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Fin-dictment in shark harvest

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  Members of a fishing vessel have been charged with harvesting sharks for the fin of it. More from the Department of Justice:

HONOLULU – The owner and officers of a Japanese-flagged fishing vessel were charged in federal court today with aiding and abetting the trafficking and smuggling of 962 shark fins into and out of Hawaii on Nov. 7, 2018. 

According to court documents and information presented in court, the Japanese-flagged fishing vessel, M.V. Kyoshin Maru No. 20, engaged in longline tuna fishing in the southern Pacific Ocean for approximately one year. 

 The officers were Japanese nationals, and the fishermen were Indonesian nationals. During the voyage, the fishermen harvested fins from approximately 300 sharks, in some instances while the sharks were stunned but still alive, and discarded the finless carcasses into the ocean, all under the supervision of the Captain, and at the direction of the Fishing Master and First Engineer. The Captain, Fishing Master, First Engineer, and many of the Indonesian fishermen all kept shark fins to take home with them.

On or about November 6, 2018, the Kyoshin Maru traveled to a location near Honolulu, Hawaii, but more than 12 miles from shore, where it met a water taxi that had been arranged by a Vessel Agent from a local marine navigation corporation. 

The Indonesian fishermen disembarked the Kyoshin Maru and boarded the water taxi. The Kyoshin Maru then left for Japan with the Captain, Fishing Master, and First Engineer onboard, still in possession of shark fins. Meanwhile, the Indonesian fishermen traveled to Pier 36, where they legally entered the United States for the purpose of traveling to Honolulu International Airport, in order to board previously-ticketed flights to Indonesia.
During routine screening, officers with the Transportation Security Administration discovered shark fins in checked luggage. Upon discovering the shark fins, TSA immediately notified the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which determined the checked luggage belonged to 10 of the Indonesian fishermen and included approximately 190 pounds of shark fins, which is worth as much as $57,850 on the black market. 

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Wildlife charges added in murder plot investigation

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From the Department of Justice:

Nov.7, 2018

OKLAHOMA CITY –Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joseph Allen Maldonado, Joseph Allen Schreibvogel, and “Joe Exotic,” 55, formerly of Wynnewood, Oklahoma, has been charged in a 21-count superseding indictment that includes the two previously charged murder-for-hire counts and also alleges nineteen wildlife crimes, including the alleged killing of five tigers and the illegal sale of tiger cubs, in violation of the Endangered Species Act and Lacey Act, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma. 

  On September 5, 2018, a federal grand jury returned an indictment that accuses Maldonado-Passage of hiring an unnamed person in November 2017 to murder “Jane Doe” in Florida. According to the indictment, Maldonado-Passage gave the unnamed person $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to South Carolina and then to Florida to carry out the murder. He allegedly agreed to pay thousands more after the deed. The indictment alleges Maldonado-Passage caused the person to travel to Dallas to get fake identification for use in the plot. According to the indictment, the person traveled from Oklahoma to South Carolina on November 26, 2017.

In a second count, the September 5 indictment alleges that beginning in July 2016, Maldonado-Passage repeatedly asked a different unnamed person to find someone to murder Jane Doe in exchange for money. The second person put Maldonado-Passage in contact with an undercover FBI agent. Maldonado-Passage met with the undercover agent on December 8, 2017, to discuss details of murdering Jane Doe.

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Photo: Snow flood hike

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Our seasons in the Midwest are starting to butt up against one another, sometimes creating an overlap. It has been said that our area is graced with five seasons, but the grim reality is three of them are winter. There is also spring and fall, but each of those are only half seasons. They don’t last too long, maybe a few weeks apiece. That gets us to four so far, and the remaining season is what we like to call flood-nado, which brings us all the excitement of damaging winds and the predictability of river flooding.

snow flood selfie


Such was the case last weekend when I ventured outdoors for my annual autumn walk to Bullfrog Bayou. Catch some fresh air, admire the turning of the leaves, maybe spot some wildlife stocking up for the winter. Before I arrived at the parking lot, I had to switch on my windshield wipers to brush aside the light, fluffy snowflakes. Once I took to foot, I had to wade across a low point in the path leading up to the proper trail, a raised ridge that had once been train tracks and still boasted the occasional railway infrastructure rusting away.

Either side of the trail was a now a submerged forest, snowflakes hitting the flood waters, churning with orange and golden fallen leaves. A green-headed mallard and his female companion floated past, trying to figure out the weather, probably thinking “what the duck.”

Winter is coming early this autumn, and flood-nado doesn’t want to let go yet.

