News In Brief

With concern about an economic recession mounting, economists speculated that the Federal Reserve could announce a cut in its key short-term interest rate after today's meeting in Washington, but would at the least state that the risks of inflation no longer exceed those of recession. Recent comments from Chairman Alan Greenspan about data showing a drop in consumer confidence, analysts said, indicate the Fed will likely lower the federal-funds rate, which now stands at 6.5 percent, either today or at its following meeting next year.

Greenspan, meanwhile, met with George W. Bush in Washington as the President-elect began a round of discussions on Capitol Hill with congressional leaders. Bush has suggested that the economy is showing signs of a recession and has promised to push ahead with a proposed $1.3 trillion tax cut. During the campaign, however, Greenspan stated his preference that the federal budget surplus be used to pay down the national debt.

There were no signs that those who pledged to vote for Bush in the Electoral College would switch their votes as 538 delegates gathered in state capitals to finalize the 2000 election. An e-mail, letter, and phone campaign over the past several weeks reportedly had sought to persuade Bush electors to support Al Gore instead because the vice president won the popular vote. The normally perfunctory meetings have received more attention this year due to the slim margin of four electoral votes that separate the two candidates.

A joint biotechnology committee formed by the US and European Union recommended Washington officials bolster regulation of genetically modified foods and move toward mandatory labeling. Panel members said the report would put new pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to adopt standards similar to those of most European nations. The FDA earlier rejected a call for mandatory labeling, opting to make it voluntary.

A small Virginia cigarette manufacturer filed a civil action lawsuit against state Attorney General Mark Earley in protest of the 1998 national tobacco settlement requiring smaller tobacco firms to place money in escrow in case of future liability. Star Scienific Inc. of Richmond, which has patented technology eliminating certain tobacco chemicals, argues the ruling has limited its ability to produce and market what it calls a safer cigarette.

The chief of the National Transportation Safety Board was to announce his resignation after six years of leading federal investigations into high-profile accidents, notably in the aviation industry. James Hall, who earlier came under fire for publicly suggesting that other federal agencies were too slow to adopt NTSB recommendations, said President-elect Bush should not have to wait to replace him.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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