TIME Military

Bowe Bergdahl Questioning on Disappearance Set to Begin

Bergdahl Being Treated At U.S. Military Hospital In Germany
UNDATED - In this undated image provided by the U.S. Army, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl poses in front of an American flag. U.S. officials say Bergdahl, the only American soldier held prisoner in Afghanistan, was exchanged for five Taliban commanders being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to published reports. Bergdahl is in stable condition at a Berlin hospital, according to the reports. (Photo by U.S. Army via Getty Images) U.S. Army—Getty Images

Army investigators are expected to probe allegations of desertion from Wednesday

Army investigators will begin questioning Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on Wednesday about the circumstances leading up to his disappearance from an Afghanistan observation post and eventual capture by Taliban militants in 2009.

Bergdahl’s attorney, Eugene Fidell, told NBC News that Bergdahl will report to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Tex., where he will face questioning about his motivations to leave his encampment, which led to five years of captivity at the hands of Taliban militants.

The Obama administration negotiated Bergdahl’s release in May in exchange for five senior Taliban prisoners. Some soldiers that served with Bergdahl in Afghanistan, including his former squad leader, have accused Bergdahl of deliberately abandoning his post. Investigators will determine whether the allegations are substantial enough to file charges of desertion.

Fidell, in a previous interview with TIME, cast doubt on the assertion that Bergdahl left his post with the intention of staying away, and even then, would not necessarily face charges of desertion. “It’s utterly discretionary as a matter of clemency, a matter of judgment, and indeed even as a matter of politics,” he said.

[NBC News]

TIME Civil Rights

Report: Teenage Inmates at Rikers Island Face Institutionalized Brutality

Barbed wire fences surround a building on Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York on Dec. 24, 2013.
Barbed wire fences surround a building on Rikers Island Correctional Facility in New York on Dec. 24, 2013. Lucas Jackson—Reuters

Correctional officers at New York City's Department of Correction use excessive brute force on teenage inmates, many of whom have mental illnesses, according to report

A report released by the federal government on Monday accused the New York City Department of Correction of failing to protect adolescents, citing a two-and-a-half-year Justice Department investigation that revealed correctional officers at three Rikers Island juvenile jails inflicted brutal force on male inmates between 16-18 years old.

The 79-page-report by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, found that between 2011-2013 officers used excessive violence to punish inmates. In October 2012, 44% of the male teenage population had been subjected to brute force at least once. The report also found that correctional officers lacked accountability for their extreme use of force. When investigations were conducted, they were customarily untimely and incomplete. A “powerful code of silence” between staff allowed egregious offenses to go by unpunished, the Justice Department found.

One inmate said that he was heavily beaten by four officers in the hallway for cursing in the middle of a class, according to the report. A teacher told investigators that he could hear the inmate “crying and screaming for his mother” during the altercation, but failed to report the incident to avoid conflict with fellow staff members.

The findings also revealed that the most inexperienced officers were assigned to deal with inmates who had behavioral disorders and mental illnesses. Last year, over half of the 489 teenage inmates reportedly had mental illnesses. Many were sent to solitary confinement as a punitive measure, with inmates being kept by themselves from 23 hours to several months, the New York Times reports.

The report presented to Mayor Bill de Blasio and two other officials concluded, “a culture of excessive force persists, where correction officers physically abuse adolescent inmates with the expectation that they will face little or no consequences for their unlawful conduct.”

Federal attorneys offered a list of corrections to be made at Rikers, including compulsory reporting of use of force and more thorough training for all staff.

Joseph Ponte, New York City’s new correction commissioner, said in a statement that he would work to improve safety for the teenage inmates, adding that he was committed to redrafting the use of force policy to “bring it into the 21st century,” Huffington Post reported.

TIME Crime

Shooter Kills 1 at Pennsylvania Hospital

Hospital Shooting
Investigators work the scene of a shooting Thursday, July 24, at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa. AP

The suspect is in custody and injured.

A shooter opened fire in the psychiatric unit of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania on Thursday, killing one female employee and injuring a doctor, authorities said.

The suspected shooter was also shot and is in critical condition, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said in a press conference Thursday afternoon. Whelan said the suspects’ injuries were not believed to be self-inflicted, but it’s still unclear who shot him.

Whelan added that the shooter had “psychiatric issues,” though police are still investigating the motive for the attack.

Mercy-Fitzgerald Hospital, a teaching hospital, is part of a regional Catholic healthcare network, Mercy Health System. It’s located several miles south of downtown Philadelphia.

