News MIDDAY UPDATE: Savannah troops return from Iraq;

Army helicopter crews who deployed to Iraq last year with the 3rd Infantry Division are returning to hangars decorated with ‘‘welcome home’’ posters, American flags and cheering family members.

‘‘I knew there would be someone special here to greet me, but I had no idea who,’’ said Capt. Evan Brainerd, a Blackhawk helicopter pilot from Pasadena, Calif., who was surprised to see his mother there in her motorized wheelchair.

About 550 soldiers from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, which flies Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, celebrated homecomings Tuesday. About 1,150 more troops are scheduled to return to Hunter Army Airfield between Thursday and Saturday.

In Iraq, the brigade provided air support in an area the size of West Virginia and logged more than 140,000 hours flying helicopters and unmanned aerial surveilance drones.

Units of the 20,000-soldier 3rd Infantry have been returning throughout the year from their 15-month tour. It’s the third time the Fort Stewart-based division has deployed to Iraq since its troops helped lead the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

– Associated Press

Nichols claims deputies tried to 'bait' him

Lawyers for accused courthouse gunman Brian Nichols claim deputies at the Fulton County Jail tried to ‘‘bait’’ him into attempting an escape so they could kill him.

Nichols’ defense attorneys filed a motion Tuesday accusing deputies of plotting a scenario that would allow them to justify killing Nichols while he was jailed on charges of killing four people in March 2005.

Citing information from an anonymous source, the filing claims deputies were encouraged to put Nichols in a recreation area unrestrained. It claims this was done to encourage him to attempt to escape or attack a deputy ‘‘so that they could use lethal force against him.’’

Nichols’ attorneys say the information came from a source who demanded anonymity because of concerns about ‘‘backlash’’ from the sheriff’s office.

Nichols was moved to the DeKalb County Jail in October 2006.

– Associated Press

XM-Sirius deal hit another setback

A Federal Communications Commission member who sought further concessions in a pending satellite radio buyout withdrew his offer today after it failed to draw support.

Democratic commissioner Jonathan Adelstein voted against Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.’s proposed takeover of XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. The vote of the five-member regulatory body now stands at 2-2, with Republican member Deborah Taylor Tate still undecided.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and fellow Republican Robert McDowell have both voted in favor of the deal. Democrat Michael Copps voted against it Monday.

Adelstein’s vote puts even more pressure on Tate, who is seeking resolution of a pending enforcement action against the companies, according to public filings.

Adelstein released a statement Wednesday.

‘‘I was hoping to forge a bipartisan solution that would offer consumers more diversity in programming, better price protection, expanded choices among innovative devices and real competition with digital radio,’’ it read. ‘‘Instead, it appears they’re going to get a monopoly with window dressing. We really missed a great opportunity to reach a bipartisan agreement that would have benefited the American people.’’

– Associated Press


– People are lining up outside a Macon Chick-fil-A today for coupons to be given away tomorrow for free meals for a year. We'll tell you about it.

– Macon residents could be able to water their lawns more frequently, if a request from the Macon Water Authority is approved. Come back to for details.


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