cape Canaveral
Christmas arrives at the space station

The six space-station astronauts finally got their Christmas presents Sunday with the arrival of a privately launched supply ship that took an extra month to soar.

The spacemen opened the capsule a day early and started removing items as soon as the Orbital Sciences Corp. vessel was moored safely at the international space station. Packed inside were 3,000 pounds of groceries, equipment and experiments, as well as eagerly awaited Christmas gifts from the astronauts’ families and some fresh fruit courtesy of NASA.

Among the first things out: ants that are part of an educational project.

NASA is relying on private industry to keep the orbiting lab well stocked in this post-shuttle era and, in three or four more years, possibly provide rides for U.S. astronauts as well. This was Orbital Sciences’ second shipment.

The Virginia company was supposed to make the latest delivery last month, well before Christmas, but had to wait for reasons beyond its control. A space station breakdown in mid-December took priority, and NASA bumped the flight to January to repair the disabled cooling system at the orbiting outpost.

— Associated Press

’50s desegregation fight may finally end

An agreement awaiting a federal judge’s final approval soon could end one of the nation’s most historic desegregation efforts following decades of court battles and $1 billion of special aid to Little Rock-area schools.

Lawyers and patrons this week will pick apart details of a proposed settlement among three school districts, state lawyers and others involved in the case to determine whether it is fair. Unless U.S. District Judge Price Marshall finds fault with the deal, for the first time in more than a quarter century the state no longer will be required to make extra payments to help fund the racial integration of the schools.

In November, Marshall gave tentative approval to a plan that would end the state’s payments within four years. However, he will hear formal arguments Monday and Tuesday on whether to officially end the dispute that has roots in the Central High School desegregation fight 56 years ago.

— Associated Press

One killed, two injured in balcony collapse: A fourth-floor balcony collapsed during a birthday party at a Philadelphia apartment, killing a young man and injuring two women, police said Sunday. The man, 22, who suffered severe head and neck injuries in the fall late Saturday, was pronounced dead at a hospital early Sunday. The two women, in their 20s, suffered broken bones in their backs. They were listed in stable condition at two city hospitals. The collapse occurred at the historic John C. Bell building, which was converted into apartments decades ago. Built in 1906, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is named for a former Pennsylvania attorney general who lived there.

Lawmaker accused of sex harassment resigns: A Buffalo-area assemblyman accused of sexually harassing female staff members announced Sunday that he will retire while continuing to defend himself in court against allegations he calls false. Dennis Gabryszak was accused by seven former and current employees of making unwanted advances and other abusive behavior. It’s the latest in a string of legislative sex-harassment cases and corruption scandals in Albany in recent years. The 62-year-old Democrat announced his retirement Sunday without giving an effective date. He said his decision was based on the effects the scandal has had on his family and the Assembly’s work.

— From news services