Neighbor guilty in murder, kidnapping of Calif. girl

Thursday, August 22, 2002

SAN DIEGO -- A neighbor was convicted Wednesday of kidnapping 7-year-old Danielle van Dam from her home and killing her in the first of a string of brazen child abductions that have drawn national attention this year.

Danielle's mother burst into tears and a crowd outside the courthouse cheered as the jury convicted self-employed engineer David Westerfield of murder, kidnapping and possessing child pornography.

Westerfield looked at the jury but showed no obvious reaction; the 50-year-old faces either life in prison or execution when the trial's penalty phase begins next week.

The parents, jurors and trial attorneys remain under a gag order and couldn't comment on the verdict.

Feds begin two-year probe into collapse of WTC

WASHINGTON -- Mangled steel beams that once formed the skeleton of the World Trade Center will undergo rigorous fire and impact tests as the government develops ways to make skyscrapers stronger in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

The National Institutes of Standards and Technology on Wednesday began a two-year study of the 110-story twin towers to analyze why they fell and what can be learned from their collapse. The project could produce improved building codes.

The agency, which has more than 100 pieces of steel from the towers, put on view several pieces -- twisted and rust-colored -- at a warehouse at the agency's headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md.

Hurricane Andrew rises to Category 5 storm

MIAMI -- On Wednesday, scientists ended a decade of debate on the intensity of Hurricane Andrew by announcing that what was once thought to a Category 4 storm is now believed to have hit 165 mph -- making it only the third Category 5 storm to hit the United States in recorded history.

"There's really no question in my mind that it was a Category 5, based on the damage," said Herbert Saffir, who devised the scale to measure hurricane intensity.

Forty-three deaths were blamed on Andrew in the United States, 126,000 homes were destroyed in the August 1992 storm.

With $30 billion in damage, it remains the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.

Powerful new rocket aims to improve launches

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A powerful, new version of the rocket that carried John Glenn into orbit blasted off Wednesday on a flight intended to revolutionize -- and revitalize -- the nation's launch business.

Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Atlas V rose from its seaside pad right on time at 6:05 p.m., carrying a European broadcasting satellite along with the hopes of more than 1,000 aerospace workers and Air Force dignitaries on hand for the inaugural liftoff.

The mood was tense as the countdown reached zero. Even after the rocket took off, no one dared celebrate in the launch control center. It was another nerve-racking half-hour before the satellite reached the proper orbit, and only then were the champagne bottles uncorked.

Flight controllers broke into applause, shook hands and embraced at the news of success. At least one wiped away tears.

--From wire reports

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