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The Bag

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There comes a time when you have to ask yourself if the stuffed-and-tied grocery-sack-turned-trash-bag you are about to pick up off the street contains a head.

There are many indications that you can consider, little bits of information you piece together to get a glimpse of the whole picture — like the long, black, curly hair protruding through the knot. But in the end, the only way to be sure is to reach inside and poke around.

It started last weekend after our renter neighbors of about a year decided to move on. I never met the woman, but I had seen her when she would come home from work late at night and back her Chevy HHR into the driveway so her headlights would shine into our living room window. Her teenage son was decent, polite, worked at a Mexican-themed national chain restaurant (a nice, sit-down place, fajitas, margaretas, no drive-through window) and occasionally tried to mooch our wifi password.

They left (or were evicted) without saying goodbye, my only clues to their departure were the lack of midnight headlights and the pile of belongings next to the sidewalk in front of their house. I gave them a day to return and collect their possessions. Then I gave the landlord (who I’ve never met in the 14 years I’ve been here) to figure it out and take care of the mess.

One afternoon, a car stopped next to the mound, and a woman in a red devil-horn headpiece — the kind one might wear to a Halloween party with a matching scarlet-lame tail and a plastic pitchfork — got out and started to rummage. On such occasions, one trends not to ask questions and simply hopes she will take the mattress. After some foraging and discussion with her husband/boyfriend/guy in her car, she decided on the metal bed frame and a few bags of crap.

A few days later, my wife’s patience with my patience with the spectral landlord ran out, and — seeing no further interest from the local scavenger community — I informed the city about the free mattress offer, and the city said they’d notify the landlord and give him a few days to take care of it. The thought did cross my mind to solve it with the magic of marketing — set up a yard sale sign on the corner advertising “lots of free stuff.”

Meanwhile, the winds were starting to scatter the pile. There was a pillow in the street, and cinched grocery bags full of clothing were blowing through the neighborhood like tumbleweeds.

One of the sacks strayed a little too close to our curb, and I decided to return it to the heap. When I spotted the hair peeking through the opening, just as I grasped the tied handles, I became suspicious, and my calculations began.

The bag was about the right size and shape for a human head. And the pile did have a particular odor that I could notice from across the street. Perhaps there was a reason for the sudden departure. On the other hand, the weight of a human head would likely prevent the wind from dislodging and moving the bag, and there were no signs of “animal draggage” to explain its migration. And, well, that’s all I hand on that hand.

I briefly considered stepping back, notifying the police and letting the authorities take care of it. If nothing else, it would put the thrash on code enforcement’s radar. But too often I’ve heard police calls for bodies found in parks or grassy areas that turn out to be people napping. The point being: Poke him with a stick before calling the cops.

My calculations finished running their course as I lifted the sack from the road, adding one more piece of information to consider — the bag and contents were too light to be a head. 

Or at least too light to be a complete head.

I peered inside and concluded it was a wig. The wig bag was reunited with the heap.

Now, a week into the matter, the free mattress offer still stands.

Clandestine pot farm damages historic site

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  FRESNO, Calif. — One person has been sentenced to prison in connection with a pot farm found in a prehistoric site in the Domeland Wilderness in the Sequoia National Forest.

Carlos Piedra-Murillo, 30, of Mexico, was sentenced to two years and one month in prison for conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana.

Authorities located more than 8,000 marijuana plants, a .22-caliber rifle, a pellet rifle and .22‑caliber ammunition in August 2016.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice:

The marijuana cultivation operation caused extensive environmental damage. It covered about 10 acres and was within the burned area of the 2000 Manter Fire. Some of the new vegetation and trees that sprouted after the fire had been cut and trimmed to make room for the marijuana plants. Water was diverted from a tributary stream of Trout Creek, a major tributary to the Kern River. Fertilizer and pesticides, including illegal carbofuran and zinc phosphide, highly toxic pesticides from Mexico, were found at the site. Large piles of trash were found near the campsite. The moving of soil to accommodate a basin around each marijuana plant caused extensive damage to a large prehistoric Tűbatulabal archaeological site. Holes were dug in the middle of the archaeological site and artifacts were found scattered on the surface among the marijuana plants. 

