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March 15, 2013 at 10:46 PM
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U.S. to bolster West Coast missile defense

WASHINGTON, March 15 (UPI) -- The United States will significantly beef up its ballistic missile defense due to threats from North Korea and Iran, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday.

Hagel said because North Korea and Iran have improved their longer-range ballistic missile capabilities, the United States will about double its interceptor system on the West Coast, the Defense Department said in a release.

The defense secretary also cited North Korea's sabre-rattling rhetoric and nuclear bomb testing as reasons for bolstering U.S. anti-missile resources.

"The United States has missile defense systems in place to protect us from limited ICBM attacks, but North Korea in particular has recently made advances in its capabilities and is engaged in a series of irresponsible and reckless provocations," Hagel said.

He said the U.S. military will deploy 14 more ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, raising the totals from 30 to 44.

Hagel said the United States would also deploy additional advanced radar equipment in Japan to provide improved early warning and tracking of any missile launched by North Korea at the United States or Japan.

3 die in Florida plane crash

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 15 (UPI) -- A small plane crashed into several vehicles in a warehouse parking lot in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Friday, killing all three people aboard, authorities said.

The Miami Herald reported the crash occurred shortly after 4 p.m. near the city's executive airport.

Witnesses told the newspaper the twin-engine Piper aircraft destroyed seven vehicles and a boat.

"The plane is in pieces," Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Division Chief John San Angelo said. "There are car parts and plane parts everywhere."

He said no one on the ground was hurt.

The names of the victims were being withheld until their relatives could be notified.

The Herald said there were television reports that those killed may have been pilots taking the plane out for checks. San Angelo said the plane appeared to experience trouble soon after takeoff and tried to return to the airport.

Dozens of firefighters worked to extinguish the fire that resulted from the crash.

11 dead in Mexico fireworks blast

NATIVITAS, Mexico, March 15 (UPI) -- An errant firework hit a truck loaded with fireworks in Mexico Friday, setting off an explosion that killed at least 11 people, a government official said.

A Tlaxcala state official told CNN affiliate FOROtv at least 11 people died and 70 were injured in the blast, which occurred in east-central Mexico during a religious procession. La Chronica reported Interior Ministry official Luis Felipe Puente said 11 people had died.

State-run news agency Notimex confirmed at least nine worshipers were killed and "an unknown number" were hurt, CNN said.

Mateo Morales Baez told Notimex victims were taken to several area hospitals.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto called it a "terrible accident," La Prensa reported.

"My condolences to the relatives of the deceased," he wrote on Twitter.

New York lawmaker caught with marijuana

ALBANY, N.Y., March 15 (UPI) -- Steve Katz, a Republican New York state assemblyman who opposes legalizing marijuana was caught on the New York Thruway with a small stash, police said Friday.

A state trooper gave Katz a summons after a traffic stop Thursday morning, the Albany Times-Union reported.

State Police said Katz was pulled over after the trooper observed him driving 80 mph near Coeymans, a town in the Albany area.

"After noting the odor of marijuana, a New York State Trooper found Katz in possession of a small bag of marijuana," a State Police's press release states.

Katz, who represents the Lower Hudson Valley, sits on the Assembly Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee. He voted in January against legalizing medical marijuana in New York.

Katz is scheduled to appear in municipal court in Coeymans March 28.

His office released a statement Friday calling the traffic stop and ticket an "unfortunate incident," The New York Times reported.

"This should not overshadow the work I have done over the years for the public and my constituency," Katz said. "I am confident that once the facts are presented that this will quickly be put to rest."

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