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 Coalition Has Less Than 24 Hours to File Petition Against Spohn Demolition

Soldier Released in Prisoner Exchange

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was released as part of a prisoner exchange with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The deal sent 5 mid to high level Guantanamo Bay detainees free in exchange for an end to Bergdahl's 5 years in captivity.

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1 month ago

Coalition Has Less Than 24 Hours to File Petition Against Spohn Demolition

CORPUS CHRISTI - The group behind the petition drive to stop the demolition of Spohn Memorial Hospital has less than 24-hours to collect about 10,000 more signatures.

Petitioners believe about 9,000 people have signed the petition to stop the demolition of Spohn Memorial Hospital. The "Coalition to Stop the Hasty Demolition of Memorial Hospital" has been trying to get voters to sign their petition for the past 30 days. But they need exactly 18,500 to get the issue to voters.

The question is: can they get enough signatures in time for Thursday's 5 p.m. deadline?

"I don't know," said Coalition leader Rene Flores. "We will have to see. But it's... It's a tough hurdle. But we're doing what we can."

The issues driving the petition is Christus Health's plant to tear down Spohn Memorial. It wants to build a new family health care center on this site. The company also plans to expand Spohn Shoreline's ER facilities. But these changes have raised concerns with many people.

"We're gonna have the Shoreline Memorial Hospital filled with so many people that I don't know how they're gonna take care of it," said Velda Marchand. "Not only that, but it's going to leave a lot of employees without their jobs."

If the group gets enough signatures, per Spohn's agreement with the hospital district, Christus Spohn will have the option to walk away from the $325 million deal and avoid a vote.

The group has until 5 p.m. on October 16th to collect signatures. The group will be set up at the Nueces County Courthouse collecting signatures from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on October 16th. If anyone would like to sign the petition after they leave, call Rene Flores at (361) 888-5671. Flores said he will try to coordinate a place for people to sign the petition before 5pm.

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5 months ago

Video Shows Bergdahl Release by Taliban

WASHINGTON (NBC News) - Lawmakers are planning hearings to investigate whether President Obama broke the law by not notifying them before making a deal to secure Berghdahl's release.

There is new video from the Taliban. They say it's American P.O.W. Bowe Bergdahl being released in exchange for five of their top commanders.

One top Democrat insists President Obama broke the law by not notifying them before the exchange. "There certainly was time to pick up the phone and call," said Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D) California.

Aides say when lawmakers last discussed a possible deal, Democrats and Republicans thought it was risky.

That was two years ago. "If that's keeping us in the loop, then you know, this administration is more arrogant than I thought they were," said Senator Saxby Chambliss, (R) Georgia.

A top White House official has since called key lawmakers to apologize.

Read more: http://nbcnews.to/1p6eOJt

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5 months ago

Top Military Officer: Bergdahl Case Not Closed

WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation's top military officer said Tuesday the Army could still throw the book at Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the young soldier who walked away from his unit in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan and into five years of captivity by the Taliban.

Charges are still a possibility, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Associated Press as criticism mounted in Congress about releasing five high-level Taliban detainees in exchange for Bergdahl. The Army might still pursue an investigation, Dempsey said, and those results could conceivably lead to desertion or other charges.

Congress began holding hearings and briefings into the deal that swapped Bergdahl for Taliban officials who had been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and several lawmakers said that President Barack Obama didn't notify them as a law governing the release of Guantanamo detainees requires. White House staff members called key members of Congress to apologize, but that didn't resolve the issue.

Since Dempsey issued a statement Saturday welcoming Bergdahl home, troops who served with the soldier have expressed anger and resentment that his freedom - from a captivity that they say he brought upon himself - may have cost comrades' lives. Troops stood in stony silence at Bagram Air Field when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Bergdahl's release over the weekend, and many have since insisted that he be punished.

"Today we have back in our ranks the only remaining captured soldier from our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Welcome home, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl," Dempsey said on Saturday.

However, Dempsey called the AP on Tuesday to note that charges were still a possibility, and he focused his thanks on the service members who searched fruitlessly for Bergdahl after he walked away, unarmed, on June 30, 2009.

"This was the last, best opportunity to free a United States soldier in captivity," Dempsey said. "My first instinct was gratitude for those who had searched for so long, and at risk for themselves. ... Done their duty in order to bring back a missing solider. For me, it was about living up to our ethos, which is to leave no soldier behind. And on that basis I was relieved to get Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl back in the ranks, and very happy for the men and women who had sacrificed to do so."

Dempsey said Bergdahl's next promotion to staff sergeant, which was to happen soon, is no longer automatic because the soldier is no longer missing in action and job performance is now taken into account.

Dempsey said he does not want to prejudge the outcome of any investigation or influence other commanders' decisions. But he noted that U.S. military leaders "have been accused of looking away from misconduct" and said no one should assume they would do so in this case.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. John McHugh later said that after Bergdahl recovers physically and is "reintegrated," the Army would "review the circumstances" of his case.

Some former soldiers who served with him were already passing judgment.

Joshua Cornelison, who was a medic in Bergdahl's platoon said he believes Bergdahl should be held accountable for walking away.

"After he actually left, the following morning we realized we have Bergdahl's weapon, we have Bergdahl's body armor, we have Bergdahl's sensitive equipment (but) we don't have Bowe Bergdahl," Cornelison said from Sacramento, California. At that point, Cornelison said, it occurred to him that Bergdahl was "that one guy that wanted to disappear, and now he's gotten his wish."

Evan Buetow, who was a sergeant in Bergdahl's platoon, said from Maple Valley, Washington, that Bergdahl should face trial for desertion, but he also said it was less clear that he should be blamed for the deaths of all soldiers killed during months of trying to find him. Buetow said he knew of at least one death on an intelligence-directed infantry patrol to a village in search of Bergdahl.

"Those soldiers who died on those missions, they would not have been where they were ... if Bergdahl had never walked away," he said. "At the same time I do believe it is somewhat unfair for people to say, 'It is Bergdahl's fault that these people are dead.' I think that's a little harsh."

The White House took a fourth straight day of heat for not giving Congress the required 30 days notice of a detainee release. Obama had issued a statement when he signed the law containing that requirement giving himself a loophole for certain circumstances under the executive powers clause of the Constitution.

Obama, at a news conference in Poland, defended the decision to move quickly on the exchange, saying without offering details that U.S. officials were concerned about Bergdahl's health. Bergdahl was reported to be in stable condition at a military hospital in Germany

"We had the cooperation of the Qataris to execute an exchange, and we seized that opportunity," Obama said. He said the process of notifying Congress was "truncated because we wanted to make sure that we did not miss that window" of opportunity.

Obama also said the five Taliban officials' release was conditioned on assurances from officials in Qatar, where they will have to stay for one year, that they will track them and allow the U.S. to monitor them. Still, the president acknowledged the risk.

"We will be keeping eyes on them. Is there the possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely," Obama said. "That's been true of all the prisoners that were released from Guantanamo."

Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, expressed reservations.

"I am concerned about what was given in exchange and I am concerned about what precedents we set here for exchanges," he said. "I don't want the message to be, 'You can go ahead and capture Americans and use them to barter for others.'"

Senate Republicans bristled, too, about the lack of notification.

The Obama administration held two interagency briefings for House Speaker John Boehner and key Republican chairmen on Nov. 30, 2011, and Jan. 31, 2012, in which the possibility was raised of exchanging Bergdahl for the five Taliban detainees.

During those sessions, lawmakers raised concerns about ensuring the detainees did not return to the battlefield, the impact on the Afghan war and whether all efforts were being made to rescue Bergdahl. Members of Congress sent letters to the administration, but heard little in the subsequent months except assurances that they would be contacted if the chances of a swap became more credible.

Then word came on Saturday that the swap had occurred.

Boehner welcomed Bergdahl's release, but warned of a dangerous precedent for the treatment of U.S. troops.

"One of their greatest protections - knowing that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists - has been compromised," he said.

__

Baldor reported from Brussels. Associated Press writers Bradley Klapper, Donna Cassata, Ken Dilanian, Jim Kuhnhenn and Deb Riechmann in Washington, and Julie Pace in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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5 months ago

Senate Intelligence Committee To Meet About Prisoner Exchange

WASHINGTON - Senate Intelligence committee members will meet behind closed doors with officials from the Department of Defense today to try to understand why the Obama administration let five 5 Taliban fighters go in exchange for Army Sargent Bowe Bergdahl.

The Taliban fighters must remain in Qatar for at least a year. Some lawmakers say their release could pose a risk to other US troops abroad.

The Pentagon determined in 2010 that the Bergdahl had walked away from his unit.

Bergdahl is hospitalized in Germany in stable condition, undergoing treatment that will help him re-integrate into society.

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5 months ago

Hot Debate Over US Swap for POW in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Pentagon investigation concluded in 2010 that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his unit, and after an initial flurry of searching the military decided not to exert extraordinary efforts to rescue him, according to a former senior defense official who was involved in the matter.

Instead, the U.S. government pursued negotiations to get him back over the following five years of his captivity - a track that led to his release over the weekend.

Bergdahl was being checked and treated Monday at a U.S. military hospital in Germany as questions mounted at home over the swap that resulted in his freedom in exchange for the release of five detainees who were sent to Qatar from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, Cuba.

Even in the first hours of Bergdahl's handoff to U.S. special forces in eastern Afghanistan, it was clear this would not be an uncomplicated yellow-ribbon celebration. Five terrorist suspects also walked free, stirring a debate over whether the exchange would heighten the risk of other Americans being snatched as bargaining chips and whether the released detainees - several senior Taliban figures among them - would find their way back to the fight.

