RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The judge in the case against an Army general believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to be tried on sex assault charges is considering new evidence that a top lawyer at the Pentagon may have unlawfully interfered in a decision on whether to accept a plea agreement that was ultimately rejected.
Attorneys for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair presented the evidence, and Judge Col. James Pohl dismissed the jury for the day Monday morning. Pohl then retired to his chambers, where he will weigh the email chain between the prosecution team at Fort Bragg and a top Pentagon lawyer.
It is unlawful in the military justice system for senior commanders to interfere in prosecutorial decisions.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
Defense lawyers for an Army general facing sexual assault charges say they plan to press his primary accuser on inconsistencies in her story.
Attorneys for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair will get their chance Monday to cross-examine the female captain at the center of the closely-watched case.
The woman testified Friday that toward the end of their three-year affair Sinclair twice ended arguments by unbuttoning his pants and forcing her head into his lap as she cried.
The defense says they’ll show the woman is lying by presenting a trove of emails and text messages she exchanged with the general, many of them sexually explicit.
Sinclair is believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever tried for sexual assault. He faces life in prison if found guilty.
- Crime Justice
- Society Culture
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Amnesty International accused President Bashar al-Assad’s forces on Monday of perpetrating war crimes as part of a siege in southern Damascus which has killed nearly 200 people, mostly by starvation.
Yarmouk, once home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and Syrian nationals, is one of several districts on the edge of the Syrian capital which the army has surrounded to choke off rebel forces seeking Assad’s overthrow.
“The Syrian government has committed numerous war crimes as part of the siege of Yarmouk,” Amnesty said in a report released on Monday.
“Hundreds of civilian residents of Yarmouk have been killed, wounded or have perished as a result of deliberate starvation and destruction of their means of support, direct attacks on civilians and indiscriminate attacks.”
Mainly Sunni Muslim rebels in northern Syria have also besieged two Shi’ite towns, but most of the blockades across the country have been carried out by Assad’s forces.
Only around 20,000 residents remain in Yarmouk, living under a siege which started in late 2012 but was tightened in July last year when fighters from al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, which had moved into the district, clashed with the army.
Amnesty listed 194 people it said were civilians who had died in Yarmouk since then. Two thirds were reported to have died of starvation, the London-based human rights group said.
Under an agreement reached in mid-January, the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has distributed food to the remaining Yarmouk inhabitants, but its work has been interrupted by continued fighting and it says the food which has reached Yarmouk is inadequate.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said on Monday that clashes and shelling continued in Yarmouk over the weekend and the agency had not been able to deliver humanitarian aid for the last nine days.
“The siege of Yarmouk amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population,” said Amnesty’s regional director Philip Luther.
“The Syrian government must end its siege immediately and allow humanitarian agencies unfettered access to assist its suffering civilians.”
(Reporting by Dominic Evans; editing by Ralph Boulton)
- Unrest, Conflicts War
- Politics Government
- Amnesty International
The father of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza believes his son would’ve killed him, too.
“With hindsight, I know Adam would have killed me in a heartbeat, if he’d had the chance,” Peter Lanza told the New Yorker. “I don’t question that for a minute.”
In interviews with the magazine’s Andrew Solomon published Monday, Lanza broke his 15-month silence on the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre, when the troubled 20-year-old gunman shot his mother, Nancy Lanza, in the Newtown, Conn., home they shared, then drove to the school, killing 20 children and 6 adults before killing himself.
“The reason he shot Nancy four times was one for each of us,” Peter Lanza said. “One for Nancy; one for him; one for Ryan; one for me.”
Peter Lanza, who was separated from Nancy in 2001, divorced in 2009 and had not seen Adam in two years at the time of the massacre, says he’s haunted by the killings.
“You can’t get any more evil,” Peter Lanza said. “How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he’s my son? A lot.”
In fact, he can’t stand to look at photos of Adam, and now wishes he had never been born.
