Subpoenas Fly After Obama Administration Blocks Secret Service Agents From Meeting With Congress

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House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) subpoenaed two Secret Service agents on Tuesday. Image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) announced Tuesday that he has issued subpoenas to interview two Secret Service agents, after the Obama administration refused to let them meet with congressional investigators.

At a hearing last week, Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy said he would allow the agents to talk to Congress about an incident involving a suspicious package outside the White House.  

Chaffetz excoriated Clancy last week because it took nearly a half hour to secure the scene, and said he wanted to talk to the agents who were involved.

But Chaffetz said Clancy has not been able to produce the witnesses.
“In negotiations with the Department of Homeland Security, the department requested that information remain secret and be kept from Congress and the American people,” he said. “Those restrictions are unacceptable.”
“Under such restrictions, the committee cannot perform its essential duties to evaluate and propose much-needed legislative reforms for this troubled agency,” he added.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said DHS did offer the two agents in question to testify, but in “transcribed interviews” with committee staff. Johnson said it makes no sense to have them testify because agents need to be protected “against the visibility, public glare, and inevitable second-guessing.”
“I will continue to work with Chairman Chaffetz and his committee to reach a reasonable accommodation that serves the committee’s need to conduct responsible oversight without compromising the Secret Service’s extraordinary protection mission,” he said.
The Secret Service has been involved in several scandals, including the hiring of prostitutes while on overseas travel, failure to respond quickly to a White House shooting, and an alleged drunk driving crash near the White House. However, Clancy said earlier this month that that last incident was overstated in the press, and that “there was no crash.”
Still, Chaffetz said his committee must continue to investigate why the Secret Service “appears to be systemically broken and in desperate need of both leadership and reform.”
“It is disappointing the department has declined to cooperate,” he said. “We therefore must take the regrettable step of compelling the agents for interviews before the committee.”
Chaffetz’s committee did not name the two agents, and did not response to a request from TheBlaze for their names.

LAPD trying to determine whether there was foul play in death of Andrew Getty

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith, left, talks with Capt. William Hayes at the entrance to Montcalm Avenue in the Hollywood Hills, where the body of Andrew Getty was found. (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles police investigating the death of Andrew Getty, an heir to the Getty oil fortune, are still trying to determine whether foul play was involved.

A law enforcement source told The Times Getty was found naked from the waist down in the bathroom of his Hollywood Hills estate Tuesday and appeared to suffer from some type of blunt force trauma. It's unclear whether the injury was caused by a fall or something else. 

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith, a department spokesman, cautioned it was still “very, very early in the investigation” but said that based on initial observations, “this does not appear immediately to be a criminal act.”

The death appeared to be natural or an accident, said Ed Winter, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner's office. Investigators had not yet determined a time of death, Winter said.

Ann and Gordon Getty confirmed their son’s death in a statement, which asked for privacy during an “extremely difficult time.” Police and coroner’s officials have yet to release the name of the man whose body was found Tuesday afternoon at the Montcalm Avenue home.  

Coroner’s and investigators remained on scene late Tuesday, waiting for a search warrant that would allow detectives to enter the home and look for any evidence.

The source, who spoke on the condition of annoymity because the case was on going, caution it could take some type for police and the medical examiner to determine whether foul play was involved.

The LAPD’s elite robbery-homicide detectives are handling the case because of the high-profile nature.

Police were called to Getty's compound, located at the end of a narrow, leafy street, at 2:18 p.m., said Cmdr. Andrew Smith.

A woman who was present at the time of the death was escorted from the residence by police for questioning, Smith said. She is cooperating with investigators, Smith said.

Just two weeks ago, Getty had sought a restraining order against a woman, according to court records. His attorney declined to comment.

Andrew Getty, 47, was the grandson of oil baron J. Paul Getty and part of the Getty trust.
He is one of four sons of Ann and Gordon P. Getty, one of J. Paul Getty's three sons.

Gordon Getty has a net worth of $2.1 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Getty’s death is the latest misfortune to befall the wealthy family, which has seen its fair share of illnesses, addictions, early deaths and eccentricities.

J. Paul Getty's fifth son -- the only child he had with his fifth wife -- died of a brain tumor in 1958 at age 12.

In 1973, J. Paul Getty III, the 16-year-old grandson of J. Paul Getty, was kidnapped and held for ransom for more than five months. He was released after the family, which had been sent the boy's severed right ear, paid the abductors $2.8 million.

Gordon Getty in 1999 confirmed that he had a second family living in Los Angeles, news that came to light after the three daughters born of another woman filed court documents requesting that their last name be changed to "Getty."

The news that the well-known music lover had a second family -- while remaining married to his current wife -- became tabloid fodder, but it was something of an open secret among elite social circles.

