Nation & World briefing

Published Feb 28, 2014 at 12:01AM

Vets’ bill — A divided Senate on Thursday derailed Democratic legislation that would have provided $21 billion for medical, education and job-training benefits for the nation’s veterans. The bill fell victim to election-year disputes over spending and fresh penalties against Iran. Each party covets the allegiance of the country’s 22 million veterans and their families, and each party blamed the other for turning the effort into a chess match aimed at forcing politically embarrassing votes. Democrats noted that more than two dozen veterans groups supported the legislation. But Republicans said they still favor helping veterans while also wanting to be prudent about federal spending.

Atlantic oil exploration — The Interior Department opened the door Thursday to the first searches in decades for oil and gas off the Atlantic coast, recommending that undersea seismic surveys proceed albeit with a host of safeguards to shield marine life from much of their impact. The recommendation is likely to be adopted after a period of public comment and over objections by environmental activists who say it will be ruinous for the climate and sea life alike. The American Petroleum Institute called the recommendation a critical step toward bolstering the nation’s energy security. Activists were livid.

Radiation leak — Thirteen employees who worked the night shift at a nuclear waste burial site in southeastern New Mexico after an underground leak are carrying radioactive materials in their bodies, but it is too soon to say how much health risk this poses, U.S. Energy Department officials said Thursday. The workers inhaled plutonium and americium, which if lodged in the body bombards internal organs with subatomic particles for the rest of the person’s lifetime. The dose calculation is a bit arcane because the dose in such cases will be delivered over many years.

China cybersecurity — President Xi Jinping is presiding over a new working group on cybersecurity and information security, China announced Thursday, a sign that the Communist Party views the issue as one of the country’s most pressing strategic concerns. The government said Xi and two other senior leaders, Premier Li Keqiang and Liu Yunshan, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, would help draft national strategies and develop major policies in a field that might include protecting national secrets and developing cyberdefenses, among other goals.

LAX shooting — A dispatcher at Los Angeles International Airport couldn’t immediately send police to a shooting last year because the emergency phone system didn’t provide a location, according to an investigation that also found broken panic buttons that are supposed to quickly call for help. A screening supervisor picked up the “red phone” seconds after shots were fired in the sprawling airport’s Terminal 3 last Nov. 1, but she fled as the gunman approached with his high-powered rifle. Because no one was on the other end of the line to provide details and no location information was included with the call, the dispatcher was helpless, according to officials.

Married Catholic priest — When Wissam Akiki was ordained as a Maronite Catholic priest Thursday in St. Louis, he was welcomed by hundreds of supporters, including his wife and daughter. For the first time in nearly a century, the Maronite Catholic Church in the United States ordained a married priest in a ceremony at St. Raymond’s Maronite Cathedral. Maronites are among more than a dozen Eastern Catholic church groups in the U.S. Eastern Catholics accept the authority of the pope but have their own rituals and liturgy.