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March 11, 2013

News Briefs March 11, 2013

Boat crashes near California base, drugs found, no people

Officials say an overturned boat and floating bales of a suspected illegal drug have been discovered off the central California coast at Vandenberg Air Force Base, but they haven’t found anyone who may have been steering the craft.

Second Lt. Kaylee Ausbun says the small boat was spotted by people walking on the beach March 7, and emergency responders immediately cordoned off the area around the aluminum boat for investigation and a search for any missing passengers.

No possible boaters were found in the area.

The boat was found north of the base’s Wall Beach. The suspected drugs aboard are being tested to confirm what they are.

Authorities are asking locals to report any unusual activity in the area. AP

California rejects U.S. Navy offshore explosive training

California March 8 rejected a Navy offshore explosives and sonar training program that critics said could kill or deafen endangered whales, dolphins and other sea life.

California Coastal Commissioners meeting in San Diego ruled unanimously that the Navy lacked enough information to back up its argument that the threat to marine mammals would be negligible.

Scientists say there is still much to be learned about how much sonar activity affects marine animals. Studies have shown some species such as beaked whales may be adversely affected by some sonar.

The Navy has estimated that the proposed training program would kill 130 marine mammals and cause hearing loss in 1,600 over five years.

ìWe think these are underestimates,î Michael Jasny with the Natural Resources Defense Council told the commissioners.

The panel and the Navy could now seek mediation to iron out their differences – or the Navy could simply choose to proceed with the training, as it did in 2007 and 2009. That probably would prompt the commission to sue in an effort to block the program, as it has in the past. AP

U.S. relaxes export controls on some military parts

The Obama administration is making it easier for U.S. companies to export equipment and parts that could have military uses.

The White House says it has notified Congress of plans to give the Commerce Department authority to regulate exports of thousands of aircraft parts like bolts, wings and fuel tanks. They’ll be taken off the State Department’s strict U.S. Munitions List.

More sensitive items like full engines, radar systems and missile launchers will stay under State Department control.

It’s part of a broader move by the Obama administration to streamline outdated permit requirements left over from the Cold War, and more changes to the list are still to come. The White House says it hopes cutting red tape will significantly boost sales for U.S. exporters. AP

German Air Force plans to leave Fort Bliss

Reorganization of the German Air Force means the overseas troops will leave a West Texas post after a relationship spanning nearly 60 years.

The El Paso Times reported March 11 that the German Air Force Command for the U.S. and Canada will close at Fort Bliss on Sept. 30.

Col. Heinz-Josef Ferkinghoff said operations will be moved to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where Germany already has a flight training center. The German Air Defense Center will return to Germany within five years.

The moves, which will affect several hundred German military personnel and civilian employees, come after U.S. base realignment changed some Fort Bliss operations.

The German Air Force has had a presence at Fort Bliss since 1956. AP

VA says it wonít follow New York gun law

The federal Department of Veterans Affairs says its mental health professionals wonít comply with a new gun law in New York that requires them to report the names of patients they believe likely to hurt themselves or others.

The reporting provision was set to take effect March 9.

Several veterans and their advocates say it would deter many from seeking counseling and medications to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological issues. Veterans fear their rights would be taken away.

Under the law pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the information would be used to determine whether someone should give up a gun license or weapon.

VA spokesman Mark Ballesteros says federal laws protecting veteransí treatment records take precedence. AP




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