The home where Getty was found dead had a storied history. The 70-year-old villa, which he purchased in 1996, was previously owned by three-time Oscar-winning film composer Miklos Rozsa.

Face scans show how fast a person is aging

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, March 31, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Every face tells a story, and that story apparently includes hints of how quickly a person is aging, a new study contends.

Facial features have proven even more reliable than blood tests in spotting those for whom time is taking a heavier toll, a Chinese research team reports in the March 31 issue of the journal Cell Research.

A computerized 3-D facial imaging process uncovered a number of "tells" that show if a person is aging more rapidly, including a widening mouth, bulging nose, sagging upper lip, shrinking gums and drooping eye corners, the researchers said.

"This suggests not only that youth is 'skin deep,' but also that health is 'written' on the face," the study authors concluded, suggesting that facial scanning could more accurately assess a person's general health than a routine physical exam.

This sort of facial imaging is part of a cutting-edge technology aimed at estimating life expectancy and assessing health risk factors simply by taking a scan of your face, said Jay Olshansky, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Public Health and a board member of the American Federation for Aging Research.

"A lot of your risk factor for disease shows up in your face," Olshansky said. "You can identify the precise places on the face where these risk factors show up."

In fact, Olshansky predicts that insurance companies eventually could turn to such technology to improve underwriting of life insurance, predicting a person's future health with a simple face scan rather than a complex panel of blood tests.

"All of that blood chemistry, all of the money spent on it, is mostly a waste of money and time," he said. "You can get at these risks a much simpler way through a combination of facial analytics and asking the right questions."

In the new study, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences collected 3-D facial images of 332 people of Chinese descent between the ages of 17 and 77.

Based on this data, the researchers constructed a model for predicting age, generating a map of the aging human face that recognized certain patterns of aging based on specific facial features.

They found that up to age 40, people of the same chronological age could differ by up to six years in facial age. Those older than 40 showed even wider variation in facial age.

"In aging science, we know people who look young for their age are aging more slowly," Olshansky said. "They look younger because they probably are younger. One year of clock time is matched by something less than one year of biological time. It's real. We can see it."

The researchers compared the results of their facial scans to routine blood tests they took from the participants, and found that age estimates based on facial features were more accurate than blood screenings for cholesterol, uric acid or the blood protein albumin.

The findings track with what doctors already know about how age can affect a person's face, said Dr. Anne Taylor, chairwoman of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons' Public Education Committee.

"Our lips are shrinking, and the distance between the nose and the mouth increases as we age," Taylor said. "And there's a reason for the saying, 'Long in the tooth.' Your gums are shrinking as you age, so more of your teeth are showing."

Olshansky added that facial features also reveal evidence of behaviors that can affect your health.

Smokers tend to develop wrinkles around the mouth, caused by constant pursing of the lips to suck on a cigarette, he said. Drinkers develop a "W.C. Fields" nose, red and bulbous at the tip.

Researchers currently are exploring the ways in which diabetes, obesity, drug use and other detrimental personal behaviors affect the aging of the face, Olshansky noted.

Even though the Chinese findings jibe with what is known about facial aging, they need to be verified through follow-up research, said Dr. Stephen Park, president of the American Academy of Facial, 
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Park argued that the new study could not show whether some people are physically aging faster than their years, because the researchers did not include a control group for comparison.

"It's not fair to say some are physiologically aging faster or more slowly than their chronological age suggests, because they use the data from these participants to define what the age group should look like," he said.

More information
Visit the U.S. National Institutes of Health for more on aging.

Shooting at NSA headquarters leaves one dead

One person was killed and at least one other was injured Monday when shots were fired after two people in a vehicle tried to ram a gate at Fort Meade, a military installation in Anne Arundel County that houses the National Security Agency, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation.

Authorities did not release any details of exactly what happened, but law enforcement officials said police officers with the National Security Agency shot at the two people in the vehicle. One of them was killed, the officials said. There were no details immediately available on the condition of the second person.

Two U.S. officials said the men in the vehicle were dressed as women, but they both cautioned that the information is preliminary.

Just before 11 a.m., NSA officials said they had no further information.

In a statement, issued around 11:30 a.m., the FBI Baltimore office said it was investigating a shooting at a gate at Fort Meade. 

“The shooting scene is contained, and we do not believe it is related to terrorism,” said Amy J. Thoreson, a spokeswoman for the FBI. She said the incident is being investigated by the FBI with NSA Police and other law enforcement agencies.

FBI crews from its evidence response team are processing the scene and agents are interviewing witnesses, she said. Deputy White House press secretary Eric Schultz said President Obama has been briefed on the incident.

Fort Meade has about 11,000 military personnel and another 29,000 civilian employees, according to its Web site. The facility sits near the areas of Odenton and Laurel and is the third-largest employer in Maryland. It houses other federal agencies in addition to the NSA.

