Thursday, August 1, 2013

U.S. military judge to hear arguments in Manning sentencing

FORT MEADE, Maryland | Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:18am BST

FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) - The trial of Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier found guilty on 19 counts of handing over classified data to WikiLeaks, is scheduled to move into the sentencing phase on Wednesday.

Manning, 25, escaped a life sentence with no parole when Colonel Denise Lind acquitted him of aiding the enemy, the most serious of 21 criminal counts brought against him in the court-martial. He still faces the possibility of 136 years in prison on the other counts.

The slightly built Army private first class was working as a low-level intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2010 when he was arrested and charged in the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history.

In a court martial that stretched over two months, military prosecutors argued that Manning became a "traitor" to his country when he handed over to the anti-secrecy website a trove of 700,000 battlefield videos, diplomatic cables and other classified files.

On Wednesday, prosecutors and defence attorneys will call witnesses to address Manning's motives and the effects of his actions.

The U.S. government charged that the breach put national security at risk. It also thrust WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange into the international spotlight.

Defence attorneys portrayed Manning as well-intentioned but naive in believing the documents could spark a broader debate in the United States about its overseas operations.

Observers said the verdict could have "a chilling effect" on WikiLeaks by making potential sources of documents in the United States more wary about handing over secret information.

It could also encourage the United States to seek to prosecute Assange for his role in publishing the information.

Assange has been living in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for over a year to avoid extradition to Sweden, where two women have accused him of sexual assault. The activist has expressed fears that Sweden might hand him to U.S. authorities.

Army prosecutors contended during Manning's court-martial that U.S. security was harmed when WikiLeaks published videos of a 2007 attack by an American Apache helicopter gunship in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff, diplomatic cables, and secret details on prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.

Manning supporters gathered at Fort Meade on Tuesday said they were relieved he had been acquitted of the most serious charge, but thought the sentence he could face was excessive.

"The remaining charges against him are still tantamount to life in prison," said Nathan Fuller. "That's still an outrage."

The verdict was praised by two U.S. Congressmen - Representatives Michael Rogers, a Republican who chairs the House intelligence committee and Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger, its ranking member.

"Justice has been served today. PFC Manning harmed our national security, violated the public's trust, and now stands convicted of multiple serious crimes," they said in a statement.

(Reporting by Tom Ramstack; Writing by Scott Malone; editing by Gunna Dickson)


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BPA exposure disrupts human egg maturation

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Exposure to BPA (Bisphenol-A) could be a contributing factor as to why some infertile couples are having difficulty conceiving.


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Chiefs' OC: Alex Smith Is NFL's Best Quarterback

Aug 01, 2013 12:58 PM EST

The Kansas City Chiefs acquired Alex Smith in the offseason in exchange for a second-round pick in 2013 and either a second- or third-round pick in 2014.

Smith helped lead the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championship Game in 2011.

?Ultimately, every team has to have a quarterback,? offensive coordinator Chuck Pederson said. ?I think we have the best in the league."

Pederson was asked if he thinks Smith is better than the likes of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

?There are a lot of great ones,? Pederson said, ?but over time, Alex has proven he can get it done. He?s a sharp guy, he brings a wealth of knowledge, he?s experienced, he?s a proven winner the last couple of years, and he needs a team to embrace him.?

Smith had a 104.1 passer rating before losing his starting job last season to Colin Kaepernick.

Via Randy Covitz/Kansas City Star


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How fast-rising magma contributed to deadly volcano

Magma from the deadly eruption of Iraz? in Costa Rica?decades ago, recently helped researchers better understand quickly erupting volcanos. Now scientists hope to learn more by investigating other volcanic sites.

By Becky Oskin,?LiveScience / August 1, 2013

Alaska's erupting Pavlof volcano, in the Aleutian Islands, seen in a photo snapped from the International Space Station in May. Earthquakes deep beneath the surface may be driving some fast-moving volcanos, researchers have learned.

NASA Earth Observatory


Molten rock from Earth's hellishly hot mantle can punch through miles of overlying crust in a matter of months, a new study finds.

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Before the deadly 1963 eruption of Iraz??volcano?in Costa Rica, magma surged 22 miles (35 kilometers) in about two months, traveling from the mantle to the volcano's shallow magma chamber, researchers report in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Nature. The evidence comes from geochemical tests on crystals of the mineral olivine from ash erupted in 1963. Layers in the crystals helped re-create the?magma's pre-eruption journey.

"We refer to our story as the 'highway from hell,'" said Phillip Ruprecht, lead study author and a volcanologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York.

The discovery at Iraz? helps confirm other clues for high-speed magma ascents, such as deep-seated earthquakes before eruptions at Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines and Iceland's Eyjafjallaj?kull volcano, the researchers said. Seismic tremors struck near the mantle below Pinatubo and Eyjafjallaj?kull in the weeks and months before the blasts. And other geochemical tracers in lava also suggest magma could shoot to the surface from the mantle in mere months. But the new study is the first hard evidence of a fast mode in volcanoes, Ruprecht said. [Amazing Images: Volcanoes from Space]

Skipping the stairs

Despite some clues suggesting speedy magma ascents, most models of volcano plumbing were akin to a slow pipe. A volcano's magma chamber fills from the bottom, like a sink filling from its drain. Many pulses of molten rock can pump into the chamber during a volcano's lifetime. Based on geochemical evidence in lava, researchers thought the magma melts would rise a bit,?mix together, and then climb a little more, until finally reaching the chamber. The long journey happens over a span of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years.

