News In Brief

Record-level imports of crude oil held the US trade deficit near an all-time high in October, the Commerce Department reported, despite predictions the nation's exports will top $1 trillion this year for the first time in history. The deficit dropped a mere 1.6 percent from September's record imbalance of $33.7 billion as holiday shopping prompted a flood of toy imports from China and Japan. Analysts predicted this and other economic data would likely spur the Federal Reserve to state that inflation no longer poses the strongest threat to the economy, but would wait until next year to lower interest rates.

Concluding a three-day visit to Washington, George W. Bush met with President Clinton in the Oval Office to discuss his transition into the White House next month. The president-elect later planned to call on Vice President Gore for what would be their first meeting since debating for the final time in October. Aides said Bush would continue interviewing prospective cabinet appointments before returning to Texas.

The longest-running drop in crime in the nation's history appeared near an end as reported incidents fell only slightly in the first six months of this year. Statistics released by the FBI show reports of serious crime declined 0.3 percent compared with a drop of 9.5 percent in 1999. Analysts credited the change to the slowing economy and the growing teenage population. Attorney General Reno maintained that despite the trend, "communities are safer than they have been in a generation."

More than four months after recalling millions of tires linked to 148 traffic deaths, Bridgestone/Firestone told federal investigators the malfunctions stem from faulty design and production procedures in its Decatur, Ill., plant. The tiremaker was set to announce that the plant's unique rubber mixing process resulted in the deterioration of treads, causing the accidents. Information that the malfunction was an isolated problem could, analysts suggested, put an end to the possibility of further recalls.

A provision in the massive spending bill awaiting Clinton's signature eliminates an initiative to create 1,000 new low-power radio stations that proponents claimed would make the airwaves more diverse by offering "niche" programming from colleges, churches, and community groups. Public radio broadcasters lobbied against the initiative partly out of concern that the new service would interfere with transmissions from major FM stations.

Power companies and government regulators met in Washington in an effort to resolve California's long-running energy crisis, which has brought the state to the brink of several massive blackouts. Consumer watchdog groups were angered at being excluded from the talks, which likely will include proposals to raise rates charged to customers as the state's major utilities face record operating costs.

Randolph Hearst, who died in New York, was the heir of legendary newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. The younger Hurst led the family's media empire, but was remembered primarily for his role in the 1974 kidnapping of his daughter, Patricia, by the Symbionese Liberation Army. At its demand, he pledged $2 million to a program to distribute free food to California's poor.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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