News In Brief

The US economy will come out of a period of "retrenchment" later this year and grow at a pace of 2 to 2.5 percent, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Green-span said in his semiannual report to Congress. Although he said the country still faces a large number of "downside risks," he noted there were some signs that economic activity picked up in January. He also said consumer confidence is still at a level that's historically compatible with economic growth. Yet he cautioned that "nonrational behavior" by consumers and businesses could confound the predictions.

One positive report on January activity came from the Commerce Department. It said retail sales increased 0.7 percent, the biggest jump in four months. The advance was widespread, with shoppers snapping up building supplies, home furnishings, clothes, and cars - and they also dined out more. Consumer spending fuels two-thirds of the US economy.

The five-year mission of the so-called NEAR spacecraft, which made a featherweight landing on the asteroid Eros Monday, was to end officially today. The landing marked the first time a man-made object has touched down on an asteroid. The $223 million NEAR spent the past year orbiting Eros, which is located 196 million miles from Earth, and transmitted some 160,000 images of a rocky surface.

Napster's free online song-swapping service appeared to be near the end of the road following a ruling by a federal appeals court in San Francisco. A three-judge panel ordered a trial judge in the case to rewrite an injunction that requires the Internet company to patrol its network for copyright infringement - something its attorneys have said is virtually impossible to do. The case has been closely watched as an indicator of how intellectual property rights will be handled online in the future.

The Army said six soldiers died and several more were injured when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed during a nighttime exercise on a Hawaiian island. A military official said the Army, which was launching an investigation, could not confirm reports that the aircraft had collided in midair. The exercise involved 30 helicopters ferrying almost 1,000 soldiers between an airfield and a base.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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