Virgin Galactic finishes space flight test
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Virgin Galactic completed what's expected to be its final test flight Thursday before taking paying customers on brief trips to space, marking what the space tourism company described as a "fantastic achievement."
Six of the company's employees, including two pilots, landed at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico after the short up-and-down flight that included a few minutes of weightlessness. It took about an hour for the mother ship to carry the spaceplane to an altitude of 44,500 feet (13,563 meters), where it was released and fired its rocket motor to make the final push.
"Successful boost, WE HAVE REACHED SPACE!" Virgin Galactic tweeted.
It reached an altitude of 54.2 miles before gliding back down to the runway, according to the company.
Texan held in death of parents, siblings
NASH, Texas -- Authorities in east Texas have jailed an 18-year-old man on capital murder charges in the shootings of his parents, sister and brother.
Police in the small town of Nash say officers responding to a report that a man had harmed his family and was threatening to kill himself on Tuesday found Cesar Olalde barricaded inside a home. They were told that multiple people were dead inside.
Olalde later called police, saying "he had pulled the trigger, and shot his family," according to a probable cause affidavit by Nash police officer Craig Buster.
The officers persuaded Olalde to surrender and then found the bodies of his parents, Reuben Olalde and Aida Garcia, older sister Lisbet Olalde and younger brother Oliver Olalde in a bathroom.
"It appeared as if the victims had been shot at various places in the residence and drug to the bathroom," according to the affidavit. "Multiple spent cartridge casings" were found on the floor of the home, and there was "blood spatter on multiple surfaces," it said.
The affidavit said a co-worker of Lisbet Olalde had gone to the home because the woman had failed to arrive at work and, with a family member, forced his way inside where he was confronted by Cesar Olalde, who pointed a firearm at him.
The co-worker told police that Olalde said "he had killed his family because they were cannibals, and they were going to eat him," the affidavit states.
Bowie County court records show Olalde was ordered held in lieu of $10 million bond. His listed defense attorney did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.
Nash is a town of about 3,800 on the western edge of Texarkana near the Arkansas state line.
Tennessee sued over gender care denial
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee's decision to exclude gender-affirming care for its employees is unconstitutional and discriminatory, according to a federal lawsuit brought by two people who were denied such services while working for the state.
Attorneys representing Gerda Zinner, 30, and Story VanNess, 38, say the two were denied even though their medical teams deemed the services medically necessary. Zinner still works for the state as an academic adviser but VanNess has since left her position as a special education teacher after unsuccessfully appealing her case.
"Tennessee's public employee health benefits program has unlawfully deprived plaintiffs of coverage for essential medical services because of the plaintiffs' sex and because they are transgender," stated the 50-page complaint filed Tuesday.
Zinner "feels that her life is on hold" because she now must live with "unmet healthcare needs," her lawyers wrote. Meanwhile, VanNess' attorneys said she spent all her savings to pay for her treatments.
A program now in place in Tennessee -- serving nearly 290,000 teachers, state and local employees, lawmakers and their dependents -- provides counseling and psychological treatment for gender dysphoria but does not cover treatment "for, or related to, sex transformations."
Bannon to stand trial in wall-fund fraud
NEW YORK -- Steve Bannon, the conservative strategist and longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, will stand trial next May on charges that he duped donors who gave money to build a wall along the U.S. southern border, a judge said Thursday.
Judge Juan Manuel Merchan set Bannon's trial in the "We Build the Wall" case for May 28, 2024, amending his calendar after realizing that the date he announced in court -- May 27 -- is next year's Memorial Day holiday, when courts will be closed.
If the schedule holds, Bannon will stand trial soon after Trump is scheduled to do so in the same Manhattan courtroom in an unrelated criminal case.
Bannon, 69, pleaded innocent last September following his indictment on state money laundering, conspiracy, fraud and other charges. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg took up the case after Bannon's federal prosecution was cut short by a Trump pardon. Presidential pardons apply only to federal crimes, not state offenses.
Bannon is accused of falsely promising donors that all money given to the We Build the Wall campaign would go toward building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Instead, prosecutors allege that the money was used to enrich Bannon and others involved in the project.