Sunday, March 18, 2012

Published:

Lawyer for sergeant accused in Afghan killings en route to Kansas to visit with client Monday

SEATTLE (AP) -- With formal charges looming against his client within days, the lawyer for an Army sergeant suspected in the horrific nighttime slaughter of 16 Afghan villagers flew to Kansas and was preparing for his first face-to-face meeting with the 10-year veteran.

John Henry Browne of Seattle said he planned to meet Monday with Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is being held in an isolated cell at Fort Leavenworth's military prison.

Bales, 38, hasn't been charged in the March 11 shootings, which have endangered relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan and threaten to upend U.S. policy over the decade-old war. But formal charges are expected to be filed within a week and if the case goes to court the trial will be held in the United States, said a legal expert with the U.S. military familiar with the investigation.

That expert said charges were still being decided and that the location for any trial had not yet been determined. If the suspect is brought to trial, it is possible that Afghan witnesses and victims would be flown to the United States to participate, he said.

Military lawyers say once attorneys involved in the initial investigation of an alleged crime involving a service member have what they believe to be a solid understanding of what happened and are satisfied with the evidence collected, they draft charges and present them to a commander. That person then makes a judgment on whether there is probable cause to believe that an offense was committed and that the accused committed it.

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Romney sails to win in Puerto Rico as GOP rivals focus on upcoming Illinois, Louisiana

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Mitt Romney scored an overwhelming win Sunday in Puerto Rico's Republican presidential primary, trouncing chief rival Rick Santorum on the Caribbean island even as the two rivals looked ahead to more competitive contests this week in Illinois and Louisiana.

Romney's wife, Ann, urged Republicans to unite behind her husband. "It's time to come together," she said at a rally in suburban Chicago. "It's time to get behind one candidate and get the job done so we can move on to the next challenge, bringing us one step closer to defeating Barack Obama."

Late Sunday night, with 61 percent of the Puerto Rican votes counted, Romney had 83 percent of them. He won all 20 delegates to the national convention at stake because he prevailed with more than 50 percent of the vote. That padded his comfortable lead over Santorum in the race to amass the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

Romney announced the Puerto Rico win at the Illinois rally and told the crowd, "I intend to become our nominee and I intend to get Latino voters to vote for a Republican and take back the White House."

The Santorum campaign accused Romney of pandering. "Mitt Romney says he supports English as the official language of America while on the mainland, but then says Puerto Ricans don't have to learn English while he's on Puerto Rico," Santorum communications director Hogan Gidley said in a press release.

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Many seem willing to cut Afghan shooting suspect some slack; 'good guy in the wrong place'

He is accused of the kind of crime that makes people shiver, the killing of families in their own homes under cover of night, the butchery of defenseless children. Under normal circumstances, Americans would dismiss such an act as worthy of only one response: swift and merciless punishment.

Not so in the case of Robert Bales -- at least, not for some Americans.

So far, many seem willing to believe that a 10-year U.S. military veteran, worn down by four tours of combat and perhaps suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, simply snapped. That somehow there must be, if not an excuse, at least an explanation.

Exactly what set off the Army sergeant accused of massacring 16 civilians in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province is far from clear. But already, organizations and individuals with differing agendas have portrayed Bales as the personification of something that is profoundly broken, and have seized on his case to question the war itself or to argue that the American government is asking too much of its warriors.

On the website of Iraq Veterans Against the War, organizer Aaron Hughes declared that Afghan war veterans "believe that this incident is not a case of one 'bad apple' but the effect of a continued U.S. military policy of drone strikes, night raids, and helicopter attacks where Afghan civilians pay the price." Those veterans, he wrote, "hope that the Kandahar massacre will be a turning point" in the war.

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Fate of health care law lies with 4 GOP-appointed Supreme Court justices; Obama needs 1 to win

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Here's a thought that can't comfort President Barack Obama: The fate of his health care overhaul rests with four Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices.

His most sweeping domestic achievement could be struck down if they stand together with Justice Clarence Thomas, another GOP appointee who is the likeliest vote against.

But the good news for Obama is that he probably needs only one of the four to side with him to win approval of the law's crucial centerpiece, the requirement that almost everyone in this country has insurance or pays a penalty.

Lawyers with opposing views of the issue uniformly agree that the four Democratic-appointed justices, including Obama's two picks, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, will have no trouble concluding that Congress did not overstep its authority in adopting the insurance requirement that is aimed at sharply reducing the now 50 million people without insurance.

On the other side, Thomas has made clear in several cases that he does not take an expansive view of Congress' powers.

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After dozens of Occupy protesters are arrested, NYC activists reflect on movement's direction

NEW YORK (AP) -- A day after police broke up a rally at Manhattan's Zuccotti Park and arrested dozens, Occupy Wall Street protesters said Sunday that their movement for economic justice would pick up momentum with the spring.

Activists listed issues including student debt, the environment and the November elections as priorities going forward. But some observers who watched workers hose down the now-barricaded park that was Occupy's home wondered whether a movement so diffuse could accomplish anything.

