NATION IN BRIEF: BP brings in the big box to deal with oil disaster

The Associated Press. A 100-ton concrete and steel containment dome sits on the back of a transport ship near the center of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill Thursday.

The Associated Press. A 100-ton concrete and steel containment dome sits on the back of a transport ship near the center of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill Thursday.

ON THE GULF OF MEXICO -- Workers gathered to begin lowering a giant concrete-and-steel box over the blown-out oil well at the bottom of the sea Thursday in a risky and untested bid to capture most of the gushing crude and avert a wider environmental disaster.

''We haven't done this before. It's very complex and we can't guarantee it,'' BP spokesman David Nicholas warned.

The 100-ton containment vessel is designed to collect as much as 85 percent of the oil spewing into the Gulf and funnel it up to a tanker. It could take several hours to lower it into place by crane, after which a steel pipe will be installed between the top of the box and the tanker. The whole structure could be operating by Sunday.

The technology has been used a few times in shallow waters, but never at such extreme depths -- 5,000 feet down, where the water pressure is enough to crush a submarine.

NASA working on Voyager 2 data problem

LOS ANGELES -- Engineers are working to solve a problem with science data transmissions from the Voyager 2 spacecraft near the edge of the solar system, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory said Thursday.

The spacecraft late last month began sending science data 8.6 billion miles to Earth in a changed format that mission managers could not decode.

Engineers have since instructed Voyager 2 to only transmit data on its own health and status while they work on the problem.

Launched in 1977, Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1, explored the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune and kept on going. Nearly 33 years later, they are the most distant human-made objects.

Ex-NFL star Lawrence Taylor charged with rape

SUFFERN, N.Y. -- Pro Football Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor was charged Thursday with raping a 16-year-old runaway in an encounter that police said was arranged by a man who beat her up before driving her to Taylor's suburban hotel room while she texted her uncle for help.

Taylor, the 51-year-old former New York Giant who has faced drug and tax evasion charges in the past, paid the girl $300 for sex in a Holiday Inn, where he was arrested early Thursday, said Christopher St. Lawrence, supervisor of the town of Ramapo.

Ramapo Chief of Police Peter Brower said Taylor was cooperative when police woke him up around 4 a.m. Taylor was arraigned Thursday on charges of third-degree rape and patronizing a prostitute.

Retirees among dead in wake of Tenn. floods

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- One couple was swept away by floodwaters while driving to dinner, part of the routine they cherished in retirement. Another retired couple died on the way to church, while a third pair were found in their inundated home. After decades of marriage, the three husbands and three wives died within hours of each other as weekend storms flooded Tennesee and killed 30 in three states.

In Tennessee alone, 20 have died, with the most recent death reported on Thursday. Hardest hit was the Nashville area, home to about 1 million people, where record rains flooded hundreds of homes and forced thousands to evacuate. Many are heading back to work, and power has been restored to most areas as the floodwaters recede.

Bus passenger surrenders after NH bomb scare

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- A passenger on a Maine-to-New York Greyhound bus has surrendered to authorities after a nine-hour standoff sparked by a bomb scare in Portsmouth, N.H.

The man walked off the bus with his hands up and got to his knees Thursday night. He then walked away from the bus, apparently following orders from police.

The 16 other passengers and driver on the bus had been removed hours earlier.

Pakistani Taliban: NY bomb attempt a 'brave' act

NEW YORK -- The Pakistani Taliban on Thursday denied any role in the botched car bombing in Times Square but praised the suspect for a ''brave job,'' as New York authorities pressed him on his claims of terrorist training.

U.S. law enforcement officials traveled to Pakistan to question four alleged members of another militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammad, about possible connections to Faisal Shahzad, who is charged with terrorism and weapons offenses in the failed bombing that shut down Times Square and unnerved tourists and theatergoers on a busy Saturday night.