Monday, 28 September 2015

Poland reburies 35 victims of Stalin-era terror

The bodies of 35 victims of a Stalin-era campaign of terror in Poland were reburied at a solemn ceremony on Sunday after being exhumed from mass graves and identified.

Digs carried out recently at a military cemetery uncovered a number of mass graves and have led to the exhumation of around 200 bodies of victims of the Stalinist regime in Poland following World War II.

"We are now attempting to discover the fate of each one of these victims, so that, as far as possible, no one remains anonymous, to put a name to the communist reign of terror of 1945-1956, to document it and portray it," Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on television.

The 35 wooden coffins were placed in a new mausoleum at the Powazki cemetery in Warsaw.

The Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which oversees a vast programme of excavation work across the country, hopes to find and identify the remains of Witold Pilecki, a Polish partisan who infiltrated the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp, in order to share his experience with the world.

Pilecki escaped from the camp after three years, but was arrested after the war by Poland's communist authorities loyal to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, accused of espionage and sentenced to death. His body was never found.

The institute believes that around 50,000 people were killed during the post-war campaign of terror, with many still in mass graves.

Digs are under way across the country that have led to the exhumations of more than 600 bodies, 41 of which have so far been identified through DNA.

Monday 28 September 2015

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Texas: Hearing set on identifying immigrant remains

Efforts to improve the identification process of undocumented immigrants who die while crossing from Mexico into Texas will take center stage in the Rio Grande Valley today.

The Texas Forensic Science Commission will host a public meeting at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced.

The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the facility, which is located at 118 Paseo Del Prado, near the intersection of McColl Road and Dove Avenue in southwest Edinburg.

The gathering in Edinburg, which is the result of a last-minute amendment on May 26 by Canales to Senate Bill 1287, will focus on what is known as the Rio Grande Identification Project.

The Edinburg lawmaker’s amendment created the Rio Grande Identification Project and requires the Texas Forensic Science Commission — a state agency — “to develop a method for collecting forensic evidence related to the unidentified bodies located less than 120 miles from the Rio Grande River,” Leigh M. Tomlin, with the Texas Forensic Science Commission, stated in an advisory about the Edinburg meeting.

“In accordance with its legislative mandate, the commission is working with stakeholders to develop a systematic plan for proper forensic evidence collection of biological material that may help identify human remains found along the border. The goal for the session is to establish best practices in Texas for subsequent publication and dissemination,” Tomlin explained.

Canales said an estimated 1,000 immigrants without any identification have died in the Rio Grande Valley during the past 10 years.

In the summer of 2014, international attention was focused in deep South Texas with the discovery that mass graves of hundreds of suspected unidentified immigrants were buried haphazardly in a cemetery in Brooks County.

In addition, hundreds of immigrants’ bodies have been recovered on the ranches in Brooks County in recent years. Smugglers guide immigrants through the brush trying to circumvent a Border Patrol highway checkpoint an hour’s drive north of the border. There is little water and the walk can take two or three days in punishing temperatures.

The House District 4o lawmaker recalled how the Legislature late last spring took action to bring compassion and closure to thousands of families who never know what happened to their love ones who crossed into Texas seeking a better life.

“It was spontaneous. I just noticed the subject of the bill and it got me out of my chair,” Canales said.

“I ran to the front of the House of Representatives and said, ‘I have an amendment to this bill, hold on.’”

The passage of his amendment was even more remarkable given the political climate in the Legislature, he noted.

“I think it was one of my most exciting moments in the Legislature,” Canales said. “I was a little over jubilant that it passed, especially with the anti-immigrant sentiment that exists in the Texas Legislature. I think it’s a great victory.”

“I think that it’s unquestionable what role immigrants play in our daily lives in our economy,” Canales said. “Not only do we need to respect what they do for our country but we need to respect human life in death.”

Monday 28 September 2015

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10 dead in Cape fishing trawler disaster

Ten fishermen have died and three remain missing after they abandoned a fishing trawler which was taking on water in rough seas on Sunday night.

Eight men were plucked from the frigid water by other vessels that had rushed to their aid.

NSRI spokesperson Craig Lambinon said the volunteer rescue service was alerted to the vessel in distress by the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA).

“The 42-metre Cape Town fishing trawler [reported] to be taking on water in heavy sea swells 20 nautical miles south of Hangklip with their 21 crew on board abandoning ship.”

Lambinon said that all vessels were alerted to the incident and asked to help, with the NSRI launching rescue craft from their bases in Hermanus and Simonstown.

A cargo vessel and three fishing boats were first to arrive at the floundering trawler's location.

“On arrival on the scene it was confirmed that all 21 crew of the casualty fishing trawler had abandoned their vessel.

“Nine survivors were rescued and nine bodies were recovered from the water. It was later confirmed that one of the survivors who had been rescued had succumbed to injuries and died. Rescues were made by all of the vessels in the search area,” he said.

“Sea conditions were six-metre swells with gusting to 45 knot south easterly winds but sea conditions improved during the search and rescue operation.

“Despite an extensive air and sea search no sign of the three missing crew have been found and a search is continuing. Radio communications are being assisted by Telkom Maritime Radio Services,” Lambinon said.

Monday 28 September 2015

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