USS Constitution is closed to the public due to US govt shutdown

131001-N-SU274-027 CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (Oct. 1, 2013) A closed notice posted at the front gate of USS Constitution in Charlestown Navy Yard. Constitution and the yard are closed to the public as a result of the government shutdown that took effect Oct. 1. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Peter D. Melkus/Released)

US judge releases Somali pirate before trial

Ali Mohamed Ali was indicted over the hijacking of the CEC Future. In “ye olde days” we hung pirates. Now they’re released to wander the streets.

Judge to Release Alleged Pirate Before Trial

A federal judge said Wednesday she will release an alleged Somali pirate ahead of his trial this fall, saying it was “pretty extraordinary” to hold someone presumed innocent in jail for more than two years.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle said at a hearing that she will issue an opinion Thursday that releases Ali Mohamed Ali. He’ll be subject to 24-hour monitoring while awaiting trial, which is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Oct. 31.

Ali is accused of negotiating a ransom payment during a November 2008 pirate takeover of a Danish merchant ship in the Gulf of Aden.

It will be the second time that Huvelle ordered Ali released pending trial. She also did so in July 2012, after the government appealed one of her pretrial rulings in the case. But an appeals court quickly reversed her and ordered Ali back into custody.

The government indicated it will appeal this latest ruling, too. Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez asked Huvelle to suspend her ruling while the government appealed it; the judge said no.

The government argued Wednesday, as it did last year, that Ali posed a flight risk. But Ali’s lawyer, Matthew J. Peed, noted that his client didn’t try to flee when he was out for 10 days last year. Other than that, he’s been locked up since April, 2011.

“It’s a long time to be locked up in D.C. jail,” said Huvelle, adding that the jail is not set up for long-term stays.

Huvelle said that the jurors probably won’t reach a verdict in the case until after Thanksgiving.

“Imagine if they find him not guilty and he’d been in jail for 32 months,” said Huvelle, an appointee of President Bill Clinton.

Huvelle briefly addressed Ali directly, telling him she’s ordering him released because she believes in the Constitution and due process. She also said he’ll be in a better position to prepare for trial outside of jail.

Confederate Naval Flag Falls into U.S. Navy Hands – After Nearly 150 Years

HRNM would be a great home for the flag. Phenomenal museum.

Confederate Naval Flag Falls into U.S. Navy Hands – After Nearly 150 Years

DAYTON, Va. (NNS) — A Confederate flag finished a nearly 150-year journey as it traded hands from the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society (HRHS) to Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) during a ceremony at the society’s building in Dayton, Va., July 31. Capt. Henry Hendrix, NHHC’s director, accepted the flag which will be preserved and displayed in one of the U.S. Navy’s museums.

The flag’s journey to Washington, D.C. began during the Civil War in 1865.

It was early morning as Lt. William Ladd rode his horse into a nearly deserted Richmond, Va. The siege of the Petersburg had come to an end after eight months, signifying an end to the war that had divided America. With the Confederate capital of Richmond captured, the last hopes of the rebel army vanished and the army and populace of the city had scattered. It was while investigating the city that Ladd observed a Confederate ship flying their colors.

“I was in the Capitol grounds as early as 5:30 am,” wrote Ladd, in the History of the 13th New Hampshire Regiment. “I saw no flag on the Capitol at that time. After looking about the grounds and vicinity for a few minutes, and realizing I was alone in the city, I rode back towards Rocketts, and when near there met a white Union cavalryman – the first Union soldier I had seen in Richmond that morning. We tied our horses, took a skiff and rowed out to a rebel war ship in the James, and captured two Confederate flags then flying upon her. I pulled down the larger flag, the cavalryman the smaller one, and we rolled them up and tied them to our saddles.”

Unknown to Ladd, the Confederates had previously rigged the ship, Confederate States Ship (CSS) Hampton, to explode, denying the Union Army its capture. Soon after he and the cavalryman left with their captured flags, the ship was rocked by an explosion and slowly sank into the waters of the Potomac.

After the war, Ladd kept the flag in his residence, where it remained for years.

