National Briefs: Missile defense passes key test

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. missile defense system managed by Boeing Co on Sunday hit a simulated enemy missile over the Pacific in the first successful intercept test of the program since 2008, the U.S. Defense Department said.

The successful intercept will help validate the troubled Boeing-run Ground-based Midcourse Defense system that provides the sole U.S. defense against long-range ballistic missiles, and the Raytheon Co kill vehicle that separates from the rocket and hits an incoming warhead.

Reuters reported Friday that the Pentagon is restructuring its $3.48 billion contract with Boeing for management of the missile defense system to put more emphasis on maintenance and reliability.

Vice Adm. James Syring, Missile Defense Agency director, said that another test failure would have forced the Pentagon to reassess its plans to add 14 more interceptors to the 30 already in silos in the ground in Alaska and California.

Transgender priest preaches

WASHINGTON -- An Episcopal chaplain on Sunday became the first openly transgender priest to preach at the historic National Cathedral in Washington D.C.

The Rev. Cameron Partridge, one of seven openly transgender clergy in the Episcopal Church, spoke from the Canterbury Pulpit in honor of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community's Pride Month, the Cathedral said.

The Episcopal Church, an independent U.S.-based institution affiliated with global Anglicanism, voted in 2012 to allow the ordination of transgender people and also approved same-sex marriage blessings.

Affirmative action backed

WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in a rare television interview on ABC's "This Week" to promote the paperback edition of her book, "My Beloved World," rejected Sunday the notion that alternatives to affirmative action such as income or residency could achieve similar results in diversifying the nation's colleges and universities.

Justice Sotomayor strongly backs affirmative action and wrote the dissent in April in a 6-2 decision that upheld a state's right to outlaw the use of race in determining admissions.

Firefighters see progress

NEW YORK -- Firefighters on Sunday reported good progress working to contain a wildfire that has torn through pine woodlands and brush on a Navajo reservation in northwestern New Mexico.

The wind-driven Assayii Lake fire was 60 percent contained by Sunday morning, fire officials said.

There were several road and highway closures around the 9-day-old blaze, and ranchers moving cattle and livestock out of the area were being told obtain approval from Navajo Nation officials.

Margaret Mitchell letters

PHILADELPHIA -- After the release of her Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War novel, "Gone With the Wind," author Margaret Mitchell exchanged letters with a fan in Montgomery County, Pa., providing a unique glimpse of the book's creation and characters.

In the correspondence, Mitchell wrote the recipient, Mrs. Harold Jennings, that she "had every detail" of the epic novel in her head before setting "a single word on paper."

The items are set to be sold by RR Auction in Boston during an online auction scheduled to end Thursday.

-- Compiled from news services



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