National news briefs

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 26 2010 10:58 p.m. MDT

Deep Impact readies for comet encounter

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A NASA spacecraft is about to have another close look at a comet.

Next week, the Deep Impact spacecraft is set to pass within 435 miles of a half-mile-wide comet named Hartley 2. It will use its telescopes and other instruments to examine the surface and record gas outbursts.

Five years ago, Deep Impact created cosmic fireworks when it released a probe into comet Tempel 1. The resulting collision gave scientists their first glimpse of a comet's interior.

The spacecraft was tapped for another mission to rendezvous with comet Hartley 2. Since September, it has been taking images of its target.

The flyby on Nov. 4 will be the fifth time that a comet has been viewed close up.

All 3 Missouri jail escapees in custody

PATTONSBURG, Mo. (AP) — A convicted killer and two other inmates who escaped from a northwest Missouri jail are back in custody.

The Daviess County Sheriff's Office says 57-year-old Carlos Sarmiento and 34-year-old Timothy J. Baudour were caught Tuesday afternoon. Another escaped inmate, 26-year-old Nicholas D. McCleary, was arrested around noon Tuesday.

The men broke out of the Daviess/DeKalb County jail Sunday night by crawling under a fence in the recreation area.

Sarmiento was awaiting sentencing for beating his roommate to death with a hammer, and Baudour was convicted of assault. McCleary was first convicted of property damage and a previous attempted jail escape.

Two women have been charged with conspiracy and accused of purchasing the wire cutter used in the escape.

Florida baby dies in pit bull attack

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A newborn baby is dead after being attacked by a pit bull in a Florida home.

The newborn died at a hospital. Authorities have not released the baby's name.

Department of Children and Families spokesman John Harrell says the state agency and police are investigating whether the baby was being supervised and whether the dog previously showed aggressive behavior.

City animal control officials say the young dog has been euthanized.

Soros gives $1M to legalize marijuana

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Billionaire financier George Soros has thrown his weight behind California's marijuana legalization measure with a $1 million donation a week before the vote.

The contribution reported Tuesday by The Sacramento Bee is the single biggest donation from an individual other than Proposition 19's main sponsor, Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee.

The high-profile liberal and philanthropist has long backed drug law reform. He was one of the top financial backers of California's first-in-the-nation measure that legalized medical marijuana in the state in 1996.

But Soros held off on openly endorsing the current measure until publishing an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. In the piece, Soros said legalizing and taxing marijuana would save taxpayers the costs of incarceration and law enforcement while raising revenue for the state.

Ex-TV chef pleads no contest in plot

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former "Calorie Commando" TV chef has pleaded no contest to charges in California that he hired homeless men in a failed attempt to kill his wife.

Los Angeles County prosecutors say 48-year-old Juan Carlos Cruz entered the plea Tuesday to solicitation of murder. He faces up to nine years in state prison when he is sentenced in December.

A count of attempted murder will be dismissed.

Cruz was arrested in May by Santa Monica police after a homeless man reported being offered $500 to kill Cruz's wife, Jennifer L. Campbell, who is a 47-year-old attorney.

Police say they set up a sting operation and videotaped Cruz arranging the killing with several homeless men.

Cruz hosted the "Calorie Commando" show on the Food Network.

Houston airport tram accident kills 1

HOUSTON (AP) — A tram car that carries passengers from terminal to terminal at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport has struck two men working on the track, killing one and injuring the other.

Airport spokeswoman Maureen McClinton says the two contract workers were working about noon Tuesday on the newly built elevated track when the tram hit them outside Terminal B of Houston's biggest airport.

McClinton says the tram car was traveling about 33 mph when it hit the two, killing one immediately. The other worker was airlifted to Memorial Hermann Hospital with life-threatening injuries.

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