Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8565 on: May 29th, 2013, 11:43am »
House Judiciary panel questions Holder on reporter surveillance
By Jonathan Easley 05/29/13 11:02 AM ET
The top two Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have initiated an investigation into whether Attorney General Eric Holder lied under oath during his May 15 testimony on the Justice Department’s (DOJ) surveillance of reporters.
Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), the chairman of the subcommittee on investigations, sent a letter to Holder on Wednesday detailing specific aspects of his testimony that they say conflicts with subsequent media reports about Holder’s involvement in the surveillance of James Rosen, a reporter for Fox News.
“The media reports and statements issued by the Department regarding the search warrants for Mr. Rosen’s emails appear to be at odds with your sworn testimony before the Committee,” the letter reads in part.
“We believe — and we hope you will agree — it is imperative that the Committee, the Congress, and the American people be provided a full and accurate account of your involvement in and approval of these search warrants.”
The Hill first reported of the pending investigation on Tuesday.
The panel is looking at a statement Holder made during an exchange with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) about whether the DOJ could prosecute reporters under the Espionage Act of 1917.
“In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material — this is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy,” Holder said at the time.
Media reports later found that Holder personally approved a search warrant that labeled Rosen a co-conspirator in a national security leaks case.
The panel is investigating whether the reports contradict Holder’s claim that he had not looked into or been involved with a possible prosecution of the press in a leaks case.
“How can you claim to have never been involved in the potential prosecution of a member of the media but you were admittedly involved in discussions regarding Mr. Rosen’s email?” the letter asks. “How can you claim to have never even heard of the potential prosecution of the press but were, at a minimum, involved in discussions regarding Mr. Rosen?”
The committee is seeking all regulations and internal Justice Department policies governing the issuance of search warrants for members of the media.
The DOJ has said it never intended to prosecute Rosen. The lawmakers’ letter asks Holder why the search warrant though identified the reporter as a “co-conspirator.”
Sensenbrenner has already called for Holder to resign, and said if he fails to do so, President Obama should fire him.
Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, told The Hill that Holder was “forthright” with the panel and that there was “no need to turn a policy disagreement into allegations of misconduct.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8567 on: May 29th, 2013, 11:48am »
Ancient Plants Reawaken: Plants Exposed by Retreating Glaciers Regrowing After Centuries Entombed Under Ice
May 28, 2013 — When University of Alberta researcher Catherine La Farge threads her way through the recently exposed terrain left behind by retreating glaciers, she looks at the ancient plant remains a lot closer than most. Now, her careful scrutiny has revealed a startling reawakening of long-dormant plants known as bryophytes.
La Farge, a researcher in the Faculty of Science, and director and curator of the Cryptogamic Herbarium at the University of Alberta, has overturned a long-held assumption that all of the plant remains exposed by retreating polar glaciers are dead. Previously, any new growth of plants close to the glacier margin was considered the result of rapid colonization by modern plants surrounding the glacier.
Using radiocarbon dating, La Farge and her co-authors confirmed that the plants, which ranged from 400 to 600 years old, were entombed during the Little Ice Age that happened between 1550 and 1850. In the field, La Farge noticed that the subglacial populations were not only intact, but also in pristine condition -- with some suggesting regrowth.
In the lab, La Farge and her master's student Krista Williams selected 24 subglacial samples for culture experiments. Seven of these samples produced 11 cultures that successfully regenerated four species from the original parent material.
La Farge says the regrowth of these Little Ice Age bryophytes (such as mosses and liverworts) expands our understanding of glacier ecosystems as biological reservoirs that are becoming increasingly important with global ice retreat. "We know that bryophytes can remain dormant for many years (for example, in deserts) and then are reactivated, but nobody expected them to rejuvenate after nearly 400 years beneath a glacier.
"These simple, efficient plants, which have been around for more than 400 million years, have evolved a unique biology for optimal resilience," she adds. "Any bryophyte cell can reprogram itself to initiate the development of an entire new plant. This is equivalent to stem cells in faunal systems."
La Farge says the finding amplifies the critical role of bryophytes in polar environments and has implications for all permafrost regions of the globe.
