- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2006

Earthquake shakes southern homes

BENNETTSVILLE, S.C. — A minor earthquake shook homes and broke windows around this community yesterday morning, but no injuries or serious damage was reported.

The shaking was felt in Marlboro and Chesterfield counties, adjacent counties on the North Carolina state line. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the 3.5-magnitude quake struck at 7:22 a.m. about 6 miles north-northwest of Bennettsville.

“We had some folks saying the whole house shook,” including some who fled outdoors, said Roy Allison, emergency manager for Marlboro County.

Generally magnitude 3.5 quakes cannot be felt.

Astronaut collapses during ceremony

HOUSTON — An astronaut collapsed twice yesterday, a day after she returned to Earth in Space Shuttle Atlantis, and officials attributed her wobbles to the adjustment from 12 days at zero gravity.

Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper left the welcome-home ceremony at the hangar at Ellington Field but was not taken to a hospital. Officials said she was doing fine.

Mrs. Stefanyshyn-Piper, the fifth of the six astronauts to speak, appeared to be confused before her legs buckled during her address.

“Boy, if that’s not a little embarrassing,” she said.

After speaking for another half-minute or so, she again appeared confused and gripped the podium. Crew members stepped to her side and lowered her to the floor.

Astronauts typically lose 10 to 14 percent of their blood volume while in space, usually regaining it in a day or two, said Smith Johnston, the crew’s flight surgeon.

Feds drop charge in terrorism case

CHICAGO — Federal prosecutors yesterday dropped a charge that a purported fundraiser for the Palestinian militant group Hamas gave material support to terrorists — a move that stunned defense attorneys.

Prosecutors gave no explanation in court and declined to comment afterward.

Muhammad Salah, 53, who has been the focus of a high-profile terrorism investigation for nine years, remains charged with racketeering conspiracy and lying by denying membership in Hamas.

The dropped charge carries a 10-year maximum sentence; conspiracy carries a maximum of life and obstruction by lying 10 years.

Jury sentences killer to death

FARGO, N.D. — Jurors yesterday sentenced a convicted sex offender to death for killing University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, whose body was found in a Minnesota ravine nearly five months after she disappeared.

The jury reached its decision against Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. after more than a day and a half of deliberations.

The same jury convicted Rodriguez, 53, of Crookston, Minn., on Aug. 30 on a charge of kidnapping resulting in Miss Sjodin’s death.

Sjodin, 22, of Pequot Lakes, Minn., disappeared from a Grand Forks shopping mall parking lot on Nov. 22, 2003, and her body was found the following April in a ravine near Crookston. Authorities said she was beaten, raped and stabbed.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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