WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) -- U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus formally announced a policy change Thursday clearing the decks for women to serve on submarines.
Women had never been allowed to serve on submarines in the 110-year history of the underwater force.
The new coed era will begin once selected female officers complete 15 months of training. The plan calls for three women to be assigned to eight crews attached to four guided-missile attack and ballistic missile submarines, the Navy said on its Web site.
The change had been anticipated since Defense Secretary Robert Gates formally presented a letter to congressional leaders Feb. 19 notifying them of the Navy's desire to reverse the policy of prohibiting submarine service to women.
"There are extremely capable women in the Navy who have the talent and desire to succeed in the submarine force," Mabus said. "Enabling them to serve in the submarine community is best for the submarine force and our Navy. We literally could not run the Navy without women today."
Women make up 15 percent of the active duty Navy -- 52,446 of 330,700 personnel.
Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, said it would be "foolish to not take the great talent, the great confidence and intellect of the young women who serve in our Navy today and bring that into our submarine force."
The subs selected have adequate living space and won't require modification to integrate women into the crews. Each sub is designed to carry 15 officers and at least 140 enlisted personnel.
Senate Dems say will move on immigration
WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) -- Senate Democratic leaders said Thursday they will move forward with immigration reform that would include instituting national ID cards.
The decision to forge legislation without any Republicans on board portends an uphill battle for Senate Democrats, but Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said they are up to the challenge, the Huffington Post reported.
"We can do more than one thing at once," Reid was quoted as saying.
President Barack Obama tossed in his support for action on the issue.
"The continued failure of the federal government to fix the broken immigration system will leave the door open to a patchwork of actions at the state and local level that are inconsistent and, as we have seen recently, often misguided," Obama said in a statement.
"The proposal outlined today in the Senate is a very important step in the process of fixing our nation's broken immigration system. I am especially pleased to see that this detailed outline is consistent with the bipartisan framework presented by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) last month, and is grounded in the principles of responsibility and accountability.
"The next critical step is to iron out the details of a bill. We welcome that discussion, and my administration will play an active role in engaging partners on both sides of the aisle to work toward a bipartisan solution that is based on the fundamental concept of accountability that the American people expect and deserve."
The Democrats' outline of potential immigration reform legislation includes a series of border security measures strategists said were necessary to garner Republican support, CNN reported.
A tough illegal immigration law in Arizona sparked a wave of protest from civil and human rights groups, religious leaders and others. Among other things, the law makes it a state crime for undocumented immigrants to be in Arizona and requires law enforcement officials to check documentation of people they suspect of being in the country illegally. It would take effect during the summer if it isn't challenged in court.
"The system is broken," Schumer said. "We need to fix this system. I'm meeting with Republicans right now to try to come up with a bipartisan bill that we can pass."
The Huffington Post said the legislative summary describes the national ID cards as "fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, wear resistant and machine-readable Social Security cards containing a photograph and an electronically coded micro-processing chip which possesses a unique biometric identifier for the authorized card-bearer."
Spring floods hit Russian cities
MOSCOW, April 29 (UPI) -- Thousands of people have been evacuated in Russia as rivers rise in the annual spring flood brought on by melting snow, officials say.
A state of emergency was declared in Arkhangelsk, RIA Novosti reported. The city is in the far north, near the River Dvina's outlet to the White Sea.
About 3,500 people have been forced from their homes by flooding, and emergency shelters have opened.
In Tomsk in southern Siberia, the Ushayka River continued to rise Thursday, and evacuations were under way.
In the Kirov district, just west of the Urals in European Russia, flooding in the Vyatka River has caused pollution of the water supply, leaving it unsafe for drinking or washing, officials say. Bottled water is being distributed in the area.
About 3,500 Russian cities are at risk from annual floods, especially in areas where ice blocks narrow rivers, forming temporary dams.
Judge mulls bail request in militia case
DETROIT, April 29 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Detroit is expected to rule soon on a bail request for nine members of a Michigan militia suspected of plotting to kill police and wage war.
Prosecutors oppose the request by attorneys for the nine Hutaree militia members that they be released on bail, contending they would present a danger if freed pending trial.
The Detroit News reported Thursday newly released records show the militia members were recorded Feb. 20 discussing setting police officers' homes on fire or shooting them. But defense attorneys told U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts the conversations weren't serious and their clients never carried out the alleged plans.
The nine defendants, led by David Stone Sr. of Clayton, are charged with seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction.
Prosecutors countered that Stone and the others accumulated weapons and ammunition, trained, sought information on building bombs and discussed moving forward with their plot.
"I think we gotta just start huntin' 'em here pretty soon," Stone said on the tape. "They're easy to find, they're just sittin' alongside the road, and they got these red and blue lights on top of their car. They're not hard to find!"
Crist running as independent for Senate
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., April 29 (UPI) -- Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday he is running as an independent for the U.S. Senate, severing his troubled ties with the Republican Party.
In creating a three-way race against Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek, Crist acknowledged he's in "uncharted territory," The Miami Herald reported.
"The easy thing for me would have been to run for re-election as governor, but for me it's never been about doing what is easy," Crist told cheering supporters in St. Petersburg. "I haven't supported an idea because it's a Republican idea or Democratic idea. I support ideas because they are good ideas for the people."
Democratic consultant Eric Johnson told the Herald he thinks each of the three has "a very legitimate shot" at winning.
"When you're talking about winning in the 30s, all bets are off," he said.
The Meek and Rubio campaigns contend the one-term governor's foray as an independent actually helps their candidates, the Herald said. State and national Republican leaders have said they'd turn their collective back on Crist if he runs as an independent.
"To me it's not a factor," Rubio said. "I knew when I started this race that my opponents supported the Obama liberal agenda. I just didn't realize I'd have to run against both of them at the same time."
Crist said he liked the polling numbers on a three-way race showing him in a dead heat with Rubio and Meek third, the Herald said.