- - Sunday, October 28, 2012

CAPE CANAVERAL — An unmanned space capsule carrying medical samples from the International Space Station splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, completing the first official private interstellar shipment under a $1 billion contract with NASA.

The California-based SpaceX company gently guided the Dragon into the water via parachutes at 12:22 p.m., a few hundred miles off the Baja California coast.

Astronauts aboard the space station used a giant robot arm to release the commercial cargo ship 255 miles up. SpaceX provided updates of the journey home via Twitter, including a video of the Dragon separating from the space station.

The supply ship brought back nearly 2,000 pounds of science experiments and old station equipment. Perhaps the most eagerly awaited cargo are nearly 500 frozen samples of blood and urine collected by station astronauts in the past year.


Tsunami advisory canceled; Hawaii beaches reopened

HONOLULU — Officials in Hawaii canceled a tsunami advisory for the state’s coastline early Sunday, paving the way for beaches and harbors to reopen after widespread fears of waves generated from a powerful earthquake off the coast of Canada.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center lifted its tsunami advisory Sunday morning just before 4 a.m. local time, three hours after downgrading from a warning and less than six hours after the waves first hit the islands.

The biggest waves — about 5 feet high — appeared to hit Maui. A popular triathlon set for the island was expected to go on as planned, with county lifeguards giving the OK for a 1-mile ocean swim.

There were no immediate reports of damage, though one person died in a crash near a road that was closed because of the threat near Oahu’s north shore.


Former Etan Patz suspect scheduled for release soon

NEW YORK — Prosecutors are weighing what to do about a suspect who surprisingly surfaced this year in a 1979 child disappearance in New York. The man who was the prime suspect for years is about to go free after almost two decades in prison for molesting children in Pennsylvania.

These two threads in the story surrounding the vanishing of Etan Patz are crossing next month. The 6-year-old was last seen walking to his school bus stop. The anniversary of the boy’s disappearance, May 25, is now National Missing Children’s Day.

The Pennsylvania inmate, Jose A. Ramos, is to be released Nov. 7 after serving 25 years on unrelated child molestation convictions in Pennsylvania. That is about a week before prosecutors are due to indicate whether they think there is evidence enough to keep going after the man now imprisoned in Etan’s death.

The new suspect, Pedro Hernandez, has been charged with killing Etan. Police said he emerged as a suspect and confessed in the spring, but there is no public indication that authorities have found anything beyond his admission to implicate him. His attorney has said Hernandez is mentally ill.


Wrong 1970s conviction now subject of civil-rights lawsuit

IOWA CITY — Two black men wrongly convicted of the 1977 murder of a white Iowa police officer hope to prove something they couldn’t during trials that sent them to prison for 25 years: that detectives framed them to solve a high-profile case.

During a civil trial that starts Wednesday in Des Moines, Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee will argue that Council Bluffs police officers coerced witnesses into fabricating testimony against them in the killing of John Schweer.

Schweer was found dead while working as the night watchman at a car dealership. Mr. Harrington and Mr. McGhee, then teenagers from neighboring Omaha, Neb., say detectives used threats against a group of young black car theft suspects to trump up evidence targeting them because of their race and pressure to solve the retired captain’s killing.

Jurors will be asked to decide at trial, scheduled to last through Nov. 16, whether white detectives Dan Larsen and Lyle Brown and the city violated the suspects’ civil rights and, if so, how much they should receive in damages.


Canonization prompts debate over Catholic-Indian ties

ALBANY — Some Mohawks are treating the naming of the nation’s first American Indian saint with skepticism and fear that the Roman Catholic Church will try to use it to marginalize traditional spiritual practices.

They see the story of Kateri Tekakwitha as a reminder of colonialism and religious oppression. But Catholics and many American Indians speak of St. Kateri as a uniting figure and hope her elevation to sainthood will help heal old wounds.

The daughter of a Mohawk chief and a Catholic Algonquin woman, St. Kateri was born in 1656 in Auriesville, about 40 miles northwest of Albany and in the heart of the Iroquois Confederacy to which the Mohawks belong. She and six others were made saints Oct. 21 by the Catholic Church.

A Catholic convert at 20, she settled in Kahnawake, a Mohawk settlement south of Montreal where Jesuits had a mission and where she and other women performed mortification rituals such as self-flogging. At her death at age 24, her smallpox scars reportedly vanished and later she was reported to appear before several people. She is buried at a shrine on Kahnawake.


Army Corps issues permit for Point Thomson drilling

ANCHORAGE — Alaska officials on Friday hailed a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit decision that will open up drilling at the Point Thomson petroleum field, creating hundreds of jobs and providing key infrastructure that could advance prospects for a large-scale natural gas pipeline.

The corps issued a permit, and its Record of Decision explaining it, to ExxonMobil Corp. and PTE Pipeline LLC allowing the companies to fill 267.1 acres of North Slope waters and tundra wetlands to construct the drilling project.

Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan said a corps decision was expected 18 months ago, which delayed construction for a year, but he welcomed the announcement.


Missing infant found dead; family friend arrested

KING OF PRUSSIA — Authorities recovered the body of a 10-month-old girl not far from where her grandmother was slain and arrested a family friend who investigators said killed them in a botched ransom kidnapping.

Saanvi Venna’s body was found at about 4:30 a.m. Friday in the basement of a building in the same Upper Merion Township apartment complex where she lived. Investigators had been searching for her since Oct. 22.

The family friend killed Satyavathi Venna, 61, while trying to abduct the girl, whom he planned to hold for ransom, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said. Ms. Ferman identified the suspect as Raghunandan Yandamuri, 26. He lives in the apartment complex and was acquainted with the family as a member of the Indian community.


More men identified in Zumba prostitution case

KENNEBUNK — Maine police have released another round of names of alleged clients of a woman who authorities say used her Zumba dance studio in Kennebunk as a front for prostitution.

None of the 18 men whose names were released Friday was from the small town of 10,000 residents. They came from Maine, New Hampshire and Boston, and apparently didn’t include anyone widely known. Twenty-one names released weeks ago included a former mayor and the local high school boy’s ice hockey coach.

The men are charged with engaging a prostitute.

Dance instructor Alexis Wright was charged with engaging in prostitution. She and her business partner have pleaded not guilty.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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