Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rye bicycle junkyard goes up in flames

Bicycle Fire, Rye, Arizona
(June 30, 1230 hrs)
Rye, Ariz. (June 30, 2013) --Yesterday there was a fire on private property and several structures were lost.  National Forest fire specialists provided support to the town of Payson and Gila County officials and fire specialists in successfully preventing the fire from escaping onto the Tonto National Forest.
No forest fire personnel are currently assigned to the fire.

Pleasant Valley Days July 20-21

Rim Country 4th of July Celebration

July 4th

Schedule of Events
 at Green Valley Park, Payson, AZ
8:00 AM
Independence Day Patriotic Tribute
1 - 4:00 PM  Family games. Families will enjoy everything from sack races to balloon tossing to tug of war. Don't forget the 5th Annual  Payson, Arizona Foot Races.
 6:00 - 9:00 PM 
Live music by   Candyce & The Raizen Kain Band
9:00 PM
Enjoy one of Arizona's most spectacular 
live fireworks shows. Green Valley Park is a  picturesque setting for a spectacular night of fun, bright lights and large boom!
Buses run from the Payson High School to Green Valley Park. On July 4, starting at 5:30 PM, a shuttle bus will pick you up at the Payson High School administration parking lot (off of McLane Rd.) and transport you to Green Valley Park. After the show the buses will return you to your car. 
Directions: From Highway 260 & 87 - go west on Longhorn Road and turn left on McLane Rd.  Follow signs to the Payson High School administation parking lot. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

'Lily-white' party's last ditch effort to stymie vote

By Frank Rich, New York Magazine
27 June 13
Every week, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich talks with contributor Eric Benson about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week: the Voting Rights Act suffers a mortal wound.

So how big a setback is yesterday's Court decision - the striking down of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act - for civil rights in this country? And how will it play out politically?

In the short - even the immediate - term, it is a real setback. To take just one example: The Texas voter photo-I.D. law, blocked by a federal court last year, will now go immediately into effect, potentially disenfranchising 800,000 voters, according to the best-versed analyst on voting-rights issues, Ari Berman of The Nation. But the long-term effect of the Court's action, largely because of its political fallout, could be an anti-Republican backlash at the polls. As Chief Justice Roberts himself wrote in yesterday's decision, in the 2012 election, "African-American voter turnout exceeded white voter turnout in five of the six states originally covered" by the law.

Why? Because the GOP was engaged in a nationwide voter-suppression effort last year, and outraged black voters were highly motivated to vote no matter how long the lines or other hoops they had to jump through. Now that the Court has given state and local jurisdictions a green light to pursue even more egregious voter-suppression efforts, it has also given the right a gun with which to shoot itself. Outraged Hispanic and Asian voters may well join black voters in both political activism and stepped-up Election Day turnout to counter a lily-white party's last-ditch efforts to use anti-democratic stunts to thwart the tidal wave of demographic change that threatens it.

Fire danger closes Fossil Creek beginning July 1

shield_beveled_tspntVerde Valley, Ariz.The Coconino and Tonto national forests will be implementing a closure of the Fossil Creek area Monday (July 1) in order to protect the public and area from wildfire risk given the extremely dry conditions, entrapment potential and remoteness.

This closure area includes the entire Fossil, Hackberry Mountain and Childs area from SR 260 junction of FR 708 to Strawberry and south to the Verde River.  
Individuals recreating and camping within the closure will be asked to leave and no additional entrance will be allowed until the area receives considerable precipitation and the fire danger lessens. 

The public can call the Fossil Creek hotline at 928-226-4611 for any updates about the area and closure information.  Fire prevention is a priority, and forest officials are adopting a zero tolerance policy. Citations will be issued for all entry and fire and smoking violations. 

Smoky, hazy sky due to New Mexico fire

According to Gary Roberts from the Payson Ranger District, the smoke and haze in the Rim Country air today (Saturday, June 29) is from the 100,000 acre plus Silver Fire on the Gila in New Mexico.

"The current weather pattern and jet stream is responsible for funneling it to us here in Rim Country," Roberts said.  "Remain vigilant and have a fire-safe weekend and Fourth of July celebration."

