Russian soldiers who quit Putin’s war get no hero’s welcome abroad as asylum claims surge

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — If the choice was death or a bullet to the leg, Yevgeny would take the bullet. A decorated hero of Russia’s war in Ukraine, Yevgeny told his friend and fellow soldier to please aim carefully and avoid bone. The tourniquets were ready.

The pain that followed was the price Yevgeny paid for a new chance at life. Like thousands of other Russian soldiers, he deserted the army.

“I joke that I gave birth to myself,” he said. “When a woman gives birth to a child, she experiences very intense pain and gives new life. I gave myself life after going through very intense pain.”

Yevgeny made it out of the trenches. But the new life he found is not what he had hoped for.

‘This Seems to Be a Major Strategic Error on the Part of Iran’ – POLITICO

Yes, so much of the last 48 hours has been many of us just head-scratching over this. Why would Iran do what it did? I like to quote Napoleon’s dictum: When your enemies are making a big, big mistake, don’t interrupt them. Iran interrupted a situation when Israel was increasingly isolated and on the defensive, both internationally and in its relationship with the U.S., which had reached something of a nadir. At the United Nations, too, the narrative was working in Iran’s favor. Iran had so many other ways to respond effectively — perhaps using Hezbollah to militarize the West Bank or to do things elsewhere in the region. That has been the essence of Iranian national security policy for decades. So this seems to be a major strategic error on the part of Iran.

Source: ‘This Seems to Be a Major Strategic Error on the Part of Iran’ – POLITICO

EncounterQuest 2024

I spent part of my weekend attending the second annual EncounterQuest 2024 in Rockingham, NC this weekend. It is a one-day festival focusing on Bigfoot/Sasquatch, Mothman, and other cryptids. This year it even had a UFO aspect, with the speaker addition of LCDR Alex Dietrich, one of the F/A-18 pilots who witnessed the “TicTac UFO” in November 2004. I don’t know what to make of Bigfoot but having seen Dietrich on TV, advocating for less stigma in reporting UFOs, I wanted to hear what she had to say.

The weekend began Friday afternoon with a plaster casting class (as mentioned in the last post), where participants learned how to properly pour plaster of Paris into any Bigfoot footprints they might find out in the woods. Of course, the plaster could be used to cast prints of other cool and interesting critters so one does not have to wait for the once-in-a-lifetime Bigfoot encounter to have fun with the plaster. We practiced by stepping into plastic bins filled with soil and sand, and then followed this with a layer of plaster, learning the importance of pouring slowly and very close to the print itself. The local journalists got some photos of me making my print, which was a nice surprise.

Just as the print-making was wrapping up a thunderstorm blew in. We moved ourselves and our still-setting prints under the porch roof. Dietrich, who cheerfully introduced herself as Alex, was interviewing participants as part of a new effort she’s involved in to talk to people who go to these types of events. I said hello and before I knew it I was recounting my UFO and ET stories into her microphone.
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PHOTOS: EncounterQuest holds Bigfoot track casting workshop at Rockingham’s Hinson Lake – The Richmond Observer

I had some fun playing with plaster of Paris this weekend at the EncounterQuest convention in Rockingham, NC. We were learning how to cast prints using the plaster so that – should ever come across Bigfoot tracks – we can properly capture them. I don’t know much about Bigfoot but I have always wanted to work more with plaster so why not?

ROCKINGHAM — Several attendees of EncounterQuest had the opportunity to learn how to cast footprints and meet the speakers on Friday evening prior to Saturday’s conference.

Jay Wolber, co-host of the “Cryptids of the Corn” podcast led the plaster casting workshop at the Hinson Lake Rotary Lodge. Wolber was joined by researcher Jake Dressel, of Dayton, Ohio, who was filling in for podcast partner Justin England.

While going over the casting procedure, Dr. Jeff Meldrum — professor of Anatomy and Anthropology at Idaho State University, who has a collection of more than 300 suspected sasquatch prints — noted that his book, “Sasquatch Field Guide,” has illustrated step-by-step instructions for casting.

Following the instructional portion of the workshop, the crowd moved outside to practice casting their own footprints in soil or sand.

Source: PHOTOS: EncounterQuest holds Bigfoot track casting workshop at Rockingham’s Hinson Lake – The Richmond Observer

Death Valley is alive this year. A super bloom is the latest sign. – The Washington Post

This is a wonderful story. I thought Death Valley was eerily beautiful as a barren desert landscape, but then the record amount of rain got dumped on it and now wildflowers are bursting out everywhere. What an amazing sight it must be.

Sometimes the desert holds its secrets close, whispering them only to those who carefully listen. But this year, the hottest and driest place in America might as well be shouting.

In California’s Death Valley region, the last few months have been remarkably loud. And the latest bellow is still ringing out, with the area’s native wildflowers bursting into bloom. The flowers have filled a place best known for its shades of browns and grays with brilliant blasts of yellow and purple and sprinkles of pink and cream.

Source: Death Valley is alive this year. A super bloom is the latest sign. – The Washington Post

Sylmar cash burglars slipped into vault, left little evidence – NBC Los Angeles

The chief of the Los Angeles Police Department said that the burglars, who stole tens of millions of dollars from an armored truck depot in Sylmar during an Easter Sunday break-in, accessed the interior of the building through the roof before they entered the vault.

“It’s unclear how they accessed the vault itself inside the building. There were no obvious signs of entry into the vault,” said LAPD Chief Dominic Choi, raising questions about whether the vault was unlocked or someone involved with the break-in knew how to open it.

Source: Sylmar cash burglars slipped into vault, left little evidence – NBC Los Angeles

Why The $30 Million Cash Heist Could Only Happen In LA | Los Angeles, CA Patch

A burglary crew that successfully carried out one of the largest cash heists in Los Angeles history on Easter continues to evade law enforcement as investigators search to recover $30 million.

And tracking down the loot might prove to be the real challenge, Scott Selby, co-author of “Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History” told Patch. Everything about the expertly executed heist uniquely ties into the nature of LA with its sprawling freeways and constant flow of cash.

In many ways, it was the perfect crime. The thieves entered the Gardaworld building in Sylmar without alerting security and left with $30 million in cash that is nearly untraceable. There are very few places in the country where that amount of unmarked, nonsequential currency is stored.

Source: Why The $30 Million Cash Heist Could Only Happen In LA | Los Angeles, CA Patch

Burglars steal $30 million on Easter in one of L.A.’s biggest heists – Los Angeles Times

In one of the largest cash heists in Los Angeles history, thieves made off with as much as $30 million in an Easter Sunday burglary at a San Fernando Valley money storage facility, an L.A. police official said.

The burglary occurred Sunday night at a facility in Sylmar where cash from businesses across the region is handled and stored, said L.A. Police Department Cmdr. Elaine Morales.

The thieves were able to breach the building as well as the safe where the money was stored, Morales said. Law enforcement sources said the burglary was among the largest in city history when it comes to cash, and the total also surpassed any armored-car heist in the city.

Source: Burglars steal $30 million on Easter in one of L.A.’s biggest heists – Los Angeles Times

Total solar eclipse, part I

Back in the summer of 2017, the Turner family was happily enjoying our summer vacation in Idaho and Wyoming, visiting Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. The scenery was unforgettable, of course, but there was one sight we could have seen but opted to skip, and that is the totality of the 2017 eclipse. Yes, we donned eclipse glasses and enjoyed seeing the majority of sun disappear but this pales in comparison to actually being in the full shadow of the moon like in totality. Foolish me thought there was only a slight difference in awesomeness but after hearing others’ accounts I knew we’d made a mistake. I made it a mission to get to totality for the next North American total eclipse in April 2024.

I frequented eclipse-oriented websites and Facebook groups, planning out where I wanted to see it. I considered renting a mobile home to ensure lodging. The hoops that needed to be jumped through seemed extensive, and I thought a ton of planning needed to be put into it. Still, life got in the way and rather than having everything lined up (ha!) in October 2023, I put it off until after New Year’s to make our plans.
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Out of control driver

The last solar eclipse in America until 2045 is happening tomorrow and Kelly and I decided to take a road trip out west to see it. We had just left the airport in St. Louis today when I saw a car ahead of us driving erratically. It couldn’t keep in its lane and its hazard lights were flashing. I gave it a wide berth as we both navigated the rain-slick highway road. The driver swerved one more time, plowed through a large puddle of water and then hydroplaned into the left wall, leaving its smashed bumper in the road.

I had slowed to a stop by now and didn’t know what to do. We inched up on it as traffic slowed behind us. It was a white sedan, fairly new looking up until the crash, but with pitch black window tinting. As we neared the car, I was surprised to see the driver still stepping on the gas. The car was now facing in our direction in the left lane and the rear tires were squealing against the wet pavement!

The driver turned the car back into the direction of traffic and then cut across the other lanes, leaving a good chunk of the car’s front end in the highway as it exited to the right.

Was the driver having a medical emergency? Was he or she drunk or high? I really don’t know. I might have stopped and checked on the driver had it not been for the dark windows – I just don’t know what I’d have been getting into.