Arizona Border Patrol Agent Killed on Duty

NACO, Ariz. – Investigators were scouring a rugged area near the U.S.-Mexico line looking for evidence in the fatal shooting of a Border Patrol agent.

Nicholas Ivie and a colleague were on patrol in the desert near Naco, about 100 miles from Tucson, when gunfire broke out shortly before 2 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Border Patrol.

Ivie, 30, was killed. The other agent, whose name hasn’t been released, was hospitalized after being shot in the ankle and buttocks.

It was the first fatal shooting of an agent since a deadly 2010 firefight with Mexican bandits that spawned congressional probes of a botched government gun-smuggling investigation.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Naco, an FBI official said the agency was still processing the crime scene and that it might take several days to complete. The FBI and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, which was also investigating, declined to say whether investigators have recovered guns or bullet casings.

“The senseless act of violence that claimed the life of border patrol agent and Utah native Nicolas Ivie is a tragedy.  My heart goes out to Agent Ivie’s family and I extend to them my gratitude for their son’s service and sacrifice.  Those who perpetrated this crime must be found and brought to justice without delay.  I support a full and immediate investigation of this incident.  As the facts come to light, we must take measures to ensure the safety and security of our border patrol and our residents in the region.  I will be no less vigilant in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this most recent heinous attack than I have been in the case of Agent Brian Terry’s murder,” said Congressman Jason Chaffetz.

No arrests have been made, but authorities suspected that more than one person fired at the agents.

Agents and deputies were searching the area on ATVs, horseback and on foot with up to four helicopters overhead in the southern foothills of the Mule Mountains that’s considered a known smuggling area.

“It’s been a long day for us but it’s been longer for no one more than a wife whose husband is not coming home. It’s been longer for two children whose father is not coming home, and that is what is going to strengthen our resolve” to find those responsible and enforce the law, said Jeffrey Self, commander of Customs and Border Protection’s Arizona joint field command.

Ivie lived in Sierra Vista with his wife and their two young daughters.

President Barack Obama called Ivie’s family Tuesday to offer condolences and to express his gratitude for Ivie’s “selfless service to his nation,” a White House statement said.

Obama made it clear that the administration “was doing everything it could to locate those responsible.”

The last Border Patrol agent fatally shot on duty was Brian Terry, who died in a shootout with bandits near the border in December 2010. The Border Patrol station in Naco, where the two agents shot Tuesday were stationed, was recently named after Terry.

Terry’s shooting was later linked to the government’s “Fast and Furious” gun-smuggling operation, which allowed people suspected of illegally buying guns for others to walk away from gun shops with weapons, rather than be arrested.

Authorities intended to track the guns into Mexico. Two rifles found at the scene of Terry’s shooting were bought by a member of the gun-smuggling ring being investigated.

Critics of the operation say any shooting along the border now raises the specter that those illegal weapons are still being used in border violence.

“There’s no way to know at this point how the agent was killed, but because of Operation Fast and Furious, we’ll wonder for years if the guns used in any killing along the border were part of an ill-advised gun-walking strategy,” Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said in a statement.

The Terry family said that the shooting was a “graphic reminder of the inherent dangers that threaten the safety of those who live and work near the border.”

Authorities set up a checkpoint on a dirt road about seven miles southeast of Bisbee. Border Patrol agents at the checkpoint declined to comment and barred reporters from going further.

The area near the shooting is scattered with houses, trailers and ranchettes. Mesquite trees and creosote bushes dot the landscape, with a mountain range nearby to the west.

The U.S. government has put thousands of sensors along the border that, when tripped, alert dispatchers that they should send agents to a particular location.

The agents were fired upon in a rugged hilly area about five miles north of the border as they responded to an alarm that was triggered on one of the sensors, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Carol Capas. It wasn’t immediately known whether the agents returned fire, she said.

The agents who were shot were on patrol with a third agent, who was not harmed, said George McCubbin, president of the National Border Patrol Council, a union representing about 17,000 border patrol agents.

The Border Patrol said Ivie worked for the agency since January 2008 and grew up in Provo, Utah. He worked as an emergency medical technician before joining the Border Patrol, said his brother-in-law, Todd Davis. He served a two-year mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico City after high school.

