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Friday, August 29, 2008

USAF Officers Probed Over Missile Documents

BISMARCK, N.D. -- The Air Force announced Thursday that two officers who worked at a missile base in North Dakota have been taken off the job while the military investigates allegations that they took home classified components used in underground launch control centers.

The officers were supposed to have destroyed the two devices and had signed documents stating that they had, said Maj. Laurie A. Arellano, an Air Force spokeswoman. The Band-Aid-size devices, now obsolete, were used on equipment inside the launch center to detect equipment tampering.

"There is no risk to the security of the weapon system, and no possibility of an inadvertent launch as a result of this being taken from the weapon facility," Arellano said.

The officers worked at the time at Minot Air Force Base's 91st Space Wing, now known as the 91st Missile Wing. They were among the crew members who work 90 feet underground behind huge blast doors, prepared to launch nuclear missiles.

The officers, whose names have not been released, are no longer stationed at Minot. "They are not, obviously, working missile alert duties until the investigation is complete," Arellano said.

The Air Force also announced that three members of a ballistic missile crew from Minot Air Force Base who fell asleep while holding classified launch code devices have been sanctioned and "decertified from missile operations."

The crew members, two lieutenants and a captain from the 91st Missile Wing, were in a missile alert facility about 70 miles from Minot when they fell asleep in a crew rest area on July 12, the Air Force said.

Arellano said the officers received written reprimands and will forfeit a portion of their pay for two months under Article 15 reviews, which allow punishments without a court proceeding or public record. Six other officers, including two squadron commanders, also received disciplinary letters in their military files, Arellano said.

Alcohol and Indian Deaths

Almost 12 percent of the deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives are alcohol-related, more than three times the percentage in the general population, a new federal report says. The national survey by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the first to measure American Indian deaths due to alcohol. Dwayne Jarman, a CDC epidemiologist who works for the Indian Health Service and is one of the study's authors, said the report should be a "call to action" for federal, state, local and tribal governments. The greatest number of tribal alcohol-related deaths -- about a third of the total -- occurred in the Northern Plains, where reservations are remote and often destitute, the study said. The lowest number of deaths was in Alaska.

'Junior' Gotti Pleads Not Guilty

TAMPA -- John A. "Junior" Gotti pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering charges. The 44-year-old son of the former Gambino family crime boss appeared with his attorneys at an arraignment hearing in federal court, dressed in a blue jail jumpsuit and shackled at the ankles, but did not speak. He faces conspiracy charges that link him to three mob slayings, cocaine distribution and other crimes. Gotti denies the charges and has said he has long been retired from organized crime.

U.S. Sanctions for Ugandan Rebel

The Bush administration slapped new sanctions on the leader of Uganda's notorious Lord's Resistance Army rebel group, as patience wears thin with the slow pace of peace talks with the African nation's government. The Treasury Department added LRA chief Joseph Kony to its list of "specially designated global terrorists," a designation that carries financial and other penalties. For the past two years, the LRA and the Ugandan government have been engaged in halting peace talks, but the negotiations have suffered numerous breakdowns.

Ga. School District Punished

DECATUR, Ga. -- A Georgia school district lost its accreditation, an unusual move blamed in part on what has been called a "dysfunctional" school board. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools issued a scathing report in February calling Clayton County's school board "dysfunctional" and "fatally flawed." Losing accreditation means those who graduate from the 50,000-student district in Atlanta's suburbs will not be eligible for some scholarships or admission to many colleges.

-- From News Services

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