Sunday, July 2, 2006

Weather delays shuttle launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Thunderstorms forced NASA to call off yesterday’s launch of Discovery, delaying for at least a day the first space shuttle flight in a year.

More bad weather was forecast for today and for the rest of the Independence Day weekend.

Storm clouds moved in and out of the launch zone throughout the morning and early afternoon, posing lightning threats. As the countdown held at the nine-minute mark, it became clear the weather would not improve, and launch director Mike Leinbach announced a one-day delay.

“We’re not going to make it today,” Mr. Leinbach said.

The seven astronauts aboard the fueled spaceship immediately began backing out of their launch procedures.

The next launch attempt was scheduled for 3:26 p.m. today.

Slain soldiers were alone at checkpoint

Three U.S. soldiers killed by insurgents south of Baghdad last month had been left alone at a checkpoint in violation of military procedure, a U.S. military spokeswoman said yesterday.

An investigation is under way into how the soldiers came to be on their own in an armored Humvee in an al Qaeda hot spot known as the Triangle of Death as night fell.

Militants abducted and killed two of them in an attack in which the third soldier also died.

“A lone vehicle does not fit standard operating procedures and does not match published guidance,” Lt. Col. Michelle Martin-Hing told Reuters news service.

Maj. Gen. James Thurman, commander of U.S.-led forces in the Baghdad area, ordered the probe into the deaths of Pfcs. Kristian Menchaca, 23, Thomas Tucker, 25, and David Babineau, 25.

Bloomberg re-electioncost $85.1 million

NEW YORK — The bills are paid, the books are closed and the final number is in: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg spent $85.1 million on his re-election.

The billionaire Republican mayor, 64, broke his own 2001 record of $74 million, said a report released by his office Friday. With the latest total, he appears to have set a record for nonpresidential campaigns.

The founder of financial information company Bloomberg LP, the mayor bankrolled both runs for office with his personal fortune, which is estimated at $5.1 billion.

Probe faults staff in elephant death

LOS ANGELES — The keepers of a 48-year-old Asian elephant who died in June did not begin emergency procedures for more than eight hours after the animal was discovered in a sitting position, a Los Angeles Zoo investigation has found.

The 8,000-pound female named Gita died on June 10. A zoo statement issued Friday said Gita was seen sitting down — a general sign of distress in elephants — the night before she died, but it did not say who observed her. Keepers did not begin emergency procedures until the next morning, it said.

“Corrective actions have been taken that will serve to prevent the occurrence of similar situations,” the zoo said.

Red Cross laptop stolen

DALLAS — A laptop containing personal information from thousands of blood donors — including Social Security numbers and medical information — was stolen from a local office of the American Red Cross, but officials said the information was encrypted.

The data included matching names and birth dates of donors from Texas and Oklahoma, as well as donors’ sexual and disease histories.

“We haven’t viewed this as a security breach at this point,” Darren Irby, spokesman for the national American Red Cross office, told the Dallas Morning News for yesterday’s editions.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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