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  |   May 4, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Panetta to troops: Stop the misconduct

FORT BENNING, Ga., May 4 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Friday told troops at Fort Benning, Ga., to refrain from misconduct such as posing with body parts and urinating on corpses.

Such behavior on the part of U.S. troops in Afghanistan "show a lack of judgment, a lack of professionalism and a lack of leadership" and damages U.S. national interests, Panetta said.

"These days, it takes only seconds for one picture to suddenly become an international headline. And those headlines can impact the mission we're engaged in, they can put your fellow service members at risk, they can hurt morale, and they can damage our standing in the world."

While such episodes "represent a very, very small percentage of the great work that our men and women do every day across the world," Panetta said, "They concern us because our enemies will seek to turn them in their favor, at the very moment when they are losing the wider war. …

"Never forget that you have a responsibility to look after your fellow soldiers and to represent the American people that you are sworn to defend," Panetta said.

"We have an enduring commitment to Afghanistan and to the Afghan people. And if we keep our eye focused on this mission, as I know you all will, we will defeat al-Qaida; we will deny them the ability to rebuild; we will deny them the safe haven that they used to plan an attack on our country.

"They may have attacked us once; they will not do it again. Too much precious blood has been spilled, too much progress has been made to lose sight of the mission now."


Aide: Edwards refused to end affair

GREENSBORO, N.C., May 4 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards cursed a campaign aide who advised him to end his torrid affair with Rielle Hunter, the aide testified.

In testimony Friday in U.S. District Court in Greensboro, N.C., Peter Scher, 51, said he confronted the former U.S. senator in the fall of 2006 at a New York hotel and Edwards exploded, telling Scher to perform an anatomically impossible act on himself.

"I said, 'John, what the blank are you doing?'" Scher testified. He said Edwards responded he didn't need a babysitter and told Scher to back off, ABC reported.

Edwards is on trial for allegedly using $1 million in contributions from campaign donors to keep secret his affair with Hunter, who became pregnant.

John Davis, another former aide, said Hunter told him at a Detroit hotel in February 2007 that she and Edwards were "very much in love," CNN reported.

Davis said he told her he "did not care about this because I was focused on the campaign."

Edwards later told him he and Hunter were not in a relationship, Davis testified Thursday at Edwards' trial.

"He told me she was crazy and that he denied there was an affair," Davis said.

He said he believed Edwards.

Jurors also heard Thursday from Bryan Huffman, a North Carolina interior designer who served as a conduit for contributions from heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon.

Mellon, Huffman said, gave $725,000 she didn't consider specifically for Edwards' campaign but did not know contributions went toward paying Hunter's expenses.

Edwards is charged with six felony counts -- four counts of collecting illegal campaign contributions, one count of making false statements and one count of conspiracy. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.


Obama to students: Lobby Congress on loans

ARLINGTON, Va., May 4 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama urged high school students Friday to tell lawmakers to approve a measure that would keep student loan interest rates from doubling.

"I want you to send a message to Congress. Tell them, 'Don't double my rate.' … You should call them, you should e-mail them, write on their Facebook page, tweet them," Obama told students at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va.

Obama, joined by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, made the case for a bill expected to be approved by the Democratic Senate next week that would retain the 3.4 percent interest rate on Stafford student loans. More than 7 million students a year take out such loans.

Obama and Senate Democrats want to cover the estimated $6 billion cost of maintaining the lower rate for another year by eliminating some corporate tax loopholes.

However, the House of Representatives has approved a measure that would pay to keep the rate lower by cutting money from a preventive healthcare program -- a move Obama and other Democrats oppose.

Obama noted students who borrow to pay for college graduate with an average of about $25,000 in debt.

"We can't price the middle class out of a higher education. We've got to make college more affordable," he said.

The low interest rate resulted from the 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which gradually reduced interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans to 3.4 percent by July 2011, with the proviso the rates would revert to 6.8 percent July 1 of this year.


ACLU seeks public access to 9/11 trial

NEW YORK, May 4 (UPI) -- The American Civil Liberties Union requested statements made by the accused Sept. 11 conspirators about their treatment at Guantanamo Bay be allowed in court.

The ALCU asked the military court trying the five defendants to reject any U.S. government attempt to censor the suspects' statements on their detention and treatment while in CIA and Department of Defense custody, the ACLU said in a statement Thursday.

In a filing made public Tuesday, the government contended any statement made by the defendants about their "exposure" to the CIA's detention and interrogation measures could possibly be classified as "sources, methods and activities" of the United States and could be withheld from the public.

"The government's claim that it can classify statements based on a prisoner's own knowledge and experience of illegal government conduct is chillingly Orwellian and has no basis in law," said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project and lead counsel on the motion. "Our nation's civilian and military courts have historically recognized that the truth, no matter how ugly, is better aired than concealed from the public. The most important terrorism trial of our time should not be an exception to the rule of public access as its legitimacy depends in part on its transparency."

Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his four alleged co-conspirators are set to appear in court Saturday for an arraignment at Guantanamo Bay, The Miami Herald reported.

The five are facing terror charges for allegedly organizing, funding and training the 19 hijackers who took control of four airplanes on Sept. 11, 2001, and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attack.

The Pentagon has yet to respond the ACLU's 32-page motion.

"The judge will decide whether the merits of their complaint have standing," said Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale.

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