Tonto National Forest Public Information Officer Paige Rockett said that some lightning strikes have occurred in the Rim Country, but nothing significant.  "Overall, it's pretty quiet," she added.                                       

Roberts passed along these projected termperatures for the Valley and the Rim Country:
·         June 29> 116 
·         June 30> 115 
·         July 1> 112
·         July 2> 109
·         July 3> 109
·         July 4> 108

             ·         June 29> 105
             ·         June 30> 104
             ·         July 1> 103
             ·         July 2> 102
             ·         July 3> 100
             ·         July 4> 100

The following three websites are valuable sources of information for you at anytime:

·         For information about anything on the Tonto National Forest>
·         For fire restrictions anywhere in Arizona and the nation>
·         For information on wildfires and other disasters throughout Arizona and the nation>

Finally, a real story about ASU Payson campus

If you're looking for definitive information about a possible ASU campus in Payson, you'll want to read a story in today's (June 29) Arizona Republic.  

Headlined "ASU will consider Payson campus," it is located on the front page of the Valley & State section.  Best of all, it is a four-source story, including a comment from an ASU official.  Most local stories on the subject are single source stories which provide only one vantage point.

To read the article, click on  And to subscribe to the Republic, call 1-800-332-6733.  It's the best newspaper value and the best reporting in the Rim Country.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Student loans: gouge the kids

By Robert Borosage
Campaign for America's Future

Interest rates on student loans will double to 6.8 percent on July 1 unless Congress acts. But it seems increasingly likely that the Congress will take off for the Fourth of July recess without addressing the problem. The major sticking point: Republicans in the House and Senate insist on gouging the kids to help reduce the deficit.

House Republicans passed a bill that would tie the student loan interest rate to that of the 10-year Treasury note plus a surcharge of 2.5 percent, with rates changing each year. That would leave families struggling to piece together financing for college exposed to unpredictable changes in bond prices.

The Republican surcharge is designed purposefully to make money off of students – $3.7 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office – that would be used to help reduce the deficit. Some Senate Democrats have now joined in a compromise that would lower the surcharge, but still make money off student loans for deficit reduction (an estimate billion dollars over 10 years).

Think about that. Republicans and Democrats have trumpeted the need for corporate tax reform – shutting down tax dodges and lowering rates – that would demand corporations contribute exactly $0.00, nada, nothing to deficit reduction. The reforms would be “revenue neutral.” Companies are stashing away nearly $2 trillion overseas to avoid paying taxes, and the “reform” will ask them to pay nothing more to help government meet its bills.

But students doing what we want them to do – struggling to find a way to afford a college education – get stuck with helping to reduce the deficit.

Shared sacrifice is for suckers.

The fact is we want students to get the advanced education and training that they earn. We don’t want good students getting priced out of college. There is virtually universal consensus that our social and economic prospects will depend on the next generation getting more and better education. And college education or advanced training is necessary, if no longer sufficient, to reach the middle class and to have any hope at the increasingly endangered American dream.

So why gouge the kids taking on debt to stay in school and not the corporations secreting profits abroad to avoid taxes? Clearly corporate lobbies and contributions speak louder in the corridors of power than students and their families.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has introduced legislation to give students that same interest rate that the banks enjoy from the Federal Reserve (0.75 percent) for a year, while Congress a broader program to make college affordable. We subsidize bankers whose excesses blew up the economy, why not subsidize kids struggling to pay for the education we say they need? Conservatives dismiss the Warren proposal out of hand.

Perhaps the most sensible thing Congress can do now, preferably before it takes off on vacation, is to extend the current rates – 3.4 percent – for two years while a serious solution is worked out. Sens. Tom Harkin, Jack Reed, Harry Reid and Patty Murray have introduced a bill for that purpose. But to date, Republicans in the House and Senate are holding out to gouge the kids. And some Senate Democrats are folding to that demand.

These are the policy choices – in this case making college less affordable, letting corporations pay ever less in taxes – that undermine the broad middle class and contribute to the extreme inequality that increasingly saps our economy and corrupts our democracy.

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Mayors tell feds to back off pot enforcement

Article image
By Nicole Flatow

Think Progress / News Investigation

Published: Friday 28 June 2013 

While the U.S. Supreme Court was handing down its string of blockbuster rulings this week on the scope of federal laws, the nation’s mayors were developing their own guidance for the feds.

