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Asteroid poses threat to Earth -- in 878 years



Published: Thu, April 4, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Asteroid poses threatto Earth -- in 878 years

WASHINGTON -- A new look at an asteroid orbiting the sun shows it could possibly smash into the Earth with the explosive force of millions of tons of TNT. But experts say the potential impact is still 878 years away, time enough for the speeding space rock to alter its course.

Named 1950 DA, the asteroid -- six-tenths of a mile wide -- is the most threatening to the Earth of all of the known large asteroids, but the odds are only about one in 300 that it would impact the planet, researchers said today in the journal Science.

"One in 300 is pretty long odds," said Jon D. Giorgini, a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the first author of the study. "I'm not personally going to worry about. It is so far in the future that lots of things could change."

If 1950 DA did hit the Earth, said Giorgini, it would have planetwide effects, setting off fires, changing the weather and perhaps creating immense tidal waves. But it would not be a planet killer like the asteroid thought to have snuffed out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. That asteroid was about 16 times larger than 1950 DA, he said.

In any case, said Giorgini, if scientists determine in the coming centuries that 1950 DA does represent a threat, there'll be plenty of time to take action.

Man shoots himselfin cathedral office

NEW YORK -- A man who shot himself in the head at the parish house of St. Patrick's Cathedral remained in critical condition early today with injuries so severe that police initially thought he had died.

The man, who was not identified, appeared in the reception area of the parish house Wednesday afternoon, waited for "a priest on duty" to be summoned, and then went with the priest into an adjoining room, said Joseph Zwilling, spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York.

Before the shooting, the man said he was depressed and talked to the priest about the quality of his life, and how he didn't want to live anymore, according to a police source who spoke on condition of anonymity. He also made statements that caused the priest to fear for his own life, the source said.

He asked for a pencil and paper and wrote a note which indicated that he "wanted to be buried in an Armenian cemetery," according to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

He then handed the note to the priest and then pulled a gun from his waistband, police said. The priest backed out of the room and, as he warned the others in the office area, the man shot himself, police said.

Student testifies aboutseduction by teacher

KENT, Wash. -- A boy who fathered two children with his sixth-grade teacher testified Wednesday that she began seducing him by offering to remove an item of clothing for every question he answered correctly on a history test.

Vili Fualaau, 18, said he had a crush on Mary Kay Letourneau when he was 12 and she was a 34-year-old married mother of four teaching grade school in suburban Seattle.

"I thought she was hot," said Fualaau.

Fualaau and his mother, Soona Vili, have filed a $1 million civil suit against Highline School District and the Des Moines, Wash., police department, alleging they failed to protect him.

Letourneau is serving a prison sentence for child rape and is expected to testify by satellite.

Fualaau told the court that Letourneau made sexually suggestive remarks to him and said she would kiss him on the last day of school.

They had dinner and kissed in a parking lot one night in June 1996, and Fualaau testified that he later spent three consecutive nights at Letourneau's home before school ended that year. Her husband and four children were asleep in another part of the house.

Attack near synagogue

MONTPELLIER, France -- Assailants threw a barrage of Molotov cocktails today into a building they mistook for a Jewish synagogue located next door, the region's top official said.

Three youths picked up some 200 yards from the site were detained for questioning, police said, without providing more details.

The fire-bombing followed a string of attacks on Jewish targets in recent days that has coincided with heightened tensions in the Middle East. Two synagogues in Marseille, on the Mediterranean coast like Montpellier, were among the targets.

In the attack today, two offices of the building that houses the Herault region's environmental offices were badly burned, police said. There were no injuries since the assault took place in the early morning when the building was empty.

Associated Press




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