Thursday Reads: Disasters, FBI Shooting Reports, and Other News

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Good Morning!!

I never know if I should say “good morning” on days when the news is of disasters. But life goes on, and we humans are curious and driven to make sense of what is happening around us.

Yesterday felt surreal to me. There was a full-fledged blizzard not far south of me on Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard, but here in the Boston area we got no snow or precipitation of any kind–just the wind howling outside all day long.

Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard bore the brunt of the storm as it hit Massachusetts, dropping up to 10 inches of snow. The snow had stopped by the afternoon but robust winds were expected through Wednesday night.

Hurricane-force wind gusts of 83 mph were reported Wednesday morning on Nantucket, where more than 1,200 National Grid customers lost power and the high school was opened as a shelter.

NSTAR reported almost 10,000 customers out on Cape Cod at the peak of the storm.

In Chatham, wild winds hammered the coast, as the National Weather Service warned mariners to stay off the water.  A 19th century house that was under renovation collapsed in Chatham at the former of Silver Leaf and Main Street.

The pressure dropped down to 960 millibars, and that is stronger than the October snowstorm we had a couple of years ago and the February blizzard in 2013, so this is a pretty massive storm, “Storm Team 5 Cindy Fitzgibbon said.

And yet, here in Greater Boston where the nor’easters usually hit hardest, there was nothing but wind–and in Boston’s Back Bay, a windblown 9-alarm fire that trapped and killed two firefighters and injured 13 others. From CNN:

Bostonfire1

“In 30 years, I’ve never seen a fire travel that fast, escalate that quickly, and create such havoc in such a short period of time,” Deputy Fire Chief Joe Finn told reporters.

He identified those killed as Lt. Edward Walsh, 43, and Firefighter Michael Kennedy, 33….

According to Finn, firefighters were able to rescue a number of people stuck on upper floors.

He said Walsh and Kennedy became trapped soon after entering the building. They were both later located in the basement, where the fire appears to have started.

Fueled by strong winds, flames quickly engulfed the four-story building.

At one point, there was an explosion and a number of firefighters were blown down stairs, Finn said.

“That fire … was blowing like a blowtorch out the front, from the rear to the front,” the deputy fire chief added.In addition to those killed, 13 firefighters were injured. Some suffered burns, others broken bones.

At least 18 people were taken to local hospitals.

Jacob Spillers was saved Saturday after being trapped in the mud in Oso, WA

Jacob Spillers was saved Saturday after being trapped in the mud in Oso, WA

On the other side of the country, the aftermath of the mudslide in Oso, Washington continues. The NY Daily News reports: 90 still missing in fatal Washington state mudslide; 16 bodies recovered 

Washington authorities on Wednesday reduced the number of people missing from a community wiped out by a mudslide to 90, as the families and friends of those still unaccounted for begin to confront the reality that some may never be found.

The official death toll remains at 16, with an additional eight bodies located but not recovered, Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said. Authorities said they expected more bodies to be found on Thursday.

The number of missing had been fluctuating — at one point reaching as high as 220 — but authorities were able to verify that 140 people reported missing had been located, Pennington said. That left 90 people missing, plus 35 others who may or may not have been in the area at the time of the slide.

The revised numbers come at the end of a rain-soaked fifth day of searching for survivors in the small community of Oso, some 55 miles southeast of Seattle. But as time passes and the death toll continues to rise, the chances grow increasingly dim of finding people alive amid the debris.

With little hope to cling to, family members of the missing are beginning realize their loved ones may remain entombed forever inside a mountain of mud that is believed to have claimed more than 20 lives.

So heartbreaking . . . There was one bit of good news–the incredible rescue of a four-year-old boy from the rubble.

The young child was trapped by the mud and debris after a major landslide in Oso over the weekend. Rescue workers had to use a helicopter to reach the scene, where they managed to carry the boy to safety.

Watch a video of the rescue here.