At the Fort Meade police headquarters, a spokeswoman said “preliminary information” was that two people showed up injured at the gate of the facility. She gave no other information.

Local television cameras showed two vehicles that were damaged near a gate at the military base. One emergency personnel worker appeared to be loaded into an ambulance.

Trey Gowdy: Hillary Clinton wiped her server clean

Clinton was under a subpoena for all correspondence from her tenure as secretary of state that focused on Libya and Benghazi. | Getty

Hillary Clinton wiped “clean” the private server housing emails from her tenure as secretary of state, the chairman of the House committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi said Friday.

“While it is not clear precisely when Secretary Clinton decided to permanently delete all emails from her server, it appears she made the decision after October 28, 2014, when the Department of State for the first time asked the Secretary to return her public record to the Department,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, said in a statement.

Clinton was under a subpoena order from the panel for all documents related to the 2012 attacks on the American compound there. But David Kendall, an attorney for Clinton, said the 900 pages of emails previously provided to the panel cover its request.

Kendall also informed the committee that Clinton’s emails from her time at the State Department have been permanently erased.

Read more:

Ernie Chambers faces criticism for comparing police to ISIS

World-Herald Bureau
By Paul Hammel

LINCOLN — State Sen. Ernie Chambers touched off a firestorm of criticism Wednesday after comments surfaced in which he compared police officers to the terrorist group that has beheaded American journalists and other captives during its violent takeover of parts of Syria and Iraq.

During a public hearing Friday about a bill involving concealed handguns, Chambers said residents of his north Omaha district were more in fear of police than of extremist groups such as the Islamic State.

“My ISIS is the police. Nobody from ISIS ever terrorized us as a people as the police do us daily. And they get away with it,” the African-American senator said, using an acronym for the militant group.

His comments, picked up Wednesday by Fox News, drew a rebuke from fellow State Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, who called them “appalling.”

“I think Senator Chambers owes those who wear the uniform of law enforcement an apology,”
McCoy said on the floor of the Legislature.

Later Wednesday, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson joined in, condemning the senator in separate press releases.

"The senator should be looking for ways to improve public safety instead of comparing police officers to terrorists," Stothert said.

Schmaderer called Chambers’ comments "unbecoming of a state senator."

Peterson said the senator’s comments were "the most offensive statement I have ever heard made by a public official.

On Thursday, Gov. Pete Ricketts also called on Chambers to issue a public apology.

"As public officials, we are held to a higher standard, and we should be. No one should ever suggest the use of violence against law enforcement officials," the governor said in a statement.

Chambers, in an interview with The World-Herald and later on the floor of the Legislature, stood his ground, calling on McCoy and other critics to listen to the entire recording of the committee’s hearing to “hear what I actually said.”

“I will continue strongly and vociferously to criticize police,” Chambers said. “I will continue to condemn the police when they are wrong. And in my community, they are wrong.”

Sen. Les Seiler of Hastings, who presided over the committee hearing in which the original comments were made, said he didn’t find them alarming.

“I don’t think it was anything other than Ernie being Ernie,” said Seiler, chairman of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

The firestorm erupted Wednesday morning, when McCoy took to the floor of the Legislature to note that Fox News was talking about Nebraska “and not in a flattering light.”

By afternoon, the mayor and police chief had weighed in. Even before that, Chambers said, his legislative office had fielded several ugly phone calls criticizing him.

Chambers made the remarks, based on a recorded transcript of the hearing, during an exchange with Bellevue Sen. Tommy Garrett as Garrett made his closing statement about Legislative Bill 635, his bill to allow concealed handguns in bars and restaurants that sell liquor.

Chambers asked Garrett what patrons were so afraid of that they needed to carry concealed weapons into such establishments.

Garrett responded that people are insecure about crime and the radicalized “world situation.” Garrett said, “You were making a very good point earlier about ISIS and ISIL and the Taliban.”

Chambers replied, “My ISIS is the police.”

Chambers, who has frequently criticized Omaha police, then criticized Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine for not prosecuting an Omaha police officer, Alvin Lugod, in connection with the Feb. 23 fatal shooting of a robbery suspect, Danny Elrod. Chambers also spoke of the “injustice” in other police-related shootings.

“My home isn’t threatened by ISIS. It’s threated by the police,” he said. “The police are licensed to kill us. Children. Old people.”

Chambers, 77, said that he didn’t have a gun and wasn’t “a man of violence,” but said that if he were, he would use the weapon for protection against the police.

“I would want to shoot him first and ask questions later, as they say the cop ought to do,” he said.

The comments were first publicized by a talk show Friday on Lincoln radio station KFOR. That spawned a story by Nebraska Watchdog, which was picked up by Fox News. Then the story was cited by McCoy, a Republican who has often clashed with Chambers, a registered independent.

McCoy said the gun violence plaguing Chambers’ district is “tragic” but should not be compared to the atrocities committed by the Islamic State, often called by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL.

