Washington – A discarded chunk of a Russian rocket was forcing six space station astronauts to seek shelter in escape capsules early today.
NASA spokesman Rob Navias said the space junk would barely be close enough to be a threat. But if it hit the station it could be dangerous, so the astronauts – two Americans, three Russians and a Dutchman – were to wake early and climb into two Soyuz vehicles ready to rocket back to Earth just in case.
The debris was not noticed until Friday, too late to move the International Space Station out of the way. This was the third time in 12 years that astronauts have had to seek shelter from space junk.
U.S. intends to give Egypt promised aid
Washington – The Obama administration announced Friday that it intends to deliver all $1.3 billion in promised aid to Egypt’s military this year, despite calls from lawmakers and rights advocates to hold back money because of limits on political rights in the North African nation.
Congress requires the administration to certify, before providing aid, that Egypt has met U.S. requirements for following democratic principles and is meeting its obligations under a peace treaty with Israel. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Egypt was living up to the treaty and waived the democracy requirements, citing “America’s national security interests.”
The decision reflects the anguishing choice facing the administration, which is deeply unhappy with Egypt’s treatment of civil groups but wants badly to maintain its long-standing ties to Egypt’s powerful military.
Rebels make headway in northern Mali
Bamako, Mali – Tuareg rebels seized territory in northern Mali on Friday in the wake of a coup in the distant capital that left the military in disarray.
There were reports of soldiers abandoning their posts and running away in the confusion that followed the coup in Bamako on Thursday, raising speculation that the rebels could gain control of the north.
State television went off the air Friday amid speculation of a countercoup by troops loyal to President Amadou Toumani Toure.
The government was ousted by a group of disgruntled soldiers furious at its failure to properly arm and equip sparse military forces assigned to face the heavily armed and combat-hardened Tuaregs. Mali’s military has only 7,000 soldiers.
As the army retreated from northern towns, the rebels’ group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, took the northern town of Anefis on Thursday and was threatening Kidal and Timbuktu on Friday, according to news reports.