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NATION IN BRIEF: Top generals buck Obama on military gay ban

WASHINGTON — Bucking the Pentagon’s top leaders, the chiefs of the Army and Marines urged Congress on Friday not to allow openly gay people to serve in the military, at least not while troops are at war in Afghanistan.

The generals publicly rebutted their own bosses and the White House, arguing that it is too risky to change the policy now. That gave political ammunition to congressional Republicans trying to retain the ban known as ‘‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’’

President Barack Obama has promised to jettison a policy he says is discriminatory, and asked Congress to repeal the 17-year-old law this year. Chances of that were slim to begin with, and they sank lower after Friday’s blunt assessment that lifting the ban would tear the close bonds of the foxhole. Democrats have promised a vote this month.

4 relatives of Edwards donor visit grand jury

RALEIGH, N.C. — Relatives of a wealthy donor who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to former presidential candidate John Edwards were subpoenaed to appear Friday before a federal grand jury investigating his campaign finances.

Alexander Forger, the New York-based attorney for Rachel ‘‘Bunny’’ Mellon, told The Associated Press that Mellon’s son, two grandsons and one of the grandson’s wives were at the federal courthouse in Raleigh. Forger did not know whether they had actually testified. Mellon, who turned 100 in August, was not there.

Grand jurors have been looking into Edwards’ campaign finances for more than a year. The former Democratic senator ran for president in 2004 and 2008.

Shuttle flight delayed until Feb.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space shuttle Discovery’s final mission is off until February, three months late because of fuel tank cracks that are stumping engineers.

NASA’s top spaceflight managers announced the latest delay on Friday. They said they need more time to understand the cracking, which cropped up following a failed launch attempt in early November.

Discovery remains on the launch pad, holding a load of equipment for the International Space Station. The launch team plans to conduct a fueling test by month’s end — rigging the external tank with gauges and sensors, then loading it up — in hopes of cracking the elusive crack problem.

Experts watch injured whale

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Experts are keeping a close eye on a badly injured whale seen swimming in south Puget Sound.

They said the whale appears to be either a sei or a Bryde’s whale, two species rarely seen in the sound.

John Calambokidis of Olympia-based Cascadia Research said the large chunk of blubber and flesh missing from the top of the 40-foot whale’s back probably is from a strike from the propeller of a fast-moving twin-engine vessel. The whale also has a second back injury.

Prosecutors offer deals in NJ child rape case

TRENTON, N.J. — Prosecutors have offered plea deals that would drop sex charges against all but one of the six defendants accused of participating in the alleged gang-rape of a 7-year-old girl initiated by her 15-year-old stepsister as their case appears to be unraveling.

Authorities lack DNA evidence, and the older girl has given varying accounts of what happened eight months ago at a party where police say she pimped out the 7-year-old and watched as she was raped by as many as seven men and boys.

Even the father of the 15-year-old has defended the three oldest male suspects, saying they tried to help the younger girl get out of the apartment.

Murder trial in stabbing spree

FLINT, Mich. — A man suspected in a three-state stabbing spree has been ordered to stand trial for murder in Michigan.

District Court Judge John Conover ruled Friday there was enough evidence to try 34-year-old Elias Abuelazam for the July killing of Frank Kellybrew.

A state police scientist testified that Kellybrew’s DNA matched dried blood found on Abuelazam’s shoelaces, which were found in Abuelazam’s luggage as he tried to flee to Israel in August.

‘Star-Spangled Banner’ copy sells for $506K

NEW YORK — An 1814 first edition of ‘‘The Star-Spangled Banner’’ has sold for more than half a million dollars at a New York City auction.

Christie’s auction house says an anonymous telephone bidder placed the winning bid of $506,500 on Friday. The pre-sale estimate was $200,000 to $300,000.