6 die in crash of Vietnam-era helicopter in West Virginia

A Vietnam-era helicopter was used for tourism flights and crashed along Route 17 in Logan County about 5 p.m. Wednesday. County emergency ambulance service executive Ray Bryant says all six on board were killed.(AP)
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Updated 23 June 2022

6 die in crash of Vietnam-era helicopter in West Virginia

  • The Bell UH-1B “Huey” helicopter crashed along Route 17 in Logan County about 5 p.m. Wednesday
  • It was featured in movies like “Die Hard, “The Rock” and “Under Siege: Dark Territory“

LOGAN, West Virginia: A Vietnam-era helicopter showcased in action movies crashed on a rural West Virginia road, killing all six people on board, during an annual reunion for helicopter enthusiasts.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the Bell UH-1B “Huey” helicopter crashed along Route 17 in Logan County about 5 p.m. Wednesday.
All six people on board were killed, said Ray Bryant, chief of operations for the Logan County emergency ambulance service authority. The helicopter crashed in clear weather on a road near the local airport, he said.
“The entire cab of it was on fire,” Bryant said in a phone interview Thursday.
“It was recognized by the first responders as being a helicopter from this area because we see it a lot,” he said.
The crash occurred during an annual reunion for helicopter enthusiasts at MARPAT Aviation in Logan. It was scheduled to begin Tuesday and end Sunday, according to MARPAT’s website.
During the event, visitors could sign up to ride or fly the historic helicopter, described by organizers as one of the last of its kind still flying.
The helicopter was flown by the 114th Assault Helicopter Company, “The Knights of the Sky,” in Vinh Long, Vietnam, throughout much of the 1960s, according to MARPAT. After the Huey returned to the US in 1971, the website says, it was featured in movies like “Die Hard, “The Rock” and “Under Siege: Dark Territory.”
Neither reunion organizers nor MARPAT officials returned requests for comment Thursday.
Patty Belcher, who lives nearby, was driving to the store when she came upon the crash.
“There was smoke so thick that you couldn’t hardly see nothing but smoke and flames,” she said by phone Thursday. “It was coming down the ditch line on the righthand side, and I said, ‘My God, I better turn around. It might catch this truck on fire.’ So I turned around and came back.”
The crash was near the Battle of Blair Mountain historic sites, where a deadly clash erupted a century ago as thousands of coal miners marched to unionize in West Virginia.
Bobbi Childs saw smoke and flames and got close enough to see a man who was trapped.
“I saw that there was a guy trapped, I guess the captain. I tried to get down to the door where he was at. You could see him plain as day. I tried to get to him, but the fire was too hot. I couldn’t get to him,” Childs told WOWK-TV.
The road was expected to remain closed for at least 24 hours. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.
Willingham reported from Charleston, W.Virginia Schreiner reported from Frankfort, Kentucky


Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

Updated 30 June 2022

Biden touts Switzerland — woops, Sweden — in NATO expansion

  • Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: ‘Switzerland, my goodness. I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,’ he joked, before adding for the record: ‘Sweden’
  • Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century

MADRID: NATO’s latest expansion momentarily got really interesting with even Switzerland about to join — at least for a second in a Joe Biden verbal slip Thursday.
At a press conference marking the end of the NATO summit in Madrid, the US president recounted the behind-the-scenes talks putting militarily non-aligned Finland and Sweden on track to join the Western alliance in a major rebuff to Russia.
Except he misspoke, saying there was a plan to call the leader of famously neutral Switzerland about joining.
Quickly realizing his stumble, Biden said: “Switzerland, my goodness.”
“I’m getting really anxious here about expanding NATO,” he joked, before adding for the record: “Sweden.”
Biden, 79, has long been known for his verbal gaffes during a political career spanning half a century.


