National briefs: Sexual assaults in Air Force

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WASHINGTON -- Likening sexual assault in the Air Force's ranks to a cancer, the service's top officer resolved Wednesday to tackle the problem by screening personnel more carefully and putting an end to bad behaviors like binge drinking that can lead to misconduct.

But Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, underscored the challenge by telling a House oversight committee that the service recorded a disturbing number of reports of sexual assault last year even as it worked to curb misconduct in the wake of a sex scandal at its training headquarters in Texas. Dozens of young female recruits and airmen at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio were victimized by their instructors who sexually harassed, improperly touched or raped them.

Most difficult, Gen. Welsh said, is transforming a culture in which victims are often reluctant to report what happened because of guilt, shame or fear they won't be believed.

NATO bid back on track

WASHINGTON -- The White House will go ahead with nominating Marine Gen. John Allen to be top U.S. commander in Europe, following an investigation by the Pentagon inspector general that found his emails with a Florida woman were not improper.

White House spokesman Jay Carney called Wednesday for the Senate to approve Gen. Allen's nomination "in a timely manner" now that the investigation is complete. Gen. Allen is currently top commander in Afghanistan.

Pointing laser at aircraft

MELVILLE, N.Y. -- The FBI arrested a Long Island man early Wednesday on charges of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, in the first federal prosecution of its kind in the region -- an arrest made possible after the suspect blurted out a confession, officials said.

Officials said Angel Rivas, 33, of Shirley, N.Y., pointed the laser at two aircraft on Aug. 21. He shined a green laser beam at the cockpit of a Sun Country Airlines chartered Boeing 737 headed for Kennedy Airport as it passed over Suffolk County at 12,000 feet, court records say. Later the same day he pointed a green laser beam at a Suffolk County police helicopter that was sent out to investigate the jet incident, records show.

Hate crime tied to murder

PHILADELPHIA -- Federal prosecutors on Wednesday combined racketeering, murder and what they said were unprecedented hate-crime charges in a vast indictment against the woman accused of imprisoning mentally disabled adults in a basement so she could steal their benefit checks.

Linda Ann Weston, charged along with four others, became the first person to be charged under a 2009 law that enhanced punishments for criminals who target the mentally disabled.

The 196-count indictment accuses Ms. Weston of racketeering, with murder among the underlying charges, for alleged crimes between 2001 and 2011. She is accused of neglect so severe that it killed two people, one in Virginia and another in Pennsylvania.

Campus-shooting case

HOUSTON -- A second suspect may emerge in the aftermath of the shooting at a Houston-area community college that left three people injured, the Harris County sheriff said Wednesday.

At least 10 shots were fired Tuesday during a dispute between two men outside the library at the North Harris campus of Lone Star College, Sheriff Adrian Garcia said. Authorities were still looking for the handgun that was used.

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