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Nation in brief: House approves Head Start funds

Thu., May 3, 2007, midnight

The House approved more money for the popular Head Start program Wednesday after rejecting a GOP-led attempt to allow religious groups participating in the program to hire and fire staffers based on religious grounds.

The bill, passed 365-48, approves $7.4 billion in spending in fiscal 2008 for the 42-year-old program that helps low-income children prepare for school, up from $6.9 billion in the current year.

It increases enrollment, now about 900,000 children aged 3 to 5, boosts teacher and staff salaries, and expands services for homeless, migrant and non-English-speaking children.

The White House said it cannot support the bill because of the religion issue and several other provisions, including one to terminate a system of measuring the progress of Head Start children.

Hartford, Conn.

State may offer rape victims Plan B

The state House on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a bill to require all hospitals to offer rape victims emergency contraception, over objections from Catholic leaders who say it infringes on their religious rights.

The legislation, which passed the Democratic-controlled Senate last week, now moves to Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The governor said she was inclined to support it but would not decide until she saw the bill.

The 113-36 vote in the Democratic-controlled House came after a three-hour debate and over protests from Catholic hospitals and church leaders in the state who say the measure forces them to violate their beliefs. The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at conception.

The emergency contraception, known as Plan B, is a concentrated dose of the same drug found in many regular birth-control pills. Taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, a woman can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent. If she is already pregnant, the pills have no effect.

Hialeah Gardens, Fla.

Truck robbed of $1.8 million

Two men robbed an armored truck of $1.8 million as it delivered money to a check cashing store Wednesday, authorities said. Shots were fired, but no injuries or arrests were reported.

The truck belonging to AT Systems was making a delivery to E-Z Checks Cash at a strip mall when a person approached a messenger who was with the vehicle.

What felt like a gun was pointed at the back of the messenger, who was told to walk over to a car and throw the money in the back seat, the FBI said. A getaway car fled with two robbers, and the messenger fired three shots as the car drove away.

Myrtlewood, Ala.

Train derails with shuttle parts

A freight train carrying segments of the space shuttle’s solid rocket boosters derailed Wednesday after a recently repaired bridge collapsed over boggy ground, authorities said. Six people aboard the train were reported injured.

NASA said it was not immediately known whether the equipment was damaged. But space agency spokesman Allard Beutel in Washington said the accident should not delay any shuttle launches.

The shuttle’s twin boosters are 150 feet tall and consist of four propellant segments each. They are used during liftoff and the first two minutes or so of flight to help the spacecraft break free of Earth’s orbit, and are then jettisoned into the sea, after which they are recovered, refurbished and reused.

Eight booster segments were on the train. The booster segments will probably be sent back to the manufacturer’s Utah plant to be examined.


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