Said Stothert, “Why would any elected official state if he had a gun he would shoot a police officer? ... He owes an apology not only to Omaha police officers but to every citizen of Omaha.”

Chambers was off the floor when McCoy spoke. But later he defended his comments and said they were in the context of criticizing the lack of prosecution of Officer Lugod. The officer resigned Tuesday.

Danielle Savington of Papillion, an attorney and part-time waitress who attended Friday’s hearing, said Chambers’ comments were not “smart” but were “twisted” out of context.

“I know from past experience that Senator Chambers gets riled up,” said Savington, who opposes allowing concealed guns in restaurants.

Garrett did not respond immediately to a phone message, but during Friday’s hearing he did not object to Chambers’ comments. Garrett did say the vast majority of police officers were not “bad apples.”

Chambers attributed the dust-up to McCoy’s feeling “stung” by Chambers’ criticism that McCoy used his legislative post to gain a new job.

McCoy was recently hired by Charles Herbster, a Falls City, Nebraska, businessman who bankrolled McCoy’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign last year.

World-Herald staff writer Martha Stoddard contributed to this report.

Saudi Arabia Begins Air Assault in Yemen

WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia announced on Wednesday night that it had launched a military campaign in Yemen, the beginning of what a Saudi official said was an offensive to restore a Yemeni government that had collapsed after rebel forces took control of large swaths of the country.

The air campaign began as the internal conflict in Yemen showed signs of degenerating into a proxy war between regional powers. The Saudi announcement came during a rare news conference in Washington by Adel al-Jubeir, the kingdom’s ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Jubeir said that the Saudis were part of a coalition of approximately 10 nations determined to blunt the advance of Shiite Houthi rebels, who have overrun Yemen’s capital and forced the American-backed government into a full retreat.

“We will do whatever it takes to protect the legitimate government of Yemen,” said Mr. Jubeir, who spoke to reporters shortly after the air campaign had begun.

Mr. Jubeir did not name the other countries involved in the military campaign, but said the coalition included other Persian Gulf nations. He said that American military forces were not involved in the airstrikes, but that the Saudis had consulted “very closely” with the Obama administration before launching the offensive.

Forces loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi of Yemen at Al Anad air base on Tuesday. Credit Reuters

The Saudi-led campaign began as fighters and army units allied with the Houthi movement threatened to overrun the southern port of Aden, where the besieged president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, has gone into hiding.

Yemen shares a long border with Saudi Arabia, a major American ally, and the Saudis had been reported to be massing forces on the Yemen frontier as Mr. Hadi’s last redoubt in Aden looked increasingly imperiled.

The rapid advances by the president’s opponents included the seizure of a military air base and an aerial assault on his home. There were unconfirmed reports that the president had fled the country by boat for Djibouti, the tiny Horn of Africa nation across the Gulf of Aden.

The region’s most impoverished country, Yemen has been a central theater of the American fight against Al Qaeda, and its possible collapse presents complex challenges to the Obama administration as it struggles to deal with instability and radical extremism in the Middle East. In 2011, the Central Intelligence Agency built a base in the southern desert of Saudi Arabia to launch drone strikes in Yemen.

Along with Syria, Iraq and Libya, Yemen is now the fourth state to veer toward political disintegration in the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolts, which first erupted four years ago.

By Wednesday morning, Houthi forces had seized Al Anad air base, which until recently had been used by American counterterrorism forces, about 35 miles from Mr. Hadi’s refuge in Aden, the country’s second-largest city.

A television network under Houthi control said the rebel forces had found the base empty and looted, and had captured two senior officers loyal to Mr. Hadi, including his defense minister. A security official of Mr. Hadi’s government confirmed the loss of Al Anad.

President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi of Yemen in 2013. Credit Mohammed Huwais/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Yemeni Air Force planes under Houthi control also struck targets near the president’s Aden home, and his supporters returned fire with antiaircraft guns. The state television network, also controlled by Houthis, announced a $100,000 bounty for Mr. Hadi’s arrest as rumors about his whereabouts swirled. By nightfall, there were reports that Houthi forces were fighting around the Aden airport, on the outskirts of the city.

Shortly after the Saudi strikes began, witnesses in Sana, the capital, reported that bombing had begun at the airport and that electrical power had been cut.

A spokeswoman for the National Security Council said Wednesday night that the United States was providing intelligence and logistical support for the campaign in Yemen, and that President Obama had authorized a “joint planning cell” with Saudi Arabia to coordinate American support for the military offensive.

Mr. Hadi’s foreign minister reiterated his calls for intervention by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab states to stop the Houthis, stoking fears that their advance could set off a widening conflict.

