Photo of the Day

Photo Of The Day

Scan-76-e1441226008163Busting Out of Mexico

It Couldn’t Happen This Way In A Million Years

But It Did!

When the American inmates at Piedras Negras talked to Blake Davis, they sometimes caught themselves staring at the jagged, reddened scar that under­lined the ridge of his jaw. Blake Davis was ebullient, powerfully built, well liked by the other Americans. Even in moments of discouragement he some­how managed a rueful smile. “Next week” was always the time of Blake’s anticipated departure from the Piedras Negras jail. He always had a scam.

Blake did not mind talking about his scar. He said he’d been arrested near Saltillo and charged with transporting 175 pounds of marijuana. For three weeks, Blake said, he was strapped naked to a bed while federales interro­gated him, until finally he signed a Spanish confession he could not read. While he was in prison at Saltillo, Blake claimed he bribed a warden for $2000, but when the tunneling started the war­den alerted the guards. Blake said he unwisely cried foul; the warden referred the matter to Mexican inmates who set upon Blake with crude knives and razor blades. Hence the scar. Blake’s tale of horror did not rate him special privileges in the Piedras Negras seniority system. When he was transferred there in Au­gust 1975, like all other new arrivals he took a seat on the floor.

When a Mexican attorney arranged his transfer from Saltillo, Blake thought he was destined for a federal prison in Piedras Negras called Penal. But Mexi­can officials claimed Penal was over­crowded, and they blamed Americans for a November 1974 breakout in which 24 prisoners tunnelled to freedom. Blake Davis was thus assigned to the Piedras Negras municipal jail. Inside the jail were five cells for men, one cell for women, and a drunk tank, each of which measured eight feet by nine. The win­dowless cells contained four bunks, a toilet, a water faucet, and from six to twelve sweating, panting, claustrophobic prisoners. Mexican national inmates were eventually transferred to Penal, but the Americans waited for enough seniority to occupy one of the bunks. When they moved around their cells they shuffled. They never breathed fresh air, never saw the sky.

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Photo Of The Day

“David S.(Bear) Crenshaw and Kimberley (Tigger) Crenshaw … Together forever. Married three years.”

“David S. (Bear) Crenshaw and Kimberley (Tigger) Crenshaw.… Together forever. Married three years.”

Love and Death on the Third Floor

On The Cystic Fibrosis Wing Of Dallas’ Presbyterian Hospital, an Unlikely Romance Bloomed Between Two Sick Patients. The Outcome Was Inevitable

She was the princess who wore Tiffany perfume. He was the middle-class guy who raced cars. But when they met on the cystic fibrosis wing of a Dallas hospital, romance bloomed.

They first laid eyes on one another in the spring of 1986, when they were both admitted to the cystic fibrosis wing of Dallas’ Presbyterian Hospital. Kimberley Marshall was then sixteen, thin and winter-pale and beautiful, her red hair falling down the back of her pink nightgown patterned with little white hearts. David Crenshaw was eighteen; he wore his usual hand-me-down T-shirt and faded gray pajama pants and oversized glasses that turned dark in the sunlight. David would stand at one end of the hospital hallway, hoping Kim would come out of her room at the other end.

“No way,” the wing’s respiratory therapist, Doug Kellum, would say. “No way she’s going to look twice at you.”

Kim was known among the nurses as the princess. She came from a polished North Dallas family. She loved Tiffany perfume, Lancôme makeup, and clothes from Neiman Marcus. She would sit for hours in her hospital bed, reading romance novels. David, on the other hand, was famous for his bad grammar and coarse jokes. When a female nurse walked past his room, he would lean forward in his bed and shout, “Shake it, baby, don’t break it.” On Saturday nights when he wasn’t in the hospital, he raced midget cars at a local dirt track. “Can you name just one other race car driver in this country with cystic fibrosis?” he proudly asked Kellum. “Let me tell you, there ain’t one.”

“She still isn’t going to talk to you,” Kellum replied.

