Nation briefs 2/3/04

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

NASA dedicates Columbia memorial at Arlington

WASHINGTON -- NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe on Monday dedicated a memorial to the crew of space shuttle Columbia at Arlington National Cemetery, eulogizing the astronauts as "pilots, engineers and scientists all motivated by a fire within." More than 400 Columbia family members, former astronauts and NASA staff attended the dedication, which took place a year and a day after the ship disintegrated on its return to earth, claiming the lives of all seven astronauts. The memorial features a bronze replica of a mission patch designed by crew members.

FDA urged to warn of antidepressant suicide risk

WASHINGTON -- Parents who blame popular adult antidepressants for their children's suicides faced families who credit the pills with saving their youngsters as the government opened an emotional public debate Monday on the drugs' risks. British health authorities sounded an alarm last year, saying long-suppressed research suggests certain antidepressants might sometimes increase the risk of suicidal behavior in children and teenagers. Because only one drug, Prozac, has been proven to alleviate pediatric depression, Britain declared others -- drugs called SSRIs and their close relatives -- unsuitable for children. Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is wrestling with whether the suicide risk is real, and if so, what to do.

No more grounded flights expected in coming weeks

WASHINGTON -- The "specific and credible" terrorist threats that led to the cancellation of seven flights have passed and there are no plans to ground any more flights, government officials said Monday. Six international flights from the United Kingdom and France and Continental Airlines Flight 1519 from Washington to Houston, site of the Super Bowl, were grounded Sunday and Monday after security concerns were raised by the Homeland Security Department. Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said there was "specific and credible intelligence information suggesting that al-Qaida would attack these flights on those dates."

One killed, one injured at D.C. high school

WASHINGTON -- One student was killed and another wounded Monday in a shooting at a high school in the nation's capital, city and school officials said. James Richardson, 17, a student at Ballou High School, died after being shot several times in the chest, District of Columbia police chief Charles Ramsey said. An 18-year-old student suffered a minor graze wound to one leg and was hospitalized, Ramsey said. No arrests have yet been made, said Ramsey, who blamed the shooting on a dispute between students that began sometime last week. Everyone involved was believed to be a student at Ballou, he said.

Bush to order investigation of Iraq intelligence failures

WASHINGTON -- President Bush, declaring he wants "all the facts," said Monday he will order an independent investigation into intelligence failures in Iraq but said he wants to first consult with former chief weapons inspector David Kay. Trying to quiet mounting election-year criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, Bush said he will name an independent, bipartisan inquiry into the Iraq problem and gaps in other areas, such as secretive regimes like Iran and North Korea and stateless groups such as terrorists. Bush defended his decision to go to war based on intelligence that Kay now says was erroneous. Kay has concluded that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

Both Mars rovers reach out to touch ground

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's twin rovers reached out their robotic arms to touch the surface of Mars on Monday, marking the first day of the joint $820 million mission that both spacecraft were in full swing. Opportunity and Spirit, 6,600 miles apart on opposite sides of the planet, began the workweek gearing up for in-depth analyses of the soil and rocks beneath their wheels. On Monday, mission manager Jennifer Trosper said Spirit had joined Opportunity back at work, even as engineers worked out the last kinks in its software.

-- From wire reports

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