TIME France

France’s Far Right Could Benefit From Sarkozy’s Legal Woes

Nicolas Sarkozy
Sarkozy's legal cloud puts his political future in doubt Kenzo Tribouillard—AFP/Getty Images

The former French President is under investigation, putting his political future under a cloud—and giving Marine Le Pen an opening

Even in a country where political scandals are a constant, the French were stunned to see their former President Nicolas Sarkozy hauled into a police station on July 1 for 15 hours of interrogation. Sarkozy was brought before judges well after midnight that day, where he was formally placed under investigation for corruption and influence peddling, relating to suspicions that Sarkozy had tried to wrest information from a senior judge about a legal case being built against him. An exhausted-looking Sarkozy was shown on television in the back of a police car, clearly shaken by his ordeal. “Is this normal?” Sarkozy asked in a national television and radio interview on the evening of July 2—his first such Q&A in two years—that had millions of viewers spellbound. “I’m profoundly shocked at what has happened.”

But besides his shock, Sarkozy, who lost his reelection bid to President François Hollande in 2012, might already be plotting his next political move—a move that could involve casting himself as the victim rather than the villain in his latest legal drama. As the French absorbed the newest accusations against Sarkozy, the ex-president has emerged in this week’s blanket media coverage as a lone wolf up against the establishment. That’s an ironic twist for a politician whose image as the consummate insider partly led to his reelection defeat. Two days after Sarkozy’s 15-hour police grilling, Sarkozy watchers say they believe he has several options ahead—not all of them bad. “He could become chief of the opposition in fighting both Hollande and the judges,” Christophe Barbier, editor of the French newsweekly L’Express, told TIME on Thursday. “That seems the most probable solution.”

Sarkozy has faced so many investigations since winning the presidency in 2007 that he and his lawyer had tried to avoid surveillance by using prepaid telephones registered in other people’s names. Police tapped those phones, however, leading them to focus on whether the two men tried to wrangle details about the case against Sarkozy from a top appeals-court judge—the subject of his grilling on Tuesday. The charges could lead judges to bring the case to trial, with Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog potentially facing a five-year sentence and a $680,000 fine if found guilty. To say the least, that would hugely complicate Sarkozy’s ambitions for a comeback against the beleaguered President Hollande in the 2017 elections.

Even if the former president beats this new investigation, however, it is not his only legal battle. Last year, investigators finally dropped charges alleging that Sarkozy took advantage of the aging billionaire L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt by taking millions of euros from her to fund his 2007 presidential bid. But they are still probing allegations that Sarkozy sought some $68 million for his 2007 campaign from then-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi—the investigation in which he is now suspected of interfering with the senior judge.

But this week’s grilling cuts to the heart of a deeper issue, and it is one that rankles French voters: whether the alleged behavior of Sarkozy was just business as usual for the country’s famously cloistered elites. It could be “simply part of the bullying tactics of people in power that have been tolerated so far,” says Agnès Poirier, author and columnist for the political magazine Marianne, writing in the Guardian on Wednesday. Sarkozy, says Poirier, has regularly demanded information from officials about investigations against him, including once calling the head of the French intelligence service. “If nothing else, this new episode is shedding some more light on “‘le système Sarkozy,'” Poirier said.

Still, Sarkozy is hardly ready to hang it up politically. After laying low for Hollande’s first year in office, he has spent months angling for a return, and has said he intends deciding his next moves—including a possible presidential bid—by summer’s end. Enraged and combative on television on Wednesday night, Sarkozy nonetheless worked hard to dismantle the image of himself as someone accustomed to special access. He called the new charges “grotesque,” but quickly added, “I’m not demanding any privilege.” His voice dropping to a low rasp, he said, “If I have made mistakes I will face the consequences.”

Yet some of the consequences of Sarkozy’s legal battles are already contributing to the deep disarray of French politics. Sarkozy fares much better than President Hollande in most polls, and the former president is popular among many UMP voters, with supporters mobbing him on the sidewalk after his interrogation on Tuesday. Yet the UMP is locked in its own struggle for power. Jean-Francois Copé was appointed as leader only after bitter infighting. Since he resigned in May three former prime ministers have been running the party in an awkward, interim arrangement, as they wait to see what Sarkozy will do.

In fact, there is only one clear winner in this political upheaval: Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, which won the most French votes in the European Union elections in May, and which grabbed nearly one-quarter of the votes in France’s municipal elections last March, largely by slicing off support by disaffected UMP-ers. Pitching the two major parties as corrupt and ineffectual, Le Pen has soared in the polls. She told TIME in May that she believes she is headed for the top, that she intends running for president and that she believes that “the National Front will be in power within 10 years.”

