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WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wants military leaders to inject more urgency into ensuring "moral character and moral courage" in a force suffering a rash of ethical lapses.

Hagel has been worried by a string of scandals that has produced a wave of unwelcome publicity for the military. But in light of new disclosures this week, including the announcement of alleged cheating among senior sailors in the nuclear Navy, Hagel on Wednesday demanded a fuller accounting of the depth of the problem.

Last month the Air Force revealed it was investigating widespread cheating on proficiency tests among nuclear missile launch officers in Montana, and numerous senior officers in all branches of the armed forces have been caught in embarrassing episodes of personal misbehavior, inside and outside the nuclear force. The Air Force also is pursuing a drug use investigation, and a massive bribery case in California has ensnared six Navy officers so far.

At the same time, hundreds of soldiers and others are under criminal investigation in what the Army describes as a widespread scheme to take fraudulent payments and kickbacks from a National Guard recruiting program.

The steady drumbeat of one military ethics scandal after another has caused many to conclude that the misbehavior reflects more than routine lapses.

"He definitely sees this as a growing problem," Hagel's chief spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, told a Pentagon news conference Wednesday after Hagel met privately with the top uniformed and civilian officials of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

"And he's concerned about the depth of it," Kirby said. "I don't think he could stand here and tell you that he has — that anybody has — the full grasp here, and that's what worries (Hagel) is that maybe he doesn't have the full grasp of the depth of the issue, and he wants to better understand it."

Hagel's predecessor, Leon Panetta, had launched an effort to crack down on ethics failures more than a year ago, and the matter has been a top priority for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, for even longer.

Kirby said Hagel has come to realize that he needs to investigate as well.

"We don't fully know right now what we're grappling with here and how deep and serious it is," Kirby said. "And I think, you know, for a leader at his level with the responsibilities that he carries every day, not knowing something like that is something to be concerned about. And he wants to know more."

Hagel believes that the vast majority of military members are "brave, upright and honest," and he is encouraged by efforts already underway to curb misconduct, including sexual assaults, Kirby said.

But Hagel told the service leaders Wednesday that he "also believes there must be more urgency behind these efforts" and that all Pentagon leaders must "put renewed emphasis on developing moral character and moral courage in our force."

Kirby was asked whether Hagel believes ethics lapses are a symptom of overuse of the military for the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"He believes that that is a factor that should be looked at," the spokesman said.

A significant portion of the concern about military misbehavior is aimed at two segments of the nuclear force: the Air Force's land-based nuclear missile corps and the Navy's training program for operators of nuclear reactors used as propulsion systems for submarines and aircraft carriers. Neither of those fields was directly involved in significant ways in either of the wars since 2001.

The Navy announced on Tuesday that it opened an investigation into cheating allegations against about 30 senior sailors representing about one-fifth of its instructors at a school for naval nuclear power reactor operators based in Charleston, S.C.

Unlike an Air Force cheating probe that has implicated nearly 100 officers responsible for land-based nuclear missiles that stand ready for short-notice launch, those implicated in the Navy investigation have no responsibility for nuclear weapons.

The Navy said its implicated sailors are accused of having cheated on written tests they must pass to be certified as instructors at the nuclear propulsion school. A number of them are alleged to have transmitted test information to other instructors from their home computers, which if verified would be a violation of restrictions on the use and transmission of classified information.

The matter was being probed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Separately, Kirby announced that the Pentagon has picked two retired officers to lead an independent review of personnel problems inside the Air Force and Navy nuclear forces. They are Larry Welch, a former Air Force chief of staff, and John Harvey, a retired Navy admiral and nuclear-trained surface warfare officer.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Fears of an economic slowdown are heightening anticipation of what Friday's U.S. jobs report for January might reveal.

Stock markets have sunk after signs of weaker growth in the United States, Europe and China. Turmoil in developing countries has further spooked investors. The upheaval has renewed doubts about the Federal Reserve's next steps.

Evidence of healthy U.S. job growth would help soothe those jitters. It would suggest that the world's biggest economy is still expanding solidly enough to support global growth.

"The best antidote right now for all these problems is a robust U.S. economy," said Carl Riccadonna, an economist at Deutsche Bank. "The whole world is watching, even more so than usual."

Yet anyone looking to Friday's report for a clear picture of the U.S. economy's health might be disappointed. Unseasonably cold winter weather could distort January's hiring figures. Revised estimates of job growth last year and the size of the U.S. population might further skew the data.

Another complication: A cutoff of extended unemployment benefits in December might have caused an artificial drop in January's unemployment rate and perhaps a misleading snapshot of the job market's health.

"Just when we need it most, the employment report may fall short," Riccadonna said.

All the anxiety marks a reversal from a few weeks ago, when most analysts were feeling hopeful about the global economy. U.S. growth came in at a sturdy 3.7 percent annual pace in the second half of last year. The Dow Jones industrial average finished 2013 at a record high. Europe's economy was slowly emerging from a long recession. Japan was finally perking up after two decades of stagnation.