“I’m not dealing with it,” he said. “You can’t mourn for the little boy he once was. You can’t fool yourself.”
He says he has dreamed about Adam every night since the killings (“dreams of pervasive sadness rather than fear”) but recently had “the worst nightmare of his life”:
He was walking past a door; a figure in the door began shaking it violently. Peter could sense hatred, anger, “the worst possible evilness,” and he could see upraised hands. He realized it was Adam. “What surprised me is that I was scared as s—,” he recounted. “I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. And then I realized that I was experiencing it from the perspective of his victims.”
Peter Lanza said he has met with two of the victims’ families. “It’s gut-wrenching,” he said. “A victim’s family member told me that they forgave Adam after we spent three hours talking. I didn’t even know how to respond.”
He said he considered changing his name. “I do not like to even say it,” Peter Lanza said. “I thought about changing it, but I feel like that would be distancing myself and I cannot distance myself. I don’t let it define me, but I felt like changing the name is sort of pretending it didn’t happen and that’s not right.”
In the interviews, Peter Lanza offered some insight into Adam’s troubled childhood.
Growing up, “Adam loved Sandy Hook school,” Peter said. “He stated, as he was growing older, how much he had liked being a little kid.”
Adam was “always thinking differently,” Peter Lanza recalled. “Just a normal little weird kid.”
But when Adam was in middle school, it was “crystal clear something was wrong,” Peter Lanza said. “The social awkwardness, the uncomfortable anxiety, unable to sleep, stress, unable to concentrate, having a hard time learning, the awkward walk, reduced eye contact. You could see the changes occurring.”
Adam Lanza was later diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.
“Adam was not open to therapy,” Peter Lanza said. “He did not want to talk about problems and didn’t even admit he had Asperger’s.”
But Peter Lanza said the Asperger’s diagnosis might have distracted the parents from other possible problems, including schizophrenia. “Asperger’s makes people unusual, but it doesn’t make people like this,” he said. “I was thinking it could mask schizophrenia.”
“If he had been a totally normal adolescent and he was well adjusted and then all of a sudden went into isolation, alarms would go off,” he said. “But let’s keep in mind that you expect Adam to be weird.”
Peter Lanza is still searching for answers.
“I want people to be afraid of the fact that this could happen to them,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be understood to be real.”
Las Vegas, NV, March 10, 2014 –(PR.com)– Grand Canyon Tours’ will be kicking off St. Patrick’s Day weekend with a host of helicopter, airplane and bus specials that are guaranteed to have travelers going “blarney” over such monster savings.
“It’s that time of the year where the luck of the Irish comes into play,” said Keith Kravitz, owner of Grand Canyon 123, the leading provider of National Park tour information. “The result: Great deals!”
Tours to the Grand Canyon primarily originate from two locations: Las Vegas and Tusayan, AZ, the small town that stands as the gateway to the National Park. Trips run daily and practically every day of the year except for Christmas Day.
From Las Vegas, travelers can do helicopter, airplane, bus and rafting tours. And at Tusayan, visitors will find an outstanding variety of air and rafting trips. In most case, these are day trips are all-inclusive. “Most Packages include everything from hotel pick up and drop off to lunch,” noted Kravitz.
Las Vegas is unique in fact that it’s the only place visitors can fly to the bottom of the Canyon. “This pertains only to helicopter rides,” Kravitz noted. “And the one that gets the lion’s hare of attention is the Champagne Picnic package.”
Kravitz noted that the Champagne package can be extended to include a Colorado River boat ride and tickets to the Grand Canyon Skywalk. “Lots of visitors will know this as the 3-1 tour,” he said. “Indeed, once all it’s components are considered, this particular helicopter package is the one that truly lets travelers experience the Park from top to bottom.”
Best 60 Minutes Ever
It’s also currently on sale for March along with a host of other helicopter rides including the air-only ride. “This one’s always been at the top of the list,” Kravitz noted. “Visitors fly over Lake Mead, Hoover Dam and more in addition to the West Rim. It’s the quickest, most exciting way to see the Canyon in under an hour.”