The country appeared to be sliding toward a civil war as dangerous as any in the region, with elements of a sectarian feud, a regional proxy conflict, the attempted return of an ousted authoritarian and the expansion of anti-Western extremist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State that are eager to capitalize on the chaos.

The Houthis, a minority religious group from northern Yemen, practice a variant of Shiite Islam and receive support from Iran. But they are also collaborating with Yemeni security forces still loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the longtime strongman who was pushed from power amid the Arab Spring uprising but now appears to be orchestrating a comeback in alliance with the Houthis.

With Mr. Saleh’s help, the Houthis now control most of the Yemeni military, including its air force. 

That has given them a decisive advantage over Mr. Hadi’s forces, as their seizure of the air base on Wednesday made clear.

Bowe Bergdahl, once-missing U.S. soldier, charged with desertion

Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who slipped away from his patrol base in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held in captivity for five years, has been charged with desertion and misbehaving before the enemy, Army officials said Wednesday, setting the stage for emotionally charged court proceedings in coming months.

The charges were announced by the service at Fort Bragg, N.C., hours after the 28-year-old was handed a charge sheet, according to one of his attorneys. Bergdahl will next face a preliminary Article 32 hearing, which is frequently compared to a grand jury proceeding in civilian court.

If convicted, he faces the possibility of life in prison.

The Army’s decision comes after nearly 10 months of debate about whether Bergdahl should face charges and about the circumstances of his recovery. Critics — and an independent review by the Government Accountability Office — said President Obama broke the law in authorizing the release of five Taliban detainees held by the United States in exchange for Bergdahl without consulting Congress. Others have insisted that Washington had a responsibility to bring Bergdahl home by any means necessary.

Army officials declined Wednesday to elaborate on the decisions they made, citing the ongoing investigation. The charges were authorized by Gen. Mark A. Milley, the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command.

Members of Bergdahl’s defense team said Wednesday that they still have not been granted access to the contents of an Army investigation launched last year to look into his disappearance, and the lawyers disputed reports that they had been engaged in plea deal negotiations.

“We ask that all Americans continue to withhold judgment until the facts of the case emerge,” the lawyers said in a statement. “We also ask that government officials refrain from leaking information or engaging in other conduct that endangers our client’s right to a fair trial.”

Bergdahl’s attorneys released a lengthy March 2 letter they wrote to Milley urging leniency in light of his time in captivity. They also released a statement to Milley from Bergdahl in which he described being chained to a bed, spread-eagle and blindfolded while being held by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group allied with the Taliban. He said he tried escape about 12 times over the course of his captivity.

“I was kept in constant isolation during the entire 5 years, with little to no understanding of time, through constant periods of constant darkness, periods of constant light, and periods of completely random flickering of light,” Bergdahl wrote at one point. He added that he had “absolutely no understanding of anything that was happening beyond the door I was held behind.”

Bergdahl’s defense team said in the letter to Milley that a trial would add to his stress and decried the politicization of his case.

“SGT Bergdahl has been vilified as a coward in the absence of a shred of evidence to support that description,” the lawyers said.

The court proceedings will be held at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where Bergdahl has served since shortly after a U.S. Special Operations team whisked him away from his captors on a helicopter in Afghanistan on May 31 as part of the prisoner swap. Previously discharged from the Coast Guard for psychological reasons, he is widely believed to have struggled with his mission in Afghanistan and to have walked away under cover of darkness on June 30, 2009.

The investigation of Bergdahl’s disappearance was launched last June, with Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dahl interviewing the sergeant in Texas in August. It is believed that Dahl’s findings, not yet released, will play a prominent role and serve as evidence in Bergdahl’s court case.

Thousands of U.S. service members are believed to have deserted their units during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Bergdahl’s case is uncommon because he allegedly did so while on the battlefield. Most have escaped while in the United States and remain beyond the reach of the military in Canada, parts of Europe and other locations.

U.S. troops and veterans have long expressed frustration about Bergdahl’s disappearance, accusing him of deserting his unit on the battlefield and prompting a manhunt that put lives in danger.
Many of those in his unit have been waiting years to see the Army acknowledge potential wrongdoing by Bergdahl, said Nathan B. Bethea, 30, a former Army captain in New York who was deployed with Bergdahl’s battalion when he went missing.

“I think they’re pleased because this comes as a surprise,” Bethea said of the overall reaction. “I think that, given that how long this has taken, it comes as a shock. The Army never made a statement on what happened. There was always just obfuscation and smoke and mirrors.”

The desertion charge carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison, along with a possible reduction in rank and loss of pay and allowances. But the charge of misbehavior before the enemy carries a maximum punishment of confinement for life, a dishonorable discharge, a reduction to private and total forfeiture of pay and allowances since the time of his disappearance, Army officials said.

Critics of the release that freed the five Taliban officials in exchange for Bergdahl fear that the former Guantanamo detainees will return to hostilities.

