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.

Chinese censors block Winnie the Pooh

Published: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 3:50 PM



MJ Kim/Getty Images
(MJ Kim/Getty Images)

The Chinese government is blocking social media posts including the image of A.A. Milne’s beloved Winnie the Pooh, apparently due to constant comparisons between the cartoon bear and Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to multiple reports.

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The Guardian reported that references to “Little Bear Winnie,” Winnie the Pooh’s Chinese name, were bringing up errors on Monday for some social media users in China.

Authorities didn’t explain the decision to block to bear, according to The Guardian. However, BBC News reported that bloggers’ comparison of Pooh’s image to that of the country’s president prompted the clampdown.

“It is not only that China's censors will not tolerate ridicule of the country's leader, they do not want this beloved children's character becoming a kind of online euphemism for the Communist Party's general secretary,” according to the news site’s China blog. “In other countries such comparisons might be thought of as harmless enough and some might even think that having Winnie as your mascot could even be quite endearing: not in China.”

The New York Times reported that government censors have been battling with Pooh bear since at least 2013, when an image of Xi and then-President Barack Obama drew comparisons to Winne the Pooh and Tigger. Since then, multiple social media users have compared Pooh to Xi.

World Emoji Day: Fun symbols celebrated with contests, tributes

Published: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 6:39 AM
Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017 @ 7:24 AM

Emojis (photo illustration).
Dimitri Otis/Getty Images
Emojis (photo illustration).(Dimitri Otis/Getty Images)

Emoji fans, today's your day.

Tourist attractions, businesses and social-media users around the globe Monday are celebrating the fourth annual World Emoji Day, a tribute to everyone's favorite fun symbols.

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Is an emoji worth 1,000 words? Maybe not, but the smiley faces and other colorful icons have become a popular form of self-expression.

Officially, there are currently 2,666 emojis, according to the BBC.

>> Click here or scroll down for more

Popular fitness model killed in freak whipped cream accident

Published: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 9:00 AM

Fitness Model Killed in Freak Whipped Cream Accident

A popular French fitness model was killed in a freak accident involving a whipped cream dispenser, her family says.

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Fox News reports that Rebecca Burger, who has more than 150,000 followers on Instagram, was killed when a defective whipped cream dispenser exploded and hit her in the chest.

She was 33 years old.

La pratique du culturisme de manière sérieuse et passionnée implique un mode de vie sain mais aussi un mode de vie axé sur le contrôle. Le contrôle de l'alimentation, de l'entrainement, du repos, de la vie en générale. Les journées sont rythmées par le travail, les entrainements, les repas, l'organisation et tout ce qui s'en suit. Pour ma part je me lève tous les jours à 5h30-6h00 et me couche le plus souvent à 21h. Des sorties en semaine ? Non Des party le weekend ? Encore moins, cela impliquerait alors de se coucher aux aurores pour finalement se lever trop tard et pour moi, se serait une journée de gâchée. Attention, je ne jette pas la pierre à ce qu'ils le font mais cela ne rentre juste pas mes principes et encore moins dans mon mode de vie. Tout ce que je fais dans mes journées, les heures de travail, d'entrainement, de réalisation de projets sont dépensées de façon à ce qu'au final, cela m'apporte quelque chose de concret et m'aide à atteindre quotidiennement mes objectifs. Peut-être que ce rythme de vie peut choquer ou provoquer l'incompréhension de pas mal de gens, mais c'est ma vie, celle dans laquelle je me sens vivante, heureuse et épanouie.

A post shared by Rebecca Burger (@rebeccablikes) on

Burger did receive medical attention but died of cardiac arrest, according to reports.

Now her family is warning others not to buy the defective dispensers, claiming thousands of faulty devices are still being sold, according to Fox News.

Read more here.

C'est avec une grande tristesse que nous annonçons le décès de Rebecca le dimanche 18 juin 2017 suite à un accident...

Posted by Rebecca Burger on Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dramatic video shows aid worker, Texas Aggie rescuing child from ISIS gunfire

Published: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 11:47 AM

In this May 5, 2017 file photo, destroyed buildings from fighting between Iraqi forces and the Islamic State group are seen in western Mosul. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen, File)
Bram Janssen/AP
In this May 5, 2017 file photo, destroyed buildings from fighting between Iraqi forces and the Islamic State group are seen in western Mosul. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen, File)(Bram Janssen/AP)

Among the many things that are required of a freshman in Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets — from buzzed hair, to shined shoes to elaborate rituals for nearly every situation — is to memorize a simple Bible verse, John 15:13.

“Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

These are not hollow words in Aggieland. It happened famously in Corregidor; tragically in Fallujah; in the trenches of World War I and mountains of Afghanistan.

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Texas A&M graduate David Eubank knew this when he saw a girl of about 5 amid the remains of her family, slain in the ruins of the streets of Mosul, Iraq.

The girl was alive. There was a wall between her and deadly ISIS snipers.

For one little Iraqi girl, Eubank was prepared to stretch the definition of greater love. 

“I thought, ‘If I die doing this, my wife and kids would understand,’” he later told the Los Angeles Times.

His dramatic rescue was caught on video and can be seen on Youtube. (Warning: The video contains graphic content that may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.)

Eubank’s heroism is hardly out of character. He was a Texas toddler when he knew he wanted to be a soldier and a third-generation Aggie. After completing A&M’s Corps of Cadets, the class of ‘83 graduate served 10 years in the U.S. Army. He was a Ranger and, ultimately, a Special Forces commander.

If that seems like enough service for most, Eubank was just getting started. The son of missionaries, in 1997, he founded the Free Burma Rangers to help those displaced by the civil war in Burma. He moved his wife and kids across the world to help provide food, medical care and Christian outreach to those in need.

Nearly 20 years later, the Free Burma Rangers shifted their focus to Iraq, Syria and the victims of Islamic State terrorists.

That brings us back to Mosul, where this month’s dramatic rescue happened.

Nabih Bulos, reporting for the Los Angeles Times, described how it unfolded:

As clouds from the smoke canisters swirl about, he prepares to dash from behind the tank to save the girl. He’s wearing a helmet and a bullet-proof vest over a black T-shirt.

He runs out as his colleagues, armed with machine guns, give covering fire. He scoops up the girl with his right arm, stumbling as he runs back. He’s gone and back in 12 seconds. The girl’s hair is in pigtails, secured with what appear to be pink ribbons.

It wasn’t quite a Hollywood moment. Another toddler seen alive disappeared in the chaos. A wounded man didn’t make it. As for Eubank? He’s not playing the part of action hero. Instead, he works to keep the humility of a Christian aid worker.

“I believe God sent me here, and I don’t think about security,” he told the Times. “... but I always ask myself if I’m doing it out of pride.”

Read the Los Angeles Times interview with Eubank about his rescue and work in Iraq.

Read a Texas Aggie magazine story from 2012 on the Free Burma Rangers.