Fast forward to 2011. On a shelf in a Dayton, Va. building belonging to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, sat an archival collection box. The vice president of the society was working with volunteers to update their collection registry. As she went through the boxes she made an astounding discovery, a Confederate flag. A handwritten (note?) sewn onto it read, “That of Confed gun boat Hampton burnt in James River at the taking of Richmond. The flag was taken from the burning ship by Liet. Ladd (13th N. Hampshire), Gen. Devens staff.”

“I was surprised and amazed when I saw that we had such a rare, unique article in our collections,” said Nancy Hess, now former vice president of the society.

Her unearthing of the flag started an 18-month hunt for both clues of its origin and, ultimately, a place where the society knew it would receive proper care.

After finding the flag, Hess was curious. She asked a former president of the society about it. She learned that the flag had been a part of their collection for decades but little was known about why the flag was part of their holdings. Hess found some handwritten notes that recorded the flag being added to their collections in the 1960s. The society, which had moved several times since the 1960s, did not have any administrative records of the flag. It was on some inventories from 1982 and there was a photo of the flag taken sometime between 1978 and 1988.

The flag remained a bit of a mystery through the years. According to Hess, she contacted previous members about it, and she learned that the flag was mailed to the society from a law firm settling the estate of a client. When a former society president went to a Massachusetts courthouse to look up the will in 2000, he found no mention of the flag or its disposition. Although the flag was researched by several members of the society, none were able to figure out why the society was given the unique artifact, and several attempts were made to get the flag out of storage and displayed. But the efforts were futile and the flag remained in storage. Finally Hess took action, first writing museums about the flag, asking for someone to take and conserve it. When she unable to find a museum that would conserve and display it, she started calling.

Earlier this year, Hess contacted the U.S. Army Center of Military History. Retired Col. Robert Dalessandro, the director of the center, recommended she contact NHHC’s director, Capt. Henry Hendrix. In March she received the long-awaited call from Hendrix, and an answer to her hopes to find a proper resting place for the flag.

“We were contacted by Mrs. Hess and told the amazing story about the Confederate flag. I couldn’t let this incredible opportunity to recognize our naval heritage slip by, especially during the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. I told her NHHC would indeed be interested in the society’s storied flag,” Hendrix said.

A month later in Dayton, Hess met with Becky Poulliot, executive director of NHHC’s Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Norfolk, Va. Poulliot inspected the flag, listened to the society’s concerns about it and knew she wanted to have it.

“In the museum business, if you are lucky, you occasionally have an opportunity to experience what we call ‘wow’ moments,” Poulliot said. “The minute I saw the ensign from CSS Hampton was one of those moments for a variety of reasons. First, the flag has an authentic provenance of a pivotal point in American history — the fall of Richmond. Secondly, according to our staff research, it is the only known flag in existence that flew from a Maury gunboat. That gunboat was built across the Elizabeth River from our museum. So, it is irreplaceable. Lastly, this ensign fills an important gap regarding the material culture of the Confederate Navy in Hampton Roads.”

As the director accepted the gift, he presented the flag to Poulliot for her to begin the conservation process to make the flag ready to become part of the museum.

“We plan to prominently display it in our Civil War gallery,” Poulliot said. “I assure you that it will stop people in their tracks. They will want to learn more about the Civil War, and how the Confederacy built Maury gunboats. The acceptance of this ensign from CSS Hampton is an honor for our institution.”

The Hampton Roads Naval Museum introduces visitors to more than 234 years of U.S. Naval history in Hampton Roads, Virginia. One of nine officially operated U.S. Navy museums, reporting to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the museum houses a rich collection of authentic uniforms, weaponry, underwater artifacts, detailed ship models and artwork.

The Hampton Roads Naval Museum is located on the second level of Nauticus in Norfolk, Va. Admission is free.

For more information about Naval History and Heritage Command and its museums, visit

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Swimming across the Bering Strait? Sooner you than me, chum!

Even in summer, sooner them than me.