In February, the new director of the military’s Defense Intelligence Agency left open the possibility that at least one of them could return to the battlefield, on the basis of recidivism statistics for former detainees.

“So if those numbers translate, of the five who were transferred, probably one in five could be expected to go back into the business,” said Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, the agency director.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been critical of the Obama administration’s handling of the case. He said Wednesday that the Army’s decision is an important step in determining the accountability of Bergdahl.

“I am confident that the Department of the Army will continue to ensure this process is conducted with the utmost integrity under the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” said McCain, a former prisoner of war.

In exchange for the release of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the U.S. agreed to free five Taliban commanders from the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They were among the Taliban’s most influential commanders. (Tom LeGro and Natalie Jennings/The Washington Post)
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said that “we all wanted to bring” Bergdahl home but criticized Obama for not securing guarantees that the released Taliban officials will not return to the battlefield.

“I believe it made Americans less safe,” Boehner said. “Knowing that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists is one of our greatest protections, and now it is compromised.”

Bergdahl’s case has prompted questions over whether the Obama administration handled the prisoner swap legally. Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, also provoked criticism when she said after Bergdahl’s recovery that he had served “with honor and distinction.” She later acknowledged the remark was controversial and said she was referring to the soldier’s decision to enlist in the first place.

“That, in and of itself, is a very honorable thing,” she said.

Do Conservatives Really Give More to Charity Than Liberals?

There are numerous anecdotal stories available on websites, many of them full of wit and wisdom, some of them just silly and spurious.

A simple but powerful story has surfaced that seems to display at least a grain of truth.

According to the story, conservatives and liberals have a much different view of what it means to be compassionate. This is how it goes:

The Difference Between Conservatives and Liberals
A Conservative and Liberal are walking down the street when they came to a homeless person. 
The Conservative gave him his business card and told him to come to his business for a job.
He then took twenty dollars our of his pocket and gave it to the homeless person.
The Liberal was very impressed and when they came to another homeless person he decided to help.
He walked over to the homeless person and gave him directions to the welfare office.
In all fairness, both Conservatives and Liberals are likely to walk on by.

However, there may be some truth to the anecdote, since conservatives are reportedly more likely to give to “charity” than self-described liberals, according to several studies.

There has been some criticism of that finding, however. An L.A. Times report claims that conservatives giving to churches ‘doesn’t count’ as charity, and that conservatives are ‘richer,’ and therefore that is the explanation for the disparity:

The problem was that the survey [from the 2006 book “Who Really Cares” by Arthur C. Brooks] didn’t seem to accurately measure those categories and didn’t distinguish well between social conservatives or liberals and fiscal conservatives or liberals. 
What the MIT researchers did find, however, was that conservatives give more to religious organizations, such as their own churches, and liberals more to secular recipients. Conservatives may give more overall, MIT says, but that’s because they tend to be richer, so they have more money to give and get a larger tax benefit from giving it.
On the other hand, even poorer conservatives across the country give more to charity as a percentage of income, according to RT.com:

Less well-off families from red states donate a relatively higher – and growing – proportion of their money to charity, while those at the top have been giving a smaller share as their income has increased, a new extensive study has revealed.
Respected non-government sector newspaper The Philanthropy Chronicle collated the itemized charity deductions on the tax returns of hundreds of millions of Americans between 2006 and 2012, the latest year available. While only about a third of all givers write off their charity expenses, the sums included about 80 percent of all donations in the country.
The columnist George Will found several other striking metrics that underscore this point:

  • Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).
  • People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.
  • Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.
It appears that despite the common objections to the studies, there is at least some truth to the notion that conservatives give more to charity, while liberals see the government as a source of ‘charity.’
Whether or not one agrees with the poignant anecdote, it at least gives people something to think about.

Netanyahu pollster: Obama role in election larger than reported

by By Jesse Byrnes
President Obama's role during the Israeli elections was larger than reported, according to a pollster for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party

"What was not well reported in the American media is that President Obama and his allies were playing in the election to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu," John McLaughlin, a Republican strategist, said in an interview on John Catsimatidis's "The Cats Roundtable" radio show broadcast Sunday on AM 970 in New York.

"There was money moving that included taxpayer U.S. dollars, through non-profit organizations. And there were various liberal groups in the United States that were raising millions to fund a campaign called V15 against Prime Minister Netanyahu," McLaughlin said.

He noted an effort to oust Netanyahu was guided by former Obama political operative Jeremy Bird and that V15, or Victory 15, ads hurt Netanyahu in the polls. McLaughlin said the Israeli leader rebounded after delivering a speech to Congress early this month, prompting more critical ads.

Benjamin Netanyahu scores majority needed to form government

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has secured the requisite majority of parliamentary members to form a government, according to reports from the country’s media. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin continued to meet with factions Monday.
Representatives from Kulanu — a crucial centrist swing party — met with Rivlin to recommend that the Likud party’s Netanyahu be tasked with forming a new government, giving the current prime minister the absolute majority of 61 votes in his favor.

