National news briefs / 12/21/13

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Navy revamps contract rules

WASHINGTON -- As allegations of overbilling in the Navy's ship supply network expand, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on Friday acknowledged gaps in the Navy's oversight and announced plans to revamp its contracting practices.

Mr. Mabus said he had ordered a team of fleet and contracting officials to scrutinize the deficiencies in how it awards the contracts and come up with changes to make the Navy less vulnerable to fraud.

Mr. Mabus' comments, his first in public about the scandal, came after the owner of the Navy's main ship supply company in the Pacific, Leonard Glenn Francis, was arrested in September on charges that he bribed Navy officials to help him overcharge the Navy.

Air Force general sacked

WASHINGTON -- An Air Force general who oversaw some of the nation's nuclear weapons was dismissed for drunken antics during an official trip to Moscow last summer, according to a new investigative report.

Maj. Gen. Michael J. Carey, who was removed as commander earlier this year of the 20th Air Force, which maintains and operates the nation's intercontinental ballistic missiles, is accused of drinking heavily, insulting his guests and other behavior "unbecoming of an officer and gentleman" during a four-day visit to Moscow in July.

IG rates Secret Service

WASHINGTON -- The Secret Service does not have widespread misconduct, and the agency's leadership has not "fostered an environment that tolerates inappropriate behavior," according to a review of the agency's culture by the Inspector General's Office for the Department of Homeland Security.

The review began after several Secret Service employees were caught soliciting prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, shortly before President Barack Obama arrived there for a summit meeting in April 2012.

Senate ends session

WASHINGTON -- The Senate brought the unceremonious first session of the 113th Congress to a close Friday.

In a series of largely party-line votes, the Senate approved the confirmations of a deputy to the Department of Homeland Security, a lower-level federal judge and a commissioner to the Internal Revenue Service, while setting up a final vote early next month for the confirmation of Janet Yellen to become chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Capitol dome restoration

WASHINGTON -- When the U.S. Capitol dome was built in the 1860s, cast iron was the high-tech building material of its day, lighter and easier to erect than stone, more fireproof than wood.

Now, 150 years later, preparations for a long-planned $60 million restoration project got underway this week as officials suspended tours of the upper structure and prepared to string protective netting in the vaulted -- and vaunted -- space above the Rotunda.

Also in the nation ...

One woman's secret Santa this holiday season turned out to be one of the richest men in the world: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. A spokesman for Mr. Gates said the billionaire philanthropist wanted to engage with Reddit's community and promote Heifer International, a foundation that provides seeds and animals to people in need in the developing world.... Mark Zuckerberg this month is donating nearly $1 billion worth of Facebook stock to a Silicon Valley charity as part of a pledge he's taken to devote half of his wealth to philanthropy.

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