U.S.

November 27, 2013

In the news…

Clock ticks on authority for Guantanamo detention

The fate of 164 suspected terrorists who have lived for years in legal limbo at Guantanamo Bay may hinge on a law that could expire if U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.

President Barack Obama has long promised to close the detention camp at a U.S. Navy base in Cuba, and Congress is struggling with whether to ease restrictions on trials and transfers for the suspects.

A 2001 law that allowed the U.S. military to invade Afghanistan to pursue and punish extremists linked to the Sept. 11 attacks also authorizes the Guantanamo detentions.

Whether it will remain valid if troops withdraw from Afghanistan – which Obama is considering for the end of 2014 – is an open legal question that officials and experts say must be resolved. AP

Spoils of war: Police getting leftover Iraq trucks

Coming soon to your local sheriff: 18-ton, armor-protected military fighting vehicles that were once the U.S. answer to roadside bombs during the Iraq war.

The hulking vehicles were built for about $500,000 each at the height of the war. They are among the biggest pieces of equipment that the Defense Department is giving free to law enforcement agencies under a national military surplus program.

Police and sheriff’s departments nationwide have scooped up 165 of the so-called MRAP trucks since they became available this summer. That includes eight in New York state.

Sheriffs say the MRAPS are a choice vehicle should SWAT teams need to get close to a shooter or rescue bystanders.

But some critics are questioning the militarization of police, including armored vehicles too big to travel on some bridges and roadways. AP

Connecticut veteran sues Army over diagnosis, benefits

A Connecticut veteran of the Iraq War has sued the Army, saying he was denied full education and retirement benefits after he was diagnosed with adjustment disorder while actually suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

East Haven resident William Cowles filed the lawsuit Nov. 21 in U.S. District Court in Connecticut challenging the denial of his application for medical retirement. The suit says because Cowles was discharged for adjustment disorder rather than medically retired for PTSD, he is eligible for only half the education benefits and lost about $18,000 in retirement benefits.

The Army says it doesn’t discuss pending litigation. But a spokesman says the Army never discharges soldiers to avoid providing benefits.

The lawsuit says Cowles deployed to Iraq in 2003 and witnessed the death of men from his unit. AP

Boeing advises about engine icing problems

Boeing is alerting airlines about possible engine icing problems on some of its new planes. It is recommending that planes with a specific General Electric engine avoid flying near thunderstorms that might contain ice crystals.

Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said Nov. 23 that Boeing issued the advisory after ice crystal formation in some instances diminished engine performance. Airlines with planes affected include United, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa and Air India. Models affected are the 747-8 and the 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner.

“To reduce chances of ice crystal conditions, Boeing recommends that operators fly at least 50 nautical miles from thunderstorms that may contain ice crystals,” Boeing said in its statement.

The advisory covers Boeing planes with General Electric’s GEnx engine. In its statement, Boeing said that GE is “working diligently” to deal with the issue and that corrective changes “will be introduced into the fleet as soon as they are available.”

It’s the latest problem to confront the 787. Earlier this year, the 787 was grounded after two planes suffered from smoldering batteries. Flights resumed after Boeing redesigned the battery system. AP

Missouri Senate leader backs Boeing incentives

A top Missouri state senator said Nov. 22 that he would support special tax incentives to try to entice Boeing to produce a new airplane in Missouri.

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard said it should be “a no-brainer” for lawmakers to authorize incentives for Boeing as Missouri competes with several other states to produce the Boeing 777X commercial airplane.

“The massive amount of jobs and infrastructure improvement is going to require something that is above and beyond what the normal incentive is,” said Richard, R-Joplin.

Gov. Jay Nixon discussed the potential Boeing project with legislative leaders during a telephone call Thursday, shortly before meeting with Boeing executives. The governor issued a statement later Nov. 21 describing it as “an extremely productive meeting” and pledging to work quickly and aggressively to submit a proposal to Boeing.

Nixon said Boeing is expected to choose a production location by January. Boeing already employs about 15,000 people in Missouri. AP

EU president says no military solution in Syria

EU President Herman Van Rumpoy says there is no military solution to the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Van Rumpoy spoke Nov. 21 following an EU-China summit in Beijing at which Syria and other international issues were discussed. He said that China, a U.N. Security Council member, has a role to play in formulating actions to mitigate the conflict such as the destruction of chemical weapons.

China has been criticized for blocking harsher action by the U.N. that could lead to the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Van Rumpoy said China was already working closely with the EU on the Iranian nuclear issue. He said the sides also discussed the need to restore stability in North Africa, Mali and the Sahel to fight organized crime and terrorism. AP

Iran forces drill near strategic Gulf strait

An Iranian news agency says paramilitary forces have wrapped up maneuvers on an island near the strategic oil tanker shipping lanes through the Strait of Hormuz.

The Nov. 21 report by the semiofficial Fars news agency says the two-day drills on Qeshm Island included hundreds of Basij forces, the paramilitary wing of the powerful Revolutionary Guard. Qeshm overlooks the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the route for one-fifth of the world’s oil tanker traffic.

In past years, Iran had threatened to block the waterway in retaliation for international sanctions, but no longer issues such warnings.

Similar military exercises were held in other areas across Iran, which regularly holds maneuvers for its armed forces. AP

U.K. government defeats lawmaker rebellion over army

Britain’s government has defeated attempts by rebel lawmakers to delay plans to recruit more reservists to replace regular Army soldiers.

The rebel lawmakers from the ruling Conservative Party had hoped to delay a defense reform bill, but their proposed amendment to the plans was defeated in a House of Commons vote Nov. 20.

The government wants to expand the army reserve force to 30,000 from 19,000, to make up for cutting 20,000 soldiers from the 102,000-strong regular Army within seven years.

Despite signs that reservist recruitment is missing targets, Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said he is confident of hitting the right numbers over the next five years. AP




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