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UPI NewsTrack TopNews

Jan. 31, 2013 at 5:00 PM   |   Comments

Hagel refuses to draw 'red line' on Iran

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Former Sen. Chuck Hagel Thursday refused to draw a "red line" that would trigger U.S. military action against Iran, but said Iran must not acquire nuclear arms.

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on Hagel's nomination to be the next defense secretary, and the nominee was handled roughly by several Republican senators.

Hagel, R-Neb., said he agrees with all of President Obama's positions on national security, including Iran.

"I am committed to the president's goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," Hagel said, adding all options were on the table. He said the president's policy was prevention, not containment of Iran, and he would make sure the Defense Department was prepared for all contingencies.

But under prodding from Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Hagel said a "red line" or trip-wire that would launch U.S. military action should not be discussed in public.

"I think the president has gone as far as he should go publicly on that," Hagel said, adding a "red line" "should not be discussed publicly or debated publicly."

Under questioning from Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Hagel said, "The military option must remain on the table," along with diplomatic and economic measures.

Among the goals he shares with the president, Hagel said in his opening statement, is continued U.S. counterterrorism in Afghanistan and training that country's security forces, and to keep the pressure up on terror groups in the Middle East and North Africa.

He said he and the president are committed to keeping Israel's "edge" in military affairs in the region.

Also, "I am committed to maintaining ... a strong nuclear arsenal," he said. "I am committed to modernizing our nuclear arsenal."

Hagel told the senators massive spending cuts in a "sequester" would be a disaster for the Pentagon.

"America must engage in the world, not retreat from the world," he said.


Prosecutor killed outside Texas courthouse

KAUFMAN, Texas, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A manhunt was under way Thursday in Kaufman, Texas, after a county prosecutor was shot and killed while walking into work, officials said.

The shooting occurred in a parking lot near the Kaufman County Courthouse, WFAA-TV, Dallas/Fort Worth, reported.

Kaufman Police Chief Chris Aulbaugh said an assistant district attorney was shot multiple times about 8:50 a.m. as he walked from his car, The Dallas Morning News reported. The prosecutor, whose identity was not released, died of his injuries, Aulbaugh said.

The victim had been part of an investigation of members of the white supremacist group the Aryan Brotherhood, the newspaper said.

"It's a horrible situation," Kaufman County Judge Bruce Wood told the Morning News. "None of us would have ever expected anything like this to ever happen in our county."

The courthouse was closed for the day after authorities searched the area for suspects.

The Texas Department of Public Safety sent out an alert for troopers to be on lookout for an older model silver Ford Taurus. Witnesses said the suspects were wearing all black and at least one was wearing a tactical vest.

The gunman reportedly fired shots in the air as the two suspects fled.


Body of Ariz. shooting suspect found

PHOENIX, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The body of the man suspected in the deadly workplace shooting in Phoenix was found Thursday in Mesa, police said.

"We can confirm the individual in Mesa is in fact suspect Arthur Harmon. He was found deceased with a self-inflicted gunshot wound by Mesa PD," Phoenix police Sgt. Steve Martos posted on his Twitter account.

Mesa police Sgt. Tony Landato said a landscaper discovered the body shortly before 8 a.m, KTVK-TV, Phoenix, reported. Landato said a weapon was found near the body.

The Kia Optima Harmon was last seen driving was found in a parking lot and the body was found in some bushes nearby, KTVK reported.

Harmon was reported in a legal battle with a telephone call center. Phoenix police said they think Harmon targeted two men and shot another person after a mediation session at building in north-central Phoenix.

Killed was Steve Singer, 48, the call center's executive officer and a defendant in the lawsuit filed by Harmon. Singer's attorney, Mark Hummels, who sustained serious wounds to his neck and back, was not expected to survive, the law firm where he practiced said in a statement.

"Our friend and partner, Mark Hummels, was severely injured in yesterday's senseless shooting," the statement by Osborn Maledon read. "We have been informed that Mark will not survive from the shooting. We are devastated at this news about our beloved friend."