Barbier, editor of L’Express, believes that much will depend on whether Sarkozy can cast himself as a new man: calm and reflective, rather than the volatile, temperamental man the French remember from his time in office. “If he is more calm, more tranquil, if he goes into it in that style,” Sarkozy could perhaps prevail, Barbier says. He believes Sarkozy’s first move might be to take back control of the UMP, and knock it into shape, ready for the presidential race in 2017.

Sarkozy’s makeover might already have begun. After a mostly combative TV interview on Wednesday night the former president struck a more conciliatory tone afterwards, tweeting: “I love my country passionately and I am not a man to be discouraged.” His supporters hope that passion and tenacity will be enough to carry their man through.

TIME celebrities

Hermione in Trouble Over a Housekeeper

2014 Tribeca Film Festival - "Boulevard"
Actress Emma Watson attends the premiere of "Boulevard" during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 20, 2014 in New York City. Steve Mack--FilmMagic

Hermione in trouble over a housekeeper

In news that’s less Harry Potter and more Bling Ring, British immigration officials are investigating Emma Watson over claims that her American housekeeper might have worked for the actress illegally in the U.K.

The Harry Potter actress allegedly had her U.S. housekeeper accompany her to London on a tourist visa even though the employee continued to work for Watson while in the U.K, the Independent reports. While on tourist visas, visitors to the U.K. are forbidden from working. A spokesperson for Watson didn’t comment to the Independent.

The housekeeper, who was thought to have been hired by Watson in New York in early 2013, was reportedly stopped by British immigration officials. Authorities were said to be investigating a complaint that the housekeeper was paid to continue working for Watson in her London home for three months.

If the investigation finds Watson did employ the American at her London home without the proper work permits, the actress could face up to £10,000 ($17,000) in fines.

[The Indpendent]

TIME Military

FBI Launches Criminal Probe Into Veterans Affairs Scandal

The agency director James B. Comey said agents in Phoenix are heading up the investigation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is launching an inquiry into possible criminal wrongdoing stemming from mismanagement at Veterans Affairs clinics, FBI Director James B. Comey said in congressional testimony Wednesday.

“We will follow wherever the facts take us,” Comey said, in response to a question from Rep. Suzan DelBene (D—WA) in a hearing of before the House Judiciary Committee.

Stories of falsified records and serious misconduct have continued to surface after it was revealed earlier this year that more than a dozen veterans may have died while awaiting care at a Phoenix VA clinic. An inspector general’s report released Monday found that more than 100,000 veterans have waited longer than 90 days to see a doctor, including 64,000 over the last decade who simply fell through the cracks, never seeing a VA doctor after seeking an appointment.

The unfolding scandal brought down former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, who resigned under pressure from critics on May 30.

TIME Crime

Elderly Georgia Man Found Beheaded, Wife Still Missing

Russell Dermond's headless body was discovered by worried friends after he and his wife failed to attend a party and answer calls. Authorities worry his wife Shirley, 87, may have been abducted

Federal authorities have joined the investigation of the brutal murder of an elderly Georgia man and the disappearance of his wife, CNN reports.

Russell Dermond, 88, was found decapitated in his suburban Atlanta home on Tuesday by friends concerned about his and his wife’s whereabouts. Shirley Dermond is reportedly missing, while Dermond’s head has not yet been recovered.

The gated community where the couple shared a million-dollar home is typically safe, authorities and residents have told news outlets. But when the Dermonds failed to attend a Kentucky Derby party last weekend, friends and neighbors grew worried.

Investigators, however, do not believe the act was random. Valuables including wallets, a purse, and both of their cellphones were found in the house. Shirley Dermond, 87, is described as a 5-foot-2 gray haired woman who weighs about 148 pounds. Authorities believe she was abducted and have begun searching for her.

“I don’t think it’s a random incident,” Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said, according to CNN. “I think for whatever reason these people were singled out for this.”

[CNN]

TIME Companies

Feds Investigating Nutritional Supplement Company Herbalife

Herbalife
Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The inquiry into the nutritional supplements company comes amid accusations and a lobbying effort led by billionaire Bill Ackman. Ackman placed a $1 billion short on the company last December and has been urging lawmakers to investigate the firm

The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday launched an official inquiry into Herbalife, a nutritional supplement company that has been accused of operating a vast pyramid scheme.

The company announced the inquiry on its website, saying it plans to “cooperate fully” with the FTC. “We are confident that Herbalife is in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations,” the company said. Herbalife’s stock fell on Wednesday after trading of shares paused for about an hour at 1 p.m. EST, according to Marketwatch. When trading resumed, shares had fallen.

