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AROUND THE NATION

With lab in place, astronauts prepare for today's return

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- Space shuttle Atlantis' astronauts packed Saturday to return home today following their successful delivery and installation of a billion-dollar laboratory to the international space station.

After dropping off the lab, the shuttle astronauts picked up hundreds of pounds of trash and unused equipment from the space station to bring back to Earth. They were pleased with the trade -- and thrilled with how well everything went.

"I guess there's been some anticipation, and fear along with it, too, to do a good job and to get everything done," said commander Kenneth Cockrell.

NASA expected the weather to cooperate for the shuttle landing this afternoon at the Kennedy Space Center, as long as a cold front passes through the area in time. There was a slight chance that wind gusts could shift and pose crosswind concerns, said Flight Director Leroy Cain.

After 1 1/2 weeks of nonstop work and worry, Cockrell and his crew enjoyed a quiet Saturday in orbit, one day after leaving space station Alpha.

Woman in sinking car dies before rescue units arrive

MIAMI (AP) -- A woman spoke with a 911 operator for nearly 3 1/2 minutes Friday as her car sank into a canal off Florida's Turnpike. She died before rescue workers could find her.

Tire marks indicated that the car skidded onto the shoulder, turned back onto the road, then spun counterclockwise into the canal, which runs parallel to Interstate 75, said Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Pat Santangelo.

Karla Gutierrez, 32, of Miramar, near Fort Lauderdale, dialed 911 from her car at 5:09 a.m. and spoke with an emergency operator until the line went dead. "My car's sinking," she told the emergency worker.

Several rescue units were dispatched at 5:16. Divers found the car with the driver's-side rear window fully open and the passenger's-side rear window partially open.

No one saw the accident, and there was no indication that another car was involved, Santangelo said.

University of California may drop SAT requirement

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- The president of the University of California has recommended dropping the main SAT as an admission requirement at its eight campuses, saying the test is an unfair measurement of students' abilities.

The development could affect the way high school students in California and across the nation prepare for college. The University of California system is one of the nation's largest, with 170,000 students.

Richard C. Atkinson was to announce his recommendation today in a speech to the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C.

"Anyone involved in education should be concerned about how overemphasis on the SAT is distorting educational priorities and practices," Atkinson says in a draft copy of the speech.

Atkinson has asked UC's Academic Senate to consider dropping the SAT I -- which includes a verbal and math test -- and to take a more comprehensive look at applicants. The university would continue to use the SAT II, a three-part test more closely tied to subjects studied in high school.

Vermont teen jailed after bombs are found in home

MILTON, Vt. (AP) -- A 17-year-old Milton boy was in jail Saturday after police found several pipe bombs in his room.

Bradley C. Bell was taken from class at Milton High School at midmorning Friday and questioned by police after they received a tip during an investigation of two bomb threats to the school Wednesday and Thursday.

He was later charged with possession of destructive devices -- a felony that carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years. He has not been linked to the bomb threats.

Bradley's friends told police he had bragged about building several pipe bombs and had even drawn a map, which the students thought showed the junior-senior school building, showing where the bombs might be most effective.

Bradley denied that the bombs were planned for the high school. He told police that he had tried unsuccessfully to set one off in the woods two weeks ago.

Eighth-grader is accused of compiling 'hit list'

MIDDLESEX, N.J. (AP) -- An eighth-grade pupil who allegedly compiled a "hit list" of people she wanted to kill has been charged with 10 counts of making terrorist threats.

The 13-year-old girl allegedly compiled a "People2kill" list with the names and photos of fellow classmates.

At a hearing Friday, a judge released the girl into her parents' custody and ordered her to remain under house arrest. She must undergo mental health evaluations before her next court appearance, Feb. 28.

If convicted on any of the charges, she faces a two-year term in a juvenile detention facility.

A school librarian found a copy of the list and notified school officials. They spoke to pupils and determined she had created the list.

No weapons were found in the girl's locker or book bag. The girl had no prior disciplinary record.

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