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Nightmare on Lakeview: Dinnick and Verma moved to Qatar in 2014 and rented their west-end home to people who seemed like ideal tenants (Photographs: House by Dave Gillespie; Gubb, Dinnick and Verma via Facebook)

Nightmare on Lakeview: Dinnick and Verma moved to Qatar in 2014 and rented their west-end home to people who seemed like ideal tenants (Photographs: House by Dave Gillespie; Gubb, Dinnick and Verma via Facebook)

The Tenant From Hell

How a Serial Fraudster Took Advantage of Toronto’s Red-Hot Real Estate Market

Most people who have rented out spaces have seen their fair share of tenant and damaged property related nightmares. Be careful who you rent to.  If you don’t have a good feeling about the person, it might be your intuition telling you to run!

In the summer of 2014, Wilf Dinnick, a former news correspondent, accepted a job running Al Jazeera’s website in Doha, Qatar. He and his wife, Sonia Verma, a newspaper reporter, had settled in Toronto in 2009. They bought a beautiful four-bedroom brick semi at 47 Lakeview Avenue, near Dundas and Ossington, for $719,000. They loved the area—minutes from Trinity Bellwoods Park, steps from their favourite restaurants and cafés, and surrounded by neighbours who quickly became close friends. Rather than sell the house before the move, they decided to rent it out.

They knew that if they were ever going to return to Toronto, they would want to build their life in the same area. Plus, in a neighbourhood that continued to gentrify, selling didn’t make sense. They hired Chestnut Park, which deals with some of the most expensive real estate in the city, to ­manage the rental. For $4,000, Sarah Giacomelli, a realtor with over 20 years of experience, agreed to take care of ­everything: placing an ad, vetting the candidates, choosing the tenant and handling the paperwork. A few weeks after the family had arrived in Doha, Giacomelli reported that she’d found terrific tenants.

The Gubbs were a family of four: Jesse, his girlfriend, Haruka, his brother, Troy, and his father, John. Jesse, who appeared to handle the rental negotiations for the family, worked in sales at a tech­nology company called Web Factory Studios Canada. He drove a Range Rover, had more than $44,000 in savings and would have no trouble covering the $3,600 monthly rent. Another potential tenant showed interest in the property, but Gubb won them over with a sob story: he was trying to get his family, once estranged but newly reunited, under one roof. He upped his rent offer to $4,000 to seal the deal, and it worked.

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Photo Of The Day

maxresdefault The Miracle of Ladder Company 6

‘It was the furthest thing from my mind, that building coming down. I didn’t think that building could come down.’ 
— TOMMY FALCO
Firefighter

It is hard to speak of lucky breaks and happy endings in a tragedy of this magnitude. But there have been a few. This is a story about a group of New York fire-fighters caught inside one of the Twin Towers when it collapsed. It’s a story of courage, duty, selflessness, and more than a little luck. Though it begins like so many others, with the horror of that day, the ending is a good one.

They went in to fight a fire. They’re alive, they say, because they stayed together to save a life. This is the story of Ladder Company 6 and a woman they call their guardian angel.

Tommy Falco“I just heard the rumbling and the shaking. And I imagine we got knocked down the stairs. And I just remember laying down and, OK, this is it, you know, what’s it going to feel like. And I said, ‘This is how it ends for me.’”
Sal D’Agostino: “In the stairwell, after I got blown backwards and found my helmet, I said a Hail Mary. It’s the only prayer I ever really remembered. And sweet Jesus protect me and forgive me of my sins.”
Matt Komorowski: “An hour or two into the whole thing, I started seeing light at my feet. And it was dim at first and then all of a sudden, a beam of light shone at my feet. And that was hope that the outside was still there.”
Mike Meldrum“Out of nowhere we find Josephine. And like the guys say, she’s our guardian angel. She must have been sent to us for a reason.”

Dateline NBC brought the men together 11 days after the worst day of their lives. They were still grappling with the notion of being alive.

Stone Phillips: “Is this the first time you’ve all seen each other since that day as a group?”
Firefighters: “Yes.”
Stone Phillips: “What’s it like being together?”
Matt Komorowski“It feels good, comforting.”
Stone Phillips: “How lucky do you feel to be here? To be alive?”
Bill Butler: “Very, very, very lucky.”
Richie Picciotto: “I’m sure we’ve all seen the tapes already. And every time we see it, I don’t think it’s possible that anyone survived being in there. And I know it is possible, because I did. And we all did. You’re looking at seven miracles.”
John Jonas: “There weren’t many. There weren’t many miracles that day. I hope we have a few more.”
John Jonas was promoted to Battalion Chief five days after the attacks in a somber ceremony for a decimated fire department. He led the men of Ladder 6 into the hell that was the World Trade Center.

