Army investigates disappearance of former Taliban prisoner

The U.S. Army and an attorney for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl say military investigators have begun questioning the solider about his disappearance in Afghanistan that led to five years in captivity by the Taliban.

Eugene R. Fidell said Wednesday his client is cooperating with the investigation at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

Fidell declined to comment on what Bergdahl is being asked. An Army spokeswoman says Bergdahl was advised of his rights.

The investigation’s findings will help determine whether the 28-year-old is prosecuted for desertion or faces any other disciplinary action.

Bergdahl had been receiving care at Fort Sam Houston since returning to the United States on June 13 after his release by the Taliban on May 31. Earlier this month, the Army announced Bergdahl was given a desk job.

— Associated Press

State official steps down following protests

Art Pope, the budget director who became the focus of weekly protests at North Carolina’s capitol, is stepping down, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said Wednesday.

Pope, a 58-year-old businessman who formed a series of free-market organizations in the state and helped fund a Republican takeover of the legislature in 2010, became budget director in 2013. He was vilified during the demonstrations known as Moral Mondays for the administration’s decisions to cut taxes and spending on higher education and other programs. He will return to run his family’s retail business, Variety Wholesalers.

“Art Pope has been an invaluable public servant for the people of North Carolina,” McCrory said in the statement, crediting Pope with two balanced budgets and the state’s 2013 tax overhaul, which lowered income, corporate and estate taxes.

Pope will be replaced by Lee Roberts, a Raleigh banker.

— Bloomberg

Man pleads guilty to conspiracy to photograph senator’s wife

One of four men authorities say conspired to photograph Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s bedridden wife for political purposes pleaded guilty to the charge Wednesday.

John Mary entered his plea to one count of felony conspiracy before Madison County Circuit Court Judge William Chapman, who sentenced him to five years of supervised probation with the condition he continues to cooperate with the ongoing investigation into the case.

Mary, a former conservative radio host, was arrested in May after authorities said he helped political blogger Clayton Kelly sneak into the Jackson-area nursing home, where Rose Cochran has lived for a decade due to Alzheimer’s disease, and photograph her on Easter.

Kelly later posted the images in an online video attacking Cochran, who was in a primary battle with tea party challenger Chris McDaniel. The video was removed shortly afterward. McDaniel lost to Cochran in the primary runoff but is challenging the results. He has denied any involvement in the scheme.

In addition to Kelly and Mary, authorities arrested schoolteacher Richard Sager and lawyer Mark Mayfield for their roles in the incident. Kelly and Sager deny any wrongdoing.

— Reuters

City seeks to drop appeals over stop-and-frisk

New York City asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to drop the city’s appeals and lift the stay of a judge’s ruling that its police stop-and-frisk tactic sometimes discriminates against minorities.

The city’s request was aimed at speeding the implementation of reforms it has already agreed to in a settlement.

The law department said in papers filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan that it was appropriate to drop the cases after a lower-court judge last week concluded that police unions lacked standing to carry on the cases in the city’s absence.

The unions sought to intervene after a judge last year concluded that the city sometimes discriminates against minorities with its stop-and-frisk program. The 2nd Circuit had directed the unions to let a lower-court judge consider whether they could do so, and the lower court ruled against them.

— Associated Press

Oregon fire threatens more homes: A growing Oregon brush fire that ballooned to 200 acres Wednesday triggered the evacuation of seven rural homes, as blazes elsewhere in the state forced ranchers to relocate cattle and threatened to drive more people from their homes. The Rowena Fire, as it is called, which erupted Tuesday in the Columbia River Gorge in northern Oregon, was threatening 70 homes by mid-morning. The National Weather Service issued a “red flag warning” for northeast Oregon and southeast Washington state Wednesday.

— From news services