Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Over 200 families feared buried by landslides in Sri Lanka

ELANGAPITIYA VILLAGE, Sri Lanka (AP) -- Soldiers and police used sticks and bare hands Wednesday to dig through enormous piles of mud covering houses in three villages hit by massive landslides in central Sri Lanka, with hundreds of families reported missing.
By evening, rescuers had pulled 17 bodies from the mud and debris unleashed by several days of heavy rain across the island nation. Officials said the extent of the tragedy was still unclear, but the Sri Lankan Red Cross said at least 220 families were unaccounted for.
"The task is to figure out what happened to them," the Red Cross said in a statement, noting that some people may have left after local officials warned earlier this week of possible landslides.
Heavy fog, rain, electrical outages and the loose ground were complicating efforts to search for survivors. As night fell, the rescue operation was suspended until dawn. Officials warned that, with rain still falling, more landslides could occur in the area.
Villagers said torrents of muddy water, tree branches and debris came crashing down around their homes Tuesday in the three villages, located at different heights on the same hill in Kegalle District, about 72 kilometers (45 miles) north of Colombo.
"I heard a huge sound like a plane crashing into the Earth," said 52-year-old A.G. Kamala, who had just returned to her house in one of the villages, Siripura, when the landslides hit. "I opened my door. I could not believe my eyes, as I saw something like a huge fireball rolling down the mountain."
Near the village of Elangapitiya — furthest down the hill — soldiers carried bodies to a school, where families waited for news of missing loved ones.
Farmer Hewapelige Lal said he had identified the body of his nephew, but that 18 other family members were possibly buried under the mud. He and his wife had left their home to take fruit to a daughter who lived elsewhere, but at some point his wife turned back.
"That was the last time I saw her," Lal said, sobbing. When he heard of the landslide, he rushed home but found the area covered with thick, heavy mud. "All I could do was scream."
Officials could not give the populations of the villages of Siripura, Elangapitiya or Pallebage, but such villages typically include 1,000-1,500 residents.
In Elangapitiya alone, where 14 bodies were recovered Wednesday, about 130 people were still missing, according to Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, who was coordinating rescue efforts.
Hundreds of stunned villagers took shelter in four temporary camps set up in schools and a Buddhist temple, where they were being given food, blankets and basic medical treatment.
At the Viyaneliya Temple, about 300 villagers shared a meal of brown bread and curried lentils. Local officials interviewed each one to learn about missing family members and possessions buried under the mud.
Local media said President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe visited the disaster sites earlier Wednesday.
In Siripura, 70-year-old A.G. Alice said all nine of her children were unaccounted for.
"I don't know what happened to me" after the landslides swept down, she said.
A man said his wife, mother-in-law, son and daughter-in-law were all in his house in Siripura when the landslides hit. "I still can't locate my family," M.W. Dharmadasa said. "I still don't know what happened to them."
The same rains that unleashed the mudslides also caused severe flooding in cities including Colombo, the capital, where tens of thousands of homes were at least partially inundated. Schools were closed due to the bad weather.
Sri Lanka's disaster management center reported 11 deaths from lightning strikes and smaller landslides elsewhere in the country on Monday and Tuesday. Nearly 135,000 people have been displaced and are being housed in temporary shelters.
Mudslides are common during the monsoon season, with heavy deforestation to clear land for agriculture leaving the countryside exposed.
During heavy rains in December 2014, authorities evacuated more than 60,000 people from thousands of homes damaged or destroyed by floods or landslides. Two months before that, dozens of tea plantation workers were killed when mudslides buried their hillside homes.
Associated Press writers Bharatha Mallawarachi in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Katy Daigle in New Delhi contributed to this report.


