hdgviosa

How One Mother Turned Tragedy Into Triumph: The Rachel Morningstar Hoffman Story

By on March 2, 2021

first_imgWith the Purple Hatter’s Ball just a few short weeks away, it seems like a fine time to reflect upon of the reason behind the festival…honoring the late Rachel Morningstar Hoffman. Rachel was a regular attendee at events held at the Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park, and a bright light on the festival scene. Sadly, an arrest led her into being strong-armed into a role as a confidential informant, ultimately resulting in her tragic murder at the hands of drug dealers.The tragedy was reported in newspapers and magazines around the country, and even resulted in a piece on 20/20.  Thanks to the tireless work of her parents, a new law was passed in the state of Florida that cleaned up the ways police could represent themselves and the situation to confidential informants.  Now, thanks to the efforts of her mother Margie Weiss and promoter Paul Levine, the foundation in her name has been granted full non-profit status, and work is underway to continue policy reforms on a national level.With national acts like The Floozies, Papadosio and The Polish Ambassador playing alongside some of the bands from the region that she loved so much, like Dubconscious and Catfish Alliance, the Purple Hatter’s Ball looks to be a wonderful way to celebrate the life and the positive and lasting effects Rachel’s loss has had on the world.  Our own Rex Thomson caught up with “Mother Margie,” who shared the tales of her loss, seeing her daughter’s spirit manifest in a myriad of ways, and her work to make sure something this senseless never happens to another parent again.Live For Live Music: Do you have anything you’d like to say before we get into the interview proper?Mother Margie Weiss: I do. I’m the proud, loving mother of Rachel Morningstar Hoffman. People call me “Momma Margie.” L4LM: Can you remember the first time your daughter visited the Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park?MMW: The first time she was seven, and we were visiting White Springs down the way a little bit. There was singing and there was art and she basically grew up around it.  I have a beautiful picture of her in a beautiful tie-dye picking wild flowers off the side of the road. When she returned she came back with three of her friends, one of whom I still keep in touch with regularly. After that, because I was such a free spirit and she was growing up apart from me a bit, I was surprised to learn from her friends that she was such a festival girl. All the photos they showed me were always of them all hanging on each other, hugging and smiling.  They were always smiling, but Rachel’s smile was always the biggest.L4LM: Was finding out she was such a music fan a surprise to you?MMW: She was always passionate about everything. She played flute for five years, and piano for five years or so as well. I still have her flute, and her father has the piano. Her last big passion before she died was cooking…she loved cooking for all her friends.L4LM: It seems like Rachel had a lot of friends.MMW: Everybody loved her. At her funeral there were 850 people there, and at least a hundred of them came from Tallahassee where she had been living. She always made friends very easily. She made new friends and kept the old. There was so much love for her, for the music and the Suwannee…a lot of love for just this whole northern Florida area.L4LM: No parent should ever have to bury their child. It’s hard to imagine what you went through.MMW: I was in shock for two years. She was murdered. It was…so insane…so bizarre….that something like that could happen. Just…it was too much.  Too much.L4LM: This is obviously difficult to talk about.MMW: It never seems to get easier. Morningstar meant shining light on a new day, and that sums her up perfectly. What really cemented the meaning and the purpose of how her life ended came to me when a friend and I walked out of the office where I was working, and there was the most complete and perfect rainbow there’s ever been. There’s been a spiritual component to her loss… a lingering residue of her touches our lives, her father’s and mine.  Sometimes it seems like all we have to do is show up somewhere and good things start to happen. That’s Rachel, looking after us, making this world better.L4LM: That’s beautiful.MMW: It’s been seven years now, and her spirit is guiding me on my path. There’s a lot of studying I need to do, things to learn. There’s assistance I can offer people, and assistance I need to reach out for. One thing I know in my heart, that Rachel’s life showed so clearly, is that we all need each other. In the end…I realized that I need to dedicate myself to the goal of never letting this happen to another young person. L4LM: It seems like you’ve followed through on that vow.MMW: The Rachel Law strengthens the national laws. Ideally it was to create CI (Confidential Informant) reform.  There’s so much corruption going on within law enforcement. I believe law enforcement is important and it protects people, but we need to protect our children…ourselves too. When I grew up, it seems like there was more integrity among them, but that was probably just my perception.  During the civil suit trial, the DEA did not even testify. It was like to them…Rachel didn’t even exist. Yet I was told the thirteen-thousand dollars that was found in her purse with the wiring from her police handler was from the DEA…as was the helicopter on the scene.  And yet they all lost her…and so did I. I did not even know how she died until six weeks later… when I got her death certificate. I was at my mother’s house when I read it. It was… unnerving. She died of five gunshot wounds.I still did not know where or how it happened.  I didn’t learn how it happened until the murder trial, a year and a half later. But before that trial we got the first, watered down version of the Rachel Law for the state of Florida for how to fairly deal with confidential informants. A lady came to me, Sarah Stillman, a journalist and an associate professor in foreign correspondence.  