National briefs (11/20/12)
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SAN DIEGO -- The Marine Corps is forming the first squadron of pilots to fly the next-generation strike fighter jet, months after lawmakers raised concern that there was a rush to end the testing of an aircraft hit with technical problems.
So far two veteran pilots of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing have been trained to fly the F-35B. They are becoming the first members of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 that will debut at a ceremony today at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz.
The first F-35B arrived Friday and 15 more are slated to arrive over the next year. The Defense Department has pumped a half a billion dollars into upgrading the facilities, hangars and runways at the base to make way for the next-generation fighter jet, officials said.
SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- The city of Santa Monica can bar seasonal displays, including a Nativity scene that has appeared in Palisades Park for nearly 60 years, a federal judge ruled Monday.
Judge Audrey Collins denied a request from the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee to erect multiple large displays depicting the story of the birth of Jesus in the park overlooking the ocean. The coalition of churches has erected the displays every December since the 1950s.
But last year, after requests for display spots exceeded the space allotted, the city held a lottery to allocate spaces. Atheists won 18 of 21 spots. A Jewish group won another. The traditional Nativity story that used to take up 14 displays was crammed into two.
CHICAGO -- Water levels on the Mississippi River may drop to historic lows next month in the Midwest, delaying barges carrying everything from grains and coal to steel and petroleum, after the worst U.S. drought in 56 years.
The waterway, the busiest in the United States, may be too shallow to navigate by Dec. 10 from St. Louis south about 180 miles to Cairo, Ill., where the Mississippi meets the Ohio River, the American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council Inc. said.
WASHINGTON -- More than half of America's veterans say they have little or no understanding of the benefits due them, despite efforts over recent years to match returning soldiers with the help and services they need.
An analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs survey data found that younger veterans -- those who served in the post-9/11 war period -- are better versed in their benefits.
PHILADELPHIA -- An aging mob hit man told jurors Monday that he once plotted to kill a Philadelphia mob boss now on trial and two underlings -- even though he liked them.
Pete "the Crumb" Caprio said he was acting on behalf of rival New York City mob leaders when he targeted accused Philadelphia boss Joseph Ligambi, Ligambi nephew George Borgesi and a purported underboss in 2000.
NEW YORK -- The State University of New York at Buffalo is shutting down a research institute opened seven months ago to study natural gas fracking after potential conflicts of interest raised what the college's president called a "cloud of uncertainty" over its work.
The Shale Resources and Society Institute is closed effective immediately, university president Satish Tripathi said Monday in a statement.
-- Compiled from news services
First Published November 20, 2012 12:00 am