Astronauts Focus on Search

For Airborne Dust Plumes

CAPE CANAVERAL -- Space shuttle Columbia's astronauts aimed two Israeli cameras at the Mediterranean and Atlantic in search of airborne plumes of dust that might be affecting the weather.

The $2 million experiment is sponsored by the Israel Space Agency and Tel Aviv University. Their point man aboard the shuttle is Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut, an engineering graduate of the university.

Researchers want to better understand how dust affects climate and are using the 16-day mission to gather evidence.

* BOSTON -- Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) signed legislation giving himself new executive powers to cut state aid to towns and cities, which he says is necessary to avoid deep cuts in state services. The Democrat-controlled Legislature authorized Romney to cut local grants for services such as fire, police and education to help deal with a growing state budget deficit.

* CHICAGO -- A federal judge has ordered the Chicago Public Schools into court next month in a move that may lead to the scrapping of the district's school desegregation plan, which has been in place for more than 20 years. U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras, citing the district's changed ethnic makeup, said the plan was outdated. He scheduled a Feb. 27 hearing.

* TAMPA -- A teenager who flew a small plane into a Tampa skyscraper last year did so to commit suicide, the National Transportation and Safety Board has concluded. The NTSB released its one-sentence final report on the crash Friday. Student pilot Charles Bishop, 15, stole the Cessna 172R from a flight school and crashed it into the 28th floor of the 42-story Bank of America Plaza on Jan. 5, 2002. Bishop died in the crash. No one else was injured.

* CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- University of Wyoming alumni are begging state lawmakers to do something about a khaki-like hue called Wyoming prairie gold that replaced the vivid yellow in the school's traditional brown-and-yellow color scheme. Administrators, including President Philip Dubois, say apparel sales have increased 30 percent since the color was changed in July 2000, on the advice of marketing focus groups. But alumni are livid and want a return to the brown and yellow colors that supposedly date back to a classics professor who plucked some brown-eyed Susans, over a century ago.

* KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A 75-year-old man was sentenced to more than five years in prison for robbing a bank and using the money to buy a recreational vehicle to take his girlfriend to Mount Rushmore. George L. Curtis pleaded guilty in September to the July 12 robbery at Winterset State Bank in Harrisonville, U.S. Attorney Todd Graves said. He used a replica handgun in the heist, Graves said. Besides receiving the prison sentence of five years and three months, Curtis also was ordered Friday to pay full restitution to the bank and Trailside RV Center.

-- From News Services