- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008


NASA moves space shuttle Atlantis to launch pad

CAPE CANAVERAL | NASA moved shuttle Atlantis to the launch pad Thursday for a flight next month to the Hubble Space Telescope after being waylaid by a pair of tropical storms.

Atlantis is supposed to blast off on NASA’s final visit to Hubble on Oct. 8, but it is expected to be delayed a couple of days because of work lost to tropical storms Fay and Hanna. A technical problem with the hookup between the shuttle and its external fuel tank also stalled operations.

Fay dumped an extraordinary amount of rain on the area two weeks ago and shut down Kennedy Space Center for three days. Hanna threatened to do the same but, for now, was expected to remain far offshore and pose little if any threat.

More severe tropical weather is headed across the Atlantic. NASA is hoping that Ike, already a fierce hurricane, and Tropical Storm Josephine bypass Cape Canaveral so there are no further delays to launch preparations.

Atlantis’ three-mile trip from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad took much of the morning and afternoon.


Freedom Tower complex rising

@Brief.bigbody.noindent:NEW YORK | Steel is rising in another corner of ground zero.

Construction workers this week installed the first steel column for the Sept. 11 memorial. The 7,700-pound column was erected by the footprint of the World Trade Center’s north tower.

The “Reflecting Absence” memorial will set two giant pools over the twin towers’ footprints. Construction began in 2006; the opening date is uncertain.

Steel has reached street level in another corner of the site for the Freedom Tower, one of five skyscrapers being built to replace the trade center.


Tunnel barrier taken down

A barrier put up by the U.S. Border Patrol in a storm-water tunnel beneath Nogales, Ariz., that was partially in Mexico has been torn down.

The U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission sent a crew to Nogales last week that organized a cross-border effort to remove the 3-foot concrete barrier and accompanying metal gate, said spokeswoman Sally Spener.

The only part of the structure still up is the top of the metal gate, no more than 1 foot, that needs to be taken out with a forklift. Officials determined that it was unsafe to send a forklift into the tunnel until the seasonal monsoon has ended, she said.

She said the crew received help with the removal from the Mexican water and sanitation utility; the fire department and police in Nogales, Sonora, in Mexico; staff from the city of Nogales, Ariz.; and the Border Patrol.

The Border Patrol was supposed to handle the removal of the barrier and gate but didn’t get around to it quick enough, Ms. Spener said.

“We had been urging that it be removed as soon as possible, and it became apparent during the course of our discussion with Border Patrol that it was going to be difficult for Border Patrol to get a contractor to do it,” Ms. Spener said. “We just didn’t want to wait any longer.”


Marine families awarded $55 million

A jury has found San Diego Gas & Electric negligent in the deaths of four Marines who were killed when their helicopter hit an unlit utility tower on Camp Pendleton in 2004.

Jurors awarded more than $55 million in damages in a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the families of the Marines.

The jury found that the utility failed to install safety lights to prevent accidents and that two of SDG&E;’s representatives acted with malice by not ordering the installation of lights or markers on the tower.

The jury first determined that the parents of all four Marines should receive $2.125 million in damages. Jurors also found the wife of one of the Marines, 1st Lt. Michael S. Lawlor, was entitled to $6.7 million.

After hearing more testimony Wednesday afternoon in the trial’s punitive damages phase, the jury awarded $10.1 million to the families of each Marine.

The accident occurred Jan. 22, 2004, when two helicopter crews were practicing nighttime maneuvers. The crews were using night-vision goggles.

During the trial, attorneys for the families told jurors the accident would not have happened if lights or other markers had been installed on the tower. But attorneys for SDG&E; argued that the crash was a result of pilot error, not negligence.


Jackson hospitalized with stomach pains

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was hospitalized and undergoing tests Thursday after complaining of severe stomach pains.

Mr. Jackson said he entered Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago on Wednesday after falling ill earlier in the week.

Doctors told him that he has viral gastroenteritis but were conducting more tests. The 66-year-old civil rights leader said he was feeling much better Thursday morning but wasn’t sure when he would be released.

