TIME White House

Obama Apologizes to Families of al-Qaeda Hostages Killed in U.S. Drone Strike

'No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy.'

President Barack Obama took “full responsibility” for the death of two hostages held by al-Qaeda in a drone strike in January.

Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Obama said that Dr. Warren Weinstein, an American held since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian national held since 2012, were killed in a counter-terrorism operation on an al-Qaeda compound in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“It’s a cruel and bitter truth that in times of war mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur,” he said. “I offer our deepest apologies to the families.”

Weinstein’s family issued a statement on a website called Bring Warren Home, noting their disappointment

“We do not yet fully understand all of the facts surrounding Warren’s death but we do understand that the U.S. government will be conducting an independent investigation of the circumstances,” they wrote. “We look forward to the results of that investigation. But those who took Warren captive over three years ago bear ultimate responsibility.”

The White House said the same strike is believed to have killed Ahmed Farouq, an al-Qaeda who held American citizenship. Another U.S. strike in January killed American al-Qaeda member Adam Gadahn, Earnest revealed.

“While both Farouq and Gadahn were al-Qaeda members, neither was specifically targeted, and we did not have information indicating their presence at the sites of these operations,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

As of Thursday morning, Gadahn was still listed on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” list.

In 2011, a U.S. drone strike targeted and killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a case that stirred vigorous debate in the U.S. over the killings of Americans fighting alongside terrorist groups without trial.

In his brief statement to reporters, Obama said that after reviewing “hundreds of hours of surveillance, we believed that this was an al-Qaeda compound, that no civilians were present and capturing these terrorists was not possible.”

He added that he has ordered the operations to be declassified so that they could be publicly reviewed.

He also praised the two men, noting they had traveled to Pakistan as aid workers to help those facing poverty.

“There could be no starker contrast between these two selfless men and their al Qaeda captors,” he said.

TIME cities

This Los Angeles Neighborhood Is Fighting to Allow Topless Sunbathing on Its Beaches

The council voted on a measure to OK topless sunbathing on Tuesday

A neighborhood council in California wants to let women sunbathe topless. After a vote on Tuesday, Venice Beach became one step closer to giving topless tanning the green light.

The charge to bring nearly nude sunbathing to Venice Beach is being led by a community officer who’s calling it an equality issue, according to the Los Angeles Times. The council also says topless sunbathing will bring the beach more in step with the Italian city it’s styled after.

“Venice Beach was founded and designed around the European culture of Venice, Italy…topless [sun]bathing is commonplace throughout Europe, much of the world, and many places within the U.S.,” the council argues. In Los Angeles, however, it’s illegal to bask in the sun in one’s birthday suit.

Though the vast majority of the Venice Beach Council voted for the measure, the city council member who represents Venice says he’s got more important issues on his plate. “Right now my priorities for Venice are increasing public safety, housing the homeless, and protecting affordable housing,” Mike Bonin said, according to the LA Times.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

TIME cyber security

Pentagon Announces New Cyberwarfare Plans

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter speaks to reporters at the Pentagon in Washington on April 16, 2015.
James Lawler Duggan—Reuters Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter speaks to reporters at the Pentagon in Washington on April 16, 2015.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter will announce the plans in California on Thursday

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — A new Pentagon cybersecurity strategy lays out for the first time publicly that the U.S. military plans to use cyberwarfare as an option in conflicts with enemies.

The 33-page strategy says the Defense Department “should be able to use cyber operations to disrupt an adversary’s command and control networks, military-related critical infrastructure and weapons capabilities.”

The cybersecurity strategy is the second done by the Pentagon and is slated for release Thursday, but it was obtained early by The Associated Press. The previous strategy, which was publicly released in 2011, made little reference to the Pentagon’s offensive cyber capabilities, although U.S. officials have spoken quietly about the issue.

The new document takes a more open approach in part because officials said the Pentagon wants more transparency in its cyber mission — and because it could provide some deterrence to adversaries.

