NASA plans to launch even if gauge problem returns

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA plans to launch the first space shuttle flight in 21/2 years even if it is plagued by the same fuel gauge problem that halted the previous countdown two weeks ago, officials said Sunday.

Discovery is set to lift off Tuesday at 7:39 a.m. PDT, the same time Columbia took off on its doomed mission in 2003.

Deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said the fuel gauge problem has been a vexing one. Engineers still don’t know exactly what caused it.

Hale and other NASA officials stressed Sunday that they will proceed with a liftoff only if the problem is well understood and involves the gauges in question – anything else will result in a postponement.

California: Alleged molester memoir

A man who authorities say could be the nation’s most prolific child molester was crafting a lengthy memoir about his sexual exploits with boys when he was arrested, police said. Authorities also said they have cracked “99 percent” of the detailed code that Dean Schwartzmiller used in notebooks he kept, apparently to chronicle crimes both real and imagined. Schwartzmiller was arrested in Everett in May after California investigators said they discovered notebooks with 36,700 handwritten entries of boys’ names, descriptions of their anatomy and codes for suspected sex acts.

Illinois: Chicago’s sweltering heat

Sweat-drenched city workers checked on senior citizens in Chicago on Sunday and shuttled people to cooling centers as temperatures surpassed the 100-degree mark here for the first time in six years, to 104 degrees. Other parts of the Midwest also reached triple-digit temperatures. Temperatures hit 102 degrees in St. Louis and 101 in Iowa City, Iowa.

Utah: Wildfire threat eases up

Overnight rain and lower temperatures helped give firefighters the upper hand Sunday on two huge fires that had threatened three separate communities in southwest Utah. Fire officials said Sunday that an 18,300-acre group of fires 12 miles north of St. George was 70 percent contained. About 10 miles north of the city, a group of seven fires that had burned into one covering more than 17,800 acres was 30 percent contained.

D.C.: Hormones and weight loss

Injections of a gut hormone – called oxyntomodulin – that tells the brain the stomach is full resulted in significant weight loss in a small human test, British researchers report in today’s issue of the journal Diabetes. The study lasted a month and included 14 subjects. They lost an average of about 5 pounds, reported Dr. Stephen Bloom, an endocrinologist at Imperial College London.

Card was told of CIA leak probe

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday that he notified White House chief of staff Andy Card after the Justice Department opened an investigation in September 2003 into who revealed covert CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity, but waited 12 hours to tell anyone else in the executive mansion. The White House did not respond to questions Sunday about whether Card passed that information to top Bush aide Karl Rove or anyone else, giving them advance notice to prepare for the investigation. Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper recently said he first learned of Plame’s identity during a discussion with Rove in July 2003.

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