By David Alexander ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday the United States had always supported a strong nuclear deterrent and would continue to do so, even as it braces for a nuclear forces overhaul that analysts say could cost $1 trillion over 30 years. "To modernize your nuclear weapons stockpile and assure that they continue to stay secure and safe, it takes money, it takes resources," Hagel said after touring Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base, two facilities involved in maintaining the weapons. Hagel travels on Thursday to F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he will see intercontinental ballistic missile silos and talk to troops in a nuclear mission that has been troubled by morale problems. Major General Michael Carey was fired as head of the 450-weapon U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile force in October for getting drunk and carousing with Russian women while leading a government delegation to Moscow for talks on nuclear security.
By Alwyn Scott and Bill Rigby NEW YORK/SEATTLE (Reuters) - Angry Boeing machinists have filed eight unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging their union's top leaders manipulated a recent contract vote, and demanding that ballots be recast. The NLRB has launched an investigation into the charges, filed by individual members against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said Anne Pomerantz, an attorney with the NLRB regional office in Seattle. The charges stem from a January 3 vote that approved Boeing's contract offer by just 600 votes, ensuring its latest jetliner, the 777X, will be built in the Seattle area.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr's impeachment over an ethics scandal may be "inevitable" unless he resigns, in the words of a fellow Republican. But before legislators could impeach Darr, they'd have to write the rules for the process, which Arkansas hasn't used in more than 140 years.
By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama consulted intelligence officials on Wednesday on ways to rein in U.S. surveillance practices as he nears the end of a review likely to lead to changes as to how bulk telephone data is handled as well as restrictions to spying on foreign leaders. Obama, who could announce his intelligence reforms in a speech as early as next week, is acting in an attempt to restore Americans' confidence in U.S. intelligence services after damaging disclosures from former spy contractor Edward Snowden about the sweep of surveillance practices. Obama reviewed the progress of the administration's review in a meeting with James Clapper, the director of U.S. intelligence, and Keith Alexander, the National Security Agency director, as well as Attorney General Eric Holder and Vice President Joe Biden.
By Ellen Wulfhorst NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Wednesday said he was misled by his staff after fresh revelations that a top aide played a key role in closing some lanes leading to one of the world's busiest bridges in what critics say was a political vendetta. A Republican widely expected to make a bid for the White House in 2016, Christie has become embroiled in a scandal over the closing of part of the access to George Washington Bridge, a move seen as meant to punish a New Jersey Democratic mayor. The George Washington Bridge is among the world's busiest, carrying some 300,000 vehicles on a typical day. The abrupt and unexpected lane closures, which lasted four days in September, badly snarled traffic in the borough of Fort Lee at the New Jersey end of the bridge.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is expected to tighten restrictions on U.S. spying on foreign leaders and also is considering changes in National Security Agency access to Americans' phone records, according to people familiar with a White House review of the nation's surveillance programs.
By Jeff Mason WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and other top administration officials rallied around Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday after former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates criticized him sharply in a memoir. Gates, who led the Pentagon from 2006 to 2011 under Republican President George W. Bush and then Obama, said in his book, "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War," that Biden had been "wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades." The comments, reported in media accounts about the book, were especially stinging about a man who has made foreign policy a large part of his portfolio as Obama's No. 2. The White House said on Tuesday that the president did not share Gates' assessment of Biden. Reporters grilled spokesman Jay Carney about the book and Biden's role in the administration on Wednesday, prompting a spirited response.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Wednesday pressed the nation's schools to abandon what it described as overly zealous discipline policies that send students to court instead of the principal's office. Even before the announcement, school districts around the country have been taking action to adjust the policies that disproportionately affect minority students.
By Edward Krudy ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo gave a wide-ranging election-year speech in his annual address on Wednesday, pressing signature issues such as cutting taxes, revitalizing worn infrastructure and boosting the upstate economy. The packed event was attended by many of New York's political elite, including New York City's new mayor, Bill de Blasio. "Three years ago New York's government was a national punch line," said Cuomo. "Albany was mired in scandals and dysfunction.