Army psychiatrist convicted of murder for Fort Hood shooting, now eligible for death penalty
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- A military jury on Friday convicted Maj. Nidal Hasan in the deadly 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, making the Army psychiatrist eligible for the death penalty in the shocking assault against American troops by one of their own on home soil.
There was never any doubt that Hasan was the gunman. He acknowledged to the jury that he was the one who pulled the trigger on fellow soldiers as they prepared to deploy overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. And he barely defended himself during a three-week trial.
The unanimous decision on all 13 counts of premeditated murder made Hasan eligible for execution in the sentencing phase that begins Monday.
Hasan, who said he acted to protect Muslim insurgents abroad from American aggression, did not react to the verdict, looking straight at jurors as they announced their findings. After the hearing, relatives of the dead and wounded fought back tears. Some smiled and warmly patted each other’s shoulders as they left court.
Because Hasan never denied his actions, the court-martial was always less about a conviction than it was about ensuring he received a death sentence. From the beginning, the federal government has sought to execute Hasan, believing that any sentence short of a lethal injection would deprive the military and the families of the dead of the justice they have sought for nearly four years.
Afghans dissatisfied with Bales’ sentence of life without release for massacre of their kin
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AP) -- The U.S. soldier who massacred 16 Afghan civilians last year in one of the worst atrocities of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was sentenced Friday to life in prison with no chance of parole -- the most severe sentence possible, but one that left surviving victims and relatives of the dead deeply unsatisfied.
"We wanted this murderer to be executed," said Hajji Mohammad Wazir, who lost 11 family members in the attack by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. "We were brought all the way from Afghanistan to see if justice would be served. Not our way -- justice was served the American way."
Bales, 40, pleaded guilty in June in a deal to avoid the death penalty for his March 11, 2012, raids near his remote outpost in Kandahar province, when he stalked through mud-walled compounds and shot 22 people -- 17 of them women and children. Some screamed for mercy, while others didn’t even have a chance to get out of bed.
The soldier showed no emotion as the sentence was announced at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle.
His mother, sitting in the front row of the court, bowed her head, rocked in her seat, and wept.
Russia urges its ally Syria to let UN experts investigate latest alleged chemical attack
BEIRUT (AP) -- Russia on Friday added its diplomatic weight to demands for a swift probe into an alleged chemical weapons attack that has injected new vigor into calls for international military action in Syria’s civil war.
The U.S., Britain, France and other countries have pressed for a team of United Nations inspectors already in Syria to be granted immediate access to the sites of Wednesday’s purported gas attack that activists say killed more than 130 people. In an attempt to push things along, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is dispatching his disarmament chief to Damascus to press President Bashar Assad’s regime to agree to an investigation.
Timing is vital, experts say, because the more time passes, the harder it is to detect what chemicals -- if any -- were used. Immediate access also would allow inspectors to collect blood and soil samples themselves and safeguard the chain of custody of and the integrity of the investigation.
But in the chaos and violence of Syria’s civil war, safe passage to the eastern Damascus suburbs in question would be difficult.
That was made clear on Friday, as government artillery on the Qassioun plateau overlooking Damascus pounded those suburbs in the heaviest strikes in days. Booms from the artillery echoed over the city every few minutes, along with several rounds of rocket fire that raised flashes of light from the suburbs. At times, three or four plumes of smoke could be seen billowing on the horizon.
Explosions outside mosques in northern Lebanon kill 29, mark tipping point for country
TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AP) -- In scenes reminiscent of Lebanon’s devastating civil war, charred bodies lay in the streets Friday after twin car bombs exploded outside mosques packed with worshippers, killing 29 people and wounding hundreds.
The coordinated attacks in this predominantly Sunni city -- the deadliest fallout from Syria’s civil war to hit Lebanon -- raised sectarian tensions to dangerous levels amid fears the country was slipping into a prolonged cycle of revenge.
The blasts marked the second such attack in just over a week. A deadly car bombing targeted an overwhelmingly Shiite district south of Beirut controlled by the militant Hezbollah group on Aug. 15, demonstrating the alarming degree to which the country is being torn apart by the civil war next door.
Friday’s attacks shocked residents of Tripoli, which has been the scene of frequent clashes between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad in recent months. But the city, Lebanon’s second-largest, has not seen such bombings in decades.
The blasts were clearly intended to cause maximum civilian casualties, timed to go off at midday Friday outside the Taqwa and Salam mosques, which are known to be filled with worshippers at that time on the Muslim day of prayer.
Rallies for Egypt’s deposed pres. smaller after arrests of Muslim Brotherhood leaders
CAIRO (AP) -- Supporters of Egypt’s deposed president, who once overwhelmed cities in the hundreds of thousands, changed tactics Friday by demonstrating in scattered, small rallies that avoided confronting a heavy military deployment waiting for them across the country.
The low turnout signaled the strain on ousted leader Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, as it has trouble drawing large numbers of supporters and faces an increasingly skeptical Egyptian public wary of more bloodshed like that which followed the July 3 military coup that overthrew him. Meanwhile, an intense security crackdown by the military-backed interim government has rounded up much of its leadership.
The Brotherhood has "committed a strategic error last week by mixing peaceful protests with armed clashes with civilians," said Abdullah el-Sinawi, an Egyptian newspaper columnist and analyst. "Many supporters are now staying away fearing that new civilian-on-civilian clashes will erupt."
Morsi supporters dubbed the day the "Friday of Martyrs," in reference to the several hundred people that died in clashes with Egypt’s military during raids on street camps this month. Last Friday, vigilantes at neighborhood checkpoints battled Morsi supporters across the capital in unprecedented clashes between residents that killed more than 170 people, including dozens of police officers.
Ahead of the protests, soldiers in armored personnel carriers and tanks deployed early Friday across the country on major roads and plazas to stop demonstrators from gathering. But after Friday prayers, Cairo and the rest of Egypt did not see massive crowds on the streets. Instead, small groups of Islamists in the hundreds chanted against the military and held up posters of Morsi on side streets and outside neighborhood mosques.
Veteran of battle for Okinawa in WWII beaten to death in random Spokane attack
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- Police in Spokane, Wash., have arrested one of two teens suspected of fatally beating an 88-year-old veteran of World War II who had survived the battle for Okinawa.
Police contend that two 16-year-old boys approached Delbert Belton in his car at random Wednesday night outside an Eagles Lodge as he was waiting for a friend.
Belton was found by police with serious head injuries and died in the hospital Thursday.
Belton’s death has struck a chord nationally and sparked outrage on social media.
"He fought for this country," said Belton’s sister, Alberta Tosh, on Friday. "Then he comes home and a couple of creeps kill him in the worst way."
Lawyers sign deal to dismiss Paula Deen sexual harassment, discrimination lawsuit
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- Lawyers signed a deal Friday to drop a discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against celebrity cook Paula Deen, who was dropped by the Food Network and other business partners after she said under oath that she had used racial slurs in the past.
A document filed in U.S. District Court in Savannah said both sides agreed to drop the lawsuit "without any award of costs or fees to any party." No other details of the agreement were released. The judge in the case had not signed an order to finalize the dismissal.
Former employee Lisa Jackson last year sued Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, saying she suffered from sexual harassment and racially offensive talk and employment practices that were unfair to black workers during her five years as a manager of Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House.
The dismissal deal came less than two weeks after Judge William T. Moore dismissed the race discrimination claims, ruling Jackson, who is white, had no standing to sue over what she said was poor treatment of black workers. He let Jackson’s claims of sexual harassment stand, but those were dropped in the deal between the lawyers.
"While this has been a difficult time for both my family and myself, I am pleased that the judge dismissed the race claims and I am looking forward to getting this behind me, now that the remaining claims have been resolved," Deen said in a statement Friday.