News In Brief

The Senate passed, 83-14, an overhaul of the US bankruptcy system that calls for debtors to take a means test determining how much relief would be given and how much still would be owed to creditors. The measure included a provision to raise the hourly minimum wage to $6.15 by March 2002. The lawmakers also passed by a wide margin - stripping Vice President Gore of a tiebreaking vote - an amendment that would require violators of laws protecting abortion clinics to pay their penalties even if they are in bankruptcy proceedings. But a provision related to gunmakers and dealers was defeated. The bill now moves to a conference committee for reconciliation with a House bill passed in May, although that legislation did not deal with the minimum wage. The House is expected to address that issue separately.

As expected, the Senate confirmed Alan Greenspan for a fourth term as Federal Reserve chairman, a day after the central bank raised interest rates a quarter-point to 5.75 percent - the fourth increase since last June. The move, aimed at slowing a supercharged economy, was followed by major banks raising their prime lending rate a similar amount to 8.75 percent, the highest level since 1995. But the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 37.8 points Wednesday as investors worried that further increases - as soon as March 21 - might be forthcoming.

Federal officials will investigate whether oil aboard a Russian tanker detained in the Persian Gulf was smuggled from Iraq in violation of the UN trade embargo, the Pentagon said. The tanker was traveling away from Iraq, through the Straits of Hormuz. Russian officials denied the oil was smuggled and demanded the tanker's immediate release.

A "high potential" exists for a military flare-up across the Taiwan Strait this year because of tensions between China and Taiwan, CIA Director George Tenet told the Senate Intelligence Committee. In addition to outlining world threats, Tenet said he could not rule out the possibility that classified materials on the home computer of his predecessor, John Deutch, could have fallen into the wrong hands via the Internet.

Investigators began examining the cockpit voice recorder from Alaska Airlines Flight 261 for clues to what caused the jet to nosedive into the Pacific Ocean Monday, killing all 88 aboard. The pinger for the second "black box" - the flight data recorder - was located early yesterday but was no longer attached to the device. Investigators have reported that the flight crew had difficulties with the plane's horizontal stabilizer immediately before the accident.

Total cash and security holdings for the retirement systems of state and local government employees rose to an all-time high of $1.7 trillion in fiscal year 1997-98, up $237 billion from the previous year, the US Census Bureau reported. The rise was attributed largely to success in stock-market investments.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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