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Nation in brief: Atlantis undocks from space station


Hours after undocking from the International Space Station on Tuesday, Atlantis’ seven astronauts finished a final inspection of the space shuttle to make sure its heat shield was ready to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.

Atlantis’ 13-day mission was scheduled to end with landing at 1:54 p.m. EDT on Thursday, although the weather at Kennedy Space Center looked iffy.

More than an hour after undocking, a piece of debris that looked like a blanket and at least five tiny flashing particles floated by the space station.

Mike Suffredini, NASA’s space station program manager, said initial analysis of the piece of debris doesn’t indicate it came from the space station and points to it being a small object.

“It’s not a big concern,” he said.

Results of the final inspection of the heat shield won’t be ready until today.

Columbia, S.C.

Treasurer faces cocaine charges

South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, a former real estate developer who became a rising political star after his election last year, was indicted Tuesday on federal cocaine charges.

The millionaire is accused of buying less than 500 grams of the drug to share with other people in late 2005, U.S. Attorney Reggie Lloyd said. Ravenel, 44, is charged with distribution of cocaine, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.


Libby appeals to delay sentence

Former White House aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who faces prison soon in the CIA leak case, asked a federal appeals court Tuesday to step in and delay the sentence.

The former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, Libby was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for lying and obstructing an investigation into the leak of a CIA operative’s identity. A federal judge has denied a request to stay the sentence while Libby appeals his conviction.

In a motion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Libby argued that the ruling was inappropriate. He said he has a good chance of having his conviction overturned on appeal and should not have to serve jail time while the court challenge plays out.

The request will be considered by a three-judge panel of the court.


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