenyuk scored on a spin-around shot 3:40 into overtime to lift the Montreal Canadiens to a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 2 of their NHL Eastern Conference playoff series on Friday night.
Montreal retained home-ice advantage by …

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Gas-Line Blast Closes Major Highway, Injures Dozens

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A large gas pipeline exploded into a tower of fire Friday in Central California, closing both directions of a major highway in the region and injuring at least 11 people, three of them critically, authorities said.

It was not clear what caused the explosion at the Fresno County Sheriff’s gun range that brought traffic in the area to a halt. But authorities say it occurred while a county equipment operator was working with a jail inmate crew to expand a road on the range alongside heavily travelled Highway 99. The flames shot well over 100 feet into the air, witnesses said.

Traffic heading north and south on Highway 99 in Fresno was halted by the explosion about 2:30 p.m. as flames towered over the roadway, the California Highway Patrol reported. The highway was reopened three hours later, the CHP said.

The explosion on a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. pipe carrying natural gas happened at the Fresno County Sheriff’s office gun range, while an equipment operator and some county jail inmates were expanding a road, according to Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.

The driver of the front-loader was a county public works employee who had been working at the shooting range all day on a tall berm that confines gunfire to the range, Mims said.

Ten inmates and the operator were hospitalized, she said. Three inmates were evaluated and sent back to jail, and two deputies were being evaluated for ringing ears and exposure to the hot blast.

Four patients were being treated at Community Regional Medical Center’s burn and trauma unit, spokeswoman Mary Lisa Russell said. Three of them are in critical condition and one is in serious condition, she said. Four other patients were taken to St. Agnes Hospital and three more to Madera Community Hospital.

Asked whether the driver was scraping or digging the earth when the gas exploded, Mims said her office is investigating. “Hopefully we’ll be able to speak to the worker to see what action he was taking at the time,” she said.

The flames prompted a two-alarm call of firefighters, said Pete Martinez of the Fresno Fire Department. A nearby rail line was also halted out of concern that a passing train could spark leaking gas.

Kevin Ling was driving by shortly after the blast, and he saw fire flying into the sky.

“As I got closer, the flames were just bigger and bigger,” he said. “It was shooting up to 200 feet or more, and a fireball maybe 10 to 15 feet in diameter. It was like out of a movie.”

“My window was up and my AC was on and it still felt like a furnace inside my car,” he added.

The 12-inch diameter pipeline involved in the fire belongs to PG&E, Martinez said.

A front-loader was in the area, but it’s unclear if the vehicle was digging at the time of the explosion, he said. “It was a large explosion that shook the surrounding area.”

PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles said the pipeline was damaged by a vehicle and that the line was buried but he didn’t know how deeply. The flame from the pipe was extinguished at about an hour and a half after the blast, he said.

The California Public Utilities Commission said in a statement that it is investigating the explosion in cooperation with the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

PG&E’s natural-gas operations have been under scrutiny following a fiery 2010 PG&E pipeline blast that killed eight people in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators blamed faulty safety practices by PG&E, and lax oversight by state regulators, for the 2010 blast.

Earlier this month, state regulators leveled the state’s biggest-ever penalty against a utility — $1.6 billion — against PG&E for the San Bruno blast. California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker said at the time that continuing safety citations against the utility made him doubt that the utility had embraced a culture of safety, and he raised the possibility of breaking apart the utility’s gas and electric operations.


Rodriguez reported from San Francisco. Associated Press writers Paul Elias and Ellen Knickmeyer in San Francisco and Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

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Arizona Cop Michael Rapiejko Says Ramming Armed Man With Car Was Only Option

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona police officer Michael Rapiejko felt he had no option but to run over an armed man walking down a busy business corridor, according to an audio recording of an interview with a prosecutor following the Feb. 19 incident that went viral this week.

The 34-year-old officer from the Marana Police Department, a suburb north of Tucson, told an investigator he had considered shooting the suspect but that doing so would put other officers and bystanders at risk. The interview was released to The Associated Press on Friday after a public records request.

Rapiejko is calm and detailed as he explains his thinking and actions that day.

He had rammed his police cruiser into 36-year-old Mario Valencia, who police say had stolen a rifle before threatening to kill himself and shooting it in the air next to another police officer. The encounter was captured on two dash-cam videos that police released to the public this week. The videos went viral and drew international attention at a time when police actions are under scrutiny.