Davis said Ivie’s desire to help others, and his love of the outdoors and riding horses led him to the Border Patrol, where he served on the horse patrol unit.

“Nick always tried to help others. He was a very selfless man with his family, with his friends, in anything he did,” Davis said. “You know the risk but you pray this day would never happen.”

Twenty-six Border Patrol agents have died in the line of duty since 2002. Bisbee-area residents expressed a mix of concern and frustration about the shooting, along with recognition that the border can be a dangerous place.

The region has seen its share of violence in recent years, including the Terry shooting and the slaying of a well-known rancher in 2010. That killing was, in part, credited with pushing Arizona lawmakers to pass a law that requires officers, when they stop someone, to check the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally.

“There is no security on the border — none,” said Edward L. Thomas, who owns rental properties in Bisbee.

<AP> <NorthJersey> <ENQINET>


Denver Presidential Debate; Beyond Sound Bites?

DENVER – Presidential debates have a history rooted in prepared speeches that mirror those delivered on the campaign trail.

In many of the past debates voters heard talking points, sound bites and very little substance.

This year’s Presidential debate in Denver should be different.

The Commission on Presidential Debates changed the format of the debates to feature extended discussion of major issues. The 90 minute debate in Denver will focus on domestic issues and will be broken into six segments that will last approximately 15 minutes each.

“I think their thought is they have these large blocks of time they can make these candidates talk about the economy in detail,” Floyd Ciruli, 9News political analyst, said.

The Denver debate will be moderated by PBS anchor Jim Lehrer. This will be the 11th time Lehrer has moderated a Presidential or Vice Presidential debate. Lehrer will select the questions for the candidates and they will not be given those questions in advance.

“What my job will be strictly is to engage on those stark differences,” Lehrer said. “This is being done for the voters. This isn’t a television program. These are not people out there watching for ratings. These are people deciding for whom to vote for President of the United States.”

With the candidates being forced to go into greater detail about their plans and responding to each other’s proposals, it’s hoped the voters will gain a greater insight into the candidates.

“There is no doubt that people will leave this debate with a very, very enriched sense of who these two men are, both in terms of their ability to handle questions, handle each other and handle the substance of the material,” Ciruli said.

<9news> <ENQINET>

American Airlines Tells Why Seats Came Loose on Planes

Passenger seats on three American Airlines flights came loose as the planes were airborne, but the troubled airline said Tuesday that it had found the source of the problem — an improperly installed clamp.

Seats came loose on a flight Wednesday between Vail, Colo., and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, followed by similar problems on a flight Saturday and another Monday, the airline said.

The seat problems come as American Airlines, whose parent company, AMR, filed for bankruptcy last year, is mired in a labor dispute with its pilots. The airline also recently issued 11,000 layoff notices as part of its efforts to cut labor costs 20%.

But American Airlines officials said the problem with the seats is a mechanical issue unrelated to its labor problems.

Inspectors from the airline pinpointed the cause of the problem as an improperly installed saddle clamp at the foot of the seat that helps lock the seats to the cabin floor, the airline said. The clamp was used on 47 of the carrier’s 102 Boeing 757 airplanes. The airline had inspected 36 of those planes and planned to check the other 11 shortly.

“The issue does not seem to be tied to any one maintenance facility or one work group,” said airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely. “American regrets the inconvenience that this maintenance issue may have caused customers on affected flights.”

The union that represents American Airlines’ mechanics and maintenance workers, the Transport Workers Union of America, said its workers recently reached agreement with the airline on a new contract. The union said that some of the seat installation work on the planes was done by Timco Aviation Services, a contractor in North Carolina.

“Problems related to seats are less likely a labor problem, but rather a management issue related to outsourcing work to third-party facilities,” union representative Robert Gless said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Timco could not be reached.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it was also looking into the seat problems.

The airline began in 2010 to reconfigure the seats in its fleet of Boeing 757 planes, with plans to complete the work by 2015. The work includes adding new seats, new cabin interiors and updated in-flight entertainment throughout the aircraft.

