National Digest

April 21, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NASA delays flight of shuttle by a week

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA pushed back next month's launch of Discovery by a full week, saying yesterday that it needs more time to complete testing and engineering work for the first space shuttle flight since the Columbia disaster. The new launch date is May 22.

NASA had been hoping to send Discovery on a 12-day delivery and repair mission to the International Space Station on May 15. But a critical design review of the revamped shuttle was not held until this week, and all the information needs to be submitted to the task force overseeing the space agency's return-to-flight effort.

NASA officials stressed that the mid-May liftoff date was only a target and that the space agency is not going to allow itself to be rushed.

D.C. appeals court sticks by ruling in tobacco suit

WASHINGTON - An appeals court won't reconsider its ruling barring the Justice Department from seeking $280 billion in a lawsuit against cigarette companies. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit released its 3-3 decision not to reconsider the case yesterday.

Officials said the government has not decided whether to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. In the case, filed in 1999 under a civil racketeering statute, the government is alleging that cigarette makers conspired for decades to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking. A trial began in U.S. District Court in September and is continuing.

The Justice Department asked the full court last month to reconsider a three-judge panel's 2-1 decision that the civil RICO statute under which the case was filed required "forward-looking" remedies, and disgorgement - or the seeking of money allegedly earned through fraudulent means - was not one.

Schwarzenegger says he misspoke on border

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Blaming his faulty English, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said yesterday that he misspoke when he suggested California's border with Mexico should be closed to help solve the nation's illegal immigration problem.

Schwarzenegger made the remark while speaking to newspaper editors and publishers Tuesday. He said he intended to say the border should be secured. The contrition seemed to quell the issue at the Capitol. Hispanic lawmakers - many of whom are also rival Democrats - said they accepted his apology.

"Yesterday was a total screw-up in the words I used," the Republican said at a news conference. "Because instead of closing, I meant securing. I think maybe my English, I need to go back to school and study a little bit."

Conn. governor signs law allowing gay civil unions

HARTFORD, Conn. - Connecticut became the second state to offer civil unions to gay couples yesterday - and the first to do so without being forced by the courts.

About an hour after the state Senate sent her the legislation, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed into law a bill that will afford same-sex couples in Connecticut many of the rights and privileges of married couples. The state House passed the measure last week but amended it to define marriage under Connecticut law as between one man and one woman. The Senate approved the amended bill yesterday 26-8.

Vermont is the only other state to allow civil unions. Massachusetts allows gay couples to marry. But those changes came about after same-sex couples won court battles.

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