‘Law & Order: SVU’s Benson and Stabler reunited IRL like we dreamed

The world may be a topsy-turvy place. It can be devastating. It can be sad. But take heart, friends, because Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler have reunited. The world is good. The streets are safe. We can all calm down.

OK we guess technically Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni took a selfie together (he’s not coming back on the show or anything) but WHATEVER, it’s still amazing. Feast your eyes:

We don’t know why they’re together again but we don’t care. It’s beautiful.

Trump says he won’t bolt party if GOP shows him respect

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally aboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., Dec. 7, 2015. (Photo:Mic Smith, AP)

Donald Trump still considers a run as an independent in the general election an option if things don’t work out with the Republicans.

The billionaire GOP front-runner told CNN’s Don Lemon Wednesday night that he would consider running as a third-party candidate, if “they don’t treat me with a certain amount of decorum and respect.”

“If they don’t treat me as the front-runner — by far the front-runner — if the playing field is not level, then certainly all options are open,” Trump said. “But that’s nothing I want to do.”

The former reality-television star implied it might just come down to whether or not he gets the nomination.

“We’ll go through the primaries, we’ll see what happens and I’ll make a determination,” he said.

Trump cited a recent USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll that he would keep 68% of his supporters in a third-party run.

He also tweeted about the poll on Tuesday.

Although Trump says he would win as a third-party candidate, and although he feels the Republican “establishment is not exactly being very good” to him, he says none of that matters because he is certain he will secure the nomination.

“I’m leading in every poll by a lot,” Trump said. “It looks I’m going to win. My whole life has been about winning. I’m not like so many other of the people that you talk to that are essentially losers.”

Trump also told Lemon, “I am the least racist person that you have ever met,” and he confidently predicted that will win both the Hispanic and African-American vote.

As for his call to keep Muslims from entering the U.S., Trump said it did not apply to U.S. citizens, and he said it was “just a break til our politicians, who are grossly incompetent by the way, can get their act together.”

He added that what he is proposing is only one-tenth as bad as what former president Franklin Roosevelt did when he forced Japanese-Americans into internment camps.

Trump said the liberals’ “all-time hero,” Roosevelt, “can do it and nobody says anything. And what he did was ten-times worse than anything I’m talking about.”

Drastic measures are required, Trump explained, because “there’s something out there that is evil.”

“We can’t allow radical killers into this country,” he said. “We can’t do it. We have enough problems.”

“We can’t be politically correct, stupid people,” Trump said. “We have a president, I think he’s a stupid person. Because there’s no way that a normal president could make the speech that he made the other night.”

 

Navy: Sophisticated sub ring repeatedly filmed women

4804 5LINKEDIN 41COMMENTMORE

Submarine crews are so tight-knit that they’re considered a family — part of what made the revelations of illicit filming on the ballistic missile sub Wyoming so troubling.

The filming wasn’t a one-off or a prank. It was a sophisticated and repeated invasion of privacy, where male Wyoming sailors acted as lookouts while a friend filmed female shipmates undressing with cellphones or an iPod Touch — both of which are banned aboard the sub.

One sailor admitted that he and a male peer rushed to secretly record each female midshipman while she was in the shower changing room. They filmed every woman each time she took a shower during the three-month patrol, he said — several times a day, according to a new report.

Peer pressure allowed this ring to persist for 10 months on the Wyoming, recording and sharing videos of dozens of women they served alongside every day. The new details into the case, which the top submarine commander called a “breach of trust,” come in a new command investigation, obtained by Navy Times via the Freedom of Information Act.

The scandal has dismayed the sub force and some of the trailblazing officers who made history as the first women submariners. One officer, among the first to earn her dolphins in 2012, told Navy Times she couldn’t believe her peers had been betrayed that way.

“The thing with the Wyoming is, to me that was such a shocking event,” said Lt. Jennifer Carroll, who served aboard the ballistic missile sub Maine and was never recorded by the Wyoming ring. “It was completely 180-degrees out from what my experience was. I couldn’t really even fathom that one of our guys [would] do that to me.”

The report provides new details on how the ring allegedly filmed women with cellphones through a hole and then shared them without detection for months. Investigators with Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Kings Bay, Ga.-based Submarine Squadron 20 interviewed more than 300 people and included statements from the 12 original suspects.

The interviews paint a picture of a few sailors eager to spy on off-limits young women and nearly a dozen who failed to report them for fear of breaching ties to their shipmates.

