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News Briefs

Suspected Border-Crossers Die in Snowstorm

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- PINE VALLEY, CALIF.

Three suspected undocumented immigrants died and 28 others were rescued Monday in the frigid mountains of eastern San Diego County following a weekend storm that dropped eight inches of snow and sent temperatures plummeting into the low 20s.

The dead -- two men and a woman -- belonged to groups trudging separately from Mexico through the rugged, snow-capped expanse about 50 miles east of San Diego, authorities said. The two spots where the bodies were found sit in a rural corridor favored by immigrant smugglers that is not far from where eight migrants died in a snowstorm last spring.

Of those rescued Monday, nine people were transported to four area hospitals, suffering symptoms of exposure to the extreme cold.

The migrants, some dressed in lightweight clothes and sneakers, were traveling in three groups when they were caught in Sunday’s powerful storm. The deceased and nearly all of the survivors were found near Mount Laguna, a 5,975-foot peak along the edge of the Cleveland National Forest.

Migrants who were part of a group of 11 told Border Patrol agents that they had trekked for two days and nights and were abandoned by the pair of smugglers who led them across the border.

“These people, not being familiar with the area, being disoriented and suffering the first symptoms of hypothermia, were lost,” said U.S. Border Patrol spokeswoman Gloria Chavez.

Mexican consular officials said they had interviewed seven of the hospitalized survivors and that all were from the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Lawsuit Takes School Prayer To Supreme Court

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- SANTA FE, TEXAS

Public prayer may return to America’s schools this year, thanks to the determined efforts of this small and strongly Baptist town near the Texas Gulf Coast.

No one doubts that students may pray privately at their desks, or join with friends to pray together at lunch time. And for at least a decade, students have had the right to meet before class or after school to study the Bible or pray.

But the school board here wants something more: a student leading a prayer at school events, ranging from assemblies and graduation ceremonies to Friday night football games.

Later this month, the school board’s case will go before the U.S. Supreme Court, and it could transform the school-prayer issue nationwide. If the justices uphold student-led prayers, the decision could clear the way for all schools to put the question of public prayers to a vote of their students.

The Santa Fe school board’s crusade has been joined by Texas governor and Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush, who has filed court papers arguing that student-led prayer at school events should be legal nationwide. In recent days, the role of religion in public life has emerged as a key point of controversy in the GOP presidential primaries.