Yet in just the past few weeks has come a barrage of dispiriting economic news. U.S. hiring slowed sharply in December. Employers added just 74,000 jobs, barely a third of the average gain in the previous four months.

On Monday, an industry survey found that manufacturing grew much more slowly in January than in December. A measure of new orders in the report plummeted to the lowest level in a year. That report contributed to a dizzying 326-point plunge in the Dow Jones industrial average.

Also Monday, automakers said sales slipped 3 percent in January. And last week, the government said orders to U.S. factories fell in December. So did signed contracts to buy homes, according to the National Association of Realtors.

A gauge of China's manufacturing fell to a six-month low in January. And a report Wednesday said retail sales in the 18 European countries that use the euro fell in December by the most in 2½ years.

For all that, most economists remain relatively optimistic about U.S. growth. They attribute the recent weakness in the United States in part to unseasonably cold weather, which disrupted trucking and shipping. The weather might have lowered hiring in December by up to 50,000 jobs, according to several economists' estimates. Few Americans want to test-drive cars or search for a new home in poor weather.

"I think the US economy is still doing just fine," said Bob Baur, chief global economist at Principal Global Investors. "Maybe people are overreacting a bit."

Baur still thinks U.S. growth will come in at nearly a 3 percent pace this year. That would be the best showing since 2005.

Growth at that level would also be enough for the Fed to continue winding down its monthly bond purchase program, Baur said. The Fed is buying $65 billion in bonds this month to try to keep interest rates low and encourage borrowing and spending. It has pared those purchases from $85 billion in December. Fed officials have said they will likely end the purchases by year's end if the economy improves further.

Some positive signs have emerged. A survey of service sector companies, including retailers, banks and restaurants, found that they grew faster in January than in December. The service companies, which represent about 90 percent of all private firms, also stepped up hiring, the survey found.

And payroll processor ADP said Wednesday that businesses added 175,000 jobs in January. That's roughly in line with the average monthly gains of the past two years. It suggests that hiring could have rebounded a bit from December's disappointing result. Still, ADP's figure was also lower than the 227,000 jobs it said were added in December.

Yet ADP's figures cover only businesses and frequently diverge from the government's more comprehensive count.

Another unknown is the effect of the expiration of emergency unemployment benefits on Dec. 28. Benefits for about 1.4 million unemployed were cut off. Many of those people might have given up on their job searches in January. They had been required to look for work to receive benefits.

People out of work aren't counted as unemployed unless they're actively seeking work. If many people stopped looking for a job last month after their benefits ran out, the number of unemployed would fall. And so would the unemployment rate.

There's no way to know how all these different trends will affect Friday's report.

"We view this month's (jobs) results as pretty much of a crapshoot," said Joshua Shapiro, an economist at MFR Inc., a forecasting firm.

____

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More than a million homes and businesses were left in darkness and cold Wednesday after snow, sleet and freezing rain moved into the Northeast. The region's second winter storm of the week canceled classes, closed government and business offices and sent cars and trucks sliding on slippery roads and highways. Around a foot of snow fell in some states. Moving in overnight from the Midwest, where it wreaked similar havoc, the storm tested the region already battered by a series of heavy snows and below-freezing temperatures this winter.
 
PENNSYLVANIA
 
Ice and snow brought down trees and limbs and knocked out power to some 750,000 customers. Most of the outages were in the Philadelphia suburbs, and PECO, the major utility company, warned it could be the weekend before some people get their lights back on. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was closed around Harrisburg, the state capital, for more than 13 hours after a fatal crash Tuesday night. Gov. Tom Corbett signed a disaster emergency proclamation, freeing up state agencies to use all available resources and personnel to respond to the storm. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Administration reported delays and some cancellations on suburban Philadelphia routes, while Amtrak suspended its Philadelphia-to-Harrisburg service indefinitely because of downed trees on wires and along tracks. Many schools were closed.
 
NEW YORK
 
Up to a foot of snow fell in places upstate; hundreds of schools upstate were closed. Four inches of snow and a quarter-inch of ice covered New York City. The state deployed 3,500 tons of stockpiled road salt to New York City, where supplies were running low, while plows and other heavy equipment aimed to keep roads clear. A 65-mile stretch of Interstate 84 between the Pennsylvania and Connecticut borders was closed to all vehicles until mid-afternoon. The Metropolitan Transit Authority said Metro-North Railroad service was reduced by 18 percent on morning trains.
 
NEW JERSEY
 
Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency and state offices were closed for non-essential employees, as the state got snow in northern parts, sleet and freezing rain in some areas, and all rain in southern counties. Tens of thousands of customers were without power, and schools were closed or delayed. NJ Transit operated on a storm schedule. Buses and trains were cross-honoring tickets.
 
