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January 1, 2019

ASTEROID CHASE

NASA spacecraft enters orbit around asteroid, sets records

LAUREL, Md. (AP) — A NASA spacecraft has gone into orbit around an ancient asteroid, setting a pair of records.

The Osiris-Rex spacecraft entered orbit Monday around the asteroid Bennu, 70 million miles (110 million kilometers) from Earth. It’s the smallest celestial body ever to be orbited by a spacecraft. Bennu is just 1,600 feet (500 meters) across.

The spacecraft’s laps are barely a mile (1.6 kilometers) above the asteroid’s surface, another record.

Osiris-Rex arrived at Bennu in early December and flew in formation with it until the latest maneuver. The goal is to grab gravel samples in 2020 for return to Earth in 2023.

The New Year’s Eve milestone occurred just hours before another NASA explorer, New Horizons, was set to fly past an icy space rock beyond Pluto.

SMOKE SHOP-TRUMP SUPPORTER

Smoke shop: Worker fired after anti-Trump rant at customer

TUCKER, Ga. (AP) — A store that sells smoking and vaping material in Georgia says it fired an employee after he yelled profanity at a customer wearing a T-shirt and hat supporting President Donald Trump.

The customer, Ian Fergeson, says he went to Xhale City in the Atlanta suburb of Tucker to try to buy vape juice. WAGA-TV reports that Ferguson recorded a video showing the unnamed store worker refusing to wait on him and using several expletives. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the video showed the worker calling Trump and the customer “racist.”

In a statement on Facebook and Twitter, the shop says it does not tolerate such behavior by employees and that it fired the worker immediately after the confrontation.

SHUTDOWN-NATIONA PARKS

National parks hurt by government shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — Where is Smokey the Bear when you need him?

The Trump administration’s decision to leave national parks open despite the government shutdown has created a mess, in more ways than one.

Garbage is overflowing. A resident near Yosemite National Park says “a free-for-all” is under way with illegal off-roading and other behavior. There is scattered trash and human waste. Campers at Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California’s deserts were reporting squabbles as different families laid claims to sites, with no rangers on hand to adjudicate.

The 10th day of the partial federal government shutdown, which has forced furloughs of hundreds of thousands of federal government employees, has left many parks without most of the rangers and others who staff campgrounds and otherwise keep parks running.

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