That 4ºC is 39ºF to us old-timers. And the 110 km is 68-miles (59 nautical miles). Even in summer? Sooner them than me.

Over 50 swimmers to cross Bering Strait


PRETORIA, July 22 (Itar-Tass) – Over fifty swimmers from different countries, including five South African ones, are planning to cross the Bering Strait from the Russian coast to Alaska.

The start is scheduled for August 1. The shortest distance from the Russian coast to Alaska is 82 kilometers, but the swimmers think that because of the currents they will have to actually cross 110 kilometres in 48 hours. The temperature of the water is 4 degrees Celsius. The athletes will be wearing swimming suits, caps and goggles. They will swim for 15-20 minutes, then rest and go back into water in about ten hours. Swimming in cold water is a big challenge and if someone gives in, the others will have make up for them.

Apart from the perseverance test, there are bureaucratic barriers to be crossed in both Russia and the United States. So far, all attempts to cross the strait by foot, boat or kayak have proved futile.

The Bering Strait is often referred to as the “ice curtain” between Russia and the U.S. as it is covered with ice for the biggest part of year. A window of opportunity for such a daring race, fraught with hypothermia and dangerous encounters with whales, presents itself only in summer.

Russia blocks Antarctic sanctuary bid

Russia requests meeting… “in good faith”… then blocks proposals… which leaves you wondering… what is it that they want? Fish? Oil?

Russia blocks Antarctic sanctuary bid

Environmental and conservation groups have called for the establishment of the world’s largest network of marine reserves around Antarctica. Picture: John Weller Source: Supplied

RUSSIA has blocked attempts by countries including Australia to create the world’s largest ocean sanctuary off Antarctica, green groups say.

The Russian representative questioned the legal right of a meeting in Bremerhaven, northern Germany, to declare such a haven, according to organisations at the talks.

The three-day talks gathered 24 nations plus the European Union (EU) in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a 31-year-old treaty tasked with overseeing conservation and sustainable exploitation of the Southern Ocean.

One proposal, floated by the United States and New Zealand, covered 1.6 million square kilometres of the Ross Sea, the deep bay on Antarctica’s Pacific side.

The other, backed by Australia, France and the EU, would protect 1.9 million square kilometres of coastal seas off East Antarctica, on the frozen continent’s Indian Ocean side.

Protecting those areas – which biologists say are rich in unique species – would more than double the amount of ocean sanctuary in the world.

Andrea Kavanagh, in charge of the Southern Ocean Sanctuaries campaign at the US green group Pew Environment, said Russia had refused to negotiate, saying simply that it questioned the legal status of CCAMLR to declare such zones.

“The actions of the Russian delegation have put international cooperation and goodwill at risk, the two key ingredients needed for global marine conservation,” she said.

“After two years of preparation, including this meeting, which Russia requested to settle the scientific case for the Ross Sea and East Antarctic proposals, we leave with nothing,” said Steve Campbell, director of the Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA) of green groups.

“All members, except Russia, came to this meeting to negotiate in good faith,” he said in a statement.

The parties met in Hobart, Australia, last October, but failed to reach a deal because of opposition by China and Russia, supported by Ukraine, which said restrictions on fishing were too onerous.

As a result, they agreed to an exceptional meeting this July. It was only the second time that the CCAMLR has met outside its annual gathering.

The fate of the proposed marine sanctuaries now lies in the next annual meeting of CCAMLR in Hobart, running from October 23 to November 1, the sources said.

Ms Kavanagh said many delegates had been stunned and dismayed at the setback, given the effort in time and money to attend a meeting that had been requested by Russia itself, ostensibly to address questions of science.

“The proponent countries were unwilling to negotiate when it appeared that Russia was here in bad faith. They weren’t willing to lay their cards on the table,” she said.

The waters around the Antarctica are home to some 16,000 known species, including whales, seals, albatrosses and penguins, as well as unique species of fish, sponges and worms that are bioluminescent or produce their own natural anti-freeze to survive in the region’s chilly waters.

They are also rich in nutrients, whose influence spreads far beyond Antarctica thanks to the powerful current that swirls around the continent.