Saturday, May 5, 2012

Army: Death of soldier who died during Skype session with wife is under investigation

120504080858-army-capt-bruce-k-clark-casket-story-top The death of a U.S. Army captain who died while engaged in a video chat with his wife from Afghanistan remained under investigation Saturday, the family said.

Capt. Bruce Kevin Clark was in Tarin Kowt, about 85 miles (140 kilometers) north of Kandahar, when he died during a Skype session with his wife.

Clarence Davis, a spokesman for the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, where Clark was based, said that it has not been determined how Clark died and that the case is under investigation.

Clark's family said in a statement that they'd hoped for "a miracle" after his wife Susan saw what happened to Clark during their chat on Monday, but "it was not to be." They did not elaborate as to what took place.

"Although the circumstances were unimaginable, Bruce's wife and extended family will be forever thankful that he and his wife were together in his last moments," Clark's wife and family said Friday.

Clark -- known by many as Kevin -- was a chief nurse in the Army who amassed many honors in his military career, according to his family. Those include an Army Commendation Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and an Army Service Medal.

The longtime resident of Spencerport, New York, joined the Army in September 2006 and served, among other places, at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii, according to a Beaumont Army Medical Center statement. More recently, he was based at that medical facility in southwest Texas and assigned to the Army's A Company, Troop Command.

"He loved being in the military," his sister-in-law Mariana Barry told CNN affiliate WHAM in upstate New York. "He was absolutely willing to make any sacrifice, and it's just horrible that this is the sacrifice he ended up making."

His commander described Clark, 43, as "awesome," "professional" and "a great asset, leader and friend," the family said.

After his death, special operations troops from the United States and Australia lined up to give him his final send-off from Afghanistan.

And on Thursday, his casket was wrapped in an American flag as it was transported off a military plane onto the tarmac of Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to the U.S. Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation.

While no dates have been given, the family said that Clark's funeral will be in Spencerport and a memorial service will be held in Addison, Michigan.

In addition, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed that all flags at state government buildings be flown at half-staff Monday in Clark's honor, as he's done with other Empire State troops who have died in combat zones.

In addition to his wife, Clark is survived by two daughters.

Dozens have posted comments on a Facebook tribute page set up in Clark's honor, some of them from people who knew him and his family personally and others from strangers wishing to thank him for his service.

"He was an excellent nurse, a fierce patient advocate, and loved to teach students. But what I remember most about him is the great love he had for his wife and beautiful little girls," one woman wrote. "I have no doubt that Bruce will be watching them and loving them forever more."

Barry said that her sister Susan is "being strong" for her daughters and that the entire family is committed to stepping up -- just like Clark did.

"We're going to try to take care of my sister and my nieces the way that Kevin would have taken care of them, and the way he would have wanted us to take care of them," Barry said.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Lindsay Lohan Escapes Charges in Hit-and-Run Case

lindsay-lohan-all-hollywood-event-06 Lindsay Lohan is finally off the hook in her alleged hit-and-run incident. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced on Friday, May 4, just hours after the case was sent to them, that they won't be filing a charge against the "Freaky Friday" star because there was insufficient evidence to pursue a case.

Deputy District Attorney John Gilligan wrote in his report, "There is no direct evidence to show Lindsay Lohan or anyone else struck victim [Thaer] Kamal." He added, "The fact that no collision is seen on the video and a lack of any damage to any vehicle or any independent witnesses make it impossible to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt."

The D.A.'s rejection notification also noted doubts about Kamal's credibility as stating, "Victim Kamal changed story and lack of cooperation with law enforcement make him a non credible witness." It was said that the Hookah Lounge's manager refused medical treatment at the scene and refused to cooperate on follow-up interviews until two weeks after the incident.

In the evaluation worksheet, it was also detailed that Kamal initially told police that Lohan's car "rubbed along his right leg but that it was uninjured and he did not want police involved." In a later interview, he said that his left leg was uninjured. However, he then gave detectives a photo of a bruised left knee, and appeared for another interview with a bandaged left knee.

The incident itself took place back in March. At the time, it was reported that Lohan struck Kamal with her new Porsche as she drove away from the parking lot of Sayers Club in Hollywood at just after midnight on March 14. An eyewitness told TMZ that the man appeared to be fine following the mishap and actually "got up and started smoking his hookah."


Sept 11 case returns to Guantanamo, still haunted by claims of unfairness and brutality

Guantanamo GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) -- Five men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks, including the self-proclaimed mastermind, are headed back to a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay on Saturday, more than three years after President Barack Obama put the case on hold in a failed effort to move the proceedings to a civilian court and close the prison at the U.S. base in Cuba.

