SpaceX launched a commercial communications satellite overnight after strong winds delayed a previous attempt.

Shortly after 2 a.m. EDT Thursday, SpaceX tweeted that the main engine cutoff and stage separation had been confirmed. The second stage engine burn was underway.

About 2:35 a.m. EDT, SpaceX tweeted that it had confirmed successful deployment of the EchoStar 23 satellite to a geosynchronous transfer orbit.

The launch took place at 2 a.m. EDT from Pad 39A at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX said Tuesday that the weather for the launch attempt was 90 percent favorable. This was the Hawthorne company’s third launch of the year.

Unlike past launches, SpaceX did not try to land its first-stage booster. A combination of the satellite’s heavy weight and the high orbit it needs to reach didn’t leave enough fuel in the booster’s tanks to bring it back. Instead, the first stage burned up in the atmosphere after separating from the second stage.

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk has said future heavy payloads will fly on either the Falcon Heavy rocket, which is set to make its first flight this summer, or an upgraded version of the Falcon 9 rocket.

The upgraded Falcon 9 is expected to fly at the end of the year.

—Los Angeles Times


Former ‘Power Rangers’ actor pleads guilty to killing roommate with sword

LOS ANGELES — A former actor who once played one of the Power Rangers in the children’s superhero television series has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for stabbing his roommate to death with a sword, prosecutors said.

Ricardo Medina, 38, entered the plea Thursday in Antelope Valley court, admitting that he killed Josh Sutter after the two had a dispute at a Green Valley home in January 2015, according to a statement by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

He faces up to six years in state prison when he is sentenced later this month, prosecutors said.

Medina was charged with murder in January 2016, one year after the fatal clash. Investigators said Medina and Sutter had argued over the way Medina’s girlfriend had parked her car minutes before the stabbing.

As the argument continued, investigators said, Sutter forced his way into Medina’s room. Medina grabbed a sword he kept by the door and stabbed Sutter multiple times before calling 911, police said.

Medina initially claimed that he acted in self-defense. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, when asked by a reporter in 2016 why it waited a year to charge Medina, did not offer an explanation.

Aside from one-off appearances on “CSI: Miami” and “ER,” Medina was mostly known for portraying the Red Lion Wild Force Ranger in the children’s show “Power Rangers Wild Force” from 2002 to 2003. He also played the villainous character “Deker” in “Power Rangers Samurai” in 2011 and 2012, according to his IMDb profile.

—Los Angeles Times


Venezuela has a bread shortage. The government has decided bakers are the problem

BOGOTA, Colombia — Facing a bread shortage that is spawning massive lines and souring the national mood, the Venezuelan government is responding this week by detaining bakers and seizing establishments.

In a press release, the National Superintendent for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights said it had charged four people and temporarily seized two bakeries as the socialist administration accused bakers of being part of a broad “economic war” aimed at destabilizing the country.

In a statement, the government said the bakers had been selling underweight bread and were using price-regulated flour to illegally make specialty items, like sweet rolls and croissants.

The government said bakeries are only allowed to produce French bread and white loaves, or pan canilla, with government-imported flour. However, in a tweet on Thursday, price control czar William Contreras said only 90 percent of baked goods had to be price-controlled products.

Two bakeries were also seized for 90 days for breaking a number of rules, including selling overpriced bread.

Juan Crespo, the president of the Industrial Flour Union called Sintra-Harina, which represents 9,000 bakeries nationwide, said the government’s heavy hand isn’t going to solve the problem.

“The government isn’t importing enough wheat,” he said. “If you don’t have wheat, you don’t have flour, and if you don’t have flour, you don’t have bread.”

He said the country needs four 30-ton boats of wheat every month to cover basic demand.

—Miami Herald


Tillerson, in Asia, calls for ‘different approach’ to confront North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his first trip to Asia made a firm if vague vow Thursday to find ways to stop North Korea’s steady march to the use of nuclear weapons.

Tillerson took questions from reporters for the first time publicly since he assumed office as the Trump administration’s top diplomat more than six weeks ago, amid many reports that he and his State Department have been marginalized by a White House that wants to control — and limit — foreign policy.

Tillerson said the United States had to adopt a “different approach” in confronting North Korea because the last two decades of policy have failed.

“Efforts over the past 20 years to bring North Korea to a point of denuclearization have failed; we’ve had 20 years of failed approaches,” Tillerson said in Tokyo, the first stop on his six-day, three-nation Asian tour.

“In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it’s clear that a different approach is required,” Tillerson said alongside his diplomatic counterpart, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, and ahead of a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Tillerson did not offer details about what a new approach might entail. His aides have said no options, including a possible preemptive military strike against North Korean nuclear facilities, are off the table. Military action, however, would endanger South Korea and anger China, the two next stops on Tillerson’s trip.

The United States has hoped to enlist more support from China, North Korea’s main economic ally, in reining in Pyongyang’s launch of ballistic missiles and nuclear tests. But President Donald Trump’s often belligerent rhetoric toward China, including his threat of trade sanctions, has complicated that task.

Tillerson, former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, said a purpose of his trip was to “share ideas” about how to deal with Pyongyang’s advancing nuclear and missile capabilities, what he called a “dangerous and unlawful” advancement.

He noted that U.S. aid of $1.3 billion to North Korea in recent years was met only with more such “provocative” activity.

—Tribune Washington Bureau

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