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Nation In Brief

NASA completes Endeavour checks

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA completed yet another leak check of Endeavour’s crew cabin and newly installed valve Sunday and stood by to begin the countdown for this week’s launch.

The countdown clocks were set to begin ticking Sunday night.

“The team is ready. Endeavour is ready,” said NASA test director Stephen Payne.

Last week, NASA replaced a leaky valve in Endeavour’s cabin with one taken from shuttle Atlantis. Payne said engineers found that air had been escaping from the removed valve because of a small piece of debris on its seal. The valve itself turned out to be fine.

Montana declares state of emergency

HELENA, Mont. — A state of emergency was declared in Montana on Sunday because of wildfires, including one northeast of Missoula that crept to within a mile of some of the 200 nearby homes that were evacuated.

Lighter wind and higher humidity were expected at the fire Sunday, and the wind was largely blowing the blaze back onto itself after a change in direction, said Pat Cross, fire information officer. However wind-blown embers were still sparking spot fires up to 2 miles ahead of the main blaze near the popular getaway spots of Seeley and Placid Lakes, authorities said.

“We’re focusing on structure protection, establishing some anchor points and trying to get some fire line in on the south and east flanks,” Cross said.

The wildfire started Friday and exploded to 8,000 acres, about 12 square miles, by late Saturday, but had not grown much by Sunday.

Purple Heart mowed in honor of medal

HAMPTONBURGH, N.Y. — An artist has mowed an 850,000-square-foot rendering of a Purple Heart medal into a park field to honor the 75th anniversary of the medal that commends servicemembers killed or wounded in action.

The rendering, to be unveiled Sunday in Thomas Bull Memorial Park in this city 55 miles northwest of New York City, was done by field artist and painter Roger Baker, whose past works include the Statue of Liberty and Elvis Presley.

According to Baker, the project followed a chance meeting with Bill Bacon, membership director of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. After meeting with officials from The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor and Orange County parks, the plan was on.

Suspicious item found in car; 2 held

GOOSE CREEK, S.C. — Two men were detained after police found a suspicious item in their car during a routine traffic stop for speeding near Charleston, authorities said Sunday.

Berkeley County sheriff’s Lt. Vince Lombard said the men were being held pending a charge of unlawful possession of an explosive device.

Lombard would not say what the device was or what it was that bomb technicians from neighboring Charleston County exploded at about 2:45 a.m. Sunday.

U.S. Highway 176 was closed at about 7 p.m. Saturday and federal officials later said there was “no immediate threat.”

Army Corp wants help fixing mistake

SURF CITY, N.J. — The Army Corps of Engineers, which accidentally dumped sand filled with old military ordnance on Surf City’s beach, now wants the town to help pay to remove it.

Local officials are angered by the suggestion that they should help foot the bill for a federal goof that already has cost the town an unknown amount of tourism business.

“If they’re talking about getting any money out of Surf City to pay for their mistakes, they can forget about it,” said Mayor Leonard T. Connors.

Train carrying 900 gets stuck in tunnel

NEW YORK — A commuter train carrying 900 passengers was evacuated after it got stuck heading into a tunnel at Pennsylvania Station early Sunday, authorities said. No injuries were reported.

Damage to overhead wires brought the electric-powered, Trenton, N.J.-bound NJ Transit train to a halt around 12:45 a.m., spokesman Dan Stessel said. He said the train stopped about 200 feet from the Penn Station platform, and only some cars were in the Amtrak-operated tunnel.

The Associated Press

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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