This time the defendants may put up a fight.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who told military authorities that he was responsible for the planning of the terror assault "from A to Z," previously mocked the tribunal and said he would welcome the death penalty. His co-defendant, Ramzi Binalshibh, told the court that he was proud of the attacks.

But Jim Harrington, the civilian lawyer for Binalshibh, said the defendants are expected to fight the charges against them, which include murder and terrorism and carry a potential death penalty.

"He has no intention of pleading guilty," Harrington said. "I don't think anyone is going to plead guilty." Harrington declined to say what would be the basis of his defense and lawyers for Mohammed did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The men never entered formal pleas in previous hearings, but Mohammed told the court that he would confess to planning the attacks and hoped to be a "martyr." He dismissed the military justice system, saying, "After torturing, they transferred us to inquisition land in Guantanamo."

Now after three years in which the tribunals known as military commissions have been reformed by Congress and the president, they've had time to reconsider their defense.

"I'm not sure they really understood the ramifications of it at that time," Harrington said.

The arraignment Saturday, before an audience that includes a handful of people who lost family members in the Sept. 11 attacks as well as journalists and human rights observers, will be followed by a hearing on a series of defense motions that challenge the charges and the extreme secrecy rules imposed to prevent the release of information about U.S. counterterrorism methods and strategy. The start of their actual trial is at least a year away.

The five defendants are held in a section of Guantanamo that is under such tight security even its exact location on the base is classified, a prison-within-a-prison known as Camp 7. They have not been seen in public since the day after Obama's inauguration, when the commission held a hearing to continue their case.

New rules adopted by Congress and Obama forbid the use of testimony obtained through cruel treatment or torture. The defendants were held at secret CIA prisons overseas where they were subjected to what the government called "enhanced interrogation techniques." Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times, officials have said.

Critics such as Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch and a former federal prosecutor, say coerced testimony from witnesses is still admissible, even if it isn't from defendants, and the case would be better off in civilian court instead of being heard by a judge and jury panel picked by the Pentagon.

"There still are major problems in terms of whether the trial will be fair and, more important, will they be perceived as fair," Roth said.

The government has also pledged to make the proceedings more transparent, broadcasting hearings to several U.S. military bases in the Northeast so that families of Sept. 11 victims and others can monitor the trial without making the trek to Guantanamo.

News cameras, however, are still not permitted inside the courtroom, where the media and other observers are kept behind double-paned, soundproof glass. Lawyers for the defendants had opposed the government's plan to show the hearings by closed-circuit TV to bases in the U.S., arguing that they should be broadcast to everyone.

"We believe that the world needs to see what's happening," said Cheryl Bormann, a civilian attorney appointed to represent defendant Walid bin `Attash.

Prisoners now have access, at government expense, to civilian defense attorneys who specialize in complex death penalty cases. But human rights groups and defense lawyers still condemn the proceedings as flawed and fundamentally unfair.

Lawyers appointed to represent the men say they face hurdles they would never encounter in a civilian court, including strict limits on what they can say about their clients, whose every utterance is treated as presumptively classified. Courtroom proceedings are subject to a 40-second delay so censors can prevent the inadvertent disclosure of government secrets, a system that critics say is intended merely to prevent anyone from learning details about the men's treatment.

"All I can do is try and protect my client's rights to every extent I can and try and hold the government to their burden to provide a fair and transparent justice system and to actually mean it," Bormann said.

Mohammed and his co-defendants were first arraigned on the U.S. base in Cuba in June 2008. The case quickly bogged down in pretrial motions and was put on hold as Obama sought to move the case to the federal court in New York.

But members of Congress balked and blocked the administration from transferring prisoners from the base to the mainland. That prevented the closure of the prison, where the U.S. still holds 169 prisoners.

One of the biggest differences between the previous hearing and this hearing is that there is no doubt that they will be tried by a military tribunal.

"There is a consensus now ... that military commissions have a narrow but critical role in our counterterrorism and justice system," said Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, a Harvard Law School classmate of Obama's who was appointed chief prosecutor last year.

Mohammed, a Pakistani citizen who grew up in Kuwait and attended college in Greensboro, North Carolina, confessed to military authorities that he planned or carried out about 30 plots around the world. He admitted personally killing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and said he conceived the plot to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight by would-be shoe-bomber Richard Reid in 2001. Mohammed was captured in 2003 in Pakistan.

