U.S. defense chief Austin hospitalized

Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, center left, speaks during a meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, center right, at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, center left, speaks during a meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, center right, at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

U.S. defense chief Austin hospitalized

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized Sunday following symptoms pointing to an "emergent bladder issue," the Pentagon said.

In a statement, the Pentagon said Austin was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center around 2:20 p.m. While Austin initially intended to retain the "functions and duties of his office," at about 5 p.m. Sunday he transferred those authorities to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. As of Sunday evening, he remained hospitalized, said Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was also notified, as well as the White House and some members of Congress.

Ryder said Austin traveled to the hospital with the unclassified and classified communications systems needed to perform his job.

Austin was scheduled to depart Tuesday for Brussels to hold a meeting of the Ukraine contact group, which he established in 2022 to coordinate military support for Kyiv after Russia's invasion. After that, Austin was scheduled to attend a regular meeting of NATO defense ministers. It was not immediately clear if this hospitalization would change those plans.

President to visit Ohio derailment site

WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden will travel to East Palestine, Ohio, on Friday, about a year after a Norfolk Southern train there derailed and spilled a cocktail of hazardous chemicals that caught fire.

The White House said Saturday that the president would travel there to ensure state and local officials "hold Norfolk Southern accountable."

East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway, a conservative who does not support Biden, extended the invitation to the Democratic president, saying the visit will be good for his community.

The Feb. 3, 2023, derailment forced thousands of people from their homes near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Area residents still have lingering fears about potential health effects from the toxic chemicals that spilled in the accident, and from the vinyl chloride that was released a few days after the crash to keep tank cars from exploding.

Man tied to officer's death denied parole

NEW YORK -- A man convicted in the killing of a rookie New York City police officer at the height of the city's crack cocaine epidemic decades ago has been denied parole, state corrections officials confirmed Sunday.

Todd Scott had been serving 25 years to life for his role in the shooting death of officer Edward Byrne in Queens. Byrne was killed in 1988 as he sat in his police cruiser guarding the home of a witness in a drug case.

Police said Scott was part of a crew of four men paid $8,000 to kill the 22-year-old officer, who was just weeks on the job, in retaliation for the arrest of drug dealer Howard "Pappy" Mason.

The New York Police Department said Scott walked up to the passenger side window of Byrne's car and distracted the officer while another man shot him five times in the early morning hours of Feb. 26, 1988. Police mark the moment each year with a solemn ceremony at the intersection where Byrne died.

Scott was convicted of second-degree murder and has been serving his sentence at the maximum-security state prison in Shawangunk.

Eligible for release since 2013, the now 55-year-old went before the state board parole on Jan. 23 but was denied, a corrections department spokesperson said Sunday. His next appearance before the board is August 2025. It couldn't immediately be determined if Scott had a lawyer.

Winter storm disrupts New Mexico travel

SANTA FE, N.M. -- A series of slow-moving winter storms that wreaked havoc in Southern California and left 3 feet of snow in northern Arizona made its way Saturday into New Mexico, where a stretch of U.S. highway south of the Colorado line was closed and as much as a foot of snow was possible in some mountain areas.

A winter storm warning remained in effect for parts of north-central and northeast New Mexico until 5 a.m. Sunday. That included the Santa Fe area, where up to 14 inches of snow was possible in the mountains to the east and up to a half-foot in the upper elevations to the west, forecasters said.

National Park officials closed the Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico Saturday afternoon "due to worsening weather." The city of Albuquerque closed most city parks, golf courses and recreation areas.

Most interstates and highways remained open, but a 40-mile stretch of U.S. 64 south of the Colorado line was closed because of blowing snow in near-blizzard conditions, the New Mexico Department of Transportation said.

"Winter weather travel impacts will become widespread today and tonight, then linger over east-central and southeast areas on Sunday," the National Weather Service in Albuquerque said Saturday afternoon. It said travel would be difficult to impossible Saturday night into Sunday along some stretches of I-25 and likely affected along the I-40 corridor from Albuquerque east to the Texas line.

  photo  Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during the National Anthem during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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