Friday, March 16, 2012


Seattle lawyer: Soldier accused in Afghan killings saw friend's leg blown off the day before

SEATTLE (AP) -- The day before the rampage that killed 16 Afghan villagers, the U.S. soldier accused of the mass killings saw his friend's leg blown off, his lawyer said.

Seattle attorney John Henry Browne told The Associated Press that his client's family provided him with details of the injury to another U.S. soldier. The details have not been independently verified.

"His leg was blown off, and my client was standing next to him," he said.

It isn't clear whether the incident might have helped prompt the horrific middle-of-the-night attack on civilians in two villages last Sunday. Browne said it affected all of the soldiers at the base.

The suspect had been injured twice during his three previous deployments to Iraq, and didn't want to go to Afghanistan to begin with, Browne said.


APNewsBreak: Officials disclose new case of American killed by Afghan soldier

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An Afghan soldier shot to death a 22-year-old Marine at an outpost in southwestern Afghanistan last month in a previously undisclosed case of apparent Afghan treachery that marked at least the seventh killing of an American military member by his supposed ally in the past six weeks, Marine officials said.

Lance Cpl. Edward J. Dycus of Greenville, Miss., was shot in the back of the head on Feb. 1 while standing guard at an Afghan-U.S. base in the Marja district of Helmand province. The exact circumstances have not been disclosed, but the Dycus family has been notified that he was killed by an Afghan soldier. Marine officials discussed the matter on condition of anonymity because it is still under investigation.

When the Pentagon announced Dycus' death the day after the shooting, it said he died "while conducting combat operations" in Helmand. It made no mention of treachery, which has become a growing problem for U.S. and allied forces as they work closely with Afghan forces to wind down the war.

The Associated Press inquired about the Dycus case after Maj. Gen. John Toolan, the top Marine commander in Afghanistan at the time, said in an AP interview March 7 that the Afghan government has been embarrassed by recent cases of Afghan soldiers turning their guns on their supposed partners.

"I had one just a month ago where a lance corporal was killed, shot in the back of the head, and the Afghan minister of defense was here the next day" to discuss custody of the shooter, Toolan said, speaking from his Regional Command-Southwest headquarters at Camp Leatherneck.


North Korea says it will launch long-range rocket; US calls plan 'highly provocative'

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- North Korea announced plans Friday to blast a satellite into space on the back of a long-range rocket, a provocative move that could jeopardize a weeks-old agreement with the U.S. exchanging food aid for nuclear concessions.

The North agreed to a moratorium on long-range launches as part of the deal with Washington, but it argues that its satellite launches are part of a peaceful space program that is exempt from any international disarmament agreements. The U.S., South Korea and other critics say the rocket technology overlaps with belligerent uses and condemn the satellite program as a disguised way of testing military missiles in defiance of a U.N. ban.

The launch is to take place three years after a similar launch in April 2009 drew widespread censure.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department called the announcement of the launch "highly provocative."

"Such a missile launch would pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea's recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement, calling on Pyongyang to abide by its international oblications.


FACT CHECK: An Obama campaign film comes with some fiction; GOP rivals stretch energy claims

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rick Santorum says oil drillers in the Gulf of Mexico are being slammed by "worse and worse and worse" delays in getting federal approval even as gas prices go through the roof. Actually, the wait for permits is getting better and better. Newt Gingrich boasts that small donors are powering his Republican presidential campaign. In reality, one deep-pocketed financial angel and other big money people have been doing loads of heavy lifting, too.

The claims of the Republican presidential rivals are not getting the exposure they once did, ever since the crackling series of debates drew to a close. But in smaller venues or turns on TV, the assertions still fly, as do exaggerations, oversimplifications and outright mistakes.

So, too, on the Democratic side. A polished new film from President Barack Obama's campaign, out Thursday night, pushes the gauzy hero worship beyond what has really happened in recounting the auto industry bailout and recovery. Called "The Road We've Traveled," the fundraising film takes Republican front-runner Mitt Romney out of context in the process.

A look at recent claims from the campaign trail and how they compare with the facts:

OBAMA CAMPAIGN on the automakers' recovery: "With business booming, they repaid their loans."


A timeline of some key events in the Syrian uprising

A timeline of some key events in the Syrian uprising:

March 15, 2011 -- Activists call for a "Day of Rage" across Syria, inspired by other popular uprisings across the Arab world. In February, several youths were arrested in the southern town of Daraa for writing graffiti calling for the downfall of the regime of President Bashar Assad.

