New fighter jet squadron forms
SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Marine Corps is forming the first squadron of pilots to fly the next-generation strike fighter jet, months after lawmakers raised concern that there was a rush to end the testing of an aircraft hit with technical problems.
So far two veteran pilots of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing have been trained to fly the F-35B. They are becoming the first members of the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 that will debut at a ceremony today at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz.
The first F-35B arrived Friday and 15 more are slated to arrive over the next year.
The Defense Department has pumped a half a billion dollars into upgrading the facilities, hangars and runways at the base to make way for the next-generation fighter jet, officials said.
The pilots of the new squadron are expected to fly the aircraft by year’s end.
The Marines are the first in the military taking the steps toward putting the planes in operation. The F-35B would replace Cold War-era aircraft such as the F/A-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier.
“It’s a pretty big milestone that a lot of people are looking at and judging,” said Marine Capt. Staci Reidinger, a spokeswoman at the Yuma base. “The lessons learned will be shared.”
Woman devastated by Petraeus affair
WASHINGTON (AP) — Paula Broadwell is telling friends she is devastated by the fallout from her extramarital affair with retired Gen. David Petraeus, which led to his resignation as head of the CIA.
A person close to Broadwell said Sunday she deeply regrets the damage that’s been done to her family and everyone else’s, and she is trying to repair that and move forward. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
A group of friends and neighbors welcomed Broadwell, her husband, Scott, and their young sons back to their home in Charlotte, N.C., after Broadwell spent more than a week being hounded by media while staying at her brother’s home in Washington. The family associate said she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from her neighbors.
While Petraeus has given one interview, and communicated his regret over the affair through friends and associates, this is one of the first messages to the public from Broadwell.
Broadwell is still being investigated by the FBI over classified documents found on her laptop and in her home, which investigators believe the author gathered while researching her biography of Petraeus in Afghanistan.
Budget deal hopes lift stock market
The stock market finally shook its post-election slump.
Investors seized on hope that Washington will reach a deal on the federal budget and drove stocks to their biggest gain in two months. A pair of strong corporate earnings reports also helped.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 207 points, or 1.7 percent. Since President Barack Obama and a divided Congress were returned to power Nov. 6, the Dow had fallen six out of eight days and slid a total of 650 points.
Obama and congressional leaders are in talks to avoid going over a “fiscal cliff” on Jan. 1, when tax increases and mandatory government spending cuts are set to take effect.
While Obama and Republicans appear at odds on whether tax rates for the wealthiest Americans should rise, lawmakers suggested over the weekend that progress is possible.
Spielberg speaks at Gettysburg
GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) — Two-time Academy Award winning director Steven Spielberg expressed a sense of humility Monday as he delivered the keynote address during ceremonies to mark the 149th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.”
“I’ve never stood anyplace on earth where it’s easier to be humbled than here,” said Spielberg, whose biopic about the 16th president is currently in theaters.
His remarks were made at the annual event at the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, near the site where Lincoln gave the famous oration amid the American Civil War in 1863, four months after the battle in which the Union turned back an invasion of the North by Confederate troops under Gen. Robert E. Lee.
After spending seven years working his new movie “Lincoln,” Spielberg said the president came to feel like one of his oldest and dearest friends, and he sensed he was living in the presence of what he called Lincoln’s “eloquent ghost.”
“Lincoln wanted us to understand that equality was a small ‘D’ democratic essential,” Spielberg said, describing Lincoln’s three-minute speech as “his best and truest voice” and the single “most perfect prose poem ever penned by an American.”
Carl Sandberg, in his biography of Lincoln, described it as a speech about how democracy is worth fighting for.
“It had the dream touch of vast and furious events epitomized for any foreteller to read what was to come,” Sandberg wrote. “His cadences sang the ancient song that where there is freedom men have fought and sacrificed for it, and that freedom is worth men’s dying for.”
As part of the event, 16 newly minted Americans from 11 countries took the oath of allegiance to become U.S. citizens.
Spielberg spoke of the interplay between history and memory, and between memory and justice.
“It’s the hunger we feel for coherence, it’s the hunger we feel for progress for a better world,” he said. “I think justice and memory are inseparable.”
The crowd, estimated at 9,000, gave him a standing ovation.
Penn State film major Alison Golanoski, 19, from Gettysburg, said afterward that Spielberg’s passion for Lincoln came through.
“He was very invested in Lincoln as a person, and his personality,” Golanoski said. “I loved all of it.”
The 150th year since the battle will be marked in 2013, particularly around the battle’s anniversary in early July.
“Lincoln,” which stars Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role, concentrates on the period leading up to the president’s assassination in 1865.