On Tuesday, we finally got two official reports on shooting of Ibragim Todashev in Florida, and I spent much of the day yesterday reading them. You may recall that Todashev was a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers who had been killed during the chaotic shootout in Watertown, MA on April 18, 2013. An agent from the Boston FBI office and two Massachusetts State troopers had gone to Orlando less than a week after the Marathon bombing to interview Todashev about his relationship with Tsarnaev and his possible involvement with Tsarnaev in a triple homicide that took place in Waltham, MA on September 11, 2011.

Along with many others, I’ve been extremely suspicious of the FBI in this case, but having read the reports from the Justice Department Civil Rights Division and the Florida State Attorney’s office, I now believe that the shooting was in self defense and that Todashev and Tsarnaev likely committed the Waltham murders. If it hadn’t been for the ridiculous secrecy maintained by the FBI, we all could have been spared a year’s worth of confusion and conspiracy theories.

As I understand it, there were legitimate tips that Todashev was acquainted with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and that he should be talked to about the bombing and the triple murders. The reason the questioning took place at Todashev’s Orlando residence was that he refused to be interviewed any more at the police station because the FBI had arrested his girlfriend on their last visit there. Who could blame him?

As to the incident in the apartment, it turns out that Todashev’s verbal confession to involvement in the murders with Tsarnaev was recorded. As soon as he admitted involvement, he was read his Miranda rights and signed a waiver that he was willing to talk without an attorney present. This is all recorded on video. Todashev’s story was that he thought he was going to help rob some drug dealers and he had no idea Tamerlan planned to murder them. Todashev also verbally indicated he thought he could make some kind of deal for the information he had. He asked how much prison time he would get and whether he would be allowed to smoke in jail. Again this is all recorded–the recordings themselves have not been released, but I’m willing to accept the word of the Justice Department and Florida investigators that they exist.

From the Justice Department report:

Initially, Todashev was not completely forthcoming. As the conversation developed, 
he proffered that he had direct knowledge of the 2011 triple homicide. At 10:25 p.m.,
Todashev verbally “waived his rights” and signed a Miranda form acknowledging his 
understanding of his right to be represented by an attorney and willingness to speak
at that time without an attorney.
In response to continuing questioning, he hesitantly, but indisputably, admitted
complicity in the murders. The verbal confession was recorded on the troopers’ 
recording devices. More than one recording device was activated at different times
by the troopers as either the memory capacity or the battery power of a particular
recording device diminished during the course of the interview. Also, one trooper
was using his cell phone both to record parts of the interview and to send text
messages to other law enforcement officials.
As midnight approached, Todashev agreed to write a statement to memorialize his 
verbal confession and to provide extenuating and mitigating facts that he felt 
explained his conduct.

At some point, when the FBI agent was looking down at his notes and a Massachusetts state trooper was looking at his cell phone, Todashev allegedly threw the small table on which he was writing and hit the agent in the head, opening a large wound. Then everything turned to chaos. From The Boston Globe, a brief description of the shooting, based on the Florida report.

State and federal investigators knew Ibragim Todashev was dangerous. But he was calm when he led them to his small, dark Orlando apartment last May. He asked them to take off their shoes and ushered the investigators inside, through the door emblazoned with the image of an AK-47.

Over the next several hours, the 27-year-old mixed martial arts fighter chain-smoked, twitched, and eventually, confessed to being involved in the grisly slayings of three men in Waltham in 2011.

Then the room exploded. Authorities said Todashev hurled a coffee table at a Boston FBI agent, striking him in the head, and then charged the agent and a Massachusetts state trooper with a metal broomstick. In seconds, Todashev was dead, felled by seven bullets fired by the agent.

“I was in fear for my life,” the agent said. “There was no doubt in my mind that Todashev intended to kill both of us.”

The two reports are still unnecessarily mysterious, in my opinion. Why was the alleged written confession completely blacked out? In my opinion, that should have been released on day one, along with many of the other details of the incident. There are many unanswered questions–worst of all, why did the agent who killed Todashev refuse to be interviewed by investigators? The two reports of his conduct were based on his written report to the FBI.

Frankly, I was still doubtful until I read Todashev’s handwritten partial confession–which was obtained by Susan Zalkind of Boston Magazine. In my opinion, the photo of the confession appears genuine and the handwriting is similar to the other sample we have from Todashev, a gym membership application.

Todashev handwriting

Here is Boston Magazine’s transcription of the blurred handwriting:

My name is IBRAGIM TODASHEV
I wanna tell the story about the robbery
me and Tam did in Waltham in September
of 2011. That was [?] by Tamerlan.
[?] [?] he [?] to me to rob
the drug dealers. We went to their
house we got in there and Tam had
a gun he pointed it [?] the guy that
opened the door for us [?]
we went upstairs into the house
[?] 3 guys in there [?] we put them
on the ground and then we [?]
[?] taped their hands up

I think one of the questionable words (used twice) is “offered.” It looks like he started to describe what happened and then went back to the “offer” by Tsarnaev. My version:

My name is IBRAGIM TODASHEV
I wanna tell the story about the robbery
me and Tam did in Waltham in September
of 2011. That was [?] by Tamerlan.
[We went] he [offered] to me to rob
the drug dealers. We went to their
house we got in there and Tam had
a gun he pointed it [?] the guy that
opened the door for us [?]
we went upstairs into the house
[?] 3 guys in there [?] we put them
on the ground and then we [?]
[?] taped their hands up

That was [offered] by Tamerlan.
[?] [?] he [?] to me to rob
the drug dealers.

For anyone who wants to read more, here are two summaries of the Florida Report and Susan Zalkind’s lengthy recap of the case.

Boston Globe: Todashev reports detail a confession, then chaos

Boston Globe: Takeaways from the Todashev shooting report

Boston Magazine: The Murders Before the Marathon

This has been a largely Boston-centric post, so I’ll add a few more links to other news before I turn the floor over to you.

CNN: Obama, Pope Francis meet for first time

NYT Editorial Board: Giving Up on 4-Year-Olds

AP: New York Schools are Mostly Racially Segregated

Boston Globe: Satellite spots 300 objects in search for missing Malaysia Airlines plane

AP: India Declared Polio-Free

Reuters: Hopes fade as 25th body found in Washington state mudslide

NYT: Military Cuts Render NATO Less Formidable as Deterrent to Russia

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today?


33 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Disasters, FBI Shooting Reports, and Other News”

  1. Fannie says:

    Christie investigation says he comes out smelling like a white rose! Com’on Bridget, get your red sneakers on, you might be going out tonight.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Yeah, right!

      • Fannie says:

        For sure, the Port Authority official informed Gov. Christie about the closure at the Sept 11 memorial, and Christie has no recollection of that conversation.

        It’s a little hard for me to understand, how is it that lawyers can make policy, and recommendations so that this NEVER EVAH happens again? They are in place to investigate not delegate commissions, and laws, and so on. I mean at $650 dollars an hour per lawyer, and the tax payers dishing out over a million to his lawyers, we are so suppose to all go home, show over. Bridge open.

    • RalphB says:

      Quick, throw more staffers under the bus.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Sorry about all the Boston stuff . . . it’s hard for me to focus on much else at the moment.

    • Fannie says:

      BB we need to get you a little something for all your coverage of Boston, you have been on top of it all, including all that nasty weather, and it’s still coming in. How about some sweet pea seeds, or sunflower seeds, something that will add sweet sunshine all around you.

      We appreciate all you do!

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thank you, Fannie. It’s difficult not to focus on local events when they are so dramatic and/or mysterious.

    • This was a great post BB, I have been gone all day…just got home and read it now.