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Eleanor Mondale, Daughter of Former Vice President Walter Mondale. The entertainment reporter, worked for E! and CBS.

Eleanor Mondale, Daughter of Former Vice President Walter Mondale. The entertainment reporter, worked for E! and CBS.

Bill Clinton’s Mess

Towels and Lipstick and …

The West Wings Receptionist Buzz

 “I stood guard, a pistol at my hip, outside the Oval Office, the last barrier before anyone saw Bill Clinton”

As seen in the above photo from April 3, 1997, Eleanor Mondale arrived for the premiere of The Saint in Los Angeles. Eleanor died from brain cancer as a 51-year-old in 2011, but a new book by Gary J Byrne, is resurrecting her name and a whole bunch of controversy about the Clintons. It is the same book that told the world Hillary Clinton allegedly gave Bill Clinton a black eye.
The former Secret Service agent Byrne claims, that things got so heated during Bill Clinton’s Presidency over his affairs that the Secret Service discussed the prospect of “domestic violence” between Hillary and her husband. Because of Gary’s close proximity to the Clintons during some of their most volatile days in the White House, the authors’ testimony of his experiences with Bill and Hillary are being closely followed.

‘Having witnessed the personal and political dysfunction of the Clinton White House – so consumed by scandal and destroying their enemies, real and imagined – Byrne came to understand that, to the Clintons, governing was an afterthought.
Gary has likened President Clinton’s alleged revolving door of women, to running a brothel instead of leading the country via the White House.
In  his upcoming book, Crisis of Character, Byrne claims while President Clinton was having an affair with Monica Lewinsky he was also having one with former Vice President Walter Mondale’s daughter, Eleanor Mondale.
In the book, the author writes, “There before us was E! Network host, Eleanor Mondale . . . and President Clinton in a compromising position, that is, making out on the Map Room table.”

According to Byrne, he was “The last barrier before Monica Lewinsky saw Bill Clinton.” Moreover, Lewinsky was jealous of Mondale’s relationship with the President. Bill Clinton’s White House was a seedy “brothel” where the “horndog” President entertained a veritable harem of mistresses, the former US Secret Service agent has claimed.

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code

Margaret Hamilton

The Woman Who Put The Man on the Moon

The volumes were filled with handwritten code for NASA, the very same code that was responsible for safely landing people on the moon.

Neil Armstrong might not have taken his moon walk on July 20, 1969 were it not for a former high school teacher named Margaret Hamilton.

Three minutes before the Apollo 11 lunar lander Eagle reached the surface of the moon, computer alarms went off. The landing would have been aborted had Hamilton not anticipated the problem and created software to solve it.

Margaret Heafiled Hamilton; was 33 when she wrote the code for NASA in 1969. At the time, she was also the Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. NASA, anxious to win the space race, called on her to create “the onboard flight software needed to land on the moon.” She was selected as team leader and tasked with making the Apollo missions successful.

This wasn’t just a cool job placement for a woman. In 1969, Software Engineering didn’t exist — she actually coined the term while making it a reality. Hamilton raised the bar even higher by helping her team create ultra-reliable software. She developed priority displays that allowed the software to interrupt astronauts in an emergency so that “they could reconfigure in real-time.” Hamilton debugged and tested every aspect of her work prior to assembly. Before signing off on the code, she “simulated every conceivable situation at the systems level to identify potential problems.”

“There was no second chance. We all knew that,” Hamilton said. “We took our work very seriously, but we were young, many of us in our 20s. Coming up with new ideas was an adventure. Dedication and commitment were a given. Mutual respect was across the board. Because software was a mystery, a black box, upper management gave us total freedom and trust. We had to find a way and we did. Looking back, we were the luckiest people in the world; there was no choice but to be pioneers; no time to be beginners.”

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Writer and Holocaust survivor Binjamin Wilkomirski in Zurich, 15th September 1999. He is holding an artistic depiction of World War II.

Writer and Holocaust survivor? Binjamin Wilkomirski in Zurich, 15th September 1999. He is holding an artistic depiction of World War II.