Rapiejko told the investigator he had first instructed dispatchers to tell nearby businesses to lock down. When he learned that Valencia was refusing to obey police orders and kept walking toward a business, he decided the situation merited deadly force.

“I have two thoughts going through my mind. I need to shoot him to stop the threat, or I need to run him over to stop the threat,” Rapiejko said.

But he was too far — about 50 yards away — to shoot accurately with a handgun, a less powerful weapon than a rifle, which has a longer range.

“So (because of) the potential for really bad collateral damage if I missed that shot in terms of priority of life and innocent bystanders, or one of us, I decided that was not an option,” he said. “I wanted to stop the threat. That was the only thing on my mind.”

Marana police say Rapiejko is a hero for preventing a potentially deadly situation. The Pima County Attorney’s Office has declined to file charges against him, saying there was insufficient evidence to prove Rapiejko had criminal intent when he struck Valencia.

Valencia’s lawyer called Rapiejko’s actions excessive and unjustified.

“In watching the video, I think it was clear that it was not the appropriate action and that my client was not threatening to anybody except for himself,” Michelle Cohen Metzger said Wednesday.

Policing experts say Rapiejko’s use of his patrol car to stop Valencia was unconventional and even outrageous, but justified because of the danger Valencia posed to officers and others around him.

Rapiejko, who previously worked for the New York City and Tucson police departments, has been with Marana since early last year.

He has been previously accused of using excessive force in a lawsuit that resulted in a $20,000 settlement from New York City to Luis Colon, a man who accused Rapiejko of pointing a gun at him and choking him during a 2005 encounter.

Marana police Sgt. Chris Warren said that New York Police Department internal affairs and a citizen review panel cleared Rapiejko of any wrongdoing and that Marana police knew of the incident but didn’t find merit to it.

Rapiejko was back on the force after a standard three-day administrative leave following the incident.

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What’s prison life really like? Government offers ‘sanitized’ virtual tour

An online virtual tour of federal penitentiaries, produced by Correctional Service Canada is being welcomed as an attempt at openness, but also criticized for offering a “sanitized” view of prisons that glosses over the crowded conditions and lack of programming.

Called Beyond The Fence: A Virtual Tour of a Canadian Penitentiary, the animated, narrated video is posted on CSC’s website and can be watched on any mobile device.

CSC spokeswoman Véronique Rioux said the $80,000 project was meant to give Canadians a “unique opportunity” to see what it’s like inside a federal institution.

After the Kingston Penitentiary was closed in 2013, about 20,000 people visited the facility as part of fundraising drive, showing significant public interest. Many victims’ groups have also expressed interest in learning about incarceration.

Going behind the bars

“It is CSC’s hope that every Canadian interested in seeing inside of a federal correctional institution will have the opportunity to do so,” Rioux told CBC News. “Anyone visiting a family member or friend for the first time will have an idea of what to expect before they enter an institution.”

‘Are you sure this wasn’t filmed at Disney Land?’- Mary Campbell, formerly with Public Safety Canada

The 360-degree panoramic tour showcases modern, immaculate cells and ranges, a chapel, health-care centre and skills training workshops at the Collins Bay and Bath institutions near Kingston, Ont. It allows viewers to navigate their way through the facilities — which include some modifications.

“Some areas of the virtual tour were altered to ensure there were no security or privacy breaches. For example, walls were whitened to remove sensitive information such as inmate names. Also, the maximum-security area at Collins Bay Institution was recently built and vacant at the time of video shooting,” Rioux said.

Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers welcomed the initiative to give Canadians a “peek behind the curtain,” and called it a step forward to being more open and transparent. But he said the images of a newly constructed unit are in contrast to the reality of most aging institutions.

Critics say images distort reality

“The majority of prison cells in Canada are 30 or more years old, so the tour pictures do not show a typical environment. It’s a bit like a real estate ad showing pictures of a newly built guest room in a very old house in need of renovation,” he said.

Maximum security cell

A view of a maximum security cell in Correctional Service Canada’s online virtual tour of a penitentiary. (CSC)

Sapers also noted that while the corrections system is all about people, not a single person can be seen during the entire tour.

Justin Piché, assistant professor of criminology at the University of Ottawa, called the production “beyond belief.”

“It offers viewers a glimpse into what an ideal institution would look like while paving over many of the disturbing realities of incarceration today,” he said.

“This sanitized portrayal shows us minimum, medium and maximum security cells — not one of which is double-bunked at a time when nearly 20 per cent of federal prisoners share a space the size of an average household washroom with another prisoner.”

Piché believes the production distorts today’s reality of longer waits for programs, cuts to chaplaincy services and the increase in use of force, self-harm and violence behind bars.

“Overall, this is an example of sanitization and the marketing of pain at its finest,” he said.

Mary Campbell, former director general of Public Safety Canada’s criminal justice directorate, said giving the public an open window inside is a good initiative, but called the tour “detached from reality.”

“Are you sure this wasn’t filmed at Disney Land?” she asked. “It would be tempting to film a real video, complete with all the screaming and noise of a real penitentiary … with some double-bunking, maybe some wait lists for psychologist and other treatment programs, maybe some green bologna for supper, how about a view of segregation with someone banging their head against cement?”

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Germany’s Failed Austerity Policies

One would think by now the debate has been resolved on which economic model created a better recovery from this Great Recession or Lessor Depression, as P Krugman has called it. But no, Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble keeps pounding the drum for his, and the eurozone’s failed austerity policies.

And this is happening with a new Hitler looming on Europe’s border who is taking advantage of their weakness and threatening to repeat its history.

“The financial crisis broke out seven years ago and led many countries into an economic and debt crisis,” says Schauble in a recent NYTimes Oped. “A pervasive set of myths — that the European response to the crisis has been ineffective at best, or even counterproductive — is simply not accurate. There is strong evidence that Europe is indeed on the right track in addressing the impact, and, most importantly, the causes of the crisis.”

Really? One has only to compare Europe to U.S. economic growth since the Great Recession.

The U.S. response by the Federal Reserve was to do everything possible to stimulate demand by keeping interest rates as low as possible, as long as possible, to pump more money into the system, rather than hoard it.

It is not even a matter of degree, but of orders of magnitude. The U.S. has grown as much as 5 percent in a quarter, whereas Europe has grown no more than 0.3 percent since 2012. (Does Schauble even bother to look at economic data?)

One thinks that most economists should have learned from the 1930’s Great Depression, Roosevelt’s New Deal, etc., etc., that it takes a very proactive government to bring back the fallen ‘animal spirits’, as JM Keynes called the loss of confidence that kept consumers in the 1930s’ economy from completely recovering, until WWII government spending brought back fully employed economies.

But no, Schauble, has turned Keynes on his head in maintaining that it is the loss of investors’ confidence, not that of consumer spending, which powers 70 percent of economic growth these days. He seems to have absolutely no concept of the meaning of aggregate demand, another Keynesian concept that spells out exactly what drives economic growth
I.e. investors lose confidence in investing when the demand for their products and services declines, as it did drastically during the past two depressions. It is a basic misunderstanding of how economies work. Consumers ran out of money to spend, due in large part to the record income inequality that happened in 1929, and again in 2008.

Graph: Mother Jones

When almost all wealth flows to the top, the wealthiest enact policies to prevent it from being redistributed downward to those that spend it, where it would encourage and strengthen a recovery.

Then money is hoarded, rather than spent or invested wisely, as is still happening worldwide (particularly in Germany with the largest budget surplus in the developed world). That’s why economic growth has resumed in the U.S., but not in Europe, Which is currently teetering on the edge of its third recession since 2008.

But isn’t Putin’s Russia threatening war, even a nuclear war, if Europe doesn’t cave in to its demands? That is a wake up call for Europeans to throw out their austerity policies, if they want to have enough strength to oppose him. Europe is fractured because of their poorly functioning economies. Otherwise history is about to repeat itself. Only instead of a Hitler, we have a Putin.

Harlan Green © 2015

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Nashville Teen Threatened To Bomb Schools, Massacre Teachers: Police

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Nashville teen has been arrested after allegedly sending emails filled with graphic threats to blow up schools and massacre teachers and students, authorities said.

An FBI affidavit records threats sent to 12 schools in Nashville; Pittsburgh; Brockton and Whitman, Massachusetts; and Burke, Virginia beginning March 16. Some schools were threatened more than once, and the threats became progressively longer, more specific and more gruesome. An email sent early Thursday to Nashville’s Antioch High School threatened a “columbine or sandy hook like shooting” and made graphically violent threats against a specific teacher.

Police closed the school at 9:45 a.m. Thursday and wouldn’t clear it to open until the bomb squad and K-9s swept the campus.

Investigating the threats proved difficult because the teen was able to mask his online identity, authorities said.

Because he is a juvenile, the student’s name is redacted from the copy of the affidavit provided to the media.

Metro Nashville Police said only that the student lives in south Nashville and attends the Johnson Alternative Learning Center. According to its website, the center “provides an opportunity for students, who would otherwise be excluded due to expulsion from school, to continue their educational experience.”

The teen was expected to appear Friday before a magistrate judge in federal court on a charge of sending threatening communications by interstate commerce. The hearing was closed to the public and the media.

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Earth Day Is Nearly Here, But Our Planet Is Worth Caring About Every Day

Earth Day is nearly upon us. The April 22 event, now in its 45th year, is meant to help draw attention to environmental issues, but remember, there are 364 other days to care about the planet.

Things have changed in the U.S. since the first Earth Day, in 1970, when rampant air pollution, burning rivers and more frequent oil spills were major concerns. Despite the improvements here, other countries around the world still face issues like air and water pollution.

The threat of global climate change also looms large, as temperature records continue to be broken and sea level rise accelerates.

Take a look at these Instagram photos that capture the world’s ongoing environmental challenges, and keep in mind to make every day Earth Day.

Photo by @jbrussell / @panospictures for #everydayclimatechange Men from the #Moor village of #Seibath in #Mali walk across a small dam that was built to help retain rain water. #Globalwarming and #climatechange have caused prolonged drought and erratic rainy seasons across the #Sahel in recent years, contributing to food insecurity, poverty and human migration throughout the region. One of the problems with the disrupted cycles of rainy and dry seasons is that when the rains do fall, the water rapidly runs off the parched landscape and very little is retained for crops or absorbed into the water table. Improved water management systems such as this dam help retain rain waters, increase seepage into the water table, improve agricultural yields and extend the planting season, allowing rural communities to better adopt to the nefarious effects of climate change. #Africa #climatechangeisreal #drought #environment #ecology #development

A photo posted by Everyday Climate Change (@everydayclimatechange) on Apr 1, 2015 at 1:55pm PDT

Joao Pereira de Araujo outsidre his home in Rio Branco. While flooding is a regular event in this poor community situated in a loop on the River Aceh, residents have never seen water levels this high. Even the houses built on stilts were flooded up to the roof on their top level. As you can see I have been busy over the six days of shooting here, but today I had my first mishap- While walking through the water shooting video I managed to stand on a nail which went through the boot of my waders and pierced my foot. So it looks like I will be hobbling through my last two days of shooting in leaking waders. I am now in my 9th year of working on this #drowningworld project and I am so pleased to be starting a collaboration with Blue Media Lab whose support made this trip possible. #climatechange #globalwarming #gideonmendel #brazil

A photo posted by @gideonmendel on Mar 13, 2015 at 6:33pm PDT

A bedouin mother rinses a glass from the sand before offering tea to her daughter. Today is World Water Day. Water is an important reason why humans have chosen the achingly arid stone desert of Wadi Faynan for their first settlement. When Neolithic men and women arrived 11,500 years ago, things were very different: the climate was cooler and wetter; the landscape was covered in vegetation including wild figs, legumes and cereals, and there would have been wild goats and ibex for meat. Wadi Faynan is considered by archeologist as one of the oldest sites ever found where humans made a permanent settlement, learned to farm, and changed the course of human civilization. But the tiny community drawn to water, which attracted successive waves of settlements, would eventually all but destroy the resource which made life possible. It is a pattern that’s been repeated for millenia, around the world, and it now threatens us on a global scale. First people cut trees for shelter and fuel, until rains swept away the soil instead of seeping into shallow aquifers, and the springs dried up. At least as long ago as the Bronze Age, farmers began mankind’s obsession with diverting water for crops to feed the growing population. Meanwhile, the moist, cool climate which encouraged the first settlement was naturally becoming drier and hotter. Today, Bedouin who survive in the valley have laid pipes down the dry stream bed to suck what is left of the spring in order to irrigate fields of tomatoes they have scratched out of the dry soil. But it’s getting harder. According to local water lore, good rains now come in less than every other year. Jordan is one of the most water-scarce countries on earth, averaging just 160m3 of renewable water per person per year. #worldwaterday #jordan #middleeast #water #watershortage #jordanwatercrisis #climatechange #bedouins #desert

A photo posted by Matilde Gattoni (@matildegattoni) on Mar 22, 2015 at 12:07pm PDT

Monarch butterfly larvae in the garden at our Wellington house. #NZ #NewZealand #Monarchbutterfly #butterfly #insects

A photo posted by Formidable Vegetable Sound Sys (@formidableveg) on Feb 4, 2015 at 9:20pm PST

_ Incredible day exploring new heights Squaw (now Tumala) Mountain, Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness _

A photo posted by Dan Moe (@free_cascadia) on Feb 17, 2015 at 8:22pm PST

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Kirtland Cult Killings Were ‘Mandated By God,’ Former Member Says

Twenty-six years ago this Friday, Ronald Luff, the former right-hand man of self-appointed prophet and cult leader Jeffrey Don Lundgren, assisted in the systematic execution of an entire family in Kirtland, Ohio.

“[I saw] their deaths as not only justified, but mandated by God,” Luff told The Huffington Post from inside the Allen Correctional Institution in Lima, Ohio.

Luff was 29 years old on April 17, 1989 — the day Lundgren chose for the execution date of his followers Dennis Avery, 49, Dennis’ wife Cheryl, 41, and the couple’s three children, Trina, 15, Rebecca, 13, and 7-year-old Karen.

Lundgren told his followers that “the end of days” was approaching. Unbeknownst to the Averys, Lundgren had promised his other followers salvation from Armageddon if they sacrificed the Avery family.

Luff, who remembers the Avery family today as “truly good people against whom I never desired any harm,” played a key role in each of the executions.

At 6:30 that April evening, Lundgren met with Luff and several other followers inside a barn next to a farmhouse they had rented in Kirtland.

CASE PHOTOS: (Story Continues Below)

Lundgren, standing next to a large pit the men had dug several days earlier, produced a .45 Colt semi-automatic handgun and told the men the killings would take place one by one. Lundgren then looked at Luff, whom he had met just two years earlier in Kirtland while working as a tour guide at the temple of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

“Let’s do it,” Lundgren told him.

The first victim Luff escorted to the barn was the Avery family patriarch.

The men quickly bound Dennis Avery’s hands and tossed him into the pit.

“This isn’t necessary,” Dennis cried out, according to police. “Please, this isn’t necessary.”

Lundgren then shot Dennis twice in the back, killing him.

Luff exited the barn after the shooting and returned moments later with Cheryl Avery, who was unaware of what had just happened. As they stepped inside, Luff placed his hand on Cheryl’s shoulder and solemnly said: “Just give it up, it’ll be easier this way. Just let go.”

Cheryl Avery did not put up a struggle as the men bound her hands and lowered her into the pit next to her husband’s body. She was shot three times.

MORE: Kirtland Cult Killings: A Look Back

The Avery children were playing video games when Luff returned to the farmhouse and retrieved Trina Avery, mentioning a game of hide-and-seek. Inside the barn, Trina was bound at the wrists and lowered into the pit next to the bodies of her parents. The first bullet, police said, grazed the young woman’s head. The second pierced her skull, killing her instantly.

Afterward, Luff escorted Becky Avery to the barn and helped place her on top of her dead mother. The girl was shot twice — once in the thigh and once in the chest. She did not die instantly, and members of the cult later told police that they listened to Becky struggle to breathe as Luff exited the barn to retrieve the youngest of the children.

Seven-year-old Karen playfully climbed on Luff’s back for a piggyback ride to the barn. Once inside, she was bound and lowered into the now bloodstained pit. As she sat next to her sisters, the little girl was shot in the chest and head.

After the executions, the men covered the bodies with lime and filled the hole with dirt.

“It had to be done,” Lundgren said at the time. “It was God’s will.”

WATCH: (Story Continues Below)

Lundgren and his followers fled the area after the killings. Nine months later, one of the men went to police and told them about the burial site.

Multiple members of the cult, including Lundgren and his wife and son, were arrested and ultimately convicted in connection with the murders. Lundgren himself was sentenced to death — a sentence that was carried out Oct. 24, 2006.

For his role in the killings, which he refers to as a “senseless loss of life,” Luff was sentenced to life in prison.

Today, at age 55, Luff claims he was so brainwashed by Lundgren that he never questioned his actions on the day of the killings.

“[A guard] once asked me what it was like to be brainwashed,” Luff told HuffPost. “I immediately responded, ‘It’s a lot more captivating than this place.'”

He added, “Shedding that mindset has afforded me a great sense of freedom, even in the captivity of incarceration.”

Luff said he hopes the murders hold lessons that will help prevent future tragedies.

“My hope and prayer is that we can grow from this type of tragedy,” he said, “and learn not only what cultivates such bizarre and self-destructive behavior, but ultimately how best to defuse it.”

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