She had written this amazing article called “Throwaways” that ran in the New Yorker and my daughter was in it. L4LM: Was this the start of your crusade to enact legal reform for the confidential informant laws and regulations?MMW: Yes. In the article she wrote about how police use these kids.  It was called “Throwaways” for a reason, because that’s exactly how the police has treated these children they’ve used. That’s sadly how it happens.  Scared kids get talked into assisting the police department or some law enforcement agency for some smaller crime, and then gets sent into a much larger, much more dangerous situation. Initially my daughter was arrested for having less than an ounce of pot…and she received a death sentence. They didn’t know the background of the person who shot her…who was an informant.  They didn’t do their research, and when they lost her during the surveillance, she lost her life. Initially, they even tried to blame the whole tragic situation on her.  There was no training. Being an informant is like being a non-entity…a throw away. You have no training, no understanding of the situations you’re being put into and no real business being there. You’re coerced through fear of some sort of inflated sentence that the police tell you you’re facing. They tell the informant they know what sort of sentence they’ll be facing, but they’re not the courts, they’re not the judge and they damn sure aren’t the jury. So many times the consequences they’re threatening these kids with will never come to fruition. They’re so much better off just saying no.L4LM: Do you feel like becoming an advocate for reform is something you have to do?MMW: Totally. As her mother, I’m her spokesperson, her advocate and I am just trying to make her death have some meaning.  I get goose bumps when I talk about her like this. When I’m in the Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park for events like the Purple Hatters Ball…it’s like she’s hovering right over my shoulder. Everybody, all throughout the festival tells me they feel her all around them.There’s a different vibe to the park during the Purple Hatters Ball. People look out for each other a little more, they hug each other a little longer…it’s really a beautiful thing to see Rachel’s spirit infuse these people.  The kids running around the Purple Hatters Ball have such a glow to them…it’s beautiful to see.  L4LM: What do think of the argument that she committed a crime, and this was all her own fault.MMW: First of all…people who use drugs when they’re young…it’s a phase.  They’re exploring their boundaries, and it’s a phase most of them grow out of.  Secondly…the drug laws in this country are absurdly over the top and we’re now seeing them being changed around the country. But in the end…learning life lessons like these should not end in death.So that’s where my cause began. It’s about safety. I want to make this society and world of ours a safer place. I truly believe the Rachel’s Law, as it gets strengthened and solidified across the country. I’m hoping this will eventually help, along with all the rest of the sad stories of police brutality in the news, lift the lid off the corruption in the police departments across the country. And don’t let anyone tell you they can’t afford to pay for these reforms.  If agencies like the DEA and the CIA can hide money for the evil that they do, I’m sure we can afford it.The powers-that-be need to look at where their priorities are, and where they should be. In the mean time, I get through Mother’s Day each year with my memories, my crusade and the kind messages from all of Rachel’s friends and the love she’s inspired in the world. Watching her friends grow up and make something of their lives has been so wonderful… and I just wish Rachel had the chance to do the same. Every kid I’ve known through her and met since they started honoring her memory in the park by naming tents, stages and now a festival in her honor are better people now…and as a mother I’m proud to think my daughter is, in some small way, a part of that.L4LM: It’s a wonderful thing you’ve done, taking this tragedy and using it to try and make the world a better place.MMW: There’s three things I’ve learned from all of this that stand out. One, love is like a buffing cloth, removing the tarnish from one’s soul and helping them to shine. You love your work, you love your family, the festivals and the memory.  If you’re not shining up the people you love, and basking in their love then you need to look at your life and see if there are any changes you can make.  The second is how we’re all connected. It all comes back to that rainbow I mentioned earlier. The rabbi who got her body to us so quickly…he saw that same rainbow. The OB-GYN who delivered Rachel…he and his wife saw that rainbow. Her two best friends who were standing behind me at Rachel’s funeral saw it…one of them even had a picture of it on her cell phone. When I was at the bereavement center, the counselor had it on her phone as well. It’s those moments that let me know we’re all in this together, and that even though Rachel is gone from this world, she still unites us from beyond. It gives me such goose bumps talking about this right now.Finally…it’s to trust god and the universe to help make things happen. It’s like the butterflies we release every year at the Purple Hatter’s Ball.  Her friends are always saying they see butterflies when they’re searching for the right answers. The Rachel Morningstar Foundation is finally a full non-profit.  We’re looking to set up a national conference to help others join the fight, and as I have been working and seeking answers I keep getting these signs and people keep stepping up to help.  It’s magical, really. I see this love as a snowball…rolling down a hill and just getting bigger and bigger.L4LM: Well…thank you for taking the time to speak to us, thank you for all you’re doing for the community and thank you for the gift you gave us all in the form of your daughter.  Her life may  have ended soon, but you have done a wonderful job helping her memory live on.MMW:  Thank you. The echoes of my love for Rachel are never going to stop…and hopefully they’ll reach others and lift them as they have me.To buy tickets the Purple Hatters Ball, Click HERE. To donate to the Rachel Morningstar Foundation, click HERE.last_img read more

