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briefs

US reveals troops sent to aid Somalia

The U.S. military secretly deployed a small number of trainers and advisers to Somalia in October, the first time regular troops have been stationed in the war-ravaged country since 1993, when two helicopters were shot down and 18 Americans killed in the “Black Hawk Down” disaster.

A cell of U.S. military personnel has been in the Somali capital of Mogadishu to advise and coordinate operations with African troops fighting to wrest control of the country from the al-Shabab militia, an Islamist group whose leaders have professed loyalty to al-Qaida, according to three U.S. military officials.

The previously undisclosed deployment – of fewer than two-dozen troops – reverses two decades of U.S. policy that effectively prohibited military “boots on the ground” in Somalia.

Charges dropped in alleged Navy rape

In the latest setback to a highly scrutinized sexual-assault case at the U.S. Naval Academy, charges were dropped against a second former Navy football player, leaving just one midshipman facing court-martial in the alleged rape of a female classmate.

Vice Adm. Michael Miller, the academy’s superintendent, dismissed the charges against Eric Graham, a senior from Eight Mile, Ala., at the urging of prosecutors. Investigators failed to read Graham his Miranda rights before questioning him, prompting Col. Daniel Daugherty, the judge presiding over the court-martial, to rule that Graham’s account of what happened that night was inadmissible.

Without those statements, Miller concluded, there were “no reasonable grounds to believe a crime of sexual assault was committed” by Graham, said an academy spokesman, Cmdr. John Schofield.

Feds back Utah’s same-sex unions

The U.S. attorney general said Friday that the federal government would recognize same-sex unions in Utah, marking the latest significant show of support for gay marriage from the Obama administration.

The action means that more than 1,000 same-sex couples who were married in Utah in the last month can file federal taxes jointly, get Social Security benefits for spouses and request legal immigration status for partners, among other benefits.

US complies to withdraw diplomat

The United States said Friday it was withdrawing a diplomat from India in hopes it would end a bitter dispute that started with the arrest and strip search of an Indian diplomat in New York.

Washington’s announcement that it was complying with a demand from New Delhi for the expulsion of the U.S. official came hours after Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, left the U.S. Khobragade, 39, is accused of exploiting her Indian-born housekeeper and nanny, allegedly having her work more than 100 hours a week for low pay and lying about it on a visa form. Khobragade has maintained her innocence, and Indian officials have described her treatment as barbaric.

In an apparent compromise, she was indicted by a federal grand jury but also granted immunity that allowed her to leave the United States.

BP oil spill deal upheld in court

Over BP’s objections, a federal appeals court on Friday upheld a judge’s approval of the company’s multibillion-dollar settlement with lawyers for businesses and residents who claim the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico cost them money.

BP has argued that U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier and court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau have misinterpreted settlement terms in ways that would force the oil giant to pay for billions of dollars in bogus claims.

Affirming Barbier’s initial ruling in 2012, the court said in its 48-page majority opinion that it can’t agree with arguments raised by BP and others who objected to the settlement.

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