"Bryophytes are extremophiles that can thrive where other plants don't, hence they play a vital role in the establishment, colonization and maintenance of polar ecosystems. This discovery emphasizes the importance of research that helps us understand the natural world, given how little we still know about polar ecosystems -- with applied spinoffs for understanding reclamation that we may never have anticipated."
The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8568 on: May 29th, 2013, 5:07pm »
Amelia Earhart's plane found? Sonar images may have pinpointed wreckage
By Rossella Lorenzi Published May 29, 2013 Discovery News
A grainy sonar image captured off an uninhabited tropical island in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati might represent the remains of the Electra, the two-engine aircraft legendary aviator Amelia Earhart was piloting when she vanished on July 2, 1937 in a record attempt to fly around the world at the equator.
Released by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which has long been investigating Earhart's last, fateful flight, the images show an "anomaly" resting at the depth of about 600 feet in the waters off Nikumaroro island, some 350 miles southeast of Earhart's target destination, Howland Island.
According to TIGHAR researchers, the sonar image shows a strong return from a narrow object roughly 22 feet long oriented southwest/northeast on the slope near the base of an underwater cliff. Shadows indicate that the object is higher on the southwest (downhill side). A lesser return extends northeastward for about 131 feet.
"What initially got our attention is that there is no other sonar return like it in the entire body of data collected," Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, told Discovery News.
"It is truly an anomaly, and when you're looking for man-made objects against a natural background, anomalies are good," he added.
A number of artifacts recovered by TIGHAR during 10 expeditions have suggested that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, made a forced landing on the island's smooth, flat coral reef. Gillespie and his team believe the two became castaways and eventually died there.
In July 2012, Gillespie and his crew returned to Nikumaroro to carry out an underwater search for the plane with a torpedo-shaped Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) and a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV).
Multi-beam sonar mounted on the ship mapped the underwater terrain and the AUV collected a volume of side-scan data along roughly 1.3 nautical miles of shoreline off the west end of Nikumaroro, while the ROV, capable of reaching depths of 3,000 feet, produced hours upon hours of high-definition video.
Plagued by a number of technical issues and a difficult environment, the hunt did not result in the immediate identification of pieces from Earhart's Lockheed Electra aircraft.
As they returned from the data collection trip, TIGHAR researchers began reviewing and analyzing all of new material recovered from the underwater search.
They identified a small debris field of objects at the depth of 200 feet, which TIGHAR forensic imaging specialist Jeff Glickman described as consisting of man-made objects.
July 22, 2012: Underwater search for Earhart plane called off.
June 1, 2012: Dozens of previously dismissed radio signals may have been transmissions from Earhart, study says.
May 31, 2012: A small cosmetic jar offers more circumstantial evidence that Earhart died on uninhabited island.
Mar 20, 2012: Enhanced analysis of photo taken months after Earhart's plane vanished leads salvagers back to the island.
Dec. 17, 2010: Bone fragments and artifacts turn up on a deserted South Pacific island.
Located distinctly apart from the debris field of the SS Norwich City, a British steamer which went aground on the island's reef in 1929, the site features objects which appear consistent with the interpretation made by Glickmann of a grainy photograph of Nikumaroro's western shoreline.
The grainy photo was shot by British Colonial Service officer Eric R. Bevington in October 1937, just three months after Amelia's disappearance on July 2, 1937. It revealed an apparent man-made protruding object on the left side of the frame.
Forensic imaging analyses of the picture found the mysterious object consistent with the shape and dimensions of the wreckage of landing gear from Earhart's plane.
"The Bevington photo shows what appears to be four components of the plane: a strut, a wheel, a worm gear and a fender. In the debris field there appears to be the fender, possibly the wheel and possibly some portions of the strut," Glickman told Discovery News.
A new twist in the search occurred last March when Richard Conroy, a member of TIGHAR’s on-line Amelia Earhart Search Forum, spotted an anomaly in a sonar map posted online.
"The anomaly gives the impression of being an object that struck the slope at the base of the second cliff at a depth of 613 feet, then skidded in a southerly direction for about 131 feet before coming to rest," Gillespie said.
