LOS ANGELES — Federal safety officials Tuesday blamed a co-pilot’s error for the disintegration of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo during a test flight last fall that killed the co-pilot.

LOS ANGELES — Federal safety officials Tuesday blamed a co-pilot’s error for the disintegration of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo during a test flight last fall that killed the co-pilot.


But sharing the blame, safety officials said, was the company testing the space plane, Scaled Composites.


Co-pilot Michael Alsbury prematurely unlocked the spacecraft’s "feather system," or movable tail, which set off a sequence of events that caused it to break apart seconds later above the Mojave Desert last fall, said NTSB Managing Director Tom Zoeller.


—Los Angeles Times


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NEW YORK — A former prison employee charged with helping two killers in a brazen escape that led to a three-week manhunt pleaded guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor Tuesday, nearly two months after her arrest stunned residents of the small town where she worked.


A weeping Joyce Mitchell, 51, of Dickinson Center, N.Y., entered her plea in a barely audible voice in court in Plattsburgh, N.Y. She faces up to seven years in prison and $6,000 in fines.


Mitchell was accused in a criminal complaint of smuggling hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and a screwdriver bit into the Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in Dannemora, N.Y.


Mitchell allegedly gave the contraband to inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat, who were discovered missing from their cells during an early morning bed check on June 6. Matt was shot dead three weeks later about 40 miles from Dannemora. Sweat was captured two days after that.


—Los Angeles Times


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WASHINGTON — Hoping to capture lawmakers’ imaginations and perhaps loosen their purse strings, NASA officials said Tuesday that the new scientific information gleaned from the New Horizons mission to Pluto was "revolutionizing" what they know about the icy dwarf planet.


Among other things, the mission revealed evidence of an internal ocean, atmospheric hazes and "other wonders," Alan Stern, principal investigator of the mission, said before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.


New measurements also reveal that Pluto is slightly larger than expected, roughly 1,473 miles in diameter, compared with Earth’s diameter of about 7,900 miles. The spacecraft and its seven instruments collected additional data, such as the height of Pluto’s mountains, the depth of its valleys and its surface temperature. Stunning pictures from the mission were circulated this month.


The data is revolutionizing theories about the distant body, Stern said, predicting that even greater discoveries lay ahead.


—Tribune Washington Bureau


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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — President Barack Obama may have some election season envy.


While constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term in the Oval Office, the president used a speech in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Tuesday to express confidence that if he appeared on U.S. ballots again, he would prevail.


"I actually think I’m a pretty good president," Obama said in his address to the African Union in Ethiopia. "I believe if I ran again, I could win. But I can’t."


—Bloomberg News


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TRIPOLI, Libya — A Libyan court on Tuesday sentenced to death Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and eight former officials on charges related to killings during the 2011 uprising that ended his father’s rule.


Also sentenced to death by firing squad were Gadhafi’s intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi and former prime ministers Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi and Abuzaid Dorda.


The Criminal Court in the capital Tripoli convicted them of genocidal crimes, including incitement to the killing of peaceful protesters, enlisting mercenaries and setting up armed militias to quell the anti-Gadhafi uprising.


—dpa


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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s embattled prime minister on Tuesday sacked the deputy premier and attorney general as he struggles to survive allegations of misusing state development funds.


Premier Najib Razak said he decided to replace Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin due to "political considerations" and "administrative needs."


Muhyiddin was replaced by Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who will also retain his post at the ministry.


Muhyiddin publicly disagreed with Najib’s handling of the scandal related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), whose funds were allegedly siphoned off by Najib and close relatives.


The Wall Street Journal reported that some $700 million was reportedly moved among government agencies, banks and entities linked to 1MDB and ended up in Najib’s personal accounts via five separate deposits in Malaysia.


—dpa


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