The airline is also trying to settle a labor dispute with its 10,000-member pilots association. Hundreds of flights have been delayed or canceled in the last two weeks. The airline placed blame on pilots who have been requesting maintenance work orders shortly before takeoff.

Union leaders met Tuesday and voted to relaunch contract negotiations with the airline. No date has been set.


Kenyan Army Claims Control of Kismayo

NAIROBI, Kenya – Allied African troops have taken full control of Kismayo in Somalia, the last stronghold of Islamist rebels who have been fighting against the country’s internationally backed government, a Kenyan military official said Tuesday.

Remnants of the militants, known as al-Shabab, executed seven civilians who did not support them in the southern part of Kismayo on Monday, the Kenyan military said.

Kenya Defense Forces and the Somali National Army are now patrolling the streets of Kismayo, Kenyan military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir said through Twitter. He said that the troops had secured the city’s central police station and the new airport. He said military aircraft will start landing there.

Kenyan troops invaded the southern Somali city of Kismayo early Friday, and al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab announced soon after that their forces were leaving the lucrative port town.

After years of bloody street-by-street warfare, African Union troops from Uganda and Burundi pushed al-Shabab out of Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu in August 2011. The AU troops have since taken over towns outside of Mogadishu as well. Kenyan forces invaded Somalia late last year, and have been moving slowly toward Kismayo.

The once-powerful al-Shabab spent years defending its Mogadishu territory, but since being forced out it has chosen to retreat from towns when challenged by African Union forces or Ethiopian troops who moved into western Somalia earlier this year.

Allied African troops sent by the African Union are helping Somalia’s fragile government to restore order to the failed state that has been in chaos since warlords overthrew a longtime dictator in 1991.

Analysts expect that now that al-Shabab has been forced from all of Somalia’s major cities, the group will resort to guerrilla tactics such as suicide attacks and roadside bombs. Al-Shabab claimed through Twitter Tuesday that it had set off huge explosions targeting allied troops and killed scores attempting to enter a regional administration building.

But the Kenyan forces disputed al-Shabab’s claim. Bomb experts had simply detonated improvised explosive devices planted at the new airport, said Kenyan army spokesman Chirchir.

Residents in Kismayo said a hand grenade had been thrown at a Somalia government vehicle and exploded without causing any casualties.

Claims about fighting in Somalia are difficult to verify.

The Kenyan military also said the Somali National Army arrested an al-Shabab militant who wanted to detonate a bomb targeting the troops. It exploded prematurely and no one was injured.


Ahmadinejad Says Recent Drop in Currency Ties to U.S. Sanctions

TEHRAN — Iran’s president admitted Tuesday that the American-led economic sanctions on the country were partly to blame for a breathtaking 40 percent fall in value of the Iranian currency, the rial, over the past week. He pleaded with Iranians not to exchange their money for dollars and other foreign currencies.

Speaking during a news conference broadcast live by several domestic and international Iranian news channels, the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said Iran was facing a “psychological war” waged by the United States and aided by what he described as internal enemies.

He said the currency’s fall was caused in part by the sanctions imposed by the West over Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which has prevented it from selling oil and transferring money. He also blamed a domestic band of “22 people in three separate circles” who with “one phone call” could manipulate foreign exchange trades in Iran.

One Web site, Mashregh News, reported Tuesday that Mr. Ahmadinejad had ordered the arrests of those “disturbing the currency market.”

The fall in the currency’s value has presented Iran with enormous economic risks, including the possibility of starting a severe bout of inflation, which is already high. A rising sense of economic crisis in Iran could also pose political challenges for the country’s leaders.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s address was aimed at the teachers, bus drivers, businessmen and others who have been frantically converting their savings into dollars and euros at the dozens of unofficial currency-exchange shops in the center of Tehran.

“I ask you, dear people, do not change your money into foreign currency,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said, emphasizing that such moves would only help the “enemy.”

But a fresh day of currency fluctuations played out on Tuesday, with the rial falling, then strengthening before sinking again, to settle around its Monday record low of roughly 37,000 to the dollar. The rate had been 24,600 rials per dollar as of last Monday.

Addressing the mixed emotions expressed by many Iranians, who are confused over whether to blame economic mismanagement by the government or the Western sanctions, Mr. Ahmadinejad accused the United States and “internal enemies.”

