USA

On schedule, an 800-pound unmanned NASA probe slammed into a comet 83 million miles from Earth Sunday night on a mission that scientists hope willl yield clues to how the solar system was formed. The comet, Tempel 1, is half the size of New York's Manhattan Borough, and although the impact did not significantly alter its course, it did expose a huge core of ice and rock that the Deep Impact mission team wants to photograph. No other space mission had flown closer than 147 miles to a comet.

Democrats in Congress and pressure groups such as the National Organization for Women served notice that they'll go all-out to oppose President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court if he or she turns out to be a conservative. The post opened Friday when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman on the high court, retired. Bush was giving no hint about his choice to succeed her, but he has cited conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas as the types he especially admires.

Leaders of the United Church of Christ overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution that would make their denomination the first in the US to approve same-sex marriage. The measure needed only a vote by the church's General Synod Monday in Atlanta to take effect. But even as they OK'd the proposal, some leaders warned that it could split their church and cause certain "deeply, deeply wounded" congregations to leave the fold. As they backed the resolution, the leaders also voted down one that would have declared marriage to be an institution between one man and one woman.

Thousands of people whose homes in Florida were damaged by four hurricanes last summer, were asked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to return overpayments. In data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Fort Myers News-Press, FEMA documented 6,579 cases of Floridians who collected $27.2 million more than they were due. In all, FEMA committed more than $5 billion to hurricane recovery efforts in the state last year.

Former three-term US Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D) of Wisconsin, who died Sunday at his home in Kensington, Md., was credited with founding Earth Day, the annual tribute to environmental protection. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995.

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