In its underwater search, TIGHAR missed the place where the anomaly appears by only a few hundred feet.
"If only we had continued just that little bit further," Wolfgang Burnside, president of Submersible Systems Inc and the inventor and pilot of ROV used to conduct the underwater search, said.
He found the target "very promising, definitely not a rock, and it's in the correct location on the reef."
"It also shows what I interpret as 'drag' markings on the reef above and to the north behind the target, as it obviously hasn't quite settled into its final resting place yet," Burnside said.
Gillespie offers another explanation. “The apparent ground scar behind the object may also be a trail of internal components that spilled from the ripped-open fuselage.“
The anomaly appears to be the right size and shape to match the Electra wreckage and lines up nicely with the Bevington Object and Jeff Glickman's debris field.
According to Gillespie, the evidence found so far suggests a reasonable sequence of events:
• Earhart makes a safe landing on the dry reef and sends radio distress calls for at least five days.
• Before the seventh day when Navy search planes arrive, rising tides and surf knock the Electra off its landing gear and push it over the reef edge into the ocean, leaving a landing gear assembly (the Bevington Object) behind, jammed in the reef. Earhart and Noonan become castaways on the uninhabited, waterless atoll.
• The landing gear assembly stays jammed in the reef at least until October when Bevington took the photo, but at some point it breaks free and sinks, ending up in the catchment area at 200 feet where Glickman spotted pieces of it in the video.
• After going over the edge, the airplane is battered by the surf and sinks within a few minutes in the shallow water just past the reef edge. Subsequent storms cause pieces of wreckage to wash ashore where they are found and used by the island's later residents.
• Eventually the fuselage goes over the cliff, hits the slope at the bottom of the cliff at 600 feet and skids for a ways before coming rest more or less on its side with the starboard-side wing stub sticking up.
The only way to be absolutely sure that the anomaly is indeed Amelia's plane is by sending another expedition to the island, but that will depend upon the ability of TIGHAR, a nonprofit institute that relies upon sponsorships and contributions from the public, to raise the needed funding.
"We currently project that it will take nearly $3,000,000 to put together an expedition that can do what needs to be done. It's a lot of money, but it's a small price to pay for finding Amelia," Gillespie said.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8570 on: May 30th, 2013, 3:44pm »
Why Animals Compare the Present With the Past
May 30, 2013 — Humans, like other animals, compare things. We care not only how well off we are, but whether we are better or worse off than others around us, or than we were last year. New research by scientists at the University of Bristol shows that such comparisons can give individuals an evolutionary advantage.
According to standard theory, the best response to current circumstances should be unaffected by what has happened in the past. But the Bristol study, published in the journal Science, shows that in a changing, unpredictable world it is important to be sensitive to past conditions.
The research team, led by Professor John McNamara in Bristol's School of Mathematics, built a mathematical model to understand how animals should behave when they are uncertain about the pattern of environmental change. They found that when animals are used to rich conditions but then conditions suddenly worsen, they should work less hard than animals exposed to poor conditions all along.
The predictions from the model closely match findings from classic laboratory experiments in the 1940s, in which rats were trained to run along a passage to gain food rewards. The rats ran more slowly for small amounts of food if they were used to getting large amounts of food, compared to control rats that were always rewarded with the smaller amount.
This so-called 'contrast effect' has also been reported in bees, starlings and a variety of mammals including newborn children, but until now it lacked a convincing explanation.
Dr Tim Fawcett, a research fellow in Bristol's School of Biological Sciences and a co-author on the study, said: "The effects in our model are driven by uncertainty. In changing environments, conditions experienced in the past can be a valuable indicator of how things will be in the future."
This, in turn, affects how animals should respond to their current situation. "An animal that is used to rich conditions thinks that the world is generally a good place," Dr Fawcett explained. "So when conditions suddenly turn bad, it interprets this as a temporary 'blip' and hunkers down, expecting that rich conditions will return soon. In contrast, an animal used to poor conditions expects those conditions to persist, and so cannot afford to rest."