Continue Reading

hdgviosa

EXCLUSIVE: Infamous Stringduster Andy Hall Talks The Festy, Roosevelt Collier Collab Album, And More

By on

first_imgThere aren’t many artists having a busier 2017 than Andy Hall of The Infamous Stringdusters. Hot on the heels of the band’s recent studio project, Laws Of Gravity, the Dusters have just released a career-spanning live album, are preparing a cover song EP and, just for fun, Hall decided to finish his side project studio album with fellow slide player Roosevelt Collier. Oh…and we are just a couple months out from The Festy, The Infamous Stringdusters’ own curated festival that promises another weekend of music and fun for the whole family in picturesque Virginia!The Infamous Stringdusters Break Free On “Laws Of Gravity” [Album Review/Stream]Even with all that on his plate, Hall seemed remarkably relaxed in his recent chat with Live For Live Music as he looked back and forward at what will likely end up being the busiest year of his already remarkable career. Check out the conversation below:Live For Live Music: You’ve got a live disc out now. In these taper friendly days what was the thought in doing a full-fledged live release?Andy Hall: That’s a fair question. I thought the same thing myself over the last few years, but over time a few things have become apparent. First of all, it gets curated by the band, specifically. It is a best-of, based on our opinion. Other people may make their own playlists, but this is us, taking stuff from all our album, in the order of their release.People can really get a good sense of what the material sounds like live. When people listen on things like Spotify it stands out more than things on Nugs.net or Archive. And this is professionally mixed and recorded with that in mind. Not that the other shows don’t sound awesome. This is just a step up in all regards between song selection, recording and performance. It’s an artistic thing, sure, but also for practical reasons.Check out a fun recap of the band’s whole live release mashed up into a single medley below:L4LM: The last album, Laws Of Gravity, did really well, and the Stringdusters have shown themselves to be remarkably prolific. Does this live album mean new material is piling up and a new studio album is coming soon as well?AH: We have something coming pretty soon, actually. We are doing all different kinds of things. We had a new studio record come out, like five, six months ago. Then we released the live record, and we have another of our Under Cover discs. That’s songs that we play live that are also cover songs.It’s kinda fun the way we do it. We do it all in one day in the studio. We set up a bunch of mics, go in, play songs that we have been playing live and have meaning to us one way or another. You wouldn’t hear all these songs together if you came to one of our shows, but it is fun having them in one place. So that will basically be our “Under Cover II” and we should have that out in a couple months.Additionally, we are always writing towards another project. But we want to give this batch of material a chance to air out, and honestly, we want to recharge and catch up after making it all. We are still riding high on Laws Of Gravity and Laws Of Gravity (Live), so it has just been a steady stream of content from us lately.L4LM: You just hit on one of the big challenges facing bands these days. It seems like the trend is to constantly be bringing something out. In this rush to produce, are you tempted to do more short-form things, like singles and EPs, or do you still thing album length projects are the way to go?AH: We love doing albums, even though physical packages like CDs aren’t really popular anymore. Making an entire album of songs, artistically–for us at least–is still the best for us to progress and get new material out there. That type of long form project, that goal, it’s a good inspiration, a reason to keep going.And sure, we do stuff like the Under Cover thing. I don’t think we would do an EP of original material though. A single? Sure. But if you are gonna go to the trouble of making an EP you might as well wait until you have enough material and just go for it.The release of an EP just doesn’t seem to be a big deal. It doesn’t have the same appeal as a full album, for various reasons. We like our songs, and we want them to reach as many people as they can. Releasing a single makes a lot of sense, particularly if it has a message, that spoke to the time.But we love making albums. It’s the goal. The way we look at them shifts, though. We did one a while back called Ladies And Gentlemen. And we never figured we would play those songs much live. But on Laws Of Gravity, we were definitely looking to have songs for the road. For each project we have different purposes.L4LM: Plus, as a touring live band it must be nice knowing you gave a whole bunch of material you could pull out if the time was right and you had some guests.AH: Yeah! There is all this stuff we don’t play live. Part of that is we had female singers on Ladies And Gentlemen and we don’t feel as much ownership on those songs. We kinda gave up the reins and went along for the ride. That material doesn’t necessarily represent what we want to do in concert.L4LM: Sounds like time to add a new member to the band!AH: Ha! That’s not really gonna happen, but we did love touring and always love playing with Nikki Bluhm. She kinda became an unofficial member of the Stringdusters then.Check out Nikki Bluhm’s sit in with the Dusters from their most recent Jam Cruise appearance:L4LM: So this year is the tenth anniversary of your first album release, right?AH: The band really began in 2006. We actually had a EP we released on the Sugar Hill label to sort of tide us over until we got our first album done.L4LM: All this new material is really welcome to your fans, who are among the most rabid in the scene. When did you start to see signs that you were garnering such devotion?AH: It definitely took a while. Like I said, we started playing in 2006 and it wasn’t until we really started opening for bands like Railroad Earth or Yonder Mountain String Band. Growing up, we were fans of the Grateful Dead, and we certainly knew that there were people who dedicated themselves to a band. Obviously we hoped we could get to that kind of thing, though we certainly don’t expect to see that level of response.Like jam bands, we vary our set lists and work on making each show it’s own thing. I feel like a story-line emerges, a complexity that people can dive into. They remember circumstances, periods and so on that they can find different things they can appreciate within. Being able to change…WANTING to change is important.For us, one thing that both helped us and hurt us is that we weren’t fully developed as a band for the first couple years. Honestly, I feel like just in the last year or so we have turned a corner as far as our live shows go. A lot of bands come out fully developed. Look at Led Zeppelin. When they first started, they were like a fully finished band.It has been a longer process with us, and want to keep developing together. It seems to be working. As we progress, we feel we are growing as a band we are seeing more and more people at our shows. We never had a big break or song. Our process is to keep refining ourselves as a band and hope that resonates with people.L4LM: So you weren’t content with all this content you’re whipping up with your Duster buddies and have carved off some time to make a slide-centric album with pedal steel maven Roosevelt Collier! What was the thought behind that project?[Photo via Jason Charm Photography]AH: It was pure fun! Roosevelt and I became friends through the slide. Slide guitar is a weird instrument and slide players tend to seek each other out. Because we come from two totally different musical worlds, it was really interesting to share our perspectives. Rosie comes from sacred steel and I come from bluegrass and I just ate it up. It has been wonderful getting to know and learn from Rosie.EXCLUSIVE: Roosevelt Collier And Andy Hall Let It Shine On “This Little Light Of Mine” Slide Guitar DuetHe came out to Denver for a show and I booked a studio for a day and I said let’s go in and see what happens. We just went in, showed each other a couple tunes from our respective backgrounds, and wrote a couple little things together. Then, next time he came out, I got us a couple more studio days and it our little cultural exchange just kind blossomed into this.L4LM: Is this part of a concerted plan to take over the slide scene? Should Anders Beck and Robert Randolph be worried?AH: Yeah, totally. We don’t want anyone else playing these things but us. [laughs] No, really I just wanted learn this whole new approach to playing my instrument, and it was the same for Rosie. Neither of us what that familiar with what the other was doing and it was very interesting to add this knowledge and sound into what I already knew. In the end, I just wanted a chance to sit with Roosevelt for a few days and steal all his licks. [laughs] This turned into a good excuse to do that.Besides, Anders is on the album. He lives near the studio and came in for one of the songs. It was a blues riff that we ended up playing together as a three part harmony. I think Greensky Bluegrass had just finished three nights at The Ogden, so he was a little exhausted, but he came in and did a stellar job.L4LM: So I guess Robert Randolph should just hope next time you book a studio near his house.AH: Yeah, that would work. As long as there is a story there. It’s weird. This album didn’t start with any real effort or intention. It just kinda unfolded as we went along. I’ll do anything that comes out that easily.Catch a sample of Andy & Rosie’s collaboration below:L4LM: We’re getting close to The Infamous Stringduster’s curated event, The Festy. I’m coming for the first time this year…what should I expect?AH: Earlier, when we were talking about how much our fans…and we in the band are invested in what we do…all that love is reflected in every part of The Festy. There is a real family vibe to the gathering and it is all in the context of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. There is a strong bluegrass following in that area besides our own fans.The Festy is held at the Blue Ridge Bowl now, the same place as LOCKN’. It’s probably some of the best camping you can experience, in this lush, rolling hills and greenery setting. This year in particular, there is a strong bluegrass feel to the lineup, though we have some cool left field and throwback acts. We have Ani Defranco and I am very excited to see her.Of course you have us, and The Travelling McCourys, Jerry Douglas and more. It’s a great mix of acts and a great community built around it. I am pretty sure after a few hours you will feel right at home.Watch husband and wife duo Bela Fleck and Abi Washburn join the Dusters onstage at last years Festy below:L4LM: There is a strong female representation on The Festy’s lineup this year. Was that a conscious decision?AH: Oh yes. I think The Festy has been that way from the start. Sometimes you can look at an entire line up for a festival and not see a single lady on it. It’s always been a focus, honestly. We want to bolster that as much as we can. There are so many great artists and we think everyone and every style should be represented.L4LM: Well, everything works better when we all work together. Speaking of work, I want to thank you for taking a break from all of your to chat with us! Looking forward to all this exciting stuff on the way!AH: It was my pleasure. Hope to see you all out there soon.Don’t miss The Festy Experience, The Infamous Stringdusters’ curated festival at Blue Ridge Bowl in Arrington, VA from October 5th – 8th, 2017. For more information on the event, or to purchase tickets, head to The Festy Experience’s website.[Cover photo by Dave Vann]last_img read more

Continue Reading

hdgviosa

SMC, ND release statements on death

By on January 26, 2021

first_imgBoth Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s released statements Sunday in reaction to a Chicago Tribune story about the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 10 death of first year Saint Mary’s student Elizabeth “Lizzy” Seeberg. The Chicago Tribune reported in Sunday story that Seeberg told Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) she was sexually attacked by a Notre Dame football player Aug. 31. Originally from Northbrook, Ill., Seeberg died at Memorial Hospital in South Bend on Sept. 10. She was 19 years old and a resident of McCandless Hall. In a Sunday statement, Saint Mary’s director of media relations Gwen O’Brien directly referenced the Chicago Tribune story and said the College would not comment on the circumstances surrounding Seeberg’s death. “Saint Mary’s College does not comment on matters that may infringe on the privacy of our current or former students,” O’Brien said. “We are also respecting the privacy of the Seeberg family.” The statement listed a number of educational and support services provided to all Saint Mary’s students regarding sexual assault, including sessions during the first two weeks of school for first year students. “At Saint Mary’s College, the safety, security and well-being of our students are our top priorities,” O’Brien said. “We take our responsibility to guide them through their four years at Saint Mary’s very seriously. As an all-women’s college, Saint Mary’s provides our young women with a variety of programs, many of which are required, to prepare them for life in the world today.” Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said Sunday the University takes all reports of broken laws and University policy seriously. “Notre Dame will never be silent or passive when it comes to the careful, thorough and fair determination of whether or not laws or university policies have been broken on our campus,” Brown said. “This is an important obligation and one that we take very seriously.” Brown said the University does not release information about specific cases involving students. “We have a longstanding, effective and consistent process in place that gathers information, eliminates rumors and makes informed, fact-based determinations, all while adhering to university policies and the federal student privacy laws that restrict us from discussing specific disciplinary cases,” Brown said. NDSP is a fully authorized police force and works closely with other local law enforcement, Brown said. The University forwards all investigations of sexual assault to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office. According to ESPN Chicago, Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly said during a Sunday conference call with reporters that the issue is a “University matter.” “I’m not going to get into the specifics,” Kelly said. “From my standpoint, as the head football coach, I think it was made clear that the University is going to deal with any matters of this nature. And that for me, one of the reasons why I came to Notre Dame is I have the same standards that our University does. We are in lockstep relative to the standards that we hold here at the University of Notre Dame.” In a Sunday e-mail to the Saint Mary’s student body, College President Carol Ann Mooney said the “outpouring of support and concern” in response to the Chicago Tribune story reflected Saint Mary’s sense of community. “The outpouring of support and concern by our students, faculty, and staff reinforces what we all know is special about Saint Mary’s, our unique sense of community inspired by our Holy Cross heritage,” she stated. “I realize this story will reawaken painful memories.” The e-mail also listed support services for students, including the Women’s Health Center, Campus Ministry, Belles Against Violence Office, Residence Life and Community Standards and Campus Security.last_img read more