“We nominate Netanyahu and the broader the base of the coalition the better it will be for all of us,” said party leader Moshe Kahlon, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Rivlin was also scheduled to meet Monday with party representatives from Yisrael Betenyu and Meretz to get their nominations for prime minister.

The president met with Likud, Zionist Union, Jewish Home, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Joint List factions on Sunday, according to The Times of Israel, with 51 of 88 Knesset members he met with recommending Netanyahu to lead the next government. Kulanu would put Netanyahu over the top.

The Zionist Union, led by Netanyahu opponent Isaac Herzog, and the Joint List, composed of four Arab parties, were the only two factions with which Rivlin met that declined to support the prime minister.

Honduras sends soldiers to protect 'lost city' from drug cartels

The ruins of an ancient civilisation who were neighbours to the Maya
Photo: Dave Yoder
National Geographic

The Honduran president has dispatched troops to protect a "lost city" rediscovered deep in the jungle amid fears that looters could pillage ancient artefacts from the abandoned home of an unknown civilisation.

There were deep divisions among the expedition team that found the site in the Mosquitia rainforest about whether to remove ancient relics for safekeeping because of the risk of looting, or leave them intact, it has emerged.

The archaeologists in the expedition won the day when they flatly opposed digging up and moving any artefacts to the capital Tegucigalpa, despite the dangers that priceless objects could be lost forever if looters found the site.

Chris Fisher, the US lead archaeologist, argued that the scientific value of the artefacts would be destroyed if they were excavated too abruptly as they needed to be studied in their setting amid the buried remains of plazas and a pyramid.

It is believed that the inhabitants who abandoned the site at least six centuries ago may be the same civilisation that built a fabled "White City", also known as the "City of the Monkey God", long sought by Western explorers and adventurers.

The team deliberately held back the location of the "lost city" when its discovery this month was announced by National Geographic in news that made headlines around the world.

But although the Mosquitia is a barely populated expanse of jungle, mountain and swamp, it is also the most popular transit point for drug cartels smuggling South American cocaine north towards the US.

There were fears that the location would quickly become known locally, with one Western security consultant on the team predicting that looters could reach the site within three days. Others were also alarmed that ranchers clearing the forest nearby for cattle rearing could damage the site.

Juan Orlando Hernandez, the Honduran president, has now ordered his army chief to deploy troops to protect a site that is thought to date back to 1000AD and to have been abandoned by 1400AD.

A cache of at least 51 artifacts, lie in a secret location in the Mosquitia jungle in Honduras
The first soldiers are believed to have reached the remote site via a helicopter airlift to a landing scene hacked out of the jungle. But it is not clear how large or effective the force will be.

The military has failed to combat the much better-resourced Latin American drug gangs that use the Mosquitia to land small planes laden with Colombian cocaine on rough airstrips cleared by local hired hands. There are also persistent accusations of corruption against some senior figures in the security forces.

The disagreement about what to do with the relics was revealed in a New York Times comment piece by Tom Lutz, an American writer and broadcaster who was part of the joint expedition of US and Honduran scientists, film-makers, British ex-SAS consultants and local military.

He said that the team shared the "once-in-a-lifetime" thrill of discovering the remarkable cache of artefacts, including an apparent jaguar-effigy stone sculpture jutting from the ground and elaborately decorated stone bowls with handles shapes as serpents and birds.

The scientists mapped the now-buried remains of extensive plazas, earthworks and an earthen pyramid at a site first identified as a possible abandoned city by aerial laser surveillance of the jungle floor.

In 1940, the Milwaukee Journal published this artist's concept of the jungle city discovered by Theodore Morde

"We all agreed about our good fortune," Mr Lutz wrote. "But we all disagreed about what should happen next." He agreed with Steve Elkins and Bill Benenson, the American film-makers who organised and funded the project, that some of the items should be taken back to the Tegucigalpa anthropology and history institute because of the danger that the site would be looted before it could be properly excavated.

But Prof Fisher, a Colorado State University academic, was adamant that the site should not be disturbed. "Everyone has a responsibility to protect the site as it is global patrimony," he argued.

Mr Lutz said that he hoped that the Honduran president's decision meant that the site "appears to be safe for now". But he expressed fears that if a permanent solution is no reached, "many of this long-lost city's secrets will be truly and irredeemably lost".

Russia to target Denmark's warships if it joins missile shield: ambassador

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish warships will be a target for Russian nuclear weapons if the Scandinavian country joins NATO's missile defense program, Russia's ambassador to Denmark told the newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

Mikhail Vanin said he did not think the Danes fully understood the consequences if it went ahead with a decision to join the program.

"If that happens, Danish warships will be targets for Russian nuclear missiles," Vanin said in an interview published on Saturday.

