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1st commercial rocket heads for space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Opening a new, entrepreneurial era in spaceflight, a ship built by a billionaire businessman sped toward the International Space Station with a load of groceries and other supplies Tuesday after a spectacular middle-of-the-night blastoff.

The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and its unmanned Dragon capsule marked the first time a commercial spacecraft has been sent to the orbiting outpost.

The rocket lifted off just before 4 a.m. and boosted the capsule into orbit. The capsule is expected to rendezvous with the space station within days, delivering a half-ton of provisions for its six crew members.

It is considered a test flight. If all goes well with this mission and others like it, commercial spaceships could be carrying astronauts to and from the space station in three to five years.

NASA is looking to the private sector to take over flights to the space station now that the space shuttle has been retired. Several U.S. companies are vying for the opportunity.


DNA links suspect to missing teen

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- A man was in custody Tuesday on suspicion of murder and kidnapping after his DNA was found in the bag of a missing girl whose abduction was believed to be a random act of violence, authorities said.

In addition, the DNA of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar was found in the red Volkswagen Jetta of suspect Antolin Garcia-Torres, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith said.

Investigators found Sierra's handbag with clothing and a cellphone along the side of the road within two miles of her home shortly after her mother reported her missing in March.

Garcia-Torres, 21, was linked to the case after his DNA -- taken during a previous assault arrest -- was linked to clothing found in the bag, authorities said.

Sierra was last seen leaving her home to go to school March 16. Authorities believe she was kidnapped while walking to a school bus stop.

Her mother, Marlene LaMar, said the family is holding out hope that the teen is still alive. She pleaded with Garcia-Torres to disclose her whereabouts.


Jurors convict drifter in fatal stabbings

FLINT, Mich. (AP) -- A drifter accused of terrorizing this struggling city by faking car trouble, then stabbing strangers who came to his aid was convicted of murder Tuesday after jurors rejected an insanity defense.

It was the first trial for Elias Abuelazam, who is accused of a series of often fatal stabbings in Michigan and two other states that began after his arrival in Flint in May 2010.

Jurors took just a few hours to return a verdict in the death of Arnold Minor, a 49-year-old handyman stabbed after midnight near downtown Flint two summers ago.

The attack was one of 14 in the Flint area linked to Abuelazam -- five people died -- although the Israeli immigrant is not charged in every incident.

Three experts testifying for prosecutors said Abuelazam was not mentally ill.


Official defends islands as conference site

HONOLULU (AP) -- A Hawaii official defended the islands Tuesday as a place of business amid criticism from two key U.S. senators who questioned the decision to hold an upcoming conference for federal judges on Maui.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, say the planned meetings of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are excessive and strike the wrong tone in a time of government budget cuts.

"Americans struggling to pay their bills are tired of watching the government throw lavish events on the taxpayer dime," Sessions said.

The senators questioned the need to hold the August conference at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, which offers activities including surfing lessons, snorkeling and Zumba.

Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO Mike McCartney said the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu proved recently that Hawaii can be a destination for serious meetings.