On the run: juvenile delinquent becomes a folklore hero

THERE is something about Colton Harris-Moore that polarises opinion. To the 13,253 members of his Facebook fan club, he is a new Jesse James (without the murders). To those with a literary bent, he has a touch of the Sundance Kid or Huckleberry Finn. But to the many victims of his burglaries around the north-west coast of the US and into Canada, he is a no-good thieving scoundrel.His main claim to fame is that he’s brilliant at evading arrest. For the past 20 months he has been on the run, hiding out no one quite knows where, but many suspect deep in the woods that carpet this wild region. Wanted posters bearing his face have been scattered around the island where he grew up in Puget Sound, north of Seattle, where he has committed many of the more than 50 burglaries that are held against him.With each sighting, the scale of his criminal activity has grown, as has his fame. He has gone from a troubled kid into an internet idol and a folklore hero.On top of his accomplishments as a fugitive, two other features boom out about Harris-Moore. He is just 18. And as video footage and forensic evidence show, he carries out many of his escapades in bare feet.Our tale starts on April 29, 2008, when our misunderstood hero-cum-hoodlum disappears from a halfway house where people on juvenile detention orders are reintroduced to society.Harris-Moore was into the second of a three-year sentence for a previous rash of burglaries.First stop: Elger Bay Cafe on Camano Island. It is just after midnight on July 18, 2008. Harris-Moore has been on the run for six weeks and a police officer is following a Mercedes that has been driving oddly. As the police car closes in, the driver screeches into the restaurant car park and jumps out of the moving car. The driver, who is identified as our criminal wunderkind, is spotted running into the woods.A search of the car uncovers Harris-Moore’s prized possessions: stolen credit cards, a GPS unit, a mobile phone and a camera from which is downloaded the portrait of him that has become his definitive image.Next stop: the airport on Orcas Island, 60 kilometres north of Camano. It is November 12, 2008. Harris-Moore has now been on the lam, as they say in these parts, for more than six months. A burglar helps himself into a parked single-propeller plane and makes a getaway.The plane is found 480 kilometres to the east, having made a crash landing on the Yakama Indian Reservation. Police have not revealed how they identified Harris-Moore as a suspect, but a telltale sign was the footprints discovered inside the aircraft, suggesting that the burglar had been reclining with his bare feet up like a lord in his manor.Then on September 11 this year, another plane went missing, this time from Friday Harbour, an island further west. It, too, crash-landed, back on Orcas Island where the first plane had been swiped. After the crash, Harris-Moore was spotted walking away from the wreckage by a police officer, who, following well-established tradition, failed to apprehend the boy.As news of the aerial adventures spread, Harris-Moore’s celebrity mushroomed. The Facebook fan club burst into life, proclaiming: ”Let’s hope that he remains healthy, free and at large for a long time! Fly Colton, Fly!”T-shirt companies began offering ranges in his honour, bearing his image and the logo ”Free Colton”. A musician penned a Ballad Of Barefoot Harris. Film producers pounced and a book is in the works.After his crash landing in Orcas, the teenager appears to have stolen a boat to reach a peninsula near Canada. Police watched bemused as a series of burglaries erupted on the other side of the border, blazing a trail across British Columbia. The path led back over the border to an airport in northern Idaho.Investigators later discovered footprints – bare, of course – in the hangar where a Cessna was stolen and flown to Granite Falls, north of Seattle. For a third time there was a crash landing.Three dozen SWAT officers were sent to scour the woods, backed up by a US Customs Black Hawk helicopter. The youth was nowhere to be found.Told of this alleged third plane theft, Harris-Moore’s mother, Pam Kohler, said: ”I’m proud of him. I was going to send him to flight school, but I guess I don’t have to.” And she had this deeply moralistic advice for her fugitive son: ”Next time, wear a parachute and practise your landing!”His criminal behaviour fits into a sorry saga of an absent, drug-using father and a mother with a history of alcoholism. He usually breaks into uninhabited holiday houses and squats for a while before moving on. Investigators have likened it to a sort of Goldilocks syndrome. Or as one of his friends put it to the Seattle Weekly: ”He started breaking into people’s homes because he wanted to see what it was like to live a normal life.”Whatever the motivations, things are not looking rosy for the barefoot bandit. Fugitives have a way of being caught. At best, having turned 18 in March, he now faces trial as an adult.Yet he may not get there. During the search at Granite Falls, police reported that a shot was fired in their direction. ”If he did shoot that gun, it was really stupid,” his mother said. ”That gives the cops a reason to shoot him. I don’t expect him to come out alive.”Guardian News & Media
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Pakistani elite barred from leaving country

