Jordanian soldier gets life term for killing 3 US troops

Published: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 4:55 AM
Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 4:55 AM

            A military court convenes in the case of a Jordanian soldier accused of shooting to death three U.S. military trainers at the gate of an air base, in Amman, Jordan, Monday. July 17, 2017. The defendant had pleaded
A military court convenes in the case of a Jordanian soldier accused of shooting to death three U.S. military trainers at the gate of an air base, in Amman, Jordan, Monday. July 17, 2017. The defendant had pleaded "not guilty," saying he opened fire because he feared the base was coming under attack. He was sentenced Monday to life in prison with hard labor. (AP Photo/Omar Akour)

A Jordanian soldier was sentenced Monday to life in prison after being convicted of killing three U.S. military trainers last year, but some said questions lingered about his motive for the shooting at a Jordanian air base.

Jordan has ruled out terrorism in the November shooting in which the convoy of the U.S. Army Green Berets came under fire at the base entrance.

The defendant has said he felt no animosity toward Americans and opened fire because he believed the base was coming under attack.

However, relatives of the slain U.S. troops have described security camera footage that they say shows him shooting for six minutes, reloading and aiming at the Americans, even as they identify themselves as friendly forces.

After a "not guilty" plea, the Jordanian soldier, 1st Sgt. Marik al-Tuwayha, was tried by a military court in Jordan's capital of Amman for the killings of Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27, of Kirksville, Missouri; Staff Sgt. Kevin J. McEnroe, 30, of Tucson, Arizona; and Staff Sgt. James F. Moriarty, 27, of Kerrville, Texas.

During the monthlong trial, he watched the proceedings silently while standing in a cage in the courtroom.

He did not react Monday when the judge announced the verdict and the maximum possible sentence, life in prison with hard labor. When he was led out of the cage, he said: "I have all the respect for the king, but I was doing my job."

Relatives of two of the U.S. soldiers sat quietly as the judge read the ruling.

Charles Lewellen, 53, whose son was killed, later told The Associated Press that the verdict "won't take the pain away," but that it proved "what we have been saying all along ... that he murdered our sons."

Some of the relatives criticized Jordan's handling of the case and said the defendant should have received the death penalty. Jordan allows the death penalty, but it is usually handed down in terrorism cases or in a murder coupled with another crime.

The Americans were killed Nov. 4, as their convoy waited at the gate to the al-Jafr base in southern Jordan. Jordan initially said the Americans triggered the shooting by disobeying entry rules, a claim that was later withdrawn.

The trial "confirmed that the deceased U.S. service members followed all established procedures when accessing the base the day of the incident, as we have noted before," the U.S. Embassy in Jordan said. "We are reassured to see the perpetrator brought to justice."

Jordan is a member of a U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State group extremists in neighboring Syria and Iraq. Jordan hosts troops, including trainers, from the U.S. and other countries as part of the anti-IS battle.

"We are pleased to see that the perpetrators have been brought to justice," said U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. He said the U.S. respects Jordan's military process and praised Jordan for adhering to its own laws in resolving the case expeditiously.

Davis wouldn't comment on possible motives for the killing.

At the trial, al-Tuwayha and some of the gate guards testified they heard what might have been a pistol shot coming from the direction of the U.S. convoy. Al-Tuwayha said he opened fire because he feared the base was under attack. Other guards said they held their fire because they couldn't determine the source of the sound.

Al-Tuwayha has said he had "no intention of killing anyone" and felt no resentment toward Americans.

According to the surveillance video described by the relatives, Lewellen and McEnroe were the first to be hit by gunfire. Moriarty and another soldier jumped out of their cars to take cover and returned fire from their pistols, according to the descriptions of the video. They yelled that they were friendly forces, the relatives said.

The defendant kept shooting, they said. He was seriously wounded in the exchange.

The video was shown to the family by U.S. law enforcement, but has not been released to the public.

Some of the relatives have questioned why the video was not screened at the trial and why the court did not ask a surviving U.S. soldier to testify, despite what they said was his willingness to do so.

Moriarty's father, Jim, wrote in a letter Monday to the Jordanian Embassy in the U.S. that the "successful prosecution" was a "good first step, but it is only the first step."

In the letter, a copy of which was given to the AP, Moriarty listed several demands to Jordan. These included allowing the defendant to be re-interviewed by the FBI about his motive and releasing the security video to the families. Moriarty, a lawyer, said the video had been entered into evidence at the trial.

Cynthia Lewellen, 53, the mother of Matthew Lewellen, expressed sympathy for all those affected by the shooting, including the family of the defendant.

"In this verdict, nobody comes out happy," she said. "I mean for us as losing our sons and knowing the man that killed him will spend 20 years in prison, but also for his family that because of his actions ... lost a father, a husband, a provider."

In Jordan, life in prison can mean 20 years, with time off for good behavior.

Defense lawyer Subhi al-Mawas said he would appeal Monday's court ruling.

Earlier this year, a Jordanian soldier who killed seven Israeli schoolgirls in a 1997 shooting rampage was released after 20 years.


This is the speech Queen Elizabeth would give if World War III ever broke out

Published: Tuesday, September 19, 2017 @ 3:32 PM

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It’s the speech Queen Elizabeth hopes she never has to deliver.

A speech prepared back in the ’80s for the Queen to give in the event that World War III breaks out was revealed last week. The address was written in the event this does occur, and she needs to address the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

The speech was released by the government last week under the 30-year rule, and is reflective of the time it was written — with a “planned” broadcast date of March 4, 1983.

