National Briefs: Hackers strike Washington Post website

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WASHINGTON -- The Washington Post's website was hacked Thursday, sending some users who tried to access its stories to a Syrian hacker site.

The readers were redirected to the page of the Syrian Electronic Army, a group that backs Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Post said in an online note. The newspaper said it fixed the site after it had been compromised for about 30 minutes Thursday morning.

The hacker group gained access to a staff writer's computer account after a series of phishing attempts, managing editor Emilio Garcia-Ruiz said.

Vulnerable nuclear plants

WASHINGTON -- Commercial U.S. nuclear reactors remain vulnerable to terrorist threats more than a decade after the 2001 attacks spurred added safety measures, according to an independent study prepared for the Defense Department.

The combined public and private security provided at the power plants "is inadequate to defend against a maximum, credible, non-state adversary," the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin said in the report Thursday.

Planet-probe mission ends

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- NASA said Thursday that its planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft, which broke down in May when a reaction wheel that controls its orientation failed, will never be able to hunt for planets around other stars, so-called exoplanets, again.

The announcement brings to an end, for now, one phase of the most romantic of space dreams, the search for other Earths in the Milky Way. NASA has already asked astronomers for ideas on how to use the hobbled spacecraft, whose telescope remains in perfect shape.

Rampage testimony

FORT HOOD, Texas -- One of the soldiers killed during the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood suffered a dozen gunshot wounds that indicate he was trying to charge the gunman, and another victim was pregnant, medical experts testified Thursday.

The two were among 13 people killed when a gunman opened fire inside a crowded medical building at the sprawling Army post in Texas on Nov. 5, 2009. The defendant, Maj. Nidal Hasan, also is accused of wounding more than 30 people as he stands trial for the worst mass shooting ever on a U.S. military base.

Rockefeller imposter

LOS ANGELES -- The man convicted of murder who masqueraded as a member of the Rockefeller family proclaimed his innocence Thursday as he was sentenced to 27 years to life in prison.

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter was found guilty in April of murdering his landlady's adult son, John Sohus, 27, who vanished from San Marino, Calif., in February 1985, as did his wife, Linda. Gerhartsreiter, 52, left San Marino soon afterward, resurfacing on the East Coast under a series of new names, including Clark Rockefeller.

Cargo plane crash probe

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Federal investigators found no initial evidence that a UPS cargo jet suffered engine failure or was burning before it clipped trees at the end of a runway and slammed into a hillside, killing the two pilots, officials said Thursday.

A National Transportation Safety Board member, Robert Sumwalt, said the plane was trying to land on the airport's shorter runway early Wednesday because the longer one was closed for maintenance. He also said investigators expect to be able to recover good data from two flight recorders.

-- Compiled from news services

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