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Kassir convicted in Oregon plot

A jury convicted a Lebanese-born Swede on Tuesday of plotting to help al-Qaida recruit by trying to set up a weapons-training post in Oregon and distributing terrorist training manuals over the Internet.

The verdict against Oussama Kassir capped a three-week trial that featured the testimony of a U.S.-born Muslim convert who said he tried to create the training camp on 360 acres in Bly, Ore., in 1999.

Prosecutors in the Kassir case portrayed him as a follower of militant clerics who wanted to take advantage of more relaxed gun laws to arrange training in the United States for European recruits to Islamic militancy. The government said Kassir distributed manuals over the Internet that taught militants how to make bombs, poison people and slit throats.

It was one of two victories Tuesday for U.S. terrorism prosecutors. A federal jury in Miami convicted five men of plotting to join forces with al-Qaida to topple Chicago’s Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices. A sixth man was acquitted in the case’s third trial.

Cape Canaveral, Fla.

NASA downplays shuttle damage

The Atlantis astronauts uncovered a 21-inch stretch of nicks on their space shuttle Tuesday, but NASA said the damage did not appear to be serious.

The damage was likely the result of debris that came off the fuel tank shortly after liftoff Monday. The astronauts were inspecting their ship while racing to the Hubble Space Telescope when they came across the nicks spread over four to five thermal tiles.

New York

Miss California can keep crown

Miss California USA can retain her crown despite controversies over semi-nude photographs taken of her as a teenager and her association with a conservative advocacy group for marriage, pageant owner Donald Trump said Tuesday.

Carrie Prejean’s comments about her opposition to same-sex marriage ignited a media firestorm after a celebrity judge suggested her response may have cost her the Miss USA title; she finished as first runner-up. The photos surfaced later and led to the review of her state title.

“We’ve reviewed the pictures carefully,” Trump said at a packed news conference at Trump Plaza in New York City. “We’ve made a determination that the pictures taken were acceptable. Some were risqué, but we are in the 21st century.”

Trump also defended the answer Prejean gave at the April 19 Miss USA pageant. She was asked her view of marriage by blogger Perez Hilton. Prejean said she believes marriage is between a man and a woman.

“It’s the same answer the president of the United States gave,” Trump said.

From wire reports

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