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UPI NewsTrack TopNews

Dec. 15, 2008 at 4:59 PM   |   Comments

Court revives Gitmo torture claims

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court, in an unsigned order Monday, told a lower court to reconsider torture and religious bias claims by former Guantanamo prisoners.

The federal appeals court in Washington had rejected the claims by four British nationals who had been held at the U.S. terror-suspect detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But attorneys for the four Britons asked the Supreme Court for review, saying in a brief, "The torture, abuse and religious humiliation of Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay stands as a shameful episode in our history," the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Times said the former prisoners claimed they were chained in painful positions, harassed during daily prayers, threatened by dogs and made to suffer extremes of cold and heat. They sued top Defense Department officials.

The appellate court rejected the claims in January, five months before the nation's highest court ruled in Boumediene vs. Bush that Guantanamo detainees could take their cases to federal courts.

The four Britons claimed they were in Afghanistan to help with the humanitarian crisis, but were captured by warlords and turned over to the invading U.S.-led forces. They spent two years in Guantanamo before being sent back to Britain.

In a one-paragraph order, the Supreme Court told the lower court to reconsider the claims "in light of Boumediene vs. Bush."

(Rasul et al vs. Myers et al)


Frigid cold grips much of nation

HOUSTON, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Bitter cold gripped much of the United States Tuesday as an Arctic low plunged temperatures to zero or below in much of the country.

The tail-end of a weekend storm front kept many schools closed from the Northern Plains through the Great Lakes states as temperatures overnight dropped to well below zero in Montana, Minnesota, Kansas and North Dakota, AccuWeather.com reported.

In the West, nearly a foot of snow blanketed California's Sierra Nevada, while drenching rains threatened mud slides and flash floods in southern California and ice storms closed schools and roads in northwestern Oregon, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Much of Texas saw freezing rain and low temperatures as the Arctic mass moved through, with temperatures in southeast Texas expected to remain in the low 40s through Tuesday, the Houston Chronicle reported.

In New England, tens of thousands of homes and businesses remained without power Tuesday following Sunday's ice storm which downed power lines throughout New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts, AccuWeather.com reported.


Iraqis' reaction to shoe-tossing mixed

BAGHDAD, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Reaction in Iraq to an Iraqi television journalist winging his shoes at U.S. President George Bush was mixed, a sampling of citizens indicated.

Independent Iraqi television reporter Muntader Zaidi hurled his shoes at Bush Sunday during a news conference in Baghdad, both of which missed the president, as a protest against the status of forces agreement signed by Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The incident has produced a wide range of reactions, from strong support to condemnation, in the country, The New York Times reported Monday.

"What happened in the conference is a personal expression for an Iraqi journalist and a citizen," said Haitham Karem, a 32-year-old soldier in Diwaniya. "His action is a kind of freedom. The officials have to understand it."

In Samarra, Abu Ali, a 55-year-old laborer, said Muntader's action "is less than Bush deserves for killing, displacing and bloodletting Iraqis."

"I will blame the Iraqi government and American forces if anything wrong happens to Muntader," Ali said.

In Kirkuk, Shirzad Rasheed Barazanji, an agricultural engineer, said the incident "showed the hatreds planted in Iraqi hearts."

"I am a Kurd, and if I was in his place I would ask Bush an embarrassing question, but not act like that," Barazanji said.


Kennedy will seek Clinton's Senate seat

NEW YORK, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Caroline Kennedy will seek the U.S. Senate seat in New York being vacated by Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton, political sources say.

Kennedy, an Ivy League-educated lawyer and education advocate, plans to ask Gov. David A. Paterson to consider her for the appointment, the New York Daily News reported Monday.

Paterson was traveling and was not immediately available for comment, The New York Times reported.

Kennedy, 51, the daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy and niece of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., is seeking the seat once held by her late uncle, Robert F. Kennedy, the Times reported, noting Kennedy spent Monday morning contacting political figures about her interest.

Kennedy has devoted much of her adult life to charitable works and institutions, such as the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. She played a role in the campaign of President-elect Barack Obama, helping him vet potential nominees for vice president.

While critics, such as U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y., contend Kennedy lacks the qualifications necessary to fill the seat, the Rev. Al Sharpton Tuesday called her "more than qualified."

"Ms. Kennedy is an accomplished author on constitutional law, the Bill of Rights and political courage," the activist minister said in a news release, adding "elected office is not the only area of public service that establishes leadership in this country. We just elected a community organizer as president of the United States."

Others Democrats mentioned for consideration are Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, Nassau County Chief Executive Thomas R. Suozzi and New Yor Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.


Madigan appoints impeachment committee

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said Monday he will appoint a special committee to begin an impeachment investigation against the governor.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested last week on federal charges stemming from an alleged effort to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder.

"It is my intention to appoint a special committee to begin immediately an investigation into the governor's conduct in office and to undertake the preparatory work that is a prerequisite to an impeachment proceeding in the Illinois House," Madigan told a Springfield news conference.

The Chicago Tribune quoted Madigan as saying he has been studying the idea of impeaching Blagojevich for about a year. Even before the latest charges surfaced, Blagojevich was under federal investigation in a pay-to-play scheme that involved awarding state jobs and contracts based on who could raise the most campaign cash.

"We plan to proceed without delay," Madigan said, adding he intends fully to cooperate with Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Madigan's daughter, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, filed a motion with the state Supreme Court Friday seeking Blagojevich's removal from office, or at the very least, a restraining order to keep him from performing his duties, to speed the process along.

© 2008 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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