The bells tolled on Saturday as tearful Christians crushed past the Cairo cathedral’s gate hours after Pope Shenuda III’s death, to get a glimpse of the man they called “father” in an uncertain time for the Egyptian minority.
Within an hour of the announcement of his death, traffic was jammed for kilometres leading to the St Mark’s Cathedral, where the spiritual leader of the region’s largest Christian minority was based.
The Copts, increasingly tight-knit in the face of assertive Islamists, displayed the crosses many have had tattooed on their wrists to get inside the church grounds and to the steps of Shenuda’s offices, where they were told the pope’s body lay waiting for the funeral.
“We love you, Father,” they chanted, hoping for a final glimpse of the pontiff who led their community since 1971.
“The pope is wise, he was the father every young man, woman, widows and the orphaned,” said Emil Essam, 28, his eyes red from sobbing.
“We have had many crises, and he gave us wisdom throughout all of them. He prayed for us throughout our oppression,” he said, turning his back to Shenuda’s offices to face east to pray.
The men and women chanted a mournful hymn in the ancient Coptic language and Arabic.
“They’re saying: ‘God please save us, oh Jesus,” said Isaac Zakaria, an 18-year-old university student.
“He was like my father. He was wise, and very open-minded. There will be no one like him in the future,” he said.
Outside, policemen stood guard with sniffer dogs to detect explosives, a reminder of the dangers faced by the ever more beleaguered Christians in the Muslim majority country.
Shenuda had come under unprecedented criticism by his flock after a suicide bombing killed more than 20 churchgoers in January 2011, weeks before a popular uprising ousted president Hosni Mubarak.
He risked some of his credibility by supporting the increasingly unpopular dictator, and with his calls to turn the other cheek despite increasing sectarian attacks.
Years earlier, the pope had been placed under house arrest by Mubarak’s predecessor Anwar Sadat, who Shenuda denounced for courting Islamists.
But Mubarak, the Coptic Church believed, acted as a bulwark against the fundamentalists who questioned the Christians’ equality in Egypt.
Misgivings about Shenuda’s positions were overshadowed by a series of deadly blows against the Christians after the uprising that overthrew Mubarak.
Those attacks culminated in a bloody clash in October with soldiers that left at least 20 Coptic protesters dead. They had been protesting against an earlier attack on a church in southern Egypt.
On Saturday, the mourners said Shenuda had helped unite the country.
“He was a patriot, first and foremost,” said Osama Gamal.
Muammar Gaddafi’s eldest son is due to be taken to a prison within a prison in the suburbs of Tripoli to await trial.
Behind a grey forbidding wall on the outskirts of the Libyan capital sits a secret prison constructed to hold just one prisoner – Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. The heir apparent to Libya’s late dictator Muammar Gaddafi will be moved here from custody in the mountain town of Zintan in the coming weeks to face a controversial war crimes trial that will pitch Libya against the International Criminal Court.
Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council is taking no chances: to house this one man, they have emptied Tripoli’s biggest jail, Al Ahdath, and built a prison-within-a-prison to accommodate him. The Observer was last week granted exclusive access to the jail, which sits amid warehouses and sprawling countryside in the suburb of Tajura.
Entry is through an imposing gate guarded by militia jeeps sporting anti-aircraft machine guns. A quarter-mile drive up a tree-lined avenue ends at the buildings that previously held more than a thousand women and juveniles. Beyond that, hidden behind a 50ft grey wall, is Saif’s compound, a place so secret it does not yet have a name.
Home will be a specially built blockhouse which sits on one side of a courtyard. Inside, there are two exercise yards, each covered with sturdy steel mesh designed to combat the chance of a helicopter rescue attempt.
His cell is still being fitted out, and sits behind a plain grey door secured by a single bolt and padlock, the paint freshly applied. The blockhouse is designed so that he need never leave it, with a warren of corridors and locked doors allowing him to move between his cell and the exercise yards. Across the yard is an indoor football and basketball court, housed in a handsome beige building with tinted green windows and white columns at the entrance, looking more a luxury villa than a prison gym.
Inside are facilities allowing Saif to play five-a-side football and basketball, though it is unclear who he will play with. There is even a touch of grim humour in the compound, with one of the workmen due to paint the walls placing a white handprint on the wall by the cell entrance.