Airbnb makes ban on parties permanent

Updated 30 June 2022

Airbnb makes ban on parties permanent

  • In 2019, Airbnb began imposing much stricter limits, starting with a global ban on so-called “party houses”

LONDON: Airbnb Inc. said on Tuesday it will make permanent its ban on parties in homes listed on its platform after seeing a sharp drop in reports of unauthorized gatherings since the prohibition was put in place in August 2020.
The company announced seeing a 44 percent year-after-year drop in the rate of party reports since implementing the policy.
This comes after the San Francisco-based company introduced and extended the party ban to halt the spread of COVID-19 infections. Now the company wants to make the ban permanent as the summer travel season begins.
“This is an issue where I don’t know if I’d say there’s a finish line,” said Ben Breit, a spokesperson for the company, adding that Airbnb will keep working to address the issue.
The company said it will also remove its 16-person limit, allowing larger homes listed on the platform to be booked to full occupancy.
In 2019, Airbnb began imposing much stricter limits, starting with a global ban on so-called “party houses” or listings that create persistent neighborhood nuisance.
Airbnb has also updated its policies considering the pandemic, removing both the “event friendly” search filter and “parties and events allowed” house rules.
More than 6,600 guests and some hosts were suspended in 2021 for attempting to violate the party ban, the company said.
In May 2022, the company reported revenue was up 70 percent from the previous year bringing in $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2022. The company also projected revenue to be above market estimates for the second quarter of the year, expecting to bring in between $2.03 billion and $2.13 billion.


Owners distraught as historic Nile houseboats are removed

Updated 29 June 2022

Owners distraught as historic Nile houseboats are removed

  • Many of the elegant two-story houseboats have been moored for decades

CAIRO: Owners of the Nile’s famous houseboats in the heart of Egypt’s capital are having their homes demolished and towed away as authorities impound what they say are unlicensed dwellings.
The boats, many of them elegant two-story structures with verandas, have been moored for decades along the tree-lined banks of the Nile between the island of Zamalek and Giza, just west of central Cairo.
They have featured in films and literature, such as Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz’s novel Adrift on the Nile.
Last week, owners of about 30 houseboats were served with notices saying that their boats would be impounded. Egypt’s water and irrigation ministry said on Tuesday that 15 had been removed, with the rest to be dealt with over the next few days.
The ministry posted pictures of the boats being smashed by diggers on barges and being towed away by tugs.
The water and irrigation ministry could not be reached for comment.
Ikhlas Helmy, 87, whose houseboat was still standing on Wednesday, said she had invested her savings in it and could not bear to leave.
“I was born in a houseboat, this is my entire life,” she said. “My husband loved the Nile like me. He died before he could refurbish the houseboat, so I did it.”
Authorities say the removals follow warnings to owners, presenting them as part of efforts to maintain the river and prioritize commerce and tourism.
In comments to local media Ayman Anwar, an official responsible for the protection of the Nile, compared the houseboats to polluting old cars.
Owners say they had been challenging sharp increases in mooring fees, but had continued to pay other fees for use of the river bank and navigation rights.
They and their supporters on social media say the removal of the boats is the latest in a series of assaults on places of beauty or historic interest in the capital.
Officials have not said what development might be planned after the boats are gone.
On the eastern bank of the same stretch of the river, Egypt’s military has led the construction of a concrete walkway dotted with shops and cafes.
Elsewhere in Cairo, residential blocks, trees and parts of old cemeteries have been uprooted to make way for a network of new roads and bridges.
Ahmed el-Hosseiny, whose houseboat was towed away on Tuesday, described emptying it after being served with an eviction notice.
“We started to collect our possessions, our stories, our history, our hearts, our memories, and our feelings and place them into boxes,” he said.


Greek state TV mocked for gasoline theft ‘tips’

Updated 25 June 2022

Greek state TV mocked for gasoline theft ‘tips’

  • Video also points out where a car’s fuel tank can alternatively be pierced to steal the contents