He described the United States government as plotting to make Iranians miserable, emphasizing that the sanctions were hurting normal people instead of Iran’s leaders. “They are telling you lies, their pressures are on the people, not on the government,” he said.

Foreign exchange supplies in the country are sufficient to quench demand, he said, and he lauded the central bank, which he said had managed to “find ways” around the obstacles.

“The enemies are trying to blame the economic problems on the government. No. Never. There is no economic reason for these erratic ups and downs,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. “I have no doubt that we will return to normal conditions.”

But he did not offer any specific solution to the crisis, and the rial’s value weakened after he spoke. The reaction prompted one person who exchanges currency to predict that the rial would continue to lose value against the dollar and other currencies.

Mr. Ahmadinejad said the economic pressures on Iran caused by the sanctions would never force it to compromise on the country’s uranium enrichment program, which Iranian leaders say is purely peaceful but the West suspects is a cloak for developing nuclear weapons capability. But the president repeated an earlier Iranian offer to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, if world powers would be willing to provide Iran with that grade of nuclear fuel.

“We have announced that if they give us the fuel, we will stop production,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said. “But so far no one is prepared to do so.”

Also on Tuesday an Iranian lawmaker threatened that Iran would enrich uranium to 60 percent purity — much closer to bomb-grade material, if talks with world powers failed.

The lawmaker, Mansour Haghighatpour, deputy head of the foreign policy and national security committee in Parliament, said Iran needed the higher enriched fuel for still-to-be-designed nuclear submarines and ships, according to Press TV, Iran state television’s English language news channel.

<MashreghNews> <NYTimes> <ENQINET>

Medical Steroid Injections Spreading Meningitis

A dozen people have been sickened and two have died after an outbreak of fungal meningitis tied to injections given at outpatient surgical centers in Tennessee and North Carolina, health officials said. At least 737 people who received lumbar epidural steroid injections between July 30 and Sept. 20 have been notified of the cluster of rare aspergillus meningitis infections, which attack the central nervous system, said Curtis Allen, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Aspergillus is a mold present in the environment, and the meningitis is not related to the more common bacterial or viral types of meningitis. “The main thing is that it’s not transmissible person-to-person,” said Allen. Federal, state and local health officials are investigating the source of the outbreak. Eleven of the victims received injections at the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center in Nashville. Another patient received an injection at an unidentified clinic in North Carolina. The Tennessee clinic was closed Sept. 20 and has been shuttered until further notice, officials said. The patients were older people, between the ages of 40 and 80, who were receiving the steroid injections as treatment for musculoskeletal disorders, said Woody McMillin, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Health. Neither federal nor state health officials would identify the brand of epidural steroids given to the patients nor the manufacturer of the drugs. Asked whether the drugs themselves could have been contaminated, McMillin said that’s one possibility. “Right now, we’re not taking anything off the table,” he said. Erica Jefferson, a spokeswoman for the federal Food and Drug Administration, said that it’s too soon to speculate about that because the investigation is still “evolving.” Meningitis caused by aspergillus is very rare, according to the Journal of Microbiology. Symptoms often include a fever and headache that might be present for weeks before a diagnosis is made.

Sinkhole Cavern Breaching, Hydrocarbons

Hydrocarbons could have breached the failing cavern from the bottom of it and hydrocarbons on top of the hole comprise approximately 75% of it, according to officials and investigators at the 29 Sept. 2012 Bayou Corne Resident Briefing in Assumption Parish about the sinkhole that has now expanded to four acres.

There is gas in there, as well as a hydrocarbon interface. That’s all we know right now, we haven’t been able to sample that,” said Shaw Group spokesperson Brian Davis.

(Watch Brian Davis, Shaw Group presentation at 29 Sept. 2012 Resident Briefing embedded on this page.)

“It could be naturally occurring hydrocarbons that have breached in from the bottom,” Davis said, later adding, “There’s hydrocarbons of some sort over in the sinkhole.”

The Shaw Group has been contracted for relief well work at the sinkhole.

