- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 14, 2009

NASA scrubs shuttle launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. | A potentially dangerous hydrogen gas leak cropped up during the fueling of space shuttle Endeavour on Saturday and forced NASA to postpone the launch by at least four days.

It was almost identical to a leak that stalled another flight back in March and threatened to bump Endeavour’s space station construction mission all the way into July.

NASA halted the countdown shortly after midnight, less than seven hours before Endeavour was due to blast off. The seven astronauts had yet to suit up.

Launch director Mike Leinbach said the leak, located at a vent-line hookup on the fuel tank, was significant. Hydrogen gas is extremely volatile and can burn in large enough quantities, he noted.

Gas leak causes blast at factory

GARNER, N.C. | A natural-gas leak that ignited caused an explosion at a Slim Jim plant in North Carolina that killed three workers, investigators said.

U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent Earl Woodham said Saturday his agency has turned the case over to workplace investigators to determine the cause of the leak.

Mr. Woodham said electrical equipment is thought to have ignited the leak, but they haven’t narrowed down which piece of machinery it could have been.

The explosion Wednesday ripped through the 500,000-square-foot ConAgra Foods Inc. plant in Garner while 300 people were at work. Officials said 38 employees were injured, four of them critically.

Judge: Terrorist can sue over memos

SACRAMENTO, Calif. | A convicted terrorist can sue a former Bush administration lawyer for drafting the legal theories that led to his alleged torture, ruled a federal judge, who said he was trying to balance a clash between war, tactics and the defense of personal freedoms.

The order by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco is the first time a government lawyer has been held potentially liable for the abuse of detainees.

Judge White, a 2002 appointee of President Bush, refused to dismiss Jose Padilla’s lawsuit against former senior Justice Department official John Yoo on Friday. Mr. Yoo wrote memos on interrogation, detention and presidential powers for the department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2001 to 2003.

Padilla, 38, is serving a 17-year sentence on terrorism charges. He claims he was tortured while being held nearly four years as a suspected terrorist.

Water study: No definite disease link

RALEIGH, N.C. | Contaminated drinking water at a North Carolina Marine Corps base can’t definitively be linked to health problems among people who lived there over a three-decade span, according to a congressionally ordered report released Saturday by the National Research Council.

The report, by the working arm of the National Academy of Sciences, says there is evidence people who lived and worked at Camp Lejeune in eastern North Carolina between the 1950s and 1985 were exposed to the industrial solvents tricholorethylene (TCE) or perchloroethylene (PCE) through tainted well water.

But the 341-page report, which reviews past studies of the base’s water and health issues there, said there are severe scientific barriers to connecting contaminants to any birth defects, cancer and many other ailments suffered by people who lived and worked on base.

It “cannot be determined reliably whether diseases and disorders experienced by former residents and workers at Camp Lejeune are associated with their exposure to contaminants in the water supply,” the report states.

Flu fears quarantine students in China

CARLSBAD, Calif. | A private school in Southern California said 36 of its students have been quarantined in China while they are tested for the swine-flu virus.

The ninth-grade students are from the Pacific Ridge School in the San Diego County city of Carlsbad.

School head Eileen Mullady said the teens were at the end of a 13-day educational tour of China when a few students developed the sniffles.

She said Chinese health officials decided on Thursday to quarantine the students and seven chaperones in a hotel. They’re expected to fly home early next week.

Meanwhile, specialty drug maker Baxter International Inc. said it’s in “full scale” production of a swine-flu vaccine that will be commercially available in July.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 45 swine-flu deaths nationwide.

Tickets to crown’s reopening sell out

NEW YORK | Hoping to visit Lady Liberty’s crown when it reopens July 4? Dream on.

Tickets to visit the Statue of Liberty’s iconic headpiece for the first three days after its reopening sold out within hours Saturday. The crown has been closed since the Sept. 11 attacks.

About 240 people will get to visit the crown each day, with only 30 people let in per hour for safety reasons.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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