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NASA craft set for Valentine rendezvous with comet

After a long-distance courtship, a NASA spacecraft is set to meet up with its celestial sweetheart — a comet half the size of Manhattan that had an encounter with another spacecraft not long ago.

The rendezvous between Stardust and comet Tempel 1 occurs on Valentine's Day, some 210 million miles from Earth. Hurtling at 24,000 mph, Stardust will fly within 125 miles of the potato-shaped comet, snapping pictures along the way. If successful, it will be the first time scientists will have before-and-after images of Tempel 1, allowing them to observe any changes on the uneven surface.

In 2005, Tempel 1 received a not-so-loving visit from Deep Impact, which fired a copper bullet into the comet on the Fourth of July that sparked cosmic fireworks and excavated a crater. The high-speed crash hurled out so much dust and debris Deep Impact failed to see the manmade hole even as it beamed back dazzling pictures of other surface features.

phoenix

Founder of 2 natural food chains resigns

The founder of two chains of natural foods grocery stores resigned after he was arrested in a child prostitution sting. Sunflower Farmers Market CEO Michael Gilliland was accused of soliciting sex online with someone who identified herself as an underage girl. He faces a charge of felony child prostitution. Gilliland also founded Wild Oats Markets, which was acquired by Whole Foods Market in 2007.

illinois

FTD, Groupon offer Valentine refunds

Coupon site Groupon.com and flower company FTD are offering refunds after getting complaints that a Valentine's Day flower deal wasn't so sweet. Both companies said they did nothing wrong, but responded to Internet complaints that FTD inflated prices for some Groupon customers who used a coupon for $20 off an FTD flower purchase of $40 or more.

chad

EU observer says election appears fair

Parliamentary elections in the Central African nation ran peacefully Sunday and appeared to be democratic, a European Union observer said. "In some polling stations there is a lack of material and organization," Louis Michel, head of the EU's observer mission, said. "However, it seems that these are fair, democratic and transparent elections." The opposition challenged President Idriss Deby's ruling party for the first time since 2002. Results are not expected for at least a week.

switzerland

Voters reject tighter firearms laws

The nation with more guns per capita than almost any other country except the United States, Finland and Yemen — at least 2.3 million weapons and a population of less than 8 million, according to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey — voted down a proposal to require military-issued firearms to be locked in secure army depots, establish a national gun registry and ban the sale of fully automatic weapons and pump-action rifles. The Swiss, who have a high rate of firearms suicides, rejected the proposal by 56.3 percent.

Elsewhere

Iraq: The death toll for a suicide bombing on a bus with Shiite pilgrims returning from a religious ceremony Saturday in Samarra, north of Baghdad, rose to 36 on Sunday.

Nigeria: A stampede at a political rally killed 11 people and injured dozens.

Times wires

NASA craft set for Valentine rendezvous with comet 02/13/11 [Last modified: Sunday, February 13, 2011 11:33pm]
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  1. Protectors of Confederate statue readied for a battle that never materialized

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Big Dixie flags were waving. County employees had erected a barrier around the Confederate soldier statue at Main and Broad streets. Roads and parking areas were blocked off. Uniformed local officers and federal law enforcement patrolled.

    Police tape and barricades surround the Confederate statue in Brooksville.
  2. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman

    Growth

    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  3. FSU-Bama 'almost feels like a national championship game Week 1'

    Blogs

    The buzz is continuing to build for next Saturday's blockbuster showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State.

  4. Plan a fall vacation at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens when crowds are light

    Florida

    Now that the busy summer vacation season is ending, Floridians can come out to play.

    Maria Reyna, 8, of Corpus Cristi, TX. eats chicken at the Lotus Blossom Cafe at the Chinese pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017.  Epcot is celebrating it's 35th year as the upcoming Food and Wine Festival kicks off once again.
  5. USF spends $1.5 million to address growing demand for student counseling

    College

    TAMPA — As Florida's universities stare down a mental health epidemic, the University of South Florida has crafted a plan it hopes will reach all students, from the one in crisis to the one who doesn't know he could use some help.

    A student crosses the University of South Florida campus in Tampa, where visits to the school's crisis center more than doubled last year, part of a spike in demand that has affected colleges across the country. The university is addressing the issue this year with $1.5 million for more "wellness coaches," counselors, online programs and staff training. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]