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“What does this mean? I don’t know at this point,” said John Shannon, chairman of the mission management team. If the gouge is deep enough, the shuttle astronauts may have to patch it during a spacewalk, he said.

Tomorrow, the astronauts will inspect the area, using Endeavour’s 100-foot robot arm and extension beam.

Man bypasses airport security

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A man bypassed security screening yesterday at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and likely made it onto a flight that departed before he could be found, officials said.

The man slipped past screeners shortly before 8 a.m., a Transportation Security Administration spokesman said. Officials searched about 15 planes on the ground and shut down a concourse without finding him, spokesman Jon Allen said.

Mr. Allen said 12 other flights left the airport before the search, and officials think the man is on one of those flights. Those passengers were to be screened when they landed, he said.

“It’s too soon to say whether there was malicious intent or whether it was someone who was confused and passed the security screening,” Mr. Allen said.

Mayor’s comment about city criticized

NEW ORLEANS — Mayor C. Ray Nagin said he worries that slayings in the city make it seem dangerous, but news of such crimes “keeps the New Orleans brand out there.”

In a city where the tourism industry is the lifeblood of a fragile economy after Hurricane Katrina, the wave of violence threatens to derail efforts to bring visitors — and former residents — back. Yet Mr. Nagin, at a bricklaying ceremony Thursday, told reporters it’s a “two-edged sword.”

“It’s not good for us, but it also keeps the New Orleans brand out there, and it keeps people thinking about our needs and what we need to bring this community back,” he said. “Sure it hurts, but we have to keep working every day to make the city better.”

Anti-violence activist Baty Landis called Mr. Nagin’s remarks “stunningly insensitive.”

The city has recorded at least 117 homicides this year.

“New Orleans is not a brand, it’s a city,” Miss Landis said.

A Nagin spokeswoman did not return a message yesterday.

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