The Boy Who Had Two Lives

“Did I have five brothers or four? Which seems righter? I can’t say for sure anymore…” 
– from Fragments by Binjamin Wilkomirski

There’s a fine line between a memoir and embellished, perhaps tainted memory, but it’s pretty black and white when it comes to fiction and non-fiction.

In his writings, Binjamin Wilkomirski claims that he was born in Latvia and later moved to Switzerland, and he also shares his experiences in German-occupied Poland. Wilkomirski has written many pieces about his experiences during the Holocaust that have been best-sellers in many countries. Unfortunately, many allegations have risen claiming that his writings are coaxes. A man named Ganzfried argued that he was actually born as an illegitimate child in Switzerland and only experienced the Holocaust as a “tourist.” Wilkomirski has responded to these accusations by claiming he was forced to change his records in order to avoid the Nazis. It is hard to believe that Wilkomirski made up all of his writing, especially the specific and realistic descriptions such as: “Binjamin’s memories of Majdanek camp are a series of of terrifying tableaux. Rats crawl from the corpses of dead women, lice run over his face in ‘racing, ticklish streams’, tiny, starving babies chew their own fingers down to the bone”. It is almost impossible for us to know what actually happened to this man due to all of the controversies, and this is when it becomes very difficult for historians to truly understand the past.

When Binjamin Wilkomirksi’s account of his childhood was published in 1995, it was hailed as a classic among Holocaust memoirs. But in 1998, he was denounced as a fraud – his accusers claimed he was born Bruno Grosjean, a gentile brought up by a wealthy Swiss family, and had never been near a Nazi concentration camp.

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Joanne Webb, left, looks on as her atorney BeAnn Sisemore addresses the media Monday Dec. 15, 2003, at the Johnson County Courthouse in Cleburne, Texas, after a hearing. Webb intended to spice up marriages and earn extra cash by selling erotic toys as one of Passion Parties Inc.'s 3,000 national consultants.

Joanne Webb, left, looks on as her attorney BeAnn Sisemore addresses the media Monday Dec. 15, 2003, at the Johnson County Courthouse in Cleburne, Texas, after a hearing. Webb intended to spice up marriages and earn extra cash by selling erotic toys as one of Passion Parties Inc.’s 3,000 national consultants.

Good… Good…Good

GOOD VIBRATIONS!!!

How a Woman Who Sold Sex Toys In Burleson Became Public Enemy Number One and Survived the Bad Buzz

It seems in 2003, one Joanne Webb had the gall to purvey sex toys in local Tupperware-type theme parties for all the ladies in the fair burg of Burleson, Texas, just a stone’s throw from Fort Worth in neighbouring Johnson County. She owned a franchise in a company called Passion Parties, which specializes in these girls-night-in parties where they can see and buy marital aids, sex toys, whatever you want to call them. The State of Texas deems them “an obscene device.” More on that later. Well, seems someone tipped the local police to her shenanigans, and a deep undercover operator from the Burleson P.D. infiltrated one of her parties and bought two of the contraband devices from her. A few days later, this mother of three, Baptist Church member, former school teacher, and former executive member of the local chamber of commerce, was indicted on Class A misdemeanour charges for her nefarious deeds. A Class A misdemeanour is the same level of charge as spousal assault, DWI, animal cruelty, and possession of a usable quantity of marijuana.

On a hot August afternoon in Burleson, a quiet bedroom community of 25,000 residents and 53 churches just south of Fort Worth, an attractive 43-year-old woman named Joanne Webb is preparing for a sales presentation. Sitting in the family room of her custom-built home, the walls filled with photos of her husband and her three children, she lays out the products that she plans to show her customers later that evening. She flicks the switches on some of the products to see if they are buzzing properly. She flicks the switches on others to make sure they are moving up and down or in a circular motion. She checks to see if she has the manuals that will teach her customers how to use these devices in innovative ways. “Honey,” calls her husband, Chris, from the kitchen, “you want anything to eat?”

“Not right now, sweetheart,” says Joanne. “I’ve got to get some new batteries into the Nubby G.”

