National briefs: Botched nuclear silo drill revealed

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WASHINGTON -- An Air Force security team's botched response to a simulated assault on a nuclear missile silo has prompted a blistering review followed by expanded training to deal with the nightmare scenario of a real attack.

The Air Force recognized the possibility of such an intrusion as more worrisome after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But an internal review of the exercise held last summer at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana said the security forces were unable to speedily regain control of the captured silo, and called this a "critical deficiency."

The previously unreported misstep was the reason the 341st Missile Wing flunked a broader safety and security inspection. The unit, which has been beset with other problems in recent months, including an exam-cheating scandal that led its commander to resign in March, passed a do-over of the security portion of the inspection last October.

VA's Shinseki vows to remain

WASHINGTON -- Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki said Thursday that he intends to remain on the job to address allegations of mismanagement and delayed care for military veterans, adding that he has not offered his resignation to President Barack Obama because of the recent controversy

Mr. Shinseki has faced increasing calls for him to step down this week amid allegations that VA officials improperly delayed scheduling appointments for some veterans. Mr. Obama expressed support for Mr. Shinseki on Wednesday.

Lesbian war widow

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to provide survivor benefits to the first known war widow from a same-sex marriage, marking a gay rights breakthrough, according to an advocacy group.

Tracy Dice Johnson, a staff sergeant with the Army National Guard, announced Sunday that VA would recognize her marriage to Donna Johnson, who died in a suicide bombing about eight months before last year's Supreme Court decision that guaranteed equal federal benefits for all legally married couples.

The decision means Ms. Johnson will receive dependency and indemnity compensation, which goes to the spouses, children and some parents of service members who died while on active duty.

Obama promotes tourism

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- A plaque honoring slugger Babe Ruth behind him, President Barack Obama on Thursday pitched the United States as a destination spot for travelers, casting tourism as a job-creating industry than can offer a needed boost to a recovering economy.

Using the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as his backdrop, Mr. Obama made a case for attracting more foreign visitors and helping a sector of the economy that has increasingly brought more money into the United States, but still faces competition from abroad.

Earlier Thursday, Mr. Obama signed a presidential memorandum giving his homeland security and commerce secretaries four months to come up with a plan to streamline the entry process for foreign visitors and reduce wait times.

Tenn. to use electric chair

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee has decided to bring back the electric chair.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday signed a bill into law allowing the state to electrocute death row inmates in the event the state is unable to obtain drugs used for lethal injections.

Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said Tennessee is the first state to enact a law to reintroduce the electric chair without giving prisoners an option.

Mr. Dieter said he expects legal challenges to arise if the state resumes electrocutions.


-- Compiled from news services


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