During the annual convening of city mayors, hundreds of city leaders unanimously endorsed a resolution calling on the federal government to back off federal enforcement of marijuana law. The resolution also calls for Congress to amend the Controlled Substances Act to “allow states to set their own marijuana policies without federal interference.”

The resolution notes both past crackdowns on marijuana in states with medical marijuana laws, and the potential for future, expanded crackdowns once Colorado and Washington implement their measures to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana. 

“The bipartisan resolution we passed today simply asks the federal government to give us time to implement these new policies properly and without interference,” Aurora, Colorado Mayor Steve Hogan said. “Cities and states across the country are enacting forward-thinking reforms to failed marijuana prohibition policies, and for the federal government to stand in the way is wasteful and contrary to the wishes of the American people.”

The resolution also cites discriminatory arrests for marijuana, the failure of costly War on Drugs in curbing drug cartels or gang violence, and the contrasting benefit to drug cartels of profits from illicit marijuana — estimated at 60 percent of their revenue. It laments that, “federal agencies have regularly interfered with the operation of state medical marijuana laws – despite President Obama’s comments that such actions are ‘not a good use of our resources’ and his administration’s pledge not ‘to circumvent state laws on this issue’.”

Several bipartisan bills have been introduced in Congress that would eliminate federal penalties for those actions that comply with state marijuana laws, and regulate marijuana like alcohol in those states legalize pot.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Insurers spending more on patients

Consumers saved $3.9 billion
on premiums in 2012

Health care law will provide
families an average of 
$100 back in premium rebates

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announces that nationwide, 77.8 million consumers saved $3.4 billion up front on their premiums as insurance companies operated more efficiently.  Additionally, consumers nationwide will save $500 million in rebates, with 8.5 million enrollees due to receive an average rebate of around $100 per family.

Today’s report includes the 2012 health insurer data required under the Affordable Care Act’s Medical Loss Ratio(MLR), or “80/20 rule.”  The report shows that, compared to 2011, more insurers are meeting this standard and spending more of their premium dollars directly toward patient care and quality, and not red tape and bonuses.

Created through the Affordable Care Act, the rule requires insurers to spend at least 80 cents of every premium dollar on patient care and quality improvement.  If they spend a higher amount on other expenses like profits and red tape, they owe rebates back to consumers.  For many consumers, the report found that the law motivated their plans to lower prices or improve their coverage to meet the standard.  This new standard and other Affordable Care Act policies contributed to consumers saving approximately $3.9 billion on premiums in 2012, for a total of $5 billion in savings since the program’s inception.

“The health care law is providing consumers value for their premium dollars and ensuring the money they pay every month to insurance companies goes toward patient care,”   HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.  “Thanks to the law, 8.5 million Americans will receive $500 million back in their pockets and purses.”

If an insurer did not spend enough premium dollars on patient care and quality improvement, rebates will be paid in one of the following ways:
·         a rebate check in the mail;
·         a lump-sum reimbursement to the same account that they used to pay the premium if by credit card or debit card;
·         a reduction in their future premiums; or
·         their employer providing one of the above, or applying the rebate in another manner that benefits its employees, such as more generous benefits.

Insurance companies that do not meet the standard will send consumers a notice informing them of this new rule.  The notice will also let consumers know how much the insurer did or did not spend on patient care or quality improvement, and how much of that difference will be returned as a rebate.
The 80/20 rule, along with the required review of proposed double-digit premium increases, works to stabilize and moderate premium rates.  And, with the new market reforms, including the guaranteed availability protections and prohibition of the use of factors such as health status, medical history, gender and industry of employment to set premiums rates, this policy helps ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health insurance. 


AZ falls to 47th place for child well-being

TOP: Nationally, 23 percent of children, or 16.4 million youth, lived in poverty in 2011, up from 22 percent the year before, according to a new report. In Arizona, the share of children in poverty was 27 percent in 2011, according to the KidsCount report. (Graphic by KidsCount/Annie E. Casey Foundation) 
BOTTOM: Arizona ranked in the bottom fourth of states on economic well-being of its children in 2011, according to a report released this week. Most states saw a decline in the economic welfare of their children from 2010, acccording to the KidsCount report. (Graphic by KidsCount/Annie E. Casey Foundation)

 By XI CHEN Cronkite News Service 

WASHINGTON – Arizona slipped from 46th to 47th place among states in 2011 for the well-being of its children on a variety of measures, including poverty, education, health, and family and community factors, according to a new report.