“I think it will be useful to us for the world to know that, first of all, we’re going to protect ourselves, we’re going to defend ourselves,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters traveling with him to California. He added that the new strategy is “more clear and more specific about everything, including (U.S.) offense.”

The strategy also, for the first time, includes a small section on U.S. concerns about continued cyberespionage by China against U.S. companies and agencies. It says the U.S. will continue to try to work with Beijing to bring greater understanding and transparency of each nation’s cyber missions to “reduce the risks of misperception and miscalculation.”

Carter is in Silicon Valley to reach out to high-tech companies and experts and seek their help in countering the growing cybersecurity threat and ensuring that America’s military has the cutting-edge technologies it needs.

But he is likely to face a tough techie audience that has long been suspicious of U.S. surveillance programs and is determined to protect its clients and customers from government prying. He is giving a speech at Stanford University and expects to meet with technology company leaders, including Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, as well as a group of venture capitalists.

Speaking to reporters on the plane Wednesday, Carter acknowledged the challenge, including suspicions involving the case of intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

“One of the things we need to do is have that dialogue,” said Carter, who has long been entrenched in cybersecurity issues, including when he served as deputy defense secretary. “We have a tremendous common interest in having a safe but also open and prosperous society, so that’s common ground, and it’s that common ground I’m trying to get us to stand on.”

He agreed the military may face a “coolness” shortfall as it tries to lure young Silicon Valley techies to work with the Pentagon.

“To be relevant in today’s world you have to have a coolness factor, so we want that, we want our mission to be exciting to people, for them to feel like it’s cool to be part of something that’s bigger than themselves.”

Carter is expected to make a series of announcements about new ways the Pentagon will partner with technology firms. According to defense officials, he is setting up a full-time unit of military, civilian and reservist workers in the San Francisco Bay area in the next month or so to scout out promising emerging technologies and build better relations with the companies there.

He also will launch a pilot program with In-Q-Tel, a nonprofit technology company that already works with the U.S. intelligence community, to invest in early-stage innovations such as nano-electronics.

And the Pentagon will tap into the U.S. Digital Service to help coordinate the transfer of electronic health records between the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The service was created to help solve problems with the launch of the Obama administration’s HealthCare.gov website.

Cyberattacks against U.S. government and industry have grown increasingly more severe and sophisticated. The new strategy says, “During heightened tensions or outright hostilities, DOD must be able to provide the president with a wide range of options for managing conflict escalation.”

It adds that, as part of those options, the military must have cyber capabilities that can “achieve key security objectives with precision, and to minimize loss of life and destruction of property.”

The announcements come on the heels of President Barack Obama’s decision earlier this month to authorize financial sanctions against malicious overseas hackers or companies that use cyberespionage to steal U.S. trade secrets. Those companies could include state-owned corporations in Russia, China or other countries that have long been named as cyber adversaries.

TIME Education

The College Education Game Just Got Changed

Computer
Matt Cardy—Getty Images

Arizona State now offers online pay-as-you-pass freshman years with no required SAT

Arizona State University (ASU) is partnering with the education nonprofit edX to offer students around the world the opportunity to take freshman year courses online — without a required SAT score or high school transcripts.

The earned credits enable students to finish their degrees at Arizona’s campus or that of any university campus accepting the courses.

Inportantly, students will only pay for classes which they pass and plan to use as college credits.

“For under $6,000, you would have completed a freshman year’s worth of courses. The important thing is you have to pay for credit only if you want to and only if you pass the course,” edX CEO Anant Agarwal told business education web site Poets & Quants.

“The model makes freshman year relatively risk free and significantly less expensive than the typical first year of study on a college campus,” the site said.

Courses featured in the initial offering include math, humanities, arts and design, social-behavioral sciences, and natural sciences.

Read more here.

