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Consumer confidence fell this month to its lowest level in four years, the New York-based Conference Board reported. The business group's index dropped more than 14 points and has declined four months in a row. Economists noted, however, that consumers' doubts are focused on the future and that the current situation is viewed in relatively favorable terms. To prevent the economy from sliding, the Federal Reserve was widely expected to cut interest rates another half a percentage point today.

With reverberations from California's power crisis being felt by nearby states, President Bush named a federal task force to deal to deal with energy prices nationally. Vice President Dick Cheney will be its head. California, meanwhile, used up a $400 million emergency fund to buy electricity, forcing Gov. Gray Davis (D) to order more public money be made available. The amount of the new fund was not disclosed. (Story, page 1.)

An international private consortium of scientists is seeking to clone a human being within the next two years, an affiliated researcher said. The developed technique, University of Kentucky Prof. Panos Zavos said, would be reserved for couples struggling with infertility. It will be similar to procedures currently being used for animals and would result in a child who would be identical either to its mother or father, depending on the genetic donor. Others previously have talked about carrying out human cloning, prompting ethical concerns.

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District of Columbia officials marked the release of a clean audit - reflecting a balanced budget with a $240.7 million surplus for fiscal year 2000 - which effectively establishes the city's independence from a federal control board. In 1995, congressional leaders and the Clinton White House gave the board sweeping authority over the capital's collapsing services and deficit-ridden finances - much of which surfaced after Marion Barry returned to the mayor's office following a 1994 drug conviction. The clean audit for 2000 is the fourth consecutive one Washington has received.

Two days after two married professors at Dartmouth College were killed in their home near Hanover, N.H., police indicated no breakthroughs in the investigation. Authorities were checking for clues outside the house of Half and Susanne Zantop as well as examining a suspicious handprint in a university residence hall. But with little other information being made public about the case, many in the community were concerned for their own safety.

Conductor, composer, and violinist Lorin Maazel will succeed Kurt Masur as musical director of the New York Philharmonic, which lays claim to being the oldest symphony orchestra in the US. Maazel, whose four-year contract will begin late next year, will be the first American to lead the orchestra since Leonard Bernstein left the post in 1969.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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