Of the 12 sailors who had known about the videos — filmed, distributed, watched or heard about them — eight were court-martialed (one was acquitted), three went to captain’s mast, and one was released with no charges.

“The abhorrent behavior of this small number of personnel is not indicative of the superior sailors that comprise these crews and the submarine force,” wrote Capt. William Houston, head of Submarine Squadron 20, in his endorsement letter to the report.

Carroll, among the first women to join the sub force, said that she felt like a sister to her male shipmates on the Maine, and couldn’t picture any of them betraying her trust.

“Most of the men in the submarine force reacted very, very strongly to that,” she said. “I actually think that we got a stronger reaction in the submarine force than we would have in the other communities.”

The filming had gone on for nearly a year, investigators would come to learn, with videos of up to four of the women assigned to the boat as well as midshipmen on cruise during two patrols with Wyoming, from August to November 2013 and March to June 2014. Three sailors filmed the women and distributed the short recordings; two admitted their guilt and one was implicated by another sailor.

The videos and images were recorded on two cellphones and one iPod Touch that were taken into outboard frame bays or unmanned spaces, according to the report, where “these areas provided the perpetrators a limited viewing area of the bathrooms/heads via piping penetrating air gaps in the bulkheads.”

The submarine force allows commanding officers to determine what types of devices are allowed on board, and when or where sailors can use them.

The commander of the Wyoming Gold crew of about 160 sailors banned all devices with screens smaller than 7 inches from secret spaces like control and engineering rooms. That move effectively prohibited all cellphones and iPods.

NCIS recovered seven videos of women assigned to Wyoming. Everything else had been deleted, including videos of female midshipmen on cruise with Wyoming.

Redacted lists of ship riders from the 2014 cruise, included in the investigation, show more than 130 names, but don’t specify genders of the Naval Academy students.

The recording ring continued until November 2014, when rumors about the videos spread to another submarine. An electronics technician 3rd class from the ballistic missile submarine West Virginia in Kings Bay, told his chief of the boat he had heard about the lewd videos on Wyoming, based nearby. That prompted the investigation.

Houston, the squadron boss, recommended seven sailors for Article 32, one for non-judicial punishment, a command transfer for the exonerated MT1 and that two other sailors’ cases be forwarded to their new skippers at Trident Training Facility Kings Bay and the ballistic missile sub Michigan in Bangor, Wash.

In the end, 10 sailors faced punishment, ranging from dishonorable discharge and prison time to reduction in rank and pay forfeiture at captain’s mast.

“This was a deliberate criminal activity taken by a handful of sailors and I find no indication that the leadership environment of either command was culpable in creating an environment that contributed to this insidious incident,” Houston wrote.

Houston, however, ordered both Wyoming crews to carry out a command-climate survey and submarine-culture workshop in early 2015.

Submarine sailors are still grappling with the sense of betrayal as more details emerged during courts-martial in 2015. Some women feel reluctant to continue serving alongside crewmembers who might have seen the videos. But others are hopeful that, with the surveys and prosecutions, the sub force has turned a page.

“I really do think the submarine community is special; members of your crew become like family,” Carroll said. “In my experience relationships with members of my crew were founded on trust and mutual respect. This event contradicted what I thought was a universal sense of camaraderie among submariners.”

Now on shore duty, Carroll is a coordinator at Submarine Force Atlantic’s women submarine’s program. She’s optimistic, she said, that the undersea force is on the right path as it works toward its next goal: when enlisted women report to the guided-missile submarine Michigan in 2016.

Bashar Assad

83 3LINKEDIN 49COMMENTMORE

LONDON — Syrian President Bashar Assad says Britain’s airstrikes in his country are “illegal”, doomed to fail and will help spread terrorism.

The United Kingdom launched airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria on Thursday, amid a request from French President Francois Hollandefor its allies to do more to combat the extremist group, also known as ISIL or ISIS, following terror attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people. ISIL claimed responsibility for those attacks.

The United States, France and Russia are also bombing militants in Syria, where civil war began in 2011.

In an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times at his palace in Damascus conducted Wednesday, Assad said Britain’s airstrikes in Syria would fail.

“It has to be from the air, from the ground, to have co-operation with troops on the ground — the national troops — for the interference to be legal,” he said. “So I would say they don’t have the will and don’t have the vision on how to defeat terrorism.”

Speaking of Britain’s campaign, he said: “It will be harmful and illegal and it will support terrorism, as happened after the coalition started its operation a year or so [ago] because this is like a cancer.

“You cannot cut out part of the cancer. You have to extract it. This kind of operation is like cutting out part of the cancer. That will make it spread in the body faster.”

Assad said the the discovery by European security officials of plots to commit terror attacks had exposed terrorist sleeper cells. An estimated 5,000-6,000 Europeans have traveled to Syria to join jihadists, EU official Vera Jourova told French newspaper Le Figaro in April.

“How many extremist cells now exist in Europe? How many extremists did you export from Europe to Syria? This is where the danger lies. The danger is in the incubator,” Assad said.

“The Russians can see this clearly. They want to protect Syria, Iraq, the region — and even Europe. I am not exaggerating by saying they are protecting Europe today.”

Russia is a key ally of Syria. Assad said Russia’s involvement in the conflict is legal, and came with Syria’s permission.

Speaking of the West, he said: “If they are ready — serious and genuine — to fight terrorism, we welcome any country of government, any political effort. In that regard we are not radical, we are pragmatic. Ultimately, we want to resolve the situation in Syria and prevent further bloodshed.”

Britain’s Royal Air Force has been bombing ISIL targets in Iraq since 2014. Wednesday’s decision to expand the strikes to Syria came after a 10-hour debate by parliamentarians in the House of Commons.

The United Nations estimates the civil war has killed at least 250,000 people. President Obama says Assad has killed tens of thousands of his own people in the conflict.

San Bernardino suspect, a dad, lived the American dream

2346 7LINKEDINMORE

Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this story misidentified the relationship of Farhan Khan to Syed R. Farook, the suspected gunman. Khan is Farook’s brother-in-law.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The day started like any other — and ended in mass murder.

Syed R. Farook and Tashfeen Malik dropped off their 6-month-old daughter with the baby’s grandparents on Wednesday morning. They explained that they had a doctor’s appointment, says Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations here, who talked with Farook’s family.

But instead, Farook would briefly go to an office party at the Inland Regional Center where he worked as a environmental specialist. He left only to return with Malik, police say. With assault rifles and bombs, the pair gunned down 14 and injured at least 17 others.

On Thursday, the search for a motive continues.

Police were zeroing on the lives of the couple in an attempt to determine whether the attack in San Bernardino, about 50 miles east of here, was a case of workplace violence or Islamic-inspired terrorism, or both.

Ayloush organized a press conference Wednesday night in which he was joined by clergy of various faiths to urge that the attacks be viewed as a product of madness, not jihad. Among those speaking was Farhan Khan, Farook’s brother-in-law, who said his family was shocked at what happened.

“Why would he do something like this?” Khan asked, later saying the family is in a state of shock and disbelief about what happened.

Khan, married to Farook’s sister, said he talked with Farook a week ago. While he didn’t disclose the nature of the conversation, Ayloush said Khan told him it was routine — family business and alike. He said little else, explaining he didn’t want to compromise the police investigation.

On the surface, Farook and Malik lived the American dream, the kind of life that would be the envy of many. He had a solid job for a government agency, having worked for San Bernardino County for five years, police say. The family had a neat house in nearby Redlands. And, of course, there was their darling baby.

The couple led such normal lives that their little girl’s grandparents didn’t detect anything wrong. When they learned of the attack on TV, they called Farook to make sure he was okay, Ayloush says. It wasn’t until late afternoon, when they received a call from a reporter, that they learned that the couple might be suspected as perpetrators of the attack.

When they got the call, “their initial thought was they were among the wounded,” Ayloush says.

The man who owns the house in Center Street in Redlands, Doyle Miller, said Farook had lived there for five or six months. Redlands is just a few miles from San Bernardino, east of Los Angeles, in what is known locally as the Inland Empire. Miller said Farook moved in with his wife and a “young child,” who he thinks was just a baby. He said a “grandmother” also lived there, though he wasn’t sure if it was Farook’s grandmother or the child’s.

Late in the day, police were searching the house. They were worried it might have bombs like the three that the couple planted at the center.

Miller said he only met Farook once and  had no problems with him. “The only thing we complained about is that he didn’t take care of the backyard,” he says.

Couple slays 14 in murderous rampage at Calif. meeting

1684 3LINKEDINMORE

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A 28-year-old health inspector and the woman he lived with went on a murderous rampage at a meeting inside a social service center Wednesday, killing at least 14 people before fleeing and dying in a gun battle with police.

Syed R. Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, opened fire inside the Inland Regional Center and injured at least 17 others. The motive is unknown, although police quote some witnesses as saying Farook had attended the annual holiday party, left in a fit of anger, and returned with Malik. The couple — who met online and who became acquainted in Saudi Arabia — were decked out in body armor and armed with assault rifles and handguns.

Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said that following the late-morning massacre, the pair fled in a dark-colored SUV but were shortly tracked down by police, who riddled the vehicle with bullets. Both Farook and Malik died at the scene.

Burguan said that although initial reports indicated that as many as three shooters may have been involved, “we are confident now” that Farook and Malik acted alone. He said Farook, and Malik were “either boyfriend-girlfriend or husband and wife.” He said Farook was born in the United States but he did not know not know Malik’s background.

The FBI is investigating possible motives, including workplace violence and terrorism, according to David Bowdich, assistant director of the bureau’s Los Angeles office. He did not elaborate.

All four firearms, two rifles and two handguns, that were recovered Wednesday from the two dead suspects appear to have been purchased legally from a federally licensed dealer, a federal law enforcement official said Thursday. The weapons were traced to a point of sale within two hours after the trace requests were submitted, said the official who is not authorized to comment publicly.

Chris Nwadike, who worked with Farook as a restaurant inspector associated with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, said that Wednesday’s meeting was one of two “general education” meetings the department holds each year. The meeting was routine, in which employees were to be given employee rewards and other recognition.

Nwadike said he was sitting at a table with Farook, who he knew from around the office. He said that at some point, more than 30 minutes before the shooting, he and his co-workers noticed Farook had left. They noticed because the meeting organizers were handing out “clickers” — the sort that might be used to register votes during a presentation — and someone asked that they leave one for Farook. He also said Farook left something behind at his seat.

“He left and he didn’t come back,” Nwadike said.

Nwadike said the meeting was on a 15-minute break when the shooting happened. Many of the participants were outside of the meeting room. Nwadike said he was in the bathroom. “If everybody was there, it could have been a total massacre,” he said.

While in the bathroom, Nwadike heard the shooting begin. He heard one especially loud boom and thought that something had fallen.

“The very first one was a big blast; we thought that something may have fallen down,” he said. “That was followed by gunfire. He said that he and the others in the bathroom laid down on the floor and remained there until police officers escorted them out of the building. He did not go back into the meeting room. He said he had no idea how many shots were fired; “there were quite a number of shots.

Pentagon wasted ‘tens of millions’ on private villas in Afghanistan

1257 7LINKEDINMORE

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon business advocacy agency spent almost $150 million renting private “villas” and security for a “handful” of staff and visitors in Afghanistan, bypassing government housing that could have saved taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, according to an inspector general’s report released Thursday.

The Task Force Business Stability Operations last month was blasted by members of Congress after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found that it had spent $43 million for a gas station there that should have cost $500,000.

In the housing case, Inspector General John Sopko, in a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, questioned the need for the “western-style hotel accommodations,” flat-screen TVs, private bodyguards and dining services of at least “three-star” quality for government workers and guests.

“If (task force) employees had instead lived at (Department of Defense) facilities in Afghanistan, where housing, security, and food service are routinely provided at little or no extra charge to DoD organizations, it appears the taxpayers would have saved tens of millions of dollars,” Sopko wrote.

Sopko’s letter also calls on the Pentagon to divulge more information on who stayed at the villas and approved the expenditures.

“We have received the recent letter from SIGAR and will respond,” Army Lt. Col. Joe Sowers, a Pentagon spokesman, said.

The bill for accommodations — 20% of the task force’s budget — provided housing and security for “no more than five to 10” staffers, former task force employees told investigators, the letter said. The inspector general estimates that housing a staff of 10 at the U.S. Embassy in 2014 would have cost $1.8 million, and little, or nothing, if they had bunked with troops at a military base.

Three contractors provided a level of luxury to villa residents in war-torn Afghanistan, which the CIA describes as “extremely poor, landlocked, and highly dependent on foreign aid.”

Each room in the villa — multi-story, modern buildings — was required to have flat-screen TVs of at least 27 inches, a DVD player and a mini-refrigerator. An upgraded villa for investors was required to provide “western-style hotel accommodations.”

