NASA: Endeavour Launch to Take Place Monday

RUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- The final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour looks to be on track for Monday morning.

NASA announced Saturday that crews were working through countdown milestones with no issues, with Endeavour scheduled for liftoff at 8:56 a.m. on Monday. The weather around launch time also appears to be in favor of the shuttle setting off on its final journey as scheduled, as NASA says forecasts call for a 70 percent chance of acceptable weather conditions around launch time.

Endeavour’s mission crew consists of Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.

The shuttle's launch has drawn widespread attention as it's commanded by the husband of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during a shooting rampage in Tucson in January. Six people were killed and 13, including Giffords, were injured in the shooting.

The 14-day mission into space, when it happens, could yield new clues to the origin of the universe. The shuttle will carry a $2 billion alpha magnetic spectrometer, an instrument that will be installed on the space station. It could prove or disprove the Big Bang Theory of how the universe was formed.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New York Rangers Player Found Dead

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- New York Rangers player Derek Boogaard was found dead inside his Minneapolis apartment on Friday.

Boogaard, 28, was found dead by his two brothers shortly after 6 p.m., officials say, however the cause of death was not immediately known and investigators say it may be some time before it is determined, according to a report by the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

Boogaard began his NHL career with the Minnesota Wild, where he played in 255 games from 2005 through 2010. He then joined the Rangers in July, 2010, and upon learning of his death, Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather described Boogaard as being a kind and caring person.

“He was a very thoughtful person, who will be dearly missed by all those who knew him,” Sather said in a statement. “We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates during this difficult time.”

Rangers captain Chris Drury issued a statement on Saturday expressing his thoughts on losing a teammate.

“On behalf of all Derek's teammates, I would like to say that he was a great friend and a great teammate and that we are all going miss him dearly,” Drury said. “This is a tragic loss for the hockey community. All of our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”

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Six Accused of Providing Financial Support to Pakistani Taliban

Joe Raedle/Getty Images (File)(MIAMI) -- An Imam from Miami and his two sons are among six people charged with providing material support to the Pakistani Taliban, a designated foreign terrorist organization.

Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76, and his sons Irfan Khan, 37, and Izhar Khan, 24, all of whom reside in Florida, face a slew of charges U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Wifredo A. Ferrer said Saturday. The three other people facing charges are Pakistan residents Ali Rehman, Alam Zeb and Amina Khan.

Hafiz Khan and his younger son were arrested in Miami, while the older son was taken into custody in Los Angeles. The other three defendants are said to be still at-large in Pakistan. The six suspects were indicted following an investigation by the FBI and members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Authorities allege that from sometime in 2008 through November 2010 the suspects provided the Pakistani Taliban with money, financial services, and other forms of support. The defendants are accused of seeking to aid the terrorist organization in its fight against the Pakistan government and the government’s perceived allies such as the United States.

All six are charged with conspiring to provide, and providing, material support to a conspiracy to murder, maim and kidnap persons overseas, as well as conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization. Hafiz Khan, Rehman and Zeb are also charged with providing material support to the Pakistani Taliban.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jury Selection Continues in Casey Anthony Trial

Comstock/Thinkstock(CLEARWATER, Fla.) -- In a week that was supposed to yield an entire jury of 12 members and eight alternates for the trial of Casey Anthony, who is on trial for the 2008 killing of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, the pace of selection has been painfully slow due to concerns of impartiality amid exhaustive media coverage.

On Friday six jurors were dismissed from the pool of prospective panelists, and the defense used its first peremptory strike against juror #1011 -- a man who had lied about a D.U.I. in 2006. Eight potential jurors are scheduled to return for further questioning over the weekend.

Throughout the jury selection process, which was moved from Orlando to Clearwater, defense attorneys are attempting to ensure that they can place jurors who might be sympathetic to their client.

Potential jurors have been subjected to a barrage of questions by the attorneys ranging from which television programs they watch and how they feel about the death penalty to questions about sexual, verbal and mental abuse by elders.

Every juror on a death penalty case has to be willing to say that they could impose the death penalty -- though it doesn't mean that they will ultimately choose that sentence, it is to ensure that if necessary, they could.

Casey Anthony is accused of killing her daughter, Caylee Anthony, who was last seen alive in June 2008. Anthony has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The child’s death was ruled a homicide of undetermined means, after her remains were found in December less than a mile from the home she and her mother shared.

