Nation Briefs 08-21-14 Navy kicks out 34 for their roles in nuclear cheating

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WASHINGTON -- At least 34 sailors are being kicked out of the Navy for their roles in a cheating ring that operated undetected for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site, and 10 others are under criminal investigation, the admiral in charge of the Navy's nuclear reactors program told Associated Press.

The number of accused and the duration of cheating are greater than was known when the Navy announced in February that it had discovered cheating on qualification exams by an estimated 20 to 30 sailors seeking to be certified as instructors at the nuclear training unit at Charleston, S.C. Students there are trained in nuclear reactor operations to prepare for service on any of the Navy's 83 nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers.

Neither the instructors nor the students are involved in handling nuclear weapons.

After further investigation the Navy determined that 78 enlisted sailors were implicated. Although the cheating is believed to have been confined to a single unit at Charleston and apparently was not known to commanding officers, the misconduct had been happening since at least 2007, according to Adm. John M. Richardson, director of naval reactors.

Grounds 82 of its F-16 fighters: The Air Force has temporarily grounded 82 of its aging F-16 fighter jets after structural cracks were found near the cockpits. The first cracks were discovered July 31 during post-flight inspections of an F-16D model, which is a two-seat variant primarily used for training. Subsequent inspections found than more than half of the F-16Ds were affected. The grounding of the aircraft highlights an ongoing concern in the Air Force that its 2,028 fighter and attack jets are aging fast.

Last four hostages freed: About two dozen heavily armed law enforcement officers stormed a home in Harvey, Ill., in Chicago's southern suburbs Wednesday to free four remaining hostages and capture two suspects, ending a 20-hour standoff that police say began as a robbery attempt. Two women and two children were freed midmorning from the home in the small city of Harvey, with the captors at one point firing through a second-floor door as officers rushed toward it down a hallway, said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Supreme Court blocks court order: The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked a court order that would have allowed gay marriages in Virginia to begin today, adding to the likelihood the justices will decide the issue themselves in the coming term. The brief order by the court contained no explanation for its rationale, but it was not a surprise because the court had previously blocked a similar ruling that would have allowed gay marriages in Utah.

Homes, buildings destroyed: A wildfire northeast of Bakersfield, Calif., burning in steep terrain has destroyed eight homes and 10 other structures, authorities said, but residents of some 200 homes under evacuation orders were allowed to return home Wednesday evening. The blaze near Lake Isabella was 15 percent contained after scorching about five square miles, Kern County Fire Capt. Derek Tisinger said. Firefighters working in drought conditions continued building containment lines after stopping the spread of the flames, and danger remained.

Fit for trial for Calif. fire: Superior Court Judge Rod Shelton on Wednesday in San Diego ruled that a 13-year-old girl is competent to stand trial on allegations that she deliberately started a wildfire that destroyed three dozen homes north of San Diego in May. The judge made the ruling in a brief hearing in juvenile court, where the girl pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of arson and one misdemeanor count of unlawfully allowing a fire to escape from one's control.

Reaches $17B settlement: Bank of America has reached a record settlement of nearly $17 billion to resolve an investigation into its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis, officials directly familiar with the matter said Wednesday. One of the officials, who spoke with Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the announcement isn't scheduled until today at the earliest, said the bank will pay $9.65 billion in cash and provide consumer relief valued at $7 billion.

Stores breached by malware: Some customers of The UPS Store may have had their credit and debit card information exposed by a computer virus found on systems at 51 stores in 24 states. A spokesman for UPS said the information includes names, card numbers and postal and email addresses from about 100,000 transactions between Jan. 20 and Aug. 11.

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