The luxurious conditions, which will include a private mosque, personal chef, 24-hour medical cover and satellite television, have provoked mixed reactions from the guards. “If Obama came here, or Sarkozy or Cameron, they would be very happy with the accommodation, it is luxury,” said one guard in a black sweater, a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder. “It’s not a prison, it’s a holiday resort.”
Another bearded guard working in the prison office outside the walled compound said: “There is not one thing Saif will not have here. This prison is like a castle, a castle fit for a king.”
The intense security surrounding Saif’s prison is testament to the power the Gaddafi family continue to hold on the minds of Libya’s rulers.
When another of Gaddafi’s sons, Saadi, now exiled in Niger, predicted a loyalist uprising to coincide with the anniversary of the Libyan revolution last year, thousands of militiamen took to the streets of the main cities to guard against it.
Saif, 39, whose name means “sword of Islam” was once expected to take the reins of power from his father and prior to last year’s revolution was seen as a moderating force in the country. He controversially gave £1.5m to the London School of Economics after the university awarded him a disputed PhD.
But in the war he took a leading role in suppressing the rebels, fleeing the capital when it fell to militia forces last August. He was arrested last November in the Sahara desert dressed as a bedouin tribesman as he tried to flee the country. Since then he has been housed in a villa in the fortified mountain town of Zintan.
Libya’s government has persuaded the Zintan militia to hand him over to federal custody, and Libya’s president, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, declared last month that Saif’s trial will begin once the jail is finished. “By God’s will, Saif al-Islam Qaddafi will receive a fair trial.”
But the decision to hold the trial on home soil has infuriated judges at the International Criminal Court, which charged Saif last year with war crimes and crimes against humanity, accusing him of masterminding a murderous campaign against Libyan civilians during the revolution.
ICC rules say a state can try its suspects only if it can demonstrate it will give a fair trial – and Hague court documents show that Tripoli has not even made an application. A blistering report accusing Libya of non-compliance has already been submitted to Hague judges from their Public Council for the Defence. The report accuses Libya of failing to give Saif access to a lawyer or allowing him to communicate with his family, and recommends the court report Libya to the UN Security Council for breaking ICC rules.
“When viewed against the lack of due process afforded to Mr Gaddafi, and the general backdrop of credible reports concerning allegations of torture and mistreatment of detainees, there is no basis for asserting that the ICC should defer the case to Libya,” says the report.
Human rights groups complain that Libya’s legal system is in chaos, and that the charges against Saif have yet to be announced. “So far as we know he has not yet been charged and obviously preparation for defence can only begin in earnest once formally charged,” said Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International, “the whole thing being conditional on the courts and judiciary actually functioning, which does not yet appear to be the case.”
Libya’s authorities insist a fair trial is possible, telling the ICC last year that “the Libyan state is willing and able to try him in accordance with Libyan law”.
Saif, who is fluent in English and lived in London, may also be able to answer questions about allegations in the French media last week that his father gave Nikolas Sarkozy €50m to help his 2007 election campaign.
There is far more to smartphone life than Apple’s iPhone. Google launched its Android software in 2008 and has since sold more than 300m of its smartphones; currently, more than 850,000 are added to that number every day.
More than 450,000 apps are available on Google Play, which is generating more than 1bn app downloads every month. The latest Android smartphones are also viable competitors to the iPhone (stylish and powerful phones from companies such as Samsung, HTC and Sony Ericsson have been flying off the shelves in the UK), but Android apps haven’t always had a great press. Android has been criticised on security grounds, with accusations that there are more viruses and malware apps on Google’s store than on Apple’s App Store. However, Android apps have to ask for explicit permission to access your personal data and phone features, so familiarise yourself with these permissions requests when installing apps and you’ll be less at risk.
Big games such as Grand Theft Auto III and Angry Birds Rio now launch on Android at the same time as on iPhone, while all the major social networking apps are also available on both. There is a growing catalogue of useful productivity tools and lifestyle apps, while Google has ensured that its key web services all have polished incarnations for Android.
Over time, Google has made it easier for people with Android smartphones to find new apps, too. Its recently rebranded Google Play store has improved greatly on the one available when the first Android phone went on sale, but as with iPhone, finding the best apps can still feel like rooting through a digital haystack; apps such as Appsfire (featured here) are making the needle hunt less of a chore.
Android is interesting, because it attracts two very different kinds of people: on the one hand, tech-savvy users who have made a decision to choose Android over iPhone and regular phone users who want a nice smartphone for a more affordable price. We’ve taken as read that you’ll be installing some of the most obvious apps, such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Amazon Kindle, BBC iPlayer and eBay, which is why they aren’t in this list.
