- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2008


Space race heats up with new aircraft

LOS ANGELES | Aerospace engineers have been holed up in a Mojave Desert hangar for four years, fashioning a commercial spaceship to loft rich tourists some 62 miles above Earth.

Now the wraps come partially off the top-secret project.

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson and American aerospace designer Burt Rutan are due Monday to show off their mothership, which is designed to air launch a passenger-toting spaceship out of the atmosphere.

The rollout — a year after a deadly accident at Mr. Rutan’s test site — marks the start of a rigorous flight-test program that space tourism advocates hope will climax with the first suborbital joy rides by the end of the decade.

More than 250 wannabe astronauts have paid $200,000 or put down deposits for a chance to float weightless for a mere five minutes.


Four swimmers dead, 3 missing from beaches

NEW YORK | Divers searched the water off Coney Island on Sunday for a 10-year-old girl, one of three swimmers missing from powerful ocean currents at New York City and Long Island beaches over the weekend.

Four other victims drowned at local beaches Friday and Saturday, authorities said.

“There are strong currents in these waters,” said Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Annie Berlin. “It’s important for everybody who goes swimming out there to remember that.”

The 10-year-old girl, Akira Johnson, was pulled under by currents while swimming with her cousin Saturday afternoon.

The cousin, Tyriek Currie, also 10, was rescued.

With a steady punch of stronger rip currents possible over the weekend, “only experienced surf swimmers should enter the waters,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Connolly.

A strong storm system spawned rough seas and 8-foot waves in the area earlier this week, he said.


Fire destroys 8 homes near Yosemite

MIDPINES | An out-of-control wildfire burning Sunday near an entrance to Yosemite National Park has destroyed eight homes and threatened thousands more as flames forced authorities to cut power to the park.

The blaze has charred more than 18,000 acres since Friday as wooded slopes ignited amid hot, dry conditions that have plagued California for months. The fire was completely uncontained Sunday.

In Southern California, visitors were evacuated Sunday from the Los Angeles zoo as a fast-moving brush fire burned nearby in Griffith Park.

The five-acre blaze burned within about 1,000 feet of a California condor enclosure. The rare birds were not in immediate danger, and firefighters were on hand to protect the cages.

About 200 firefighters were at the scene, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Ron Myers said.

Meanwhile, near Yosemite National Park, the wildfire led officials to order the evacuations of 170 homes under immediate threat. About 2,000 homes faced at least some danger from the fast-spreading flames, said fire officials. No injuries were reported.


UPS driver gets special delivery

CRYSTAL LAKE | Jeff Hornagold loved being a UPS driver.

So when the suburban Chicago man died this week of lung cancer, longtime co-worker Michael McGowan agreed to take him on one last delivery.

Mr. McGowan transported Mr. Hornagold’s body from Davenport Family Funeral Home to Saturday’s funeral services in his UPS truck.

Mr. McGowan said he plans to keep a picture of Mr. Hornagold in his truck until he retires so that they can keep riding together.

Mr. Hornagold was a UPS driver for 20 years, and his wife, Judy Hornagold, described him as “just the happiest UPS man alive.”


Man arrested in hit-and-run deaths

LOUISVILLE | Kentucky authorities said they have charged a man with killing two young girls hit by a car fleeing from a traffic stop in Louisville.

Police said Keneille D. Finch, 26, was captured Saturday and charged with two counts of murder. He is accused of running a red light and striking the girls after driving away from an officer who stopped him Friday evening near the University of Louisville.

Mr. Finch was in custody, and police would not say whether he had retained an attorney.

The girls were identified as Riley Jane Lawrence, 4, and Claudia Wadlington, 5. Police said the mother of one of the girls also was hit and broke several bones.


Mayor marries actress on ranch

STEVENSVILLE | San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom took a break from his busy job and gubernatorial ambitions to marry actress Jennifer Siebel on Saturday at Miss Siebel’s parents’ Montana ranch.

It is Miss Siebel’s first marriage and the second for Mr. Newsom, 40, who divorced legal analyst Kimberly Guilfoyle in March 2006.

Mr. Newsom met Miss Siebel in October 2006, and they have been together ever since. Miss Siebel was at Mr. Newsom’s side when he was sworn in for his second term as mayor in January. She also stood by him after he publicly admitted to having had an affair with a staff member’s wife and to having a drinking problem.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Montana to attend the wedding, as did other friends and family.

Miss Siebel, 34, is an actress who has appeared in the NBC television series “Life” and who attended Stanford Business School.

The couple will honeymoon in Africa.


Radio station gunman bipolar

STATE COLLEGE | The ex-wife of a gunman fatally shot by police outside a central Pennsylvania radio station said the man struggled with bipolar disorder.

Coroner Scott Sayers said the gunman is Brian Neiman, 50, of Pottersdale.

Police said Mr. Neiman was killed Friday after he fired at officers and tried to run them over with his vehicle outside a radio station in State College.

Jean Neiman of Mifflin County said her ex-husband became angry when he didn’t take his medication. She said they used to listen to the Christian station together before divorcing in 2006.

Police got a tip that an armed man was heading to the station and stopped him outside. No one at the station was injured.


Son used hoe to kill parents

WARREN | The son of a Rhode Island couple found buried in their backyard cesspool killed his parents with a garden hoe, police said.

James A. Soares, 24, was charged Sunday with the murders of James A. Soares Sr., 60, and Marian Soares, 53. He will be arraigned Monday.

Maj. Steven O’Donnell said police think the son killed his parents July 9. They were reported missing six days later.

On Saturday, police found the couple’s bodies in their backyard. Maj. O’Donnell said the hoe was found under the father’s body.

Police said the son was the prime suspect early in the investigation. He was taken into custody Friday.


Army apologizes for WWII convictions

SEATTLE | The Army formally apologized Saturday for the wrongful conviction of 28 black soldiers accused of rioting and lynching an Italian prisoner of war in Seattle more than six decades ago.

“We had not done right by these soldiers,” Ronald James, assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs, said Saturday. “The Army is genuinely sorry. I am genuinely sorry.”

Relatives of the soldiers joined elected officials, military officers and one of the defense lawyers to hear James give the apology before hundreds of people in a meadow near the old Fort Lawton parade grounds and chapel in Discovery Park.

In addition, the soldiers’ convictions were set aside, their dishonorable discharges were changed to honorable discharges and they and their survivors were awarded back pay for their time in the brig.

All but two of the soldiers are dead. One, Samuel Snow of Leesburg, Fla., planned to attend the ceremony but wound up in the hospital because of a problem with his pacemaker.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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