White House rejects criticism by Dick Cheney

WASHINGTON — The White House on Thursday forcefully rejected criticism from former Vice President Dick Cheney and other Republicans that President Obama's Afghanistan decision is taking too long.

"What Vice President Cheney calls dithering, President Obama calls his solemn responsibility to the men and women in uniform and to the American public," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. "I think we've all seen what happens when somebody doesn't take that responsibility seriously."

Obama is nearing a decision on whether to significantly expand the U.S. war posture in Afghanistan by honoring a military request for thousands of additional forces.

18 charged in Calif. marijuana operation

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Federal authorities in California announced charges Thursday against 18 people they said operated a lucrative marijuana-growing operation by converting Central Valley houses into high-tech pot nurseries.

They estimated the value of the marijuana crop at nearly $100 million a year.

All the suspects are from the San Francisco Bay area, but half remain at large, including several who authorities believe fled to China or Hong Kong.

The operation would have produced nearly 11 tons of high-grade marijuana each year with an estimated street value of $96 million, said Gordon Taylor, who heads the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Central Valley office.

F-16 jettisons bombs in emergency landing

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — Hill Air Force Base officials say an F-16 jettisoned two 500-pound bombs and two fuel tanks on the base just before making an emergency landing.

Col. Scott J. Zobrist says the pilot ran into trouble after taking off Thursday afternoon and had to return to the base about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City.

He says the pilot had to drop the munitions and tanks to lighten the jet's load.

Zobrist says it appears one bomb hit an empty tin shack on base. He says there are no injuries and the plane landed safely.