Continue Reading

hdgviosa

Panelists dispute nature of conflict, potential solutions

By on

first_imgThree preeminent Notre Dame faculty members debated the relative merits and consequences of American military and political intervention in Syria on Tuesday. David Cortright, director of policy studies at the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies, moderated the panel discussion. Although a proposition by Russia earlier Tuesday all but mooted the question of imminent military intervention, the panel still engaged in a lively discussion of the United States’ options with regard to Syria. Asher Kaufman, Mary Ellen O’Connell and Michael Desch presented three distinct views about how the United States should approach the recent developments in the Middle Eastern nation.  Kaufman, associate professor of history and peace studies, said the situation in Syria involves not only internal turmoil, but also conflict with neighboring states.  “This conflict is beyond one circumscribed within the boundaries of Syria,” Kaufman said. “It has become a regional issue, and this is how it needs to be understood.” Kaufman named several contributors to the regional nature of the Syrian conflict, including an influx of thousands of Islamists from neighboring countries and upheaval resulting from the internally displaced people and from the millions of refugees spreading beyond Syria’s borders.  “The numbers are disturbing, mind-boggling – over two million refugees outside of the boundaries of Syria are in neighboring countries,” Kaufman said. “The hosting countries need to provide them with basic needs – jobs, roofs over their heads – and in countries such as Lebanon, with an estimated 500,000 Syrian refugees and a native population of only four million, you can imagine the pressure on Lebanese resources to try and support these Syrian refugees.”  In contrast to Kaufman’s illustration of the regional conflict, O’Connell, a research professor of international dispute resolution and professor of law, focused on the need to uphold the integrity of international law in approaching a resolution for the Syrian conflict.  “The heart of the matter of this moment is the international legal norm against the use of chemical weapons,” O’Connell said. “It is binding on Syria: Syria is a full sovereign party to the Geneva gas protocol of 1925.” Although she acknowledged Syria to be in clear violation of international norms against chemical weapons, O’Connell stressed the importance of legitimizing further intervention in Syria by acting in strict accordance with the United Nations Charter.  “If we start saying legitimacy is something other than what is commensurate with international legality, we are weakening the very system of norms that have banned the use of military force,” she said. “These principles, developed and reported on by a high-level [United Nations] panel, were brought together in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document – to which the United States and every other member of the UN agreed – and it said that the Charter is sufficient to address the full range of threats to international peace and security.” While Kaufman and O’Connell discussed political frameworks for approaching the conflict in Syria, Desch, a professor of political science, evaluated possible military tactics the United States could employ in Syria and the political feasibility and consequences of these scenarios.  “Despite the relatively formidable Syrian military, the United States has lots of conceivable military options,” Desch said. “From a purely objective military standpoint, military operations in Syria would be a cakewalk. We can do basically anything we want to do.”  Despite a plethora of available tactics, ranging from ground interventions to airstrikes, Desch said the solution to the Syrian problem would have to remain largely political in nature. “The limiting factor in the administration’s decision calculus is not so much the military factor, but rather, the political factor,” he said. “Would any use of military force actually advance [American] political interest? My Clausewitzian assessment is that none of our military options will achieve any political objectives that we have.”last_img read more

Continue Reading

hdgviosa

Bills Sign McDermott To Multiyear Extension

By on January 18, 2021

first_imgImage via Bill Wippert / BuffaloBills.com.ORCHARD PARK – The Buffalo Bills have signed coach Sean McDermott to a multiyear contract extension.A person with direct knowledge told the Associated Press the contract is a four-year extension that runs through the 2025 season. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Bills have not released that information. McDermott had two years remaining on his original deal.ESPN.com first reported the length of the extension.McDermott, 46, has been the key figure in changing the direction of the franchise since his arrival in 2017. “His process-driven approach has brought great stability to our organization,” owners Terry and Kim Pegula said in a statement. “We are happy to extend his contract and keep him in Western New York for many years to come.”McDermott has effectively changed the culture of the Bills franchise both on and off the field. Prior to his arrival, the Bills had the longest playoff drought in the NFL and just two winning seasons since 1999. The Bills have made the playoffs in two of McDermott’s three seasons in charge and are hoping to win the AFC East this season following Tom Brady’s departure from New England.“Sean’s leadership on and off the field has been nothing but genuine and transparent, qualities we appreciate as owners,” Terry and Kim Pegula said. “He is the same great person to us, the players and everyone across all our organizations. We will never forget how impressed we were during his first interview. Sean’s attention to detail was apparent back then.”A former defensive coordinator in Philadelphia and Carolina, McDermott has led the way in Buffalo with an aggressive and consistent defense. The Bills have finished near the top of the league in most defensive categories in recent seasons; from 2018-19, the Bills allowed the fewest yards in the NFL (296.2 per game). In 2019, Buffalo finished second in points allowed (16.2), third in yards allowed (4,772) and fourth in passing yards allowed (3,123).The Bills went 10-6 last season, reaching double-digit wins for the first time since 1999.McDermott is fifth on the Bills’ all-time coaching wins list with 25. He is the first Bills coach to receive a contract extension since Dick Jauron in 2008 — though Jauron was fired the following year. Share:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Continue Reading