"It's like going up a set of stairs. Each step is another change," said Adam Kent, a geologist at Oregon State University who was not involved in the study. "By the time you get to the surface, the magma has been changed quite substantially."

But the new study found evidence that magma feeding the 1963 eruption skipped the stairs and took the express elevator to the surface, mixing with other molten rock only at shallow depths, around 6 miles (10 kilometers) below the Earth's surface.

"This is telling us some interesting stuff about what's driving these?volcanoes, which is hot stuff coming from deep within the mantle," Kent told LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet. "The real proof of the pudding would be to find this behavior at many different places," he said.


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Dot Earth Blog: Polar Researchers Explain North Pole ?Lake?

[unable to retrieve full-text content]Scientists who spend weeks each year camped on North Pole sea ice clarify what?s wrong with reports of a ?lake? there.


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City Mini Golf: Traveling course raises money for local schools

On tonight?s WGN News at Five, we?re talking with Eric Michaels about his City Mini Golf. The Chicago futures trader built a portable 18-hole miniature golf course. His new company, City Mini Golf, is spending one week in the parking lot of a different Chicago school all summer. We talked with him about the concept behind the business and how he plans to raise money for local schools.

We?ll post the video here after it airs. The course costs $6 for kids, $8 for adults. You can find more info on the Facebook page at Here is the rest of their schedule this summer?

8/5-8/11: Hawthorne Scholastic Academy, 3319 N. Clifton
8/12-8/18: Jahn World Language, 3149 N. Wolcott
8/19-8/25: Pulaski International School, 2230 W. McLean

- ?LIKE? Marcus Leshock on Facebook

- Follow @MarcusLeshock on Twitter


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No word yet if Bulger will testify at own trial

BOSTON (AP) ? A retired FBI agent told jurors in James "Whitey" Bulger's racketeering trial that the mother of one of defendant's alleged victims suspected his longtime partner in crime, not Bulger, may have killed her daughter.

Wednesday's testimony came as prosecutors pushed for an answer about whether 83-year-old Bulger would take the stand himself.

Bulger faces charges connected to allegations that he participated in 19 slayings in the 1970s and 80s while leading the Winter Hill Gang, Boston's Irish mob.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak told U.S. District Judge Denise Casper the government "deserves to know" if Bulger will take the stand, and that his lawyers haven't revealed their plans.

The judge said she'd take up the issue at the end of the day. When testimony wrapped up in the afternoon, she held a private sidebar with the attorneys and then adjourned for the day without any sign of a resolution on the matter.

Some family members of Bulger's alleged victims said they're eager to see him take the stand.

Tommy Donahue, whose late father Michael prosecutors count among Bulger's victims, said Bulger could salvage some of his reputation if he exposed corruption in law enforcement.

"He's going to get 'guilty' on probably every single charge that's on him. He doesn't have any choice if he wants to try to save any name he has left. He has to take the stand," Donahue said.

Steve Davis, whose late sister Debra is among those whom prosecutors claim Bulger killed, also suggested the defendant could give an insider's view of law enforcement corruption.

"If he chooses to bring down the corruption of the law enforcement locals, the state, the feds, I'd like to hear that," Davis said.

Testimony Wednesday from retired FBI agent James Crawford touched on Debra Davis' slaying.

He said Davis' mother asked him to look into Debra's disappearance and suspected Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi ? whom her 26-year-old daughter had been dating ? may have killed her.

Flemmi is Bulger's former partner and previously testified that Bulger killed Debra Davis. Outside the courtroom, Steve Davis said he believed Bulger and Flemmi "were tied into it together" when it came to his sister's 1981 death.

Crawford also testified that a female informant told him before Edward "Brian" Halloran's slaying in 1982 that Bulger and Flemmi knew he was snitching on them to the FBI and Flemmi planned to kill Halloran.

Crawford said he didn't write up a report on the informant's tip because he promised confidentiality, but passed her information to a supervisor and a fellow agent. He said he learned days later about the shooting deaths of Halloran and bystander Michael Donahue and sought out a different boss to talk about it.

Under cross-examination, Crawford identified that boss as Robert Fitzpatrick, the former FBI supervisor whom prosecutors tried to discredit Tuesday citing inconsistencies in testimony from other trials and accusing him of embellishing to sell copies of his book about Bulger.

Also Wednesday, Patrick Nee, a former Bulger associate whom Flemmi linked to the deaths of Halloran and Donahue, came to court as a would-be defense witness. He left without testifying after his lawyer conferred with the judge. Prosecutors previously said Nee would probably invoke his right against self-incrimination if called.

The defense did call retired FBI supervisor Fred Davis Jr., who described inspecting Bulger's thin informant file in 1979 and recommending its closure.

"My opinion was that it was worthless," he said.

Davis also spoke of a culture of paranoia within the Boston FBI office, where agents were nervous that other agents were leaking information from files.

The witness agreed during cross-examination that Bulger's informant file could have been thin if the FBI closed it while investigating him for a crime, before reopening it later.

The defense insists Bulger wasn't an informant and that a FBI corrupt agent attributed informant information to him.


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