"I'm really grateful to be part of a generation that wants change, 'cause we should all want change," said Jennifer Campbell, a graduate student in documentary filmmaking at Hofstra University. "But I'm not sure what that change is, or if they know what that change is."

Meanwhile, police were seeking a subpoena to identify an apparent Occupy protester who they said tweeted a threat to kill police officers, police spokesman Paul Browne confirmed Sunday.

The New York Post and Daily News reported a message by an apparent Occupy protester saying they won't make a difference if they don't kill a cop or two was tweeted at about 11:40 p.m. Saturday.

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Santorum, hoping to become 2nd Catholic US president, struggles to win over GOP Catholics

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- At El Sendero De La Cruz evangelical church, Rick Santorum sought prayers along with votes. He told the San Juan congregation that he felt "very blessed" to be with people of faith and said he can withstand the demands of campaigning because of the many people like them he meets while running for president.

"The first thing they almost always say to me, 'I'm praying for you,'" Santorum said. "It works."

It's the kind of spirit-infused language that is helping Santorum connect with evangelical Republicans, who have fueled his strong showing in state after state. Yet, in one of the more puzzling developments among many in the GOP contest, he's nowhere near as successful with his fellow Roman Catholics.

Across all states where Republican primary voters were asked their religion in exit polls, Mitt Romney, a Mormon, trounced Santorum among Catholics, with an average margin of victory above 20 percentage points. Even in Southern states, where Romney has struggled, Catholics broke his way.

On Sunday, overwhelmingly Catholic Puerto Rico was holding its primary.

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Yemen: More than 2,000 killed in yearlong turmoil, many times estimates of rights groups

SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- More than 2,000 people have been killed in a year of political turmoil that led to the resignation of Yemen's longtime president, the government disclosed Sunday. The figure is much higher than human rights groups estimated.

The government released its first casualty figures on a day when crowds of protesters were marking one year since a particularly bloody day, when dozens were killed.

Yemen's Ministry of Human Rights said the figure of at least 2,000 includes both unarmed protesters and military defectors, as well as more than 120 children. It said 22,000 people were wounded over the past year.

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International estimated earlier this year that 200 protesters had been killed in the uprising.

The government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down as president last month after more than three decades in power, never released casualty figures.

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Alternate juror in Rutgers webcam spying case disagrees with verdict on anti-gay intimidation

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) -- An alternate juror in the trial of a former Rutgers University student convicted in a webcam spying episode that ended in his gay roommate's suicide said he disagrees with the verdict.

James Downey told The Record (http://bit.ly/FQAmks) newspaper on Saturday that he wouldn't have voted to convict Dharun Ravi on any charges related to allegations that his actions were motivated by anti-gay bias.

Prosecutors said Ravi set up his webcam in his dorm room and watched Tyler Clementi kissing another man on Sept. 19, 2010, then tweeted about it and excitedly tried to catch Clementi in the act again two days later. A half dozen students were believed to have seen the live video of the kissing; no video was taken the second time.

As an alternate, the Woodbridge Township resident heard all the testimony but did not participate in deliberations. The jury, which returned its verdict Friday, was unanimous in finding Ravi guilty of all 15 charges, including invasion of privacy and anti-gay intimidation.

Ravi wasn't charged with causing or contributing to his roommate's death. Clementi committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge days after his intimate encounter with the other man. The case stirred a national conversation about anti-gay bullying and teen suicide and illustrated the dangers of technology in the hands of people who have grown up with the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

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Records of 1940 US Census documenting Great Depression to be released online for 1st time

NEW YORK (AP) -- It was a decade when tens of millions of people in the U.S. experienced mass unemployment and social upheaval as the nation clawed its way out of the Great Depression and rumblings of global war were heard from abroad.

Now, intimate details of 132 million people who lived through the 1930s will be disclosed as the U.S. government releases the 1940 census on April 2 to the public for the first time after 72 years of privacy protection lapses.

Access to the records will be free and open to anyone on the Internet -- but they will not be immediately name searchable.

For genealogists and family historians, the 1940 census release is the most important disclosure of ancestral secrets in a decade and could shake the branches of many family trees. Scholars expect the records to help draw a more pointillistic portrait of a transformative decade in American life.

Researchers might be able to follow the movement of refugees from war-torn Europe in the latter half of the 1930s; sketch out in more detail where 100,000 Japanese Americans interned during World War II were living before they were removed; and more fully trace the decades-long migration of blacks from the rural South to cities.

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Fab 14: NCAA men's basketball tournament becomes a place for the big boys

So much for the little guys.

Instead of parlaying an historic day of upsets into a second weekend filled with small schools, the NCAA tournament now looks like a who's-who of major college programs.

All but two of the 16 teams in the regional semifinals will be from power conferences. The lone exceptions are Xavier, which is hardly a stranger to this kind of run, and Ohio University, a big school with a small, but no longer unknown, basketball program.

According to STATS, this will be the first time since 2003 that 14 teams from the six major conferences have made the Sweet 16.

Among next week's matchups: