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Briefs

Mental exam ordered for accused 9/11 plotter

A military judge on Thursday halted proceedings against Ramzi Binalshibh, a self-described key operative in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, ordering that he undergo a mental examination and throwing into doubt whether the government will ever be able to prosecute the “high-value” detainee.

More than a decade after the attacks, none of the five accused al-Qaida plotters in U.S. custody – including the confessed mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed – has been brought to trial, their cases repeatedly stymied by legal problems and political wrangling. The latest delay raises questions about whether the CIA’s handling of Binalshibh while he was in the agency’s secret overseas prisons contributed to his ongoing mental problems.

The judge’s order Thursday followed a series of outbursts by Binalshibh at a pretrial military commission hearing this week at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and is another blow to a proceeding that has stopped and started across two administrations. It now may be many months, if not years, before the defendants are tried.

Bare-bones health care plans offered

The Obama administration on Thursday night significantly relaxed the rules of the federal health care law for millions of consumers whose individual insurance policies have been canceled, saying they can buy bare-bones plans or entirely avoid a requirement that most Americans have health coverage.

The surprise announcement, days before the Monday deadline for people to choose plans, triggered an immediate backlash from the health insurance industry and raised fairness questions about a law intended to promote affordable and comprehensive coverage on a widespread basis. The rule change was issued in a bulletin from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Pardon coming for Russian prisoner

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he intends to pardon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, his country’s most famous political prisoner, in a broad amnesty that comes just weeks before the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The amnesty is expected to free hundreds of prisoners, including two Pussy Riot performers, 30 people plucked from a Greenpeace protest in the Arctic and Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon and one of Putin’s most despised enemies.

Detroit mayor-elect to share duties

Mayor-elect Mike Duggan said he and Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr will share some of the duties of running the cash-strapped city, but the bulk of the financial responsibilities will remain under Orr’s control. Duggan has been given control over blight removal, public lighting and the Fire Department. Orr still will oversee the Police Department.

Actions in Russia led to firing of general

An investigation report showed Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Carey who was fired from command of U.S. land-based nuclear missile forces engaged in “inappropriate behavior” while in Russia in July, including drinking, rudeness to hosts and associating with “suspect” women.

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