News In Brief

By , Noel Paul, and Joshua S. Burek

Productivity surged 5.3 percent last quarter, pushing the key measure of rising living standards toward its fastest pace in 17 years. The increase in output per hour of work beat analysts' predictions and bolstered expectations that the Federal Reserve will leave interest rates unchanged at its next meeting Aug. 22.

Radioactive debris will never be fully contained at more than 100 nuclear sites, a study from the National Research Council warned. Probable system failure, inadequate knowledge, and lack of funds leave the long-term safety of many of the nation's nuclear weapons development sites in doubt, the report said. The study is the latest unfavorable news for the Department of Energy, which recently came under fire for several security breaches at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Defense Secretary William Cohen is withholding judgment about plans for a national missile defense system pending a technical analysis, a Pentagon spokesman said. Cohen is expected to issue his recommendation within weeks to President Clinton, who in turn is expected to decide later this year whether to begin work on the system slated for deployment in 2005.

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A suspect whose violent videotaped arrest sparked renewed attention on police brutality will have his most serious charges dropped, Philadelphia authorities said. Prosecutors confirmed that Thomas Jones, who was shot five times and beaten by police officers for 30 seconds, did not shoot officer Michael Livewell. Jones still faces 52 criminal charges related to carjacking, a series of purse snatchings, and two car chases.

The State Department said the the UN could mount new sanctions against the Taliban in Afghanistan to force the extradition of suspected embassy-bombing mastermind Osama bin Laden. Repeated requests and a first round of sanctions approved by the UN Security Council have failed to win bin Laden's ouster. The US and Russia are close to agreement on extra sanctions, including an arms embargo, a spokesman said.

Puerto Rican demonstrators confronted police after authorities arrested 32 women for trying to stop Navy bombing exercises on the outlying island of Vieques. The women were the latest protesters to break into the island's military training ground. About 80 demonstrators got in their cars, police said, and followed a Navy bus carrying the women outside the camp. Police reinforcements stopped the protesters with a roadblock. Protests over the Navy's presence on Vieques heated up last year when a jet dropped two bombs off target, killing a civilian guard.

The failure of Bridgestone Firestone tires might have contributed to the deaths of 46 people, US officials announced. A government agency said it had collected 270 complaints regarding the tires, which are often fitted to SUVs, since its investigation began in May. Japan's Bridgestone Corp., which manufactures the tires, has said the tires are safe when properly inflated. But many retailers, including Sears, Roebuck & Co., have stopped selling some of the brands until the investigation is complete.

Embattled New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir plans to retire, police sources said. Safir, a close ally of Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani, presided over a major drop in crime, but came under fire for strong-arm police tactics.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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