National briefs: Hagel cites fiscal trade-offs

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WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon will continue to scale down the size of the armed forces to protect investments in high-tech weapons and cyberwar capabilities, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday as he laid out how austere times are forcing basic trade-offs in national security priorities.

In a speech that foreshadowed how the U.S. military will be restructured in the coming years, Mr. Hagel complained that projected defense budget cuts of $1 trillion during the next decade were "too fast, too much, too abrupt and too irresponsible."

But he also said the military would have to come to grips with much smaller budgets and reset expectations as the nation moves "off a perpetual war footing."

Stricter training for pilots

WASHINGTON -- Almost four years after an upstate New York commuter plane crash killed 50 people, the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday imposed stricter training requirements for commercial airline pilots.

Inexperience, ineptitude and fatigue were to blame for pilot errors that caused the crash of Colgan Air 3407 near Buffalo in February 2009, according to investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB concluded that the pilot and co-pilot did the exact opposite of what was needed to save the plane after it lost speed and stalled.

Ill. clears gay marriage

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The Illinois House voted Tuesday to allow same-sex couples to wed, ending months of delay over the issue and clearing the way for Illinois to become the 15th state, along with the District of Columbia, to permit gay couples to marry.

The vote was 61-54, with two members voting present.

The Senate then quickly approved changes the House made to the bill, sending it to the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat who has said he will sign it.

Mall shooter a suicide

TEANECK, N.J. -- Relatives and friends of a young man who fired shots in New Jersey's largest mall, trapping terrified shoppers for hours before killing himself, struggled Tuesday to reconcile those actions with a person whom they described as pleasant and well-liked.

Investigators don't believe the gunman, identified as Richard Shoop, 20, of Teaneck, intended to shoot anyone when he began firing at the ceiling and elsewhere at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, about 15 miles northwest of New York City, shortly before the mall closed Monday night. There were no other injuries.

Mr. Shoop's body was discovered around 3:20 a.m. Tuesday in a back corridor, deep within a lower level of the mall in an area not accessible to the public, Paramus Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg said.

Sen. Paul, plagiarism

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who in recent weeks has had to explain a series of plagiarism charges, said in an interview Tuesday that he was being held to an unfair standard, but that there would be an office "restructuring" to prevent future occurrences.

On Monday night, Mr. Paul, who previously had to explain why he used word-for-word Wikipedia entries in a speech, faced his most direct charges of plagiarism yet. In an op-ed article he wrote for The Washington Times in September on mandatory minimum prison sentences, he appears to have copied language from an essay that had previously run in the magazine The Week.

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