It should be noted that Las Vegas helicopters only go to the West Rim. Travelers wishing to do the South Rim will have to take an airplane or bus tour. “The plane is the way to go,” Kravitz said. “It’s a 60-minute flight packed with drama and includes a 2.5-hour in-Park bus tour. Or go big and add a helicopter ride to the package. Seriously, the sky’s the limit here.”
In addition, travelers need to be aware that there are no connecting flights between the two rims and that there are few bus packages available for overnight trips. “For those looking to do an overnight bus from Vegas, the solution is to buy two bus tours. Just make sure to have rooms reserved inside the Park, which can be complicated because accommodations are typically booked a year in advance.”
On the subject of planes, the best promotional offer for St. Patrick’s is the Las Vegas flight to the West Rim. “This one’s been a perennial crowd favorite,” noted Kravitz. “This is due to the fact that it lands on the top of rim and gives travelers the option to do the Skywalk upon arrival. It’s the perfect solution for visitors who are undecided about doing the Glass Bridge.”
For the best information about Grand Canyon tour deals, grab a copy of this free report:
Article source: http://www.pr.com/press-release/546116
Voyando is a new travel site that offers help from others to find the best deals, but Voyando’s unique proposition is not necessarily that others are doing the work for you, but rather how the helpers are found.
To use Voyando, people must ‘create a competition’, where they list their travel desires (where they want to go, when, etc) and then offer a reward to whoever finds the best deal in a set amount of time. Users can set the competition to be from 1 to 4 days in length and offer up to $150 in reward to whoever gets them the best deal.
Voyando gives advice on how to decide on the reward amount:
You are awarding this fee to the travel expert who gives you the best travel proposal. The amount of the fee should depend on your travel needs. Looking for a simple direct flight from a to b? Consider 5-15 dollars. Do you have a complicated itinerary with special preferences? Consider anything from 25 dollars and up. The more you offer, the bigger your chances of getting the best deal.
What’s more – the experts are not necessarily experts, just people with time on their hands. Anyone can apply to be an expert and begin giving advice in hopes that they will win the competition. Voyando takes a 35% commission fee of the reward, and if no one can find a satisfying deal then Voyando will happily give a refund and you are back to square one, opening up Expedia once more.
By Eveline Danubrata and Nguyen Phuong Linh
KUALA LUMPUR/PHU QUOC ISLAND, Vietnam (Reuters) – The disappearance of a Malaysian jetliner is an “unprecedented aviation mystery”, a senior official said on Monday, with a massive air and sea search now in its third day failing to find any confirmed trace of the plane or the 239 people aboard.
The head of Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, said a hijacking attempt could not be ruled out as investigators explore all theories for the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 en route to Beijing.
“Unfortunately we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft,” he told a news conference.
“As far as we are concerned, we have to find the aircraft, we have to find a piece of the aircraft if possible.”
As dozens of ships and aircraft from seven countries scour the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam, questions mounted over possible security lapses and whether a bomb or hijacking attempt could have brought down the Boeing 777-200ER airliner.
Hopes for a breakthrough rose briefly when Vietnam scrambled helicopters to investigate a floating yellow object it was thought could have been a life raft. But the country’s Civil Aviation Authority said on its website that the object turned out to be a “moss-covered cap of a cable reel”.
Interpol confirmed on Sunday at least two passengers used stolen passports and said it was checking whether others aboard had used false identity documents.
Flight MH370 disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur, after climbing to a cruising altitude of 35,000 ft.
Underlining the lack of hard information about the plane’s fate, a U.S. Navy P-3 aircraft capable of covering 1,500 sq miles every hour was sweeping the northern part of the Strait of Malacca, on the other side of the Malaysian peninsula from where the last contact with MH370 was made.
“Our aircraft are able to clearly detect small debris in the water, but so far it has all been trash or wood,” said U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman Commander William Marks in an emailed statement.
