Nation roundup for April 30


Space tourism is closer to reality

MOJAVE, Calif. (AP) — Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo made its first powered flight Monday, breaking the sound barrier in a test over the Mojave Desert that moves the company closer to its goal of flying paying passengers on brief hops into space.

“It couldn’t have gone more smoothly,” said Sir Richard Branson, who owns the spaceline with Aabar Investments PJC of Abu Dhabi.

A special twin-fuselage jet carrying SpaceShipTwo took off at about 7:00 a.m. PDT, spent 45 minutes climbing to an altitude of 48,000 feet and released the spaceship. Pilot Mark Stucky and co-pilot Mike Alsbury then triggered SpaceShipTwo’s rocket engine.

The engine burned for 16 seconds, propelling the spaceship to an altitude of 55,000 feet and a velocity of Mach 1.2, surpassing the speed of sound. SpaceShipTwo then glided to a safe landing at Mojave Air and Space Port in the desert north of Los Angeles, said George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s CEO. The 10-minute test flight was a major step for the program.

Pre-kindergarten funding declines

WASHINGTON (AP) — State funding for pre-kindergarten programs had its largest drop ever last year and states are now spending less per child than they did a decade ago, according to a report released Monday.

The researchers also found that more than a half million of those preschool students are in programs that don’t even meet standards suggested by industry experts that would qualify for federal dollars. And 10 states don’t offer any dollars to pay for prekindergarten classrooms.

“The state of preschool in America is a state of emergency,” said report author Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

That assessment — combined with Congress’ reluctance to spend new dollars — complicates President Barack Obama’s effort to expand pre-K programs across the country. Until existing programs’ shortcomings are fixed, it is likely to be a tough sell for Obama’s call for more preschool.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joined Barnett on Monday in Washington to release the report and acknowledge the challenges in educating the nation’s youngest students within the existing and widely varied systems.

Suspected 9/11 debris from wing

NEW YORK (AP) — The rusted metal aircraft part believed to be from one of the hijacked jetliners that slammed into the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11 attacks came from a wing, not landing gear, police said Monday.

The 5-foot piece is a trailing edge flap support structure, police said. It is located closer to the body of the plane and helps secure wing flaps that move in and out and aid in regulating plane speed. Investigators initially thought it was part of the landing gear because both pieces have similar-looking hydraulics.

Boeing officials told police the part came from one of its 767 airliners, but it isn’t possible to determine which flight. Both hijacked planes that struck the towers, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were Boeing 767s.

Workers discovered the part Wednesday on the ground in a sliver of space between a luxury loft rental building and a mosque, which prompted virulent national debate in 2010 about Islam and freedom of speech in part because it’s near the trade center site.

Other World Trade Center wreckage has been discovered at the buildings and around the area in years past.

An inspector on the roof of the mosque site, which is under construction, noticed the debris and then called 911.

Police documented the debris with photos. The twisted metal part — jammed in an 18-inch-wide, trash-laden passageway between the buildings — has cables and levers on it and is about 5 feet high, 17 inches wide and 4 feet long.

Man charged in church stabbings

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The man accused of stabbing four churchgoers during Sunday Mass told police that he was after the choir leader because he thought the man was a member of a secret society.

According to a criminal complaint, Lawrence Capener, 24, said he was going after the choir leader at St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church because his “speech was different” and he was “99 percent sure he was a Mason.”

He told the investigator that Masons are a group involved “in a conspiracy that is far more reaching than I could or would believe.”

Capener said he stabbed the others who tried to subdue him because he thought they might be Masons, too.

The affidavit said Capener apologized for stabbing the others after he was read his rights and agreed to speak to police.

Masons are a fraternal group involved in charity and other community activities, but many of their rituals and symbols are secret.

The attack happened just before noon Sunday as the choir began its final hymn. Police and witnesses said Capener vaulted over pews and stabbed choir leader Adam Alvarez in the back.

Worshippers screamed as the shocking and chaotic scene unfolded Sunday with the attacker continuing the onslaught until he was tackled and held by church members for officers, police said.

In addition to Alvarez, three other parishioners were injured, including flutist Gerald Madrid, police spokesman Robert Gibbs said. All four were treated at hospitals and listed in stable condition.

Three other church members were evaluated by Albuquerque Fire Department on the scene and didn’t go to the hospital, investigators said.

Capener was charged late Sunday on three counts of aggravated battery and ordered held on $75,000 bail.

St. Jude Thaddeus’ pastor, the Rev. John Daniel, said Capener’s mother was “very active” in the parish and serves as a Eucharistic minister there.

“He was here occasionally but not very often,” Daniel said.

Daniel said that Capener had just graduated from a community college and appeared to be doing well after getting a job.

An off-duty firefighter and others at the church held Capener down until police arrived.

Madrid told KOB-TV that he tried to stop Capener by wrapping his arms around him but was stabbed in the neck and back.

“I bear-hugged him. We were chest on chest. I was wrapping about to take him down to ground, but I didn’t have his arms. I had just my arms around his chest, so his arms were free. So that’s when he started stabbing me,” he said.

Madrid said he thought the suspect was punching him. It wasn’t until other parishioners rushed the man that Madrid realized he had been stabbed five times.

The choir’s pianist, Brenda Baca King, told KRQE-TV that the attacker was looking at the lead soloist. “I just remember seeing him hurdle over the pews, hurdle over people and run (toward) us and I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is not good,’” Baca King said.

Daniel said he didn’t see the attack because he had turned his back away from the congregation in order to return the sacrament in the tabernacle.

Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael Sheehan released a statement Sunday afternoon saying he was saddened by the attack.

“This is the first time in my 30 years serving as archbishop in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and as bishop of Lubbock, that anything like this has occurred,” Sheehan said. “I pray for all who have been harmed, their families, the parishioners and that nothing like this will ever happen again,” Sheehan said.

Daniel said Mass schedule has resumed. A 6 p.m. Monday Mass is scheduled at the 3,000 member church, he said.

 

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