The model also predicts the reverse effect, in which animals work harder for food when conditions suddenly improve, compared to animals experiencing rich conditions all along. This too has been found in laboratory experiments on a range of animals.
The Bristol study highlights unpredictable environmental fluctuations as an important evolutionary force. "Rapid changes favour individuals that are responsive and able to adjust their behaviour in the light of past experience," said Dr Fawcett. "The natural world is a dynamic and unpredictable place, but evolutionary models often neglect this. Our work suggests that models of more complex environments are important for understanding behaviour."
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8571 on: May 30th, 2013, 3:46pm »
Why We Can’t Send Humans to Mars Yet (And How We’ll Fix That)
By Adam Mann 05.30.13 6:30 AM
While humans have dreamed about going to Mars practically since it was discovered, an actual mission in the foreseeable future is finally starting to feel like a real possibility.
But how real is it?
NASA says it’s serious about one day doing a manned mission while private companies are jockeying to present ever-more audacious plans to get there. And equally important, public enthusiasm for the Red Planet is riding high after the Curiosity rover’s spectacular landing and photo-rich mission.
Earlier this month, scientists, NASA officials, private space company representatives and other members of the spaceflight community gathered in Washington D.C. for three days to discuss all the challenges at the Humans to Mars (H2M) conference, hosted by the spaceflight advocacy group Explore Mars, which has called for a mission that would send astronauts in the 2030s.
But the Martian dust devil is in the details, and there is still one big problem: We currently lack the technology to get people to Mars and back. An interplanetary mission of that scale would likely be one of the most expensive and difficult engineering challenges of the 21st century.
“Mars is pretty far away,” NASA’s director of the International Space Station, Sam Scimemi said during the H2M conference. “It’s six orders of magnitude further than the space station. We would need to develop new ways to live away from the Earth and that’s never been done before. Ever.”
There are some pretty serious gaps in our abilities, including the fact that we can’t properly store the necessary fuel long enough for a Mars trip, we don’t yet have a vehicle capable of landing people on the Martian surface, and we aren’t entirely sure what it will take to keep them alive once there. A large part of the H2M summit involved panelists discussing the various obstacles to a manned Mars mission.
“I’ve said repeatedly I’ll know when we’re serious about sending humans to the Mars surface when they start making significant technology investments in particular areas,” engineer Bobby Braun, former NASA chief technologist, told Wired.
The good news is that there’s nothing technologically impossible about a manned Mars mission. It's just a matter of deciding it's a priority and putting the time and money into developing the necessary tools. Right now NASA, other space agencies, and private companies are working to bring Mars in reach.
Here, Wired presents the most challenging obstacles we'll have to overcome to get to Mars and how to fix them.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8572 on: May 30th, 2013, 3:48pm »
U.S. to loosen sanctions on Iran for mobile phones, gadgets
WASHINGTON Thu May 30, 2013 2:03pm EDT
(Reuters) - The United States was set to relax sanctions on Iran on Thursday to allow American companies to sell mobile phones, software and other technology used for personal communications to Iranians, two U.S. officials said.
The move, expected later on Thursday, will allow Iranians to get access to the latest Apple phones and newest software that have only been available on Tehran's black market since sanctions were first imposed in 1992.
The U.S. has ramped up tough measures against Iran in recent years to slow development of the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear program, blacklisting a wide range of Iranian companies and government officials.
The United States believes Iran is enriching uranium to levels that could be used in nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its program is for peaceful purposes.
The easing of sanctions on technology may be an attempt by the U.S. government to develop goodwill with Iranian citizens before the Iranian national elections next month.
Social media played a big role in the wake of Iran's disputed 2009 presidential elections, used by the opposition "Green Movement" to marshal global attention to their cause, and later inspiring protesters in the Arab Spring revolts of 2011.
The U.S. government first eased some technology restrictions after the election in 2010, allowing U.S. companies to export to Iran some basic software and free Internet services such as chat and email.
But the move on Thursday goes further, allowing companies to sell software and hardware to Iranian citizens, Wendy Sherman, undersecretary for political affairs at the U.S. State Department, said in an interview on the BBC Persian service late on Wednesday.
