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In brief: Pentagon reports on shower death

Tue., July 28, 2009

WASHINGTON – Military leaders and a major military contractor failed to protect a Green Beret who was electrocuted while showering in his barracks in Iraq, the Defense Department’s inspector general determined in a report released Monday.

The 2008 death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, of Pittsburgh, triggered an investigation by the IG of Maseth’s death, but also a review of 17 other electrocution deaths in Iraq. The inspector general says in its findings that “multiple systems and organizations” failed and exposed Maseth to “unacceptable risk.”

Maseth was electrocuted while showering when he came in contact with an energized metal shower and hose caused by the failure of an ungrounded water pump located on the roof of the building, the IG said. It says military contractor KBR Inc., based in Houston, installed the pump and adjacent water tanks. KBR did not ground equipment during installation or report improperly grounded equipment during routine maintenance, the inspector general said.

Boat carrying Haitians capsizes

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos – A vessel carrying as many as 200 Haitian migrants capsized and sank near the Turks and Caicos Islands on Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard said. One survivor said the boat struck a reef as they tried to elude police.

About 70 passengers were stranded on a reef and four bodies were recovered, a Coast Guard spokeswoman in Miami said. The rest were missing and feared dead.

U.S.-born terrorist given life sentence

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A U.S. man who became an al-Qaida terrorist while attending college in Saudi Arabia and plotted to assassinate then-President George W. Bush was sentenced Monday to life in prison.

An appeals court had overturned the original 30-year sentence for Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, 28, who was born in Houston and grew up in the Washington suburb of Falls Church. He was convicted in 2005 of joining al-Qaida while studying in Saudi Arabia in 2002. Abu Ali met with top al-Qaida leaders in Saudi Arabia and discussed establishing a sleeper cell in the United States.

Last year, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ordered a new sentencing hearing, saying Lee’s original sentence was too lenient.

Hawaii reasserts Obama’s U.S. birth

HONOLULU – State officials in Hawaii on Monday said they have once again checked and confirmed that President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen, and therefore meets a key constitutional requirement for being president.

Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino said she hoped to end lingering rumors about Obama’s birthplace.

“I … have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen,” she said in a brief statement. “I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago.”

So-called “birthers” – who claim Obama is ineligible to be president because, they argue, he was actually born outside the United States – have grown more vocal recently on blogs and television news shows.


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