AP News in Brief

AP News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2009 6:17 PM

Legal, political risks abound in NYC trial of 9/11 suspects; military to try 5 other detainees

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Hauling the professed 9/11 mastermind and four alleged henchmen to a New York courthouse is a risky proposition for President Barack Obama. The move will bar evidence obtained under duress and complicate a case where anything short of slamdunk convictions will empower the president's critics.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced the decision Friday to bring Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to trial at a lower Manhattan courthouse hard by the site of the World Trade Center, whose twin towers they will be charged with destroying.

The case is likely to force the civilian federal court to confront a host of difficult issues, including rough treatment of detainees, sensitive intelligence gathering and the potential spectacle of defiant terrorists disrupting proceedings. U.S. civilian courts prohibit evidence obtained through coercion, and a number of detainees were questioned using harsh methods some call torture.

Holder insisted both the court system and the untainted evidence against the five men are strong enough to deliver a guilty verdict and the penalty he expects to seek: a death sentence for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people who were killed when four hijacked jetliners slammed into the towers, the Pentagon, and a field in western Pennsylvania.

"After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice. They will be brought to New York _ to New York," Holder repeated for emphasis _ "to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks away from where the twin towers once stood."

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Army survey: Morale down among units in Afghanistan, but their overall mental health unchanged

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Morale has fallen among soldiers in Afghanistan, where troops are seeing record violence in the 8-year-old war, while those in Iraq show much improved mental health amid much lower violence, the Army said Friday.

It was the first time since 2004 that soldier suicides in Iraq did not increase. Self-inflicted deaths in Afghanistan were on track to go up this year.

Though findings of two new battlefield surveys are similar in several ways to the last ones taken in 2007, they come at a time of intense scrutiny on Afghanistan as President Barack Obama struggles to craft a new war strategy and planned troop buildup. There is also new focus on the mental health of the force since a shooting rampage at Fort Hood last week in which an Army psychiatrist is charged.

Both surveys showed that soldiers on their third or fourth tours of duty had lower morale and more mental health problems than those with fewer deployments. And an increasing number of troops are having problems with their marriages.

The new survey on Afghanistan found instances of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress at about the same as they were in 2007 but double 2005's cases. That was 21.4 percent in 2009, 23.4 percent in 2007 and 10.4 percent in 2005.

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Lawmaker: Fort Hood suspect had communications with Pakistan; attorney says Hasan is paralyzed

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) _ The Army psychiatrist charged with killing 13 people in a shooting spree at Fort Hood made or accepted wire transfers with Pakistan, a country wracked by Muslim extremist violence, a Republican congressman said Friday.

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking GOP member of the House Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee, said in a statement that he confirmed through "independent sources" that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan also had communications with Pakistan.

"This Pakistan connection just raises more red flags about this case and demonstrates why it's important for Congress to exercise its oversight authority," McCaul said in a statement.

McCaul did not respond Friday to a request for an interview. His spokesman, Mike Rosen, said he did not know the direction of the transfers and communications, only that they passed between Hasan and Pakistan. Rosen would not elaborate further and said he could not say how McCaul's sources knew about the transfers, their value, to whom they were placed or accepted or how many accounts were involved.

Hasan, 39, was charged Thursday with 13 counts of premeditated murder in a military court, and Army investigators have said he could face additional charges. His attorney, John Galligan, has said prosecutors have not yet told him whether they plan to seek the death penalty.

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Splash! NASA's moon crash struck lots of water, making moon an enticing place to visit again

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Suddenly, the moon looks exciting again. It has lots of water, scientists said Friday _ a thrilling discovery that sent a ripple of hope for a future astronaut outpost in a place that has always seemed barren and inhospitable.

Experts have long suspected there was water on the moon. Confirmation came from data churned up by two NASA spacecraft that intentionally slammed into a lunar crater last month.

"Indeed, yes, we found water. And we didn't find just a little bit. We found a significant amount," said Anthony Colaprete, lead scientist for the mission, holding up white gallon water buckets for emphasis.

The lunar crash kicked up at least 25 gallons and that's only what scientists could see from the plumes of the impact, Colaprete said.

Some space policy experts say that makes the moon attractive for exploration again. Having an abundance of water would make it easier to set up a base camp for astronauts, supplying drinking water and a key ingredient for rocket fuel.

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FACT CHECK: On bailouts, reformer credentials and more, Palin's bio goes rogue on some facts

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sarah Palin's new book reprises familiar claims from the 2008 presidential campaign that haven't become any truer over time.

Ignoring substantial parts of her record if not the facts, she depicts herself as a frugal traveler on the taxpayer's dime, a reformer without ties to powerful interests and a politician roguishly indifferent to high ambition.

Palin goes adrift, at times, on more contemporary issues, too. She criticizes President Barack Obama for pushing through a bailout package that actually was achieved by his Republican predecessor George W. Bush _ a package she seemed to support at the time.

A look at some of her statements in "Going Rogue," obtained by The Associated Press in advance of its release Tuesday:

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PALIN: Says she made frugality a point when traveling on state business as Alaska governor, asking "only" for reasonably priced rooms and not "often" going for the "high-end, robe-and-slippers" hotels.