KidsCount 2013, released Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranked Arizona ahead of only, Nevada, Mississippi and New Mexico for 2011.

“It’s disappointing that we are so far at the bottom,” said Dana Naimark, president of the Children’s Action Alliance in Arizona. But she expressed confidence that the state can “greatly improve” by focusing on specific areas, including preschool participation.

The report said that children’s academic achievement and health improved in most states between 2010 and 2011, but that their economic well-being continued to decline in the wake of the recession.

“There were some improvements, but families are still struggling” nationwide, said Laura Speer, Casey’s associate director for policy reform and data.

She said the most disturbing indicator was “the fact that the child poverty rate continued to go up.” The report called growing up in poverty “one of the greatest threats to healthy child development,” because it can contribute to behavioral, social and emotional problems and poor health.

Nationally, 23 percent of U.S. children in 2011 lived in poverty – defined as income below $22,811 for a family of four – up from 22 percent in 2010.

In Arizona, the number of children in poverty was 27 percent in 2011, moving the state from 37th place to 42nd place overall.

The state’s relatively high rate of poverty and the number of children who are not in preschool were two main factors weighing against the state, Speer said.

Naimark agreed that child poverty is a concern and it could “definitely keep Arizona down in the rankings.”

“Even though our economy is slowly recovering, kids are left behind in some ways,” she said.

And while 54 percent of the nation’s 3- and 4-year-olds did not attend preschool, the rate in Arizona was 67 percent in 2011, second-worst in the nation, the report said.

“That’s a problem because we know children who attend preschool are more prepared,” said Naimark, who called preschool education “an important investment in the children’s long-term success.”

“If we can boost the participation, we can move our ranking up,” she said, but more importantly can “have great positive impact” on families, the workforce and the education system in the state.

She cited a lack of funding as one possible explanation for the problem.

“In Arizona, we’ve cut out our state funding for full-day kindergarten and preschool, which impacted the number of children who can access preschool,” she said.

The result also worries Rhian Allvin, CEO of First Thing First, an organization created by voters in 2006 to serve children under age 5 in Arizona.

She said the organization invested $74 million in fiscal 2013 to improve the quality of and access to early learning. And she noted that the just-passed state budget includes $9 million in child-care subsidies.

“Without those funds, thousands of children from low-income working families might have lost access to child care and preschool,” she said of the child-care funding.

“Even with this significant investment, many young kids don’t have access to early-learning opportunities,” said Allvin.

She noted that children who have access to high-quality early learning score higher on school readiness assessments and are more likely to graduate and go on to college.

Allvin called the KidsCount report a powerful reminder that “we need give more children in Arizona the opportunity to start school prepared to succeed.”

“We have the road map on how to do that, and the best way is to make sure that the kids walk into the kindergarten door and ready to hit the ground running,” she said.


The KidsCount report rated states for their performance in four areas in 2011: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.  Those were combined to give an overall ranking:
1. New Hampshire
2. Vermont
3. Massachusetts
4. Minnesota
5. New Jersey
6. North Dakota
7. Iowa
8. Nebraska
9. Connecticut
10. Maryland
11. Virginia
12. Wisconsin
13. Maine
14. Utah
15. Wyoming
16. Kansas
17. Pennsylvania
18. South Dakota
19. Washington
20. Idaho
21. Colorado
22. Delaware
23. Illinois
24. Ohio
25. Hawaii
26. Rhode Island
27. Missouri
28. Montana
29. New York
30. Indiana
31. Michigan
32. Oregon
33. Alaska
34. Kentucky
35. North Carolina
36. Oklahoma
37. West Virginia
38. Florida
39. Tennessee
40. Arkansas
41. California
42. Texas
43. Georgia
44. Alabama
45. South Carolina
46. Louisiana
47. Arizona
48. Nevada
49. Mississippi
50. New Mexico

New evidence points to TWA 800 coverup

The wreckage of TWA Flight 800. (photo: unknown)
The wreckage of TWA Flight 800. (photo: unknown)

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News
26 June 13
ew evidence contradicts the U.S. government's official story and supports the conclusion that an American 747 jet passenger liner was brought down by an explosion outside the airplane, likely a missile, which caused fuel tanks to explode destroying the aircraft, according to a group that includes credible professionals in aviation, investigation, media, and physics.

