January 2020

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Testimony: ‘Bait’ a lure for militants

first_imgAn Army spokesman, Paul Boyce, said Monday that the Army does not discuss specific methods for “targeting enemy combatants” publicly, and that no classified program authorizes the use of “drop weapons” to make a killing appear justified. The court-martial of one of the accused soldiers, Spc. Jorge Sandoval Jr., is scheduled to begin in Baghdad on Wednesday. Under a program developed by a Defense Department warfare unit, Army snipers have begun using a new method to kill Iraqis suspected of being insurgents, planting fake weapons and bomb-making material as bait and then killing anyone who picks up them up, according to testimony presented in a military court. The existence of the classified “baiting program,” as it has come to be known, was disclosed as part of defense lawyers’ efforts to respond to murder charges the Army pressed this summer against three members of a Ranger sniper team. Each soldier is accused of killing an unarmed Iraqi in three separate incidents between April and June near Iskandariya. In sworn statements, soldiers testifying for the defense have said the sniper team was employing a baiting program developed by the Pentagon’s Asymmetrical Warfare Group, which met with and gave equipment to Ranger sniper teams in Iraq in January. The Washington Post first described the baiting program in an article Monday. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more


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Spears loses custody to ex

first_imgBy Sandy Cohen THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Britney Spears’ continuing downward spiral took a devastating turn Monday when she was ordered to relinquish custody of her children by a judge who had cited her drug- and-alcohol-fueled lifestyle. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon ruled that ex-husband Kevin Federline will take Sean Preston, 2, and Jayden James, 1, beginning Wednesday “until further order of the court.” The order stemmed from an unspecified oral motion made by Federline’s lawyers and was handled in a closed-door hearing. The judge’s order did not state the reason for the change in custody and he ordered all transcripts of the proceedings sealed. Phone messages left for representatives of Spears and Federline were not returned. Last month, Gordon said Spears engaged in “habitual, frequent and continuous use of controlled substances and alcohol” and ordered her to undergo random drug and alcohol testing twice a week as part of her ongoing custody dispute with Federline. Spears also was previously ordered to meet weekly with a “parenting coach” who was to observe and report back to the court about her parenting skills. Both Spears and Federline must complete the court’s “Parenting Without Conflict” class. Spears, 25, and Federline, 29, were married in October 2004. She filed for divorce last November and it became official in July. The two have joint custody of their sons, but Federline is seeking a greater share. Since Spears became single, her troubles have played out in the tabloids. First she was photographed at Hollywood hotspots partying with Paris Hilton – appearing drunk and out-of-control. Some photos captured the pop star without panties. Then Spears shaved her head, beat a car with an umbrella and ended up spending a month in rehab. An MTV Video Music Awards performance last month meant to herald her comeback was universally panned, with Spears appearing spaced-out and lethargic. The following week, Spears’ management firm dropped her and her divorce lawyer resigned. She then was charged with misdemeanor counts of hit-and-run and driving without a valid license for allegedly crashing into a parked car in August. The driving offenses likely compelled the judge to issue Monday’s orders, said New York divorce lawyer Raoul Felder. “She was driving without a license with a child in the car,” he said. “You can put aside the in and out of rehab, the shaving her head. But this? When a judge went out on a limb for her? There’s no going back.” Though Spears must relinquish physical custody of the children until further ruling, she and Federline still share legal custody. Los Angeles divorce lawyer Connolly Oyler said he’s surprised the children weren’t taken from Spears sooner. Judges typically remove youngsters from households where parents are ordered to undergo drug testing, he said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more


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JPL staff members get partial victory in privacy lawsuit

first_imgThe open-ended waiver, which likely will not be barred under Wright’s temporary injunction, “is by far the worst part,” said Mike Meacham, a mechanical engineer working on the Mars Science Laboratory rover. During the hearing, Caltech attorney Mark Holscher said that 4,100 of the 5,000 JPL employees had filled out the forms for the new security check. He and the other attorneys for the defendants and the plaintiffs declined to comment on Wright’s decision. The security measures in dispute were created by NASA in accordance with a post-Sept. 11, 2001, order by President Bush calling for “a mandatory, government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification issued by the federal government to its employees and contractors.” JPL employees who objected to the manner in which the order was carried out, have sought support from their congressional representatives, hosted protests outside the campus, and donated thousands of dollars to a legal fund to fight it. During the hearing, Wright said he wanted to balance their privacy concerns with those for safety. “I don’t want to see these employees hurt,” he said, “but I want the security of this nation preserved. I don’t want any sleepers infiltrating NASA or JPL.” elise.kleeman@sgvn.com (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4451160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE – Twenty-eight JPL staff members suing Caltech and the government over invasion of privacy concerns have gained a partial victory in federal court. U.S. District Judge Otis Wright said Monday he planned to grant a temporary injunction that would keep the National Aeronautics and Space Administration from asking employees about past drug use or treatment during a mandatory new background check. But Wright did not mention expanding the injunction to cover the most controversial portion of the check, an open-ended waiver that JPL employees must also sign. The waiver gives investigators access to records that “may include, but is not limited to, academic, residential, achievement, performance, attendance, disciplinary, employment history, and criminal history record information.” Wright said he would make his formal ruling on the injunction by the end of the week, after more research into previous cases. Wright also set an Oct. 19 hearing to decide whether to grant a permanent and broader injunction. Employees have until Friday to complete the forms or their employment will be “voluntarily terminated” Oct. 27. Monday’s ruling brought confusion and concern for several of the approximately 80 JPL employees who attended the hearing. “We didn’t know what it meant. It was very baffling and we still aren’t sure,” said lead plaintiff Robert Nelson, a scientist on the Saturn-visiting Cassini mission. For many at JPL, the partial injunction will not ease the decision about whether to complete the forms. last_img read more


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Arsenal set to give up pursuit of ‘£66m-rated’ striker target

first_img Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain 1 Arsenal will have to pay more than £42m if they are to prise Gonzalo Higuain away from Napoli this summer.According to reports in Italy, the Gunners, who were close to signing the Argentine forward two seasons ago, have discussed an initial bid with Napoli.But Gazzetta.it claim Arsenal remain reluctant to increase their first offer of around £42m and are prepared to pursue other options.Higuain, who has just finished competing in the Copa America, wants to play Champions League football next year, something his current club cannot offer him.But the Italian side are staying firm on their steep valuation, insisting the striker will not leave for a penny less than his €94.7m [£66m] buyout clauselast_img