We’ve left out some very good apps due to restrictions on their availability or the phones they work with. Google Chrome browser (currently restricted to the handful of handsets running the latest Ice Cream Sandwich Android software) and excellent keyboard app Swype (still in beta and not available on Google Play) are two examples. However, the fact that they will be available for all Android users in the near future is another reason for smartphone owners to feel excited about the future of their gadgets. This list of 50 apps is a starting point, but there is plenty more in store.
OUR TOP 50 PICK OF THE ANDROID PHONE APPS
ANDMADE SHARE Free This is a simple utility that replaces your Android phone’s default “Share” menu with a better one, to make it quick to share your photos, messages and updates on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
FOURSQUARE Free It started as a way for groups of friends to check into bars, restaurants and other venues and earn points for their gadding about. That’s still true, but now it’s as much about using that data to recommend new, cool venues to visit.
GLANCEE Free One of several social location apps that are all the rage. You sign in with your Facebook details and it then alerts you when people with similar friends and interests are nearby, so you never need miss an important connection.
GOOGLE+ Free It’s nowhere near as big as Facebook, but Google is making a big push for its Google+ social network, which has plenty of fans already. Its most impressive feature is Mobile Hangouts: live video chat with up to nine friends at once – and while you’re on the go.
PATH Free Instagram for Android has only just been announced, but Path is plugging the gap with this well-designed social photography app. Upload photos for friends to see and post them to Facebook to share with your wider circle.
LINKEDIN Free If Facebook is for fun, Linkedin is strictly for business: a network for your work contacts. Its easy-to-use Android app helps you add new people, see what your contacts are up to and enables you to browse news from your industry.
WHATSAPP MESSENGER Free An app that wants to kill off text messages, replacing them with instant messaging that works across every smartphone. It supports text, photos, voice notes and videos and also offers group-chat features.
TUNEIN RADIO PRO £0.20 TuneIn is an essential download for radio buffs or anyone who regularly travels abroad and wants to fend off homesickness. It streams more than 50,000 radio stations – including the big UK ones – as well as podcasts.
ADELE Free She’s sold more than 20m albums and scooped a host of awards and Adele’s official Android app is equally classy. It offers news, videos and tour dates, as well as a “fan wall” to post comments and chat to other fans.
7DIGITAL MUSIC STORE Free Looking for a good Android alternative to Apple’s iTunes Store for music downloads? 7digital is the one. It has a catalogue of 18m tracks for sale and lets you re-download your purchases when you buy a new device.
ESPN GOALS Free This sounds too good to be true for football fans, but it isn’t. ESPN’s app delivers video highlights of Premier League goals just minutes after they’re scored, as well as live scores and stats. It’s free, and funded by ads.
SHAZAM Free Are you listening to a tune on the radio or in a club, but can’t quite place it? Shazam is your friend. It identifies tracks, then enables you buy them, watch the YouTube videos or start them playing in Spotify. It can also display lyrics.
SKY GO Free to Sky subscribers Sky’s live TV app offers up to 23 channels, although how many exactly depends on which you have access to through your home subscription. They stream over 3G or Wi-Fi and you can register up to two devices.
SPOTIFY £9.99 a month Streaming music service Spotify goes from strength to strength, with more than 15m tracks available to stream or store locally on your phone for offline listening. It also works with Facebook for friends’ music recommendations.
TED Free Californian conference Ted is famous for its thought-provoking technology talks, as big thinkers grapple with the future of… everything. Its Android app serves up its archive of videos, many of them genuinely mind-changing.
ANGRY BIRDS RIO Free You can’t escape Angry Birds on any smartphone these days. The game sees you catapulting the miffed birds at nefarious pigs, with the addition of characters from animated movie Rio and boss battles to spice up the action.
FLICK SOCCER £0.69 There are full simulations, such as FIFA on Android, but the most addictive football game is Flick Soccer, which sees you flicking free kicks into a goal from a variety of positions. Fearsomely addictive, with bags of depth.
FRUIT NINJA £0.77 Fruit Ninja is another casual game that’s as playable on Android as it is on iPhone. Here, you’re slashing various fruit in half with swipes of your finger on the touchscreen, building up your score with squishy skills.
GRAND THEFT AUTO III £2.99 It’s 10 years old, but GTA III still feels fresh on a mobile phone. This is the full console game crammed on to Android devices, with new touchscreen controls. Your nan still wouldn’t approve, but this is excellent.
MINECRAFT – pocket edition £4.29 Want a game where you make things rather than kill them? Minecraft sees you roaming a colourful virtual world made of blocks and digging and building to your heart’s content. It’s like digital Lego for gamers.
TANK HERO: LASER WARS £1.99 The first Tank Hero has been a big hit on Android, with more than 5m downloads. This sequel bumps up the puzzle action, as you kit out a tank with all manner of destructive weapons to eliminate enemies.
WHALE TRAIL £1.49 Another excellent iPhone game that has found its way on to Android. Willow the Whale soars through the clouds as he seeks to escape the evil Baron Von Barry. The soundtrack comes from Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys.
WORDS WITH FRIENDS Free Words With Friends is basically Scrabble under a different name: you make words with tiles on a board with rows and columns. Here, though, you’re competing with your Facebook friends, taking turns at your leisure.
WORLD OF GOO £2.99 Having started life as a PC game, World of Goo has become one of the stickiest Android games. It sees you squeezing and stretching goo balls to build objects to get you through a succession of puzzle levels. Tactile and wonderful.
THE CAT IN THE HAT £1.91 There is a comprehensive selection of Dr Seuss books on the Android Market, so why not start with the most famous? You get voice narration, sound effects and words that rise up to help children’s comprehension.
THE GUARDIAN Free Excuse us this one self-interested entry. This app puts a slick, mobile interface on the Guardian website, complete with podcasts, videos, the ability to save articles for offline reading and customise the homescreen categories.
BBC NEWS Free The BBC’s official news app for Android is a well-designed way to scoot quickly through its stories, from UK and world through to technology, business and entertainment. You can also pick categories for its homescreen to suit.
PULSE NEWS Free Pulse is one of a clutch of news aggregation apps for Android. You tell it what websites you like and it pulls down the latest stories, while also letting you search for keywords of specific topics you’re interested in.
AA ECO DRIVE Free An app that aims to save you money while also helping the planet? That will be AA Eco Drive, which uses GPS to track your driving style, then provides useful tips on how you can be more efficient at conserving fuel.
ANDROIDIFY Free One of Android’s strong points is its striking robot logo, something capitalised on by Google’s own Androidify app. It lets you create your own Android avatars, complete with accessories, to store and share with friends.
BUILDAPP Free This app is still in beta, but if you are thinking of moving house or redecorating, it could still prove invaluable. Buildapp enables you to design your rooms in 3D and then move virtual furniture around to see how it might look.
GOOGLE MAPS Free Google Maps remains, hands down, the best maps app for Android. Hardly surprising – it’s easy to use and the maps are clear and detailed. Although built into Android, this standalone version is updated more frequently.
JAMIE’S 20-MINUTE MEALS £4.99 Android is as pukka as iPhone for Jamie Oliver, whose app offers 60 recipes. They can be made in less time than an episode of The Naked Chef (though 20 minutes is optimistic)and have step-by-step instructions and photos.
LONDON BUS CHECKER £1.66 This app has been a huge hit with the capital’s commuters on iPhone, but now it’s on Android too. See live times of the buses coming to your nearest stop, based on live data from Transport for London as they travel around.
MET OFFICE WEATHER APPLICATION Free The UK’s Met Office has an official Android app and it’s very good indeed. It provides five-day forecasts and daily weather maps, as well as severe weather warnings and favourite location forecasts.
NETFLIX £5.99 a month Netflix is a service for streaming films and television shows. It crossed over to Britain from the United States early this year and has a broad selection of things to watch. It works well on Android smartphones and tablets.
TOUCHNOTE POSTCARDS Free Picture messaging, Facebook and email might be good ways to share your photos, but sometimes you have to get physical. Touchnote turns your pics into postcards, sent to any address for £1.49 a time – in the UK or beyond.
TRAIN TIMES UK £3.49 If you’re used to using the National Rail website to look up train times, Train Times UK is the best equivalent on Android. It provides live departure and arrival times, fare details and directions to and from stations.
BARCLAYS PINGIT Free Barclays’ new mobile payments app is an innovative and impressive idea: send money direct to friends’ bank accounts from your phone. For now, only Barclays customers can send, but that will change in the future.
APPSFIRE Free Appsfire is an app to help you shop for… apps. It lets you browse your own collection and, crucially, recommends other app downloads you might like, based on your tastes. Appsfire offers a good way to keep on top of the latest apps.
AMAZON MOBILE FOR ANDROID Free Still think people won’t shop on a phone? They said that about websites once. Amazon’s app is fast and efficient for browsing and buying products, with barcode scanning to get more details on something when in a real-world shop.
TESCO GROCERIES Free Tesco’s shopping app is a model of simplicity and effectiveness, as you create and manage shopping lists, book delivery slots and switch between the mobile and web shopping services. You can also scan products in-store to add them to your list.
ADVANCED TASK KILLER Free If you’re experiencing performance issues with your Android smartphone, it may be because too many apps are running in the background. Advanced Task Killer is the antidote, helping you shut down those you don’t need.
DROPBOX Free Wonder why there’s so much excitement around cloud services? Dropbox should help you understand. When installed on your computer and Android, you can swap files between the two at will – photos, videos, documents…
EVERNOTE Free Another good advert for the power of the cloud, Evernote wants to help you “remember everything across all of the devices you use”, storing and synchronising notes and to-do lists, while adding photos for visual memory aids.
GOOGLE DOCS Free It should come as no surprise that Google’s own online office suite works very well as an Android app. You can create, edit and share Google Docs with it; it also uses the camera to convert snaps of printed text into documents.
ONAVO Free You may know that your mobile tariff provides 500MB of data a month, but do you know how that data gets used by different apps? Onavo will show youhow, monitoring data traffic and displaying it as easy-to-understand charts.
OPERA MINI Free Looking for an alternative to Google’s preloaded Android web browser? Opera Mini is well worth a look. It uses compression technology that ensures websites load faster and cost you much less in data usage – a godsend when roaming abroad.
SKY MAP Free Originally made by Google, this app has just been open sourced for other developers to work on. It’s an excellent showcase for Android phones: point your device at the sky and it will tell you what the various stars are.
SWIFTKEY X KEYBOARD £0.49 If you don’t get on well with the default on-screen keyboard for your Android phone, maybe you should give Swiftkey a try. It learns your language and provides more accurate predictions and corrections as you tap.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012
[Image via Shutterstock.com.]
After 17 months, the gripping TV drama is back – and New York is celebrating with themed parties and special viewings
Jace Lacob is one of a rare breed of people in the US. He is the television critic at the Daily Beast and therefore has already seen the two-hour episode of Mad Men that will kick off the show’s long-awaited fifth season.
Of course, he is sworn to secrecy about its contents. After a 17-month wait, the return on 25 March of the show about a 1960s advertising agency is hotly awaited. But the latest goings-on involving characters Don Draper, Roger Sterling and Peggy Olson are a closely guarded secret. Lacob will say one thing, though: “It surpasses its expectations. It is beautiful, it is surprising and it is emotional.”
It is hard to overstate the hype surrounding the return of Mad Men, whose long period away from US television screens was caused by complex contractual negotiations prompted by its massive global success. The show has had a massive impact on the US cultural landscape by tracking the lives of characters through the social upheavals of the 1960s.
With its meticulous reconstruction of the decade, it has won a fanatical audience and transformed the fortunes of the AMC cable network. The programme is known for its lavish sense of 1960s style in its acting, scripts and every detail of the characters’ costumes and attitudes. “The 1960s have always resonated in America. We think that it was such a cool place to be. So we look at them through the show with this nostalgia, but also a knowing eye,” said Professor Jennifer Dunn, a pop culture expert at Dominican University in Illinois.
That resonance has manifested itself in countless ways. The show has crept into US malls, where fashionable clothes and shoes with a distinctively 1960s look are all the rage. In New York, in the build-up to the season’s beginning, the Roosevelt Hotel – whose 1960s incarnation featured in the show – is offering a “Mad Men in the City” experience for guests to pretend that they have slipped back in time by five decades. The real-life building that houses Mad Men’s fictional Manhattan corporate headquarters is hosting parties where guests dress up in period clothes. Even the venerable Newsweek magazine is producing a Mad Men-styled issue, complete with retro-looking adverts. There are viewing parties galore in New York, including those at the Carnegie Club, which is one of the few bars left in Manhattan where you can legally smoke: something that would no doubt appeal to the hard-living Draper.
The show has also spawned a mini-publishing boom. There are two Mad Men cookbooks, which feature retro recipes such as Waldorf salad and oysters Rockefeller. There is a guide to imbibing called How to Drink Like a Mad Man, a reprint of a genuine 1962 humorous tome called The 24-Hour Drink Book: A Guide to Executive Survival. But it is not just all testosterone-fuelled excess. The show is famous for its depiction of the struggle women had to get noticed as equals in the 1960s.
It is a slice of the past brought vividly to life by author Jane Maas in her memoir Mad Women. The book, which collects her stories of life on Madison Avenue in the 1960s, has led to her being dubbed the “real-life Peggy Olson”.
The show’s success has also led others to copy its formula of complex plots, deep characterisation and obsessive recreation of the past. They include Boardwalk Empire, which has recreated the Atlantic City of the 1920s; Pan Am, which went back to the 1960s to look at flight attendants; and The Playboy Club, which featured a 1960s gentlemen’s club.
Such an impact can be difficult for a show to keep living up to. Mad Men was never expected to be a huge smash and now both cast and creators face huge pressure. Not least because nearly all of them have gone on to become stars. Jon Hamm, who plays Draper, and January Jones, who plays his ex-wife Betty, are now among the most famous actors in the US. Christina Hendricks, who plays voluptuous siren Joan Holloway, is a major sex symbol. Even Kiernan Shipka, who plays Sally Draper and is just 12 years old, was the subject of a recent interview in Grazia.
That intense spotlight might even invite a backlash. “Success can be a double-edged sword. Expectations are very, very high for this show,” said Lacob.
Yet the series has already won its place in TV history. Mad Men has been widely discussed in academic papers, a book about philosophy and a lengthy intellectual essay in the New York Review of Books. Few experts really expect that influence to drop off as the characters live through the rest of the 1960s. “It is a show that will continually be studied at the academic level,” Lacob said.
A 92-year-old woman from Port Angeles, Washington revealed Friday afternoon that she had lost thousands of dollars due to her bank and the government believing she was dead, according to KOMO-TV.
Betty Longshore told her unusual story Friday of how her bank, First Federal, was sent a notice by the U.S. Department of Treasury that she had passed away on July 20, 2011. By law, the bank withdrew $16, 953 from federal retirement benefits from her account during the time after they believed she died.
The bank called Longshore on February 29th after seeing her account was active and was obviously surprised to find out she was alive.
“They said, ‘Betty, is this you?’” she recalled. “‘We have a report you are deceased. Can you come down to the bank?’ I thought I’d go in and say, ‘Here I am, and I’m alive,’ and everyone would laugh, and that would be the end of it.”
Longshore, whose annual income is $25,000, is expected to have all her money returned to her account next week.
WATCH: Video from KOMO-TV, from March 16, 2012.
The US soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians during a shooting rampage was known to friends and family as “level-headed,” his lawyers said Saturday as they planned to meet with him next week.
The suspect, identified as 38-year-old US Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, had served three combat tours in Iraq — where he was wounded twice — and was on his first deployment to Afghanistan at the time of the killings.
Whisked out of Afghanistan to Kuwait in the days after the attacks, Bales was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on Friday, where US officials said he was being held in “pre-trial confinement.”
The US Army said Bales was being kept in “special housing” in his own cell, but no details have been released on a trial or even the charges to be brought against him.
“Public reports that Sergeant Bales’s supervisors, family and friends describe him as a level-headed, experienced soldier are consistent with information gathered by the defense team,” his lawyers said in a statement, saying it was still “too early” to determine what caused the attack.
Civilian attorneys John Henry Browne and Emma Scanlan, along with detailed military defense counsel Major Thomas Hurley, indicated they planned to spend “several days” meeting with Bales next week.
“Sergeant Bales’s family is stunned in the face of this tragedy, but they stand behind the man they know as a devoted husband, father and dedicated member of the armed services,” they added.
Friends and neighbors also expressed disbelief, telling local media he was a trusted soldier.
Bales allegedly left his base in the southern province of Kandahar before sunrise on Sunday, entered a nearby Afghan village and opened fire, killing men, women and children.
One of the worst atrocities committed by US forces in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion over a decade ago, the incident plunged US-Afghan relations to an all-time low.
Ties were already badly damaged after Americans burnt Korans last month, sparking a wave of deadly anti-American protests, and an earlier video that showed US Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban militants.
