President Bush, who last year presented Pope John Paul II with the Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian award, will lead the US delegation at his funeral Friday in Rome, becoming the first sitting US chief executive at such an occasion. Among those joining him: first lady Laura Bush, former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The president has said he admired the pope for fighting for freedom and for his moral voice.

Traveling at 1 m.p.h. on a massive transporter, the space shuttle Discovery completed a 10-1/2 hour journey Thursday to NASA's Cape Canaveral, Fla., launch pad. The shuttle is being prepared for a mid-May liftoff, the first since the Columbia tragedy that killed all seven astronauts aboard two years ago. The external fuel tank that failed on Columbia has been extensively redesigned.

Connecticut took a major step Wednesday to become the first state, absent court pressure, to recognize civil unions between same-sex couples. The bill, approved by a 29-7 vote in the Senate, calls for unions similar to those approved in Vermont, where same-sex couples are extended the rights and privileges of marriage, but without a marriage license. Connecticut's House of Representatives must still act on the bill, and Gov. Jodi Rell (R) must then sign it into law. The measure passed one day after Kansas became the 18th state to ban gay marriage via a constitutional amendment.

Congressional lawmakers crafting a new energy bill approved an amendment Wednesday that would extend Daylight Saving Time from the first Sunday in March through November, thereby saving the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day, according to government estimates.

Manufacturers of all cars, vans, small trucks, and sport/utility vehicles must equip them with tire-pressure sensors by 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced. The requirement addresses congressional calls for greater safety after tire blowouts and tread separations were blamed for almost 300 deadly accidents several years ago.

At his sentencing in Chicago Wednesday, white supremacist Matthew Hale was given the maximum 40 years behind bars for his unfulfilled plot to assassinate US District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow. Lefkow was never attacked, but her husband and mother were murdered in February by a deranged man with no known connection to Hale.

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