Thursday, December 31, 2009

My 2009 Man of the Year: Flight 253 Hero Jasper Schuringa

My runner-up: Capt. Chesley Sullenberger...

BTW, according to this AP story in The Baltimore Sun, Schuringa is a Dutch screenwriter and filmmaker.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The Dutch traveler who has been hailed as a hero for stopping a suspected bomber on a U.S.-bound flight says the whole thing felt like a movie script — his own.

Jasper Schuringa, a video producer who leapt onto the Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, says he wrote a script eight years ago about a failed suicide attack on Amsterdam's airport, the same place from which the Christmas Day flight took off.

"It is about a suicide bomber who wants to murder a politician at Schiphol. But at the crucial moment the bomb doesn't go off," Schuringa said in an interview in Miami published in the Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad on Thursday.

"That's what happened with Umar. He thought he was already in heaven and then he saw me coming toward him." Schuringa did not say what became of the script.

Schuringa jumped on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab after the 23-year-old student allegedly tried to detonate explosives he had concealed in his underwear as Northwest Airlines Flight 253, with 289 passengers and crew, was descending toward Detroit.

Schuringa said he reacted instinctively when he saw Abdulmutallab sitting in his seat with flames rising around him.

Helped by other passengers, he patted down the flames with his bare hands and then dragged Abdulmutallab to the front of the aircraft and ripped off his clothes to remove the small package filled with the explosive pentrite.

"How did I know what I should do? I don't know, I just did," he said. "Maybe I've watched too many American movies."

Schuringa said his ordeal wasn't over when he landed safely in Detroit. American federal agents questioned him and took his clothing to test it for explosives, visiting a golf store at the airport to hastily buy him new clothes.

"I looked like a clown," he said. "The trousers were so big I had to hold them up."
I hope someone in Hollywood buys his story and makes it into a major motion picture, asap...we need some real heroes as role models for 2010.

BTW, here's what Wikipedia has to say about him:
Jasper Schuringa
Schuringa stopped the attack, and got burned in the process. He is resident in Amsterdam and was born in 1971. Schuringa is a graduate of Leiden University, Leiden. He is a film director of low-budget Dutch films for an Amsterdam-based media company, and was the assistant director for National Lampoon's Teed Off Too.[135][136]

Dutch Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos phoned Schuringa on behalf of the Dutch government on the day after the attack, and conveyed the government's compliments and gratitude for Schuringa's part in overpowering the suspect.[137][138] Dutch Member of Parliament Geert Wilders[139] called Schuringa "a national hero" who "deserves a royal honor", which Wilders said he would ask the Dutch government to award.[140][141] [142]. According to the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, even Queen Beatrix expressed her feelings of gratitude towards Schuringa though it wasn't made public how she had done this. [143]
Why doesn't President Obama given this Dutchman the Medal of Freedom in 2010--since nothing better could express the true spirit of America? And Hollywood might give him the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at this year's Oscar ceremony. What could be more humanitarian than a filmmaker saving the lives of everyone on Flight 253?

Happy New Year!

All the best in 2010!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Scandal Rocks Gulf Coast Arts World

Carlton Proctor reports in today's Pensacola News Journal:
Funding for the Arts Council of Northwest Florida may be terminated in 2010 if Escambia County commissioners follow a recommendation contained in a scathing audit of the organization.

In the 11-page report, Patty Sheldon, financial services administrator for the Escambia Clerk of the Circuit Court's Office, revealed the full extent of the Arts Council's fiscal woes.

The organization's 2009 budget was $520,400, but its actual revenues were $364,821.98, a deficit of $155,578.02.

In addition, Sheldon's report cited the Arts Council for the following:

• Failure to properly record purchases made by credit card.

• Failure to properly account for grant payments from granting agencies.

• A lack of internal accounting controls.

n Inconsistencies in the handling of records and policies and procedures.

• Failure to distribute in a timely manner program activity checks to local arts organizations.

n Using available cash that was supposed to go to local arts groups to pay salary and benefits for its two employees and other office operating costs.

n Budgeting far more revenue that it actually received in fiscal 2009.

• Retroactively altering accounting records to qualify the Arts Council for the City of Pensacola's fiscal year 2010 allocation of $40,000.

No Comment

As a result of the audit's findings, Sheldon recommends "no fiscal 2010 appropriations to the Arts Council be made ... since it may be requested to repay the county those payments from fiscal 2009 that were represented as being paid to the arts organizations and were not, in fact, actually paid."
But help is apparently on the way, according to Proctor's account...from dedicated volunteers willing to do the work:
Meanwhile, a volunteer group calling itself ACE (Arts, Culture and Entertainment) has formed under the leadership of arts patron David Bear, former president of the Arts Council and former member of the Florida Arts Council.

ACE is being formed, Bear said, to take over distribution of now-frozen city and county funds to local cultural groups should the city and county permanently terminate funding to the Arts Council.

The new arts group would be based on an all-volunteer model similar to Pensacola's IMPACT 100, where 100 percent of the money awarded by the city and county would be passed through to the arts, Bear said.

IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area is an all-volunteer organization of women who contribute $1,000 each to fund $100,000 grants to nonprofit organizations. The nonprofits apply for the grants, and the women vote on the recipients.

Most local arts organizations have expressed initial support for ACE should the Arts Council be relieved permanently of its role as the single distributor of city and county arts grants.
UPDATE: Probe into Arts Council finances deepens:
State attorney looks for signs of embezzlement

Friday, December 18, 2009

Leon Aron on the Death of Yegor Gaidar, 53

From The American:
Egor Gaidar, the man to whom Boris Yeltsin entrusted Russia’s free-market revolution, died yesterday. He was 53.

Every time we had dinner in D.C. or Moscow in the past seven years, he looked worse and worse. He took bad care of himself. He drank more and more. Last time I saw him in his favorite D.C. restaurant, Morton’s, he looked like an old man and, formerly a hearty eater and a gourmand, barely touched his steak.

He was deeply depressed—by the direction Russia was taking; by his inability to do anything about it; and by the vicious calumny spread by the Kremlin about Russia’s freest years, the 1990s, and about his reforms, which literally saved the country from the famine everyone expected in 1992. It will take decades to clear out the Augean stables of the monstrously irrational and wasteful Soviet economy, but the first few, heaviest shovelfuls were Egor’s.

Throughout it all, he continued to write complicated and important books that only a brilliant economist and economic historian could have conceived and produced, and that future generations of Russians will enjoy and appreciate. (We were fortunate to publish excerpts from his last book, The Death of an Empire, as an AEI paper.)

Following Yeltsin’s death less than three years before and that of the “godfather of glasnost,” Alexander Yakovlev, in 2005, it is almost like nature itself has conspired to make the Gorbachev-Yeltsin-Gaidar revolution an aberration and Putinism Russia’s norm. As if Dostoevsky’s Great Inquisitor was right when he told the imaginary Christ: you have come to make people free, but they don’t want to be free.

I know that this is not so, and I know, too, that deep down, Egor did not believe this. But it must have been so hard to keep faith. The last eight years have gradually killed him. He died of a broken heart.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Chanukah, Christmas, & New Year!

Will be on vacation a while longer...

Hope to have some new posts in 2010.