TIME Ferguson

Civil Lawsuit to Be Filed in Michael Brown’s Death

A protester against police brutality after the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, in St. Louis, Missouri March 14, 2015.
Jim Young—Reuters A protester against police brutality after the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown in St. Louis, Mo., on March 14, 2015

A civil lawsuit against the city of Ferguson will be filed by lawyers for the parents of Michael Brown

(ST. LOUIS) — Lawyers for the parents of Michael Brown, the unarmed, black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a white police officer in a St. Louis suburb, announced Wednesday night that they planned to file a civil lawsuit the following day against the city of Ferguson.

Attorneys for the family said in a statement Wednesday night that the wrongful death lawsuit would be filed Thursday.

The lawsuit had been expected. Attorneys for Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, and his father, Michael Brown Sr., announced at a press conference in early March that a wrongful death lawsuit would be filed “soon.”

Attorneys said at the time that the lawsuit would also name former Officer Darren Wilson, who shot Brown. The statement Wednesday did not mention Brown, and a spokesman for the law firm said he could not provide any additional information about the lawsuit.

Brown’s shooting led to sometimes-violent protests and spawned a national “Black Lives Matter” movement calling for changes in how police deal with minorities.

A St. Louis County grand jury and the U.S. Justice Department declined to prosecute Wilson, who resigned in November. But the Justice Department last month released a scathing report citing racial bias and profiling in the Ferguson Police Department and a profit-driven municipal court system that frequently targets black residents.

Several city officials resigned following the review, including the city manager, police chief and municipal judge. The municipal court clerk was fired for racist emails.

TIME Crime

Authorities Seize Wrong Mexican Girl for Forced Return to U.S.

Alondra Luna Nunez, second from left, sits with her parents, right, Gustavo Luna and Susana Nunez, in Silao, Mexico, April 22, 2015.
Mario Armas—AP Alondra Luna Nunez, second from left, sits with her parents, right, Gustavo Luna and Susana Nunez, in Silao, Mexico, on April 22, 2015

The screaming 14-year-old girl was dragged from her school in Mexico to Houston, but brought back to Mexico when DNA tests confirmed it was a mistaken identity

(MEXICO CITY) — A 14-year-old Mexican girl who was taken by authorities and sent screaming to live in the United States was returned home Wednesday after DNA tests showed she is not the daughter of the Houston woman who claimed her.

The case of Alondra Luna Nunez drew international attention after a video of the distraught girl being forced into a police vehicle last week circulated in media and on social networks.

The Foreign Ministry said Mexican officials were carrying out a court order to send Alondra to Dorotea Garcia, a Houston woman who claimed the girl was her daughter who had been illegally taken to Mexico by her father years ago. Alondra’s family insisted authorities were mistaken but their pleas were ignored.

“They stole my daughter,” Susana Nunez told Milenio Television on Wednesday. “I didn’t know this woman existed.”

But Garcia, speaking to a Houston television station, said the first time she saw the girl, “I saw my daughter.” She gave few details about how she ended up leaving Mexico with the girl, although she said she knows many won’t look kindly on her actions.

“The people who know me don’t need me to give an explanation for what happened,” she said later to The Associated Press. “Whatever explanation I give won’t change the minds of people in Mexico or here.”

Mexican agents assigned to Interpol took Alondra from her middle school in the central state of Guanajuato on April 16 and transported her to a courtroom in the neighboring state of Michoacan, according to a statement from the federal Attorney General’s Office.

In court, Alondra’s parents and Garcia each presented birth certificates and gave testimony, then the judge ruled in favor of Garcia, ordering the girl into her custody, according to the court in Michoacan. A court official, who was not authorized to speak to the press, said on condition of anonymity that Alondra’s parents didn’t present proper documents.

Alondra, upon returning to Mexico, said she asked for a DNA test and the judge turned her down.

The judge who ruled on the case said it wasn’t within her duties to order a DNA test.

“We as judges are only responsible to resolve the case with respect to recovering the minor,” Judge Cinthia Elodia Mercado told the AP. “We don’t do investigations or make inquiries.”

