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Nation in brief: NASA pushes back launch of Orion

Thu., March 1, 2007

Because of budget constraints, NASA will delay the first manned flight of the new spacecraft designed to take humans back to the moon, the agency’s boss said Wednesday.

The craft, called the Orion, won’t fly until early 2015, four to six months later than planned, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told lawmakers.

“We simply do not have the money available” to fly in 2014 as originally planned, he said.

The delay is the result of a $545 million difference between President Bush’s request for the agency this year and the money Congress included in a spending bill Bush signed this month. Lawmakers gave the space agency the same amount of money it received in 2006.

The delay extends the time the U.S. will go without any manned spaceflight capability – the space shuttle is slated for retirement in 2010.

“When you don’t fly for four or more years, people become stale … facilities degrade. It’s not a good thing,” Griffin said.


Durham prosecutor fights disbarment

The former prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case did not intentionally break ethics rules, his attorneys argued Wednesday as they sought to keep him from being disbarred.

Attorneys for District Attorney Mike Nifong acknowledged that he made many of the comments the state bar deemed misleading and inflammatory. But they denied that Nifong intentionally withheld DNA evidence from defense attorneys – the most serious of the ethics charges faced by the veteran prosecutor.

Nifong turned the case against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans over to state prosecutors in January, not long after the state bar alleged that he violated several professional conduct rules.

In December, he was forced to drop rape charges against the three players after the 28-year-old accuser changed a key detail of her account of the alleged attack.


Principal accused of dealing meth

A middle school principal was charged with dealing crystal methamphetamine after police found the drug in his school office.

John Acerra, 50, of Allentown, was arrested Tuesday in his office at Nitschmann Middle School in Bethlehem, where police said they found meth on his desk.

There was no indication that Acerra sold the drug to students, but Acerra did allegedly sell the drug from his school office after hours and on weekends, said Dennis Mihalopoulos, an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.


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