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Mini Mercury skips across sun's vast glare in rare transit

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Mini Mercury skipped across the vast, glaring face of the sun Monday in a rare celestial transit.

Stargazers used solar-filtered binoculars and telescopes to spot Mercury — a tiny black dot — as it passed directly between Earth and the sun on Monday.

The eastern U.S. and Canada got the whole 5½-hour show, weather permitting, along with Central and South America. The rest of the world, except for Asia and Australia, got just a sampling.

Mercury is the solar system’s smallest, innermost planet. The next transit isn’t until 2032, and North America won’t get another shot until 2049.

In Maryland, clouds prevented NASA solar astrophysicist Alex Young from getting a clear peek. Live coverage was provided by observatories including NASA’s orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory.

“It’s a bummer, but the whole event was still great,” Young wrote in an email. “Both getting to see it from space and sharing it with people all over the country and world.”

At Cape Canaveral, space buffs got a two-for-one. As Mercury’s silhouette graced the morning sun, SpaceX launched 60 small satellites for global internet service, part of the company’s growing Starlink constellation in orbit.

Mannford remembers police chief killed in Florida; fellow Mannford officer jailed on homicide complaint

A small-town Oklahoma police officer is accused of killing his chief in what authorities described as an alcohol-fueled brawl in a Florida Panhandle hotel room.

Local leaders described the death of Mannford’s police chief and the arrest of one of his own officers in the slaying as particularly confounding because the two were more than professional colleagues.

“Lucky was a great man, but I’ll be honest, so was Officer Nealey. Those two were the best of friends. Where one was, the other one was. They were always together,” said Mannford Mayor Tyler Buttram.

Michael Nealey, a Mannford detective, was booked into a Florida jail Monday morning on a homicide complaint about 10 hours after Escambia County, Florida, deputies found his police chief, Lucky Miller, 44, dead at the Hilton Pensacola Beach hotel.

The two men were there for a law enforcement conference that was to run Monday to Wednesday at the hotel, said Escambia County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Amber Southard.

She told the Tulsa World that Miller likely died from injuries he suffered in a physical altercation with Nealey, but she said the investigation into Miller’s death is ongoing.

At some point early Sunday evening, hotel security was called because the two men were being disruptive, Southard said. Later that evening, hotel staff called the Sheriff’s Office because the men were fighting.

“An actual physical altercation,” she said.

When deputies arrived, they found Miller dead, she said, and there was no weapon. She added that alcohol was involved and that an autopsy was underway.

Mannford officials were at work Monday despite the Veterans Day holiday, trying to deal with the loss of not one but two of only eight police officers in the town, located 23 miles west of Tulsa in northern Creek County.

“We ask that everybody pray for both families because two families have been devastated by this horrible tragedy. They do not understand what’s going on. None of this makes sense,” Buttram said. “Not one single person can fathom the thought of any of this. It’s so confusing.”

Town Administrator Gerald Haury named Jerry Ridley, a longtime police officer, as interim police chief.

Ridley choked on his words as he recalled Miller as a devoted family man and a natural-born leader who could never give up day-to-day police work despite the administrative demands of being chief.

“He just liked getting his hands dirty. That’s what made him happy,” Ridley said. “He hated being stuck in his office.

“He was notorious for making traffic stops and not calling it in. He would use a code called 10-15, which means you’ve arrested someone, and you didn’t even know he was out on a stop. I’ve got on him more than once — here you are getting on the chief of police — but the world we live in today, it’s a dangerous world. He just laughed at me and told me, ‘Oh, you’re just getting old.’ ”

Ridley, who described himself as “older than dirt,” worked for Miller since Miller was hired as Mannford’s police chief in 2007.

“I’ve had two chiefs in my career that was really outstanding chiefs of police, and he was one of the two,” he said. “He had an open-door policy. If you were having a problem, you could go in and talk to him, and he’d try to help fix it. And he was a leader that led by example and not by telling you what to do.”

According to Buttram, Miller came to Mannford from his hometown of Stroud, where he had worked many years previously. He credited Miller for having a knack for sniffing out illicit drugs, drug paraphernalia and abusive situations, and had a willingness to confront difficult problems in the Mannford community that had lingered before he joined the department.

“Lucky was an absolute amazing man and an absolute incredible chief,” Buttram said. “The guy had a nose for drugs like no one we’ve ever seen. He sat on a tri-county task force, which was a special thing. I know it was dangerous — he messed with a lot of bad people.”

Ridley said Miller and Nealey were in Florida for special training in distinguishing between homicides, suicides and natural deaths in death scene investigations.

“Mike Nealey was our detective. Lucky was a hands-on guy, so he always wanted to be there to learn things like that,” Ridley said.

He said he will always remember Miller for his desire to help others and especially for his devotion to his wife, Amber Miller, and their three children.

“He loved to have fun, and he loved fixing things. I was having trouble with the deck on my riding lawnmower. If you mentioned something like that to him, he’d say, ‘Let’s go look at it,’ ” Ridley said.

“I can’t understand it. Lucky was a friend, a mentor, a leader, a police officer and a family man. He loved his family to death. He liked to go take his kids and go ride dirt bikes. He had two boys and a girl. She could ride a dirt bike better than all of the others.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Voters to decide Improve Our Tulsa election today

Tulsans have a choice Tuesday — continue to invest in the city, or let it slide back to those not-so-distant days when the streets were in even worse condition than they are today.

The days when funding for basic infrastructure like fire trucks, police cars and snow plows just wasn’t at the level it should be. And parks, long neglected, were happy to get what they got.

Such was the pitch from city leaders in advance of Tuesday’s vote on the $639 million Improve Our Tulsa renewal package.

Now the public gets to decide. Polls will be open citywide from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Improve Our Tulsa renewal includes $427 million for streets and transportation projects, $193 million for capital projects and $19 million for the city’s Rainy Day Fund.

The program would run from early next year and to the end of 2025. About two-thirds of the funding would come from bond sales, financed with property taxes, and the other third from sales tax.

Voters will receive two ballots with a total of three propositions. Propositions 1 and 2, related to capital projects and the Rainy Day Fund, respectively, will be on one ballot. The streets and transportation proposition will be on a separate ballot.

The proposal does not call for an increase in the city’s overall tax rate. If one or more propositions fail, the tax rate would decrease accordingly.

The Rainy Day Fund proposition would be funded through a permanent 0.05% sales tax.

Tulsans have approved more than $1 billion in spending on city streets since the $452 Fix Our Streets package was approved overwhelmingly in 2008. A majority of the original $917.8 million Improve Our Tulsa package passed in 2013 also went to maintain, rehabilitate and reconstruct streets.

The IOT renewal package allocates more than $300 million to repair and maintain city streets and bridges. It also would provide $50 million for snow plows, police vehicles and other heavy equipment.

Other major recipients of funding would include the park system ($30 million), Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority ($18 million), Tulsa Zoo ($6 million), Greenwood Cultural Center ($5.34 million), and bicycle-pedestrian infrastructure ($5 million).

Improve Our Tulsa overview: The details on what is on Tuesday's ballot