Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Officials: Hagel pushes conviction reversal change

(AP) ? Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is recommending that military commanders be stripped of their ability to reverse criminal convictions of service members, a move that comes in response to a congressional uproar over an Air Force officer's decision to overturn a guilty verdict in a sexual assault case, U.S. officials said Monday.

According to defense officials, Hagel will seek legislation requiring that cases go through the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, and that senior officers no longer have the authority to set aside guilty findings. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about the decision.

Hagel is ordering his staff to draft legislation. The change requires congressional action, but lawmakers have already begun looking into the matter in response to a furor over a recent Air Force sexual assault case.

Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, overturned the conviction against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a former inspector general at Aviano Air Base in Italy, who had been found guilty last Nov. 2 of charges of abusive sexual contact, aggravated sexual assault and three instances of conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman. The incident had involved a civilian employee.

Wilkerson was sentenced to a year in prison and dismissal from the service, but after a review of the case Franklin overturned the conviction. His decision triggered outrage among senators and calls for a new look at the military justice system.

"This decision has turned the military on its ear," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., during a hearing last month. She added that Franklin's decision sets the Air Force "all the way back to Tailhook." The 1991 Tailhook scandal rocked the military as Navy pilots were accused of sexually abusing female officers at a Las Vegas convention.

Hagel ordered a review of the issue, but he does not have the sole authority to either change the law or the reverse Franklin's ruling.

Air Force officials have argued that overturning the results of a military court martial and granting clemency is rare. In the past five years, senior commanders have overturned 40 guilty verdicts out of the 3,713 courts martial that were tried. Of those, the Air Force said that 327 involved sexual assaults and just five of those convictions were reversed.

Under the current law, if an accused service member is found guilty and sentenced, the findings are not final until they are approved or disproved by the convening authority. The convicted service member can request clemency and the general officer ? usually a major general or lieutenant general ? seeks legal advice, reviews the trial record and considers information submitted by the accused.

Associated Press


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Monday, April 1, 2013

Measure Your Feet and Hands to Judge Distance Accurately Without a Ruler

Measure Your Feet and Hands to Judge Distance Accurately Without a Ruler Nobody carries a ruler with them everywhere, but you can measure short distances accurately if you memorize the lengths of your feet and hand span.

Quora user Peter Baskerville suggests measuring your appendages, and committing them to memory.

Learning the actual measurement of your span and your foot will help you whenever your need to measure something but don't have access to a ruler or tape measure. You can then measure anything by number of spans or feet (toe to heel). Then multiply the spans or feet by the known measurement to estimate fairly accurately the actual length, depth or breadth of things.

For other measurements, you could use the same trick with the distance between the tip of your thumb and its first knuckle, or the distance between your nose and your thumb with your arm outstretched. If you have a poor memory, you could always store the lengths in something like Evernote too. This tip is pretty obvious in hindsight, but it's worth mentioning if you haven't done it.

Learning: What is something useful I can learn right now in 10 minutes that would be useful for the rest of my life? | Quora


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South Africa says Mandela's condition has improved

By Ed Stoddard

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The condition of South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela has improved further, the government said on Sunday, as the 94-year-old anti-apartheid hero spent a fourth day in hospital receiving treatment for pneumonia.

"Nelson Mandela had a restful day," South Africa's presidency said in a statement, adding doctors treating him had reported "a further improvement in his condition".

"Government is satisfied that the doctors are providing the former president with the best medical care possible to enable his recovery and comfort," the statement said.

In their first detailed report of his condition, doctors said on Saturday that Mandela had "developed a pleural effusion which was tapped", meaning they had drained excess fluid from around his lungs.

It is his third visit to hospital in four months, raising new concerns about the health of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president in 1994, is revered at home and abroad for leading the struggle against white minority rule, then promoting the cause of racial reconciliation when in power.

He stepped down as president in 1999 and has not been politically active for around a decade.

President Jacob Zuma on Sunday thanked "the thousands of South Africans who prayed for Madiba at various Easter church services during the weekend." Madiba is Mandela's clan name.

"We also thank foreign governments for their messages of support," Zuma said. Global figures such as U.S. President Barack Obama have sent get well messages.

In the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in the sprawling black township of Soweto that Mandela once called home, worshippers attending Easter service prayed for the man seen by many as the father of their nation.

"We hear that the government tells us that he's okay, that he's still undergoing treatment for his lung condition, and as I say, we pray that God's healing hand may be upon him," Father Sebastian Russouw said during the service.

Mandela was in hospital briefly earlier in March for a check-up and spent nearly three weeks in hospital in December with a lung infection and after surgery to remove gallstones.

He has a history of lung problems dating back to when he contracted tuberculosis as a political prisoner.

He spent 27 years in prison on Robben Island off South Africa's Atlantic coast and other jails for his attempts to overthrow apartheid rule.

(Additional reporting by Pascal Fletcher and Shafiek Tassiem; Editing by Sophie Hares)


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