Caylee's disappearance wasn't reported until July 2008, when Anthony told police she had not seen Caylee in nearly a month, since dropping her off with a babysitter. Anthony was arrested and charged with murder in October 2008.

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MRSA 'Superbug' Bacteria Found in Detroit Meat

Chad Baker/Photodisc/Thinkstock(DETROIT) -- First they were riding on bedbugs. Now, drug-resistant superbugs are showing up in supermarket meat. Raw beef, chicken and turkey from Detroit grocery stores contained methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a sinister strain of bacteria that doesn't respond to typical antibiotics, researchers reported Wednesday.

It may sound scary, but it's no reason to go vegetarian, experts say.

"We've known for a long time that raw meat and poultry purchased in supermarkets can be contaminated with bugs that can make us sick, like salmonella and E. coli. As long as we clean our hands and our utensils and we cook the food, we kill the bacteria," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. "Even though this is a new bug, that shouldn't change anything. It should just reinforce all those messages."

The study, reported online Wednesday in Emerging Infectious Diseases -- the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's journal, is not the first to find MRSA in meat. But very few have ever come out of the United States, so it's making headlines nationwide.

"Previous studies have shown MRSA in pork and beef, but we found MRSA poultry in our study," said report author Dr. Yifan Zhang, assistant professor in the department of nutrition and food science at Wayne State University in Detroit, who said she was surprised at the stir her study created.

"The most important thing in this study is, we don't want to scare people," Zhang said. "Overall, the U.S. food supply is safe."

"Wash your hands before and after handling meat, and if you have cuts on your hands, wear gloves," she said, adding that normal soap and cleaning products are sufficient to kill the germ.

MRSA infection rates -- in hospitals and the community at large -- have declined in the past decade, according to CDC statistics. Nevertheless, the study raises important questions about where the meaty MRSA is coming from -- the animals or the humans who handle their meat.

Most healthy people are not at risk for a Staphylococcus aureus infection. In fact, one in three people carries the bacteria on their skin or in their nose and never knows it. But the finding of MRSA in grocery meat should serve as a reminder to keep clean and cook well, Schaffner said.

"We should always remember: The food in our supermarket is not sterile. We live in a germy world and we have to respect that."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Missing New Jersey Teen Sarah Townsend Found Dead

Comstock/Thinkstock(BURLINGTON TOWNSHIP, N.J.) -- New Jersey authorities found missing New Jersey teen Sarah Townsend's body in a pond Friday afternoon. The body was found in Sherman's Pond at Green Acres Park in Burlington Township. The pond is near where Sarah's running car had been found Monday.

Officials told ABC affiliate WPVI that a canine unit led authorities to Sarah's body and that her family has been notified.

Authorities believe that Sarah, 18, may have wanted to harm herself because of a note that was found in her car.

On Thursday, Sarah's family denied those claims.

"Sarah was planning on going to two proms. She bought her dress and was talking about how she was going to do her hair. That's somebody that was planning on something," said Laurie Townsend, Sarah's mother.

When Sarah left for school Monday morning, the family said she seemed fine.

"She put her shoes on and said, 'Bye, Mom and Dad, love you,' and was out the door rushing to school and she hasn't been seen since," Laurie said Thursday.

Sarah's boyfriend, Matt Welsh, called 911 after finding her car, cellphone and purse at the park Monday.

The family had put up a billboard, handed out flyers at train stations and offered a $10,000 reward for their daughter's safe return.

Sarah was set to graduate from high school next month. She was thinking about attending nursing school or becoming a flight attendant.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Mississippi Floods: Morganza Spillway Flood Gate Opened

ABC News(BATON ROUGE, La.) -- One gate along the Morganza spillway was opened Saturday afternoon by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, sending gallons of water gushing through acres of rural farmland.
The single flood gate was opened in an effort to divert some of the water from the rising Mississippi River and spare big cities like Baton Rouge and New Orleans from the devastation that flood waters can bring. There are some 125 gates that make up the spillway, and officials say at least two more gates could be opened by Sunday. Authorities say they expect the flood gates to stay open for up to three weeks.

If the gates remained closed and the levees along the Mississippi failed, Baton Rouge and New Orleans could both be flooded -- leaving a disaster worse than Katrina.

