May 21, 2011 in Nation/World

In brief: Pawlenty set to announce run


St. Paul, Minn. – Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a laid-back Midwestern Republican who governed a Democratic-leaning state, is running for president and will declare his candidacy on Monday in the leadoff caucus state of Iowa, an adviser told the Associated Press.

Pawlenty will formally enter the race during a town hall-style event in Des Moines, Iowa, the adviser said.

Pawlenty is choosing to make his long-expected bid official in a critical state in his path to the GOP nomination. Advisers acknowledge that Pawlenty, 50, must win or turn in a strong showing during next winter’s caucuses in the neighboring state of Iowa to have any chance of becoming the Republican who will challenge President Barack Obama, a Democrat, next November.

The move is no surprise. Pawlenty been laying the groundwork for a national campaign since John McCain passed him over in 2008 as his vice presidential nominee. He left the governor’s post in January and he took the first step toward the presidency two months later by setting up an exploratory committee.

Barges break free, shut down river

Baton Rouge, La. – Barges broke free from a towboat and the swift Mississippi River current carried them into a bridge as America’s busiest inland waterway became even more challenging to traverse. The Coast Guard shut down a five-mile stretch of the river until they could make sure the area was safe.

Three barges carrying corn sank and another was taking on water after the vessels got out of control Friday. No injuries were reported and the Coast Guard said there was no damage to the levees, but the scene was clear evidence of how challenging the bloated river has become to navigate. Six days earlier, the area was closed for hours after 25 barges under tow broke loose, and at least two of them hit the bridge.

NASA stops sale of alleged moon rock

Los Angeles – A woman who allegedly tried to sell a rare hunk of moon rock for $1.7 million was detained when her prospective customer turned out to be an undercover NASA investigator, officials said Friday.

It is illegal to sell moon rocks, which are considered national treasures. The gray rocks, which were gifted to each U.S. state and 136 countries by then-President Richard Nixon, can sell for millions of dollars on the black market.

NASA agents and Riverside County sheriff’s deputies detained the woman, who was not immediately identified, after she met Thursday with an undercover NASA investigator at a restaurant in Lake Elsinore, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles, the sheriff’s office said. The investigation was conducted over several months.

NASA planned to conduct tests to determine whether the rock came from the moon as the woman claimed.

The woman has not been arrested or charged. It was unknown how she obtained the rock or came to the attention of NASA.

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