Also charged were Juan Carlos Lopez, 32, of Lake Elsinore; Rafael Torres-Armenta, 30, and Javier Garcia-Castaneda, 38, both of Mexico. Torres, Lopez, and Garcia have also pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. 

Historian arrested for National Archives theft

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  GREENBELT, Maryland – A College Park, Maryland, historian had been charged with allegedly stealing records and artifacts from the National Archives and Records Administration, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Here’s an excerpt from the DOJ announcement:

According to the affidavit filed in support of the complaint, between in or about October 2015 and on or about June 9, 2017, (32-year-old Antonin) DeHays, a historian, repeatedly visited the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, and stole dog tags and other documents belonging to U.S. servicemen whose planes had crashed during World War II. DeHays sold the stolen dog tags on eBay. In addition, on at least one occasion, DeHays gave a stolen dog tag assigned to a Tuskegee Airman to a museum in Virginia, in exchange for an opportunity to sit inside a Spitfire airplane.

On June 9, 2017, investigators executed a search warrant at DeHays’s residence and seized six dog tags and other documents that had been stolen from National Archives at College Park, according to court records.

Have you seen me: Red notice for suspected ivory trafficker

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Madi Conteh

 Courtesy of Interpol. March 2017

LYON, France – Interpol issued an internationally wanted persons Red Notice for a suspected ivory trafficker following the seizure of hundreds of pieces of elephant tusks in Thailand.

The Red Notice for Madi Conteh, a Gambian national, was published at the request of the Malawi authorities, where he is wanted on charges of ‘exporting government trophies without permit’. Conteh is suspected of concealing 330 kg of ivory pieces in a shipment falsely labeled as unprocessed gemstones sent from Malawi and seized in Bangkok in early March.

Due to heightened trafficking concerns following the recovery of illegal ivory in a similar shipment from Africa in 2016, customs authorities conducted additional checks of the cargo and discovered 442 pieces of ivory worth around USD 500,000 concealed in several containers.

Another Gambian national was arrested in Bangkok when he attempted to pick up the shipment containing the trafficked ivory. The two are suspected to be part of an ivory trafficking ring involved in smuggling elephant tusks from Africa to Asia.

Interpol’s Environmental Security unit is supporting the investigation through its Project Wisdom which assists member countries in combating the illegal trade in ivory and rhinoceros horn.

A new Interpol initiative launched in January targets traffickers in Asia sourcing wildlife from Africa, by providing a strengthened law enforcement response in source, transit and destination countries, particularly those linked to the illicit trade in ivory, rhinoceros horn and Asian big cat products.

Man Severely Burned in Hot Spring

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  Courtesy National Park Service.
June 14, 2017

MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, WY – A 21-year-old man, Gervais Dylan Gatete from Raleigh, North Carolina, sustained severe burns after falling into a hot spring late on Tuesday, June 13. The incident occurred in the Lower Geyser Basin off of Fountain Flat Drive just north of the Old Faithful area. Gatete, currently an employee with Xanterra Parks and Resorts, was with seven other people when he fell.

After the incident, the group attempted to evacuate Gatete by car. Just before midnight, they flagged down a ranger near Seven Mile Bridge on the West Entrance Road. Park staff provided immediate medical assistance and transported the patient via ambulance to the airport in West Yellowstone. From there, he was flown to a hospital.

Since rangers were not at the scene of the incident last night, it is not yet clear exactly where and how it occurred. Investigations continue today and additional information will be provided when it is available.

The ground in hydrothermal areas is fragile and thin, and there is scalding water just below the surface.

This is the first serious injury in a thermal area this year. Last June, a man left the boardwalk and died after slipping into a hot spring in Norris Geyser Basin. In August 2000, one person died and two people received severe burns from falling into a hot spring in the Lower Geyser Basin.

Trip shot: Parting shot

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Superstition Mountains loom over Apache Junction, Arizona. (c)2017 J.S.Reinitz

Trip shot: Dutchman’s Lost Mine

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Superstition range

Just to set the record straight, there is no chance of finding the legendary Lost Dutchman’s Mine within Lost Dutchman’s Sate Park.

Zero.

And that’s a good thing, considering the doom that befell those who found or searched for the fabled treasure trove in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix.