hdgviosa

Go-Go’s Musical Taps Tom Kitt, Spencer Liff & More

By on

first_imgSpencer Liff & more at ‘Head Over Heels’ workshop(Photo: Instagram.com/spencerliff) Our lips aren’t sealed on this news! As previously announced, Head Over Heels, a musical featuring the songs of 1980s girl group the Go-Go’s, is in the works; Gwyneth Paltrow is producing and Tony winner Michael Mayer is at the helm of the Jeff Whitty-penned production. A recent workshop included music arrangements and supervision from Pulitzer Prize and Tony winner Tom Kitt as well as choreography from Spencer Liff, whose recent Broadway projects include Falsettos and the Deaf West revival of Spring Awakening. Broadway alums Michael Park (Dear Evan Hansen) and Rachel York (Disaster!) were also on hand to perform. Other performers who participated in the workshop included Kristolyn Lloyd (Dear Evan Hansen), Tom Alan Robbins (Newsies), Bonnie Milligan (Kinky Boots), Alexandra Socha (Spring Awakening), Andrew Durand (War Horse), Lawrence Alexander (Follies), DeMarius R. Copes (Newsies), Yurel Echezarreta (Aladdin), Ari Groover (Holler If Ya Hear Me), Brandon Hudson (Hamilton), Nina Lafarga (On Your Feet!) Samantha Zack (Wicked), Jenny Laroche (Smash) and Shakina Nayfack.Inspired by Sir Philip Sidney’s 16th-century pastoral romance, Arcadia, this new musical is an Elizabethan love story turned on its head. There’s a duke, a mysterious prophecy and two daughters: one mobbed by suitors, the other…not so much. All of this is set to the beat of 1980s pop icons the Go-Go’s. Under the direction of Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, the tuner made its world premiere this past summer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.Originally fronted by Belinda Carlisle, the Go-Go’s were the first and only all-female band that both wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to top the Billboard album charts. Their hits include “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “We Got the Beat,” “Vacation” and of course, “Head Over Heels.” View Commentslast_img read more

Continue Reading

hdgviosa

Beer Blog: You Call That Tailgating?

By on December 30, 2020

first_imgI had a week full of tailgating recently, hitting a University of Georgia football game in Athens, Ga. then a Mumford and Sons show outside of Greenville, S.C. I’ve always enjoyed tailgating more than the main event we’re supposedly prepping for (open containers in a piping hot parking lot—what’s not to love?). I used to think tailgating was an art form—an outlet for self expression. Now I see it more as a pissing contest. And that’s okay, I like pissing contests.Here’s what I mean: We had an RV for the UGA tailgate, complete with two big screen TVs (one inside and one outside), a cooler so large and so full of Sweetwater 420 and Terrapin Hopsicutioner that it took three men to lift it, and a commercial-sized grill firing the hundreds of brats and burgers. For entertainment, we had cornhole and a drunken longboard slalom contest. For the game, we had 65 mini bottles of liquor to stuff in various crevices throughout our bodies. Needless to say, we won that pissing contest hands down.My Mumford and Sons tailgating experience wasn’t as successful from a one-up-man-ship standpoint. The first thing you do when you pull into a parking lot for a show in the South, is start checking out everyone else’s tailgate situation. People pulled full dining sets out of the trunks of vintage Mercedes. One group was eating sushi. Another was playing a weird drinking game using their iPhones. You could sense the competition in the air. If your neighbor has beer, you’re drinking a signature cocktail. If the carload to the left of you is sporting a keg, you should have a pop-up cocktail bar complete with a mustachioed bartender.I didn’t even compete. There was no RV this time, just my minivan, the trunk open, a small fold out table with fried chicken and olives and a cooler of beer. We had chairs, which is better than the sorry group in space 13B who just stood the whole time (like animals), but otherwise, I was embarrassed by my lack of showmanship.Did I have a great time? Yes, but that’s not the point. The point is, I could’ve done better. I should’ve done better. A margarita machine, perhaps. A small grill for turkey and brie Paninis. I didn’t even have a tablecloth for Christ’s sake. My table just sat there…naked.Embarrassing.I blame all those years I lived out West. The mountains might be bigger out there, but their tailgating pales in comparison to what the South has to offer. They just don’t bring it like we bring it. Then I moved back and had kids, and who has the time to practice tailgating when you have kids…so now I’m rusty. My gear is outdated and I have no imagination when it comes to the menu and activities.Tailgating is an important skill to master, particularly if you’re adventurous. After all, what we’re really talking about here is an abbreviated car camping situation. How can you make an uncomfortable situation (hanging out in a parking lot, sleeping in the woods) feel more like home. Inflatable furniture? A misting tent? Perhaps. A pony keg of local beer? Definitely.I’m racing this weekend and hope to tailgate before and after the race (nothing says I’m ready to ride 70 miles like eating a cheese and hummus plate out of the back of your van at 6am), so please, dear readers, send me your advice, tips and tricks to help me elevate my tailgate game. I know I’m not going to win the race. But there’s a chance I could win the tailgate.last_img read more

Continue Reading

hdgviosa

Editor’s Note: Getting There – From the City Limits of Asheville to the Mountains