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Fifty-two-year-old Richard Beasley and his protegé, 16-year-old Brogan Rafferty were charged with using Craigslist to lure men with false job postings. The men, all of which were single and without families, would respond to the ad that claimed they would also have room and board while working on a cattle farm that didn't exist. One victim, who was shot in the elbow, was able to run away to safety, but when police responded they found three other bodies at the scene in shallow graves.

Fifty-two-year-old Richard Beasley and his protegé, 16-year-old Brogan Rafferty, were charged with using Craigslist to lure men with false job postings. The men, all of whom were single and without families, would respond to the ad that claimed they would also have room and board while working on a cattle farm that didn’t exist. One victim, who was shot in the elbow, was able to run away to safety, but when police responded they found three other bodies at the scene in shallow graves.

Murder by Craigslist

Most people go to Craigslist to find apartments, job openings, and cheap furniture, while others use the popular classified advertising website to do their dirty work. In recent years, Craigslist has become a hotbed for predators and scam artists looking to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. What’s worse is no Craigslist section is safe from criminals. Whether you’re browsing the personals, for sale, or jobs section, you never really know who’s on the other end and what kind of danger you might be in.

The preacher placed the ad:

Wanted: Caretaker For Farm. Simply watch over a 688 acre patch of hilly farmland and feed a few cows, you get 300 a week and a nice 2 bedroom trailer, someone older and single preferred but will consider all, relocation a must, you must have a clean record and be trustworthy—this is a permanent position, the farm is used mainly as a hunting preserve, is overrun with game, has a stocked 3 acre pond, but some beef cattle will be kept, nearest neighbour is a mile away, the place is secluded and beautiful, it will be a real get away for the right person, job of a lifetime—if you are ready to relocate please contact asap, position will not stay open.

More than a hundred men applied; four were hired. The preacher and his “nephew” offered each a ride down to the farm. The men never knew what was going on—what bizarre scheme they’d stumbled upon. What happened next was almost too terrible to believe.

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Photo Of The Day

Molly LaRue and Geoff Hood in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, on September 12, 1990, with Cove Mountain in the background. Photo: Courtesy of Bob Howell

Molly LaRue and Geoff Hood in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, on September 12, 1990, with Cove Mountain in the background. Photo: Courtesy of Bob Howell

Murder on the Appalachian Trail

Twenty-six years ago, a grisly double homicide on America’s most famous hiking route shocked the nation and forever changed their ideas about crime, violence, and safety in the outdoors.

They were known to hikers as Nalgene and Cleavis.

They were two young lovers engaged to be married who were sharing an adventure down the Appalachian Trail until they crossed paths with Paul David Crews.

Molly LaRue and Geoffrey Logan Hood had camped for the night in a wooden lean-to known as the Thelma Marks Shelter a few miles outside Duncannon. The three-sided structure was nestled among birch, poplar and oak trees on the south side of Cove Mountain about 30 feet below the trail that runs from Maine to Georgia.

“They were caught off-guard and somebody attacked them … sometime before dawn,” Perry County Coroner Michael Shalonis told reporters after the bodies were found on Sept. 13, 1990.

 It is a quiet, restorative place, this clearing high on a Pennsylvania ridge. Ferns and wildflowers carpet its floor. Sassafras and tulip trees, tall oak and hickory stand tight at its sides, their leaves hissing in breezes that sweep from the valley below. Cloistered from civilization by a steep 900-foot climb over loose and jutting rock, the glade goes unseen by most everyone but a straggle of hikers on the Appalachian Trail, the 2,180-mile footpath carved into the roofs of 14 eastern states.

Those travellers have rested here for more than half a century. At the clearing’s edge stands an open-faced shelter of heavy timber, one of 260 huts built roughly a day’s walk apart on the AT’s wriggling, roller-coaster course from Maine to Georgia. It’s tall and airy and skylit, with a deep porch, two tiers of wooden bunks, and a picnic table.

A few feet away stood the ancient log lean-to it replaced. When I visited this past spring, saplings and tangled brier so colonized the old shelter’s footprint that I might have missed it, had I not slept there myself. Twenty-six summers ago, I pulled into what was called the Thelma Marks shelter, near the halfway point of a southbound through-hike. I met a stranger in the old lean-to, talked with him under its low roof as we fired up our stoves and cooked dinner.

Eight nights later, a southbound couple I’d befriended early in my hike followed me into Thelma Marks. They met a stranger there, too.

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