Shares in Malaysia Airlines fell as much as 18 percent to a record low on Monday morning and were down 4 percent near the close.
NO DISTRESS SIGNAL
No distress signal was sent from the lost plane, which experts said suggested a sudden catastrophic failure or explosion, but Malaysia’s air force chief said radar tracking showed it may have turned back from its scheduled route before it disappeared.
A senior source involved in preliminary investigations in Malaysia said the failure to quickly find any debris indicated the plane may have broken up mid-flight, which could disperse wreckage over a very wide area.
“The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet,” said the source.
Asked about the possibility of an explosion, such as a bomb, the source said there was no evidence yet of foul play and that the aircraft could have broken up due to mechanical causes.
Still, the source said the closest parallels were the explosion on board an Air India jetliner in 1985 when it was over the Atlantic Ocean and the Lockerbie air disaster in 1988. Both planes were cruising at around 31,000 feet when bombs exploded on board.
The United States extensively reviewed imagery taken by American spy satellites for evidence of a mid-air explosion, but saw none, a U.S. government source said. The source described U.S. satellite coverage of the region as thorough.
Boeing declined to comment and referred to its brief earlier statement that said it was monitoring the situation.
The Boeing 777 has one of the best safety records of any commercial aircraft in service. Its only previous fatal crash came on July 6 last year when Asiana Airlines flight 214 struck a seawall on landing in San Francisco, killing three people.
About two-thirds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew now presumed to have died aboard the plane were Chinese. The airline said other nationalities included 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French and three Americans.
The passenger manifest issued by the airline included the names of two Europeans – Austrian Christian Kozel and Italian Luigi Maraldi – who were not on the plane. Their passports had been stolen in Thailand during the past two years.
An Interpol spokeswoman said a check of all documents used to board the plane had revealed more “suspect passports”, which were being investigated.
“Whilst it is too soon to speculate about any connection between these stolen passports and the missing plane, it is clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol’s databases,” Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said.
Malaysia’s state news agency quoted Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying the two passengers using the stolen European passports were of Asian appearance, and criticized the border officials who let them through.
“I am still perturbed. Can’t these immigration officials think? Italian and Austrian but with Asian faces,” he was quoted as saying late on Sunday.
A European diplomat in Kuala Lumpur cautioned that the Malaysian capital was an Asian hub for illegal migrants, many of whom used false documents and complex routes including via Beijing or West Africa to reach a final destination in Europe.
“You shouldn’t automatically think that the fact there were two people on the plane with false passports had anything to do with the disappearance of the plane,” the diplomat said.
“The more you know about the role of Kuala Lumpur in this chain, the more doubtful you are of the chances of a linkage.”
(Additional reporting by Siva Govindasamy, Niluksi Koswanage, Stuart Grudgings, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Yantoultra Ngui in KUALA LUMPUR, Ben Blanchard, Megha Rajagopalan and Adam Rose in BEIJING, Martin Petty in HANOI, Alwyn Scott in NEW YORK, Naomi O’Leary in ROME, Tim Hepher in PARIS, Brian Leonal in SINGAPORE and Mark Hosenball and Ian Simpson in WASHINGTON; Writing by Alex Richardson; Editing by Nick Macfie)
- Commercial Vehicles
- Malaysia Airlines
- Kuala Lumpur
EUREKA, Calif. (AP) — A very strong earthquake rattled the Northern California coast and was widely felt across the region, but authorities said early Monday that there were no reports of any injuries or damages.
The magnitude 6.9 quake struck at 10:18 p.m. PDT Sunday and was centered 50 miles west of Eureka and about four miles beneath the Pacific seabed, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It was followed by about a half-dozen aftershocks, including one of magnitude 4.6.
The quake was felt widely across the region but both fire and sheriff’s officials in Humboldt County, which includes most of the populated areas near the epicenter, said early Monday more than four hours after the quake hit that they had no reports of any damage or injuries.
