U.S. FOURTH-QUARTER PRODUCTIVITY SOARS The productivity of American workers shot up at a 6.1 percent seasonally adjusted annual rate in the final three months of 1993, the fastest in eight years, the Labor Department reported March 8. The report found fourth-quarter productivity even better than the 4.2 percent rate in the initial estimate done in February. But the improvement came at the expense of American jobs, as many companies continue to restructure and work their employees harder and longer rather than add to their payrolls. Productivity, defined as output per number of hours worked, determines the nation's living standards and the competitiveness of its products overseas. There was little hint of inflation in the report, which said unit labor costs actually fell an annualized 3.1 percent from October through December. That was the biggest decline since a 4.8 percent drop in the second quarter of 1983. Japan corruption scandalSkip to next paragraph
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In their first move against a national lawmaker since the scandal-plagued Liberal Democrats were forced from power last summer, Japanese prosecutors March 8 formally sought the arrest of former Construction Minister Kishiro Nakamura on bribery charges. Prosecutors cannot arrest Mr. Nakamura easily though, because he is a legislator, and Parliament is in session. A majority of the lower house must vote to approve the arrest a procedure that has not happened since 1967. S. African train wreck
A speeding commuter train derailed near Durban, South Africa, on March 8, killing at least 58 people. Sabotage is being investigated as a cause. A low-ranking official of the African National Congress quickly blamed political motives for the deaths and injuries to black commuters. Train authorities said they could not rule out the possibility that the derailment had been deliberate. There have been fears that terrorist attacks will increase in the run-up to April's national election, which is opposed by several black and white groups. (See photo below.) US postal rate hike
The US postal governing board on March 8 proposed an across-the-board increase of 10.3 percent for most classes of mail including a 32-cent first-class stamp to take effect early next year. The request now goes to the independent Postal Rate Commission, which has 10 months to decide. The increase would likely mean $8 or $9 more in postal costs for the average consumer. International Women's Day
Amnesty International marked International Women's Day on March 8 with a report condemning governments worldwide for failing to protect the human rights of women. But the organization welcomed the decision of the UN Commission on Human Rights earlier this month to appoint a Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. The organization released a summary of worldwide violations of women's rights. It noted the torture of educated women in Afghanistan, the rape of women by state and paramilitary forces in Bosnia, India, and Peru, and politically motivated murders in Indonesia.