NASA may try again today

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - With fuel gauges still a possible threat, NASA aimed for a launch today of space shuttle Atlantis after senior managers signed off on a plan to tighten flight rules and shoot for a slim one-minute window.

Managers believe the extra precautions will keep Atlantis and its crew of seven as safe as possible if the shuttle does lift off, carrying a European lab intended for the International Space Station.

Under the new rules, NASA will proceed with the countdown only if all four of the gauges in Atlantis' big hydrogen tank are working properly. Two of them failed when the shuttle's tank was filled for liftoff on Thursday and a third one subsequently acted up. NASA passed up launch attempts Friday and yesterday because of the perplexing problem.

- AP

Oregon areas get disaster help

PORTLAND, Ore. - President Bush declared a federal disaster for five Oregon counties yesterday, clearing the way for federal aid after severe storms ravaged parts of the state.

Oregon saw severe flooding, landslides and mudslides as the result of storms that hit the state Dec. 2-3, largely affecting its coastal communities. Two people died in Oregon, and another six died in Washington.

State and federal officials said further assistance is expected to follow as the damage evaluations are done in the five counties - Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, Tillamook and Yamhill. Gov. Ted Kulongoski and members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency are expected to tour the region today.


- AP

Immigrant law allowed to stand

PHOENIX - A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit seeking to block a new Arizona law that prohibits people from hiring illegal immigrants and requires businesses to verify whether applicants are eligible for employment. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

In his ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake wrote that the lawsuit was premature because there was no evidence anyone had been harmed, and that the plaintiffs - a coalition of business and immigrant-rights groups - were suing the wrong people.

The ruling said the law gives only investigatory authority to the governor and state attorney general, who were named as defendants. Wake said county prosecutors, who weren't defendants, actually have the power to enforce the law. The plaintiffs had asked for a preliminary injunction blocking the law from taking effect.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Two small planes

collided over the Everglades yesterday, crashing into the swamp, and authorities said there were no survivors. A Piper aircraft and an unknown aircraft crashed about 3 p.m., officials said.

A pollution-control

agency rejected environmentalists' claims that a planned landfill in Madison, Ill., could desecrate possible burial grounds near the ruins of a once-thriving prehistoric city, dating back to around 1100.