Nation roundup for August 23
Bales apologizes for Afghan deaths
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AP) — The U.S. soldier who massacred 16 Afghan civilians during pre-dawn raids last year apologized for the first time for his “act of cowardice,” but could not explain the atrocities to a military jury considering whether he should one day have a shot at freedom.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales said he would bring back the victims of his March 11, 2012, attack “in a heartbeat,” if possible.
“I’m truly, truly sorry to those people whose families got taken away,” he said in a mostly steady voice. “I can’t comprehend their loss. I think about it every time I look at my kids.”
Bales, 40, did not recount specifics of the horrors, but described the killings as an “act of cowardice, behind a mask of fear, (expletive) and bravado,” and said he hoped his words would be translated for the villagers, none of whom was in the courtroom.
The father of two from Lake Tapps, Wash., was serving his fourth combat deployment when he left his outpost at Camp Belambay, in Kandahar Province, in the middle of the night to attack the villages.
Manning wants to live life as woman
FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — Bradley Manning wants to live as a woman named Chelsea and begin hormone treatment as soon as possible, the soldier said a day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for giving government secrets to WikiLeaks.
Manning announced the decision Thursday in a statement provided to NBC’s “Today” show.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel ... I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible,” the statement read.
The statement asked people to use the feminine pronoun when referring to Manning. It was signed Chelsea E. Manning.
Manning received the stiffest punishment ever handed out in the U.S. for leaking information to the media. With good behavior and credit for more than three years of time served, Manning could be out in as little as seven years, the soldier’s attorney David Coombs said.
Coombs told “Today” he hoped officials at the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., will accommodate Manning’s request for hormone treatment. If they don’t, Coombs said he would do “everything in my power” to make it happen.
Jury considering Fort Hood killings
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — The Army psychiatrist on trial for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood passed on his final chance to address jurors before they started deliberating Thursday, even after prosecutors insisted they hand down a verdict that would allow the death penalty.
Maj. Nidal Hasan is acting as his own attorney but declined to plead his case after prosecutors finished their closing argument. When the judge told Hasan he could begin, he said: “The defense chooses not to make a closing statement.”
Army psychiatrist is facing numerous counts of premeditated murder and attempted premeditated murder for the attack, which killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others at the Army post in central Texas on Nov. 5, 2009.
It was the deadliest mass shooting ever on a U.S. military base. Prosecutors laid out a detailed roadmap of their case during their closing argument, saying there was no question that Hasan planned and carried out the attack.
“The facts I laid out to you give you only one option,” the prosecutor, Col. Steve Henricks, told jurors. “The accused without a doubt ... had a premeditated design to kill.”
Girl talks of texts with kidnapper
SAN DIEGO (AP) — A California teen whose mother and brother were killed by a family friend said on national television Thursday that she once confided with the man about troubles with her mother and explained text messages exchanged on the day of the attack.
Police say James Lee DiMaggio abducted Hannah Anderson and fled to the Idaho wilderness before he was killed by authorities.
In a NBC interview, Hannah didn’t say how her family died, describe her interactions with DiMaggio during a massive manhunt, or offer details to explain why DiMaggio might have unleashed such violence.
In her first news interview since her dramatic rescue Aug. 10, Hannah said she wrote to DiMaggio about a year ago as he guided her through a rough patch with her mother.
“Me and him would talk about how to deal with it, and I’d tell him how I felt about it, and he’d help me through it. They weren’t anything bad. They were just to help me through tough times,” she said.
Hannah said she exchanged text messages on Aug. 3 with DiMaggio before she disappeared about where he should pick her up from cheerleading practice. Her statements corrected a search warrant that said the pair exchanged about 13 phone calls.
“The phone calls weren’t phone calls,” she said. “They were texts because he was picking me up from cheer camp and he didn’t know the address or what, like, where I was, so I had to tell him.”
Jan Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, declined to comment on the content of the letters and text messages.
Hannah’s comments to NBC underscore the close relationship she had with DiMaggio, 40, who was like an uncle to her and her brother and her father’s best friend.
Hannah’s disappearance triggered a search for DiMaggio that spanned much of the western United States and parts of Canada and Mexico.
Christina Anderson, 44, was found dead near a crowbar and what appeared to be a pool of blood in the garage of DiMaggio’s home in Boulevard, a tiny town about 65 miles east of San Diego. The remains of Ethan Anderson, 8, were discovered in the rubble.
Hannah went online barely two days after she was rescued and answered hundreds of questions on social media, including some that described harrowing details of her ordeal. She said she was surprised by some cruel responses she got.
But she had a straightforward answer for why she talked online: “It just helps me grieve ... I’m going to go on it. I’m a teenager.”
She was at turns defiant and shaken in the NBC interview, declaring that she’s a survivor and plans to try to out for varsity gymnastics this year but breaking down when asked to describe her younger brother.
“In the beginning, I was a victim,” she said, “but now knowing everyone out there was helping I consider myself a survivor instead.”
Hannah said the ordeal drew her closer to her father, who flew to San Diego from his Tennessee home after the search was launched. During the interview, she showed off newly painted nails, pink in honor of her mother and blue for her brother with their names on her toes.
Of her brother, she said, “He had a really big heart,” before she choked up and wiped away tears. Her mother was “strong-hearted and very tough.”
“She knew how to handle things,” Hannah said.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore has called Hannah “a victim in every sense of the word.” He has declined to discuss a possible motive and investigators haven’t publicly addressed other aspects of the case, including why the family went to DiMaggio’s home, the nature of letters from Hannah that were discovered in DiMaggio’s home and how Hannah was treated in captivity.
DiMaggio set fire to his home using a timer, giving him a 20-hour jump on authorities, authorities say.
Horseback riders who spotted the pair in the Idaho wilderness alerted authorities, providing the key break to her rescue. Hannah told NBC that she probably wouldn’t be home if it weren’t for them and also thanked investigators and members of the public who assisted in the search for her.
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