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December 12, 2012

News Briefs December 12, 2012

U.S. sues employer over firing of N.Y. Army reservist

The federal government has sued a New York communications company president and his company, saying they violated the law by firing an Army reservist because of military obligations.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan Dec. 10 sued Cohere Communications LLC and its president, Steven T. Francesco. They said the company refused to restore the job of William Pfunk when he returned from a four-day training event in April.

Pfunk is a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves. The lawsuit seeks back pay.

A message for comment left for Francesco at the company was not immediately returned.

The government said Francesco had referred to military service as ìelective activitiesî and threatened Pfunk, telling him that if he wants ìa war,î he could impact his life more than he can affect his. AP

Recruits allegedly had toilet water in canteens

A witness allegedly abused by a trainer at a South Texas military installation has testified some recruits had to fill their canteens with toilet water.

An evidentiary hearing continued Dec. 11 for SSgt. Ryan Deraas. He could face court-martial on two charges and eight specifications of wrongdoing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

The San Antonio Express-News reports A1C Cody Zecchin testified Dec. 10 that Deraas in 2010 told him and other recruits to fill their canteens with water. Some used a sink.

Zecchin says Deraas told him and four others to fill theirs from the toilet. Zecchin followed the order after seeing Deraas push another trainee toward the bathroom stall.

Also, four women testified Deraas had Facebook friendships with them, one of which ended in a sexual relationship. AP
Family sues VA over Pennsylvania veteran’s Legionnaires’ death

The family of a western Pennsylvania veteran who died last month is suing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs saying he contracted Legionnaires’ disease at a Pittsburgh VA hospital.

The suit filed Dec. 10 by the family of 87-year-old William Nicklas alleges the hospital failed to properly maintain its water systems despite recurring illnesses and warnings from experts.

Nicklas’ family says he was in good health before visiting Pittsburgh’s Veterans Affairs hospital for heart trouble in October.

The Navy vet’s health quickly deteriorated in November, with the family saying they were told he’d contracted Legionnaires’ disease on Nov. 21. He died two days later.

VA officials declined to comment on the litigation.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says five cases have been linked to Pittsburgh’s VA hospitals. Union officials say workers have also been sickened. AP

Iran says it decoded data from captured CIA drone

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Dec. 10 said it has decoded all of the data from an advanced CIA spy drone captured last year.

The Guard’s aerospace chief, Gen. Ami Ali Hajizadeh, told state-run Press TV that that the RQ-170 Sentinel craft had not carried out missions over nuclear facilities before it went down in December 2011 near the eastern border with Afghanistan.

Tehran had previously said it recovered information from the top-secret stealth aircraft, but Monday’s announcement suggests technicians may have broken encryptions.

ìAll data from the drone have been completely decoded. We know where it travelled step by step, Hajizadeh was quoted as saying. ìAfter decoding, our experts discovered that this drone had not carried out even a single nuclear mission over Iran.

Hajizadeh said Iran had captured the drone and decoded its data without any assistance, including from its allies China and Russia. Iran has said it would reverse-engineer the drone and build its own version.

Last week, the Guard claimed it captured another U.S. drone after it entered Iranian airspace over the Persian Gulf, showing an image of what it said was a Boeing-designed ScanEagle drone on state TV.

The Islamic Republic has been trumpeting its possession of the drones in an attempt to embarrass Washington over its alleged surveillance of Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

Hajizadeh said Iran had previously acquired a ScanEagle drone and produced a copy of that, but did not provide evidence to back up the claim.

Last month, Tehran claimed that a U.S. drone violated its airspace. The Pentagon said an unmanned Predator aircraft came under fire at least twice while flying over international waters but was not hit. AP




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