Mr. Jackson said he was campaigning for Sen. Barack Obama and doing voter registration in Georgia when he began to feel ill after apparently becoming dehydrated.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines. It isn’t considered serious for most people.


Couple offers home for free

A Michigan couple is offering to give their four-bedroom, two-bath home free to anyone who buys the dollhouse sitting in their basement.

Current conditions in the housing market have prompted Gerry and Cindy Mann to try to attract attention by listing the dollhouse for $169,000 and throwing in the family home for free, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported Wednesday.

“I haven’t seen anything like this. I mean, it’s a pretty creative idea, and God bless ‘em if it works,” said Matt Davis, president of the Battle Creek Area Association of Realtors’ Board of Directors.

The dollhouse, complete with electricity and swinging closet doors, was constructed 15 years ago for the family’s three children by their grandfather.

The Manns estimate that it is worth a couple thousand dollars.


Man sues, gets back fake leg

After being shot five times, a western Nebraska man had to go to court to get his prosthetic leg back from prosecutors.

The Box Butte County Attorney’s office gave Val McCabe‘s leg back Wednesday after a judge ordered it returned.

Mr. McCabe’s prosthetic left leg had been held since Friday’s shooting because prosecutors wanted to run tests on it and a bullet lodged inside.

Mr. McCabe, 58, who lost his leg below the knee in a railroad accident roughly 30 years ago, filed his lawsuit Tuesday.

Mr. McCabe’s lawyer argued that it wasn’t practical for him to replace the specially built, $28,000 prosthesis.

Police removed the bullet from the leg before returning it. No arrests had been made by Wednesday.


Muslim leader can stay in U.S.

An influential New Jersey Muslim leader accused by some federal officials of having terrorist ties but praised by others as being an important ally won his fight to gain permanent U.S. residency Thursday.

A federal immigration judge in Newark ruled that Mohammad Qatanani, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, can remain in the U.S.

The ruling brought cheers, tears and applause from about a dozen Qatanani supporters who gathered in the courtroom.

“I would like to thank the judge for working hard in this case,” Mr. Qatanani said. “This is a beautiful thing. The justice system in this country is great.”

U.S. immigration authorities had sought to deport Mr. Qatanani on the grounds that he failed to disclose on his green-card application a prior arrest and conviction in Israel for being a member of Hamas - a group classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

Mr. Qatanani has denied being a Hamas member and said he was detained, not arrested, by the Israelis while traveling to his native West Bank in 1993.


Manhattan dwellers snub park view

A New York judge has agreed to block the installation of new windows in four units of a Manhattan apartment building overlooking Central Park.

The judge ruled the new windows would not constitute a necessary repair to the rent-controlled apartments whose elderly tenants oppose the renovations.

“I’m not terribly interested in looking at Central Park or the East Side,” tenant Ned O’Gorman told the New York Post.

Mr. O’Gorman and three neighbors went to court to block the project on the grounds that installing the new full-length windows would expose them to unwelcome noise and dust that would rile up allergies and other medical conditions. They would also lose a wall currently used to hang pictures and expose other possessions to possible sunlight damage.

The Post said the result of Tuesday’s order would be the building’s exterior having floor-to-ceiling windows on all but four apartments.


Authorities: Children returning to families

SAN ANGELO | Child by child, authorities are acknowledging that many of the children seized during a raid on a polygamist sect’s ranch can safely live with their parents or guardians.

Since the April 3 raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, 235 children’s custody cases have been dropped, meaning fewer than half of the 440 children seized remain bound by a court order to stay in Texas, attend parenting classes or be available for unannounced visits by Child Protective Services (CPS).

CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins said more cases are likely to be dropped, but he was unsure how many.

They’re being dropped “as fast as we can because it’s a burden on everyone,” he said.

He said the dismissals do not mean that abuse never occurred, only that many of the children can safely live with a parent or other relative - something that sect members and lawyers argued early on in the chaotic custody case.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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