Tuesday: Rescue Approaches for Chilean Miners; Fort Hood Hearings Begin

BY Lea Winerman  October 12, 2010 at 9:29 AM EST

Rescue operations for the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for more than two months could begin as soon as midnight Tuesday.

Below ground, the miners are preparing as well — they’ve been sent shampoo and new clothes through the borehole through which they’ve received supplies and communicated with the outside world during the operation.

Officials say that if all goes well, the rescue should take 12 to 24 hours. The healthiest and most technically able miners will go up first, in case any problems arise. After that will come anyone with health problems. The last man out is expected to be Luiz Urzua, the shift chief and de facto leader of the group, family members of miners told the Associated Press. The Guardian profiled Urzua last month.

On Monday’s NewsHour, ITN’s Jonathan Miller offered more details from the scene:


On the surface, families and journalists are waiting for the men at the makeshift Camp Hope, which has taken on a festive atmosphere as the rescue comes closer, the New York Times reports:

Clowns dance and pass out caramels. The wives and girlfriends of the 33 trapped miners are picking out sexy lingerie and getting their hair and nails done to receive their men. And relatives of the miners trapped nearly half a mile underground for more than two months have learned a new phrase — “motor home” — from their hundreds of new journalist friends.

Meanwhile, the rest of Chile is watching the progress of the rescue — and Chileans are proud of the new attention bestowed on their country, according to the Washington Post:

Chileans have long fretted that aside from a dark dictatorship that ended in 1989, their country gets little attention. Theirs is a nation known in Latin America for a diverse economy and fruity wine. But Chileans are painfully aware that their country has not fielded world-class soccer teams or produced famous pop stars on the level of Colombia’s Shakira.

So the tale of fortitude and grit at this gold and copper mine in this desolate stretch, and the ingenuity that has authorities gleeful about a dramatic rescue, has buoyed Chileans like nothing else.

Fort Hood Shooting Suspect to Face Victims in Court

Hearings will begin Tuesday for Fort Hood shooting suspect Nidal Malik Hasan, the army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 others in a shooting spree at Fort Hood Army base in Texas last November.

Hasan, who is now paralyzed from the chest down after being shot during the spree, will listen along with the military judge Col. James Pohl as the 32 victims describe what occurred that day. CNN reports that prosecutors are expected to call every person wounded in the shooting.

Witnesses have said that Hasan jumped on a desk at the soldier readiness processing center at Fort Hood — where soldiers go before they are deployed for things like health checkups and vaccinations — shouted “Allahu Akbar!” (Arabic for “God is great!”) and began firing.

The hearing, called an Article 32 proceeding, is similar to a grand jury — it is designed to discover whether there is enough evidence to bring the case to trial. If convicted, Hasan could face the death penalty.

Last November, NPR’s Tom Gjelten explained why Hasan is being tried in a military rather than a federal court:

The decision of whether Nidal Hasan should be tried in federal or military court hinged in part on what charges would be brought against him. Were he to be tried for terrorism, federal prosecutors might want to pursue him. But senior U.S. officials say the fact that Hasan is an Army officer accused of killing other soldiers on an Army post mean it’s appropriate for him to be tried in a military court.

FBI officials are assisting in the investigation of the shooting spree at Fort Hood. So far, the officials say, there is no evidence Hasan was directed by anyone else to carry out the massacre or that he had any conspirators.

Supreme Court to Hear Vaccine Case

The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments in the case of an 18-year-old woman whose parents say she suffered seizures and long-term neurological problems after receiving a D.T.P (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) vaccine as a baby.

The 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act created a system called “vaccine court” in which people who had been harmed by known side effects of vaccines can receive compensation from the companies. In return, though, they give up their right to sue.

Hannah Bruesewitz and her parents were turned down by vaccine court, and later sued the vaccine maker, Wyeth. But a federal judge ruled against them, saying that their claims were barred by the vaccine injury act. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case.

Although the case does not involve autism, it could have a major impact on autism cases — which now make up the bulk of vaccine court cases, although they are not on the list of approved claims. The New York Times reports:

in several test case rulings over the last two years, administrative judges in vaccine court have held that autism-related cases did not qualify for compensation. During the last decade, about 5,800 of the 7,900 claims filed in vaccine court, or about 75 percent, have been autism-related, federal data show.