HAGEL'S GOP FOES SIGNAL VOTE SHOULD GO ON: PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Republican opponents are sending signals that Chuck Hagel's bid to become defense secretary will probably come to an up-or-down vote soon in the Senate.
That's unless more information damaging to the nominee — and the Obama administration — surfaces in the coming week.
Critics maintain the decorated Vietnam combat veteran and former senator is unqualified to lead the U.S. military. A top White House official expressed "grave concern" over the delayed confirmation vote, adding that there was nothing to worry about in any disclosures that may yet come.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, a key Republican on defense matters, said Sunday that he doesn't believe Hagel, a one-time colleague and friend, is qualified. "But I don't believe that we should hold up his nomination any further, because I think it's (been) a reasonable amount of time to have questions answered."
McCain and other Republicans angered President Barack Obama by delaying a vote on Hagel last week and preventing him from rounding out his second-term national security team, which includes Hagel and John Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser who is awaiting confirmation to become CIA director. Former Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry assumed his post as secretary of state at the beginning of February.
SHERIFF: MCCREADY SHOT DOG BEFORE KILLING HERSELF: BEBER SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) — Authorities say they found country singer Mindy McCready's body on the same porch of her northern Arkansas home where her boyfriend was found dead of an apparent suicide last month.
Cleburne County Sheriff Marty Moss said Monday that it appears McCready killed her late boyfriend David Wilson's dog before she turned the gun on herself Sunday. The dog and McCready were found dead next to one another the home in Heber Springs, a vacation community about 65 miles north of Little Rock. Moss says the dog's body was next to McCready's.
Authorities are investigating Wilson's shooting death as a suicide, but Moss says an official determination hasn't been made.
Moss says he expects McCready's official cause of death to be released soon, but that "all indicators" point to suicide.
FIRST LADY QUIPS THAT MIDLIFE CRISIS LED TO BANGS: PALM CITY, Fla. (AP) — Michelle Obama jokingly says a midlife crisis is what inspired her new haircut with bangs.
The first lady revealed the new hairstyle last month on her 49th birthday, which came a few days before the festivities for President Barack Obama's second inauguration.
Mrs. Obama was asked about the new haircut during an interview with talk-show host Rachael Ray.
Said Mrs. Obama: "This is my midlife crisis." She added that she cut her bangs because she can't get a sports car and won't be allowed to bungee jump.
The interview was conducted via Skype and is scheduled to air on Wednesday. The Rachael Ray show released excerpts on Monday.
MILES FROM SEA, BABY SEAL STOPS TRAFFIC IN CARSON: CARSON (AP) — Drivers near Southern California's notorious Interstate 405 had reason to tone down their road rage when it was revealed the thing stopping traffic was a baby seal on city streets several miles from the ocean.
Sheriff's officials said Monday that deputies were called to the scene when a driver said he had to swerve to miss the seal at a busy intersection in Carson between the 405 and the Home Depot Center stadium.
The deputies cornered the seal and did their best to keep it out of the street until representatives from Marine Animal Rescue arrived to take it to a shelter for examination.
The seal was believed to be less than a year old and most likely got to Carson via the Dominguez Channel, which runs alongside the 405.
COUPLE SAYS MISTAKEN BUCKEYE LEAF GOT THEM STOPPED: MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Texas couple says a Tennessee sheriff's deputy pulled them over after mistaking a car decal of the buckeye leaf for a marijuana leaf.
Bonnie and Guido Jonas-Boggioni said that they are laughing about it now, but back on Feb. 4, they were confused when a Shelby County Sheriff's deputy pulled them over as they were driving on Interstate 40 after coming back from a family member's funeral in Ohio.
Bonnie Jonas-Boggioni said the deputy asked her why she had a marijuana sticker on the back of her car. He was referring to her Ohio State Buckeyes sticker, featuring a five-pointed leaf that is different than the seven-pointed marijuana leaf.
NYC SPENT AT LEAST $20M DURING SCHOOL BUS STRIKE: NEW YORK (AP) — The city spent roughly $20.6 million in transit cards, taxis and gas mileage to get tens of thousands of stranded students to school during the monthlong bus strike, but some still didn't get there at all, schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said Monday.
The 7,700 or so bus routes that serve the nation's largest school district will resume Wednesday following mid-winter recess, but routes for non-public schools will start Tuesday, Walcott said. The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 ended its walkout on Friday evening after union leaders were assured by prospective New York City mayoral candidates that their concerns about job protection would be heard after this year's election. They went on strike Jan. 16.
"We are glad to welcome back the local 1181 drivers and matrons," Walcott said. "Their children have missed them ... and we need them back so our children can get to school."
Walcott estimated the city saved $80 million because it wasn't paying bus companies during the strike, which started over job protection issues. Local 1181 of the ATU wanted the city to include protections for current employees in future contracts with bus companies, but Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a court ruling prohibited the city from doing so.
Just 152,000 of New York City's 1.1 million public schoolchildren ride yellow school buses, but many are disabled or have no other easy way to get to school. The city provided transit cards for students and is reimbursing parents for taxi fares and gas mileage needed to get students to school during the strike.