"We have no desire to cut off communications," she said in the interview, which first announced the looser rules. "We in fact want to encourage communications in every way we can."
The English transcript from Sherman's interview was provided by the National Iranian American Council, a non-profit group that has long urged the U.S. government to ease restrictions on Iran that hurt ordinary citizens but do little to hinder the government's actions.
(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov, additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Doina Chiacu)
Earlier this year, leaders of U.S. Southern Command told Congress that ISR support provided to nations south of Mexico had led to more than “32 high-value narco-terrorists killed in action.” Just who were these individuals killed with U.S. help? SOUTHCOM’s posture statement didn’t say. So we asked.
It turns out they were members of Colombia’s FARC and ELN rebel groups or of Peru’s Shining Path, according to an emailed response from SOUTHCOM spokesman Jose Ruiz.
Each of those groups has been designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization.
Ruiz said the posture statement was in reference to US Air Force ISR support for Colombian and Peruvian forces.
Adam Isaacson of the Washington Office on Latin America, a human-rights nongovernmental organization, said he had not seen the figures from SOUTHCOM but said they would probably mostly be FARC in Colombia, rather then Shining Path in Peru.
“The Colombian government strategy since 2007 has been taking out high-value targets. They call it their HVT strategy. Mainly, it’s FARC. High value would include a front commander or maybe just the chief of finance of a front, or the head of a regional column. Maybe the head of some small ‘banda criminal’— a former paramilitary group.”
He said the Colombian program has been killing hundreds of people each year.
“For the U.S. to have a hand in only 32 of them, seems kind of low,” he said. “It’s a very old school ‘body count’ way of doing this. It would be more impres-sive if they tabulated captured targets.”
(This story appears in the print edition of C4ISR Journal)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8575 on: May 31st, 2013, 09:53am »
U.S. wheat found modified, halted
AP May 31, 2013
WASHINGTON – Japan has halted some imports of U.S. wheat after a genetically engineered version of the grain was found on an Oregon farm.
The Agriculture Department announced the discovery of the modified wheat Wednesday. No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for U.S. farming.
Japan is one of the largest export markets for U.S. wheat growers.
Katsuhiro Saka, a counselor at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, said Thursday that Japan had canceled orders of western white wheat from the Pacific Northwest and also of some feed-grade wheat. He said the country was waiting for more information from the Agriculture Department as it probes the discovery.
“In most countries the unapproved genetically modified wheat would be a target of concern,” Saka said. “The Japanese people have similar kinds of concerns.”
USDA officials said the wheat was the same strain as a genetically modified wheat that was designed to be herbicide-resistant and was legally tested by seed giant Monsanto a decade ago but never OK’d. Monsanto stopped testing that product in Oregon and several other states in 2005.
The Agriculture Department said the genetically engineered wheat is safe to eat and there is no evidence that modified wheat entered the marketplace. But the department is probing how it ended up in the field, whether there was any criminal wrongdoing and whether its growth is widespread.
The mystery could have implications on the wheat trade in the U.S. and abroad, as evidenced by Japan’s import halt Thursday.
Many countries around the world will not accept imports of genetically modified foods, and the United States exports about half of its wheat crop.
Japan imports 90 percent of its wheat, or about 5 million metric tons annually, including 3 million metric tons from the U.S., according to Toru Hisazome, an official in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.
Japan, which bans the import of genetically modified foods, suspended a tender for 25,000 metric tons of western white wheat, mainly used in Japan for making cakes, he said.
“We don’t have the exact information from the U.S. side yet,” Hisazome said.
Import orders for other types of U.S. wheat would not be affected, he said.
South Korea’s farm ministry said it will increase inspections of wheat imported from the U.S.
American consumers also have shown increasing interest in avoiding genetically modified foods. There has been little evidence to show that foods grown from engineered seeds are less safe than their conventional counterparts, but several state legislatures are considering bills that would require them to be labeled so consumers know what they are eating.