Denmark said in August it would contribute to the missile shield with radar capacity on some of its warships.

Tensions between Moscow and the West have grown since the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia over a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine. NATO has recorded increased activity by the Russian navy and air force in the Nordic region.

No missiles are to be placed on Danish soil under the NATO program, but perhaps long term in Greenland, a part of the kingdom, according to Jyllands-Posten.

The shield was intended to defend Europe from a potential missile threat from Iran. Moscow says the system will undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent because it could also enable the West to shoot down Russian missiles.

"Denmark will become a part of the threat against Russia. It will be less peaceful, and relations with Russia will be damaged," Vanin said, adding that Russia has missiles which would be able to penetrate the future missile shield.

Denmark's foreign minister Martin Lidegaard said Vanin's comments were unacceptable.

"Russia knows very well that NATO's missile defense is not aimed at them," Lidegaard told Jyllands-Posten.

U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove told a Brussels conference on Sunday that the comments from the Russian ambassador were the "next step" in a campaign against countries that joined the shield.

"Romania came under great pressure when they became a part of the (missile shield). Poland is coming under great pressure and now anyone else who wants to join in to this defensive capability will come under this diplomatic and political pressure," Breedlove said without naming Russia.

(Reporting by Teis Jensen)

Iwo Jima vets mark 70th anniversary

26 survivors of grisly WWII battle remember iconic flag-raising moment on Feb. 23, 1945

Marine Sgt. Major Michael "Iron Mike" Mervosh who served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam spoke with passion about his time as a Marine and his support for building the Iwo Jima Memorial at Camp Pendleton. — John Gastald


— Seventy years ago Monday, five Marines and one Navy corpsman raised a U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima during the waning days of World War II.
For the 23 Marines and 3 Navy corpsmen honored at a 70th anniversary luncheon in Newport Beach on Monday, the famous flag-raising became a rallying cry for a grisly battle with the Japanese that would drag on for another 32 days and leave more than 26,000 Americans dead or wounded.

Retired Sgt. Major Mike Mervosh of Oceanside didn’t see the flag go up that morning — “I was too busy saving my butt and killing the enemy” — but the 91-year-old Iwo Jima survivor appreciates how the iconic image has come to represent the bravery of the men he fought beside during February and March 1945.

“It was the most demanding, toughest, fiercest and bloodiest battle in the history of the Marine Corps,” Mervosh said. “It was the perfect battle on the perfect battlefield … fighting man against fighting man, kill or be killed.”

FILE - In this Feb. 23, 1945 file photo, U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raise a U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima. Strategically located 660 miles from Tokyo, the Pacific island became the site of one of the bloodiest, most famous battles of World War II against Japan. (AP Photo/Joe Rosenthal, File) The Associated Press

More than 450 people attended Monday’s luncheon, the inaugural fundraiser for Operation Home of the Brave. The new nonprofit hopes to raise $3 million to buy and install a full-size flag-raising monument at Camp Pendleton in 2016. Many of the Marines who fought in Iwo Jima were trained at Camp Pendleton, but the Oceanside Marine Corps base has only a small memorial of the battle near its South Mesa Club.

Laura Dietz, who founded the nonprofit and is leading fundraising drive, said she’d like to see the monument and adjacent memorial garden built in a prominent location near the new Navy Hospital Camp Pendleton along Interstate 5.

“This iconic image speaks to Americans in a way like no other,” said Dietz, a Corona Del Mar resident. “It’s about empowerment, courage, dedication, commitment and all the good things America stands for.”

Iwo Jima is a barren volcanic island 660 miles south of Tokyo that U.S. forces hoped to use as staging ground for a full-scale invasion of Japan. But the island was heavily fortified by Japanese troops, who were deeply nested in foxholes, underground tunnels and caves, and refused to surrender (nearly all of the island’s estimated 22,000 Japanese soldiers were killed).

Carlsbad resident Jim Scotella, a radio man in the Fifth Marine Division, landed in the first 35 minutes of the Iwo Jima invasion. He said he wasn’t afraid until he saw his first dead body, a fellow Marine on a hilltop just 150 yards from shore.

Four days later — at 10 a.m. Feb. 23 — he was elated to see the flag going up on Mount Suribachi.
“Everybody was whooping and hollering. We had no idea it was going to be such an important thing until we got back home again,” Scotella said.

photoAmong the hundreds of people gathered at the luncheon Monday were several dozen active-duty Marines from Camp Pendleton. Sgt. Timothy Harshfield, 28, said he has great respect for the veterans of Iwo Jima because of their bravery and sacrifice. When local Marine recruits are finishing boot camp, they must complete a 72-hour exercise known as The Crucible. Several of the stations of this exercise are named for Marines who earned the Medal of Honor at Iwo Jima.