Alondra and Garcia went by bus to Houston, crossing at Laredo, Texas, with the birth certificate of Garcia’s daughter and the court order, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The ministry later intervened to request the DNA test because of the commotion the video was causing.

Alondra later recorded a video, posted to social media, in which she looked calm and happy and told her parents in Mexico not to worry as they waited for results of a DNA test there.

“I’m fine. I see that the United States is nice,” she said, adding, “I don’t understand anything they’re saying, because everything is in English.”

On Wednesday, Alondra spoke to reporters in her hometown of Guanajuato, saying she was happy to be home. She said the video recorded in Houston was intended to assure her parents she was OK, even though she really wasn’t.

“She took me from my parents,” Alondra said. “I didn’t know her or Mr. Reynaldo,” she added, referring to the father of Garcia’s missing daughter.

Many things remained unclear, including who called Interpol from the U.S.

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said U.S. officials had encouraged “timely processing of this case through appropriate government channels.” It was not clear what further action, if any, the department might take on the matter.

It was also unclear how the girl came to be identified as Garcia’s daughter.

In 2007, the Foreign Ministry received a claim stating that Garcia’s then 4-year-old daughter, Alondra Diaz Garcia, had been taken by her father from the U.S. and was believed to be in Michoacan. This year, Garcia went to Mexico and said she had found her daughter in Guanajuato, prompting U.S. authorities to seek the help of Interpol in retrieving her.

Meanwhile, Alondra Diaz Garcia remains missing. Reynaldo Diaz is suspected of abducting her from Houston in 2007, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A felony warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Alondra Luna’s uncle, Ruben Nunez, said that she returned in good condition and that the family is sure to seek some kind of legal damages.

“In whatever form, they will try to sue whoever is found to be responsible,” Nunez told reporters in the airport in Leon, Mexico, after the girl’s arrival. “It’s not right what they did — take the girl just because they could.”

TIME Courts

Former Iowa Lawmaker Found Not Guilty of Sexually Abusing Wife With Dementia

He was accused of having sex with her at a nursing home after being told by staff she wasn't capable of consent

(GARNER, Iowa) — An Iowa jury on Wednesday found a longtime state lawmaker not guilty of sexually abusing his wife who suffered from dementia, an unusual case that centered on when a person is no longer mentally capable of consenting to sex.

After about 13 hours of deliberation over three days, jurors found Henry Rayhons, 78, not guilty of third-degree sexual abuse of his wife, Donna Lou Rayhons. He was accused of having sex with her at a nursing home in May after being told by staff that she was no longer capable of consenting due to dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. She died in August.

Henry Rayhons testified in his own defense that on the night in question the couple held hands, prayed and kissed, but had no sexual contact.

“The truth finally came out,” Rayhons said after the verdict, noting that he believed his wife was “with him” throughout the trial.

Jurors weighed testimony from family members, doctors and investigators throughout the trial in Hancock County Court. Rayhons’ defense attorney said a guilty verdict could raise fears that any interaction between spouses could be interpreted as sexual abuse. Prosecutors said a not guilty verdict would put others with dementia at risk of being harmed.

Iowa law defines an act as sexual abuse in the third degree if the two parties are not living together as husband and wife and if one person “is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity which precludes giving consent.”

Mark Kosieradzki, a Minneapolis-based attorney who has tried numerous cases of sexual abuse in nursing homes, said it wasn’t clear whether the jury concluded that she was able to consent or if they decided that the prosecution had failed to prove that sex took place on that day.

“But the legal question doesn’t change. It should always be a matter of consent of the patient,” Kosieradzki said.

Jurors on Tuesday submitted a note to the judge, asking how many days are included in the prosecution’s allegation that a sex act occurred “on or about” May 23. The court answered that a set number of days couldn’t be provided.

Henry and Donna Lou Rayhons were married for seven years, the second marriage for both after they had been widowed. The dispute began last year when Donna Lou Rayhons’ health deteriorated and she was moved to a nursing home in the town of Garner.

