News In Brief

By , Judy Nichols and Noel Paul

Americans' productivity surged a stronger-than-expected 5.7 percent rate in the second quarter, the Labor Department reported. Analysts said the figure, which measures the amount of output per hour of work, was likely to assure the Federal Reserve that their decisions on interest rates are making the economy run smoothly. The Labor report also noted that productivity has risen by 5.2 percent from the same quarter a year ago, which was the best showing since a 5.3 percent increase in the third quarter of 1983.

Al Gore elaborated on his recently unveiled budget proposal, offering a 191-page plan he said would keep interest rates low and maintain confidence on Wall Street. The Democratic presidential candidate outlined 10 goals in using the nation's $4.6 trillion surplus, including elimination of the federal debt by 2012, reduction of the poverty rate to below 10 percent, and the boosting of family income by one-third. The plan, which he touted in an address at Ohio's Cleveland State University, also featured a $300 billion reserve fund in case surplus projections are not met. A spokesman for rival George W. Bush argued the Gore initiative would spend too much on big government.

A strong economy, meager payments, and bureaucratic paperwork all have contributed to a one-third drop in enrollment in the nation's food-stamp program, two hunger relief groups said. Pointing to government estimates that 37 percent of people eligible for food stamps do not get them, America's Second Harvest and the Food Research and Action Center called for more public outreach and reforms in the program's application process.

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The government hired hundreds of private companies during the 1940s and '50s to process nuclear material whose dangers were kept secret, USA Today reported. The newspaper claimed its three-part series outlines for the first time the scope of the problem, because it reviewed 100,000 pages of government records, many of which were only recently declassified. In its series, USA Today said thousands of workers were exposed to levels of radiation that were often hundreds of times stronger than the limits then.

Lawyers for nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, whose scheduled release on bail was blocked last Friday by the 10th US Circuit Appeals Court, made a second plea to the Denver judiciary to release him. Lee is accused of mishandling nuclear secrets while working at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The chief deputy clerk for the court said the judges hadn't indicated whether they'd schedule a hearing on the issue.

Highway barriers and land-closure signs were removed after officials lifted the remaining evacuation orders in parts of southwestern Montana. The move allowed thousands of residents and tourists to return to the state's Bitterroot Valley, which sits at the heart of the 20 million acres of land that had been closed. Although Montana has made significant progress against wildfires, 81 large blazes continued to blacken 1.5 million acres in the West.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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