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Nation’s weapons complex tough to modernize, experts say

ENERGY
Weapons complex tough to modernize

The Energy Department’s plan to modernize its aging nuclear weapons complex and update the seven hydrogen bomb designs in the nation’s arsenal would require massive investments at a time of severe budget pressure.

As a result, the plan is getting a tough assessment by members of outside groups, who say congressional Republicans and Democrats are not fully on board with what the Obama administration has proposed in the last year: a $60 billion effort that would transform industrial arms sites across the nation and fundamentally reconfigure weapon designs.

A report this week by the Union of Concerned Scientists raises new objections that the plan would require construction of unnecessary facilities and introduce untested combinations of parts inside the bombs, which could erode confidence in their reliability and safety.

At the same time, the report confirmed long-standing concerns cited by nuclear weapons experts that not enough routine testing and surveillance of the nation’s stockpile are being conducted at bomb plants to ensure full reliability of the weapons.

The United States stopped making nuclear weapons in 1990, meaning that all stockpiles are at least 23 years old and in many cases 30 or 40 years old.

— Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA
Commuter train hits, kills two workers

A commuter train that is part of a San Francisco Bay Area system whose employees are on strike hit and killed two maintenance workers Saturday afternoon, officials said.

The accident that killed one system employee and one contractor in the East Bay city of Walnut Creek occurred shortly before 2 p.m. as the train was on a routine maintenance run operated by a manager, Bay Area Rapid Transit officials said.

BART officials said in a statement that the manager was an “experienced operator” and that the four-car train was being run in automatic mode under computer control at the time of the accident.

Officials from the two unions representing BART workers, who have been on strike since Thursday, have warned of the danger that could come with allowing managers to operate trains.

At least one of the unions, Amalgamated Transit Union 1555 announced that its 900 workers would not be picketing Sunday out of respect for the victims and their families.

Also Saturday, the president of the union local said she was taking a final contract offer from BART before members for a vote, but expects it will be rejected.

— Associated Press

Mistakenly freed Florida killers arrested: Two convicted killers who were freed from prison as a result of phony documents were captured together without incident Saturday night at a Panama City motel, authorities said. Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker, both 34, were taken into custody about 6:40 p.m. at the Coconut Grove Motor Inn. Jenkins and Walker were both serving life sentences at the Franklin Correctional Facility in the Panhandle before they were released.

Utah Scout leaders say they’ve received death threats: Two Utah Boy Scout leaders who purposely knocked over an ancient desert rock formation in a state park say they’ve received more than 100 online death threats since a video of the toppling went viral. In the video shot by Dave Hall, fellow Scout leader Glenn Taylor pushes a large boulder from its delicate perch, sending it tumbling down a small embankment as the men cheer and high-five. Hall acknowledged to the Deseret News that the video makes it look as if they are “guys just out enjoying themselves by destroying stuff” but insisted they took the action because they believed the balanced rock was about to fall and could hurt their Scouts and other park visitors.

— Associated Press

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