Robert Weller
Updated May 27, 2014, 7:55 AM
Stories and images from covering news around the world for more than 40 years.
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RUBICONS AND CYBERFLÂNEURS








    SHANTI VANA TO ETERNITY
     SHANTI VANA, India _ Rajiv Gandhi, dutiful son, circled his mother's body seven times and touched her face lightly with a burning piece of sandalwood.
    Then, as hundreds of thousands watched, he lighted the logs soaked in ghee (clarified butter) underneath her.
    The 40-year-old Gandhi, who had already taken over his mother's office as prime minister, was now fulfilling his role as sole, surviving son, consigning her to eternity in the ancient Indian rite 
of cremation.
    As the flames leaped higher, he and other mourners erected a pyramid of logs over her flower-covered red sari, and Hindu priests chanted mantras and prayers beseeching that her remains be scattered to the air and ground, the wind and water. White smoke curled into the air.
    The estimated 400,000 Indians swarming over the grassy flats beside the Yamuna River raised cry after cry of tribute to the assassinated government chief, the woman who had led the country for 15 years.
    *The entire staff, the late Foreign Editor Nate Polowetzky and visiting writers, including and legendary photographer Horst Faas helped.




   
Town Lives Up To Afrikaans Name
   WEENEN, South Africa _This town has lived up to its name, an Afrikaans word for weeping.
   Neil Alcock, a white man know for 20 years as a peacemaker among Zulus, was ambushed and slain with five tribal elders while trying to settle a deadly feud.




SKYJACKINGS
    During a two-week period in November of 1971 two planes were hijacked over Montana, where I was working for United Press International. They were among the first of a wave of hijackings. The first skyjacker, Paul Cini, was overpowered by the crew.
    The second was by the legendary D.B. Cooper, who parachuted from the back of a jet and was never seen again.
    More than a decade later, legendary mercenary Col. Mad Mike Hoare, traveling with 40 men disguised as a rugby team, attempted a coup in the Seychelles and when it failed hijacked an Air Indian jet and forced the pilot to fly it to South Africa, where he and his men were arrested. 
    I flew to Durban, where they landed. When I told the desk there were 40 hijackers they didn't want to believe me.



UNSINKABLE LEADVILLE FINDS A WAY TO SURVIVE WITHOUT MINES
   LEADVILLE, Colo. _ In 1882, Oscar Wilde visited this rough-and-tumble mining town high in the Rockies and read the works of Renaissance author Benvenuto Cellini to a group of townspeople.
    The crowd liked it so much they asked Wilde why he hadn't brought the writer along. Wilde explained that Cellini was dead.
    "Who shot him?" someone in the crowd asked.
    As of Friday, the mines that enriched Margaret Brown and her family made Leadville a tough and pitiless Wild West outpost are all gone. But while the place is a far cry from its heyday, when 40,000 people packed the city, Leadville is no ghost town.
    In fact, Leadville is booming again, a growing middle-class community of charming Victorian homes.



RUSSIANS GET IN THE WAR ROOM BUT WW3 AVOIDED
     PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE _ American and Russian officers claimed success Friday in their joint effort to make certain there were no accidental nuclear missile launches because of the Y2K computer bug.
    There was a little rush of excitement when U.S. monitors detected a Russian missile being launched at Chechna.
    We all went home early because once no missiles had been launched in the first hours of Russian time we knew the threat was over.


GADDAFI BLOWS UP FRENCH AIRLINER, SAHARAN TRAGEDY




   IN THE TENERE REGION OF THE SAHARA (AP) First it appeared like confetti in the endless sand. Then big chunks of fuselate shattered in the crash that killed all 171 aboard, came into view. 
    It was hard to imagine in a low-level flight over the scene that the pieces ever came together to form a jumbo jet.
    Investigators in the Tenere Desert, the heart of the Sahara, worked in 113-degree heat Thursday to determine a cause for the crash of the Paris-bound DC-10 two days earlier. 
    They recovered the flight and voice recorders from the wreckage, a spokesman at the French Foreign Ministry in Paris said Thursday night.
    Blackened bodies were scattered across the desert.
    The dead included seven Americans.
    More than 20 years later Gaddafi was paid back when he was killed by his own people, rebelling against his tyranny.


EROTIC FUNERAL ART DYING
    Mangily Grave, Madagascar -- Among the Malagasy people, a funeral once was an occasion for an orgy and members of the Sakalava clan left nothing to the imagination when they carved statues of their departed ancestors in the act of making love.
    Later they sometimes took corpses from graves to join parties.
    Tourists pillaged the art, causing the government to ban the carving of erotic sculptures.




ASHES OF DREAMS IN MOUNTAIN PINES
    PINE JUNCTION, Colo. _ Down the mountain road, freshly scrawled signs thank firefighters "for saving our dreams." Patsy and Steve Kruzek have only memories.
    "This place may be beautiful again, but not in my lifetime," said Patsy, standing outside the stone basement of what had been a three-story home. 
    It was all that was left of a 35-acre holding probably worth $350,000.
    Smoke tufted up next to the statue of a howling coyote, who almost seemed to be feeling the couple's pain.







BATMAN FILM TURNS TO HORROR SHOW
It could have been a promotion stunt when a man wearing black, a bullet-proof vest and a gas mask kicked in the door. A shooting scene was on the screen. But "Dark Knight Rises" was not a 3D film. And this was real.

Not far away I had been at a showing of Prometheus, and outside the theater there was a promotion with a man dressed as Batman. When I awoke this morning it truly was Columbine, déjà vu, for a reporter who had covered that school massacre.

Without saying a word last night, a killer rolled smoke cannisters down the aisle and began firing, apparently with two handguns and a long gun. At least 12 people in the audience, which included many children, were fatally wounded in theater 9 in the Century 16 in Aurora.




The End of Privacy

   In this century it appears the loss of anonymity will be more shocking than the loss of virginity.

   Two events that resulted in deaths, and both involve the Internet at least tangentially, signal the need for a reexamination of privacy.

   Is it even possible in a world with surveillance cameras wherever you turn?  Drones aren’t only used in Afghanistan.

   In the Princeton suicide case of Tyler Clementi his predator had figured out how to set up a remote control viewing of his sex with an older gay man.






                                                                               

COLUMBINE MASSACRE
   LITTLETON, Colo. _ Two young men in fatigues and black trench coats attacked fellow students with guns and explosives in a suicide mission at Columbine High School in Denver's suburbs, killing 12 students and one teacher.
   The gunmen were later found dead in the library.

    On that horrible day, tears often welling in my eyes, there was one spot of brightness. First a small batch, then another, followed by a cascade of flowers that buried a small tree in Clement Park. I felt like I was at Lourdes.

Washington Post
BULLETIN: Two suspects in Colorado school shooting dead
     Tuesday, April 20, 1999; 6:03 p.m. EDT
    LITTLETON, Colo. -- Two people whom witnesses described as young men dressed in long, black trench coats opened fire in a suburban Denver high school today, scattering students as gunshots ricocheted off lockers. At least 20 people were injured, including one girl shot nine times. The teen gunmen killed 12 students, one teacher and themselves.



     Saturday. Dec. 14, 2013
     Denver - In Colorado’s state capitol building a Democrat was being sworn in as the newest state senator. A few miles to the south, a teen gunman wounded two people with a shotgun before blowing his brains out.
More than a thousand miles away, on the East Coast, families and victims were preparing to commemorate the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Conn. What do three stories have in common?

Read more: http://digitaljournal.com/news/crime/american-politics-a-gun-tale-breaking-news/article/363953#ixzz2nT1A3oOE


A FRIEND FROM ANOTHER STAR
    VAIL, Colo. _ Christopher Reeve didn't walk by the time he turned 50, as he once vowed, but giving up wasn't in the vocabulary of the articulate former Juilliard student. 
   Instead, he kept speaking around the country, finishing a second book, battling to restrictions on research that could lead to a cure to his paralysis, and exercising almost daily. 
   "There will be a cure. It is very important for me to stay in the best possible condition to be prepared," he said in an interview at a weekend fund-raising 
event for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.





WAR POEM ON DOOMSDAY IN HUFFINGTON POST

It seemed so horrible when I first heard
Though that Kabul suicide bombing blast lent just the right tone
For the day some said would be the apocalypse
But if it were really true would we have even heard
It only takes a few minutes to get over things these days anyway
And if there is even a faint pulse a bloody pulp can be kept alive
When a bullet to the head would be more merciful
Or bullets to the chest and head like Bin Laden
Those covered in blood learn so many neutral ways to explain it
Things not even a Primo Levi would try to make sense of
Let's just call it post-traumatic stress disorder
Because there are so many neutral ways
To tell stories that shouldn't even be imagined Let alone told
A rape is a sexual assault
A bloody bombing is the work of "militants"
Kind of makes you wonder what you call really bad people
It's unlikely a Shakespeare or Camus would be up to it
Better left to an Edgar Allan Poe or even Stephen King
But our world clearly passed even them by years...






ENCOUNTER WITH LOWLAND GORILLA
    Although I had once covered a Hollywood gorilla, during the making of King Kong outside the World Trade Centers, later in Gabon I met the real thing.
    A primatologist accidentally let a lowland gorrilla out of its cage. It threw a forearm at me, cracking the lens filter case on my Nikon. Meanwhile, the primatologist slid under a baboon cage for shelter. She told me to close the gate and go get help. I was torn, could I leave her there within reach of the gorrilla?
    I certainly didn't think I could help. But I wasn't sure I could even close the gate and didn't want to be the next target of the gorrilla. So I ran up the hill screaming in French that the guerrilla had escaped.
    All ended well when the boss came down and setthe 400-pound animal. This did not become a news story but made the AP Log, and I was reimbursed for the cracked lens filter. I later met apes on two different assignments, without getting smacked.




 

ESKIMOS RISK LIVES IN SEARCH OF WHALES

Robert Weller, Chief of the Associated Press bureaus in Alaska, had the rare experience of joining         Eskimo whale hunters in 1978 their pursuit of the bowhead whale on the Bering Sea. Here is his account."
    Only walrus hide a quarter-inch thick separates the whaling crew from the icy Bering Sea. At times you can see the water through the skin of the boat.
    Leonard Apangalook, the captain works the sails skillfully to search in silence for the bowhead whale.
    Preston Apangalook - the crew is made up of the four Apangalook brothers - is ready to toss the harpoon if a whale draws near. Paul stands lookout.The other brother, Mike, helps Leonard monitor CB radio traffic in Eskimo dialect on whale sightings.
    As a long-time skier I had considerable experience with cold. And I wore a $500 Arctic World AP had bought for me in 1976. Still, sitting still, I felt like I would only be warm if I was cremated like Robert Service's Sam McGee.




A SMILE AS WARM AS A CAMPFIRE ON A COLD WINTER NIGHT
    STARWOOD, Colo. _ John Denver could make himself understood with a smile, whether in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Africa during a famine or with Kermit the Frog.

    Stuck in an African town on the other side of the world from his beloved Aspen he couldn't resist taking out a guitar and playing “Darcy Farrow” when this reporter mentioned how much he loved it.
    Our friendship didn't end in Africa.    I first met him again in Alaska and later several times in Colorado. I also covered his funeral and musical made as a tribute, "Almost Heaven."




STORM KING FIRE KILLS 14 FIREFIGHTERS
    GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. _ Flames trapped firefighters battling a fierce wildfire on Wednesday, killing at least 14.
    About 50 firefighters were trapped and overcome by flames as they fought the 500-acre (200-hectare) fire on Storm King Mountain west of here, said Garfield County Undersheriff Levy Burris.
    The Weather Service had warned deadly winds could cause the fire to erupt, but somehow the message didn't reach everyone. And some of the victims, from Oregon, were not familiar with the vegetation and how readily it burned.



Hunter Couldn't Take Getting Old



ASPEN, Colo. - Hunter S. Thompson, the hard-living writer who inserted himself into his accounts of America's underbelly and popularized a first-person form of journalism in books such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," has committed suicide.
    Thompson was found dead Sunday in his Aspen-area home of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, sheriff's officials said. He was 67. Thompson's wife, Anita, had gone out before the shooting and was not home at the time. His son, Juan, found the body.
    Thompson "took his life with a gunshot to the head," the wife and son said in a statement released to the Aspen Daily News. The statement asked for privacy for Thompson's family and, using the Latin term for Earth, added, "He stomped terra."
    Remember this: The only ones who know where the edge is are the ones who have gone over it. Miss you my Gonzo friend.

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