Soldiers responsibile for slaughter get court martialed


According to the Globe & Mail’s website:

A 22-year-old soldier accused of taking a lead role in a brutal plot to murder Afghan civilians faces a military trial Wednesday in a case that involves some of the most serious criminal allegations to arise from the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Spc. Jeremy Morlock, of Wasilla, Alaska, has agreed to plead guilty to three counts of murder, one count of conspiracy to commit assault and battery, and one count of illegal drug use in exchange for a maximum sentence of 24 years, said Geoffrey Nathan, one of his lawyers.

His client is one of five soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 5th Stryker Brigade charged in the killings of three unarmed Afghan men in Kandahar province in January, February and May 2010. Mr. Morlock is the first of the five men to face a trial, known in the military as a court-martial — which Mr. Nathan characterized as an advantage.

“The first up gets the best deal,” he said by phone Tuesday, noting that even under the maximum sentence, Mr. Morlock would serve no more than eight years before becoming eligible for parole.

According to a copy of the plea agreement, Mr. Morlock has agreed to testify against his co-defendants. In his plea deal, Mr. Morlock said he and others slaughtered the three civilians knowing that they were unarmed and posed no legitimate threat.

He also described lobbing a grenade at the civilian in the January incident while another soldier shot at him, and then lying about it to his squad leader.

The court-martial comes days after a German news organization, Der Spiegel, published three graphic photos showing Mr. Morlock and other soldiers posing with dead Afghans. One image features Mr. Morlock grinning as he lifts the head of a corpse by its hair.

Army officials had sought to strictly limit access to the photographs due to their sensitive nature. A spokesman for the magazine declined to say how it had obtained the pictures, citing the need to protect its sources.

Mr. Morlock told investigators the murder plot was led by Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, of Billings, Montana, who is also charged in the case. Mr. Gibbs maintains the reasons behind the killings were legitimate.

Mr. Nathan said Mr. Morlock’s mother and hockey coach are among the witnesses who might testify on his behalf in court. He indicated the defence would argue that a lack of leadership in the unit contributed to the killings.

“He’s really a good kid. This is just a bad war at a bad time in our country’s history,” Mr. Nathan said. “There was a lack of supervision, a lack of command control, the environment was terrible. In his mind, he had no choice.”

After the January killing, platoon member Spc. Adam Winfield, of Cape Coral, Florida, sent Facebook messages to his parents saying that his fellow soldiers had murdered a civilian and were planning to kill more. Mr. Winfield said his colleagues warned him not to tell anyone.

Mr. Winfield’s father alerted a staff sergeant at Lewis-McChord, which is south of Seattle, but no action was taken until May, when a witness in a drug investigation in the unit also reported the deaths.

Mr. Winfield is accused of participating in the final murder. He admitted in a videotaped interview that he took part and said he feared the others might kill him if he didn’t.

Also charged in the murders are Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Holmes of Boise, Idaho, and Spc. Michael Wagnon II of Las Vegas.

Seven other soldiers in the platoon are charged with lesser crimes, including assaulting the witness in the drug investigation, drug use, firing on unarmed farmers and stabbing a corpse.

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Local attorney files suit over 9 North Road construction


On Wednesday, Richard McClure took a stance against the Epsilon Group by finding new causes to go to court. McClure’s charges came two days after the Chelmsford Board of Selectmen (BoS) voted in favor of the project, claiming that the construction doesn’t violate a 1978 preservation restriction. The August 25th filing of the case was also the deadline to revoke the building permit for the construction.

This is the latest of line of a grand total of four suites against the Epsilon’s group project. At least one of the cases was willingly dropped by the plaintiffs. This was due to the fact the BoS refused to meet for a vote while there was a case pending in the courts. After the case was dropped, the BoS eventually scheduled a meeting—a mere 48 hours before the town’s deadline to repeal the Eliopoulos’s permit.

In the current case, McClure states that “…there were improper, invalid, and absent approvals by required boards and improper notice of public hearings by those boards.” The suite also calls the permits, “…’whimsical, capricious, arbitrary, unconstitutional and unlawful.’”