His four co-defendants are accused of support roles in the Sept. 11 attacks: Binalshibh, a Yemeni, was allegedly chosen to be a hijacker but couldn't get a U.S. visa and ended up providing assistance such as finding flight schools; Waleed bin Attash, also from Yemen, allegedly ran an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan and researched flight simulators and timetables; Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, a Saudi accused of helping the hijackers with money, Western clothing, traveler's checks and credit cards; Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, a Pakistani national and nephew of KSM, allegedly provided money to the hijackers.

All five face charges that include 2,976 counts of murder, one for each person killed in the Sept. 11 plot that sent hijacked commercial airliners slamming into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Human rights groups and many members of the legal community say the reforms have not gone far enough and the only legitimate way to prosecute Mohammed is in a civilian court, not a commission with a jury of Pentagon-appointed military officers and an Army colonel for a judge.

Roth, who will be part of a human rights contingent observing Saturday's arraignment at Guantanamo, said the prosecution can work around the ban on coerced testimony, perhaps even unwittingly, by introducing classified summaries of intelligence to support their case.

Even with the changes, the defense lawyers say the commissions are anything but fair. They complain that their mail is improperly reviewed by the military, interfering with attorney-client privilege, that they aren't given enough resources to investigate cases the government spent years building, that too many hearings are still held in secret and that they are barred from disclosing anything their clients tell them.

"You can take a $5 mule and put a $10,000 saddle on it and call it reformed," said Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, a military lawyer for Saudi defendant al-Hawsawi. "You still have a $5 mule; it just has a fancy saddle."

Associated Press

British soldiers killed in mortar attack in Afghanistan

Troops-in-Afghanistan-008 Two British soldiers have been killed in a mortar attack on an army base in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said.

The two men were members of the Royal Logistics Corps and were attached to the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh Battlegroup. Their families have been informed.

The soldiers were in forward operating base Ouellette, in the northern part of Nahr-e Saraj district, in Helmand province, when it came under "indirect" mortar fire from Taliban fighters on Friday.

Such mortars attacks on army bases in Afghanistan rarely cause injury because the initial explosion from the launch tube warns everybody in the area that a mortar has been fired.

A spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Major Ian Lawrence, said: "Sadly, I must report that today two soldiers from the Royal Logistic Corps, attached to 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh Battlegroup, were killed in an indirect fire attack on their base.

"The thoughts and condolences of everyone serving in the Combined Force are with their families and friends."

A total of 412 members of UK forces have died since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001.

The Guardian

Yulia Tymoshenko examined by German doctors in Ukraine prison

Yulia-Tymoshenko-008 German doctors travelled to Ukraine on Friday to examine former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko in prison, but a Ukrainian official said she would not be allowed to leave the country for treatment.

The 51-year-old Tymoshenko is on a hunger strike in protest at the prison's alleged mistreatment of her as she serves a seven-year sentence on charges of abusing her powers when she was prime minister.

Critics have described her case as politically motivated. They allege that President Viktor Yanukovych, Tymoshenko's rival in the 2010 presidential election, orchestrated her prosecution. Government officials have denied any claims of bias in the case.

Tymoshenko's aide Alexander Turchinov said on Friday: "She's been on a hunger strike for 15 days. Her life is in real danger."

But the Ukrainian prosecutor general, Viktor Pshonka, told reporters in Kiev that Ukrainian law did not allow prisoners to leave the country for medical treatment. He confirmed that two German doctors were examining Tymoshenko at her prison colony in eastern Ukraine.

Tymoshenko's allies were not told of the visit in advance.

German doctors from the Berlin-based Charite clinic also travelled to Ukraine last month to examine Tymoshenko. The doctors concluded that she was suffering from intense pain and needed urgent treatment in a specialist clinic. Tymoshenko's family said she was suffering from a herniated disc in her back.

The German government has said it believes Tymoshenko is unlikely to receive the treatment she needs in Ukraine and should be allowed to travel to Germany to get it.

But German foreign ministry spokesman Andreas Peschke said a quick solution was unlikely. "I want to dampen your expectations," he told reporters in Berlin. "Finding a solution here is complicated and will definitely take more time."

The Russian president-elect, Vladimir Putin, also offered help, suggesting that Russia would welcome Tymoshenko for treatment.

Putin was Tymoshenko's counterpart in signing a 2009 natural gas export deal that landed the Ukrainian politician in jail. Although Putin has stopped short of standing up for her, he has said there could not have been any violations of the law in the agreements they both signed.

On Thursday, the European Union president, Herman Van Rompuy, announced he would not travel to any of next month's Euro 2012 football matches in Ukraine in protest at Tymoshenko's treatment, joining other top officials such as European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, and the governments of Austria and Belgium. Putin has opposed such a boycott.


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