Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
Gruesome testimony: Army prosecutors this week recommended the death penalty for Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accusing the soldier of “the worst, most despicable crimes a human being can commit.” The statement came at the close of an eight-day preliminary hearing for Bales, 39, who is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians, nine of them children, in a predawn rampage in March. Bales showed no reaction as witnesses described the bloodbath via videolink from Afghanistan. Robina, 7, said she hid behind her father as he was shot dead, and other villagers described hearing screams of “We are children! We are children!” Bales has not entered a plea, but his lawyer says he has post-traumatic stress disorder and may have been under the influence of alcohol and drugs. A general will now decide whether to hold a court-martial.
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Filmmaker jailed: The man behind an anti-Islam film that sparked violent protests across the Middle East has been sentenced to a year in prison by a Los Angeles federal court for violating the terms of his probation. Mark Basseley Youssef was arrested in late September after a trailer for his film, Innocence of Muslims—a crude depiction of the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer and a pedophile—was uploaded to YouTube. He was on probation at the time, having been convicted in 2010 for bank and credit card fraud. Youssef’s attorney and conservative commentators have accused the government of violating the filmmaker’s right to free speech, but Judge Christina A. Snyder said he was sentenced for his use of bogus identities, not for the movie.
Loughner sentenced: Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords confronted the man who shot her in the head as he was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms, plus 140 years. Giffords kept her gaze leveled on Jared Lee Loughner, 24, as her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke in the packed courtroom. “By making death and producing tragedy, you sought to extinguish the beauty of life, to diminish potential, to strain love, and to cancel ideas,” Kelly said. “You tried to create for all of us a world as dark and evil as your own. But remember it always: You failed.” Loughner, who killed six people and wounded 12 others in a shooting spree in a Tucson supermarket parking lot in January 2011, pleaded guilty under an agreement that guarantees he will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Mysterious blast: A massive explosion that killed two people and forced 200 more from their homes continued to baffle investigators this week. The weekend blast leveled two homes, rendered 29 others uninhabitable, and shook buildings in a three-mile radius. But investigators examining gas meters and pipelines have yet to find evidence of any leak, and they dismissed a local homeowner’s suggestion that a faulty furnace could have been to blame. The explosion was so powerful that scientists say it was detected by earthquake sensors in Morgan County, 30 miles away. Indianapolis’s public safety director, Troy Riggs, said that the area would be treated as a crime scene until foul play could be ruled out.
New York City
Paying for Sandy: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week requested $30 billion in federal disaster aid to help his state recover from Super-Storm Sandy, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was expected to present his own bill soon. The Oct. 29 storm—set to become the country’s second most expensive, after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina—triggered tidal surges and major floods in both states. “This was cataclysmic for New York,” Cuomo said, “and I think it’s a wise investment for the federal government to bring this economy back.” Cuomo’s request is expected to face opposition in Congress from conservatives reluctant to approve additional relief until money already allotted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been exhausted. Meanwhile, the head of the Long Island Power Authority resigned amid outrage over the utility’s slow response to Sandy. This week more than 80,000 homes and businesses across the region were still without power.
Cabinet reshuffle: Speculation was rife about President Obama’s Cabinet plans this week, as commentators suggested that Hillary Clinton’s coveted position of secretary of state would go to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. John Kerry, the longtime chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is widely expected to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. But both nominations could be problematic. Republican senators have vowed to block Rice’s nomination, alleging that she tried to cover up the truth about the deadly Sept. 11 raid on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Kerry’s appointment would force an election for his Massachusetts seat, with newly defeated Republican Scott Brown a strong contender. Obama will also have to replace Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and maybe Attorney General Eric Holder.
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