No place like home, slippers recovered

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Dawn Wallace, a conservator for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, analyzes one of the recovered slippers at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Lab in Washington, D.C. (Smithsonian photo)

 from the FBI:

A pair of ruby slippers featured in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 2005, was seized in a sting operation conducted in Minneapolis earlier this summer.
While the FBI has identified suspects and has executed multiple search warrants in Minnesota and Florida in connection with the investigation, investigators are seeking the public’s help to identify all parties associated with the initial theft and the more recent scheme to defraud and extort the Markel Corporation, the owner of the slippers.

The ruby slippers are one of several pairs used in the production of the movie classic. Only four pairs of the shoes used in the film are known to remain and are widely viewed as among the most recognizable memorabilia in American film history. Current estimates value the slippers in the millions of dollars should they be sold at auction.

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Photo: Lilly pad kayaking

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Govermnent seek forfeiture of “One Ancient Mosaic”

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ancient mosaic depicting Hercules

 
LOS ANGELES – The United States in May filed an asset forfeiture complaint against an ancient mosaic depicting Hercules, believed to have been made in the 3rd or 4th Century, that likely was looted from war-torn Syria, allegedly illegally imported into the United States, and seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security Investigations at a Palmdale residence.

The mosaic, which is approximately 18 feet long and weighs approximately one ton, was seized by FBI and HSI special agents in March 2016 as part of an investigation into the smuggling of looted items believed to be from a foreign conflict area into the United States.

The complaint, which was filed in United States District court under the caption United States v. One Ancient Mosiac, alleges that a Palmdale man smuggled the antiquity into the United States with false and fraudulent documents with the intent to avoid import duties.

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Kentucky man sentenced for raiding Native American graves

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  Louisville, Ky. – U.S. District Court judge sentenced Gary Womack, 60, of Woodburn, Kentucky, to 15 months in prison for three felony violations of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) on June 6, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The case resulted from a three-year undercover investigation by the National Park Service, based upon allegations that Womack possessed human remains which originated from Mammoth Cave National Park. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assisted Park Service agents throughout.
The undercover investigation revealed Womack’s dealings in artifacts removed from the graves of Native Americans buried in caves and rock shelters in South Central Kentucky and also burials from as far away as the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Womack dealt in artifacts from the so-called “G.E. Mound” case prosecuted in the Southern District of Indiana in 1992. 

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Bodies of missing hikers found in Alaska

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Copper Center, Alaska – National Park Service rangers recovered the bodies of two hikers who were swept away by a glacial river in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park on July 2. According to a Park Service release, identification by NPS law enforcement matches that of two backpackers that were last seen on June 22 when they were dropped off by an air taxi operator at the Sanford Glacier airstrip less than two miles from where the bodies were found.

The backpackers were identified as 62-year old Rochelle Renken and 62-year old Michael Huffman, both from Columbia, Missouri. The couple were experienced backpackers and Renken has been to Alaska several times in the past and had previous experience crossing Alaskan rivers. Positive identification is pending from the State Medical Examiner. The deaths appear to be accidental. No foul play is suspected.

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Drive down Pike’s Peak

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The view from 14,000 feet. (c) 2018 J.S.Reinitz

For me, mountain driving is a combination of nerve-racking terror and pure wonder and inspiration. Part of me wants to stare out over the endless view of the countryside, while the other part is white-knuckle gripping the steering wheel, sweating over the possibility of missing a turn and plummeting endlessly down into that same countryside.

Fortunately, my wife and kids sprung for a dashcam a year ago, so I could pay attention to the road while driving and admire the scenery after surviving.

Below is a video of our descent down Pike’s Peak, the drive-up 14,000 foot mountain just west of Colorado Springs. This year, the operators of the peak highway offered a shuttle ride for the last few miles of the road to ease congestion at the top during a construction project, so part of the video is from the van ride with the dashcam footage picking up at Mile 16 of the Highway.

The dashcam segment is sped up to five times because I know that no one wants to sit through 35-plus minutes of driving footage. It also increases the sense of danger.

Some 20 years ago, we hiked up the Barr Trail to the top and then headed back down, staying at the Barr Camp. This year’s plan had been to take the Cog rail to the top and hike the 12 miles of the trail back to town, but the Cog is closed this season, so we ended up driving.

 

Sharing a hail storm

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After a day and a half of driving and less than an hour from camp, we drove through a serious hail storm in Colorado Springs, Colo. In a rental. Without purchasing the optional full coverage.

The first chunks of ice hit like bricks, slamming into the car. I was just waiting for one to crash through the windshield. As the storm intensified, the hail came faster, and we headed for a tree next to the road to wait it out. I caught the whole thing on a dashcam (see above).

Later, at the campsite after the storm passed through, we found ping-pong sized hailstones all over the ground.

Luckily, I wasn’t able to find any damage to the vehicle.

Trip shot: Pony Express

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  Pony Express rider galloping across the sky at the Colorado visitors center.

Trip shot: Veterans memorial

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  Detail of a veterans memorial in North Platte, Nabraska. Taken shortly before sunset.

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