News In Brief
States with booming populations in the South and West gained seats in the House at the expense of states in the Northeast, according to the first figures released from the 2000 census. Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Texas gained two seats each, largely because of growing immigrant populations, while New York and Pennsylvania lost two apiece. Nevada recorded the largest population gain but picked up only one seat. California's delegation, currently the largest at 52, grew by one. The Census Bureau also announced that the US population jumped to 281.4 million, a 13.2 percent increase since 1990.
Consumer confidence in December dropped to its lowest level in two years, suggesting that consumer spending will continue to slow and portending potential problems for the economy. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index fell to 128.3, slightly below analysts' expectations. This was its third straight month of decline. The index is based on a monthly survey of some 5,000 US households.
President Clinton temporarily appointed the first black judge to the all-white Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. It serves five Southern states and covers more minorities than any other circuit. The nomination of lawyer Roger Gregory had been stalled in the Senate, but Clinton used a recess appointment to put him on the bench while Congress is out of session. Gregory must be confirmed by the Senate.
A Texas judge barred the state Senate from electing an acting lieutenant governor in secret, ruling in favor of local newspapers seeking a public vote. The Republican-controlled chamber had planned to hold a secret ballot to elect a member to replace Rick Perry, the lieutenant governor who replaced George W. Bush. Publications including the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle said a secret ballot violated the Open Meetings Act. The state Constitution allows election of officers in private, but some had argued that provision didn't apply to the position of lieutenant governor.
Emergency crews were working nonstop after a monster ice storm in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and northern Texas left about 16 people dead and more than half a million without power. The National Guard was using all-terrain vehicles to deliver supplies to residents trapped by treacherous roads. Officials said it could be anywhere from several days to weeks before power was restored in some regions.
A new Virginia company specializing in online schooling was launched this week, drawing fire from a leading teachers union. Former conservative education secretary William Bennett will chair the company called K12, which is developing a comprehensive online curriculum for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The company will offer an Internet testing system combined with lessons contained in paper workbooks. Users could include home-schooled students, charter schools, and traditional public schools.
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