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SHUTTLE HIT BY FOAM PIECES DURING LIFTOFF

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA.

Schoolteacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan helped operate a 100-foot robot arm and extension boom in a hunt for damage on her first full day in orbit Thursday, as NASA said foam insulation may have hit the space shuttle at launch.

Nine pieces of foam insulation broke off Endeavour's fuel tank during liftoff Wednesday evening, and three pieces appeared to strike the shuttle, said John Shannon, chairman of the mission management team. None is believed to have been big enough to cause critical damage, he said. The possible strike areas will receive special focus when astronauts aboard the international space station zoom in for pictures of the shuttle before today's linkup.

The first foam fragment came off at 24 seconds after liftoff and appeared to hit the tip of the body flap. The second was 58 seconds after liftoff with a resulting spray or discoloration on the right wing. The third came almost three minutes after liftoff, too late to cause any damage to the wing. The most worrisome is one that appeared to hit the shuttle's right wing. "Whether it caused damage or not, we will find out in great detail" during today's rendezvous, Shannon said Thursday night.

Clues are discovered to cause of glaucoma

Researchers have discovered the genetic flaws that underlie a major type of glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness. By pinpointing what goes wrong, their finding may provide a basis for devising new treatments.

The finding is part of a continuing wave of discoveries about the genes underlying common diseases. The wave began this spring as researchers reported the first results using a new device, DNA-scanning chips containing information on up to 500,000 genetically variable sites across the human genome.

NEW YORK

Mourners reach ground zero deal

Relatives of Sept. 11 victims upset by plans to move this year's commemoration have reached a deal with Mayor Michael Bloomberg that will allow them to mourn at ground zero, the mayor's office said Thursday. Bloomberg said he met with the families and agreed to their proposal that they be allowed to descend briefly into the seven-story pit that was the World Trade Center's basement to pay their respects.

The city announced last month that the sixth anniversary ceremony could not be held at the 16-acre site, as it had been each year since the 2001 attacks, because construction there made the area too dangerous for such a large gathering. But Bloomberg said Thursday that the families' proposal for "a very limited and controlled level of access" to the pit had been deemed safe by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

SAN FRANCISCO

Sheehan announces run for Congress

Cindy Sheehan cited her son, who was killed in Iraq, as her inspiration as she announced her candidacy Thursday for the U.S. House against Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Sheehan said last month that she intended to run against Pelosi, the House speaker, if the San Francisco congresswoman didn't move to impeach President Bush by July 23.

Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Pelosi, would not comment on Sheehan's candidacy but said the speaker has always opposed the war in Iraq and has focused on bringing troops home "safely and soon."

Elsewhere

Nine injured: A monster truck performing stunts in front of an auto parts store in Dekalb, ill., plowed into a crowd of spectators Thursday, injuring at least nine people, officials said. Two people, including a mother and one child, were in serious condition.

Child welfare: The city issued a damning report on its child welfare agency, calling for changes in the way caseworkers look into abuse and neglect allegations after 10 children died during or after bungled investigations.

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