On June 19, this group formally petitioned the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to reopen its long but inconclusive investigation of the strange mid-air explosion that brought down TWA Flight 800 on July 17, 1996, killing everyone aboard, 230 people from 13 countries. NTSB chair Deborah Hersman declined to discuss the petition. Board spokesperson Kelly Nantel issued a statement indicating that the board would probably respond "within about 60 days."

The newest challenge to the long-distrusted official story of TWA Flight 800 comes from a group led by six experienced crash investigators, all of whom worked on the original TWA Flight 800 investigation from 1996 to 2000. The nameless group also includes a physicist, a documentary film producer, and a CBS News producer whose coverage of the 1996 story was suppressed by the network at the time. Also supporting the petition to re-open the investigation are a number of eyewitnesses to the explosions and several family members of the victims.

Epix Film Charges Cover-up, Evidence Suppression, Witness Intimidation
The petition to the NTSB is timed to help promote, and directly supported by, a new documentary, "TWA FLIGHT 800," that tells the story of how, "17 years later, inside investigators finally break their silence." The documentary premieres on July 17 on Epix, the premium cable channel started in 2009 by Viacom, Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, and Lions Gate Entertainment.

Documentary co-producer Tom Stalcup is a physicist and co-founded the Flight 800 Independent Researchers Organization in 1999 ( to assure the integrity of the NSTB crash investigation, based on the belief that "the FBI unlawfully denied the National Transportation Safety Board access to forensic results and eyewitness interview documents" and continues to do so.

Focusing on whether TWA Flight 800 was brought down by an internal (i.e., gas tank malfunction or bomb) or external (i.e., missile) explosion, physicist Stalcup told Democracy NOW!:
The most significant piece of evidence that we have analyzed, that the NTSB has not analyzed, is the initial detonation that caused the crash. This was recorded by multiple FAA radar sites. And it was consistent [with] and corroborates the eyewitness reports. The eyewitnesses reported something going up, heading out down towards that airplane, a long distance, colliding with it in a perpendicular fashion, detonating near or at the aircraft….
And, yes, in fact, the radar evidence— the radar sites along Long Island picked up that exact event – supersonic debris exiting the right side of the— right side of the aircraft, consistent with the trajectory of that object.
Almost Everyone's First Thought in July 1996 Was Possible Terrorism
From the start, investigators and witnesses alike suspected the explosion was a terrorist attack, by missile or a bomb aboard the plane. As the CIA summed it up in 2008, "Investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) almost immediately focused on three possible causes: a bomb, a missile, or a mechanical failure."

Because of these suspicions, the FBI took the lead in the investigation, assisted by the CIA, operating on the assumption that it was a criminal investigation. Officially, the FBI came to categorize its investigation as "Re: UNKNOWN SUBJECT(S); EXPLOSION OF TWA FLIGHT #800; JULY 17, 1996; ACTS OF TERRORISM – INTERNATIONAL TERRORISTS – EXPLOSIVE AND INCENDIARY DEVICES."

The NTSB, an independent federal agency established by Congress to investigate every civil aviation accident in the U.S., found itself in the unusual position of having to defer to the FBI. The FBI/NTSB working relationship quickly deteriorated, becoming less a collaboration than a culture clash. This failure of cooperation in 1996 contributed directly to widespread skepticism about official narratives, including the present challenge to the reliability of the investigation.

After more than a year, the FBI decided that there were no terrorists involved in bringing down TWA Flight 800. In a nationally televised news conference on November 18, 1997, the agency announced it was suspending its investigation. That news conference featured a CIA-produced animation of the end of Flight 800, "explaining" what the witnesses had seen, whether they thought they'd seen it or not.