The area had been explored by the Spanish against the wishes of the Apache who held the mountains sacred, mined for silver and gold by a Mexican cattle baron and his descendants until around 1847 when they hid the mine fearing an Apache attack and annexation by the United States at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War, only to be discovered later by Jacob Walz (or Waltz), a German immigrant who was mistaken for a Dutchman (Deutsch man, Dutch man, what’s the difference) and who was known to roll into town every now and again laden with gold-rich ore in 1870s.

Walz’s home (we are using the short version of the surname to conserve valuable “t”s) was caught in a flood in 1891, and he died later that year following a lengthy illness, but not before giving clues to the mines location.

The hunt for the gold was back on, and the journey that followed is littered with headless skeletons, decapitations, disappearances, reappearances sans head, suspicious gunshot wounds, falling rocks, vague landmarks and cryptic carvings too numerous and tangled to recount here (see link below), suffice to say the evasive legend lives on.

Today, the historic miner with a misidentified country of origin is a state park on a swath of the Sonoran Desert in the shadow of the Superstition range. There is a campground, small welcome center and picnic areas. Most of the hiking trails are in the adjacent Tonto National (Cactus) Forest, as is the range itself, so mining is prohibited, as is removing anything from the federal land, down to the most insignificant pebble. If you find the mine, you can’t take any gold, but you get bragging rights and can apply for a junior park ranger patch.

As I handed the park employee the entrance fee, I asked about the estimated hiking time to Green Boulder, an outcropping with a 2,580-foot elevation (according to the map, which also instructs us not to shoot firearms near trails — so we can shoot if we are far from trails? — and to stay out of mine shafts — so maybe the mine is here somewhere?). He suggested a time and trail beyond what we had planned to spend.

We opted for a shorter walk and passed an oil painting class in a picnic area and made our way under towering saguaro cacti. My 14-year-old son learned about the jumping cholla cactus the only real way to fully understand and appreciate the jumping cholla cactus and why it is called jumping — by getting close enough to catch a pointy spine. Only one needle found him, and it only found the tip of his finger just after we warned him to keep his distance. Easily removed. This was lucky because the jumping cholla, also called the teddy bear cactus, is known to decimate small villages, according to this TV report.

After a little walking on our short trail, we decided our trail was too short. Green Boulder loomed not far off at the end of a path. It wasn’t the roundabout path the ranger had suggested, this was straight shot. My son and I decided to try it while the others chose to stay in the lowlands. It turned out to be longer than we thought, but we made good time. We enjoyed the view of the cities off on the horizon, caught our breath and rested our tired legs.

Sometimes treasure isn’t measured by dollar signs. The view was golden.

Resources …………..

For a blow-by-blow account of a modern hunt for the Lost Dutchman’s Mine with all the pitfalls and emotional peaks and valleys, check out this piece onDesertUSA

For a history of the mine and its victims try this article on Legends of America

The official Arizona state parks entry is here

Two Climbers Rescued from the Kahiltna Glacier

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Courtesy National Park Service

June 5, 2017

TALKEETNA, Alaska – Denali National Park and Preserve rangers responded to two concurrent mountaineering incidents starting in the early morning hours of Monday, June 5. In addition to a routine medical evacuation, mountaineering rangers and guides rescued a critically injured climber in a labor intensive, 14-hour crevasse rescue effort.

First, NPS Ranger Dan Corn and five mountaineering Volunteers-in-Parks (VIPs) were descending to the Kahiltna Basecamp around 11 p.m. on Sunday, June 4 when they encountered a sick solo climber at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill at 7,000 feet. VIP Medic Elizabeth Keane performed a physical assessment and determined that Michael Metzler, age 23 of Carnation, Washington, was suffering from an acute abdominal illness. The team provided pain medication and then assisted Metzler to the Kahiltna Basecamp.

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Ancient Site Discovered at Channel Islands National Park

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Photo courtesy National Park Service

courtesy National Park Service

June 3, 2017
The National Park Service (NPS) discovered a significant ancient Native American site while conducting archeological monitoring during a rehabilitation project of the historic Main Ranch House on Santa Rosa Island.

Archeologists discovered artifacts characteristic of ancient Paleocoastal sites that were occupied by the first islanders on the northern Channel Islands between 8,000 and 13,000 years ago.

