- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

FLORIDA

Atlantis launch set for Aug. 27

CAPE CANAVERAL — NASA will attempt to launch Space Shuttle Atlantis on Aug. 27 to restart construction of the half-built International Space Station, officials said yesterday.

“We set the launch date for the 27th, I think it’s around 4:30 in the afternoon, so we’re ready to go for that,” Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, told reporters at Cape Canaveral.

Atlantis’ mission will be the first flight to resume construction of the half-built $100 billion space station since the shuttle Columbia fell apart over Texas in 2003.

Two shuttle missions, conducted since Columbia, tested safety upgrades designed to avoid a repeat of the accident. Falling insulation foam from the external fuel tank knocked a hole in the shuttle’s wing on liftoff.

Construction of the space station has been on hold because the U.S. shuttles are the only spacecraft capable of carrying its larger components into orbit.

GEORGIA

Student charged in McDonald’s assault

ATHENS — A college student accused of hitting two McDonald’s customers with her car after a dispute over who was next in line was ordered held yesterday on $3,000 bail for each of two counts of aggravated assault.

Ruth Driscoll-Dunn, a 24-year-old student at the University of Georgia, was arrested Tuesday.

Video from the fast-food restaurant caught a partial license plate of the vehicle, which led authorities to Miss Driscoll-Dunn, said Athens-Clarke County Police Detective Jeff Clark.

“Basically, she admitted to hitting the victim. However, she said there were other circumstances relating to the collision,” the detective said. He said the suspect said the other two women “provoked the incident.”

The dispute started when Melinda Ann Thomas, 34, and her mother, Linda Ann Thomas, 51, stepped to the front of a crowded restaurant line Saturday morning, police said. When they later left, a driver in the parking lot struck both with the side of her Jeep, police said. Neither woman was seriously injured, according to the police report.

LOUISIANA

ICE agents deport 758 criminal aliens

NEW ORLEANS — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents removed 758 criminal aliens from the United States last month to their countries of origin, including illegals from a five-state area that included Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.

Among the deported was Alfranes Alves De Moura, 26, a Brazilian national convicted for assault with a deadly weapon, domestic assault and unlawful possession of a firearm, and Floyd Jackson, 28, of Jamaica, who had numerous criminal convictions for unnatural acts on a child, providing obscene materials to minors, assault and battery, breaking and entering, larceny and possession of a controlled substance.

The illegal aliens were deported to Mexico, Colombia, Haiti, Nigeria, Slovakia and Lebanon. Their offenses included drug possession and distribution, assault on a police officer, sex offenses, aggravated assault, attempted murder and rape.

MASSACHUSETTS

Romney appointee takes over Big Dig

BOSTON — A state official picked by Gov. Mitt Romney to serve as Massachusetts Turnpike Authority chairman declared a “new era” yesterday for the agency overseeing the troubled Big Dig, promising “accountability, transparency and reform.”

The appointment of John Cogliano, the state’s transportation secretary, was part of a push by Mr. Romney to combine the state agency and the independent turnpike authority. The two are set to merge next year.

Mr. Romney replaced Turnpike Chairman Matthew Amorello in the wake of a ceiling collapse in a Big Dig tunnel that killed 39-year-old Milena Del Valle last month. Twelve tons of ceiling panels crushed the Boston woman’s car.

“There’s a new era here,” Mr. Cogliano said yesterday in calling his first board meeting to order. “We are going to have for the first time accountability, transparency and reform.”

Mr. Cogliano quickly pushed through a series of changes that Mr. Romney has characterized as reforms, including a motion to revoke free tolls for board members and turnpike management.

MINNESOTA

Gerald Ford admitted to Mayo for testing

MINNEAPOLIS — Former President Gerald R. Ford has checked into the Mayo Clinic for a few days as he undergoes “testing and evaluation.”

Mr. Ford’s office said the 93-year-old former chief executive was admitted Tuesday, but disclosed little else about the hospital stay.

The clinic in Rochester, about 75 miles southeast of Minneapolis, offered no additional details.

“No further releases or updates are anticipated prior to early next week,” said Mr. Ford’s office in Beaver Creek, Colo. Mr. Ford also has a home in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Lee Simmons, a California friend of the former president, said he heard in the past two days that Mr. Ford was planning to undergo a series of tests for various “medical problems.” He said he thought the tests were planned.

NORTH DAKOTA

Safe teen drivers get savings bonds

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Farm Bureau is offering teenagers a $1,000 savings bond as an incentive to be safe drivers.

Teens who enroll in the “Route 1000” program go to a one-hour safety course with their parents and sign a promise to buckle up, drive safely and not drink and drive. They get the savings bond if they go 1,000 days without an accident or violation.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Thieves steal church’s kitchen sink

GREENWOOD — In this robbery, thieves stole almost nothing but the kitchen sink.

The stainless steel, restaurant-style sink was left behind a building during renovations to a fellowship hall, and the Rev. Wilbert Simpson said someone noticed it was missing over the weekend. A cake warmer was also taken.

“We were just giving the painters enough room to work,” said Mr. Simpson, of the Calvary Grove Baptist Church. “It’s sad to think … that someone would come on God’s grounds to steal something.”

The church is offering a reward for information about the theft.

WASHINGTON

Port terminal emptied in explosives scare

SEATTLE — Authorities set up a half-mile perimeter around a terminal at the city’s port yesterday after bomb-sniffing dogs indicated that two containers from Pakistan could contain explosives.

Dozens of workers were evacuated from Terminal 18, south of downtown and nearby businesses were advised to keep their workers indoors. A bomb squad was examining the containers’ contents.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents had used a “gamma-ray” device to peer through the containers’ steel walls to determine what they contained and detected that some of the items did not appear to match what was listed on the containers’ manifest, spokesman Mike Milne said.

Officials said the containers were supposed to contain oily rags, which are often shipped internationally for recycling or use in packaging.

Bomb-sniffing dogs were used, per standard procedure, and agents also tested for hints of radiation, but detected none.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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