Printed on: November 19, 2013

National news briefly


NASA launches explorer to Mars

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- NASA's newest robotic explorer, Maven, rocketed toward Mars on Monday on a quest to unravel the ancient mystery of the red planet's radical climate change.

The Maven spacecraft is due at Mars next fall following a journey of more than 440 million miles.

Scientists want to know why Mars went from being warm and wet during its first billion years to cold and dry today. The early Martian atmosphere was thick enough to hold water and possibly support microbial life. But much of that atmosphere may have been lost to space, eroded by the sun.

Experts defend new heart attack advice

DALLAS (AP) -- Heart experts who wrote new guidelines for preventing heart attacks and strokes are defending a formula that some doctors say overestimates risk for certain groups.

Doctors who drafted the new advice for the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology say that any flaws in the formula are small and should not delay the implementation of the guidelines, which expand how many people should consider taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs like Lipitor and Zocor or their generic forms.

The guidelines, announced last week, are a sea change in heart care. Instead of having people aim for a specific cholesterol number as has been done for decades, the new advice relies on a formula using factors such as age and high blood pressure to estimate a patient's risk.

Pa. pastor convicted over gay wedding

SPRING CITY, Pa. (AP) -- A United Methodist pastor was convicted Monday of breaking church law by officiating his son's same-sex wedding and could be defrocked

after a high-profile trial that has rekindled debate over the denomination's policy on gay marriage.

The

Methodist church put the Rev. Frank Schaefer on trial in southeastern Pennsylvania, accusing him of breaking his pastoral vows by presiding over the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts.

The 13-member jury convicted Schaefer on two charges: That he officiated a gay wedding, and that he showed "disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church."

The jury will reconvene this morning for the penalty phase, where Schaefer faces punishment ranging from a reprimand to losing his ministerial credentials.

Report: Zimmerman threatened girlfriend

APOPKA, Fla. (AP) -- George Zimmerman was charged with assault Monday after his girlfriend called deputies to the home where they

were living and claimed he pointed a shotgun at her during an argument, authorities said.

The

girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, called 911 in the afternoon, saying Zimmerman had smashed a glass table, threatened her with the shotgun and ultimately pushed her out of the house, according to an arrest report. After pushing her out, he barricaded the door with furniture and refused to leave, saying he would talk to police by phone, police said.

The arrest was the latest legal problem for Zimmerman since he was acquitted in July of criminal charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen.