USA

The control tower at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Ky., may have contributed to the commuter plane crash that killed 49 of 50 people on board Sunday, investigators have concluded. The lone controller on duty turned his back on the plane after clearing it for takeoff, and thus didn't see it turn onto the wrong runway, which was too short for Comair Flight 5191 to get airborne. The Federal Aviation Administration also said that a second controller should have been on duty.

Gov. Mike Rounds (R) of South Dakota issued a reprieve to convicted murderer Elijah Page hours before his scheduled execution Tuesday. It would have been the state's first in 59 years. Rounds questioned if plans to use a three-drug lethal injection common in other states was a violation of a two-drug South Dakota law. The question has been referred to the state legislature until the reprieve ends July 1, 2007. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, Eric Allen Patton was executed for a 1994 murder Tuesday under a new state procedure that calls for a large dose of anesthesia before fatal drugs are administered.

NASA decided Tuesday to return the space shuttle Atlantis to its Cape Canaveral, Fla., launchpad five hours after beginning a

12-hour journey, via caterpillar-track platform, to a hangar. The change coincided with downgraded forecasts for tropical storm Ernesto. A 130-foot-high metal structure will shield the shuttle, which could have its launch rescheduled next week.

Revised figures released Wednesday by the Commerce Department showed gross domestic product (the value of all goods and services produced in the US) growing at a 2.9 percent rate in the April-to-June quarter, a sharp drop-off from the 5.6 percent pace during the first quarter. High energy prices forced consumers and businesses to tighten their belts in the second quarters.

Members of the high school class of 2006, the first to take a revised SAT test, saw their average scores drop seven points, the steepest decline in 31 years. Math scores fell from 508 to 503 and reading scores from 520 to 518. The College Board, which produces the college entrance exams, said that fewer students took the new, longer SAT a second time, which could explain the results. The new test is three hours, 45 minutes long, the old one three hours.

Tropical storm Ernesto brought heavy rain to southeast Florida Wednesday, but it failed to reach hurricane strength and was expected to weaken. Forecasters anticipate that Ernesto will exit Florida and swing into Georgia and the Carolinas later this week.

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