World and Nation

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Questions on ex-housekeeper emerge for a candidate

In many ways, it had the makings of the kind of classic late-campaign political dust-up that happens so regularly in high-profile California campaigns: the celebrity lawyer, the illegal immigrant, a welter of conflicting allegations and conspiracy charges, a candidate willing to take a lie-detector test and the scene of reporters clustered in a swanky lawyer’s office overlooking the Hollywood Hills. News conferences were streamed live on, the scandal-chasing Hollywood website that has become a force in politics and celebrity in this town.

In this case, though, it is a potentially problematic episode for Meg Whitman, the Republican who has broken spending records trying to become the California governor and still has found herself tied in polls with her Democratic opponent, Jerry Brown, the state attorney general.

In a year in which immigration has become a hot and complicated issue, particularly in this state, Whitman found herself trying to explain how she had employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper for nine years. She said she fired the housekeeper, Nicandra Diaz-Santillan, when she learned of her status last year.

The development — which Whitman described as a smear by her opponents — came in the midst of a campaign in which she has struggled to be sufficiently tough on illegal immigration to appeal to conservative Republicans without alienating independents and Hispanics who are critical to any winning electoral calculation here. A poll in The Los Angeles Times last week found that she was struggling against Brown for support among Latino voters.

NASA gets new orders that bypass the moon

NASA, best known as the agency that put the first man on the moon, is about to end its moon program for the foreseeable future.

Under legislation passed by the House late Wednesday, the nation’s spaceflight program will take a new direction. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will turn to private companies to launch astronauts into space, while it starts work on a larger rocket for travel to more distant destinations — an asteroid, perhaps, and eventually Mars.

The new mandate “helps put the U.S. space program on a more sustainable trajectory,” Lori B. Garver, NASA’s deputy administrator, said Thursday during a telephone news conference. “We now have an important framework.”

The House, in a 304-118 vote on Wednesday, approved a Senate-written bill authorizing $58 billion for NASA over the next three years and setting priorities for the agency. The Senate passed the bill in August, and it now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.