Scientists now believe that ancient sites from this period may be evidence of a coastal migration following the North Pacific Rim from Northeast Asia into the Americas, part of the peopling of the new world.

The ancient site was discovered under the Main Ranch House, part of the historic Vail and Vicker Ranch at Bechers Bay, in the process of lifting the building to construct a new foundation.

“The northern Channel Islands have one of the largest and most significant clusters of early coastal sites in the Americas with more than 100 sites over 7,500 years old,” said Jon Erlandson, University of Oregon Archeologist and leading expert on Paleocoastal archaeology. “We suspect the site is at least 10,000 years old, with evidence of some of the earliest people on the West Coast, the first Americans.”

Among the artifacts uncovered were two types of stone tools that are distinctly representative of early North American Paleoindians —Channel Islands barbed points and crescents. Made from local island chert and used for hunting and fishing, they are signatures of a sophisticated technology of early tool making on the Channel Islands.

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Photo: Pigeon with Dramatic Lighting

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Pigeon with dramatic lighting. (c)2017 J.S.Reinitz

Sea cucumber indictments

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 May 26, 2017

SAN DIEGO – A Tucson firm and two executives were arraigned in federal court May 26, 2017, on charges related to the illegal trafficking of $17 million worth of sea cucumbers from 2010-2012, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Blessings, Inc. of Tucson, its owner David Mayorquin, and Ramon Torres Mayorquin of San Diego were charged in a 26-count indictment with conspiracy, illegal trafficking in wildlife, importation contrary to law, false labeling and criminal forfeiture.

According to the indictment, defendant David Mayorquin, on behalf of Blessings, contacted suppliers of sea cucumbers in Mexico and agreed to purchase approximately $13 million worth of sea cucumbers, knowing that it had been illegally harvested in excess of permit limits, or without a proper license or permit, or out of season.

It was a further alleged that defendant Ramon Mayorquin received the shipments of sea cucumbers from the Yucatan to Tijuana, Mexico, and created false invoices to be submitted to U.S. Customs officials, knowing that the sea cucumbers had been illegally harvested, sold and transported, and lacked the proper paperwork required under Mexican law.

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Trip Shot: The Jar

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Apache Junction Scorpion Preserve. (c)2017 J.S.Reinitz

 When my mother asked me to bring her the mason jar from the desk of her Arizona home, I knew what lurked inside.

We were in Arizona. It was her grandchildren’s first visit to the state.

It had to be a scorpion.

I passed the jar to my son — age 14 — and daughter — 10 — and my mother recounted how days earlier she noticed the cat toying with some small critter outside her home. She separated the two and noticed the scorpion didn’t have a head, she told us, so she assumed it was dead. She covered the vermin with a plastic yogurt cup and, aware the stinger may still be active after death, used a piece of cardboard to scoop it into the jar and screwed on the lid.

My son tilted the jar, studying the creature inside.

“Oma, his pincer just moved. I don’t think it’s dead,” he said.

Curious about the possibility the movement could have been some post- mortem nerve reflex– as seen in detached spider legs — he tipped the jar again, holding it up to the light. There was more movement, legs, the stinger. I doubted the involuntary twitching could continue days after its demise.

“You know,” I added, “I don’t think scorpions have a separate head. I think it’s just part of their thorax.”

 

(c)2017 J.S.Reinitz

 Having concluded that the creature in the jar was still alive, and probably very hungry by this point, the conversation turned to his fate. My son was all for finishing the cat’s work and killing the vermon. My wife felt the same.

But my daughter, the fourth-grade vegetarian, took the live-and-let-live stance.

Grandma started off on the harsher side of the capital punishment issue but acquiesced to my daughter’s leniency argument. However, she didn’t to want to return the poisonous critter to the yard where it could reek havoc with her cats let the neighbors. She didn’t want to release it near anyplace inhabited, and I doubted the local animal control authorities ran an impound for displaced scorpions — all waiting to be adopted to a good home.

So, I volunteered to return the critter to the wild. I drove past the edge of town, where the roads and street lights give way to scrub and cacti and mountains. There I found a place that made a great de-facto scorpion preserve.

I walked a ways down a trail, opened the jar and flung the scorpion at a bush.

Fly free, little critter.

Free to frolic with all the other poisonous creatures of the desert.

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