The Queen’s speech was set to begin with a reference to her annual Christmas address. “The horrors of war could not have seemed more remote as my family and I shared our Christmas joy with the growing family of the Commonwealth,” the speech reads. “Now, this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds.”

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She also recalls the outbreak of World War II, which occurred just a few years after her father, King George VI, became the monarch following his brother’s abdication.

“I have never forgotten the sorrow and the pride I felt as my sister and I huddled around the nursery wireless set listening to my father’s inspiring words on that fateful day in 1939,” the speech continues. “Not for a single moment did I imagine that this solemn and awful duty would one day fall to me.”

Going on, the Queen talks about the fears that everyone will face, either going off to war themselves or sending their loved ones there. At the time the speech was written, her second son Prince Andrew was active in the navy, and she made a personal mention of him, too.

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“My husband and I share with families up and down the land the fear we feel for sons and daughters, husbands and brothers who have left our side to serve their country,” it reads. “My beloved son Andrew is at this moment in action with his unit and we pray continually for his safety and for the safety of all servicemen and women at home and overseas.”

Of course, the Queen’s speech also offers words of hope and encouragement, even in the face of another global crisis.

“But whatever terrors lie in wait for us all, the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength.”

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She continues: “It is this close bond of family life that must be our greatest defense against the unknown. If families remain united and resolute, giving shelter to those living alone and unprotected, our country’s will to survive cannot be broken.”

The speech ends as you might expect, with an encouragement to pray for those fighting and a blessing for the country.

“As we strive together to fight off the new evil, let us pray for our country and men of goodwill wherever they may be. God Bless you all.”

Social media honors Tupac Shakur on 21st anniversary of death

Published: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 @ 1:59 PM

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It’s been 21 years since the death of Tupac Shakur, and fans across social media have been paying tribute to the artist throughout the day to honor his legacy.

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On Sept. 7, 1996, the rapper was gunned down in Las Vegas while en route to a nightclub after watching a Mike Tyson versus Bruce Seldon fight. He died nearly a week later at age 25 after his mother, Afeni Shakur, removed him from life support. His murder remains unsolved. 

More than two decades after his death, hip-hop heads still sing his praises, heralding him as one of the greatest musicians in history. Never afraid to tackle controversial topics that spanned from politics and social activism, Tupac influenced the masses through his film, poetry and music. 

Today, people are expressing their gratitude. From lyrics and quotes to pictures and newspaper clippings, many have flocked to Twitter to remember the fallen star using the #TupacShakur hashtag.  

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Want better sleep? Keep your pet in your bedroom, study says

Published: Sunday, September 10, 2017 @ 1:34 PM

It's important to get a good night's sleep, and these eight tips will help you catch some serious Z's. Powder down electronics Block the clock Beds are for sleep Avoid caffeine Eat right before bed No pets allowed

If you’re looking for ways to rest better at night, your dog may be able to help. Keeping your pets in your bedroom could improve your quality of sleep, according to new research

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Scientists from the Mayo Clinic recently conducted a study to determine how catching some zzz’s with your pup can affect bedtime. 

To do so, they examined 40 healthy adults who did not have sleep disorders and their dogs over a five-month period. Both the participants and their doggies wore activity devices that tracked their sleep patterns each night. 

After analyzing the results, they found that those who kept their dogs in their bedroom experienced better quality of sleep, compared to those who didn’t.

However, those who snuggled with their pet in bed actually suffered from lower quality of sleep. The sleep benefit extended only to having dogs in your bedroom ─ not in your bed, the study said. 

“Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption,” lead researcher Lois Krahn said in a statement. “We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.”

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While their study only assessed a small group and dogs over the age of five months, they believe their findings prove that the relationship between people and their pets has changed over time.

“Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximize their time with them when they are home,” Krahn said. “Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that. And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.”

Prince William takes Prince George to his first day at prep school

Published: Thursday, September 07, 2017 @ 8:36 AM

Britain's Prince William accompanies Prince George as he is greeted by Helen Haslem - the head of the lower school as he arrives for his first day of school at Thomas's school in Battersea, London, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.  Prince William's pregnant wife Kate was too ill with morning sickness Thursday to take young Prince George to his first day of school.  (Richard Pohle/Pool Photo via AP)
Richard Pohle/AP
Britain's Prince William accompanies Prince George as he is greeted by Helen Haslem - the head of the lower school as he arrives for his first day of school at Thomas's school in Battersea, London, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. Prince William's pregnant wife Kate was too ill with morning sickness Thursday to take young Prince George to his first day of school. (Richard Pohle/Pool Photo via AP)(Richard Pohle/AP)

Prince George has just accomplished a milestone, as he went to his first day of prep school in southwest London.

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In a moment that mimicked one of Princess Diana and Prince William 30 years ago, George was escorted to Thomas’s Battersea by his father, The Guardian reported.

Missing in the first-day-of school moment was Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who was absent due to her severe morning sickness from her third pregnancy.

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Well wishers jammed the fence outside the school to watch as the princes arrived.

The school is said to be teaching George, who will be going by the name George Cambridge, how to be kind, gain confidence, leadership and humility, The Guardian reported.

Like any 4-year-old, George looked a little unsure as he walked up to greet the head of the school. His father, despite being second in line to the throne, carried his son’s bag.

Thomas’s Battersea costs $23,000 a year, CNN reported.

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