Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Lab installed on space station

CAPE CANAVERAL — Europe’s shiny new $2 billion science lab, Columbus, was anchored to the International Space Station yesterday by a team of astronauts laboring inside and out.

French astronaut Leopold Eyharts announced its arrival. “Beautiful work,” replied Mission Control.

It was an exhausting daylong affair that took more time than expected.

The grand finale — the actual attachment of the 23-foot, 14-ton lab that was ferried up by Atlantis — took place at the end of a long spacewalk by Rex Walheim and Stanley Love. The astronauts shouted and cheered when the lab reached its destination.

Germany’s recovering astronaut, Hans Schlegel, was stuck inside. He was supposed to float outside with Mr. Walheim to help with Columbus’ hookup but got sick after last week’s liftoff and was replaced by Mr. Love.

The last-minute switch in crew prompted NASA to delay Columbus’ installation by a day and lengthen Atlantis’ space station visit.


Student shot during gym class

MEMPHIS — A high school sophomore arguing with another student shot him during a gym class yesterday, saying: “It’s over now” before handing the gun to a coach, authorities said.

The victim, a 19-year-old senior, suffered at least two gunshot wounds and was taken to a hospital in critical condition, police spokeswoman Monique Martin said. The 17-year-old suspect was in custody.

The shooting stemmed from an argument that the two students had “in the community” over the weekend, Mitchell High School Principal John Ware said.

The student handed the gun to the coach and did not try to flee, Mr. Ware said.

The class was held in the cafeteria, and about 75 other students were in the room at the time of the shooting. The school was placed on lockdown, said a school district spokeswoman.


Data could back U.S. Arctic claims

ANCHORAGE — New mapping data could bolster any claims the United States might make in the Arctic as nations in the region compete for potentially rich reserves of oil, gas and minerals buried beneath the sea floor, federal scientists said yesterday.

Federal officials said the data would support the United States should it choose to jockey with Russia, Canada and other circumpolar nations under the international Law of the Sea treaty to carve out boundaries off their northern coasts.

The Law of the Sea confers sovereign rights over a country’s continental shelf beyond the normal boundary of 200 nautical miles if the country can substantiate its claims through scientific evidence.

Bathymetric soundings taken last year showed the foot of Alaska’s continental slope extending more than 100 nautical miles farther from the U.S. coast than previously thought, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The United States is the only Arctic nation not party to the Law of the Sea treaty, which is a contentious issue in Congress. The Bush administration has pushed for its approval.

Scientists said their findings do not completely settle the question of where the United States could set a plausible boundary.


Quake rocks northern Baja

CALEXICO, Mexico — A magnitude-4.9 earthquake rocked the northern Baja California region of Mexico near the U.S. border yesterday, just days after the region was hit by a magnitude-5.4 temblor, authorities said.

Yesterday’s quake, which occurred about 10:30 a.m., was centered about 20 miles southeast of the border town of Mexicali at a depth of nearly 4 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The epicenter was 23 miles south-southeast of Calexico.

The magnitude was revised down from an initial magnitude of 5.1.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries on the U.S. side, said the Imperial County Sheriff’s Department and Calexico police.

The quake was felt in California in parts of San Diego, Imperial and Orange counties and as far away as Yuma, Ariz., about 50 miles from Calexico, according to the USGS.

Late Friday, the Mexicali area was shaken by a magnitude-5.4 quake that shut down factories and knocked out electricity for 400,000 people.


Sculpture that killed artist being installed

DENVER — Fifteen years after Luis Jimenez began sculpting the rearing mustang that later fell from a hoist and killed him, the towering statue is taking its place on Pena Boulevard at Denver International Airport.

Workers began assembling the 32-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture on a median outside the airport yesterday morning.

Mr. Jimenez, 65, died June 13, 2006, when a large piece of the sculpture “Mustang” slipped from the hoist he used to move it and pinned him against a steel support beam in his Hondo, N.M., studio.

City officials commissioned “Mustang” from Mr. Jimenez in 1992 at a cost of $300,000.


Trial delayed for illegal agents

MIAMI — The trial of three men accused of being illegal Venezuelan agents in the United States who were caught trying to cover up a South American political cash scandal was postponed yesterday for at least three months.

