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NATION: Residents return to flood-damaged homes in Miss.

Residents return to flood-damaged homes in Miss.

CUTOFF, Miss. -- Javier Campos returned to his neighborhood for the first time in nearly a month Monday to find the serene little enclave of fishing camps and homes a putrid, mud-caked mess after the historic flooding of the Mississippi River.

''It's too late for praying now,'' he said, stomping through the sludge.

Like Campos, many residents got their first glimpse Monday of what's left of Cutoff, an unincorporated community on the unprotected side of the river in Mississippi's Tunica County.

Authorities had already used machinery to remove dead deer and propane tanks from roads, but a thick layer of mud coated piles of debris and almost everything else in sight. Some of the houses, most built on stilts on the banks of Tunica Lake, had been flooded nearly to their attics. Only five out of 350 structures didn't flood.

Dempsey chosen to head Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama moved Monday to seal an overhaul of his national security team, selecting Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as the next Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman amid protracted battle in Afghanistan, U.S. involvement in the NATO-led effort against Libya's Moammar Gadhafi and a winding down of the war in Iraq.

Obama announced a new lineup of his top military leadership group in the Rose Garden of the White House just before venturing across the Potomac to pay tribute to the nation's war dead at Arlington National Cemetery. The Memorial Day announcements had been expected, although there was no immediate indication what the military leadership moves might imply for possible changes in military strategy.

Already, the president had turned, in late April, to CIA Director Leon Panetta to succeed Robert Gates as secretary of defense and chose to move Army Gen. David Petraeus from his command of the Afghanistan war effort to the United States to replace Panetta at the CIA.

Joplin victims to be offered existing homes

JOPLIN, Mo. -- Some of the people left homeless by the Joplin tornado could be placed in rental homes nearly an hour's drive away, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Monday it will consider bringing in trailers, as it did for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, if enough homes are not available.

FEMA's first option for housing the thousands of displaced is to find them existing rental housing within a 55-mile radius of Joplin, because there isn't much housing left in in the city of nearly 50,000 residents that was left badly damaged by the May 22 tornado, spokeswoman Susie Stonner told The Associated Press. Nearly a third of the city was damaged by the violent storm that killed more than 130 people. Twenty-nine people remained unaccounted for Monday.

Stonner said that despite the distance, putting people in permanent housing is preferable to trailers -- especially in an area prone to tornadoes and severe weather.

Wildfires destroy 12 homes in Texas Panhandle

AMARILLO, Texas -- Two wildfires have destroyed at least 12 homes on the outskirts of the Texas Panhandle city of Amarillo.

Texas Forest Service spokesman Marq Webb said the fires began burning early Sunday evening. He said low humidity, temperatures in the 100s and high winds created favorable conditions for fires.

He said firefighters are still battling wildfires across Texas on Monday. About 2.8 million acres have burned in the state since November.

The Forest Service reports that a fire on the southern edge of Amarillo destroyed five homes and damaged four others. The fire destroyed about 200 acres and is about 90 percent contained.

Endeavour gone forever from space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Endeavour and its crew of six left the International Space Station and headed home to close out NASA's next-to-last shuttle flight, pausing just long enough Monday to perform a victory lap and test equipment for a future interplanetary ship.

''Endeavour looks real nice out there,'' space station resident Ronald Garan Jr. called out.

The space station crew beamed down video of the departing shuttle, the last ever shot of Endeavour in orbit. It was a dark, solitary image against the blue, cloud-covered Earth and grew increasingly smaller.

NASA's youngest shuttle -- the baby of the fleet with just 25 space voyages -- is due back in Florida early Wednesday. Its next stop after that will be a museum in Los Angeles for what some consider to be an early retirement.