While most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are already modified, the country’s wheat crop is not. Many wheat farmers have shown reluctance to use genetically engineered seeds since their product is usually consumed directly, while much of the corn and soybean crop is used as feed.
The modified wheat was discovered when field workers at an eastern Oregon wheat farm were clearing land for the bare offseason when they came across a patch of wheat that didn’t belong. The workers sprayed it and sprayed it, but the wheat wouldn’t die. Their confused boss grabbed a few stalks and sent it to a university lab in early May.
A few weeks later, Oregon State University wheat scientists made a startling discovery: The wheat was genetically modified, in clear violation of U.S. law. They contacted the USDA, which ran more tests and confirmed their discovery.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #8576 on: May 31st, 2013, 09:58am »
Arizona mother freed from Mexican jail, heads home
By Daniel González The Republic azcentral.com Fri May 31, 2013 7:29 AM
NOGALES, Ariz. — A mother from Goodyear whose detention in a Mexico jail on suspicion of drug smuggling made international headlines, inspired a “Free Yanira” hashtag on Twitter and won the attention of politicians on both sides of the border was freed by a judge late Thursday after spending nine days in jail.
A small sedan carrying Yanira Maldonado and her family members could be seen crossing through the Nogales port of entry at 12:20 a.m. Friday morning.
A short time earlier, when she was released from prison, a tearful Maldonado stood on the steps of the detention center and expressed her gratitude to her family, her attorney and even the director of the prison who made the facility comfortable in her final days there.
“I want to say, ‘Thank you,’ first to God because I’m free now,” Maldonado said, surrounded by family members. “I’m very grateful that I’m free, for my family, for my children.”
She also thanked the media for bringing the international focus to her case.
“Through you, my situation was extended to the whole world,” she said.
Maldonado said she believes drug smugglers were responsible for hiding the marijuana found under her bus seat and she just happened to be the unlucky passenger who sat there.
“I don’t think I was targeted. Maybe (I was) unlucky,” Maldonado said later during an emotional 2:30 a.m. press conference next to the pool of her hotel in Nogales, Arizona just hours after she was released from a Mexican jail. “Somebody smuggled them there, and I probably sat in the wrong seat.”
Yanira seemed remarkably composed considering the ordeal she had just been through. Smiling often, she sat holding hands with her husband, Gary Maldonado, during the entire 20-minute press conference. He kept his arm around her shoulder as she talked about what it was like to be held in a jail suspected of being a drug smuggler, and then after nine long days being told she was being released.
“I yelled. I’m free. I’m free. I’m free. I was innocent, so I was very happy to be out,” she said.
She said she felt “very sad” when she was first put in jail.
“I could not believe I was there because I was innocent,” she said.
A devote member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Maldonado said she relied on her faith to get her through what family members have called a “nightmare” for her and her husband, Gary.
Yanira said she passed the time in jail praying and reading scriptures with other inmates from a copy of the Book of Mormon she found at the jail. On Sunday, she said she also led several other inmates in a fast.
News of her pending release began to spread after a pivotal court hearing earlier in the day.
Family members said a surveillance video shown during a court hearing Thursday helped prove that Yanira Maldonado was not trying to smuggle bundles of marijuana as had been alleged by Mexican federal authorities last week.
News of Maldonado’s release late Thursday drew reaction from Arizona politicians who have taken an interest in her plight, including members of the state’s congressional delegation.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who has been assisting the family, confirmed on Twitter that she was being set free. He tweeted at 10:28 p.m.: “Great news. Just had it confirmed by Consul General. Yanira Maldonado has been released.”
Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Mesa, also released a statement saying he was thrilled that Maldonado’s release, which her family began to anticipate Thursday afternoon, was finally a reality.
“I received encouraging reports from her husband Gary earlier today that her release looked promising and was constantly assured in my conversations with U.S. and Mexican officials that this situation would be resolved fairly and quickly,” Salmon wrote. “I am heartened that this was the case and Mrs. Maldonado is now coming home where she belongs.”
Family spokesman Brandon Klippel told the media about 10 p.m. that Maldonado was being freed from the jail in Nogales, Sonora, where she had been held since May 22. Media saw her leave the jail just after 11 p.m. into the waiting arms of her husband and other family members.