You Didn't See What You Saw, You Saw What the CIA Says You Saw
Titled "What Did the Eyewitnesses See?," the CIA animation begins with a quick summary of the takeoff, explosion, and crash "into the Atlantic Ocean, nine miles off the coast of Long Island." Dozens of witnesses saw what looked to them like a missile. "Was it a missile? Did foreign terrorists destroy the aircraft?" the CIA narrator asks ominously. "CIA weapons analysts looked into this possibility."

"The CIA's conclusion: the eyewitnesses did not see a missile," the narrator states. He goes on to describe what different witnesses really saw, according to agency experts. [Excerpts of this animation are on YouTube, "TWA 800: CIA animation: 'What did the witnesses see?'"] The narrator finally concludes, falsely, "To date, there is no evidence that anyone saw a missile shoot down TWA Flight 800." [Emphasis in the original.]

What makes the narrator's statement false is the evidence he himself had just acknowledged – the accounts of witnesses. Those accounts, and the CIA's analysis of them, are all evidence, none of which has been tested in court or any other adversarial proceeding. There were at least 736 witnesses to at least part of the event and 258 of those witnesses saw something broadly consistent with a missile; of these, 38 described seeing something that closely resembled a missile rising from the ocean and looping down on the plane.

What If the Only Officially Sanctioned Conclusion Can't Be Proved?
With the FBI and CIA determining that there was no missile and no bomb, the last remaining possibility on the investigators' list was a mechanical failure of some sort, for which there was no immediately obvious evidence. Although the FBI slowly turned over much of its evidence to the NTSB, the air safety board still took more than four years to issue its report on TWA Flight 800. Even though that was one of the longest investigations the NSTB ever conducted, at a cost of about $40 million, it still could not reach a definitive conclusion.

Regarding the mid-air explosion that killed 230 people on TWA Flight 800, the NTSB concluded: "The source of ignition energy for the explosion could not be determined with certainty…."

Despite years of unofficial challenges to the NTSB's final report on August 23, 2000, the safety board has not improved on its inconclusive conclusion. Officially, the board never closes an investigation, but the TWA Flight 800 investigation has apparently been inactive for 13 years. The 425-page final report is on the web site. More than 17,000 supporting documents are available by request.

Almost Nobody Talks About the Navy's Role in the TWA 800 Crash
On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 was flying over an area of the Atlantic Ocean where the U.S. Navy was conducting a live-fire exercise and had closed part of the airspace to commercial traffic, according to Kelly O'Meara, who was then a congressional aide to N.Y. Republican Rep. Michael Forbes.

Among the naval vessels taking part in the exercise were a number of surface ships and three submarines – USS Trepang, USS Wyoming, and USS Albuquerque. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, the nearest Navy surface ship did not attempt any rescue operation, but steamed rapidly away from the crash site. For the next two days, Navy divers worked the crash site while keeping others, including NTSB divers, from joining recovery operations.

According to Jack Cashill of WND (formerly World Net Daily), an anonymous crew member of the USS Albuquerque, whom he calls Mack, said he had loaded secret, "experimental missiles" on his submarine for that exercise. After TWA Flight 800 exploded, Mack told his wife that he hoped it had been a terrorist attack, since the most likely alternative seemed to be a Navy accident.

Cashill and James Sanders co-wrote the 2003 book, "First Strike: TWA Flight 800 and the Attack on America," in which they argue that the Clinton White House orchestrated the multi-agency cover-up in order to protect his 1996 re-election. The authors conclude that "TWA Flight 800 was brought down by a Navy missile, whose intended target was a terrorist plane on a collision course with the passenger aircraft," according to Publishers Weekly.

Despite Conspiracy Theories, Legitimate Questions Remains Unanswered
The terrorist kamikaze plane is hardly the only conspiracy theory tied to TWA Flight 800, but the makers of the new Epix documentary don't theorize – they lay out what they consider to be the critical evidence as the basis for their call for an investigation that will address open questions.

"We are not speculating in the least," co-producer Stalcup told the N.Y. Daily News. "Based on the evidence, we can push [the NTSB's] conclusions aside. I think the whole world should listen."

The NSTB's inconclusive conclusion is only one issue that Stalcup and his collaborators want to see addressed. Others include:
  • What was the Navy doing out there that night? Why wasn't that investigated, or the results of any investigation made public?

  • Why did the FBI fail to record a single witness interview, preferring to have agents summarize what was said in their own words?

  • Why did the NSTB choose not to take testimony from any of the 700-plus witnesses to the explosion and crash?

  • Why did the NTSB choose not to take testimony from the helicopter pilot who was the closest witness to the explosion? Why did they avoid Major Fred Meyer, then an on-duty Major in the National Guard, a Viet-Nam helicopter veteran, who saw the takedown of TWA Flight 800 as a missile strike? "I'm a combat vet, I know what missiles look like. And I know what I saw," he told McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

  • Why did the NTSB consider only a missile that actually hit the plane, and not one that exploded in close proximity, even though the latter hypothesis fits more closely with the evidence?

  • Why did the NTSB consider only a missile fired by terrorists? Why did an NTSB spokesman tell Business Insurance magazine in October 1996 that "friendly fire has never been something we've considered, or believed?
How Welcome Would Whistleblowers Have Been in the FBI or NTSB in 1996?
The original investigators who are now breaking their silence want to explain that silence and the intimidation that enforced it. And they want to expose what they see as the investigation's incompetence and wrong doing:
  • Hank Hughes was an NTSB investigator for 42 years. "TWA 800 was a one-of-a-kind event. There was no instance in my entire career that was like it, from the standpoint of the manipulation of the investigation, lack of coordination, and for that matter, the willful denial of information," he told McClatchy.

  • Bob Young was an accident investigator for TWA and says the FBI manipulated the investigators and forced them to cover up facts.

  • Jim Speer, who was an accident investigator for the Airline Pilots Association, had the FBI test a piece of TWA Flight 800 for explosive residue. When the piece tested positive, the FBI kept the piece, forced Speer to leave, and told him that the machine often produces "false positives." He later learned that the machine was highly reliable.

  • Rocky Miller was an accident investigator for the Association of Flight Attendants. He disputes even the inconclusive conclusion of the NTSB report blaming the wiring: "We never found any of that. We didn't find any evidence in the wiring on the aircraft that would have indicated that a spark occurred inside the center wing tank that would blow it up," he told Democracy NOW!
Media Sampling Suggests Some Caution About Believing Official Stories
Following the June 19 news conference to announce the petition and documentary, news coverage was limited but largely neutral. CBS This Morning gave the story almost 5 minutes featuring the CBS reporter who was the first reporter on the scene that night, by boat. The National Journal gave more space to the NTSB non-response response than any substance.

Forbes magazine ran a piece by a former NTSB board member who had approved the original report; he defended the report and said no one even complained to him about a cover-up. CNN's The Lead gave a forum to FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom, who supervised the original FBI investigation of TWA Flight 800. Kallstrom called the petition "preposterous" and personally attacked the petitioners, but did not address questions of substance. He was somewhat more responsive during Fox's 12-minute report, but eventually went to ducking questions and making personal attacks.

CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 gave the story four minutes, during which John King pressed Hank Hughes with exaggerated claims that Hughes said weren't his. He and two others had testified about the same problems to a Senate committee in 1997, but their testimony "fell on deaf ears," Hughes said. "There's no motive in this, other than we want to get it straight. It's a matter of personal integrity for us."

When Some Questions Aren't Asked, How Is an Investigation Complete?
One of the issues the FBI and the NTSB continuously fudge is the possibility of a missile. They consistently say they considered whether a missile hit the plane and found no evidence of a missile hitting the plane.

The counterclaim, which the FBI and the NTSB admit they did not investigate, is that a missile exploded near the plane, without hitting it.

In both scenarios, the missile sets off the gas tank explosion that destroyed the plane.
In pondering questions about the TWA Flight 800 explosion, it may help to keep this context in mind: if the Pentagon went to great lengths to cover up the friendly fire killing of football start Pat Tillman in Iraq, how much further might the Pentagon go before admitting the U.S. accidentally brought down an airliner full of civilians off Long Island?

How many decades did the Marines go before they stopped poisoning their own people at Camp Lejeune?

Sometimes the unthinkable is all too thinkable.