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency has barred the Defence Minister and about 250 other top officials from leaving the country, as political turmoil deepens following a Supreme Court ruling that scrubbed an amnesty shielding senior Government figures from prosecution.The anti-corruption agency said the officials were under investigation following this week’s court verdict, which meant that up to 8000 graft and other cases dating back to the 1990s have, or will soon be, reopened. The agency also said it was reviving arrest warrants in some cases and freezing assets, including bank accounts and property.The decision has outraged the country’s political elite just as the US is looking for a solid partner to help it fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban along the Afghan border.Pakistan’s President, Asif Ali Zardari, and several of his key aides are among those who benefited from the amnesty deal. As president, Mr Zardari is protected by constitutional immunity from any criminal prosecution, but opponents say they plan to challenge his eligibility for office.Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency said 247 people who had cases withdrawn under the amnesty had been blocked from travel because cases against them were now under investigation. It did not say who was on the list, but Pakistani news channels reported that the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik – a key aide of Mr Zardari – was included, as well as the Defence Minister, Ahmed Mukhtar.Mr Mukhtar told a television station that immigration officials at the airport had barred him from boarding a Pakistan International Airlines plane to China along with the navy chief late on Thursday. He said he planned to take delivery of a new warship. It was not clear what he was being investigated for.The Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, voiced hope the amnesty ruling would not destabilise the country.”Everybody in Pakistan, including our top military leadership, has made it clear that the military should focus on defending the country’s frontiers and elected government should run the government in accordance with the constitution and courts should adjudicate criminal matters in accordance with the law,” he told CNN. ”I hope everybody will play their constitutional role and [the] country will not go down the road of coups that has been disastrous for our country in the past.”The amnesty – called the National Reconciliation Ordinance – was passed in 2007 by the then president, Pervez Musharraf, who was under pressure to hold elections and end about eight years of military rule.Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling has weakened Mr Zardari and raised questions about his future. It has been welcomed by many Pakistanis, who viewed the graft amnesty as an immoral piece of legislation that whitewashed the crimes of the elite.Mr Zardari’s aides said any corruption charges against him were politically motivated and noted that they have never been proved despite being aired since the 1990s. Critics countered he was morally obliged to resign, at least while the court heard any challenges to his rule.”It will be in his own interest, it will be in the interest of his party and it will be good for the system,” Khawaja Asif, a senior leader from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League party, said.Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Guardian News and Media
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“Black box” to provide clues to cruise control drama

Police are expected to enlist the help of software engineers from Ford to unravel why the cruise control jammed on motorist Chase Weir’s 4WD.
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A “black box”-style data recorder could provide vital clues to a high-speed freeway drama where a Ford Explorer’s cruise control apparently refused to disengage.

Motorist Chase Weir said the cruise control on his 2002 Ford Explorer became jammed on 80km/h as he travelled along Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway on Wednesday. It took him more than 30 minutes to bring the car to a stop.

Victorian Police have indicated to Ford they may ask for assistance diagnosing the car’s motor vehicle data recorder, which can log driver inputs on the brakes, throttle position and other vital systems of the car.

“We will conduct our investigation once they have finished theirs, but we’ve also indicated we’ll provide them with all the technical assistance they need,” said Ford spokeswoman Sinead McAlary.

A “black box” may be able to give police more details about Chase Weir’s wild ride.

Data recorders are increasingly being used by crash investigators in the US to piece together the final moments before an accident in much the same way as aircraft black boxes.

Ford has fitted them to all US-made vehicles since 2002. Devices can record between 15 and 40 data elements. Some are on a continuous loop, recording data then erasing it every few seconds, while others are activated by the events preceding a crash, such as a sudden change of vehicle speed or a violent change in direction.

The devices attract their fair share of controversy, with debate about whether the information belongs to the driver or manufacturer. Police in the US are now regularly getting access to recorders via court order.