Inspectors are making daily checks of the levees that surround New Orleans.

"All indications are that the levees that have been inspected on a regular basis for some time, they're all holding and we are expecting them to do so," said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Other low-lying areas are not faring as well. The Mississippi River has been breaking high-water records that have stood since the 1920s and '30s.

President Obama is expected to meet with families affected by flooding along the river when he travels to Memphis, Tenn., on Monday. Friday, Republicans on the House Appropriations panel awarded $850 million to the Federal Emergency Management Agency  (FEMA) for disaster payments.

The Coast Guard also is likely to close the river to barge traffic next week, costing the U.S. economy $295 million a day. It's just the latest in a costly year of extreme weather disasters.

The massive Mississippi floods -- a seven-state, 560-mile liquid trail -- are adding to the nation's laundry list of expensive destruction. Already, there have been five separate billion-dollar storms and floods this year.

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Calif. Woman Who Called 911 to Report Abuse Gets Reprieve from Deportation

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Federal immigration officials have relented on deporting a Los Angeles woman who called 911 to report that her boyfriend was beating her up.

Isaura Garcia, 20, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, made the desperate call for help in February, according to her lawyer, Jennie Pasquarella of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Garcia, who has a year-old baby daughter, Stacy, had endured repeated beatings at the hands of her boyfriend Ricardo Leos, 19, also an illegal immigrant, according to Pasquarella. He is now in jail in Los Angeles on a vehicular manslaughter charge stemming from a fatal DUI in March, according to the Los Angeles sheriff's office.

Leos had kicked Garcia out the house, the lawyer said, but while he was at work she returned to the building, where her mother also lives, to see her baby.

While she was there, Leos came back and Garcia "panicked" and called 911, Pasquarella said. Police came, but when Leos alleged that his girlfriend was the batterer and showed a scratch on his neck, "they took the handcuffs off Ricardo and put them on Isaura and at that moment she fainted."

Garcia was taken to the hospital where a doctor found bruises on her body. Two days later, the police charges against Garcia were dismissed.

But her arrest triggered deportation procedures under the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Secure Communities program, which sends fingerprints of anyone arrested to the Department of Homeland Security for immigration checks.

After a press conference on the case Thursday, ICE backed down. "This action conforms with the policy (Immigration and Customs) is in the process of finalizing that would guide how the agency uses its prosecutorial discretion in removal cases involving the victims and witnesses of crime, including domestic violence," the agency said in a statement.

The Secure Communities program has sparked controversy in a number of U.S. states and cities. Illinois has pulled out, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the American Immigration Lawyers Association have asked President Obama to suspend the initiative.

But immigration officials say the two-year-old program has led to the removal of 72,000 undocumented immigrants convicted of crimes, a third of whom committed violent offenses.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Marks 50th Anniversary of White House Situation Room

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of the White House Situation Room on Friday with a ceremony “to name a secure conference room after the father of the situation room, President John F. Kennedy,” a statement from the White House said.

The president delivered remarks to the room's staff “to thank them for their around-the-clock work to keep the President informed and the country safe.”

“We could not meet the national security challenges that we face without the capabilities of this room and the people who work here,” Obama said in a statement. “It’s the president’s eyes and ears.  Providing the latest information and alerts, it’s the nerve center for the U.S. government, the place where we come together to make policy and respond to crises from wars abroad to floods at home.”

He was joined by Caroline Kennedy, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, and other current and former members of the White House security team.

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Countdown Gets Underway for Endeavour's Launch Next Week

BRUCE WEAVER/AFP/Getty Images(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- The countdown to space shuttle Endeavour's projected launch next week kicked off Friday, two weeks after electrical issues halted the shuttle's mission to the International Space Station.

Ready to take another stab at sending Endeavour into orbit, shuttle commander Mark Kelly and his crew returned to the Kennedy Space Center Thursday.

Kelly said "it's great to be back," and praised engineering crews for replacing wiring and an electrical switching box which caused the April 29 lift-off to be canceled.

He added that the shuttle is now "in great condition."

Endeavour's six-man crew is now in quarantine to avoid any illness before Monday's attempted launch.

Kelly's wife, Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during a shooting rampage in Tucson in January, is expected to be on hand when the shuttle takes off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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