- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

FLORIDA

NASA delays Discovery launch

CAPE CANAVERAL — NASA yesterday pushed back the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery from May until at least July because of a faulty fuel tank sensor.

A similar problem briefly delayed last summer’s launch of Discovery on the first shuttle flight since the Columbia disaster in 2003.

NASA said it needs the time to open up the spacecraft’s hydrogen fuel tank and replace the sensor, which gave an electrical current reading that was slightly off. The space agency plans to replace the three other sensors in the tank, too, to be safe.

The space agency had been working a tight schedule to meet the May launch date and had little room for any technical problems that might arise.

The fuel tank sensor was not the only problem facing the space agency. Discovery’s robotic arm was removed Monday after a small crack was found in it over the weekend.

HAWAII

Seven missing after dam bursts

HONOLULU — A dam on the Hawaiian island of Kauai apparently failed yesterday, sending torrents of water gushing from a reservoir to the Pacific Ocean, the Coast Guard said. Seven persons were reported missing.

It has rained heavily across Kauai in the past few days.

A Coast Guard helicopter was on the scene looking for the missing persons.

State Rep. Hermina M. Morita, whose district includes the area where the dam burst, said a constituent who had spent the night away from home returned and was searching for four family members.

There was no warning about the dam’s strength or the amount of water in the reservoir behind it, Mrs. Morita said.

LOUISIANA

Motorcyclist arrested for clocking 155 mph

LIVINGSTON — A motorcyclist was booked for reckless operation of a vehicle after state troopers clocked him zooming down a highway at 155 mph.

Brian Samuel Willis, 20, of Ponchatoula, also faces charges of flight from an officer and speeding, authorities said. The posted speed limit was 70 mph.

“He just said he didn’t think he was going that fast and he didn’t know we were behind him,” Trooper Ryan Riley said. “He thought he was only doing 120 or 130.”

A judge refused to set bond for Mr. Willis, Trooper Riley said.

“I think she is going to let him spend a few days in jail,” he said.

MASSACHUSETTS

Company owner, truck driver slain

WAKEFIELD — The owner of a concrete-pouring company was found slumped at his desk with a bullet to the head, and a truck driver was found dead on another floor in what prosecutors say appears to have been a hit.

Police said they had no suspects or motive in the killings and had not found a weapon.

Burglary and theft were ruled out, and no other employees were in the building at the time of the shootings Monday morning, said Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley.

She said the target appeared to have been Michael Zammitti Jr., 39, who was found slumped at a desk Monday on the second floor of Allstate Concrete Pumping, which he ran with his father, Michael Zammitti Sr. Chester Roberts, 51, a part-time driver, may have stumbled onto the attack, Miss Coakley said.

The elder Mr. Zammitti called 911 after arriving at work and discovering the bodies.

OKLAHOMA

Senate passes commandments bill

OKLAHOMA CITY — The state Senate passed legislation that would help counties fight legal challenges to placing Ten Commandments monuments outside county courthouses. Senators voted 45-1 for the measure, which now goes to the House for consideration.

The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the constitutionality of a Ten Commandments monument at a courthouse in eastern Oklahoma.

PENNSYLVANIA

House seller seeks female buyer, wife

GREENSBURG — Mark R. Miller hopes some female home buyer is looking for a unique feature: him.

The 47-year-old says he has been too busy to get married. He helps parents find missing children through his charity, the American Association for Lost Children.

Mr. Miller has been running ads in newspapers and on the Web site www.townhousewithgroom.com for his two-bedroom town house, which includes a wooden deck, air conditioning and gas log fireplace. The asking price is $95,000.

“I’d like to be married, and I was going to sell [the town house] on my own, so I thought, why not put the two together?” Mr. Miller said.

Mr. Miller came up with the idea after reading about a woman who sold her home through a “house with bride” marketing campaign. Any deal is subject to compatibility, his ad says.

SOUTH DAKOTA

Funds ready to fight West Nile virus

PIERRE — About $400,000 in federal funds is available in South Dakota this year for control of mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus if city, county and tribal governments apply for it, state officials said. The money is provided on a 50-50 matching basis.

TEXAS

Parents challenge moment of silence

DALLAS — A couple has filed a complaint in federal court charging that the state’s mandated moment of silence in public schools is unconstitutional.

David and Shannon Croft say a teacher told one of their children to keep quiet because the minute is a “time for prayer.”

The complaint filed last week names Gov. Rick Perry and the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District in the Dallas suburbs.

Mr. Croft, 37, said there is no secular reason for a moment of silence.

“This is just a ruse to get prayer in school without calling it prayer in school,” he said.

WEST VIRGINIA

Sago mine owner says lightning at fault

MORGANTOWN — The explosion that killed 12 workers at the Sago mine was probably caused by a lightning bolt that ignited methane gas in a sealed-off area, the mine’s owner said yesterday.

Ben Hatfield, chief executive officer of International Coal Group Inc., said weather monitors confirmed an unusually large and powerful lightning strike near the mine at 6:26 a.m. on Jan. 2. Citing the company’s own investigation, Mr. Hatfield says a U.S. Geological Survey station confirmed a seismic event at Sago at that same time, and the mine’s own atmospheric alarms also sounded then.

Mr. Hatfield said there is no evidence a nearby gas well contributed to the explosion.

The company’s announcement provides the strongest indication so far of what may have caused the blast. Since the accident, state and federal regulators have declined to speculate, but lightning was suggested as a cause on the day of the disaster because severe thunderstorms moved through the area at the time.

Mr. Hatfield broke the news to miners’ families in a series of private meetings yesterday, and Sago workers were to be briefed last night as they returned to work. The coal mine is set to resume production today.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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