News In Brief

Trading on the new York Stock Exchange was light as investors waited for the expected announcement that federal interest rates would be hiked by 0.25 percent. The word was expected at mid-afternoon as the Federal Reserve's policymaking Open Market Committee wound up meetings in Washington. Analysts said it was a foregone conclusion that the rate banks charge each other to borrow money would rise to 5.0 percent. But there was still suspense over whether the Fed would hint at further increases to slow the US economy.

Protection of nuclear materials, computer security, and the ability of the guard force at California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to react to external threats are all critically weak, The Washington Post reported. The facility is vital to US nuclear-weapons research. The Post said the lax security problem was uncovered by investigators from a new oversight office set up by the Energy Department in response to alleged spying by China.

The appointment of veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke as US ambassador to the UN was OK'd by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The matter now goes to the full Senate for confirmation. Holbrooke was nominated by President Clinton in June 1998, but the appointment was held up by an ethics investigation and controversy over a demoted State Department whistleblower.

Six asylum-seeking Cuban refugees whose desperate struggle to reach a south Florida beach was broadcast live by Miami TV stations may stay in the US, at least temporarily, federal immigration officials said. The men, whose boat was spotted near Miami Beach Monday, were pulled from the water by Coast Guardsmen who'd tried to turn them back with fire hoses and pepper spray. Two others swam to the beach, where police wrestled them to the sand.

Based on a combination of estimates, more than 1 million US children fall into the category of homeless - and a majority are too young for school, a new report says. Ninety-seven percent of such children may move as often as three times a year, it says, not counting those who "double up" with relatives or friends for lack of another place to live. "Homeless Children: America's New Outcasts" was prepared by the nonprofit Better Homes Fund.

A pact aimed at protecting and replenishing stocks of Pacific salmon was signed by US and Canadian representatives. The deal follows five years of bargaining and a dispute over catch sizes that in 1997 led to the blockade of an Alaskan ferry at Prince Rupert, British Columbia, by Canadian fishermen.

Despite the lowest prices in a generation, American farmers planted a record 74.2 million acres of soybeans this spring, the Agriculture Department reported. It said the figure was 1 million acres higher than a year ago and came in response to a federal loan program that offers higher rates for soybeans than for other crops. The June price for soybeans was $4.43 a bushel, the lowest in almost 24 years. Wheat acreage, meanwhile, is the lowest since 1973.

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