Eleanna Christinaki is stepping up in NCAA tournament just when Maryland needs her

RALEIGH, N.C. — When Eleanna Christinaki quit the Florida women’s basketball team midway through her sophomore season, the Greek national was flooded with offers to play professional basketball back home in Europe. She had the pedigree; Christinaki was the second-youngest player to ever play for Greece’s national team, and she was the Gators’ leading scorer when she decided to leave, averaging 17.6 points per game. She had the chance to make a considerable amount of money and be closer to her parents and younger brother, who live in Cyprus. But Christinaki declined every offer, because none of the teams calling and texting had what Maryland was offering: The chance to earn a college degree and a basketball coach Christinaki trusted would develop her as a player and a person. “I stayed here in the U.S. because I really believe in our coach and our team,” Christinaki said Saturday, sitting outside of the team’s locker room at North Carolina State’s Reynolds Coliseum. “I wouldn’t have stayed if it wasn’t Maryland.” Christinaki, Maryland’s third-leading scorer, came to College Park to get an education and to play for Coach Brenda Frese. She has become a vital player for the No. 5 seed Terrapins, especially as matchups get tougher deeper into the NCAA tournament bracket. When the Terps (26-7) face No. 4 seed North Carolina State (25-8) on Sunday on the Wolfpack’s home court, they will rely on her scoring ability to support leading scorer Kaila Charles and her ability to make plays on offense. [Road starts early for Maryland women’s basketball in NCAA tournament] Christinaki is technically Maryland’s second-leading scorer, averaging 12.1 points, as Blair Watson (13.8) hasn’t played since January because of an injury. When she is shooting well, as she did Friday when she turned in 16 points including two three-pointers in a blowout first-round win over Princeton, Continue Reading

‘Like a WWI battlefield’: 15 dead as mudslides wipe away homes in fire-ravaged Southern California

MONTECITO, Calif. — Rescue teams battled through rain-sodden muck and debris Wednesday seeking to reach more areas ravaged by landslides that sent deadly torrents of mud and water over homes in Southern California. The death toll rose to at least 15, but the search was expanding and the figure could grow. Crews from the Coast Guard and the National Guard joined the hunt along coastal hills previously devastated by wildfires — which left the slopes barren and unable to hold onto tons of soil and rocks dislodged by downpours. About 25 people were injured, with many more in danger across the region as hills left barren after weeks of fires were transformed by rainstorms early Tuesday morning into fast-moving sheets of mud and debris. “The only words I can really think of to describe what it looked like was it looked like a World War I battlefield,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere.” The number of dead rose Wednesday to 15, said Amber Anderson, spokeswoman with the Santa Barbara County Incident Management Team. All bodies were recovered near Montecito, a coastal community north of Los Angeles, where mudflows carried houses off their foundations and rose waist-high. A storm of mud descended on the town with no warning, officials said, surrounding houses and carrying a washing machine down one block. “Obviously the focus is to get to people who may be injured . . . to get as many of those people evacuated from their homes as possible,” he said. The Los Angeles Times photographed half a dozen first responders carrying a body across a ruined wilderness near the town’s Hot Springs Road. Montecito and Carpinteria were the county’s worst-hit communities as of Tuesday afternoon, Anderson said. Evacuations had been ordered in both towns, she said — but only a small Continue Reading

This Immigrant Community Is Returning Home To Deal With The Damage That Harvey Wrought

