Beware of fraudsters, Chilean miners tell rescued Thai boys

Rescue personnel work at the Tham Luang cave complex in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand in early July 2018 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. (THAI NAVY SEAL/via REUTERS)
Updated 13 July 2018
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Beware of fraudsters, Chilean miners tell rescued Thai boys

SANTIAGO: Guard against exploitation: that’s the message Chilean miners have offered the 12 Thai boys and their football coach following the harrowing ordeal of spending 18 days trapped in a cave.
Before even the clothes of the Wild Boar football team players had dried following the last dramatic escape mission on Tuesday from the flooded cave, already plans were being made to turn their heroic tale into a Hollywood movie.
Eight years ago, 33 Chilean miners were stuck underground for 69 days after a cave-in, before their torment was turned into a motion picture starring Antonio Banderas.
But although “The 33” grossed $25 million at the box office, the miners never saw a penny of that.
“Hopefully they’ll make a film, a television series, a best-selling novel, but that they do it well, that they are smart and don’t get taken for a ride by fraudsters,” Mario Sepulveda, who was played by Banderas in “The 33,” told AFP.
The boys are aged 11 to 16 and even their coach is only 25, whereas the Chilean miners were all grown men.
Many of them have suffered terribly since their traumatic experience in the San Jose mine in the Atacama desert.
“The most important thing is that the authorities and their families protect these kids because many people just want to take advantage,” said Luis Urzua, another miner.
On Tuesday night, the managing partner of US faith-based production house Pure Flix, Michael Scott revealed on Twitter his plans to turn the story into a film.
But before worrying about how to sell their stories, Urzua warns that recovering from the “the experience of a lifetime” won’t be easy.
“It’s been eight years but there are still many things we can’t overcome,” added Urzua.
Another miner, Jose Ojeda, had to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
And there is bitterness at having been exploited by lawyers, producers and others who wanted to benefit from their story.
“Once they’d got the information off us, they disappeared,” said Urzua.
He says they were badly advised and fell for promises they would be made millionaires so “ceded all (intellectual) rights for life.”
Urzua is among a group of miners who want to rescind that decision.
Despite spending more than two months 600 meters below the surface, “we can’t even sell one line of the 33,” he lamented.
Urzua says the miners never received a penny from the film, directed by Mexican Patricia Riggen, or the book written by Los Angeles Times journalist Hector Tobar, whom the Chileans picked to write the official account of their trauma.
“They destroyed us,” said Urzua, who praised the protective circle that has enveloped the Thai boys.
Urzua says all he got was “less” than the five million pesos (less than $8,000 in today’s exchange rate) that Chilean businessman Leonardo Farkas handed each miner as they left their captivity.
Sepulveda, though, has faith in the Thai footballers saying the “strength of these boys is different to ours.”
“If they keep training, they’ll handle it really well, as long as they stick together,” he told AFP.


A hairy issue: Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

Updated 20 July 2018
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A hairy issue: Sailors tell the US Navy, ‘We want beards’

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island: Now that women in the Navy can wear ponytails, men want beards.
The Navy said last week that servicewomen could sport ponytails, lock hairstyles, or ropelike strands, and wider hair buns, reversing a policy that long forbade females from letting their hair down.
Servicemen immediately chimed in on social media, asking the Navy if they could grow beards. A sailor’s Facebook post with a #WeWantBeards hashtag was shared thousands of times.
Beards were banned in 1984. The Navy wanted professional-looking sailors who could wear firefighting masks and breathing apparatuses without interference.
The Navy says that’s still the case. Still, some hope the change in female grooming standards opens the door.
Travis Rader, a 29-year-old naval physical security officer, said allowing beards would boost morale for men, just like allowing ponytails and locks has for women. There are two things that would make many Navy men happy: beards and better boots, he added.
Rader had a 6-inch-long beard when he joined the Navy after high school.
“You take something away from somebody, and they want it more,” said Rader, a master-at-arms assigned to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City.
The Navy announced it was adding grooming options for women during a Facebook Live event. Many black women had asked the Navy to be more inclusive of different hair textures. The Navy had the standards in place because of safety concerns and to ensure everyone maintained a uniform, professional look.
Rader was one of several sailors who wrote in the comments section of the Facebook Live event to press for beards. Bill Williams, a 20-year-old naval information systems technician, commented too, asking why sailors can’t have beards if bearded civilian firefighters wear masks.
Williams said he thinks a nice, well-groomed beard looks very professional.
“It’d be great because I know that when I shave for multiple days in a row, it starts to really hurt,” said Williams, who works at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station Hampton Roads in Virginia.
Sailors can get permission to grow a beard for religious reasons or if they have a skin condition that’s irritated by shaving. Mustaches are allowed as long as they are trimmed and neat.
“Handlebar mustaches, goatees, beards or eccentricities are not permitted,” the policy states. The Navy isn’t currently considering changing that.
Safety continues to be the primary concern, said Lt. J.G. Stuart Phillips, a spokesman for the chief of naval personnel. He referenced a 2016 study by the Naval Safety Center, which concluded that facial hair affects the proper fit and performance of respirators.