The family conflict that erupted between Henry Rayhons and his wife’s daughters from her previous marriage over how to care for her culminated in a meeting in which the nursing home staff briefly told Rayhons that his wife was no longer mentally capable of legally consenting to sex. In his testimony, Rayhons said he thought this was a doctor’s advice, not an order.

Donna Lou Rayhons’ daughters declined comment through an attorney after the verdict Wednesday.

During the trial, nursing home staffers testified that Donna Lou Rayhons’ roommate talked about the couple having sex behind a curtain, but in testimony the roommate was unsure whether the noises she heard that day were sexual in nature.

Prosecutors said investigators found DNA evidence on sheets and a quilt in his wife’s room. They also played a recorded interview with an investigator that showed Rayhons initially said he and his wife never had sex at the nursing home, but later said they had a few times, and possibly briefly on the day in question.

Security camera video from the night of the alleged incident was also aired in court, showing Henry Rayhons going into his wife’s room, staying there for about half an hour and depositing something into a laundry cart on his way out. Rayhons’ attorney said his client frequently dropped his wife’s laundry into the bin, but prosecutors said he was trying to discard evidence.

“Our office prosecuted this case based on a complaint, thorough law enforcement investigation, and Iowa law,” said Geoff Greenwood, spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. “The jury made its decision, which we respect.”

The nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association said it was not taking a position on the case, but noted that it highlighted the importance of conversations about patients’ capacity for decision-making.

Rayhons served 18 years as a Republican member of the Iowa House. He withdrew from the race for another term shortly before he was charged last year.

TIME police

New Protests Erupt in Baltimore Over Freddie Gray Case

The Rev. Westley West leads a march for Freddie Gray to the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station on April 22, 2015, in Baltimore.
Patrick Semansky—AP The Rev. Westley West leads a march for Freddie Gray to the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station on April 22, 2015, in Baltimore.

A look at the developments on Wednesday

(BALTIMORE) — A 25-year-old Baltimore man died a week after his spine was mysteriously injured while he was in police custody.

A look at the developments Wednesday in the case of Freddie Gray.

___

LYNCH MOB?

A statement released by the Baltimore police union comparing protesters of Gray’s death to a “lynch mob” drew criticism on Twitter by users who called it racially insensitive and inappropriate, given that the demonstrations have been peaceful.

A little later, at a news conference, union President Gene Ryan backpedaled, saying, “Maybe I should reword that.”

“I don’t want it to turn into a lynch mob,” he said.

“I’m afraid of the crowd becoming hostile,” said a tense-sounding Ryan. “They have been very peaceful to this point. My main concern is for the public and the police officers that they remain peaceful and exercise their constitutional right to do what they’re doing.”

Ryan said he feared violence because of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York that followed police-involved deaths of unarmed suspects.

___

#WeHearYou

One of two groups of protesters marched in the streets for 20 blocks Wednesday night, blocking intersections and disrupting traffic for short periods of time before moving on. They passed near the hospital where Gray died, and continued on to the Inner Harbor before stopping in front of City Hall.

Once there, some paused in front of a fountain and raised their hands, saying, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” They then approached barricades and officers protecting a courtyard directly in front of City Hall. A man with a bullhorn chanted, “No justice, no peace.”

The group then marched to an onramp of Interstate 83, a highway that cuts through the city. The ramp was blocked by several police cruisers and a line of officers, their arms linked.

Pastor Wesley West of Faith Empowered Ministries linked arms with Gray’s cousin, Carron Morgan, and they faced the crowd. After West led chants for justice and peace, and called for a moment of silence, protesters headed away from the interstate.

Morgan, 18, turned and quickly shook one of the officer’s hands.

Asked why, he said: “At the end of the day, I don’t think all cops are bad, just that some are corrupt.”

Baltimore police took to Twitter to provide updates of where the marchers were, using the hashtag, #WeHearYou.

