In Brief | Nation & World 3-10-13


Daylight saving time begins on mainland

WASHINGTON — Spring must be around the corner. It’s time to set the clocks forward for daylight saving time.

At 2 a.m. local time Sunday, daylight saving time arrived with the promise of many months ahead with an extra hour of evening light.

Some places don’t observe daylight saving time. Those include Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.

Daylight saving time ends Nov. 3.

Military sexual assault case triggers political furor

WASHINGTON — An Air Force general who overturned the sexual assault conviction of a fellow fighter pilot now finds himself caught in a political crossfire that could change military justice; perhaps, some fear, for the worse.

Citing the general’s actions, lawmakers including Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Claire McCaskill of Missouri are pressuring the Pentagon to restrict commanding officers’ power to dismiss court-martial convictions. The lawmakers are not, however, seeking to restrict their officers’ corresponding power to press ahead with sexual assault cases that investigators may consider weak.

The result could be a further tilting of scales that some fear already may be swinging out of balance, as a military that once seemed oblivious to sexual assault now moves full force against it.

Lawmakers are mobilizing in the wake of Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin’s Feb. 26 overturning of the aggravated sexual assault conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, an F-16 pilot who’s back on active duty after his release from a military prison in Charleston, S.C.

“This is a travesty of justice,” Boxer and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., wrote Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday. “At a time when the military has unequivocally stated that there is zero tolerance for sexual assault, this is not the message it should be sending.”

McCaskill, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, blasted “the arbitrary decision of one general” to reject a military conviction.

“This could be a tipping point, I think, for the American people to rise up, particularly the women, and say, ‘I don’t think one general should be able to overturn a jury,’” McCaskill told Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, the head of the U.S. Central Command.

All of which worries military defense attorneys and scholars, who fear a congressional overreaction.

“The senators’ … statements are a danger to the fair administration of military justice, not just in the Wilkerson case, but in all pending and future military justice cases, especially those involving sexual assault,” defense attorney Phil Cave cautioned in an interview.

A former Navy legal officer, Cave added lawmakers’ “specific interference” in the Wilkerson case amounted to an abuse of their authority and might amount to unlawful command influence. Wilkerson’s civilian defense attorney, Frank Spinner, agreed in an interview Friday that “the senators’ statements may constitute unlawful command influence and will have a chilling effect” on military officials.

Sistine chimney installed as conclave nears

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican sought Saturday to quash speculation that divisions among cardinals could drag out the conclave to elect the new pope, while preparations for the vote plowed ahead with firefighters installing the Sistine Chapel chimney that will tell the world when a decision has been reached.

But the specter of an inconclusive first few rounds of secret balloting remained high, with no clear front-runner heading into Tuesday’s papal election and a long list of cardinals still angling to discuss the church’s problems ahead of the vote.

Deadly bombings mar Hagel’s Afghan visit

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two deadly suicide bombings minutes apart Saturday morning marred Chuck Hagel’s maiden visit to Afghanistan as defense secretary and served as a jarring reminder of the problems still facing the U.S. as it seeks to disengage from the 11-year-old war.

A bicyclist detonated explosives strapped to his body about 30 yards from a main entrance of the Defense Ministry in Kabul about 8:45 a.m., mowing down Afghans who were waiting in line to enter the compound, U.S. officials said.

The bomb killed at least nine civilians and wounded 14 people, including two Afghan army soldiers, the Defense Ministry said.

Hagel was getting a briefing at a U.S. facility half a mile away when the blast occurred. The Taliban swiftly claimed responsibility for the attack.

Less than an hour later, a suicide bomber on foot tried to pass through a police checkpoint in the eastern province of Khowst, killing eight children and a police officer in the provincial capital of the same name, the deputy police chief said.

By wire sources