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Nation in brief

'Top Gun' jets back from final mission

By wire services
Published March 11, 2006

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - There will be no more dogfights for the Tomcat.

The last two squadrons of the sleek, Cold War fighter jet returned home from their final deployment Friday, two decades after the warplanes were glamorized in the 1986 Tom Cruise movie Top Gun.

All 22 Tomcats of fighter squadrons VF-213 and VF-31 arrived in style, flying together in a wedge formation over Oceana Naval Air Station as hundreds of sailors and their family and friends cheered. Some wore T-shirts reading "Tomcats Forever" and a banner proclaimed, "Last Fly-In, Baby!"

"We're putting the premier fighter to sleep," said one pilot, Lt. Jon Jeck, 32, as he held his 3-year-old son Collin. "It's a staple of Americana."

The Navy plans to replace the F-14, a two-seat fighter with moveable swept-back wings, with the F/A-18 Super Hornets.

The F-14 entered service in the early 1970s to defend aircraft carriers from Soviet bombers carrying long-range cruise missiles.

"If you want to think about airplanes that have defined the air age, this would have to be on the short list," military analyst John Pike said.

NY mayor ponders jails chaplain's fiery remarks

NEW YORK - The head chaplain for city jails has been suspended while the city investigates incendiary statements he allegedly made last year, including a comment that the "greatest terrorists in the world occupy the White House."

The New York Post reported Thursday that Umar Abdul-Jalil made the remarks at a conference sponsored by the Muslim Students Association in Tucson, Ariz. It said the Investigative Project, a Washington organization that tracks extremist Islamic groups, recorded the speech, in which he also allegedly said that Muslims jailed after the Sept. 11 attacks were "tortured" in the Manhattan Correctional Center.

Abdul-Jalil, a prominent imam from Harlem, was put on paid administrative leave Thursday while Mayor Michael Bloomberg, city lawyers and correction officials reviewed the remarks.

Abdul-Jalil told the Daily News in Friday editions that his comments were taken out of context. "I made statements as a person who has worked on every Republican's campaign, including Bush's," the chaplain said. "I'm a full-blown American."

Gay rights activists arrested at university

LYNCHBURG, Va. - Two dozen gay rights activists were arrested on trespassing charges Friday as they tried to step onto Liberty University's campus to speak to students.

They were part of Soulforce, a group on its first stop of a nationwide "Equality Ride" tour to promote gay rights at the nation's conservative Christian universities and military academies. Most of those arrested were members of the tour, but the group also included supporters from other colleges and the community.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, the university's chancellor, had warned the group that it would not be permitted on campus, saying he would not allow his school to be used for a media event aimed at raising money for gay rights.

Invoking the memory of the civil rights movement, Soulforce member Jacob Reitan said: "We want to come to the school today to say, "learn from history.' "

Teacher who compared Bush to Hitler reinstated

DENVER - A high school teacher who triggered an uproar by telling students that some of President Bush's remarks sounded like Adolf Hitler will be back in the classroom Monday, vowing to be a better teacher while still promoting "social justice."

Social studies teacher Jay Bennish was reinstated Friday after more than a week on paid leave while officials investigated whether he broke school district rules. "He's not losing one nickel," said his attorney, David Lane.

Cherry Creek school superintendent Monte Moses declined to say what the investigation found or whether Bennish had been punished, but said Bennish's "practice and deportment need growth and refinement."

The decision ends at least one chapter in a monthlong dispute over Bennish's Feb. 1 lecture in a 10th-grade geography class that even elicited a comment from President Bush.

Asked about Bennish Friday, Bush said "people should be allowed to criticize me all they want, and they do."

Soldier in shooting found competent to stand trial

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - A military judge ruled Friday that an Army private accused of shooting at his fellow soldiers during morning exercise is competent to stand trial.

The judge, Lt. Col. Richard Anderson, said Pvt. Nicholas D. Mikel showed no signs of dementia and was coherent of his surroundings during a psychological evaluation last month.

"In my interaction with Private Mikel, it appears to me that he has been able to understand my questions and what's going on," Anderson said during a hearing at Fort Campbell.

Mikel, 21, faces three counts of attempted murder for shooting into a physical training formation at the Army post in October with a nonmilitary issue handgun. No one was hurt. Military attorneys said they were working through details of a plea agreement.

[Last modified March 11, 2006, 01:44:48]

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