- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2009

FLORIDA

Parachute failure puzzles NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL | NASA still isn’t sure why two parachutes failed during a test flight of its prototype moon rocket about a month ago.

The two-minute flight of the Ares I-X rocket went well Oct. 28. But only one of the three main parachutes on the first-stage booster opened properly. That caused the booster to slam harder than intended into the Atlantic Ocean. The booster was badly dented.

An engineering manager, Marshall Smith, said Thursday that one parachute may have inflated too quickly, putting too much load on the system. The flapping parachute lines may have damaged the second parachute, which opened only partially, he said. Several more months of analysis are needed.

NASA’s proposed Ares rocket is supposed to replace the space shuttles and eventually fly astronauts to the moon, but the White House may scrap that plan. In the meantime, the space agency is considering additional flight tests, possibly in 2012 or 2013. The first manned flight of the Ares I rocket is targeted for 2015.

INDIANA

Day care crash injures 4 children

INDIANAPOLIS | Two robbery suspects fleeing police lost control of their sport utility vehicle and crashed into a day care center Thursday, injuring four children and an employee in a shower of bricks and other debris, police said.

About 18 children were inside Stepping Stones Child Care when the SUV slammed into the building about 12:15 p.m., Lt. Jeff Duhamell said.

Kara Hardister, who runs the church-owned day care, said the crash sent bricks and debris flying into a room for 3-year-olds just before their afternoon nap time.

One of the four children was in critical condition but stable at Methodist Hospital, while the other three had non-life-threatening injuries, Lt. Duhamell said.

A woman working at the day care center suffered a broken leg when she was struck by bricks, and another person was injured when the SUV hit a car during the police chase.

LOUISIANA

Man gets probation for Facebook threats

NEW ORLEANS | A judge has ordered three years probation for a black man who posed as a white supremacist upset by President Obama’s election and sent racist death threats to black college students.

Dyron Hart, 20, of Poplarville, Miss., also was ordered Wednesday to perform 150 hours of community service and complete a racial sensitivity course. He pleaded guilty in August to one federal charge.

Hart had been accused of using a fake profile on the social networking Web site Facebook to send messages threatening to kill three black students at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.

Hart had attended the school for one semester in 2008.

An FBI agent said in a sworn statement that Hart sent the messages to “get a reaction.”

NEW JERSEY

Committee to vote on gay marriage bill

TRENTON | A bill to legalize gay marriage in New Jersey will be posted for a vote next week.

Sen. Ray Lesniak, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the bill is scheduled to go before that committee Monday and will be voted on by the full Senate on Thursday.

State lawmakers who support the idea have been reluctant to post the bill for a vote unless they were fairly certain it would pass. Both houses of the Legislature must pass it before it goes to the governor.

Outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine has said he would sign a gay-marriage bill into law. His replacement, Gov.-elect Chris Christie, takes office next month and said he would veto it.

New Jersey has a civil unions law.

PENNSYLVANIA

Man punches Wal-Mart greeter

NORTH VERSAILLES | A 72-year-old Wal-Mart greeter near Pittsburgh was hospitalized after he was punched in the face outside the store.

Surveillance video showed the employee, Thomas Jenkins, walking near the entrance to the Wal-Mart in North Versailles on Tuesday night. A man came around the corner, punched Mr. Jenkins in the face and Mr. Jenkins fell to the ground.

North Versailles Police Sgt. Vince DiCenzo said the attack appeared unprovoked.

Paul Washington, 55, of North Versailles, was arrested and charged with assault, public drunkenness and other counts.

Sgt. DiCenzo said Mr. Washington denied hitting Mr. Jenkins, despite the video footage.

Mr. Jenkins was being treated in a hospital for broken facial bones.

TEXAS

Officer’s career altered by Fort Hood

FORT WORTH | One of two civilian police officers who brought down the Army psychiatrist accused of going on a shooting rampage Nov. 5 at Fort Hood said her wounds from the attack will cut short her career as a street police officer.

Sgt. Kimberly Munley, 34, said doctors have told her that she needs a total knee replacement, a surgery set for January, but that her new knee is likely to wear out sooner if she runs or carries the 15- to 25-pound gear pack required by her job.

“I do want to stay in law enforcement. I’m not going to be able to do what I did before, which is basically work the street,” she told Wilmington, N.C., television station WECT on Wednesday. “It’s going to give me another avenue to look in as far as possibly teaching and instructing.”

Fort Hood officials said Thursday that Sgt. Munley, who was shot in the leg and hand, has not started the process to determine whether she’s physically able to do her former job. She and Sgt. Mark Todd, another civilian officer in Fort Hood’s police force, are credited with shooting Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to end the shooting spree. Sgt. Todd, 42, was not injured and is back at work.

Low-IQ killer of girl executed

HUNTSVILLE | A 44-year-old Texas man was executed Thursday evening for raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl, despite pleas from his attorneys that he was too mentally impaired to qualify for capital punishment.

Bobby Wayne Woods received lethal injection about a half-hour after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to halt his punishment. His attorneys had argued that Woods was mentally impaired, making him ineligible for execution, and that previous appeals to spare Woods’ life were unsuccessful because of shoddy work by his attorney at the time.

Tests administered to Woods put his IQ in the 60s to 80s range. An IQ of 70 is considered the threshold for mental impairment.

Woods was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die for the April 1997 slaying of Sarah Patterson, his ex-girlfriend’s daughter. She and her 9-year-old brother were snatched from their home in Granbury, near Fort Worth. Sarah’s throat was slit with a knife. Her brother was beaten and left for dead but survived to testify against Woods.

VERMONT

State auditor pleads guilty in DUI case

BARRE | The state auditor of Vermont, who gained national notice when he deployed to Iraq during his re-election campaign, has pleaded guilty to drunken driving.

Auditor Tom Salmon, 46, appeared in court Thursday and agreed to pay nearly $900 in fines and court costs. His license has also been suspended.

Mr. Salmon was stopped Nov. 13 by police in Montpelier. He told the court that he made a mistake and that he wanted to take responsibility.

He was first elected in 2006. He was not allowed to participate in his re-election campaign last year because he was serving in Iraq with the Naval Reserve and the Pentagon bans politicking by active-duty military members.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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