National briefs: Home fire kills nine in family

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GREENVILLE, Ky. -- Eight children and their mother were killed Thursday in an early morning house fire in western Kentucky, with only the injured father and an 11-year-old daughter escaping, Kentucky State Police said.

Trooper Stu Recke said eight of the people were found in a master bedroom while the ninth person was found between 10 and 15 feet away. He said the fire started accidentally with combustible material against an electric heater in a bedroom.

He identified those killed as LaRae "Nikki" Watson, 35; Madison Watson, 15; Kaitlyn Watson, 14; Morgan Watson, 13; Emily Watson, 9; Samuel Watson, 8; Raegan Watson, 6; and 4-year-old twin brothers Mark and Nathaniel Watson.

2 dead in family attack

GAITHERSBURG, Md. -- A Montgomery County police sergeant shot and killed his son at the family's home in this Washington, D.C., suburb, while trying to stop the younger man from stabbing his mother, who died shortly afterward, police officials said Thursday.

Police identified the sergeant as James Stirkens, a 27-year veteran of the force.

They said Sgt. Stirkens, 58, shot his son, Christopher Stirkens, 25. It was not immediately clear why the younger man attacked his mother, Denise Stirkens, 53, Wednesday in an upstairs bedroom.

Nuke officers suspended

WASHINGTON -- The Air Force said Thursday that it had suspended 92 officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base -- nearly half of the nuclear launch crew at the Montana facility -- in a cheating scandal, and it acknowledged a "systemic problem" in the culture of the team that is entrusted to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said a "climate of fear" that was pervasive in the ballistic missile force might have encouraged launch officers to share answers to monthly proficiency tests. She said the nation's nuclear arsenal remained safe.

NSA chief nominated

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama has nominated Navy Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, a 30-year Navy veteran, to head the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, officials said Thursday.

If confirmed by the Senate, Adm. Rogers will take over an intelligence agency battered by leaks of classified documents from former contractor Edward Snowden about NSA surveillance and intelligence-gathering programs at home and abroad. He would replace Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who is retiring.

'Stop-and-frisk' accord

NEW YORK -- Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that New York City had reached an agreement with civil rights lawyers who had challenged the Police Department's stop-and-frisk practices, which would allow the sweeping overhauls ordered by a federal judge last summer to be carried out.

Those changes were blocked last fall after the Bloomberg administration appealed the judge's rulings, which found that the city's stop-and-frisk policies were unconstitutional and that the department had resorted to "a policy of indirect racial profiling."

Also in the nation ...

Harvard University has hired new staff to oversee sexual-assault prevention, response and resources, and plans to revise its policies in the coming months. ... The Senate Judiciary Committee voted, 13-5, Thursday to slash mandatory-minimum sentences for many nonviolent drug offenses and to make retroactive a 2010 law reducing the sentences for possession of crack cocaine.


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