THE FACTS: Although travel records indicate she usually opted for less-pricey hotels while governor, Palin and daughter Bristol stayed five days and four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House luxury hotel (robes and slippers come standard) overlooking New York City's Central Park for a five-hour women's leadership conference in October 2007. With air fare, the cost to Alaska was well over $3,000. Event organizers said Palin asked if she could bring her daughter. The governor billed her state more than $20,000 for her children's travel, including to events where they had not been invited, and in some cases later amended expense reports to specify that they had been on official business.

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DHS Secretary Napolitano says US border now more secure, but immigration reform needed

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Obama administration has met many of the border security benchmarks Congress set in 2007 as a prerequisite to immigration reform and now it's time to change the law, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday.

Napolitano, designated by President Barack Obama to lead the administration's efforts to overhaul immigration laws, said many members of Congress had said they could support an update of immigration laws, but only after border security improved, Napolitano said.

"Fast-forward to today, and many of the benchmarks these members of Congress set in 2007 have been met," she said in a speech to the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

She cited construction of 600 miles of border fence and the hiring of more than 20,000 Border Patrol agents. Illegal immigration has also fallen sharply because of better enforcement and the economy.

"I've been dealing hands-on with immigration issues since 1993, so trust me: I know a major shift when I see one, and what I have seen makes reform far more attainable this time around," Napolitano said.

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Judge sentences evangelist to 175 years in child sex case, says 'greater judge' will also rule

TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) _ Evangelist Tony Alamo used his stature as a self-proclaimed prophet to force underage girls into sham marriages with him, controlling his followers with their fears of eternal suffering.

But the judge who sentenced Alamo on Friday to 175 years in prison for child sexual abuse warned of another kind of justice awaiting the aging evangelist.

"Mr. Alamo, one day you will face a higher and a greater judge than me," U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes told the preacher. "May he have mercy on your soul."

Barnes leveled the maximum sentence against the 75-year-old, who preyed on followers' young daughters and took child "brides" as young as age 8. A jury convicted Alamo in July on a 10-count indictment accusing him of taking the girls across state lines for sex.

Alamo, who has made millions through his ministry, also must pay $250,000 in fines. He will return to court for a Jan. 13 hearing at which Barnes will determine if the five women who testified about their sexual abuse will be paid restitution. Federal prosecutors say an expert believes each one should get $2.7 million for the physical and mental abuse they endured.

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Colorado parents plead guilty in balloon boy saga, some jail time possible

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) _ A Colorado couple who reported their son was aboard a runaway balloon could land in jail after pleading guilty Friday to charges they made up the story to generate publicity for a possible reality TV show.

Richard Heene appeared before a Larimer County District Court judge first, pleading guilty to a felony count of falsely influencing the sheriff who led the rescue effort during the 50-mile balloon chase that captivated a global television audience Oct. 15.

Mayumi Heene pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of knowingly filing a false report with emergency services. Prosecutors said she had a lower level of culpability and cooperated with authorities, telling investigators the balloon launch was a publicity stunt two weeks in the making.

The Heenes are amateur storm chasers and had twice appeared on ABC's "Wife Swap." Richard Heene's business associates said he was trying to pitch a TV series based on science, and the couple had a tentative deal in the works with RDF USA, which produces "Wife Swap."

RDF has said it scrapped the plans after the balloon flight.

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Weak dollar no quick fix for narrowing trade gap as deficit widens in Sept. by most since 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A weaker dollar may boost the nation's economy by increasing exports and narrowing the trade gap _ but that won't happen anytime soon.

Instead, the nation's trade deficit rose in September by the largest percentage in a decade as U.S. exports grew for the fifth straight month, but imports rose faster, a government report showed Friday. That trend is likely to continue until the middle of next year, economists said.

Rising oil prices and higher purchases of foreign goods by U.S. companies drove imports higher. So did more purchases of foreign parts by U.S. manufacturers, which are ramping up production in the fledgling economic recovery.

Higher exports, spurred by a lower dollar, probably won't reduce the trade gap and boost the U.S. economy until 2011, economists said.

"You tend to see imports surge when production begins to grow," said Julia Coronado, senior U.S. economist at BNP Paribas. That's overriding the benefit of the weaker dollar on exports, she said.

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Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco fined $20,000, reprimanded for bringing $1 'bribe' onto field

CINCINNATI (AP) _ Chad Ochocinco's pretend $1 bribe is going to cost him a lot more.

The Cincinnati Bengals receiver was fined $20,000 and reprimanded by the NFL for taking a dollar bill onto the field during an officials' review of one of his catches last Sunday. Ochocinco held the dollar in his right hand at his side but didn't give it to the official, who motioned for him to stay away.

Ochocinco said he was just having fun, but the league didn't like it.

Ray Anderson, the league's executive vice president of football operations, sent Ochocinco a letter that said: "The very appearance of impropriety is not acceptable. Your conduct was unprofessional and unbecoming an NFL player."

The letter cited league rules that prohibit abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures toward officials. The letter also noted that players are prohibited from taking items onto the field that are not part of their uniform. The league has cracked down on players using props for celebrations.