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In yet another sign of a downturn, the economy grew at an annual rate of just 1.4 percent during the final three months of 2000, the weakest performance in 5-1/2 years. The Commerce Department's report on the gross domestic product - the total output of goods and services in the US - attributed much of the performance to a decline in consumer spending, particularly on cars and computers. But even with the fourth-quarter result, the economy grew by 5 percent for all of 2000, the best showing since a 7.3 percent increase in 1984.

There was some good news about the economy's performance at the end of last year, however, as the Commerce Department reported sales of new homes unexpectedly rose 13.4 percent in December - the biggest monthly gain in almost eight years. The performance meant that sales for the entire year totaled 898,000, the second-highest on record. (Story, page 1.)

UN sanctions against Libya would remain in place, although a milestone was reached when one Libyan was convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the Bush administration said. For the sanctions to be lifted permanently, the White House said Libya had to fulfill certain requirements, including acceptance of responsibility and compensation of victims' families. Last month, some developed countries proposed lifting sanctions on grounds that Libya had cooperated with the trial proceedings. But the US and Britain balked, saying the trial was still under way. (Story, page 1, editorial, page 8.)

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The Congressional Budget Office predicted the total 10-year budget surplus will swell to $5.6 trillion, up $1 trillion from its previous forecast. Of that, $3.12 trillion will be in non-Social Security surpluses, which is being eyed for such opportunities as tax cuts and national debt reduction. President Bush said the new figures add support to his plan for a $1.6 trillion, 10-year tax cut.

A new Georgia flag, with a much smaller Confederate emblem, was hoisted above the statehouse in Atlanta. The raising followed state Senate approval of the new banner Tuesday by a 34-to-22 vote. Civil rights groups, who objected to the old flag's prominent Confederate symbol, had promised to call off any boycotts of Georgia if the new measure was approved.

Concerns were growing about the possible spread of so-called "mad cow" disease to the US. The Food and Drug Administration quarantined 1,200 Texas cattle after it appeared they may have eaten feed containing ingredients banned as a precaution against the disease. Federal regulators said it was unlikely the cattle had been infected, but the feedmaker, Purina Mills, told the FDA it would remove the animals from the human food supply. Meanwhile, New York City officials were looking into sales of a European-made candy because its ingredients may include beef gelatin from a country that had an outbreak of the disease. But the FDA said the candy, Mamba, was safe, having been certified by the European Commission.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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