In brief | Nation & world | 030714


Army general accused of sex assault faces up to 15 years for guilty plea to 3 lesser charges

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — In his immaculate blue dress uniform, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair stood ramrod straight before a judge Thursday and pleaded guilty to three charges that could send him to prison for up to 15 years.

It was a remarkable admission sure to end the military career of a man once regarded as a rising star among the U.S. Army’s small cadre of trusted battle commanders.

Sinclair, 51, still faces five other charges stemming from the claims of a female captain nearly 20 years his junior who says the general twice forced her to perform oral sex. But by pleading guilty to the lesser charges, Sinclair’s lawyers believe they will strengthen his case at trial by potentially limiting some of the salacious evidence prosecutors can present.

The former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the sexual assaults. Opening statements were expected Friday.

Asked by judge Col. James Pohl whether he clearly understood the consequences of his admissions, the decorated veteran of five combat deployments answered in a clear voice, with no emotion: “Yes sir.”

Forecasters expect El Nino ocean warming this year, may provide relief for weather woes

WASHINGTON — Relief may be on the way for a weather-weary United States with the predicted warming of the central Pacific Ocean brewing this year that will likely change weather worldwide. But it won’t be for the better everywhere.

The warming, called an El Nino, is expected to lead to fewer Atlantic hurricanes and more rain next winter for drought-stricken California and southern states, and even a milder winter for the nation’s frigid northern tier next year, meteorologists say.

While it could be good news to lessen the southwestern U.S. drought and shrink heating bills next winter in the far north, “worldwide it can be quite a different story,” said North Carolina State University atmospheric sciences professor Ken Kunkel. “Some areas benefit. Some don’t.”

Globally, it can mean an even hotter year coming up and billions of dollars in losses for food crops.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration issued an official El Nino watch Thursday. An El Nino is a warming of the central Pacific once every few years, from a combination of wind and waves in the tropics. It shakes up climate around the world, changing rain and temperature patterns.

Advocacy groups urge Girl Scouts to end partnership with Mattel and Barbie

NEW YORK — America’s top doll, Barbie, finds herself in controversy once again, this time over a business partnership between her manufacturer, Mattel, and the Girl Scouts.

On Thursday, two consumer advocacy groups often critical of corporate advertising tactics — the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for a New American Dream — criticized Barbie as a flawed role model for little girls and launched a petition drive urging the Girl Scouts of the USA to end the partnership. The Girls Scouts said they would not do so.

Just a few weeks ago, Mattel incurred widespread criticism — as well as some accolades — for letting Barbie be featured in Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit edition.

The Girl Scouts’ partnership with Mattel, announced last August, includes a Barbie-themed activity book, a website, and a Barbie participation patch — the first Girl Scout uniform patch with corporate sponsorship.

“Holding Barbie, the quintessential fashion doll, up as a role model for Girl Scouts simultaneously sexualizes young girls, idealizes an impossible body type, and undermines the Girl Scouts’ vital mission to build ‘girls of courage, confidence and character,’” said Susan Linn, director of the Boston-based commercial-free childhood organization.

By wire sources