The inquiry comes amid accusations and a lobbying effort led by billionaire Bill Ackman, who says the company is complex pyramid scheme. Ackman placed a $1 billion short—a bet that pays off only if the company’s stock falls—on Herbalife last December, and according a recent report in the New York Times, he has been pressuring lawmakers to investigate the company. On Tuesday, Ackman accused the company of breaking Chinese laws.

Herbalife has fiercely defended itself against Ackman’s assault.

“Ackman’s unprecedented campaign to destroy Herbalife has now been exposed for what it is: a cynical, self-serving attempt to manipulate the market by buying his way into an investigation to cover his own reckless $1 billion dollar bet,” the company said in a statement. “There has never been merit to his accusations.”

TIME

Congress to Investigate GM’s Recall of 1.6 Million Vehicles

General Motors-Recall
David Goldman—AP

A U.S. Congressional committee says it will investigate General Motors amid reports that its employees knew, as early as 2004, of a potential lethal defect involving 1.6 million vehicles that would quickly turn off the engine

A U.S. congressional committee said it would investigate General Motor’s delayed recall of 1.6 million vehicles with a potentially lethal defect.

The BBC reports that as early as 2004, GM employees knew of a fault in the ignition that could suddenly switch off the car’s engine. Over the course of 11 years, safety regulators received 250 complaints from drivers who had suddenly lost control of their cars, according to the New York Times. Neither the car maker nor the regulators reacted to the warning signs until last month, when an internal GM investigation linked the deaths of 13 drivers to the faulty ignition.

Rep. Fred Upton said Congress would hold a hearing in the coming weeks to seek “detailed information” from both GM and safety regulators.

[BBC]

TIME Crime

Stolen $5 Million Violin Apparently Didn’t Get Very Far

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Frank Almond plays the Lipinski Stradivarius violin during their Spring for Music festival concert at Carnegie Hall on May 11, 2012 in New York City.
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Frank Almond plays the Lipinski Stradivarius violin during their Spring for Music festival concert at Carnegie Hall on May 11, 2012 in New York City. Jonathan Fickies—Landov

3 people have been arrested in connection with the theft of the multimillion dollar instrument

As Frank Almond walked to his car the night of Jan. 27, violin in hand following another performance of his “Frankly Music” series in Milwaukee, someone approached the Milwaukee Symphony concertmaster with a stun gun. The person zapped Almond, which knocked him to the ground and allowed the assailant to steal the violin—a 1715 Lipinski Stradivarius, estimated to be worth $3 million to $5 million.

The robber got into a getaway van being driven by an accomplice. As they fled, they chucked Almond’s violin case, which contained a GPS unit, as well as Almond’s iPad, which they had also stolen.

The theft itself seemed sophisticated. Everything from there seems to have unraveled.

On Thursday, the Milwaukee Police Department announced it had recovered a violin thought to be the Lipinski Stradivarius. Multiple reports indicate that the recovered violin is the Lipinski. That followed the arrest of three people—two men, ages 41 and 36, and a woman, 32—in connection with the robbery. It’s likely that the thieves had no idea what to do with the violin once they had stolen it. Hawking a well-known multimillion-dollar instrument, let alone selling it for its true worth, is nearly impossible, said Jason Price, director of Tarisio, the world’s largest auction house for musical instruments.

(MORE: 10 Questions for Joshua Bell)

There are roughly 600 Stradivarius violins known to exist, and nearly all are accounted for. If one suddenly pops up, people will hear about it—especially those who are part of the small sliver of the high-end music world who would consider purchasing a seven-figure instrument.

“In a cultural property case, the thieves are usually better at theft than sales and marketing,” said David Hall, who worked on the FBI’s art crime team for more than 20 years. “The challenge for them is to successfully sell it, but that’s where they’re exposed to identification and arrest.”

Robert Whittman, an ex-FBI agent who often worked undercover to locate stolen art, said something like the Lipinski might get 10 percent of its value on the black market—but that’s assuming buyers could even be located.

While a number of Stradivari have been stolen over the years, the use of violence is extremely rare. About a dozen Stradivarius violins are currently considered stolen and their whereabouts unknown, Ratcliffe said. The only stolen Stradivari known to have been linked to violence occurred in 1996, when a German violinist was killed over the Muir-MacKenzie Stradivarius, a violin worth $1.2 million at the time. The instrument was later recovered and the thief convicted.

(MORE: Forgetful Violinist Leaves Priceless Stradivarius on Swiss Train)

“What’s really scary about this is the violence element,” Price said. “It’s not a common occurrence.”

While a number of stolen art experts suspected the theft was international in scope, it appears to be a more isolated incident. One clue: The violin thought to be the Lipinski doesn’t appear to have left Milwaukee.

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