AP News in Brief at 8:58 p.m. EDT
An Army carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Pfc. Cody J. Patterson Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 at Dover Air Force Base, Del. According to the Department of Defense, Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Ore., died Oct. 6, 2013 in Zhari district, Afghanistan of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
Charity to Pay
Military Death Benefits
Washington — The Obama administration, scrambling to tamp down a controversy over suspended death benefits for the families of fallen troops, announced Wednesday that a charity would pick up the costs of the payments during the government shutdown.
“The Fisher House Foundation will provide the families of the fallen with the benefits they so richly deserve,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement, adding that the Pentagon would reimburse the foundation after the shutdown ended.
Hagel said Fisher House, which works with veterans and their families, had approached the Pentagon about making the payments. The Defense Department typically pays families about $100,000 within three days of a service member’s death, but officials say the shutdown was preventing those benefits from being paid. A senior defense official said the government could not actively solicit funds from private organizations but could accept an offer.
The failure to make the payments has stirred outrage on Capitol Hill and at the White House. Obama spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president was “disturbed” when he found out the death benefits had been suspended and demanded an immediate solution.
Navy Admiral Demoted, Fired as Deputy Chief Of Nuclear Command
Washington — The deputy commander of U.S. nuclear forces, Vice Adm. Tim Giardina, was notified Wednesday that he has been relieved of duty amid a military investigation of allegations that he used counterfeit chips at an Iowa casino, the Navy said.
The move is exceedingly rare and perhaps unprecedented in the history of U.S. Strategic Command, which is responsible for all American nuclear war-fighting forces, including nuclear-armed submarines, bombers and land-based missiles.
The Navy’s top spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said Giardina, who had held the job since December 2011, is being reassigned to the Navy staff pending the outcome of the probe by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The gambling matter originated as a local law enforcement investigation in Iowa in June.
As a consequence of being removed from his post at Strategic Command, Giardina falls in rank to two-star admiral. He had been suspended by Gen. Robert Kehler, the top commander at Strategic Command, on Sept. 3, although that move was not disclosed publicly until Sept. 28.
After his suspension Giardina remained at Strategic Command but was not allowed to perform duties that required use of his security clearance.
Man Killed After Firing Shots
At U.S. Courthouse Was Ex-Cop
Wheeling, W.Va. — A retired police officer armed with an assault weapon and a handgun fired up to two dozen shots at a U.S. courthouse in West Virginia on Wednesday before police returned fire and killed him, police said.
Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger identified the gunman Thomas J. Piccard, 55, of Bridgeport, Ohio. He was a retired Wheeling police officer. Schwertfeger did not say whether Piccard used both weapons during the assault on the Wheeling Federal Building or speculate on a motive. Three on-duty security officers were injured by flying debris during the onslaught, he told a news conference.
Mayor Andy McKenzie said police who briefed him earlier Wednesday told him Piccard was a 20-year-plus veteran of the force who retired 13 years ago. — Wire reports