U.S. officials said Sunday that Bergdahl's health and safety appeared in jeopardy, prompting rapid action. "Had we waited and lost him," said national security adviser Susan Rice, "I don't think anybody would have forgiven the United States government." She said he had lost considerable weight and faced an "acute" situation. Yet she also said he appeared to be "in good physical condition."

One official, who spoke on grounds of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to discuss the subject by name, said there were concerns about Bergdahl's mental and emotional as well as physical health.

On Monday, a U.S. military hospital in Germany reported Bergdahl in "stable condition and receiving treatment for conditions requiring hospitalization" after arriving from Afghanistan. The Landstuhl Regional Medical Center said Bergdahl's treatment "includes attention to dietary and nutrition needs after almost five years in captivity" but declined to release further details. It said there "is no pre-determined amount of time involved in the reintegration process" for the 28-year-old soldier.

Two officials said Monday that the Taliban may have been concerned about his health, as well, since the U.S. had sent the message that it would respond harshly if any harm befell him in captivity.

Republicans in the U.S. said the deal for Bergdahl's release could set a troubling precedent. Arizona Sen. John McCain said of the Guantanamo detainees who were exchanged for him: "These are the hardest of the hard core."

And in Kabul Monday, the Afghan Foreign Ministry called the swap "against the norms of international law" if it came against the five imprisoned Taliban detainees' will. The ministry said: "No state can transfer another country's citizen to a third country and put restriction on their freedom."

Tireless campaigners for their son's freedom, Bob and Jani Bergdahl thanked all who were behind the effort to retrieve him. "You were not left behind," Bob Bergdahl told reporters, as if speaking to his son. "We are so proud of the way this was carried out." He spoke in Boise, Idaho, wearing a long bushy beard he'd grown to honor his son, as residents in the sergeant's hometown of Hailey prepared for a homecoming celebration.

The five detainees left Guantanamo aboard a U.S. military aircraft flying to Qatar, which served as go-between in the negotiations. They are to be banned from leaving Qatar for at least a year. Among the five: a Taliban deputy intelligence minister, a former Taliban interior minister with ties to the late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and a figure linked by human rights monitors to mass killings of Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001.

Questions persisted, too, about the circumstances of Bergdahl's 2009 capture. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declined to comment on earlier reports that the sergeant had walked away from his unit, disillusioned with the war. Such matters "will be dealt with later," Hagel said.

But the former Pentagon official said it was "incontrovertible" that he walked away from his unit.

The military investigation was broader than a criminal inquiry, this official said, and it didn't formally accuse Bergdahl of desertion. In interviews, members of his unit portrayed him as a naive, "delusional" person who thought he could help the Afghan people by leaving his army post, the official said.

U.S. military and intelligence agencies had made every effort to monitor Bergdahl's location and his health, the official said, through both signals intelligence and a network of spies.

Nathan Bradley Bethea, who served as an officer in Bergdahl's unit, said in an article Monday on the Daily Beast website that Bergdahl was not on patrol, as some reports have suggested.

"There was no patrol that night," he wrote. "Bergdahl was relieved from guard duty, and instead of going to sleep, he fled the outpost on foot. He deserted. I've talked to members of Bergdahl's platoon_including the last Americans to see him before his capture. I've reviewed the relevant documents. That's what happened."

Hagel, visiting troops in Afghanistan, was met with silence when he told a group of them in a Bagram Air Field hangar: "This is a happy day. We got one of our own back."

At the White House on Monday, press secretary Jay Carney said the exchange "was absolutely the right thing to do." in much the same tone as the president over the weekend, he said: "The United States does not leave our men and women behind in conflict."

"In a situation like this, you have a prisoner of war, a uniformed military person that was detained," Carney said.

In weighing the swap, U.S. officials decided that it could help the effort to reach reconciliation with the Taliban, which the U.S. sees as key to more security in Afghanistan. But they acknowledged the risk that the deal would embolden insurgents.

Republicans pressed that point. "Have we just put a price on other U.S. soldiers?" asked Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. "What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists?"

___

Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Washington, Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan, Lolita C. Baldor at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan and Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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7 months ago

Taliban Ready to Deal on Captive US Soldier?

WASHINGTON (AP) - The captors of an American soldier held for nearly five years in Afghanistan have signaled a willingness to release him but are unclear which U.S. government officials have the authority to make a deal.

That's according to a U.S. defense official and a military officer working for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Critics of the release effort blame disorganization and poor communication among the numerous U.S. agencies involved. A defense official says about two dozen officials at the State and Defense departments, the military, the CIA and FBI are working on the case.

The White House and Defense Department are defending their work to release Bergdahl.

The military officer and defense official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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