March 18, 2011 -- Activists say five people were killed as security forces dispersed crowds in the southern town of Daraa -- one of several demonstrations across the country -- in the first deadly violence reported in the uprising. Over the next days, Daraa was reported sealed off, with no one allowed to enter.

March 23, 2011 -- Protests continue in Daraa, and Syrian state media release images of guns, hand grenades, bullets and stacks of Syrian currency said to be seized from a mosque in the town.

March 25, 2011 -- Troops open fire on protesters in several cities and crowds clash on the streets of the capital of Damascus.


Is 'pink slime' in your burger? You may not know until it's in your mouth -- or ever

All this angst over "pink slime" has made one thing clear: We don't always know what we're getting when we bite into a big juicy burger.

Which leaves unanswered some of the most basic questions in the debate over what the meat industry calls lean finely textured beef, a processed meat filler that experts say has found its way into much of the ground beef consumed in the United States.

But as a professional eater, I needed to know two things: What does this stuff do to the taste and texture of ground beef? And how can consumers know when they're eating it?

Neither answer came easily, the former because of the sheer volume of beef I needed to eat, the latter because of the rather opaque way ground beef is made.

For schools, that opacity began to clear Thursday, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that as of the fall the National School Lunch Program will allow districts to choose ground beef that does not contain the product. Previously, it was difficult for schools to know whether the beef they bought from the feds had it or not.


Asian Apple fans snap up new iPad with faster processor, better screen on first day of sales

HONG KONG (AP) -- Apple-mania gripped Asia on Friday as the company's latest iPad went on sale, drawing hordes of die-hard fans to shops selling the highly anticipated tablet.

Gadget fans lined up in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore so they could be among the first to get their hands on the device.

The third version of Apple's iPad also went on sale in Australia and it will be available in the U.S. and five other countries beginning at 8 a.m. local time, with 25 other countries getting it a week later. The new model comes with a faster processor and a much sharper screen. It also boasts an improved camera, similar to that of the latest iPhone.

For many customers, visiting a store in person -- instead of having one shipped -- offers consumers a chance to mingle with die-hard Apple fans.

About 450 people lined up outside Apple's Ginza store in downtown Tokyo. Some had spent the night sleeping outside the store to be among the first when it opened at 8 a.m. -- two hours earlier than usual.


Skydiver aims to jump from 23 miles up and break sound barrier in record 1st

"Fearless Felix" Baumgartner has jumped 2,500 times from planes and helicopters, as well as some of the highest landmarks and skyscrapers on the planet -- the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro, the Millau Viaduct in southern France, the 101-story Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

He's also leapt face-first into a pitch-dark, 620-foot-deep cave in Croatia -- his most dangerous feat yet, he says, but soon to be outdone.

This summer, Baumgartner hopes to hurtle toward Earth at supersonic speed from a record 23 miles up, breaking the sound barrier with only his body.

He made it more than halfway there during a critical dress rehearsal Thursday, ascending from the New Mexico desert in a helium balloon and jumping from more than 13 miles up. He is believed to be only the third person to leap from such a high altitude and free fall to a safe landing -- and the first to do so in 50 years. The record is Air Force test pilot Joe Kittinger's jump from 102,800 feet -- 19.5 miles -- in 1960.

"I'm now a member of a pretty small club," Baumgartner said in remarks provided by representatives.


Women in Ariz. may have to tell employers reason for taking birth control to get reimbursement

PHOENIX (AP) -- Women in Arizona trying to get reimbursed for birth control drugs through their employer-provided health plan could be required to prove that they are taking it for a medical reason such as acne, rather than to prevent pregnancy.

A bill nearing passage in the Republican-led Legislature allows all employers, not just religious institutions, to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage when doing so would violate their religious or moral beliefs.

When a female worker uses birth control pills, which can be used to treat a number of medical conditions, the bill would allow an employer who opted out to require her to reveal what she was taking it for in order to get reimbursed.

The bill thrusts the state into a raging national debate about religious freedom and birth control, sparked after the Obama administration required that employers must provide contraception coverage under the federal health care overhaul.

After objections from religious groups, the administration changed course, ordering that insurers, not employers, would have to pay for the coverage. Republicans, social conservatives and some religious groups believe the new order still violates their beliefs.


BracketRacket Day 2: Bruce Hornsby on the road not taken; and a reason to take Xavier over ND

Welcome back to BracketRacket, your one-stop shopping place for all things NCAA on tournament game days. And away we go.


Dudes. Helicopter. Basketball. Rim, Need we say more?

Watch here:

One more thing, actually. The shot traveled 192 feet. Using the college arc and calculating three points for every 20 feet, 9 inches, that makes it a 27-pointer -- plus change.