News In Brief

A team of military investigators was to leave for Kuwait today to look into a training accident in which a Navy jet fighter dropped a bomb that killed five American observers and a New Zealander and injured seven others. It was not immediately clear whether the F/A-18 Hornet had missed the target at the Udairi bombing range near Kuwait's border with Iraq. Navy officials said they would not confirm a report that the plane had been wrongly directed by a ground controller. The New Zealand government demanded an explanation of the incident.

Almost 1 in 3 Americans is a member of a minority group, the Census Bureau reported, illustrating how a massive immigration surge in the 1990s has created the most diverse population in modern history. The number of Asians jumped to between 10.6 million and 12.8 million, a rise from 7.3 million a decade ago, the bureau said. The Hispanic population grew by about 58 percent to 35.3 million. The number of blacks increased by as much as 21 percent, to 35.4 million. The 2000 census also showed that about 2.4 percent of Americans, almost half under age 18, belonged to more than one race.

The Justice Department has created a task force to investigate all last-minute clemencies granted by ex-President Clinton, officials said. The decision, seen as unprecedented in scope, empowers US Attorney Mary Jo White of New York to broaden her review of three controversial cases to encompass all of Clinton's 177 pardons, especially the commutation of convicted Los Angeles drug dealer Carlos Vignali's 15-year prison sentence. In the Vignali case, local leaders supported his early release, and Clinton brother-in-law Hugh Rodham allegedly was paid $200,000 to help obtain it.

Retail sales fell 0.2 percent in February, the first drop in three months, the Commerce Department reported. The decline was led by furniture and home furnishing stores and restaurants. The news followed Wall Street's worst day this year, with the Nasdaq falling below 2000 for the first time in 27 months and the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipping a further 400 points to 10208. Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity.

The union for Northwest Airlines mechanics rejected an unofficial company offer for a 26 percent initial wage hike and a 112 percent pension increase, a spokesman said. Northwest also increased its retroactive pay proposal from $41 million for the 9,500 mechanics, cleaners, and custodians to $88 million. Union members had been prepared to strike earlier this week, but President Bush imposed measures such as an emergency board that push any strike back to mid-May.

The number of airline passengers in the US is expected to exceed 1 billion a year over the next decade, further stressing a system beleaguered by record flight delays, a new Federal Aviation Administration report said. It predicted the number of domestic and foreign takeoffs and landings by US carriers would rise by 39 percent between now and 2012 - to 36 million. Those planes will be carrying 63 percent more passengers than they do today, with the yearly number reaching 1.2 billion in 2012.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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