By on

first_imgEverybody knows that Asheville is an outdoor oasis. Like other mountain towns in the Blue Ridge, it’s been heralded by many magazines—including this one—as a top adventure destination. Beer City and Bike City, U.S.A., Asheville is also home to top trail runners, gonzo climbers, and the best paddling in the country.But there’s more to Asheville—and every other mountain town in the South—than just its outdoor offerings. In the shadows of the beer pubs and bike shops are housing projects like Hillcrest with spectacular vistas of the mountains but no way to get there. The Hillcrest community is crammed between two interstates and a crowded overpass. The housing units line a bluff overlooking the French Broad River with views of Mount Pisgah in the distance, but most Hillcrest residents have never ventured beyond city limits.Three years ago, Nicole Hinebaugh set out to change that. An avid hiker and outdoor adventurer, Nicole loved exploring the wild woods. But after a few years of hiking the Blue Ridge, she noticed that all of her fellow outdoor adventurers were white and moderately wealthy.So she began organizing a series of summer hikes for Hillcrest kids. They became so popular that she eventually needed a bus to transport them all to the trailheads, where they hiked in the woods for the first time. Some of the kids feared that pythons and boa constrictors hid along every curve of the trail, because their only experience with nature had been through watching movies like Anaconda. Nicole eased their concerns. She taught kids the names of trees and plants. She splashed with them beneath frigid waterfalls and guided them through increasingly challenging terrain. By the end of the summer, the Hillcrest hikers had become confident outdoor explorers.“At first it was scary, but then we just got used to being in the woods,” says William, a twelve-year-old Hillcrest hiker. “Now I’m not afraid no more.”Today the Hillcrest hikers are one of the largest youth hiking groups in Asheville. Nicole and her volunteer crew lead hikes every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the summer to iconic destinations like Black Balsam, Graveyard Fields, and Douglas Falls. They operate on a shoestring budget and rely mostly on donations. They’re always seeking volunteers, youth hiking shoes and backpacks, snacks, and other support.The biggest cost—and the highest hurdle—is transportation. The Hillcrest hikers program is overflowing with interested kids eager to venture beyond the concrete jungle, but most lack a way to get to the trailhead. City buses don’t run to the forest, even when the forest is only a few miles away.I often take for granted my drive to the trailhead. If I want to go for a ride or a run, I just hop in the car and go. But for most folks living at Hillcrest and other Asheville housing projects perched on adventure’s doorstep, they can only stare longingly at the mountains.The outdoors is still (mostly) free. The trails are open to everyone, and they don’t require fancy gear to enjoy them. Our public lands are one of the country’s most egalitarian achievements. But access to them remains tilted lopsidedly toward those who can afford it.Fortunately, there are dedicated outdoor enthusiasts like Nicole—and dozens of young kids thirsting for new adventure. All they need is a ride.–Join or support the Hillcrest hikers this summer and encourage your town to extend bus routes to parks and trailheads.last_img read more

Continue Reading

hdgviosa

East Troops Making Progress Against Insurgents

By on December 20, 2020

first_img Army Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell makes no bones of the fact that his job as the commander Regional Command East is the most challenging problem he ever has confronted. “This is the most complex thing I’ve ever dealt with,” Campbell said. “Every day you can be frustrated. But as a leader you’re not very effective if you stay frustrated. It is, many days, two steps forward [and] one step back, but it is progress.” Campbell, who also commands the 101st Airborne Division, spoke to reporters traveling with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “RC-East is probably the most complex problem set I’ve seen,” he said. “I spent 19 months in Baghdad during the surge, and this is exponentially harder because of the tribal dynamics, the political dynamics, the terrain, the weather, the distance –- it’s just a huge problem set.” Campbell spoke about the complexities of his command that encompasses 14 provinces, 8 million people and 450 miles of border with Pakistan. “You can’t talk about Afghanistan without talking about Pakistan,” he said. “I don’t think we should make any bones about the sanctuaries in Pakistan. There are guys who have sanctuary in Pakistan, and they are coming across the border and killing Americans –- that is the Haqqani network.” The Haqqani network is a tough foe that operates in Afghanistan’s Paktia, Paktika and Nurestan provinces. The Haqqani family runs it, and it is much like a Mafia family, Campbell said. Plus, the network operates openly in Pakistan and has some level of support from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. “I don’t know at what level they are tied in to the ISI,” the general said. The network has taken a pounding from coalition and Afghan forces in the past year, Campbell said. “I think over the 11 months inside Afghanistan, … the number of killed, detained and captured Haqqani has just doubled,” the general said. Still, the network has been successful, and Campbell carries cards with photos and names of the 207 coalition service members that have been killed in his region -– many of them by Haqqani members. Pakistan is taking the insurgents’ sanctuaries seriously. Eighteen months ago, 30,000 Pakistani troops were posted along the border. Today, there are 140,000, and they have suffered a lot of losses as well. “You can’t kill your way out of this thing,” Campbell said. “We have to build systems here the Afghans can sustain. There’s got to be something at some point in time – a political solution with Pakistan – to work this thing out.” Campbell said his relationship with his Pakistani counterpart, the commander of the 11th Corps, has become much better over the 11 months Campbell has been in command. “We do complementary operations on both sides of the border,” he said. “Now we do these border flag meetings -– at battalion level, brigade level. Seven or eight months ago, we would schedule these and they would get cancelled. They didn’t show up, or they needed permission from Islamabad to attend.” Campbell appealed directly for regular, scheduled meetings between U.S. and Pakistani military leaders, and those meetings eventually became a routine occurrence. “Once the commanders get together at the tactical level, they talk,” Campbell said. One fruit of this communication was Strong Eagle 1 last year. It was a cooperative operation in which the Pakistani military set up blocking positions and U.S. and Afghan forces killed about 150 extremists. Strong Eagle 2 a few weeks ago saw almost the same results. “I think they are really starting to figure out that this is a common enemy, and we have to work this out,” Campbell said. “In conjunction with our special ops brothers, we have done huge damage to these [extremist] groups,” he said. “But you’ve got to build the governance, you have to build the development piece, you have to build the systems.” The security effort has been successful, and the Taliban and their allies have been punished. “Wherever they have massed, they die,” Campbell said. “They massed here at Salerno, they died. They massed at Jalalabad, they died. There has been a 276-percent increase in the number of caches discovered –- the equivalent of 400 suicide vests, the equivalent of 30 car bombs, and so on. “Before the surge, the enemy had momentum, but because of the surge the enemy lost the momentum, and through the fall and winter we took the momentum,” he continued. “It’s certainly reversible. We’ve set them back on their heels, and we feel very good about where we are this spring. It’s going to be harder [for the insurgents] to come back in and take the battle space, but mark my words, they will try to do that.” Those the coalition and Afghans have captured tell a bleak story, Campbell said. The extremists’ morale is low, he said, their pay is bad, and they are not getting the right kinds of supplies. “We know we are making a difference, and we have to stay on that,” Campbell said. “We can’t let that regenerate.” By Dialogo April 22, 2011last_img read more