  3. janicen says:

    One thing I have not read in any of the accounts of the rescue of the four year old in Oso, is whether the child’s parents survived. Does anyone know yet?

  4. RalphB says:

    Professor teaching class on vigilante justice is pepper-sprayed by vigilante seeking justice

    Yesterday, George Mason economist and popular blogger Tyler Cowen was pepper-sprayed and placed under citizen’s arrest by an unknown white male while teaching a class on the literature of vigilante justice.

    According to police, around 3 p.m. on Wednesday a man entered the classroom and attempted to place Cowen under citizen’s arrest. The unidentified suspect entered the seminar room, jumped on the table, declared he was making a citizen’s arrest, and pepper-sprayed the professor….

    Glibertarian gets a little justice. LOL

  5. RalphB says:

    wonkette: Crazy Homeless Lady Wanders Into Chris Hayes’s Studio, Claims To Be Koch Brothers Flunkie

    Sweet eight-armed Ganesh, who is this horrible screeching banshee who looks as if she’s about to unhinge her jaw and swallow Chris Hayes whole like a python snacking on an Acehnese tribesman?* Glad you asked! That is one Jennifer Stefano of Americans for Prosperity, an apparently minor-league wingnut whose existence up to now we have been mercifully unaware of. See how great it is to write for Wonkette — you get to peer into the underbelly of an America that even Hunter S. Thompson couldn’t imagine in his worst ether-fueled nightmare. …

    Wow, just freakin’ wow!

  6. dakinikat says:

    These lawyers make an interesting point.

    Corporate personhood is not the problem. Of course corporations can sue and be sued. They can be prosecuted for the crimes of employees. But only a voluntary association of people with likeminded beliefs or a religious group or a nonprofit can stand for the beliefs of others. A for-profit corporation stands for its profits.

    http://www.acslaw.org/acsblog/does-hobby-lobby-even-have-standing

    The legal corporate form basically serves as a shield from liability for the owners of a corporation so if the corporation goes bankrupt or commits a crime, the owner’s aren’t held responsible. So, how can this separate legal entity reflect owner’s anything other than their stake in the profits?

    • RalphB says:

      If the shield is pierced in one direction, I don’t see how the other direction is valid. It’s what I mentioned in a comment the day of arguments. I don’t even think it can work for a closely held corp like Subchapter S.

    • RalphB says:

      By the way, do you think it’s dawned on anyone yet what a huge issue this could hand the Democrats in future elections? Repeal or amend RFRA and any decision becomes null and void.

      • Fannie says:

        Certainly, one has to question just how many fucking votes do they have. I have the right vote (one vote one count), the corporation has the right to vote,but just how many fucking votes do they have, I mean the Koch brothers can have an army ready to vote at the drop of a dime.

  7. dakinikat says:

    BP does it again. This is a follow up to their spill into Lake Michigan.

    A BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana leaked an unknown amount of oil into Lake Michigan Monday afternoon, an incident that occurred less than two weeks after the U.S. lifted BP’s ban on seeking new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

    for profit companies cannot be trusted with natural resources. PERIOD,

  8. dakinikat says:

    US appeals court upholds new Texas abortion rules that closed many clinics http://ow.ly/v5f9g

    • Fannie says:

      The decision makers were in part appointed by George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan………….that’s how they roll on the 5th circuit.

    • RalphB says:

      The 5th Circuit was never in doubt, I don’t think. Just teeing it up for the Supreme Court. Since different circuit courts have differing opinions, they’ll have to settle it anyway.

    • RalphB says:

      This was the perfect wingnut panel in the 5th Circuit.

      The three-judge panel includes former Chief Justice Edith Jones, who authored the 2012 opinion affirming Texas’ abortion sonogram law. The other justices, Jennifer Elrod and Catharina Haynes, served on another three-judge panel that reversed a lower court’s injunction on the law in October, which allowed the rules to take effect.

  9. bostonboomer says: