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World and nation briefs

Saturday, December 8, 2012 - 8:32 am

US: 200 teens detained in Afghan war

NEW YORK – The U.S. military has detained more than 200 Afghan teenagers who were captured in the war for about a year at a time at a military prison next to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, the United States has told the United Nations.

The U.S. State Department characterized the detainees held since 2008 as "enemy combatants" in a report sent every four years to the United Nations in Geneva updating U.S. compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The U.S. military had held them "to prevent a combatant from returning to the battlefield," the report said.

A few are still confined at the Detention Facility in Parwan, which will be turned over to the Afghan government, it said. "Many of them have been released or transferred to the Afghan government," said the report, distributed this week.

Most of the juvenile Afghan detainees were about 16 years old, but their age was not usually determined until after capture, the U.S. report said.

If the average age is 16, "This means it is highly likely that some children were as young as 14 or 13 years old when they were detained by U.S. forces," Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's human rights program, said Friday.

Obama's $60.4B Sandy aid request could face hurdles

WASHINGTON – President Obama's proposal for $60.4 billion in federal aid for states hit by Superstorm Sandy adds a huge new item to an end-of-year congressional agenda already packed with controversy.

The president's request to Congress Friday followed weeks of discussions with lawmakers and officials from New York, New Jersey and other affected states who requested significantly more money, but generally praised the president's request as they urged Congress to adopt it without delay.

Pushing the request through Congress in the few weeks left before lawmakers adjourn at the end of the year will be no easy task. Washington's attention is focused on the looming fiscal cliff of expiring Bush-era tax cuts and automatic spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic programs set to begin at the end of the year.

Alaska serial killer killed for fun: police

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Confessed serial killer Israel Keyes admitted he enjoyed killing people, but couldn't or wouldn't give investigators a more meaningful answer when quizzed why he did it.

"There were just times, a couple of times, where we would try to get a why," said Anchorage Police officer Jeff Bell, who helped interrogate Keyes for hours.

"He would have this term, he would say, 'A lot of people ask why, and I would be, like, why not?'" Bell said.

Keyes confessed to killing eight people across the United States, but alluded to additional murders, FBI Special Agent Jolene Goeden and Bell told The Associated Press.

"Based on some of the things he told us, and some of the conversations we had with him, we believe the number is less than 12," Goeden said. "We don't know for sure. He's the only one who could have ultimately answered that."

Egypt's military sends warning

CAIRO – Egypt's military warned Saturday of “disastrous consequences” if the crisis that sent tens of thousands of protesters back into the streets is not resolved, signaling the army's return to an increasingly polarized and violent political scene.

The military said serious dialogue is the “best and only” way to overcome the nation's deepening conflict over a disputed draft constitution hurriedly adopted by Islamist allies of President Mohammed Morsi, and recent decrees granting himself near-absolute powers.

IBM's annual lump-sum 401(k) plan could be sign of things to come

IBM is making changes to its employee benefits that may cause other large corporations to follow suit. The technology company will begin making contributions to employees’ 401(k) accounts in lump-sum annual payments, rather than at the time of each paycheck. It’s a move that will help the company cut retirement plan expenses.

Employees were notified this week that matching contributions will be made just once annually, on Dec. 31, beginning next year. "This change reflects our continuing commitment to invest in our employee 401(k) plans while maintaining business competitiveness in a challenging economic environment," IBM spokesman Doug Shelton said.

The end-of-the-year 401(k) match won’t be unique to IBM, but experts say the company’s move could lead other major employers to consider making less frequent contributions.