- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

Spacecraft for tourists explodes during test in another setback for commercial space travel

MOJAVE, Calif. (AP) - A winged spaceship designed to take tourists on excursions beyond Earth’s atmosphere exploded during a test flight Friday over the Mojave Desert, killing a pilot in the second fiery setback for commercial space travel in less than a week.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo blew apart after being released from a carrier aircraft at high altitude, said Ken Brown, a photographer who witnessed the explosion.

One pilot was found dead inside the spacecraft and another parachuted out and was flown by helicopter to a hospital, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said.

The crash area was about 120 miles north of downtown Los Angeles and 20 miles from the Mojave Air and Space Port, where the mid-morning flight originated.

British billionaire Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, has been the front-runner in the fledgling race to give large numbers of paying civilians a suborbital ride that would let them experience weightlessness and see the Earth from the edge of space. Branson was expected to arrive in Mojave on Saturday, as were investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board.

___

Judge rejects Maine’s attempt to restrict movements of nurse who defied Ebola quarantine

FORT KENT, Maine (AP) - A Maine judge gave nurse Kaci Hickox the OK to go wherever she pleases, handing state officials a defeat Friday in the nation’s biggest court case yet over how to balance personal liberty, public safety and fear of Ebola.

Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere ruled that Hickox must continue daily monitoring of her health but said there is no need to isolate her or restrict her movements because she has no symptoms and is therefore not contagious.

The judge also decried the “misconceptions, misinformation, bad science and bad information” circulating about the lethal disease in the U.S.

After the ruling, a state police cruiser that had been posted outside Hickox’s home left, and she and her boyfriend stepped outside to thank the judge.

Hickox, 33, called it “a good day” and said her “thoughts, prayers and gratitude” remain with those who are still battling Ebola in West Africa.

___

Canada to stop giving visas to residents of West African countries with widespread Ebola

TORONTO (AP) - Canada has joined Australia in suspending entry visas for people from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa in an attempt to keep the deadly disease away.

Canada’s Conservative government said Friday it is suspending visa applications for residents and nationals of countries with “widespread and persistent-intense transmission” of Ebola virus disease.

Canada has not yet had a case of Ebola. Canadians, including health-care workers, in West Africa will be permitted to travel back to Canada, the government said.

The countries most severely hit by the worst Ebola outbreak ever are Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Canada receives very few travelers from those countries, which have no direct flights to Canada.

A similar move by Australia was slammed Wednesday by Dr. Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization’s director general, who said closing borders won’t stop spread of the Ebola virus.

___

Early voters already top 15 million in 31 states; both sides claim boost in battle for Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) - Early votes soared past 15 million across 31 states on Friday, an outpouring that is giving hopeful Republicans as well as nervous Democrats cause for optimism heading into the final weekend of a campaign with control of the Senate, the U.S. House and 36 governorships at stake.

Republicans pointed to a strong early-vote performance in Iowa as evidence that Joni Ernst was a step ahead in her bid to capture a Senate seat for the GOP. “I feel real good about it,” said Gov. Terry Branstad, campaigning with the party’s Senate hopeful as he sought a new term for himself, as well.

But in Georgia, Democrats said a strong early turnout by African-Americans in the counties around Atlanta was a good sign for Michelle Nunn, running for a seat long out of the party’s reach.

As candidates headed into a final weekend of campaigning, Democratic hopes of holding a Senate seat in Arkansas appeared to be fading, and Republicans already appeared assured of gains in West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana. They need to gain six to come away with the election’s biggest prize - control of the Senate during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office.

Strategists in both parties agreed privately that races in Louisiana and Georgia were probably headed for runoffs, and several Republicans expressed concern about Kansas, where polls showed Sen. Pat Roberts was in a tough race to keep a seat held by Republicans for decades.

___

Analysis: In fourth year of war, West bedeviled by lack of good options in Syria

UNDATED (AP) - With the U.S.-led assault on the Islamic State group, the world community is acting in Syria, but not in the Syrian civil war. When it comes to the issue that has undermined the region - the survival or fall of Syrian President Bashar Assad - there is still no plan.

And that means the West’s goal to defeat the militants of IS may also be doomed to fail.

Syria’s four-year civil war has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions in what began as a movement to replace Assad with a more democratic state. As the government’s control weakened, militants rallying around Islamic slogans carved out a vast safe haven for themselves - recruiting, training and building fighting capacity. From Syria this year, they then struck deep into Iraq, with devastating effect, and now also threaten Lebanon.

Yet any concerted effort to oust Assad and restore stability to Syria does not appear to be on the horizon.

What emerges instead from the actions and words of Western policymakers is a glum resignation that there is nothing that can be done about Assad for now, and the fight is only with the Islamic State.

