WASHINGTON -- With public trust and safety at stake, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered immediate actions Thursday to define the depth of trouble inside the nation's nuclear force, which has been rocked by disclosures about security lapses, poor discipline, weak morale and other problems that raise questions about nuclear security.
It amounted to the most significant expression of high-level Pentagon concern about the nuclear force since 2008, when then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates fired the top uniformed and civilian officials in the Air Force following a series of mistakes that included an unauthorized flight of nuclear-armed cruise missiles across the country.
Hagel had recently said he was considering what may lay behind problems in the nuclear Air Force -- many revealed by Associated Press-- but his chief spokesman said Thursday that the defense secretary concluded urgent remedies were needed.
"To the degree there are systemic problems in the training and professional standards of the nuclear career field, the secretary wants them solved," the spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said. "To the degree there are gaps in our understanding or implementation of those standards, he wants them closed. And to the degree leaders have failed in their duties, he wants them held to account."
Hagel summoned top military officials to a Pentagon conference, to be held within two weeks, to "raise and address" any personnel problems infesting the nuclear force, and he ordered an "action plan" be written within 60 days to explore nuclear force personnel issues, identify remedies, and put those fixes into place quickly.
Murder charge filed in shooting: Purdue University student Cody Cousins, accused of killing a fellow student inside a classroom, was formally charged with murder on Thursday shortly before his initial court hearing. Prosecutors in Tippecanoe County filed the charge against Cody Cousins, 23, and asked that he remain in custody without bond. Magistrate Sean Persin entered a plea of not guilty on Cousins' behalf and ordered him held without bond. Prosecutors and police say Cousins attacked 21-year-old Andrew Boldt around noon Tuesday in Purdue's Electrical Engineering Building on the campus in West Lafayette.
Won't face death in wife's killing: William Dresser, an elderly Nevada man who told police he shot his wife Francis in a hospital to end her suffering, will not face a potential death penalty for murder, a prosecutor said Thursday. Carson City Assistant District Attorney Mark Krueger made the announcement at the onset of a brief initial court appearance for William Dresser. "We are formally putting it on the record we are not seeking ... the death penalty," Krueger said. Under Nevada law, at least two defense lawyers with a background in death penalty cases must be appointed to represent a defendant if the death penalty is a possibility and the person is not represented by a public defender.
To create new gallery space: As public awareness of the Monuments Men continues to grow -- thanks in no small part to the George Clooney-directed movie opening in February -- the National WWII Museum in New Orleans said it will create a new gallery space devoted to the individuals who saved numerous artistic masterpieces from Nazi forces.The National WWII Museum said its planned Monuments Men gallery is expected to open in 2016 and will be part of the museum's new Liberation Pavilion.
Life's too good to be president: House Speaker John Boehner says he likes his life too much to run for president. Making his first appearance Thursday night on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," Boehner was asked by the host whether he'd ever consider seeking the nation's highest office. "No," Boehner said immediately. "No?" Leno said. "No," Boehner repeated. "Listen, I like to play golf," Boehner said by way of explanation. "I like to cut my own grass. You know, I do drink red wine. I smoke cigarettes. And I'm not giving that up to be the President of the United States." The line got a round of applause from the Burbank, Calif. audience.
To deliver GOP response: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington will deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address next week, party leaders announced Thursday. McMorris Rodgers, a fifth-term congresswoman, currently chairs the House Republican Conference, the fourth-ranking position in leadership. She's also the mother of three children -- one born just two months ago -- and will become the first Republican woman since former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman in 1995 to deliver a State of the Union response speech by herself.
Watch out for exploding toilets: Flushmate, the maker of a high-pressure flushing system sold at Home Depot and Lowe's, is expanding its recall of the parts, because they can burst near a seam with force enough to shatter the toilet tank. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says Thursday that the company is recalling 351,000 units in the U.S. and about 9,400 units in Canada of the Series 503 Flushmate 111 Pressure Assist flushing systems installed inside toilet tanks that were made from March 2008 through June 2009. There were no reports of injuries, but Flushmate has received three reports of the units included in the recall bursting, resulting in property damage. The consumer agency said consumers should immediately stop using the recalled system, turn off the water supply to the unit, flush the toilet to release the internal pressure and contact the firm to request a free repair kit.