MARK CUBAN: Donald Trump is 'probably not as smart as he thinks he is'

Mark CubanMark Cuban emphatically shut down the idea of his third-party candidacy on Monday, just days after a Washington Post report posited that anti-Trump operatives were looking to recruit the brash billionaire to run for president.
"Look, it was just an email through one of my associates and it was ... a quick response of no,"he told CNN's Erin Burnett. "It's impossible for it to work."
"There's not enough time to get on the ballot," he continued. "The hurdles are just too great. It was a ridiculous effort, so I passed."
He added that there was no chance of a third-party run under any conditions.
However, the owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks didn't hold back his fire on presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.
"You know, where Donald has come from to today, you would think that he'd be more [knowledgeable] on the issues — that we would look at what he's had to say and say you know what, he's really picked up some in-depth knowledge, he's nuanced on different topics, whether it's immigration, whether it's the jobs plan, whether it's the economy, whatever it may be," he said. "But that just hasn't happened. And to me, that's a problem."
Cuban said it's clear Trump "hasn't invested the time" to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges facing the country. Trump, he opined, is "probably not as smart as he thinks he is."
"That's an issue," he said. "Now, when you have that amount of uncertainty, when there's, you know, you're flip-flopping, when you're not sure what the candidate is going to say from one thing to another, that uncertainty, you know, potentially as the president of the United States, that's the last thing Wall Street wants to hear."
When it comes to whom the billionaire business mogul would vote for, Cuban said he still has six months to make up his mind. But as of now, he said he's leaning toward Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton "because the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know."
"I know what Hillary's positions are," he said. "I can go to Hillary's website and there's spreadsheets, there's depth, there's analysis, there's details. Is going to Donald's website — which I have — he lists issues. He lists top-line things that he'd like to do, but he doesn't say how he's going to get there."

Poll: McCain locked in tough reelection fight

The survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) released Tuesday found that McCain leads the Republican primary field with 39 percent, followed by former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who has 26 percent. The other three GOP candidates are polling in the single digits.
But in a hypothetical head-to-head match-up, McCain ties Ward with 41 percent.

The incumbent GOP senator also has an unfavorable rating among Republican primary voters, pollsters found, with 35 percent viewing him favorably and 50 percent giving him an unfavorable rating. He fares worse among those who describe themselves as “very conservative.”

If McCain wins the primary, his prospects in the general election are far from certain. He leads Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) by 6 points, 42 to 36 percent, but has a similar unfavorable rating among all Arizona state voters.

If Ward wins the GOP nomination, however, the general election race is even tighter. She leads Kirkpatrick, 37 to 35 percent.

“John McCain’s going to have a hard time getting through the Republican primary,” Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a statement. “Even if he does survive Kelli Ward, the general election’s likely to be tough for him too.”

McCain's campaign brushed off the poll's results and said the findings show he's in a better position than when the last survey was conducted.

"We put zero stock in a partisan Democrat poll that is obviously aimed at boosting John McCain’s opponents in the primary and general elections," spokeswoman Lorna Romero said. "And even if you took this bogus poll at face value, it actually shows McCain in a stronger position today than PPP’s last poll, with his favorability up eight points since March."

“John McCain has always known this will be a tight race - that’s why he’s built a strong campaign that’s ready for any challenge this November," she added.

The GOP senator conceded in leaked audio that “this might be the race of my life” with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump as the party's standard-bearer. While he said he’d support the eventual nominee, McCain has criticized Trump's harsh rhetoric and called on the billionaire to apologize to prisoners of war.

The PPP poll of 896 registered voters and 443 GOP primary voters was conducted between May 13 and 15. It has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points for all voters and a margin of error of 4.7 points for Republican respondents.


Thanks, Obamacare

As you know, the Republican Party has spent the past seven years trying to save the country from the appalling tyranny of something resembling universal healthcare, which passed through the totalitarian means of getting enough votes in a democratically elected national legislature and being signed by a democratically elected president. The results are in, sheeple. Lady Liberty weeps, according to the CDC:

The number of uninsured persons has declined in the past year. In 2015, 28.6 million persons of all ages (9.1%) were uninsured at the time of interview-7.4 million fewer persons than in 2014.
In other words, 90 percent of the American people currently are oppressed by having health insurance now. (Sarah Kliff on Vox pointed out on the electric Twitter machine that this is the first time this ever has happened.)

Who will free us from this authoritarian nightmare?

How to make Republican men like Hillary Clinton

Poll after poll shows Hillary Clinton is not popular among white men. Her policy stances haven’t won their admiration. A cultural shift toward feminism hasn’t helped much, either.
But the Democratic front-runner in the presidential campaign has a secret weapon, one that could help her snare crucial voters from presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump: her husband.