___

AP EXCLUSIVE: Explicit questions in the military’s sexual-assault survey trigger complaints

WASHINGTON (AP) - Shocked and offended by explicit questions, some U.S. servicemen and women are complaining about a new sexual-assault survey that hundreds of thousands have been asked to complete.

The survey is conducted every two years. But this year’s version, developed by the Rand Corp., is unusually detailed, including graphically personal questions on sexual acts.

Some military members told The Associated Press that they were surprised and upset by the questions, and some even said they felt re-victimized by the blunt language. None of them would speak publicly by name, but Pentagon officials confirmed they had received complaints that the questions were “intrusive” and “invasive.”

The Defense Department said it made the survey much more explicit and detailed this year in order to get more accurate results as the military struggles to reduce its sexual assaults while also encouraging victims to come forward to get help.

The survey questions, which were obtained by The Associated Press, ask about any unwanted sexual experiences or contact, and include very specific wording about men’s and women’s body parts or other objects, and kinds of contact or penetration.

___

Hospital: Girl, 14, dies of injuries from Washington school shooting; 4th death

SEATTLE (AP) - One of the teenagers wounded in a Washington state high school shooting died Friday, raising to four the number of fatalities from the moment when a student opened fire in a cafeteria a week ago.

Shaylee Chuckulnaskit, 14, died late Friday afternoon, officials at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett said.

Zoe Galasso, 14, was killed during the shooting Oct. 24 by a popular freshman at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. Gia Soriano, also 14, died Sunday at the Everett hospital.

Two other students remain hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Andrew Fryberg, 15, was in critical condition Friday and Nate Hatch, 14, was in satisfactory condition.

The shooter, Jaylen Fryberg, 15, died of a self-inflicted wound.

___

Townspeople welcome capture of sniper suspect; ‘A sigh of relief he’s not in the woods’

MILFORD, Pa. (AP) - For 48 days, Eric Frein was everywhere and nowhere, supposedly sighted again and again, only to melt back into the woods in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse.

So on Friday, as state police paraded the gaunt and battered-looking former fugitive in front of a courthouse, residents were relieved to see him in the flesh.

It was proof that the harrowing seven-week manhunt in the Pocono Mountains for the suspected cop-killer was finally over, and things could start getting back to normal.

“It’s just been nerve-wracking, not knowing where he was, what his next step was, what he was going to do,” said Jody Welsh.

Onlookers shouted “Are you sorry?” and “Why did you do it?” as the survivalist and marksman was led from court the morning after his capture near an abandoned hangar. Hundreds of local, state and federal law officers had taken part in the manhunt.

___

Superheroes meet hazmat suits as NYC Halloween parade unfolds amid Ebola crisis

NEW YORK (AP) - Bloody zombies lumbered alongside superheroes, cowboys shared the road with villains and marchers in hazardous-materials garb evoked the Ebola crisis as the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade made its freewheeling way through downtown Manhattan on Friday.

Creativity was on display and current events were on marchers’ minds as a costumed crowd of thousands flowed up Sixth Avenue on a windy Halloween night.

Dr. Jane Testa sported a “hammer out Ebola” costume featuring a hazmat suit, flashing lights, a large version of the virus - made of balloons - and a sign with a biohazard symbol and the message “Quarantine: Ebola outbreak. Deadly force may be used.”

“Don’t get too close!” Testa warned, holding a balloon hammer with a red cross.

Stressing that her heart goes out to those infected, she said she spent several days making the costume “to raise awareness.”

___

Former Florida A&M; band member convicted of manslaughter in drum major’s hazing death

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - A former Florida A&M; band member accused of being the ringleader of a brutal hazing ritual known as “Crossing Bus C” that killed a drum major was convicted Friday of manslaughter and felony hazing.

Dante Martin, 27, was the first to stand trial in the November 2011 death of 26-year-old Robert Champion aboard a band bus parked outside a football game where the well-regarded Marching 100 band had performed. The case brought into focus the culture of hazing in the band, which was suspended for more than a year while officials tried to clean up the program.

Martin was known as “the president of Bus C,” witnesses testified, and he organized the initiations that required fellow band members to try to make their way through a pounding gauntlet of fists, drumsticks and mallets from the front of the bus to the back, including on that November day. Two other band members went through the bus before Champion, who was from Decatur, Georgia. Martin was convicted of misdemeanor hazing counts in their beatings.

Champion’s parents sat silently as the verdicts were read. Martin sat with his head down as several members of his family wept in the gallery behind him.

“No one won here today - no one,” said Robert Champion Sr. “We hate to see anyone’s child go to prison. To know that my son’s life will not be in vain, that he will make a difference, I hope that people will get the message that hazing isn’t cool. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t need to be here. You need to stop now.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide