January 3, 2018

Steeler fan, paralyzed chasing monkey that stole his hat, flown to Malaysia for surgery

His loyalty to Steeler Nation sent Jeff “Swede” Swedenhjelm chasing after a monkey that had stolen his favorite Steelers cap, then spinning off a rooftop in Bali. Now, fellow Steelers fans have been a large part of the support that’s gotten him a flight to Malaysia for emergency spinal surgery, his daughter said Tuesday. Swedenhjelm, 40, grew up in Erie and moved to Destin, Fla., 17 years ago, then left to travel around the world in 2016. For about a year, he’s run a pleasure boat for tourists in the Indonesian island of Bali, said his daughter, Lyric Swedenhjelm, 21, who is attending school in Chicago.

Last week, a monkey snatched his prized hat from his head and Swedenhjelm gave chase, ending up on a rooftop. He got the hat back, Lyric said, but he fell 33 feet from the roof and was left paralyzed from the chest down. “If you look at his Facebook, he’s got that hat in almost every picture,” his daughter said. “Steeler Nation is everywhere, but you can’t easily get another one in Bali, so he wasn’t just going to let it go.”

Lyric said funds raised online helped pay for her father to be flown from Bali to Kuala Lumpur, where there were more options for his treatment. Many comments mentioned their shared support for Swedenhjelm’s beloved Steelers. The spinal injury also weakened Swedenhjelm’s lungs to a point that he developed pneumonia and required assistance breathing. He was scheduled for surgery to replace two vertebrae late Tuesday night, Eastern U.S. time, which should help doctors further evaluate the extent of the damage, Lyric said. “He’s a really optimistic person, and he’s really grateful for the mountains people moved to get him there,” she said. “He’s being really strong, and that’s helping the rest of us to be strong.”

On Facebook, Lyric shared a video from Scott Wells, a friend of her father’s who flew in from Hawaii after the accident. The video showed Swedenhjelm, confined to a stretcher but awake and smiling, as he was transferred from an ambulance to the airplane that would take him to Malaysia. In an earlier video from a hospital bed, Jeff Swedenhjelm thanked everyone who had donated or sent support, especially fellow Steelers fans. “I was chasing that damn hat because I know it’s the greatest club on Earth,” he said, a Terrible Towel hanging behind his head. “I’m representing you guys, and I hope you’re representing me.” “I’m going to come back stronger, bigger and badder,” he said. “Once I get back on my feet, I’m going to do something major. … We’ll have a huge party.”

Lyric said her father’s pneumonia had worsened to the point that doctors at the new hospital would not let him off his breathing apparatus to speak. Wells and hospital staff were sending updates to Lyric and her mother, who remained in the United States to direct all the funding toward Jeff’s treatment and rehab, but those updates were usually happening in the middle of the night. “When I’d be sleeping, it’s their business hours over there,” she said.  “I’m getting a few hours here and there.” A GoFundMe page set up to “ Help Swede Walk Again “ had raised $73,000 of its $100,000 goal as of Tuesday afternoon. The page description said the cheapest medevac flight to surgery was $67,000; further proceeds will go toward his medical bills and rehab. [TribLive.com December 26, 2017]


U.S. man recaptured after week on run in Bali

Authorities have recaptured an American man who escaped from an overcrowded and understaffed prison on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, police said Sunday. Christian Beasley, 32, is believed to have escaped during heavy rain last Monday from the Kerobokan penitentiary in Bali’s provincial capital, Denpasar, by sawing through a ceiling and then climbing over a 20-foot-high wall behind the prison. The head of the prison, Tonny Nainggolan, said earlier that another American inmate, Paul Anthony Hoffman, 57, who has been serving a 20-month sentence since July for robbery, was captured while trying to escape along with Beasley.

Beasley was arrested in August at a post office in Bali’s Kuta tourist area while allegedly trying to pick up a package containing 5.7 grams of hashish. He stood trial and the verdict was due last Tuesday, a day after his escape. Bali police detective Made Pramestia said Beasley had reached the neighboring tourist island of Lombok by boat on the day of his escape. Pramestia said Beasley was recaptured on Saturday in an alley near a beach on Lombok after a five-day manhunt.