RICHMOND, Texas — Standing in his stripped down kitchen on the outskirts of Houston, Golam Rasul still can't believe that the home he saved up for 15 years to buy is gutted."Everything is gone," he said, walking through the mostly-empty house, surveying the walls that have been stripped back and the few salvaged items piled onto a bed.Rasul moved to Houston from Bangladesh 20 years ago, ready to build a life in the US for himself and his family. Three years ago, he had finally scraped together enough to make a down payment on this house. "This was my some kind of dream, you know. I brought my family here," he said. On one wall that didn't have to be stripped down, he has saved and pinned up school reports from his 6-year-old son."I try to keep something, he is a very good student all his teachers say," Rasul explained.His mortgage payments add up to $1,040 per month, he said, around half of his monthly salary which he earns working 12-to 14-hour days at a convenience store on Interstate 10. He had home insurance, but not a flood policy because this area isn't a flood zone. No one expected things to get this bad, he said.Now, his family is staying with a friend while he clears out the house and begins repairs, and he worries he won't be able to finish without FEMA assistance. In the wake of historic rains from Hurricane Harvey, Rasul has been unable to get to work because of the damage to his house and car.Last Friday was Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest days on the Muslim calendar, but Rasul and his family — like many Bangladeshi Muslims in Houston — were too busy dealing with the fallout of the storm to stop and observe the holiday.“I could not celebrate, at the moment I still cannot. Even my clothes were still under water,” he said.In Bangladesh, where floods have increased in frequency and severity in recent years, "We are used to it," he said. "But in the United States I can't believe it."Community leaders estimate that there are Continue Reading

Vagrancy in the Park

“March… Someone has walked across the snow,Someone looking for he knows not what.” “Singeth spells.” The poetry of Wallace Stevens makes me happy. This is the simple truth. Pleasure springs from the sense of fluid sound patterns phonetic utterance excites in us. Beauty, harmony, and order are represented by the arrangement, and repetition, of particular words on paper. No matter how many theoretical and critical interpretations there are, in the end each new clarity of discipline and delight contains inexplicable intricacies of form and measure. The last poems Wallace Stevens gathered together under the general title The Rock are moving, lyric meditations on the civil and particular. As if from some unfathomable source, knowledge derived from sense perception fails, and the unreality of what seems most real floods over us. As a North American poet writing in the early twenty-first century, I owe him an incalculable debt, for ways in which, through word frequencies and zero zones, his writing locates, rescues, and delivers what is various and vagrant in the near at hand. As Emily Dickinson put it: “The Zeroes—taught us—Phosphorous— / We learned to like the Fire.” ❧ “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”Stevens wrote “The Course of a Particular” when he was 73. It was published in The Hudson Review (Spring 1951) along with “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour,” but omitted by accident (according to the poet) from his 1954 Collected Poems. “The Snow Man,” written almost exactly thirty years earlier, is eerily similar. (Both fifteen-line poems progress in tercets from “one” to “no one.”) Perhaps, sounding its spectral refraction, he subtracted his second cold pastoral accidentally on purpose. Today the leaves cry, hanging on branches swept by wind,Yet the nothingness of winter becomes a little less.It is still Continue Reading

Taking charge in U.S. flood zone, a rescuer inflates his record

By Emily Flitter HOUSTON (Reuters) - Phil Drager commanded a fleet of rescue boats, closed a highway, and flagged down a helicopter when he led efforts to rescue flood victims in Texas as waters rose after Hurricane Harvey, citing as his credentials a record in U.S. military special operations. His actions as a volunteer were real, but some of what he told victims, volunteers and officials about himself - including his name and the details of his military background - was not. Drager was born Phil Jason Haberman but said he uses an assumed name for personal reasons. He served in the Marines from 1990 to 1991, according to military records. He also served for a year and a half in the Army National Guard where he was discharged in 2006 under "other than honorable conditions," a National Guard spokesman said. Drager told Reuters the records were "not accurate." He later said additional paperwork filed in Florida showed his National Guard discharge was overturned to become honorable. The National Guard spokesman said he was unable to find those records. After initially saying he could not retrieve information he had at home relevant to Reuters' comment request because he was traveling, Drager sent copies of records showing he joined the Army Reserves and was assigned to active duty in Georgia in April 2008 for a term that expired a year later. Multiple military representatives did not immediately respond to requests to verify the records. There is no evidence Drager acted illegally. However, one official overseeing Texas rescue operations said his representations put him in a role typically reserved for vetted authorities. An Orange County, Texas, emergency response center banned him after finding out his real identity, according to the center's commander, Rodney Smith, the deputy chief of the Cedar Hill, Texas, Fire Department. "Early on in an incident, before credentialing is set up, there are a lot of people who come in to assist," Smith said. Continue Reading

Mold invades thousands of homes across flood zone in wake of Hurricane Sandy

Get ready for Hurricane Sandy, Part 2: Mold. Three weeks after the superstorm struck, signs of her menacing legacy can already be seen in thousands of homes across the flood zone. You’ll see it in the form of dime-sized, fuzzy, green spores clinging to chairs, black streaks of toxic mold lining the corners of dressers and two-inch-thick blankets of fungi covering garbage dumped along the road. Any way you slice it, it’s all mold — and it can kill you. “We’re going to have mold competing against each other,” said Dr. Ginger Chew from the Centers for Disease Control, who specializes in the health risks of mold inhalation. “Mold can grow overnight.” And it won’t stop unless you make it stop. Michael Scotto’s 78-year-old mother’s home on West End Ave. in Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn, was filled to the ceiling with seawater and sewage after Hurricane Sandy smacked the waterfront neighborhood. Craig Warga/New York Daily News Delmar Pizzeria on Sheepshead Bay Road in Brooklyn. Now, fuzzy mold spores are everywhere, and the musty smell cannot be missed, even from outside the house. Scotto’s neighbors, who declined to give their names, took immediate action to de-mold and disinfect their basement that served as an office and a play room. “I was working when the water started flowing from the bathroom,” said the neighbor, who gave her name only as Ilana. “I opened the door and sewage was gushing out of the toilet, flooding the whole basement.” The cleanup company left no spore behind, and even brought in negative pressure fans like those used in tuberculosis facilities to suck the air clean. “Thousands of homes need to be treated. Thousands,” said John Greenway, president of Servpro, whose crews have been working around the clock. “All of them here had water come up, filth, fecal matter and it’s very wet still. Continue Reading

Brooklyn neighbors lend a helping hand in rough post-Hurricane Sandy times

Theresa Samuelson, 76, sat on a plastic chair in the Cort Club in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, and gazed into that desperate hole in middle space where your life disappears in a single, savage night. “I lived at 117 Gain Court in Gerritsen Beach since I’m 6 years old,” she says, her voice a frail whisper. “My mother, who emigrated from Derry, Northern Ireland, originally bought the house 70 years ago. I inherited it. I lived there with my husband, who has dementia now. He took a fall. He’s in a nursing home recovering. I do the bills. For years, I sent in my combined Geico insurance for my house and car. At least I thought the house was included in the monthly payment.” It wasn’t. Because Samuelson has owned the house outright for decades, there was no mortgage holder to tell her that her insurance premiums no longer covered her home. “I never put in a house claim before and didn’t find out till the hurricane hit that I didn’t even have home insurance,” she says. “My house was badly flooded. FEMA gave me $18,000. The city’s rapid repair assessor came and said my house was off its foundation and that it had to be torn down.” So she came to the Cort Club, the community center where the people of Gerritsen come for help with everything from displacement to hot meals, to cleaning utensils, to tearouts, debris removal, emergency electrical panel installation and help applying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They get advice on what to do when their home has been red-tagged by the city Buildings Department, meaning it’s slated for razing, or yellow-tagged, meaning owners have 30 days to correct structural damage or face the bulldozer. Samuelson spoke to Gerritsen native Bill Donovan, 54, who along with his twin brother, Jim, of Donovan OMC, a construction operation and management firm, has volunteered here since the storm hit. Joe Marino/for Continue Reading

Former FEMA chief Craig Fugate argues against rebuilding in flood zones without changes

WASHINGTON - Craig Fugate, the easygoing Floridian who won broad praise for leading the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Barack Obama, has some sharp opinions on what to do in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.Chief among them: Don’t keep pouring federal tax dollars into rebuilding flood-prone areas without requiring tougher standards to reduce rebuilding costs.Fugate, 58, who began his career as a paramedic in Alachua County and later ran the Florida Department of Emergency Management under GOP Gov. Jeb Bush, has settled back in Gainesville with his wife, Sheree, although he still travels to Washington from time to time. He’s also working as an emergency preparedness consultant for several organizations, including 1Concern, a California firm that maps and models potential disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and wildfires.Fugate talked to USA TODAY about his return to private life, how his phone won’t stop ringing due to Harvey, and how homebuilders and Realtors are obstacles to reforming the nation’s flood insurance program.Here is an edited transcript of that conversation:Q: What’s life like since you left FEMA in January?A: I’m doing a lot of advising, teaching and working with companies. I’m more focused on the resiliency (to disasters) and how to better prepare emergency managers and less about what will be a huge operation as this recovery (from Harvey) and all the private sector businesses. I’m already receiving calls from them. I’m like, "I’m not interested. Y’all have a nice day.”Q: Do you miss your old job?A: If you’re an emergency manager, you always tend to want to be in the thick of it. But my place is not there. That’s (new FEMA Administrator) Brock’s (Long) shop. It’s his show and his team now. I can look back, and I can see things that we had started in our administration that they’re doing now. I can see echoes Continue Reading

The Flood Zone: More on SHRAP

Back after a long hiatus, although the travails of Sandy victims have certainly not ended.We wrote in Sunday's paper about complaints over the RREM program and one man's take on his dealings with SHRAP.While we included the state's defense of its RREM program from several months ago we did not reach out to the state on a Saturday afternoon in this overnight story to hear them out on SHRAP.We included the state's position when we updated our online story Monday.The story focused on Cliff Harper, a man who is living on a sailboat in a Normandy Beach marina. He said SHRAP rejected his application because he couldn't produce the lease for the home he rented that was destroyed in the storm. The lease, according to Harper, disappeared with it.Nicole Brossoie, a spokesperson for the state Department of Human Services, which administers the program, had this to say: "Several documents are requested and the SHRAP counselors go out of their way to assist residents in qualifying. Because of superstorm Sandy, it's not unusual for original documents to be lost or inaccessible, but working with the clients' banks, employers and landlords, it can be determined, quite clearly, whether a person is eligible or submitting a false or fraudulent claim."The department does not comment on specific cases, she said.Two people in the Normandy Beach area complained about our inclusion of Harper. Harper responded to them by providing documentation supporting his SHRAP claim.But Harper isn't alone in his complaints about the administration of SHRAP. The biggest complaint: delayed payments to mortgage companies, landlords and others.People were thankful for the help, but the frustrations added to their loss from the storm, several Sandy victims said.As for delayed payments and improvements, Brossoie said, "The Department has worked with the SHRAP vendors to urge timely processing of program participants' bills. The state also has added processing capacity and staff in Ocean County, in addition Continue Reading

To sell a house is bathtub a must?

Q. Is it necessary in New York to have a bathtub in a house in order to sell it? A. I take baths every morning and night and couldn't imagine living in a house without one. And I'd like to bet that nine out of 10 people like a good dunk as well. Bathtubs make every house more salable simply because people expect to see them. And if you check your local building code, you'll probably find that your town code requires them.      Q. I purchased a co-op six years ago. In that time, I've had several floods, a near-fire, mice infestation and now asbestos. I've thought about suing the building, but I'm reluctant because I'm a shareholder. In reference to the asbestos, am I responsible for the cost of the abatement?   A. Listen here, Chicken Little. Don't make enemies of anybody until you get your facts straight and hire a good attorney. You still live in the building, and it's better to have your attorney play the bad guy. When I asked New York attorney Michael Beckman of Beckman, Lieberman & Barandes, LLP, a Manhattan-based law firm specializing in real estate law, he advised that you have rights as an owner, and if you don't bring an action, you could end up paying 100% of the costs, instead of your percentage share. So pick up the phone and call an attorney and don't forget to ask about that asbestos abatement.   Q. My husband and I are looking into purchasing a new construction property in Edmond, Okla., for about $300,000. The number of properties available is high and demand is low. What tips can you give us to negotiate a purchase contract?   A. With so many new houses for sale, this is a great time to get a good deal on new construction. First, you've got to do your research. Ask a local broker how many new homes are on the market and which new developments have the most finished homes not sold. These are the homes you should focus on. Builders are eager to unload them because the longer Continue Reading