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News Briefs

Shuttle Fragment Identified As Critical Piece of Left Wing


A space shuttle fragment recovered last week has been positively identified as a piece of Columbia’s left wing, where sensors recorded a series of temperature spikes and other failures moments before the craft disintegrated, NASA said Monday.

The wing fragment is regarded as the most valuable find in a painstaking hunt over hundreds of miles of territory, but a senior NASA official said it was still too early to tell how the piece would ultimately fit into the puzzle.

“Our own experts are having a difficult time determining what some of these objects are,” said Michael Kostelnik, who oversees the space shuttle and space station programs.

Hopes for another significant find were dashed Monday evening. Early in the day, field investigators reported that they had located one of five “general purpose computers” responsible for flying the shuttle. But it turned out to be another type of wreckage, not a “GPC.”

Colleges’ ‘Percent Plans’ Don’t Increase Diversity, Study Says


College “percent plans,” which guarantee admission to top high school students and have been lauded by President Bush as race-neutral alternatives to affirmative action, do not make a significant difference on their own in maintaining ethnic diversity, according to two reports released Monday.

The studies by Harvard University’s Civil Rights Project analyzed the experiences of public universities in California, Texas and Florida as each has struggled to achieve racial diversity without explicit racial preferences in affirmative action plans. But for those race-neutral alternative percentage programs to work, they must be combined with outreach, financial aid and support programs that are often race-conscious themselves, targeting underrepresented minority communities, the reports contend.

As the U.S. Supreme Court revisits the affirmative action issue this spring, taking up two cases from the University of Michigan, the Bush administration has called on the court to replace race-based affirmative action in the nation’s colleges and universities with “race-neutral” approaches that offer admission to a percentage of top students in each high school regardless of their racial or ethnic heritage.

Congress Considers Bailout For Fishing Industry


At a time when President Bush is trying to promote job growth, Congress is poised to spend money to put a number of West Coast fishermen out of business.

Lawmakers say it is for the fishermen’s own good -- as well as for the fish.

To lure the fishermen out of the water, Congress might buy as much as half of the fleet used to catch groundfish, a species that lives near the ocean floor. The idea is that by reducing competition, the chances will improve for the remaining fishermen to prosper and for the depleted stocks to return.

The $10 million that would go toward the buyout is one of many items aimed at aiding financially struggling industries that have been packed into a massive spending bill before House and Senate negotiators. Other measures that could win approval include $88 million for sugar-cane growers, $53 million for tobacco growers and $17.5 million for Gulf Coast and South Atlantic shrimpers.