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BRIEFS: Al-Qaida hopes to obstruct drones

WASHINGTON - Al-Qaida’s leadership has assigned cells of engineers to find ways to shoot down, jam or remotely hijack U.S. drones, hoping to exploit the technological vulnerabilities of a weapons system that has inflicted huge losses against the terrorist network, according to top-secret U.S. intelligence documents.

Although there is no evidence that al-Qaida has forced a drone crash or successfully interfered with flight operations, U.S. intelligence officials have closely tracked the group’s persistent efforts to develop a counterdrone strategy since 2010, the documents show.

Al-Qaida commanders are hoping a technological breakthrough could curb the U.S. drone campaign, which has killed an estimated 3,000 people over the past decade.

Details of al-Qaida’s attempts to fight back against the drone campaign are contained in a classified intelligence report provided to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden, the fugitive former National Security Agency contractor.

Fort Hood gunman is forcibly shaved

The Army psychiatrist sentenced to death for the Fort Hood shooting rampage has been forcibly shaved, an Army spokesman said Tuesday.

Maj. Nidal Hasan began growing a beard in the years after the November 2009 shooting that left 13 dead and 30 wounded. The beard prompted delays to his court-martial because it violated Army grooming regulations. He was convicted of all charges last month at his court-martial at the Central Texas Army post and sentenced to death.

Now, Hasan is an inmate at the U.S. Detention Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., home to the military death row. Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt, an Army spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday that Hasan had been shaved. He did not specify when or provide details, however.

Same-sex benefits refused in 2 states

The Texas National Guard refused to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits despite a Pentagon directive to do so, while Mississippi won’t issue applications from state-owned offices. Both states cited their respective bans on gay marriage.

Tuesday was the first working day that gays in the military could apply for benefits after the Pentagon announced it would recognize same-sex marriages. The Department of Defense had announced that it would recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that threw out parts of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Japan pledges funds for toxic cleanup

The Japanese government on Tuesday pledged nearly $500 million to fight toxic water leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, part of an increasingly precarious nuclear cleanup job that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says requires “radical measures.”

Part of the funds announced Tuesday will be used to pump coolant through underground pipes around critical buildings, officials said, freezing soil and creating a de facto “seal” that will measure almost a mile in length.

Rivera denied panel over Twitter photo

Duquesne University says Geraldo Rivera isn’t welcome to appear on a panel at the Pittsburgh school because of a half-naked “selfie” he posted this summer.

Duquesne says the cellphone picture the TV personality posted on Twitter in July was inappropriate and not in line with the school’s values as a Catholic university.

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