Space junk has NASA worried

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA is keeping tabs on a piece of space junk that could threaten the shuttle-station complex and its 13 astronauts.

Mission Control said Wednesday there is a chance, however unlikely, that part of an old rocket could come too close or even hit the linked space shuttle and space station if their path is not altered. Right now, the debris is expected to pass within seven miles of the outpost on Friday.

Mission Control says there is 'only a remote possibility' the shuttle-station complex will need to steer clear of the junk.

Woman duped by Facebook scam

ST. LOUIS - Police say a Missouri woman was tricked into wiring about $4,000 to an account in England after receiving messages from a friend on Facebook asking for help.

Cape Girardeau Police Sgt. Jason Selzer said Wednesday that a woman told his department last week that she had been tricked into sending the money by Western Union after hearing her friend and her friend's husband were being detained in London and needed money to leave.

Porn star has charge dropped

TAMPA, Fla. - A domestic battery case against porn star and potential Louisiana U.S. Senate contender Stormy Daniels has been dropped after the alleged victim chose not to prosecute.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Gregory Clifford, was arrested in Florida in July and charged after her husband told Tampa police that she hit him several times in a dispute about laundry and unpaid bills.

Gay marriage up to Maine voters

AUGUSTA, Maine - The governor of Maine has signed a formal proclamation putting the state's gay marriage law up for a vote in November.

Gov. John Baldacci signed the measure Wednesday after election officials verified that gay marriage foes had reached the threshold of petitions necessary to put the law on the ballot. The gay marriage law was supposed to go into effect this month.

Traficant freed from prison

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Former Ohio Rep. James Traficant walked out of a Minnesota prison Wednesday morning after serving a seven-year sentence for bribery and racketeering.

The nine-term Democrat from Youngstown left the Federal Medical Center in Rochester and stepped into a waiting cab.

Traficant, who wore a gray T-shirt, white shorts, white knee-high socks and had his famously wild hair pulled back, ignored a reporter's shouted question.

He faces three years of probation. He hasn't said whether he will retire or try to return to public life.

SEC: No probes of Madoff biz

WASHINGTON - The watchdog of the Securities and Exchange Commission has found that the agency consistently mishandled its investigations of Bernard Madoff's business, despite ample warnings of the multibillion-dollar fraud.

But SEC inspector general David Kotz's report found no evidence of any improper ties between agency officials and Madoff.

Despite speculation that senior SEC officials may have tried to influence the probes, a summary of Kotz's report released Wednesday also found no evidence of that.

The SEC enforcement staff, conducting investigations of Madoff's business, 'almost immediately caught (him) in lies and misrepresentations, but failed to follow up on inconsistencies' and rejected whistleblowers' offers to provide additional evidence, the report said.

Pfizer fined $2.3B for criminal acts

WASHINGTON - Federal prosecutors hit Pfizer Inc. with a record-breaking $2.3 billion in fines Wednesday and called the world's largest drugmaker a repeating corporate cheat for illegal drug promotions that plied doctors with free golf, massages, and resort junkets.

Announcing the penalty as a warning to all drug manufacturers, Justice Department officials said the overall settlement is the largest ever paid by a drug company for alleged violations of federal drug rules, and the $1.2 billion criminal fine is the largest ever in any U.S. criminal case. The total includes $1 billion in civil penalties and a $100 million criminal forfeiture.

Authorities called Pfizer a repeat offender, noting it is the company's fourth such settlement of government charges in the last decade. The allegations surround the marketing of 13 different drugs.