- - Thursday, November 18, 2010

CALIFORNIA

NASA craft braved storm

Scientists say a NASA spacecraft braved a cosmic ice storm during a recent flight past a small comet.

Speeding at 27,000 mph, the Deep Impact craft flew within 435 miles of comet Hartley 2 on Nov. 4.

New findings released Thursday reveal that the comet was surrounded by chunks of ice ranging from the size of golf balls to that of basketballs.

Project manager Tim Larson of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory says it appears the craft was hit nine times by ice particles as it flew past. He says none were large enough to cause damage.

The mission marks the fifth time a comet has been viewed up close.

DISTRICT

Diamond dons new setting

The famous Hope Diamond is getting dressed up to celebrate its anniversary.

The giant blue diamond was unveiled Thursday in a modernized necklace, a setting designed by Harry Winston Inc. in New York to commemorate the gem’s half century on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

It was Harry Winston who donated the diamond to the Smithsonian, sending it from New York to Washington by registered mail more than a half century ago.

The new necklace, called Embracing Hope, was chosen from three possibilities in an online vote of more than 100,000 people.

Traditionally, the Hope has been displayed in a necklace with an oval setting surrounded by white diamonds. Embracing Hope places the diamond in a wider triple-strand necklace that curves around the blue gem, embracing it and reuniting at the bottom.

The Hope will be shown in this setting for a year before being returned to its traditional one.

The 45.52-carat diamond was long thought to have a curse, bringing bad luck to its owners, but Smithsonian officials say it has been kind to them, drawing throngs of visitors. It attracts an estimated 7 million visitors a year, the museum reports.

LOUISIANA

Witness: Officer laughed at burning

NEW ORLEANS — A witness has testified that a New Orleans police officer was laughing after he burned the body of a man who had been gunned down by police in Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath.

The testimony Thursday came during the trial of officer Greg McRae and Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, who are charged with burning the body of 31-year-old Henry Glover in a car after he was shot and killed by a different officer in September 2005. Three other current and former officers also are charged in Glover’s death.

Lt. Joseph Meisch testified that he was standing outside a police station when he saw the car containing Glover’s body driven over a levee and set on fire.

Lt. Meisch said Mr. McRae was laughing when he and Lt. Scheuermann ran toward him. Lt. Meisch said he asked what had happened and Mr. McRae told him not to worry about it.

NEBRASKA

12 arrested, 2 more sought

GRAND ISLAND — An FBI news release says federal and state officials have arrested 12 persons and are seeking two others in a combined operation targeting suspected members of a local gang with international ties.

Fourteen people have been indicted on a combination of federal and state drug-trafficking and firearms offenses as well as a new Nebraska law intended to combat gang recruitment.

Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement based in St. Paul, Minn., says the effort included about 60 FBI agents and about 20 Homeland Security investigators within ICE.

Mr. Neudauer says those arrested before dawn Thursday are members of the East Side Locos gang and are believed to have ties to violent international gangs.

NEW YORK

Brunei’s prince testifies in NYC

NEW YORK — Brunei’s flamboyant Prince Jefri Bolkiah has taken the witness stand in a New York City court to tell his side of a multimillion-dollar dispute with his former lawyers.

His testimony so far involves details of hiring the British attorneys, Thomas and Faith Zaman Derbyshire.

Prince Jefri says the married couple stole about $7 million from him. The Derbyshires say he owes them more than that in legal fees.

The trial is offering a glimpse at the life of the so-called “Playboy Prince.” He’s the youngest brother of the sultan of oil-rich Brunei.

Prince Jefri is known for an extravagant lifestyle — and allegations that he embezzled nearly $16 billion from Brunei’s state coffers. He denied any wrongdoing but agreed to repay money to Brunei’s investment arm.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Police: Suspect takes to mower

AIKEN — Police in South Carolina say a man attempted a slow getaway by lawn mower after robbing a convenience store.

Aiken County sheriff’s deputies told the Aiken Standard the man left the store on a riding lawn mower Thursday morning but didn’t get far before he was arrested.

Capt. Troy Elwell says Ricky New has been charged with assault and battery, first degree, and armed robbery.

Investigators say the suspect beat a store clerk with a stick during the robbery. He was being held at the Aiken County jail. It wasn’t yet known if he has an attorney.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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