Several websites containing pictures and stories about Bales, including a 2009 Defense Department page, were taken down by the time his identity was revealed Friday, but some versions of the Web pages could still be accessed, shedding light on his military career.
According to a cached online article dated February 2009 from the official US Army website, Bales participated in one of the bloodiest clashes of the Iraq war — a January 2007 battle against a messianic Shiite sect in southern Iraq known as the Soldiers of Heaven.
In the 15-hour engagement, according to the article, 250 fighters were killed, all enemy — and Bales said he was proud his unit “discriminated between the bad guys and the noncombatants and then afterward we ended up helping the people that three or four hours before were trying to kill us.”
“I think that’s the real difference between being an American as opposed to being a bad guy, someone who puts his family in harm’s way like that,” Bales said.
Browne, the civilian attorney, said this week his client had gotten angry about a serious injury that a comrade sustained the day before the massacre, but held no animosity toward Muslims.
Bales, who joined the army less than two months after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, was also upset because he did not believe he would be deployed to Afghanistan after his extensive Iraq duty, his lawyer said.
A US official told AFP that Bales was believed to have been drinking prior to the incident, a violation of US combat rules.
The New York Times quoted one official who said Bales may have “just snapped” due to a combination of stress and tensions with his wife, although Browne has rejected reports of his client’s marital problems.
A bizarre incident took place at Upper Darby High School outside of Philadelphia Friday afternoon, where a woman and her three children were arrested for stripping naked and chanting around the school.
According to NBC Philadelphia, the family previously came to the school twice in the day asking for a student to be released from class. After being rejected on both accounts, the mother and her grown children – ages 23, 22, and 14 – came back a third time and undressed themselves before shouting religious chants.
Police located the family undressed inside a van on their arrival.
“They’re all naked in the van, all their clothing are in a parking spot in the lot of the high school,” said police superintendent Michael Chitwood. “We still have not found out why they chose Upper Darby high school to do their praises to Jesus and run around naked in the parking lot.”
WATCH: Video from NBC Philadelphia, from March 16, 2012.
View more videos at: http://nbcphiladelphia.com.
Police in San Diego arrested a well known tea party figure in the area Thursday for allegedly assaulting a woman, according to NBC San Diego.
San Diego tea party spokesperson Michael Kobulincky was placed into custody and accused of abduction and sexual assault on a 56-year-old woman in February. Authorities say the woman was pulled into a car and assaulted before she was dropped off. Surveillance cameras and a picture released to the public led to Kobulincky being identified as a suspect.
The San Diego Tea Party released a statement, citing that Kobulincky has been relieved of his spokesperson’s role and has been inactive since January. He is facing a myriad of felony charges, including kidnapping, sexual assault and sex with a foreign object.
The US Supreme Court will not allow cameras from for oral arguments on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul but will release audio recordings and written transcripts.
The court announced Friday it would follow tradition in prohibitingvideo coverage of its proceedings, opting instead to release daily audio and written transcripts immediately after arguments, scheduled for March 26-28.
It provided no explanation for its decision, though the highest court in the land has never allowed cameras into its courtroom.
“Because of the extraordinary public interest in those cases, the court will provide the audio recordings and transcripts of the oral arguments on an expedited basis through the court’s website,” it said in a statement, adding that the transcripts should be available in the afternoon on each day.
Lawmakers had argued that the significance of the sweeping reforms largely opposed by Republicans — and a landmark initiative for Obama, a Democrat — meant that both audio and video coverage should be allowed. The outcome of the proceedings could play a role in November’s presidential elections.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, said the court’s decision was a “step forward,” albeit incomplete.
“I continue to support live audio streaming and permitting cameras in our nation’s courtrooms, including in the Supreme Court, so that Americans can witness these public proceedings as they happen,” he added.
Senator Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the panel, said “every American should have the opportunity to see and hear this landmark case as it plays out, not just the select few allowed in the courtroom. The health care reform law has ramifications for the entire country.”
“Video coverage would help with the public’s understanding of not only the controversial new law, but also the American judicial system,” he added, criticizing Chief Justice John Roberts’s “disappointing” decision.
C-SPAN, the television network that has covered federal government proceedings for decades, said it was “disappointed that the court has rejected C-SPAN’s request for TV camera coverage of the oral arguments in this landmark case.”
“We continue to believe allowing video coverage of Supreme Court oral arguments is in the public’s best interest,” it added.