Less sophisticated recorders keep information on car speed, engine throttle position, whether the brakes were used and whether the airbags deployed.

More complex recorders include other parameters including steering inputs, lateral forces on the car, engine speed, seat position and even the size of occupants.

McAlary declined to comment on the possibility of a recall for the Explorer over yesterday’s incident.

“At this stage we don’t know what happened to the vehicle and until we know exactly what went on we can’t make any decisions. That is the responsible and methodical way to go about it,” she said.

A police spokeswoman said the car involved in Wednesday’s drama had not yet been examined, but an investigation was under way. She declined to give any further details.

“We don’t comment on the details of an investigation while it is continuing,” she said.

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Leaked document says world will warm three degrees

A document leaked from the UN secretariat says the world will warm by about three degrees this century if the greenhouse gas cuts being proposed at Copenhagen are followed through, exposing the huge gap between the rhetoric of world leaders at the conference and climate science.
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Scientists say the three degree rise would likely have severe consequences on human development for centuries, and may well trigger “tipping points” that cause uncontrollable climate change.

The document, marked “confidential very initial draft – do not distribute”, shows the pledges made to date would fall well short of the stated aim of world leaders, including that of the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, to hold world temperature rises to the safer level of two degrees.

“Unless the remaining gap of around 1.9 to 4.2 Gt (billion tonnes of greenhouse gases) is closed and Parties commit themselves to strong action … global emissions will peak later than 2020 and remain on an unsustainable pathway that could lead to concentrations equal 550 ppm (parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) with the related temperature raise 3 (degrees celcius) or above 550 ppm,” the document reads.

Couched in the bureaucratic language of the UN, this is a stark warning that carbon emissions cuts are on the wrong track.

The analysis is, however, in keeping with the trajectories developed by the UN’s peak global warming body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The estimated impacts of a three degree temperature rise include half of the world’s animal species facing extinction and half a billion people threatened with starvation.

The average global temperature has not consistently been three degrees above pre-industrial levels since about three million years ago, well before modern humans existed.

The document, dated December 15, has the name “Bill McKibben” written in handwriting on it – a reference to the founder of the 350南京夜网 campaign which aims to limit the global temperature rise to a safer 1.5 degrees.

Mr McKibben told the Herald he had no part in the leak, and guessed a UN staffer may have released the material.

“What this shows, to me, is that the world leaders think political reality is more important than scientific reality,” Mr McKibben said from Copenhagen. “Somehow they think they are going to be able to outmanoeuvre physics.”

Australia currently proposes minimum emissions cuts of five per cent on its 2000 level by 2020, rising to 25 per cent if there is a binding global deal.

To keep the world within the two degree temperature rise, cuts of between 25 and 40 per cent on a baseline year of 1990 would be required, according to UN estimates.

Ben Cubby is the Herald’s Environment Reporter

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Bus drivers go on strike

Up to 600,000 commuters across Sydney and Newcastle are taking trains, ferries and cars to get to work and school
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because bus drivers have walked off the job.

The 24-hour stoppage began at 4am today, following demands from the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) for bus drivers to be given a pay rise without award conditions being taken away.

But disruption to afternoon peak-hour services may be avoided, with the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) calling a compulsory conference at noon to try to resolve the dispute.

Bus stand deserted

The bus stand on York Street next to the Queen Victoria Building, which is usually teeming with bus commuters during the morning peak, was mostly deserted.

Of the handful of people at the stand, most were waiting for private buses, which continued to operate this morning.

One exception was Patrick Gooley, who was waiting for a bus to take him to work at Balmain.

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Mr Gooley, who had travelled to the bus stand by train from Engadine in Sydney’s south, said he hoped a few bus drivers might break with their striking colleagues.

“A couple of years ago there was a bus strike and a few bus drivers still drove buses … in defiance,” he said.

“I’ve come in the hope there will be a few buses … I’d prefer not to lose a day of work.”

A few minutes later, with no sign of any buses, Mr Gooley and a colleague hailed a taxi.

Sarah Waterloo said she usually caught two buses from her home in Waterloo to work in Balmain.

Today she was at the bus stand at QVB only because it offered shelter from the rain while she tried to hail a cab, she said.

She had shared a taxi with three friends from Waterloo to the city, she said.

“I’m not overly happy but it’s my last day of work today.”

‘STA should be ashamed’

A Sydney commuter, Vinnie, told smh南京夜网.au her husband had to get up at 6am just to drive her to work.

“How inconsiderate of the bus drivers … STA should be ashamed [of themselves] to put up the bus fare on January 3.”

She said her colleague, who lives in the northern beaches suburb of Church Point, shared a taxi into the city with commuters at the bus stand.

“The total fare costs $83.25. As a reward to her for being a conscientious worker and not taking a day off like others do, our firm decided to reimburse her taxi fare.”

Another commuter, Eleanor, said she would walk to work in the city from Balmain.

“Hopefully the rain holds off. Maybe I will even try and hitch a ride.

“Regardless of the strike, the public transport here in Sydney – this so-called international city, who not so long ago held the Olympics – is one of the worst I’ve ever seen.”

Len Shenfield said he only found out about the strike from a passing motorist.

“There were no warnings at the bus stops. …

“This is totally unacceptable, the selfish behaviour, the total disregard for the commuters,” he said.

Other Sydneysiders said their employers arranged for them to work from home instead.

A spokeswoman for AMP, which has 1900 employees working in its Circular Quay offices, said employees who were “severely affected” could make alternative working arrangements with their managers, such as working from home.

Another firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has about 2000 employees working in the Sydney CBD, said it had “flexible working arrangements”.

“When situations such as these arise, our people know they have the option to work from home – where appropriate – as part of PwC’s flexible working arrangements,” PricewaterhouseCoopers’ director of human capital Sharon Bell said.

Worst affected

Northern beaches commuters were among the hardest hit, with no train servicing the peninsula.

Freshwater resident Emma Pearce said she and her fiance usually caught a bus to work in the city, but were forced to park at Queenscliff and walk to Manly wharf, where they caught a ferry.

Ms Pearce’s fiance would get to work at least 45 minutes later than usual.

Despite the inconvenience, she said she understood where bus drivers were coming from.

“It’s probably the only way they can get what they want,” she said.

“It’s inconvenient but … 3 per cent a year [increase in wages] is not a lot.”

Paul Brennan, from Fairlight, said he was lucky to find out about the strike this morning.

“I was in Brisbane working and I came home last night and then turned the radio on this morning and it’s the first I knew about it,” Mr Brennan, a B70 bus patron, said.

He took a call on the ferry from a less fortunate colleague who hadn’t heard the news and was stranded at his usual bus stop in Alexandria.

Carielyn Tunion said she had to skip college classes because of the strike.

“[I] was meant to be at college in North Sydney for my last assignment of the term, but can’t get there from the northern beaches without paying a ridiculous cab fee that I can’t afford.

“I can understand the reasoning behind the cause but, wow, what awesome timing.”

Laurence Archer said he supported the strike despite this morning’s inconveniences.

“My journey has been affected since, on the northern beaches where I live, there is no alternative to the bus.

“However, I am completely supportive of the action taken by the bus drivers and I am willing to put up with the relatively minor inconvenience, compared to the drivers having to put up with their livelihood being eroded.”

Taxi bonanza

The NSW Taxi Council called for patience.

“Taxis were never designed to be mass transport providers, but today we have been placed in that position as 600,000 commuters are forced to find an alternative means of getting to work,” council chief executive officer Howard Harrison said in a statement.

“We have every available car on the road and will work to get as many people as possible to work on time – but passengers should remember the bus strike is not our fault, the resulting traffic jams which slow us down are not our fault, and there are hundreds of thousands of people trying to get to the office by 9am.”

To help taxi drivers deliver the most efficient service, Mr Harrison has asked passengers to pre-book where possible and allow multiple hiring.

“This is a stressful time of the year for everyone. Patience and courtesy would be appreciated when booking or riding in a taxi, and we ask that expectations are kept realistic,” Mr Harrison said.

Taxi driver Nasser, who started driving at 5am, said today was so far his busiest day of the year.

“It’s been non-stop since 6am,” said Nasser, who did not want his surname published.

“Every time they took me it was [to] the [transport] terminals and I came back with someone else.

“Especially with the rain, even with short trips they need taxis.

“Everybody is in a panic mode right now.”