An investigation was underway to determine if prison guards were involved in the escape, said Surung Pasaribu of the local office of the Law and Human Rights Ministry. He also said there is a shortage of guards at the prison, which was built to accommodate about 300 people but has nearly 1,600 inmates. It was the second escape from the prison since June, when four foreign inmates escaped through a drainage tunnel. Two of them, Bulgarian Dimitar Nikolov Iliev and Indian Sayed Mohammed Said, were recaptured in East Timor days later and were returned to Bali. The two others, Shaun Edward Davidson of Australia and Tee Koko King bin Tee Kim Sai of Malaysia, are still at large. Jailbreaks are common in Indonesia, where prisons are overcrowded with people convicted of drug crimes as part of the government’s anti-drug crusade. [CBS News December 18, 2017]


Dustin Martin left ‘shattered’ after dad Shane rejected entry into Bali for Christmas holiday

Martin was stopped by customs officers in Indonesia earlier this month and alleges Australian government interference, suggesting they requested that he be refused entry. Martin was deported from Australia because of alleged links to an outlaw motorcycle gang, but Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton conceded he made a legal error and gave Martin the right to reapply for a visa.

“I was so confused, I’ve been to Bali before, even after my visa was cancelled and had no problems,” Shane told the Herald Sun. He said that airport officials told him “I’m sorry, we’ve been told by (the) Australian Government not to let you in.” “It’s Australia, they kept saying and they were embarrassed and apologetic.” Shane’s lawyers reportedly got in touch with the Australian government before flying to Bali and were advised to change their itinerary from flying through Sydney to flying through Singapore. Martin did so but was still rejected when he arrived at Denpasar Airport.

“We had Christmas in Bali planned for a while – way before the minister’s decision was overturned – and it was gonna be really special for my family to be all together,” Dustin told the Herald Sun. “But dad got to Bali and was told the Australian authorities now requested he’s not allowed in. “I was just shattered and really confused. Why would they stop him from going to Bali now? We were there a year ago and nothing changed apart from dad       winning his case. “I’ve had a good year on the footy field with the club’s success and everything. I’m a really proud Australian and I love this country but this just isn’t a fair go.” The family is instead spending Christmas in Auckland, New Zealand. [Fox Sports December 24, 2017]


Denpasar Customs destroys IDR3.6 billion worth of confiscated items

Denpasar Customs is destroying thousands of items that their office confiscated over the past couple years, worth about IDR3.6 billion (US$265,671) this week. Who needs an annual end-of-year holiday party when your office gets to rally to burn and grind up a bunch of glass bottles, weapons, and other miscellaneous stuff? The destruction, will be done by burning, grinding, and cutting at the Suwung landfill. A ceremony celebrating the huge haul of stuff that’s getting wrecked was held at the Denpasar Customs and Excise Supervisory and Service Office on Jl. Tukad Badung on Wednesday.

Items to be destroyed include about three million ‘illegal’ cigarettes, 447 bottles of alcoholic drinks, airsoft guns, swords, contraceptives, sex toys, and other goods that had been imported illegally or without proper permit. While sex toys are not formally prohibited, Indonesia’s vaguely worded anti-pornography law allows some loose interpretation, whereby dildos and other items could be labeled at pornographic.

Denpasar Customs director, Abdul Kharis said all these items were uncovered coming in to Bali through the Renon Post Office and Benoa Port. Items confiscated from people traveling through Ngurah Rai are handled by the airport’s own customs division. “Most of this stuff is from East Java. When we work, we do not know exactly whether Bali is the final destination or just a point of transit,” Kharis said, as quoted by Merdeka. Kharis added that the items getting destroyed this week were confiscated by Denpasar Customs between 2015 and 2017. [Coconuts Bali December 21, 2017]


Indonesia’s early warning tsunami buoys network don’t work

One of the undesired outcomes from the 6.9 Richter earthquake that struck off West Java in Indonesia just before midnight on Friday, December 15, 2017, was the discovery that 22 early warning tsunami buoys deployed across the archipelago don’t work. Put in place after the cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami on Boxing Day 2004 that killed an estimated 250,000 people across South and Southeast Asia, the early warning system was funded by the Governments of Germany, Malaysia and the USA.

The buoys, according to Kompas.com, without exception have fallen into disrepair and no longer work. Observers claim the buoys are not being property maintained and used by fishermen as anchoring buoys for their boats. Even more embarrassing to the Indonesian government, the spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation (BNPB), Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, revealed that the 22 buoys that form the front line of a Tsunami Early Warning Systems have been non-operational since 2012.

