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Wednesday, Apr 16th

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Sexual assault charges dropped against general

Sexual asault charges droppedProsecutors have agreed to drop sexual assault charges against one of the highest-ranking military officers ever to face such allegations in an agreement under which the defendant will plead guilty to lesser offenses, according to defense attorneys.

After a judge last week ruled that a prosecution decision to seek trial against Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, 51, was tainted by political considerations, the proceedings were suspended and a new round of plea negotiation commenced.

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On flag protests, court takes the VA’s word

US flag upside downThe Department of Veterans Affairs has rules prohibiting the “posting of materials” on its property without prior approval. But when a group of veterans draped a U.S. flag on a fence outside the VA’s health facility in West Los Angeles as part of a weekly protest, officials had no objections — until the the vets started hanging the flag upside down, and were promptly threatened with criminal prosecution.

The protesters responded with a First Amendment lawsuit, claiming viewpoint discrimination, and the VA then pledged to enforce its rules uniformly — a promise that didn’t satisfy the protest leader, but was good enough for a majority on a federal appeals court panel.

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Brig. General to admit guilt on 3 counts; denies assault

General admits guiltA U.S. Army general accused of sexual assault was set to plead guilty to three lesser charges Thursday in a move that his lawyer says will strengthen his position going into trial.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair plans to enter the plea before opening statements scheduled for the morning in his court martial at Fort Bragg. The primary accuser in the case is a female captain who claims Sinclair twice forced her to perform oral sex and threatened to kill her family if she told anyone about their three-year affair.

Sinclair still faces five charges including sexual assault in his trial before a jury of five two-star generals. The former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted on the most serious charges.

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Nearly 1 in 5 had mental illness before enlisting in Army, study says

US Army Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. soldiers had a common mental illness, such as depression, panic disorder or ADHD, before enlisting in the Army, according to a new study that raises questions about the military's assessment and screening of recruits.

More than 8 percent of soldiers had thought about killing themselves and 1.1 percent had a past suicide attempt, researchers found from confidential surveys and interviews with 5,428 soldiers at Army installations across the country.

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Army disqualifies 588 soldiers after sexual assault review

Army disqualifies soldiersThe Army has disqualified 588 soldiers as sexual assault counselors, recruiters and drill sergeants for infractions ranging from sexual assault to child abuse to drunken driving, USA TODAY has learned.

The number of disqualified soldiers from what are called "positions of trust" is 10 times higher than the initial number the Army reported last summer after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered that troops in sensitive positions be screened for previous criminal or unethical behavior.

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Obama orders Pentagon to prepare for full troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

Pentagon readies Afghanistan withdrawalBarack Obama formally ordered the Pentagon on Tuesday to make plans for a full pullout of American troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, pointing to a way out of the conflict that is reminiscent of his end to the Iraq campaign.

While the Obama administration reiterated that it would prefer to maintain a residual military presence in Afghanistan, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has refused to sign an accord that would pave the way for some US forces to remain. That has forced the administration to begin a contingency plan for a full departure after Nato formally ends hostilities in November.

A similar rebuke from the Iraqi government prompted all almost all US troops to leave there in 2011.

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In new budget, US Army will shrink to its smallest size in decades,

cuts to army in budgetThe Army will shrink to its smallest size in decades, between 440,000 and 450,000 soldiers by 2019, according to the new Pentagon budget Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will release Monday afternoon.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said Hagel had consulted with all service chiefs before determining the size of each force that he would recommend in the budget.

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