Bystander Nicole Hampton was shot near the building entrance, suffering a hand wound.

After the incident Wednesday, police searched Harmon's home and removed several items. Investigators did not elaborate on what evidence was collected.

A man who once worked with Harmon told KTVK Harmon "exhibited behavior in the past that would seem to be a little bit hostile and erratic. I think that those should have been a little bit more of a warning sign."


Gitmo judge bars gov't censorship of feed

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A military judge in Guantanamo, Cuba, said Thursday the government may not censor video of pretrial hearings for Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack suspects.

Col. James Pohl said only he and the court's security officer have the authority to control the audio and video feed from the courtroom, The Hill reported.

The audio feed was cut Monday, the first day of the latest round of pretrial motions in the case of five defendants, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the attacks.

David Nevin, one of Mohammed's civilian attorneys, was discussing a defense motion to preserve evidence from secret overseas prisons where the defendants were held by the CIA, when the audio feed to media centers at Guantanamo and at Fort Meade, Md., were drowned out by white noise and then the video feed was cut.

Prosecutors disclosed Tuesday a government agency known as an Original Classifying Authority tracks the tribunal's proceedings. The authority can decide whether any content produced during the hearing is classified and can censor the public audio and video feed, the report said.

Little is known about the authority, The Hill said, noting it is most likely a military or intelligence group.

Pohl had protested a decision by an authority official Monday to black out about 2 minutes of the closed-circuit television feed, saying nothing classified was discussed during the portion that was censored.

He said Thursday that was "the last time" anyone other than he or the court security officer "will be permitted to unilaterally decide that the broadcast will be suspended."

"Accordingly I order the government to disconnect any ability of a third party to suspend broadcast of the proceeding, and I order any third party not to suspend proceedings," he said.

The video feed is provided to journalists on a 40-second delay, giving court security officers the opportunity to block transmission of classified material, The Hill said.

Pohl's ruling Thursday followed a request by attorneys for the defendants to suspend the hearing out of concern confidential communication between the defendants and their lawyers had been compromised.


Poll: Majority sees government as threat

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A large majority of Americans distrust the government and 53 percent fear the government threatens their individual rights, a poll released Thursday indicated.

The telephone survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, found 76 percent of conservative Republicans said the government threatens their personal rights and freedoms -- with 54 percent of conservative Republicans characterizing the threat as "major."

Thirty-eight percent of Democrats said the government threatens personal rights and freedoms, with 16 percent calling the threat major.

Overall, 31 percent said the government is a major threat to personal liberty, Pew said in a release.

Sixty-two percent of people who say they have guns in their households say the government is a threat to freedom while 45 percent of those without guns see a threat.

Twenty-six percent said they trust the federal government to do the right thing at least most of the time while 73 percent said they trust the government only some of the time, if it all.

Fifty-eight percent say they are frustrated by government and 19 percent say they are angry with the government. Twenty percent said they basically are content with the government.

Twenty-three percent said they view Congress favorably while 68 said they have an unfavorable view of Congress.

Trust in government is twice as high among Latinos than among whites -- 44 percent, compared to 20 percent. People less than 30 years of age expressed more trust in government than those more than 30 years of age.


Calif. teacher objects to surgery bill

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A California teacher has asked the state attorney general to investigate a $87,500 bill for minor knee surgery even though her insurance company is willing to pay.

Lynne Neilsen told the Los Angeles Times that Blue Shield of California sent her a check for $84,800 and told her to sign it over to Advanced Surgical Partners. The newspaper said the procedure she had normally costs about $3,000.

"This is insane," Neilsen said.

Neither the Long Beach Unified School District or its employer had any apparent qualms about the bill.

"This bill is so outrageous it almost takes my breath away," said Gerald Kominski, who heads the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. "This is an example of what's wrong with our healthcare system, and employees and taxpayers of the school district are paying the price here."

This week, after calls from the Times, Blue Shield and Advanced Surgical Partners agreed to bill a smaller amount, the newspaper said. But Kominski and other experts say surgery centers try to attract patients with good insurance and then bill their insurers for large amounts.

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