- - Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Flying observatory makes 1st science flight

PALMDALE — A U.S.-German infrared observatory mounted in a jumbo jet has flown its inaugural science flight, a mission to better understand how stars form.

The highly modified Boeing 747SP jetliner completed the flight Wednesday morning, returning to its base at Palmdale in the Mojave Desert after 10 hours of cruising at high altitude.

The 100-inch-diameter telescope targeted the star-making factory Orion nebula and a young forming star cluster 3,000 light-years from Earth.

It’s the first of three science flights planned before Christmas and marks the start of a 20-year observing campaign.

The joint NASA and German Aerospace Center project is called the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.


Union leader ousted in election

D.C. teachers have voted out of office the union president who negotiated a new contract that raised pay but weakened job protections.

Washington Teachers’ Union President George Parker lost in a runoff Tuesday to General Vice President Nathan Saunders, a critic of the new contract who has also pledged to work to overturn aspects of a new assessment system he has called unfair.

Mr. Parker, 60, said he fell victim to low turnout and anger over his support for some of the changes implemented by former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, a reformer who left office after Mayor Adrian M. Fenty was defeated.

Mr. Parker said any union president pushing reform takes a risk, but to improve education, union presidents are going to have to get in front of reform.


10 indicted in port drug ring

MIAMI — A port security initiative has led to the indictment of 10 people in an international drug-smuggling ring, including six Miami longshoremen who used their access to unload the cocaine, heroin and marijuana, federal officials said Wednesday.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said the case serves to highlight the work of 21 multiagency task forces around the country, led by ICE, focused on disrupting large-scale criminal activity at seaports and border entry points nationwide.

The Miami indictment unsealed Wednesday charged the longshoremen and their confederates with moving about $6 million worth of cocaine, heroin and marijuana from Costa Rica, Panama and Jamaica between 2007 and 2010. Most of the drugs were hidden inside shipping containers and often hand-carried by the longshoremen out of the port and sold on the street, said U.S. Attorney Willy Ferrer.

Since its inception in October 2009, the ICE task force in South Florida has arrested more than 140 people and seized nearly six tons of cocaine, four tons of marijuana, 16 weapons and $175,000 in cash linked to criminal activity.


Polygamist leader arraigned on sex charges

SAN ANGELO — Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs was quietly extradited from Utah to Texas, where he was arraigned Wednesday to face trial on bigamy and sexual assault charges.

Jeffs, who was indicted more than two years ago, appeared during a brief hearing in San Angelo wearing glasses, orange jail pants and a gray sweat shirt, Texas Attorney General’s Office spokesman Jerry Strickland said. Jeffs, 54, was not asked to enter a plea and spoke only to tell the judge that he needed more time to find a lawyer, Mr. Strickland said.

Texas authorities have charged the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with felony bigamy, aggravated sexual assault and assault. Prosecutors plan to try the charges separately, with the first trial scheduled to begin Jan. 24.

The charges stem from the 2008 raid of the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, where authorities seized more than 400 children and placed them in state custody on suspicion that the girls were being sexually abused and the boys were being raised to be sexual predators.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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