Klippel, brother-in-law of Yanira Maldonado’s husband, Gary, said she would immediately cross the border into the United States.
Her husband, Gary, said at a news conference earlier Thursday that the family was optimistic Maldonado, 42, would be released after surveillance video showed her boarding a bus in Mexico on her way back to Arizona carrying two blankets, two water bottles and her purse, but no drugs. She had been arrested after soldiers found drugs under her seat on the bus.
“She was in a good mood because she feels she is going to get out,” he said.
His father, Larry Maldonado, said he was among a room full of people allowed to watch the 20-minute surveillance video before it was turned over to the judge, who later decided to dismiss the drug-smuggling case. Her attorney subpoenaed the bus company to obtain the tape.
Had she been found guilty, she could have faced 10 years in prison in Mexico, Larry said.
Yanira’s arrest drew international attention after family members began publicizing the case on social media. They insisted she was not guilty and said she was the victim of a nightmarish mistake that turned the lives of her and her husband upside down.
Flake and Salmon have been in contact with family members as well as with U.S. State Department officials and officials from the Mexican Embassy.
Yanira said she was told around 9:30 p.m. Thursday that she was being set free, but Mexican authorities never explained why she was arrested and detained nor did they offer an apology. In fact, she said won’t know for three months whether federal prosecutors will try to appeal a judge’s decision to release her and not pursue drug trafficking charges.
On Thursday, Mexican officials told The Arizona Republic that Yanira was detained because Mexican soldiers found 12.3 pounds of marijuana hidden under her seat and an empty seat near her while she was traveling on a commercial passenger bus with her husband.
The couple were sitting together, with Gary in the aisle seat and Yanira in the window seat, said Larry, who added that there were empty seats around them.
“As a matter of fact, she was sitting over the drugs. So, because of that, she was arrested as a suspect of drug trafficking,” said Denise Coronado, a spokeswoman for the regional office of Mexico’s Secretariat of National Defense in Sonora. Coronado said the bus driver was also arrested, which is standard protocol.
Mexican soldiers found the drugs after the bus was stopped at 8 a.m. May 22 for a routine inspection near Querobabi in the state of Sonora, Coronado said. Querobabi is about 60 miles north of Hermosillo on the highway between Hermosillo and Nogales.
The case was then turned over to federal prosecutors, who are responsible for investigating whether the drugs belonged to Yanira, Coronado said.
Coronado said soldiers have found marijuana hidden on commercial passenger buses in the past, but “it is not common.”
Patricia Monroy, a spokeswoman for the Mexican Attorney General’s Office in Sonora, and Lydia Antonio de la Garza, a spokeswoman for the Mexican Embassy, declined to answer questions about the case.
Yanira and Gary, 41, were returning to the Valley after attending a funeral for Yanira’s aunt near Los Mochis in Sinaloa, the Mexican state south of Sonora, when the bus passed through the military checkpoint, Larry said.
Family members presented testimony and evidence to try to prove Yanira was not guilty, he said. Five witnesses testified in court on her behalf on Tuesday, including her husband, Larry said. Two relatives who drove Yanira and Gary to the bus station and two bus passengers testified, Yanira’s father-in-law said.
On Wednesday, the soldiers who found the drugs were scheduled to testify, but they did not show up, Larry said.
Coronado said the soldiers were not given sufficient notice to leave their posts near Hermosillo and make the 11:30 a.m. hearing.
Despite the ordeal, Maldonado said she plans to return to Mexico, although not anytime soon. She said she was born there and still has many family members living in Mexico, including several uncles who are fishermen in Sinaloa, a coastal state known for fishing, agriculture and drug trafficking. Yanira is a naturalized U.S. citizen, and Gary is a U.S. citizen.
“I love Mexico,” Maldonado said. “Mexico is a beautiful country. Don’t take this wrong.” On her next trip to Mexico, Yanira said she will drive, not take the bus.
She said she experienced a great sense of relief when she crossed the border back into the United States.