The National Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami danger for the region.
But more than 3,000 people reported on the USGS website that they felt the quake. Some reported a long, rolling shake that woke children or knocked items off shelves. Some of those respondents live across the border in Oregon.
“This lasted longer than any earthquake I’ve ever felt,” Raquel Maytorena, 52, who lives about a mile from the coast in Ferndale near Eureka, told The Los Angeles Times. “It just kept going and going, very slowly and softly. It was not violent. It almost felt like you were in a boat that was rocking.”
Maytorena said she felt a little rattling in her nearly 100-year-old home, but power remained on without any interruptions. The quake felt like it lasted about 20 seconds, she said.
“The animals, they felt it,” she said. “My two horses were running around out by the barn, and my dogs, six dogs, were ready to get out of the house.”
Jana Pursley, a geophysicist with the National Earthquake Information Center, said that based on the area’s tectonics and past temblors, damages or casualties were unlikely.
Earthquakes are very common in Eureka, a city of about 27,000 people about 270 miles northwest of San Francisco and 100 miles south of the Oregon state line. Nearby Arcata is home to about 17,000 people and Humboldt State University.
The area had a magnitude-5.6 earthquake in February, 2012 that did not cause serious damages or injuries.
An offshore magnitude-6.5 quake struck offshore in 2010 and caused bumps and cuts among residents and broke glass in some buildings, but it was about 25 miles closer to land than Sunday night’s quake.
- Natural Phenomena
- Nature Environment
Welcome to my new Tumblr! I’m really looking forward to connecting with you here, and seeing all the questions, photos and video you want to share.
As I begin my new role as Global Anchor for Yahoo, I want to hear from you. What stories matter most to you, and which people do you find most interesting?
I’ve been really fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to some fascinating people in my career, from presidents and heads of state to celebrities and newsmakers of the moment.
I want you to come along with me this time, to give you a window into their lives and have your voice be heard.
And first up is former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. From gun control to smoking to obesity, he’s never been shy about tackling tough or controversial issues. Now in his new role at the United Nations he’s taking on climate change…in cities all around the world.
What would you ask Michael Bloomberg?
Better yet, is there a photo or a video clip you’d like him to see that illustrates your point?
If a picture is worth a thousand words, social media is filled with volumes and volumes of stories. I’d like to help you tell those stories as we explore the world together.
Look for the interview March 14th here and on Yahoo.
Let’s build something new together…one post at a time.
Article source: http://katiecouric.tumblr.com/
Need a vacay, like, right now? ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports, suggests these sites that make last-minute travel cheap and easy to book. Each one of them meets ShopSmart’s requirements for contact info disclosure and customer service.
In addition, check out the last-minute travel sections of the Big Three sites (Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity). ShopSmart also recommends looking at opaque travel sites such as Priceline and Hotwire, which don’t reveal which hotel you’ve booked until after you pay for it but offer heavily discounted rates. And try GetARoom.com (800-468-3578) for super-low unpublished room deals.
• Best for living like a local: Airbnb.com. Users can rent private rooms in people’s homes or entire homes. With more than half a million listings (including 600 castles) in 34,000 cities, it can save you from a bland hotel – and save you money.
ShopSmart found an entire three-bedroom house in the Riverdale section of New York City, just minutes north of Manhattan, for $150 per night; on average, a night in a hotel in NYC will set you back $281.
Safety tip: Opt for hosts with a Verified ID badge; they provide proof of identity, which gives you an extra layer of security.
• Best for finding a hotel room: Booking.com. Get the best of both worlds: Search every hotel in a city and book your favorite (you don’t pay until you show up). The Best Price Guarantee means if you see a cheaper price, the site will match it. But discounts such as AAA’s aren’t covered, so if you use those, it’s worth it to book directly with a hotel.
• Best for nice surprises: GetGoing.com. Feeling adventurous? With GetGoing’s Pick Two, Get One program, you enter your preferred travel dates and the experience you want (say, a beach vacation or an outdoor adventure), and the website finds flights to different cities at up to 40 percent off.
Review your choices, then narrow your destinations to two – and here’s the kicker: The site makes the final decision for you. After you enter your credit card info, you find out where you’re going on vacation.
• Best for group travel: Travefy.com. Need an impromptu girls getaway? These tools take the pain out of coordinating a group trip. You can all vote on a location, book flights and accommodations, agree on your itinerary and even split shared costs (and settle debts, too).
Join the rewards program to earn points for everything you do – not just for booking but also for logging in and tweeting about your experience. Those points are redeemable for cash, gift cards, merchandise and more.
• Free travel apps. Travel apps are another way of finding great last-minute vacation deals. Consider these four that ShopSmart loves:
• Hotel Tonight. Book unsold same-day hotel rooms at cut-rate prices. The rates are guaranteed to be the lowest available. Works on Android, Apple.
• Loungebuddy. Long layover or delayed flight? Discover the best airport lounges and how you can get into them. Hint: Some of them are free! Works on Apple.
• Superfly Hotels. Tracks air, car rental and hotel rewards; suggests and even books rooms, then gives you up to 10 percent cash back. Works on Apple.
• Uber. Skip car reservations and the taxi line at the airport. Use this app to get a quick pickup – and to pay. Works on Android, Apple.
KELLER, Texas (AP) — The brothers of a North Texas man who was aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight that went missing over the South China Sea said Sunday their family is leaning on faith and holding out hope for good news about the man they last saw about a week ago.
Philip Wood, an IBM executive who had been working in Beijing over the past two years, had recently returned home from Asia before his next assignment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Wood came back to Texas to visit his family before relocating to the Malaysian capital, his brother, James Wood said.
The Saturday flight was supposed to be his final one to China’s capital. James Wood told the Associated Press during an interview at the family’s home in the Dallas suburb of Keller, Texas, that Philip Wood was supposed to make the final arrangements there for his relocation to Malaysia.
“This was going to be his last trip to Beijing. It just happened to be this one,” James Wood said.
“There is a shock, a very surreal moment in your life,” Wood added.
“Last Sunday, we were all having breakfast together. And now, you can’t,” he said during a phone interview earlier in the day, as the family got ready to attend church. Their faith, he said, is what’s helping the family through this trying time.
“My brother, our family, we are Christians. Christ above else is what’s keeping us together,” he said.
Philip Wood, 50, was one of three Americans who were aboard the Boeing 777 when it lost contact with air traffic control as it was cruising on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew members. It isn’t known with whom the other two Americans, Nicole Meng, 4, and Yan Zhang, 2, were traveling.
James Wood described his brother, a technical storage executive at IBM Malaysia, as an “outgoing, gregarious, friendly, loving man” who was excited about moving to Malaysia.
“He loved to travel while he was over there. His job gave him the opportunity to do that,” James Wood said.
James Wood said that his brother is divorced and that one of his sons attends Texas AM University and that another is an alumnus of that university.
He also pointed out that, along with his brother, members of hundreds of other families were aboard Flight MH370.
“I just wanted to say to all the other families that are around the world: We’re hurting. We know you’re hurting just as much, and we’re praying for you,” he said.
The family has been contacted by the U.S. Department of State and the embassy in Malaysia, Wood added.
A second brother, Tom Wood, said the events have left “a real hole in our family,” but he said they aren’t giving up hope.
“You never know,” he said. “I’m not gonna close that door until we need to close it completely.”
So far, no explanation as to what happened to the plane is available. There was no distress signal before the plane vanished from the radar.
The family is watching CNN, BBC and other news stations, waiting for small pieces of information as they trickle down, he said.
But, “with a situation like this, when a plane just disappears … it leaves you with a lot of questions,” he said.
AP writer Juan Carlos Llorca contributed from El Paso.
- Malaysia Airlines
- KELLER, Texas