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SpaceX launches, destroys rocket in astronaut escape test

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX has completed the last big test of its crew capsule before launching astronauts within the next few months to the International Space Station. The company founded and led by Elon Musk mimicked an emergency launch escape Sunday in the skies above Cape Canaveral, Florida. A Falcon rocket blasted off as normal, but just over a minute into flight, the Dragon capsule catapulted off the top with a pair of mannequins aboard. The Falcon engines deliberately shut down, and the booster tumbled out of control and crashed into the Atlantic. The capsule, meanwhile, parachuted into the ocean. The flight lasted about nine minutes.


No astrovans for SpaceX, crews riding to rockets in Teslas

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Astronauts launched by SpaceX in coming months will ride to their rockets in high fashion. Instead of using a retro-style astrovan, SpaceX crews will travel to the launch pad in Tesla sports cars. Elon Musk, who runs SpaceX and the electric car company, used Teslas to get around Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Sunday's launch escape test. No one was aboard for the test flight, just two mannequins. But during a launch dress rehearsal Friday, the two NASA astronauts assigned to the first SpaceX crew got a lift to the pad in a Tesla Model X.


David Olney, who wrote songs for music legends, dies

SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — David Olney, a folk singer who wrote songs that were recorded by Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, has died. His publicist, Jill Kettles, said Olney died Saturday after having a heart attack while performing in Florida. He was 71. Olney was part of the music scene in Nashville, Tennessee and had recorded more than 20 albums. He incorporated numerous styles in his music, including rock, and his songs explored offbeat topics such as a Nashville train disaster and late New York Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto.


Deputies: Florida man sought hit man to kill his brother

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Authorities said a Florida man sought to hire a hit man to kill his brother and even offered a $160 down payment. It turned out that the  supposed “hit man” was actually an undercover detective with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department. Officials said as a result 54-year-old Gary Hudge is charged with solicitation to commit murder. Investigators said Hudge provided several Michigan addresses for his brother and offered .25-caliber handgun, a bus ticket as well as the cash. Hudge was jailed on $62,000 bail after his arrest Thursday. It wasn't clear if he has an attorney to represent him.


Mother-daughter psychics get prison for defrauding customers

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A mother and daughter who claimed to be Florida psychics and used eggs containing snake embryos to convince customers they were cursed are going to prison for fraud. The SunSentinel reports that a federal judge on Friday sentenced Annie Marie Vwanawick, 74, to 42 months behind bars and 44-year-old April Miller to just over two years. The case involved two victims, one who was bilked out of $1.4 million and another defrauded of $10,000. Court records show the pair claimed to be “white squaw Cherokee Indian” spiritual healers and that the snake embryos were part of their practice


Mississippi keeps history exam, despite calls to end it

Mississippi's state Board of Education is keeping the state's U.S. history exam, despite months of pressure from teachers and others to cut testing. The board voted unanimously on Thursday to keep the test, one of four that public school students must keep in high school. A testing task force in August had recommended that the state do away with the test. It's the only state test that's not required by federal law. State Superintendent Carey Wright had recommended that the board keep the exam. Mississippi has a new history exam that will be administered this year.


Another Holy Cross rower released from hospital after crash

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — Another member of the Holy Cross women's rowing team has been released from the hospital after a crash in Florida that killed a teammate. The Massachusetts school announced Sunday that Paige Cohen, a junior from Atlanta, was released on Saturday afternoon. Grace Rett, a sophomore, died in Wednesday’s crash a day after her 20th birthday. Police have said the team's rented transport van was carrying roughly 12 students when the driver made a left turn into the path of a red truck. Senior Maegan Moriarty was released on Thursday. Four other students, a rowing coach and the driver of the truck remain in the hospital.


Iguanas, nude beaches on Florida lawmakers' agenda next week

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers are entering the second week of their annual 60-day session and will take up issues ranging from sunscreen to iguanas. The Senate will consider a bill that would prohibit local governments from banning the sale of sunscreens that contain ingredients some researchers say harm coral reefs. A Senate committee will also consider a bill that would ban the sale and breeding of iguanas. A bill will also be considered that would protect people on nude beaches from being charged with publicly displaying their genitals.


Gun industry gathers amid slumping sales, rising tensions

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The gun industry is gathering in Las Vegas for its annual trade show amid slumping sales and an uncertain political landscape. The conference is occurring on the Las Vegas Strip about 3 miles from the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. It is also happening just as pro-gun activists are planning a major rally at the Virginia capitol to protest gun control measures by Democrats now in charge of the state. Gun makers say the trade show is critical to ensure they're on top of the latest trends so they can prepare for the year ahead.


Florida ex-mayor gets 4+ years in prison for charity fraud

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — The former mayor of a Florida city has been sentenced to more than four years in prison for defrauding a United Way charity while he ran the organization. U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe said in a news release Friday that ex-Milton mayor Guyland Thompson pleaded guilty in May to 20 counts of wire fraud and three counts of tax evasion stemming from his embezzlement from United Way of Santa Rosa County. Thompson was the charity's executive director. Keefe said Thompson embezzled over $650,000 from the United Way between 2011 and 2018. United Way of Santa Rosa County closed because of the fraud.