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January 21, 2013

News Briefs January 21, 2013

Judge requiring Bales to undergo sanity review

The military judge overseeing the case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales said Jan. 17 that he will require Bales to undergo an official review of his sanity before he can present any mental health defense to charges of massacring Afghan civilians.

Bales deferred entering a plea Jan. 17 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to 16 counts of premeditated murder and other charges related to a nighttime attack on two villages last March.

But the judge took up arguments over whether Bales can present a mental health defense or testimony from mental health experts, given that he has not yet participated in a “sanity board” review.

The judge said Bales needs to participate if he wants to present a mental health defense, but he has made no decisions about the conditions of that review and what information from it is turned over to prosecutors.

Prosecutors say Bales, a father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., had been drinking early last March 11 before slipping away from his remote outpost in southern Afghanistan to carry out the attack. Nine children were among the dead, and some of the bodies were burned _ slayings which drew such outrage that the U.S. temporarily halted combat operations in the country.

Bales was on his fourth deployment and may have been suffering from a traumatic brain injury, his lawyers argue.

They have criticized the base at Camp Belambay where Bales was stationed, saying that Special Forces members there gave him banned substances including alcohol, Valium and steroids, and insist that by seeking the death penalty against Bales the Army is ignoring its own responsibility for sending him to war. AP

U.S. Navy: Ship stuck in Philippines used faulty map

The U.S. Navy says a minesweeper that ran aground on a coral reef in the Philippines was using a faulty map that misplaced the location of the marine sanctuary.

All 79 officers and crew of the USS Guardian have left the ship after it struck the reef Jan. 17. The Navy’s Pacific Fleet said Jan. 19 that its ships along with several support vessels continue to conduct salvage operations that minimize environmental effects to the reef.

The Navy says digital nautical charts contained inaccurate data and may have been a factor in the Guardian’s grounding.

Navigator of the Navy Rear Adm. Jonathan White released precautionary guidance to all Pacific Fleet ships, saying that ├Činitial review of navigation data indicates an error in the location of Tubbataha Reef├« in the Philippines. AP

U.S. Marines studying mindfulness-based training

The U.S. Marine Corps is studying how to make its troops even tougher through meditative practices, yoga-type stretching and exercises based on mindfulness.

The School Infantry-West at Camp Pendleton, Calif., will offer the eight-week course starting Tuesday to about 80 Marines as part of an ongoing experiment.

Marine Corps officials say they will build a curriculum that would integrate mindfulness-based techniques into their training if they see positive results.
Mindfulness is a Buddhist-inspired concept that emphasizes active attention on the moment to keep the mind in the present.

Facing a record suicide rate and thousands of veterans seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress, the military has been searching for ways to reduce strains on service members burdened with more than a decade of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. AP

Suspected U.S. drone kills eight in Yemen

Yemeni military officials say eight people have been killed in two suspected U.S. drone strikes in Abieda valley in central Marib province.

Residents contacted by The Associated Press say that at least two of the eight people killed in Saturday evening’s strikes were known al Qaeda militants of Saudi nationality. They identified one as Ismail bin Jamil.

They say at least three of the bodies were charred beyond recognition.

Security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. Residents spoke anonymously for fear of reprisal.

The U.S. has carried out dozens of suspected drone attacks against al Qaeda in Yemen, which Washington considers the group’s most active branch.

The nation on the tip of the Arabian Peninsula is among the poorest in the region. AP

Air Force sending B-2 stealth bombers to Guam

Two B-2 stealth bombers based in Missouri will deploy to Guam late this month to maintain the U.S. strategic bomber presence in the region.

The planes from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri will temporarily operate out of Andersen Air Force Base in the U.S. territory.

Pacific Air Forces said in a statement Jan. 18 the deployment will allow airmen to become familiar with operating in the Pacific.

The U.S. military started rotating bombers to Guam in 2004.

Doing so allowed the military to compensate for the diversion to the Middle East of U.S. forces assigned to Asia and the Pacific. The military has also rotated the B-1 and B-52 bombers to Guam. AP




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