MICHIGAN
 
The state received more than 6 inches of snow in some areas, snarling traffic and keeping towing operators busy. AAA Michigan got at least 1,100 calls for service Wednesday morning. Authorities reported several multi-vehicle crashes after snow fell along Interstate 94 in the Jackson area; traffic accidents closed parts of Interstate 69 around Flint. The storm also snarled traffic in southern Michigan, including Detroit. Two planes became stuck on taxiways at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, requiring trucks to push or pull the regional Delta jets to free them.
 
OHIO
 
Most of Ohio was hit with heavy snow and freezing rain, closing hundreds schools and creating extremely hazardous driving conditions. Four to 8 inches of snow fell overnight Tuesday. Many counties declared snow emergencies. "I wish that groundhog would have stayed in its hole," said Geoff Dunn, who took the bus to his downtown Columbus office. "Finding us six more weeks of winter was not the smart move." The National Weather Service said most Ohio cities already have seen anywhere from 15 to 30 inches more snow than is normal at this stage of winter because of the frequent winter storms.
 
ILLINOIS
 
A Chicago runner was credited with helping save a man who fell into icy Lake Michigan with his dog. Adam Dominik says he found twine and anchored it around himself while throwing the other end in the water, pulling the man onto nearby rocks. Meanwhile, a skier called 911. Rescuers pulled the man the rest of the way to safety. He was taken to a hospital. Both he and his dog were expected to recover.
 
KENTUCKY
 
Freezing rain and ice that moved through Kentucky overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday left thousands without power, mostly in Jefferson County, where about 10,000 customers had no lights early Wednesday. The National Weather Service said the winter storm left about a quarter-inch of ice over much of central and northern Kentucky. Several schools canceled classes. In one central Kentucky county, warming stations were opened for people without heat.
 
MASSACHUSETTS
 
The storm dropped nearly a foot in parts of Massachusetts. In Boston, Worcester, Springfield and elsewhere, schools and colleges canceled classes. The state's trial courts also closed for the day. Gov. Deval Patrick told all non-essential state employees working in the executive branch to stay home.
 
RHODE ISLAND
 
Nearly all schools in Rhode Island were closed, and state police responded to several traffic accidents. The General Assembly canceled its sessions. The Rhode Island Public Transit Authority warned of delays. Snow turned to sleet and rain in some parts of the state.
 
CONNECTICUT
 
The start of the General Assembly's annual session was delayed from Wednesday to Thursday because of the snow. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also ordered a delayed opening for state offices on Wednesday. Many schools were closed. Metro-North Railroad said the storm disabled a few commuter trains, forcing riders to transfer to other rail cars, while a few trains were canceled. Ridership was cut in half as thousands of commuters stayed home.
 
IOWA
 
Authorities said snowy road conditions may have contributed to a vehicle collision in Des Moines that killed one person.
 
OKLAHOMA
 
Classes were canceled at many Oklahoma schools, including Oklahoma City, because of subzero wind chills that reached 10 degrees below zero.
 
MISSOURI
 
A Southwest Airlines jet arriving from Denver got stuck in a snow bank Tuesday evening at Kansas City International Airport. A Southwest spokesman said all 55 passengers on Flight 305 were placed on buses and taken to the terminal.
 
WISCONSIN
 
With the severe weather, homeowners in far northern Wisconsin were urged to leave their faucets running 24 hours a day to prevent water pipes and sewer lines from freezing. The 9,000 Rhinelander residents won't be charged for using the extra water. Temperatures in the area were expected to be below zero for much of the week.
 
NEW HAMPSHIRE
 
At the Mount Sunapee Resort ski area, the lot was filling up with skiers undeterred by a trek through the snow. In Newport, the snow helped pick up the pace of ticket sales for an outdoor "Yankee Luau" on the town common Wednesday as part of the town's 98th Winter Carnival. The snow boded well for skijoring events this weekend, a popular attraction that had to be canceled the past two years because of a lack of snow. The sport features horseback riders towing a person on skis over jumps and through other obstacles.
 
INDIANA
 
Indiana was socked with up to a foot of snow. Several major highways were closed for a time, including Interstate 65 north of Lafayette and south of Indianapolis, and Interstate 74 in southeastern Indiana.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C.
 
The Maryland Transit Administration reduced the number of afternoon trains out of Washington on the MARC Brunswick line. Two morning trains hit fallen trees on the tracks; no one was hurt. Passengers on the first disabled train were put on a later train that also hit a fallen tree about a mile down the line, and the passengers were transferred again.
 
FATALITIES:
 
In Kansas, two traffic deaths Tuesday south of Pittsburg in Crawford County were blamed on the weather; a third, near Hesston, was believed weather related.
 
POWER OUTAGES:
 
By Wednesday evening, power outages remained above 1 million. They included: Pennsylvania, 750,000; Maryland, 140,000; New Jersey, 44,000; Arkansas, 48,000; Kentucky, 10,000; New York, 8,000; Delaware, 6,000; Indiana, 2,500; Connecticut, 300.
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