Continue Reading

hdgviosa

Colombian K-9s Help Rid Country of IEDs

By on

first_imgBy Yolima Dussán/Diálogo August 01, 2017 The use of dogs has grown in Colombia over the last 10 years. With 2,797 dogs, the Colombian Army provides nationwide coverage for detecting narcotics and explosive substances, doing search and rescue, and detection and tracking. With the excellent results that have been achieved, the goal now is to increase their participation in all operations. The United Nations recently certified a group of Colombian K-9 teams trained in humanitarian demining, with which the units were ready for deployment across Colombian territory. Following the certification process, U.S. Army South veterinary personnel visited the Canine Training School at Fort Tolemaida in June with the purpose of learning about the Colombian experience in breeding and training dogs to detect landmines as part of a humanitarian demining program led by the National Center for Countering IEDs and Mines (CENAM, per its Spanish acronym). Both armies exchanged knowledge on breeding and training dogs for this purpose as well as shared information on the veterinary care each undertakes. . Aligned procedures “At the end of their tour [of the visit], and after all of the program presentations, their conclusions recorded the points that our two armies have in common when using dogs under the same conditions, both in the way that [we make use of] their capabilities and our rigorous training and breeding methods, as well as in terms of health and hygiene,” Colombian Army Colonel Jorge Armando Ramírez Troncoso, head of the Canine Directorate at CENAM, told Diálogo. “With regard to this last point, we got specific feedback on veterinary care and the use of medications,” he added. In Colombia, dogs are used especially for detecting explosive substances. “Since 1998, when we began [devoting them] to the detection of explosive substances, these little animals have made a great contribution to the Army,” Colombian Army Colonel Eddy Bladimir Moscoso Castiblanco, commander of CENAM, told Diálogo. “Today, the K-9 team is essential for detecting explosives, working together with a metal detector, hook-and-line equipment, and the explosives technician.” More dogs and resources The Canine Directorate has big projects within its program, which includes building four modern hospital units that will be strategically distributed across the country. The Warren Buffett Foundation awarded a $16 million donation for the development of this project. The dog breeds that perform best in the training, and afterwards, in the most grueling weather conditions and terrain, are Labradors, Belgian Malinois, and Golden Retrievers. Dog training takes four months, and it starts at the same time with the service member for that K-9 team. Their relationship cannot be dissolved except in extreme circumstances. A dog trained to detect explosives has an active service life of five years. The Colombian Army soon expects to have the 5,000 dogs it needs for its operations. “We are lacking dogs and resources. Currently, we are purchasing between 600 and 800 dogs a year. That’s why we started breeding them in kennels. The goal is to become self-sufficient in the short term. [The dogs] are put through a rigorous selection process. Not all of them meet the requirements,” Col. Ramírez said. CENAM’s strategy The Canine Directorate was established in 2016 as part of the National Center for Countering IEDs and Mines, which was created in 2012 because of the country’s internal conflict, and as a response to the need arising from the indiscriminate use of mines and IEDs by guerrilla groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the National Liberation Army, and by drug traffickers against the civilian population and infrastructure, and directly against members of the Colombian Army and National Police. This specialized unit was needed in order to learn everything about explosive substances, the ways in which mines are used, and the emergence of IEDs made from a wide range of supplies. “A solid structure was needed to counteract the use of these mines,” Col. Moscoso stated. “We need to see explosives as a system, and it is only through a well-coordinated system that we will be able to reduce the use of these explosive charges.” More than 23,000 explosive devices destroyed In Colombia, the problem of mines and explosives of all kinds has had critical periods. According to official sources, these events increased to an average of 2.5 injuries per day since 2008. By 2012, the outlook for victims of explosives was devastating. The statistics at that time said there were more than 7,000 victims. The creation of CENAM became a priority for the Colombian government and for the Colombian Armed Forces. “Throughout this process, SOUTHCOM made a definitive contribution. It was, and is, our greatest ally. From the start, it helped us with the creation of this unit,” Col. Moscoso explained. “They sent personnel to orient us on how to set up a functional structure. We received instruction, training, supplies, financing, and resources. It’s a collaboration that continues today and is still evolving. Right now, our main effort is framed by humanitarian demining,” he explained. CENAM operates along three lines of action—preparedness, prevention, and protection—and through six bodies: the Directorate of Military Demining, the Directorate of Investigation, the Directorate of Innovation, the Directorate of Humanitarian Demining, the Directorate of Mine Warfare, and the Canine Directorate. From 2013 to 2017, these law-enforcement bodies destroyed 23,878 explosive devices.last_img read more

Continue Reading