Speaking at a press conference in Jakarta, Sutopo said that working buoys would enable Indonesian climatologists and forecasters to advise the public of the threat of an approaching tsunami. Apparently the tsunami warning issued after the earthquake on Friday, December 15, 2017, was done manually by forecasters and based entirely on forecast modeling without the aid of readouts from the buoys. Similarly, the tsunami warning was withdrawn by forecasters two hours after it was issued when it was deemed the threat had passed. Stating the obvious, Sutopo said: “In the future, we need to rebuild the buoy warning system because the people of Indonesia are at great risk of tsunamis. [www.balidiscovery.com December 17, 2017]


Indonesia lifts Bali’s alert status

The government has lifted the alert status on Bali, suggesting activity on Mount Agung might only affect those within a 10-kilometer radius from the crater. Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said on Friday that the alert status had unfortunately triggered foreign countries to issue travel advisories.

“The President has decided to revoke the alert status. Bali is now ready to welcome tourists again,” he said after a limited Cabinet meeting led by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in Denpasar.

Among countries that issued travel advisories, China banned its citizens from traveling to Bali from Nov 27 to Jan 4. The travel advisories reportedly dealt a severe blow to the island’s tourist industry. Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said the number of tourist arrivals to Bali had gradually recovered to 12,300 visitors per day, recently.

The number had plunged to as low as 2,000 visitors per day after Mt. Agung erupted on Nov. 29. On normal days, the average number of visitors is 15,000. “Currently, the situation is conducive and stable,” he said. [The Jakarta Post December 23, 2017]


Bali’s Mt Agung erupts for 10 minutes

The Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali has erupted for about 10 minutes, the country’s disaster management agency says. Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the volcano early on Sunday belched a thick plume of grey smoke up to 2500 metres into the sky which was then blown northeast. White smoke was seen billowing from the crater after the eruption.

Authorities raised the warning alert to the highest level on November 27 and ordered the evacuation of nearly 100,000 people. Nugroho said international airports on the resort islands Bali and Lombok were operating normally.

The 3031-metre Mount Agung last erupted for a period of almost a year in 1963 and 1964, leaving about 1200 people dead. Indonesia sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area known for seismic upheavals and volcanic eruptions. [Perth Now December 24, 2017]


Gay crackdown continues in Indonesia despite court ruling

Activists in Indonesia are warily celebrating the Constitutional Court’s narrow rejection last week of a conservative group’s petition to ban gay and extramarital sex. The surprising 5-4 verdict in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation came during a long anti-LGBT crackdown that began in January 2016. The ruling, while welcomed by the LGBT community, does not end their battle for acceptance.

The Constitutional Court’s decision focused more on the fact that it was the wrong venue to consider such a ban than on the human rights implications. “I am relieved and feel so happy,” said Lini Zurlia, a gay rights activist in Jakarta after the Constitutional Court’s decision. “But I’m still worried about the next process at the legislative level,” she said. Parliament is expected to consider the ban.

The same day the Constitutional Court ruled, a North Jakarta court sentenced eight gay men to more than two years in prison for taking part in a gay sex party at a sauna, which was recently shut down on the grounds it was the site of sex work. Analysts say the sentences are further evidence of how   criminalization continues to affect Indonesia’s LGBT population. [The Voice of America News December 19, 2017]


Ubud uses tourism downturn to sort out its traffic problems

Travel.detik.com reports that the Regency of Gianyar in Bali is using the temporary downturn in tourist visitors to the Island of Bali to address long-standing problems of traffic congestion. Changes in traffic rules have been tested by police since Monday, December 17, 2017.

In an announcement by the Traffic Service for Gianyar Regency, the changes will take effect from mid-December include the prohibition of buses carrying more than 25 passenger seats from entering Ubud. Meanwhile, medium-sized buses of less than 25-passenger seats will only be allowed to enter the central parking areas of Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest and the Puri Dalem Puri. Small busses with less than 15 passenger seats are only allowed to enter Ubud to embark and disembark passengers.

The Regency official in charge of traffic, Wayan Arthana, said: “Parking is prohibited on roads and sidewalks in Ubud and surrounding areas for all types of vehicles, including motorcycles, cars and delivery vehicles. Exceptions are granted for embarking or disembarking passengers. Goods can be loaded or unloaded at times and places designated under the new rules.”

Traffic congestion is a common complaint among visitors to Ubud. Officials hope the new traffic rules will eliminate traffic jams when eventually the tourists return in full force in the near future. [www.balidiscovery.com December 17, 2017]