Police: At least 4 die in fiery crash

AVON, Conn. - A fiery crash involving 20 vehicles, including a commuter bus, killed at least four people Friday and injured at least 14, officials said.

Initial reports said at least five people were killed, but officials confirmed only four deaths. Avon Police Capt. Mark Rinaldo said the number could rise as rescuers worked through the twisted metal.

The chain-reaction crash started when a long-bed dump truck collided with the bus, said Ed Lescoe, a spokesman for the Capitol Region Emergency Planning Agency. That sparked a fire that engulfed several vehicles, including the truck.

Republican Frist backs funding of stem-cell research

WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on Friday threw his support behind House-passed legislation to expand federal financing for human embryonic stem cell research, breaking with President Bush and religious conservatives in a move that could affect his prospects for seeking the White House in 2008.

''It's not just a matter of faith; it's a matter of science,'' Frist, R-Tenn., said on the floor of the Senate.

Frist's announcement immediately dented his support among Christian conservatives but won lavish praise from former first lady Nancy Reagan, who said it ''has the potential to alleviate so much suffering.'' Her husband, the late former President Ronald Reagan, had Alzheimer's disease.

Still no date set for Roberts hearings

WASHINGTON - The GOP-controlled Senate seemed ready on Friday to schedule the start of John Roberts' confirmation hearings for the day after Labor Day, but Democrats complained they were being rushed toward votes on the Supreme Court nominee.

At the same time, the White House, which wants Roberts confirmed for the start of the court's term on Oct. 3, formally sent his nomination to the

Senate.

Congress passes far-reaching energy bill, breaks stalemate

WASHINGTON - After years of stalemate, Congress on Friday sent President Bush a national energy plan touted by supporters as providing a diverse mix of fuels, new jobs, cleaner burning coal and the next generation of nuclear

reactors.

But the bill now ready for President Bush's signature won't stem high energy prices that have been viewed as a growing political concern, both in Congress and at the White House.

The Senate approved the mammoth $12.3 billion legislation 74-26, though some Democrats said they voted for the measure reluctantly because of its cost and its tepid response to reducing the country's consumption of oil - now more than 20 million barrels a day, more than half imported.

Lightning in Calif. kills Scout leader, injures seven

FRESNO, Calif. - Lightning struck a group of Boy Scouts taking shelter from a storm, killing the troop leader and leaving a 13-year-old scout brain-dead, authorities and the teen's grandfather said Friday. Seven others were injured.

Ryan Collins, 13, was being kept on a ventilator so that his organs could be donated, said the grandfather.

The strike happened Thursday in Sequoia National Park, park ranger Alex Picavet said Friday.

The scout group from St. Helena was hit when a lightning bolt made a direct strike on one of the two tarps they had set up in a meadow.

Two teenagers ran 25 minutes to a ranger station, and five helicopters flew in to evacuate the group.

Officials apologize for comments on Jamboree deaths

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - National Boy Scouts officials apologized for remarks implying that four adult volunteers shared responsibility for their own deaths while setting up a tent beneath a power line at the national Jamboree in Virginia.

Spokesman Stephen Medlicott said Friday the group wanted to clear up ''some confusion'' about the Scouts' position.

The statement came a day after Jamboree spokesman Gregg Shields said the Alaska group had ignored scouting teachings by putting the tent under a power line at Fort A.P. Hill, the Army base where the 10-day event is being held. He also said the group leaders had taken the ''somewhat unusual'' step of hiring a contractor to help with the task.

NASA hasn't ruled out another flight later this year

SPACE CENTER, Houston - NASA Chief Michael Griffin said Friday he hasn't given up on launching another space shuttle later this year, despite suspending flights until the space agency can stop foam insulation from snapping off and threatening the spacecraft.

He said he has set up a ''tiger team'' to try to solve the problem as quickly as possible. ''We don't expect this to be a long drawn-out affair,'' he said by telephone from Washington in a briefing with reporters in Houston.

- From wire reports