Nation in brief: Shuttle lifts off with lab on board
After two months of delay, shuttle Atlantis blasted into orbit Thursday with Europe’s gift to the International Space Station, a $2 billion science lab named Columbus that spent years waiting to set sail.
Atlantis and its seven-man crew safely roared away from their seaside launch pad at 2:45 p.m. local time, overcoming fuel gauge problems that thwarted back-to-back launch attempts in December.
Twenty-three years in the making, Columbus is the European Space Agency’s primary contribution to the space station. The lab has endured space station redesigns and slowdowns, as well as a number of shuttle postponements and two shuttle accidents.
U.S., Italy team up in Mafia takedown
U.S. and Italian law enforcement officials Thursday rounded up dozens of organized crime figures, including the entire top leadership of New York’s notorious Gambino family, in what was described by authorities here as the biggest takedown of the Mafia in recent memory.
Sixty-two people were indicted in New York on charges ranging from murder and extortion to the theft of union pension funds, and dozens were in custody by late Thursday.
Members of the Genovese and Bonanno crime families were also arrested, but most of those indicted and nabbed were from the Gambino family once led by John Gotti, who was known as “The Dapper Don” and “The Teflon Don.”
Authorities in Italy also announced a series of arrests of major Mafia figures in coordinated raids.