Roads quiet

An RTA spokeswoman said that peak hour traffic was normal and there was “nothing unusual to report”.

“The advice to people who would normally get a bus is to use a train wherever possible – don’t drive a car because it is going to put a lot of pressure on parking.

“If people do need to drive, just be patient if they come into any traffic problems.”

CityRail and Sydney Ferries

CityRail said it had the capacity to cope with added consumers

“We believe we have the capacity to handle the increase in patronage, so there are no extra trains. But all the regular services are running to timetable this morning,” a CityRail spokesman said.

Manly Fast Ferry did a bumper trade in peak period. Its 7.10am service did not sell out but was 25 per cent fuller than normal, a staff member said.

The 8.05am service did fill up; unlucky passengers had to wait for the 8.20am regular Manly ferry.

A Sydney Ferries spokesman said additional services were added to meet the demand.

“We ran an additional vessel Manly Freshwater Class vessel and we had a number of back-up boats working on the Parramatta River.”

Ferry wharf stabbing

Commuters who planned to travel by ferry from Cabarita Wharf faced additional problems when the wharf was closed after a fight.

A police spokesman said the wharf was closed just after 4am as police investigated after a person was stabbed.

He said police expected the wharf to reopen to commuters soon.

Six per cent pay increase

The RTBU said the strike would go ahead despite a pay offer from the NSW Government and a recommendation from the IRC to cancel the action.

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally confirmed the Government would honour an offer of wage increases of 3 per cent backdated from June 12 this year and a further 3 per cent from June 12 next year.

Ms Keneally yesterday called on the union to abandon strike action, saying it would be a great inconvenience to workers and Christmas shoppers.

“The fact is this is a major inconvenience, it is unwarranted and it is unnecessary,” she told reporters yesterday evening.

“The Government has made a fair and generous offer.

“The union asked us for an offer and we provided one – a fair and generous offer at 6 per cent.

“The union asked us to confirm that offer and I have done so.”

Today, she was criticised for not doing enough to stop the strike.

“This is a State Government that is focused on themselves. Where were they yesterday?” Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell told Macquarie Radio today.

“They were in a meeting with a white board trying to work out the future of NSW instead of actually working out today, which was hundreds of thousands of commuters inconvenienced by a snap bus strike.’’

Ms Keneally said she and the Government did everything possible to stop the strike from going ahead.

“The Government was working throughout yesterday and as late as 9pm last night to try to avert this strike,’’ she told Macquarie Radio.

“I was on the phone to the Transport Minister throughout the afternoon. My office was on the phone to the union and the State Transit Authority was making every effort with the union.”

‘Nowhere else to go’

RTBU spokesman Raul Baonza apologised to commuters for the timing of the strike but insisted the union had “nowhere else to go”.

He accused the Government of negotiating through the media.

“We have not been contacted by anyone about a formal offer. All we’ve heard is through media reports.

“We’ve had a three-and-three offer before but there was an unacceptable clause to that, which was opening up the buses to casual drivers. The Government is well aware that we rejected that so we don’t know whether they are flogging the same offer or not.”

Mr Baonza said State Transit and the NSW Government should shoulder some responsibility for the strike being called.

“This didn’t happen overnight. The State Transit and the Government have been aware … that there was the possibility of industrial action and they chose not to respond to the union.

“Yesterday we announced the strike at 10 o’clock, and the Premier and the minister did not comment the entire day. They came out at 8.30pm at night with an offer we know nothing about, which they have no put to us, which contains no details.”

State Transit bus tickets will be recognised on CityRail train services and Sydney Ferries throughout the strike. Drivers are being allowed to use bus lanes but T-Way restrictions still applied, the RTA spokeswoman said.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Transport’s Transport Co-ordination Group said parking was available at Moore Park and free shuttle services would run from there to Central Station during the morning and afternoon peak periods.

Western Sydney bus services on the Liverpool Parramatta Transitway are not affected.

CBD Emergency Warning System

Today, the Sydney CBD Emergency Warning System will be tested.

There are 98 speakers in the CBD that will broadcast the alarms at 12.15pm. Thirteen variable messaging signs are positioned at the city’s transport hubs.

The test will focus on certain sites in the CBD, police said.

Glenda Kwek, Arjun Ramachandran, Georgina Robinson and AAP

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