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NATION IN BRIEF: Space shuttle Atlantis soars on final voyage

Photo by John Raoux

Photo by John Raoux

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Space shuttle Atlantis thundered away on its final voyage to orbit Friday, hoisting an experienced crew of six and a full shipment of space station gear.

Atlantis sped through a perfectly clear afternoon sky, blazing a trail over the Atlantic before huge crowds eager to catch one of the few remaining shuttle launches. More than 40,000 guests -- the biggest launch-day crowd in years -- packed the Kennedy Space Center.

The shuttle's destination is the International Space Station, which was soaring over the South Pacific at the time of liftoff. The shuttle should catch up with the orbiting complex and its six residents Sunday morning.

Explosion at NH gun factory kills two, injures one

COLEBROOK, N.H. -- The New Hampshire Fire Marshal said two people were killed and another received minor injuries in an explosion at a gun and ammunition plant in the far northern town of Colebrook, near the Canadian border.

Multiple explosions at the MDM Muzzleloader building Friday afternoon shook buildings blocks away and forced the evacuation of dozens of homes. Fire Marshal Bill Degnan said the three were the only people in the building at the time.

A spokeswoman for the town says thick, black smoke filled the sky soon after 1 p.m., with a series of explosions that could be heard up to a mile and a half away.

She said about 40 nearby homes have been evacuated so officials can analyze debris that shot out of the building. Displaced residents were offered shelter at a nearby hotel.

Mother of slain boy may face murder charge

FARMINGTON, Utah -- Prosecutors in Utah said Friday they may file murder charges against the mother of a 4-year-old boy whose body was found in a canyon earlier this week.

Searchers dug up Ethan Stacy's badly beaten and disfigured body Tuesday, about 10 days after he arrived in Utah for a summer visit with his mother, Stephanie Sloop, 27.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said Sloop and her husband, Nathanael Sloop, 31, will likely be charged with aggravated murder in the boy's death. Before Friday, the possibility of murder charges had only been discussed for Nathanael Sloop.

''We're looking at aggravated murder -- both defendants are suspects at this point,'' Rawlings said.

NJ indicts 34 reputed mobsters

TRENTON, N.J. -- Thirty-four alleged members and associates of the New York-based Lucchese crime family -- including two high-ranking leaders -- have been indicted in New Jersey.

The indictment announced Friday by New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow includes first-degree charges of racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering

Authorities said the indictments stem from an investigation into an illegal gambling operation that handled billions of dollars in wagers, primarily on sporting events, and relied on extortion and violence to collect debts.

Among those named in the indictment are Joseph DiNapoli of Scarsdale, N.Y., and Matthew Madonna of Seldon, N.Y. -- both 74 and alleged members of the Lucchese crime family's three-man ruling panel.

Calif. looking into high school stripping incident

PARAMOUNT, Calif. -- The assistant principal at a California high school has been placed on leave after a campus talent show where male students pranced seductively in underwear and Speedos.

The Paramount Unified School District began an investigation after video of the student performances showed up on YouTube and local television news reports. One performer, Christian Dominguez, said he simply wanted to ''pump up'' the class at Paramount High School.

Superintendent David Verdugo said the performance was inappropriate and the assistant principal who was present has been placed on administrative leave while the district investigates who arranged and managed the acts.

20K pieces of mail end up in Pa. carrier's garage

PHILADELPHIA -- The United States Postal Service has recovered approximately 20,000 pieces of mail -- some of them more than a decade old -- from a Philadelphia postal carrier's garage.

Special Agent Scott Balfour said it took three mail trucks to remove the letters. The carrier worked in the city's Bustleton neighborhood.

Balfour said some of the mail dates back to 1997.