Food service of at least three stars was required, too: “each meal containing at least two entrée choices and three side order choices, as well as three-course meals for ‘Special Events.’ ”

Other amenities included on-site laundry, “light snacks and water/tea/coffee/sodas available 24hrs.” Secure, low-profile transportation, business equipment, housekeeping, groundskeeping, cultural advisors and translators also were required.

Sopko attributed the decision to live in private accommodations to Paul Brinkley, a former Pentagon official and task force chief. A footnote in Sopko’s letter says Brinkley has not cooperated with requests for information.

Brinkley, now in private industry and reached by phone, said Sopko’s office had not reached out to him with questions raised in the letter, and he pledged to cooperate with investigators.

“I have not been contacted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction regarding the questions raised in the letter to the Department of Defense since I departed government service almost five years ago, but would be happy to meet and discuss these topics,” Brinkley said in a statement.

Brinkley added that the Pentagon and military command in Afghanistan had oversight of the task force during his tenure.

“Its unique operating posture — operating outside of military or diplomatic installations — was elemental to its successes and was clearly sanctioned by Pentagon leadership as well as the Congress,” Brinkley said.

Timeline of events in San Bernardino, Calif., shooting

861 2LINKEDIN 78COMMENTMORE

11 a.m. PT:

Authorities respond to reports of a multiple-victim shooting. Authorities later say attackers opened fire at the Inland Regional Center, a social services center that serves people with developmental disabilities, during a holiday gathering for San Bernardino County health department employees. The shooters fire with long guns, authorities say. People remain in place and hide in other parts of the building for the next two hours. Police report a dark-colored sports utility vehicle fled the scene.

12:25 p.m.: Police say they are searching for one or more gunmen. Authorities say multiple people have been shot.

1:05 p.m.: “There are multiple casualties and there are some confirmed fatalities,” San Bernardino Police Sgt. Vicki Cervantes says.

2 p.m.: At a press conference, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan says 14 people died and about 14 were hurt in the attack. Up to three people entered and opened fire, Burguan says. “They came in with a purpose,” he tells reporters. “They came in with the intent to do something.”

2:45 p.m.: President Obama says: “We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country.” In an interview with an already scheduled interview with CBS, the president calls for “common-sense gun safety laws” and “stronger background checks.”

3:20 p.m.: Police point guns at a dark-colored S.U.V. and engage in a shootout. They report a suspect is down outside of the S.U.V. Police later say two suspects, a man and a woman in the vehicle, died in this shooting. They later say a third person has been detained but how this person might be connected to the shootings is not clear.

4:20 p.m.: California Gov. Jerry Brown says in a statement: “California will spare no effort in bringing these killers to justice.”

5:05 p.m.: Police execute a search warrant at a home in Redlands, Calif.

7:40 p.m.: Twitter crackles with word that law enforcement has identified Syed Farook as a suspect, and various news organizations, including USA TODAY, cite an unidentified law enforcement official as a source for confirmation.

10:10 p.m.: In a news conference, police identify the second shooter as Tashfeen Malik, wife of Syed Farook.

Related stories:

2 pilots killed in Fort Campbell helicopter crash

308LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Two pilots flying an AH-64D Apache from Fort Campbell were killed when the helicopter crashed during a training exerciseWednesday.

Fort Campbell spokesman Maj. Allen Hill confirmed that the two-person helicopter of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade went down during “routine training” 12 miles south of Fort Campbell.

The helicopter was found in the rural Fredonia community of Montgomery County, Tenn.

Deputies with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department searched across the county before the crash site was found.

There has been no determination of the cause of the accident and it is under investigation by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center.

The names of the two pilots are being withheld pending notification of their families.

The crash is one of at least three Army helicopter crashes that have occurred during training in the last month.

Four crew members died when a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed on the Fort Hood range, Army officials said early Nov. 24. Two U.S. pilots were killed Nov. 23 when a military helicopter crashed near Wonju, South Korea, during a routine training mission, the Pentagon said.

Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency Director Jerry Buchanan said the helicopter was found in a river bottom and was on fire when first responders arrived.

“We put the fire out,” said Buchanan. “There are about 30 to 40 emergency workers on site.”

A four-wheel drive mini-pumper that carries 400 gallons of water at a time was used to put out the fire.

Montgomery County responders pulled all but the mini-pumper, tanker and a crash truck with extrication tools late Wednesday and turned the investigation over to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Campbell.

The AH-64 Apache is a four-blade, twin-turboshaft attack helicopter that carries two crewmembers, according to Boeing, its manufacturer.