Militants killed in blast

Militants killed in blast
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Three militants trying to attack an Israeli armored bulldozer blew themselves up today during an Israeli operation to destroy weapons-smuggling tunnels from Egypt, according to television footage and the Israeli army.
The roadside bomb in the Rafah refugee camp went off a few yards from where the bulldozer was piling up mounds of dirt in a crowded residential area, according to Associated Press Television News footage.
The violence came a day after vigilantes killed three Palestinians convicted of collaborating with Israel -- two of them in their hospital beds -- in an incident that highlighted the progressive breakdown of law and order in Gaza.
The Hamas militant organization said two of the casualties in Rafah were its members, and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed one of the dead men. The explosion blew off half of one man's skull.
Ten people were wounded, including a Reuters TV cameraman who suffered a shrapnel wound in his hand, according to witnesses and hospital officials.
No Israelis were injured.
Peterson murder trial
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- Scott Peterson was going broke and his company was failing to turn profits in the months leading up to the disappearance of his pregnant wife, a witness testified at the fertilizer salesman's trial.
Auditor Gary Nienhuis testified that he examined tax returns, payroll expenses, credit card statements and other financial records kept by Peterson. His conclusion: Peterson's debt payments rose sharply against his take-home pay from 2001 to 2002.
Nienhuis said in 2002, Peterson was paying out nearly 70 percent of his average total monthly take-home pay of $3,694 to cover credit card bills and other fixed debt, not including everyday expenses such as utilities or groceries.
A year earlier, Peterson was paying out 58.7 percent of his cash flow -- an average of $4,335 a month -- to debt payments, Nienhuis said.
Prosecutors have suggested that in addition to his affair with a massage therapist being his motive for murder, Peterson's finances were faltering and he hoped to gain from a $250,000 life insurance policy taken out on Laci Peterson more than a year before she vanished.
Defense attorney Mark Geragos' cross-examination determined that Peterson had a good credit rating and that his wife was soon to inherit substantial money.
NASA launches probeon journey to Mercury
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA launched a messenger to Mercury today, the first spacecraft in 30 years to head to the sun's closest planet.
The probe, named Messenger, rocketed away in the pre-dawn moonlight on what will be a 5 billion-mile, 61/2-year journey to Mercury. The trip should have started a day earlier, but clouds from Tropical Storm Alex postponed liftoff.
"A voyage of mythological proportions," a flight controller announced as soon as Messenger shed its final rocket stage.
Applause erupted in launch control. "That looked wonderful," said launch director Chuck Dovale. "We bid Messenger farewell."
Scientists have been yearning to study Mercury up-close ever since Mariner 10 zoomed by three times in the mid-1970s.
If all goes well, come 2011, Messenger will be the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury.
The spacecraft cannot fly straight to Mercury; it does not carry nearly enough fuel. So it will fly once past Earth, twice past Venus and three times past Mercury for gravity assists -- and make 15 loops around the sun -- before slowing enough to slip into orbit around the small, hot planet.
Jury selection beginsin serial killings case
PORT ALLEN, La. -- Potential jurors were questioned about publicity surrounding a string of murders in Louisiana as the first of four trials facing Derek Todd Lee, who is suspected of killing seven young women, got under way.
A crowd of more than 260 people, too large for the courthouse, gathered in makeshift courtrooms at a tourism center to be vetted by lawyers. Monday's proceedings yielded more dismissals than potential panelists.
Lee faces a second-degree murder charge in the beating and stabbing death of Geralyn DeSoto, 21, who was found with her neck slashed in her Addis home in January 2002, on the day she registered for graduate school at LSU.
If convicted, he would face a mandatory life prison sentence.
Lawyers and state District Judge Robin Free questioned jury candidates in two groups of 14. Only six people remained of those first two groups as jury selection moved into its second day today; lawyers from either side still could ask to have them tossed out as proceedings continue.
Associated Press

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