A DEQ official said that the hydrocarbon on top of the slurry hole is “about, let’s say, 75% diesel range, and another 25% oil range organics.” (Watch Part 6 at 0:15 here)

Assumption Parish President Mike Waguespack stated,We knew when they got into the cavern that the bottom had been compromised.”

Waguespack explained that “the bottom obviously had infiltration from somewhere that originally wasn’t there, originally it was brine.” (Watch Part 16 at 1:00 in here)

As local and state officials attempt to resolve the great sinkhole of 2012 event, gas released into the aquifer is highly pressurized and spreading west from under the Bayou Corne community toward the Pierre Part community and Lake Peigneur. Lake Peigneur residents are also pleading for aid due to ongoing problems there since its catastrophic salt dome collapse in 1980.

Recently, Lake Peigneur, approximately 80 miles west of the sinkhole, has also had mysterious bubbling spots. Louisianan State Sen. Fred Hills told Deborah Dupré in an interview this weekend that he believes that the Assumption Parish sinkhole appears to be heading toward another Lake Peigneur catastrophe that is still wreaking havoc among locals but not receiving needed recognition or aid.

After methane bubbling areas and seismic activity were observed and reported by Bayou Corne and Grand Bayou residents for two months, the sinkhole was discovered early on Aug. 3 in swampland between the two bayou communities on Texas Brine Co. property. The sinkhole, that DNR officials think was caused by a failed Texas Brine salt cavern, and Texas Brine says was caused by seismic activity, has forced a mandatory evacuation of 150 families in those areas.

According to locals, the entire 1-mile by 3-mile Napoleonville Salt Dome housing the failing cavern is sinking.

Earthquakes ahead of the sinkhole in Assumption Parish are back, the number of bubbling sites has increased to 20 and extended miles from the sinkhole, and the hole has increased to four acres.

“Questions might be raised as to whether the existence of a crises for hundreds of people whose lives have been disrupted is even on the front burner of those involved including state government,” reports Bayou Buzz.

Community residents are calling for additional state and federal support, thus far not forthcoming. They are pleading for Gov. Bobby Jindal to expand the evacuation area to include other areas where seismic activity, more gas bubbles and chemical odors are being detected.

Scientists discovered last week what could keep residents out of their homes indefinitely.

“They got down to 90 feet and experienced gas in the water aquifer and were unable to set water well due to the pressure. We put cement, plug, and got off the site and regrouped to come up with another strategy to set a vent well,” Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness parish officer John Boudreaux explained last week.

Among questions that the public submitted last Thursday at a meeting were:

  • Who is going to pay for the damage to the region’s ecology?
  • What are the results of tests promised a few months ago intended to fingerprint natural gas releases from area bayous?
  • What does Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development survey data show about the elevation of La. 70 South before and after the sinkhole appeared and other incidents began?
  • When will transparency of the operations surrounding the sinkhole, gas releases and tremors improve?

“The question still remains whether all parties including state government are doing enough to help that community for a expanding and confounding sinkhole on their property,” BayouBuzzsays.

A concerned resident of Bayou Corne posted on a blog Sunday a letter to Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter requesting their involvement, compared the situation to the 2010 BP Macondo Well, Gulf of Mexico blow-out catastrophe that is ongoing.

To be brief, we have a salt dome in our area that is being mined for brine and some of the already mined caverns are being used to store hydrocarbons, pressurized butane being stored in the closest cavern to our community. These caverns are a few thousand feet tall and about 300 feet in diameter. There are about 57 of these in various locations in the dome and 23 of which are used as storage vessels. These vessels have failed over the years (just as this one has failed recently) one of which caused the permanent evacuation of our neighboring community, Grand Bayou in 2003.”

“Picture if you will a smaller version of the BP oil spill where instead of the oil coming out of the casing on the ocean floor, we have gas escaping from a huge crevice beneath the aquifer which cannot be capped.”

(Watch the entire 23-part briefing here.)

What can you do?

Help locals who are calling on Governor Bobby Jindal to expand the area included in the Bayou Corne/Grand Bayou evacuation by signing their petition here.

Thus far, the White House has remained silent about this disaster and rights abuse. A petition to change that is at:

<The Advocate> <LaSinkhole> <EneNews> <BayouBuzz> <ENQINET>