Chelmsford BoS cower under threat of lawsuit


On August 23rd, the Chelmsford Board of Selectman (BoS) held a town meeting to vote on the construction proposal for 9 North Road and whether it violated a preservation restriction. Though the selectmen seemed contemplative throughout the meeting, their composure appeared lost after the Epsilon’s lawyer forewarned of a lawsuit should the BoS repeal their permit.

What makes this project so controversial is due to a preservation restriction that was created in 1978. The Epsilon group, which represents the Eliopoulos family, claims that restriction doesn’t bar all construction. The group also claims that the intentions of the restriction and the 1978 BoS are not only immaterial, but inapplicable to the project. Specifically, the Epsilon group focuses its argument on Articles 2 and 6 of the restriction. These sections require that any construction be “barnlike” in appearance, that all construction not exceed 55% of the total land area, and that the owners have a limited right to develop the land, respectively.

Such bold statements were probably a smack in the face for former selectman, John W. Carson. Carson, who was on the BoS in 1978, adamantly spoke out against the project at the meeting. According to Carson, he and the other two surviving selectman that signed the restriction crafted the measure in order to preserve the open land as a public park. Carson’s argument relies on Articles 5, 7 and 8 of the restriction. The sections maintain that the land is to be maintained as a park, that all structures are to be small, and that all buildings must match the architecture of the Emerson barn.

The board’s 2 to 1 vote in favor of the project was met with resounding outrage from the dozens of citizens that attended the meeting. Though there was support for the construction, it seemed to have been overwhelmed by the public’s opposition.

Transparency concerns raised during first Doherty-Donoghue debate, part 1


Tuesday’s debate between Chris Doherty and Eileen Donoghue, both Democrats from Lowell, was surprisingly fair to both candidates. Radio station WCAP, or 980 AM, allowed both Doherty and Donoghue equal time to respond to the questions though both occasionally exceeded the allotted time. This was the first of several debates that has been scheduled before the primary.

On most of the issues, both candidates gave similar, if not identical, answers to the questions they were asked. On the issue of illegal immigration, both candidates went on the record as not supporting illegal immigration. Both stated that they would enforce current laws. In regards to the recent $35 million loan that went to Lawrence, both candidates expressed support as it included safeguards to ensure that the Commonwealth was paid back.

Both candidates spoke out against allowing cities and towns raising local taxes above Proposition 2 ½ allowances. This is an important issue in light of the state reducing local aid by 4%, which means that cities and towns will need to find creative ways to solve their budget problems.

However, Doherty and Donoghue did not completely see eye to eye on every issue.

When the candidates were asked whether or not they supported Patrick’s recent CORI reform bill, Doherty said he doesn’t support the legislation, while Donoghue’s answer wasn’t as straightforward. Donoghue seems to support some, but not all, of the provisions as she claimed her response wasn’t exactly a yes or no answer.

When asked about what they would do to stimulate the economy, Donoghue stressed the importance of helping to lower health care costs for small businesses and that state regulations are tough on small businesses. Doherty talked about promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses, which comprise the STEM program.

To keep reading, click here.

No Women, No Play project launched


With a concert and much fanfare, the Institute for Gulf Affairs (IGA) launched their “No Women, No Play” project in Washington, D.C. The aim of the project is to improve women’s rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) by boycotting the country from the Olympics. The IGA is a think tank that focuses on improving U.S. – Middle East relations by regularly meeting with members of the government and the media, so as to ensure that everyone is well-informed of developments in the area.

The concert took place in DuPont Circle, a major hub of activity within the district, on July 31st. The concert included performers Yvette Benjamin (aka Free) and Muneer AlAsheq. Speakers included Erin Matson, Vice President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Palestinian-American women’s rights activist, Besama Adriana Alghussein.

According to a recent press release on the IGA’s website, the program was created to put pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to enforce their charter.  The IOC is specifically mandated to “act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement,” and to “encourage and support the promotion of women…with a view to implementing the principle of of equality between men and women.”

The logic behind the project is straightforward. Currently, though women have separate athletic facilities within the country, the KSA bars them from participating in the Olympics. The KSA’s practice is a direct violation of the principles which created the Olympic movement. As specifically stated with the Olympic Charter:

The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind…any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on the grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement. Pg 11

The charter also explains that any member country must abide by the charter. Furthermore, the IOC is “supreme authority” of the Olympic Movement and is thus charged to enforce the charter. Any decision made by the IOC is considered binding and must be followed.

Essentially, the project is relating the KSA’s practice to South Africa’s race apartheid. The comparison being if South Africa was banned until they stopped discriminating against blacks, then KSA should be banned until they stop discriminating against women.

For more information on this project, please visit the IGA’s website which is http://www.gulfinstitute.org. Email questions and comments directly to nowomennoplay@gulfinstitute.org or rachel@gulfinstitute.org. Updates are sent to Twitter and Facebook as well.

Alleged unsound politics behind construction


Today residents received a pamphlet discussing a construction controversy in Chelmsford, which is backed by the prominent Eliopoulos family. The pamphlet is being circulated by Roland Van Liew. Van Liew is the President of Hands On Technology Transfer, Inc. (HOTT), which is based in Chelmsford. The Eliopoulos family, alleges HOTT, might be flying past obstacles in its efforts to build 15, 000 sq. ft. commercial building. The problem here is that the construction seems to be deflecting restrictions too quickly and effortlessly, which is what HOTT appears to be claiming.

The land in question is located behind the fire station in the center of town, and is protected by a decades-old provision which bars construction on the site. There have been several big plans for the plot, including updating and expanding the neighboring fire station. Since the land is now privately owned by the Eliopoulos family, the plans to fix the station at its current location aren’t possible.

According to HOTT’s circulation, Eliopoulos’s construction proposal “…unlawfully violates the letter and the spirit of a deed restriction on the property, and both of those points along with many others were made in opposition to the permits.” Van Liew’s critique is that the Board of Selectmen should have said no, and not yes, to the proposal given longstanding restrictions.

Van Liew does not appear to be the only resident with such concerns. Former Town Selectman Peter Lawlor and Michael Sargent have filed suit in Land Court claiming that the Eliopoulos proposal is a direct violation of the 1978 historical preservation restriction.

Getting to the heart of issue is tough because two seemingly contradictory interests are at play: preserve historical sites or expand the business community. This balancing act has been an imporant part of the town’s Master Plan for years, which is why some areas of the town appear more urban than others.

This controversy is made all the more contentious as both sides are swapping barbs. In response to being portrayed as self-serving, the Eliopoulos family is calling Van Liew a liar.

Baker fumbles over negative ad controversy


That cities and towns are asking for funding is a point of interest that seemed to have gone unmentioned in the recent negative ads against Patrick. Over the past few days, Charlie Baker’s campaign has been releasing ads which appear to portray Patrick as someone who has selective hearing when it comes to the strained economy and reducing taxes.

Given the tough economic times, its understandable that the state is hearing more requests for funding. Today, the town of Chelmsford received a state grant for the Parker Middle School. The school will now be able to install solar panels as a part of the town’s efforts to switch to renewables.

The grant was awarded by the state in conjunction with the Green Communities Act, which was passed two years ago. The purpose of the act is to help municipalities switch to renewable energy sources. Under the act, several specific guidelines must be met in order for any city or town to receive funding. The guidelines include, but are not limited to, enacting zoning regulations that permit renewable energy buildings and implementing the Stretch Energy Code.

Though Parker is receiving $187, 224 in grant money, that figure is a part of the larger $8.1 million for which Chelmsford is currently eligible. Chelmsford was recognized as a Green Community by the Bay state in May of this year.

Baker (R-Swampscott) has a legitimate concern about the points he raises. With the cost of living increasing and the economy moving as slowly as it is, this writer agrees with the gubernatorial candidate that things should change for the better. What confuses this analyst was his campaign’s decision to broach these topics in this manner.

Negative ads appear “effective” so long as they don’t backfire on the candidate promoting them. More often than not, candidates seem to play Russian roulette because most seem to get a fair amount of whiplash afterward. Given the uncertainty midterm elections can create, any candidate seeking to monopolize on potential opportunities probably doesn’t want to be knocked out of the running.

With that in mind, why would Baker allow himself to be associated with apparently unfair ads? In doing so, Baker gives the impression that he used technical glitches to give himself a dishonest advantage. If this isn’t what Baker intended, then he’s due for damage control.