ATHENS: Greece’s state TV was mocked Thursday over a segment that showed viewers how to siphon gasoline from cars as fuel prices soar.
“It’s not something terribly complicated... you don’t even need a special tube, even a hose for balconies will do,” the station’s reporter Costas Stamou said during ERT’s morning news program Syndeseis on Wednesday.
After demonstrating the method, a car repairman then points out where a car’s fuel tank can alternatively be pierced to steal the contents.
“Are you guys in your right mind? Giving people tips on stealing gasoline?” commented one user on Twitter.
“After the tutorial on two ways to easily steal gasoline, ERT is now preparing new how-to’s on how to open locks and steal wallets,” jibed another.
A video mixed by Greek satirical website Luben had been viewed over 170,000 times by Thursday. Another 32,500 saw the original segment on Twitter.
Fuel prices have steadily climbed in Greece in recent months, with simple unleaded at over 2.37 euros ($2.50) per liter on average in Athens on Wednesday, and over 2.50 euros on Rhodes and neighboring islands.
Greek authorities have resisted calls to cut tax on fuel, opting instead for 30-50 euro subsidies to less well-off car and motorcycle owners.
 


For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal

Updated 24 June 2022

For Iraqi amputees football team, healing is the goal

  • Today, at age 22, Ali is a member of an all-amputee football team, made up entirely of players
  • The team has some 30 players and has qualified for the Amputee Football World Cup to be held in Turkey in late 2022

BAGHDAD: As a seven-year-old boy in Baghdad, Mohamed Ali dreamt of becoming a goalkeeper — until a car bomb in the central Tahrir Square ripped away his left arm.
The child had become another casualty of the sectarian blood-letting that raged in Iraq in the years after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
“I was deprived of playing football,” he said, recalling the traumatic event of 2007 that also ended his time with the junior football team of the Air Force Club in Baghdad.
Today, at age 22, Ali is a member of an all-amputee football team, made up entirely of players who lost arms or legs in Iraq’s many years of war and turmoil.
“The creation of this team brought me back to life,” he said. “It helped me regain my self-confidence.”
The team has some 30 players and has qualified for the Amputee Football World Cup to be held in Turkey in late 2022.
Its founder Mohamed Al-Najjar was studying in England when he discovered a Portsmouth amputee team and decided to replicate the experience.
Back in Iraq, he posted an announcement on social networks.
“Applications started pouring in and we formed the team in August 2021,” recalls the 38-year-old lawyer.
Najjar’s right leg was amputated after he was wounded in 2016 “while taking part in the fight against the Daesh group.”
At the time Najjar, like several of his teammates, was fighting with the pro-Iranian Hashed Al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force that has since been integrated into Iraq’s regular forces.
Three times a week, he now meets up with the group to train on one of the fields of the brand new Al-Chaab complex in Baghdad.
Using crutches, one-legged players warm up by sprinting in the green jersey of the national team, then practice penalty kicks.
The goalkeeper, his left arm amputated, intercepts the ball by blocking it with his stomach.
Before they found the camaraderie of the team, Najjar said, “most of the players were suffering from severe depression.”
“Some even had thought of suicide because they had lost a limb and they had been professional players before.
“But we overcame these psychological problems,” he said, adding that it pleased him to now see his players “posting their pictures with the team on social networks.”
In the official competition, matches are played in teams of seven on fields measuring 60 by 40 meters (about 200 by 130 feet).
The goals are two meters high and five meters wide — smaller than the 2.4 by 7.3 meter goals used in traditional football.
The Iraqi state offers financial aid to victims of attacks and of battles against jihadists. The players receive monthly allowances of between $400 and $700.
Most make ends meet by working as day laborers in the markets, said Najjar.
But a major obstacle for the team is a lack of official recognition, and therefore funding, from Iraqi sports bodies.
The Poland-based International Amputee Football Federation is not part of the International Paralympic Committee.
The Iraqi team therefore receives no state subsidies, said Aqil Hamid, the head of the parliamentary committee on disability sports.
For equipment and transport, the team depends on donations from associations, said Najjar. There is also occasional help from some Hashed bodies.
“They helped us with a trip to Iran, they paid for the plane tickets,” said Najjar, adding that he hoped for “wider support.”
Another team member, Ali Kazim, lost his left leg to a Baghdad car bomb in 2006, which abruptly ended his professional football career with the Air Force Club.
“I couldn’t pursue my ambitions, I stayed at home,” said the 38-year-old.
Today, his four children are his biggest supporters.
“They are the ones who pack my sports bag,” he said. “They tell me: ‘Daddy, go train’. My morale has totally changed.”