News Wrap: Judge Says WikiLeaks Soldier Received Harsh Treatment After Arrest
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A U.S. Army judge ruled today that the soldier in the WikiLeaks case was treated too roughly after his arrest, but the judge refused to dismiss the charges against Private 1st Class Bradley Manning. Instead, she reduced his potential life sentence by 112 days.
Manning was arrested in 2010, accused of leaking thousands of classified documents. For nine months, he lived in a cell with no windows and sometimes with no clothing at a Marine Corps brig. His court-martial begins in March.
The U.S. may not leave any troops in Afghanistan for training duties after combat forces leave at the end of 2014. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said so publicly today. U.S. and Afghan officials are at odds over legal immunity for U.S. troops that stay behind. Also today, NATO announced an Afghan soldier shot and killed a British soldier on Monday in the Helmand Province. Six other Brits were wounded.
The U.N.’s World Food Program warned today that one million people in Syria are going hungry, as the country’s civil war intensifies. The agency blamed a lack of security and lack of access to a key port for aid shipments. Meanwhile, rebels battled government troops across Syria today. And fighting erupted again in a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, killing five people.
The wildfire threat in southern Australia was unrelenting today. The flames have fed off hot, dry conditions, with temperatures hitting 113 degrees in some areas. Scores of fires burned in Tasmania and New South Wales, leaving widespread destruction, but so far no confirmed deaths.
We have a report narrated by Liam Dutton of Independent Television News.
LIAM DUTTON: With no letup in the scorching heat and high winds, firefighters spent another day trying, but often failing to keep the flames at bay. More than 100 homes and tens of thousands of acres of forest and farmland have been destroyed in fires which have burned out of control across large swathes of Southeast Australia.
And in several areas, fire crews were forced to pull out because temperatures were too high.
IAN STEWART, New South Wales Fire Service: The weather conditions are such that we can’t do any active firefighting at the moment. The wind is too strong. It’s just too hot, and the fire danger rating is still far too high.
LIAM DUTTON: The first week of 2013 has seen seven of the hottest 20 days ever recorded in Australia. And with the fire risk in some areas being graded catastrophic, the prime minister warned residents to take care.
PRIME MINISTER JULIA GILLARD, Australia: It’s very important that people keep themselves safe, that they listen to local authorities and local warnings. This is a very dangerous day.
LIAM DUTTON: One of the worst-hit areas is the island of Tasmania. Staying safe there, for many, meant abandoning their homes to the flames.
MAN: Not an area where the danger zone is, but we still feel for the people that’s down there, that’s for sure.
LIAM DUTTON: In the small town of Dunalley, 90 homes were destroyed. And although police believe they are with friends and family, 100 people remain missing. While the weather is expected to turn cooler tomorrow, fire chiefs warn conditions are still highly dangerous.
HARI SREENIVASAN: 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental United States. The National Climatic Data Center reported today the average temperature topped 55 degrees. That was a full degree more than the previous record, set in 1998. Usually, temperature records increase by about one-tenth of a degree. The year was also three degrees warmer than the average for the entire 20th century.
Unemployment across the Euro Zone countries has hit another record high, 11.8 percent in November. The European Union reported today the jobless rate rose more than a full percentage point from a year earlier. Greece had the single biggest year-to-date increase, jumping seven points to 26 percent. Across the E.U., some 26 million people were out of work.
Wall Street was down again today, as the market marked time, waiting for corporate earnings announcements. The Dow Jones industrial lost 55 points to close under 13,329. The Nasdaq fell seven points to close below 3,092.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.