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NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s Opportunity, the Mars rover that was built to operate for just three months but kept going and going, rolling across the rocky red soil, was pronounced dead Wednesday, 15 years after it landed on the planet.
The six-wheeled vehicle that helped gather critical evidence that ancient Mars might have been hospitable to life was remarkably spry up until eight months ago, when it was finally doomed by a ferocious dust storm.
Flight controllers tried numerous times to make contact, and sent one final series of recovery commands Tuesday night, along with one last wake-up song, Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You,” in a somber exercise that brought tears to team members’ eyes. There was no response from space, only silence.
Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science missions, broke the news at what amounted to a funeral at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, announcing the demise of “our beloved Opportunity.”
“This is a hard day,” project manager John Callas said at an auditorium packed with hundreds of current and former members of the team that oversaw Opportunity and its long-deceased identical twin, Spirit. “Even though it’s a machine and we’re saying goodbye, it’s still very hard and very poignant, but we had to do that. We came to that point.”
Absent Iran takes center stage at Mideast talks in Poland
WARSAW, Poland — Although it is absent from the stage, Iran is nevertheless taking the spotlight at a Middle East security conference co-hosted by the United States and Poland that has highlighted deep divisions between the U.S. and some of its traditional allies.
Amid uncertainty over its aims and questions about what it will deliver, the conference opened late Wednesday in Warsaw with some 60 nations in attendance. Yet, in an apparent test of U.S. influence and suspicions in Europe and elsewhere over the Trump administration’s intentions in Iran, many countries aren’t sending their top diplomats and will be represented at levels lower than their invited foreign ministers.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence attended along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his counterparts from numerous Arab nations. But France and Germany are not sending Cabinet-ranked officials, and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is staying away.
Russia and China aren’t participating, and the Palestinians, who have called for the meeting to be boycotted, also will be absent. Iran, which is this week celebrating the 40th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution, denounced the meeting as a “circus” aimed at “demonizing” it.
In a bid to encourage better participation, Pompeo and others sought to broaden what was initially advertised as an Iran-centric meeting to include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the fight against the Islamic State group, and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. That effort produced only mixed results, particularly with longtime European allies who are trying to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after last year’s U.S. withdrawal.
FEMA chief, investigated for vehicle use, resigns
WASHINGTON — The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency resigned Wednesday after a two-year tenure in which he managed the response to historic wildfires and major hurricanes but was dogged by questions over his use of government vehicles.
Brock Long said in a letter to FEMA employees that he was resigning to spend more time at home with his family. His last day is March 8.
He did not mention the investigation by the agency’s watchdog that found he had used government vehicles without authorization, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said last fall that Long would repay the government and would not lose his job.
Nielsen said Long led the agency admirably. “I appreciate his tireless dedication to FEMA and his commitment to fostering a culture of preparedness across the nation,” she said in a statement.
His deputy, Pete Gaynor, will become acting head of the agency.
Authorities say suspect in suitcase death is in US illegally
A man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and dumping her body in a suitcase in Connecticut is a citizen of Portugal who has been in the U.S. illegally for more than a year, federal authorities said Wednesday as the victim’s loved ones gathered for her funeral.
Javier Da Silva Rojas, who had been living in New York City, was taken into custody Monday and charged with kidnapping resulting in death in the killing of 24-year-old Valerie Reyes, of New Rochelle, New York. The charge carries the possibility of the death penalty.
Da Silva, also 24, entered the U.S. on May 8, 2017, through the Visa Waiver Program and was required to leave by Aug. 5, 2017, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a statement.
The agency on Wednesday filed a detainer for Da Silva, meaning he will be deported immediately after his criminal case is complete and any sentence is served.
Susanne Brody, a lawyer for Da Silva, declined to comment Wednesday.
In House’s Yemen vote, Congress reasserts war-making powers
WASHINGTON — Asserting congressional authority over war-making powers, the House passed a resolution Wednesday that would force the administration to withdraw U.S. troops from involvement in Yemen, in a rebuke of President Donald Trump’s alliance with the Saudi-led coalition behind the military intervention.
Lawmakers in both parties are increasingly uneasy over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and skeptical of the U.S. partnership with that coalition, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s role in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the royal family.
Passage would mark the first time Congress has relied on the decades-old War Powers Resolution to halt military intervention. It also would set up a potential confrontation with the White House, which has threatened a veto. The House voted 248-177 to approve the measure, sending it to the Senate, where a similar resolution passed last year.
“We have helped create, and worsen, the world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., during the debate. “Our involvement in this war, quite frankly, is shameful.”
The chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said the vote represents “Congress reclaiming its role in foreign policy.”
Nevada woman is the 6th to accuse Arias of sexual misconduct
RENO, Nev. — The longtime director of the international center at the University of Nevada in Reno is the latest woman to accuse Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias of sexual misconduct.
Carina Black said in interviews this week that Arias boxed her in against a wall inside an elevator at the university in 1998 and then tried to kiss her. She said it happened after she spent a day escorting Arias to meetings and an evening speaking engagement at the university.
“I just smacked him in the face and pushed him away,” Black said. “Then the elevators doors opened, and I left.”
Arias, 78, met with prosecutors in Costa Rica on Wednesday to give a statement in two criminal complaints against him alleging sexual assault and sexual abuse, but he has declined to provide any specific public comment since he denied the initial complaint last week.
At least six women have made accusations against him ranging from unwanted advances to alleged assault. The Associated Press interviewed three people Black told about Arias’ behavior shortly after she said it occurred, including her husband.
Cleaning routine shows promise in curbing superbug infection
Think of it as decontaminating yourself. Hospitalized patients who harbor certain superbugs can cut their risk of developing full-blown infections if they swab medicated goo in their nose and use special soap and mouthwash for six months after going home, a study found.
It’s a low-tech approach to a big problem: About 5 percent of patients have MRSA — antibiotic-resistant Staph bacteria — lurking on their skin or in their noses, putting them at high risk of developing an infection while recovering from an illness or an operation. These can affect the skin, heart, brain, lungs, bones and joints, and most of them land people back in the hospital.
The hygiene steps that researchers tested trimmed that risk by nearly one third.
“It’s a very simple solution. You don’t have to swallow a medicine, you just have to clean the outside of your body for a little while longer,” said Dr. Susan Huang of the University of California Irvine School of Medicine. She led the federally funded study, published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine.
A lot has been done to curb infections in hospitals and attention is shifting to what happens after patients leave. Nine states — California, Washington, Nevada, Minnesota, Illinois, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maine and New Jersey — require that hospitals test the most vulnerable patients, such as those in intensive care, for MRSA. Many other places do it voluntarily.
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