Nation, world briefs 3/24/16

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Alleged Hastert victim may testify

CHICAGO -- An alleged sex-abuse victim of Dennis Hastert could testify about his emotional trauma next month at the former U.S. speaker's sentencing in his hush-money case, according to a transcript of an unannounced court hearing this week during which the court linked sex-abuse allegations to the Illinois Republican for the first time. Hastert, 74, pleaded guilty Oct. 28 to violating bank laws as he sought to pay $3.5 million to ensure someone referred to in the 2015 indictment only as "Individual A" stayed quiet about past misconduct by Hastert against Individual A. The misconduct dated to about the time Hastert was a high-school wrestling coach. The Associated Press and other media outlets, citing anonymous sources, previously reported Hastert wanted to hide claims he sexually molested someone.

Claim: Gitmo inmates killed Americans

WASHINGTON -- Americans have been killed by prisoners released from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a senior Defense Department official told lawmakers Wednesday, triggering criticism from Republicans opposed to shuttering the facility in the wake of deadly attacks by the Islamic State group in Brussels and Paris. Paul Lewis, the Pentagon's special envoy for Guantanamo detention closure, declined to provide the GOP-led House Foreign Affairs Committee with details. An Obama administration official said Lewis was referring to an incident that involved an Afghan prisoner released from Guantanamo while George W. Bush was president. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.

Syrian army near IS-held Palmyra

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes advanced swiftly in central Syria on Wednesday, seizing high ground around Palmyra and positioning themselves to recapture the historic town held by the Islamic State group. The troops, supported by pro-government militias, approached to within 1.8 miles of the town, according to state TV. A Lebanese television station close to Damascus broadcast footage of the troops advancing single-file through a desert as helicopter gunships provided cover. "God willing, within a few hours we will enter and secure the town," one officer told the Syrian Ikhbariya TV.

Man accused in spree suffered from PTSD

A former soldier who police said fatally shot his wife and children and set their house on fire before killing himself suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after a military career that included a stint in Iraq, his family said Wednesday. In a statement issued three days after the killings in an upscale neighborhood in suburban Louisville, Kentucky, Brad Hettinger's family said the Army Reserve veteran had been seeking help for complications associated with PTSD and was attending marriage counseling with his wife. "We as a family are devastated and deeply shaken by the events that have transpired," the statement said.

-- From wire reports

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