___

ANGER

At a second protest at the Western District police precinct, more than 100 demonstrators pushed on a barricade, and about 30 police officers pushed back. Some protesters hurled obscenities and threw soda cans and bottles at the line of police behind the barricades, but none hit the officers and the demonstration remained largely peaceful.

For the most part, police ignored the insults did not react to provocations from the protesters.

At least three people were detained. No one was injured.

Mark Hill said anger in the community reached a boiling point after Gray’s death, but that the frustration is longstanding.

“It’s getting charged out here because people are really getting tired,” Hill said. “There’s a fear in the community of what police might do to you.

He said he has little confidence that police will be forthcoming about what happened to Gray.

“This is not an isolated event. This has been going on forever,” he said.

Bernadette Washington said she has been marching every day since Gray’s death.

Washington grew up with Gray and called him a good person who didn’t need to die. She didn’t understand why the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest are still drawing a paycheck while they’re suspended.

“All we want is justice,” Washington said.

___

INVESTIGATONS

Five of the six officers involved in Gray’s arrest gave statements that day, a week before his death, police said Wednesday while declining to reveal the content of what they said.

An attorney who works with the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police had mentioned the statements earlier in the day as a way of showing that the officers involved have been cooperative.

Police said the department’s internal investigation into Gray’s arrest will be turned over to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office for review on May 1. The prosecutor’s office can determine whether to file charges against the officers involved or present the case to a grand jury.

The U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Gray’s death.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she welcomed the Justice Department’s involvement. She has called along for an outside review.

“Whenever a police force conducts an internal investigation, there are always appropriate questions of transparency and impartiality,” she said in a statement. “My goal has always been to get answers to the questions so many of us are still asking with regards to Mr. Gray’s death.”

Gray’s family has an attorney who is working on his own investigation.

___

GOVERNOR’S VIEW

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he has spoken with city and state officials about the situation and won’t be ordering any further investigations.

He said he believes the current investigations are being handled properly and that “the last thing we need is people stepping all over each other.”

“We don’t want to make politics out of this tragic situation,” Hogan told reporters after an Earth Day event in Annapolis.

He said his heart goes out to Gray’s family “and everyone involved in the entire incident.”

“Like everyone else, we are hoping to get to the bottom of it and find out the facts.”

__

Associated Press reporters Amanda Lee Myers and David Dishneau contributed to this report.

TIME intelligence

McConnell Introduces Bill to Extend Surveillance Under Patriot Act

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to the media following the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on April 21, 2015.
Bill Clark—AP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to the media following the Senate Republicans' policy lunch in the Capitol on April 21, 2015.

The bill comes amid a bipartisan effort to curb the NSA's expansive collection of Americans' phone records

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a bill Tuesday evening that would renew several sections of the Patriot Act, which grants expansive powers of surveillance to intelligence agencies, that are set to expire this summer.

Among the act’s provisions that would be renewed until 2020 rather than expiring in June is Section 215, the National Journal reports. The hotly contested authority laid the legal groundwork for the National Security Agency’s sweeping collection of metadata from millions of Americans’ phone records.

The bill appears to challenge a bipartisan effort to amend Section 215 with stricter guidelines on what information intelligence agents can collect and retain.

TIME Crime

Son of Presidential Candidate Cited for DUI After Crash

Rand Paul's son was not arrested, which a Lexington Police spokeswoman said was standard in this type of case

(FRAKNFORT, Ky.) — A son of Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has been cited for driving under the influence of alcohol in Kentucky.

Police in Lexington say William H. Paul was driving a 2006 Honda Ridgeline at 11:24 a.m. on Sunday when he crashed into the back of an unoccupied parked car. Some people nearby heard the crash and alerted authorities.

Lexington Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said Paul was treated at the University of Kentucky hospital for minor injuries to his face. She said a police officer cited Paul for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and failure of a nonowner/operator to maintain insurance.

Paul was alone at the time of the crash. He was not arrested, which Roberts said is standard for this type of case.

A campaign spokesman said Sen. Rand Paul does not comment on any private matters in regards to his family.

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