U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard granted a motion by defense lawyers to postpone the trial after prosecutors said they did not oppose it. Originally set for March 17, the trial is tentatively scheduled to begin June 23.

Judge Lenard said at a hearing that it’s clear more time is needed for several pretrial issues, including the FBI’s translation of dozens of telephone-wiretap intercepts and other recorded conversations from Spanish to English. Those transcripts must be shared with defense attorneys.

Venezuelans Carlos Kauffmann, 35, and Franklin Duran, 40; and Uruguayan Rodolfo Wanseele, 40, pleaded not guilty to charges of being unregistered Venezuelan agents. Prosecutors said they were in South Florida trying to mask the source of $800,000 in Venezuelan cash intended for the campaign of Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez.

All three face up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted. An additional Venezuelan, 36-year-old Moises Maionica, pleaded guilty last month, while a fourth Venezuelan man charged in the case remains at large.


Sex offender wins $10 million

BOSTON — A man listed as one of the state’s most dangerous sex offenders won $10 million in the Massachusetts lottery, but the attention might have landed him in new trouble.

Daniel Snay had been living and working in Massachusetts since 2004. Last month, he paid $20 for a “Billion Dollar Blockbuster” scratch ticket at a convenience store and hit the jackpot.

He retrieved the first of 20 annual checks for $500,000 Jan. 30. And the Massachusetts Lottery Commission said he gambled legally.

But his story caught the attention of police in neighboring Connecticut, where Snay had lived for several years and where, officials said, he never informed authorities he was moving out of state.

Connecticut Trooper William Tate said Snay could face up to five years in prison if convicted of failing to notify authorities of his change of address, a felony. He said Snay hadn’t confirmed his address for the Connecticut sex-offender registry since May 2004, though that state requires address verification every 90 days.

Snay, 56, a divorced father of five, was convicted several times of indecent assault and battery from 1974 to 1987. Two of the assaults were on a child under the age of 14.

Snay’s attorney, Joseph Fabbricotti, said that when Snay moved from Connecticut, he thought he had to register only in the state where he was moving.

Snay is classified in Massachusetts as a Level 3 offender, people deemed most dangerous or most likely to reoffend.

It is the second time in recent months a convicted felon has won the Massachusetts lottery. Last month, a judge approved an agreement allowing a convicted bank robber to keep a $1 million lottery prize, even though his probation terms prohibited him from gambling.


Low birthrate dooms maternity ward

LANCASTER — Another northern New Hampshire hospital has decided to close its maternity ward, leaving just one in Coos County that will deliver babies after April 1.

Officials at Weeks Medical Center said declining birthrates and escalating costs prompted the decision.

The closure is expected to affect about 100 women in the first year.


Firing gun in court draws 25 years

NEW CITY — A man convicted of firing a rifle inside a courtroom at a woman who accused him of groping her was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison.

Rockland County Judge Victor Alfieri imposed the maximum sentence on Leo Lewis, 60, for attempted murder and weapons charges.

Lewis had been acquitted of a sex-abuse charge brought by the woman and was suing her for legal fees when he smuggled a semiautomatic rifle into a May 7 hearing. When his case was called, Lewis stood, pulled the rifle from an interoffice envelope and fired.

The shot missed the woman, ricocheted off Village Judge Thomas Newman’s bench and slammed into the wall behind the judge. Judge Newman estimated the bullet missed him by no more than six inches.


Mistrial declared in baby microwave case

DAYTON — A judge declared a mistrial yesterday in the case of a woman accused of killing her month-old baby by burning her in a microwave, finding that new defense witnesses bolster her claim she is innocent.

Judge John Kessler made the decision after hearing testimony privately from a juvenile who said he was at the apartment complex of defendant China Arnold on the night her infant died in August 2005. The judge did not give details about the juvenile’s testimony.

Miss Arnold showed little emotion when the judge announced his decision but appeared sad as she walked from the courtroom and was returned to jail. Family members in the courtroom had no audible reaction but hugged one another in the hall as they were leaving.

Police think Miss Arnold killed the girl, Paris Talley, by putting her in a microwave at her Dayton home. Coroner’s officials said the baby suffered high-heat internal injuries and had no external burns.

Judge Kessler continued a gag order in the case, so neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys would comment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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