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POSTED March 16, 2012 8:39 p.m.

BERKELEY HIRES LAW FIRM FOR PROBE OF POLICE CHIEF: BERKELEY (AP) — Berkeley officials have hired a law firm to investigate an order by the city's police chief that sent an officer to a reporter's home after midnight to request changes in a story.

Interim City Manager Christine Daniel said Friday the firm of Rennie Sloan Holtzman Sakay will conduct an independent probe of the March 9 order issued by Chief Michael Meehan. Daniel released no additional details.

The hiring of the law firm comes after the union representing the city's police officers demanded an outside probe, saying Meehan should be held to the same standards as officers.

"If a police officer uses poor judgment and violates department policy, he is placed on administrative leave and is fully investigated," said Officer Tim Kaplan, president of the 160-member Berkeley Police Association. "As law enforcement officers, we don't just get to say 'I'm sorry' and have the whole matter go away."

EX-RUTGERS STUDENT GUILTY IN WEBCAM SUICIDE CASE: NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A former Rutgers University student convicted Friday in the webcam spying episode that ended in his gay roommate's suicide could be headed off to prison in a case experts say stands as a tragic lesson for young people about casual cruelties and unintended consequences in the Internet age.

Dharun Ravi was found guilty of all 15 charges against him, including invasion of privacy and anti-gay intimidation. The jury decided that he not only spied on Tyler Clementi and another man as they were kissing but also singled out Clementi because he was gay.

Ravi, 20, could get up to 10 years in prison by some estimates and could be deported to his native India even though he has lived legally in the U.S. since he was a little boy.

The case stirred a national conversation about anti-gay bullying and teen suicide. It also illustrated the dangers of technology in the hands of people who have grown up with the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

"They don't feel like they're spying. It's just their own iPhone they're using, their own laptop," said Annemarie McAvoy, an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School in New York. "Hopefully, parents will use this as an example for their children."

WEIRD WEATHER: HEAT, TWISTERS, 250K TONS OF SNOW: WASHINGTON (AP) — America's weather is stuck on extreme.

Nearly 11 feet of snow has fallen on Anchorage, Alaska, this winter. That's almost a record, and it's forcing the city to haul away at least 250,000 tons of snow. Yet not much snow has dropped on the Lower 48 this year.

The first three months of 2012 have seen twice the normal number of tornadoes. And 36 states set daily high temperature records Thursday. So far this month, the U.S. has set 1,757 daily high temperature records. That's similar to the number during last summer's heat wave, said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Six rare, but not unprecedented, March tornadoes struck Thursday in Michigan, which also set 26 heat records. Temperatures were in the 80s in some parts of the state.

Nationwide, there have been 132 tornadoes confirmed in January and February, with preliminary reports of more than 150 already in March.

Two different weather phenomena — La Nina and its northern cousin the Arctic Oscillation — shift storm and temperature patterns through the world, meteorologists say. Scientists say you cannot link a single weather event to global warming.

EXPERTS: SOLDIER MIGHT HAVE POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS: They are questions already being debated: Did the soldier suspected of killing Afghan villagers have post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD? And did the people who sent him back to war after he was injured properly determine he was mentally fit to return?

It's way too soon to psychologically dissect the state of mind of the 38-year-old longtime soldier accused in the killings. However, several mental health experts said PTSD is a reasonable thing to consider.

The soldier's lawyer said his client had seen a fellow soldier's leg blown off a day before the killings last weekend, and had suffered a head injury and lost part of a foot during three earlier deployments to Iraq. The soldier left for Afghanistan in December.

"This kind of a person would fit the profile for someone who might well have PTSD," said Dr. Roger Pitman, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist who heads the PTSD Research Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital.

He has no knowledge of the case and spoke hypothetically, but said that if the soldier had recently witnessed a major injury to a comrade, it could have been an important trigger.

ADMIN. OUTLINES OPTIONS ON BIRTH CONTROL COVERAGE: WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration signaled Friday it's willing to help insurance companies offset the cost of providing free birth control to women working at church-affiliated institutions like hospitals and colleges.

By finding a way to make the middlemen whole, the administration may be able to extricate itself from an unexpected political furor over birth control that has mobilized partisans across the political spectrum a half-century after the advent of the pill.

A 32-page regulatory proposal unveiled Friday offered options for providing free birth control to women whose employers object to contraception on religious grounds. The government now classifies birth control as preventive care, and President Barack Obama's health care law requires health plans to cover prevention at no cost to the consumer.

Churches, synagogues, mosques and other institutions whose primary purpose is to propagate faith are exempt from the mandate. But when the administration sought to impose the requirement on religious nonprofits serving the public, it triggered a backlash. That forced President Barack Obama himself to offer a compromise: insurers, not the religious employers would bear the responsibility.

CLOONEY ARRESTED IN PROTEST AT SUDANESE EMBASSY: WASHINGTON (AP) — George Clooney and his father were arrested Friday during a protest outside the Sudanese Embassy, and the actor said he has asked President Barack Obama to engage China on stopping a humanitarian crisis in northern Africa.

The protesters accuse Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir of provoking a humanitarian crisis and blocking food and aid from entering the Nuba Mountains in the county's border region with South Sudan.

Clooney, his father, Nick Clooney, and others were arrested after being warned three times not to cross a police line outside the embassy. Those taken into custody included NAACP President Ben Jealous, Martin Luther King III, and actor and comedian Dick Gregory.

Several members of Congress also were arrested, including Massachusetts Reps. James McGovern and John Olver, Texas Rep. Al Green and Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia. They were handcuffed and placed into a U.S. Secret Service van.

 

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