News In Brief

Next month, California residents will begin paying the second-highest electricity rates in the US - an average of 15.6 cents per kilowatt hour. Energy regulators approved a hike that raises customers' rates as much as 80 percent in a move that aims to help the state recoup $6 billion spent trying to bail out its two biggest utilities and keep the lights on. Industrial customers may see bills rise by up to 49 percent. Commissioners warned of possible further rate increases this summer.

FBI agent Robert Hanssen was to be formally indicted on 21 counts of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia, his lawyer said. The 25-year veteran agent was arrested Feb. 18 and accused of handing more than 6,000 pages of secret documents that told how the US gathers intelligence, including people who worked as double agents. In return, Hanssen reportedly was paid about $1.4 million.

The Federal Reserve slashed interest rates by a half point for the fifth time this year. The move drops the federal-funds rate, the interest that banks charge each other, to 4 percent. The Fed has cut rates more aggressively this year than at any other time under Chairman Alan Greenspan, lowering interest rates by 2-1/2 percentage points in less than five months.

Consumer inflation rose 0.3 percent in April, more moderately than expected, the Labor Department reported. The advance in the consumer price index, the most closely watched inflation gauge, followed a 0.1 percent jump in March. Clothing prices took their biggest plunge in 52 years. Gas prices, however, posted the biggest gain in seven months.

Acting Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift (R) became the US's first governor to give birth while in office, delivering twin girls. Swift, also the US's youngest governor, was to return to her western Massachusetts home for a six- to eight-week leave. She retained full gubernatorial powers while hospitalized for seven days before giving birth, and plans to preside over a special Governor's Council session via phone tomorrow. Swift took office April 10, after Gov. Paul Cellucci resigned to become ambassador to Canada.

A runaway 47-car freight train carrying hazardous liquids rolled more than 65 miles across Ohio with no one at the controls until railroad worker Jon Hosfeld jumped aboard and brought it to a halt near Kenton. The CSX Transportation train, which hit peak speeds of 46 m.p.h., was first slowed to 10 m.p.h. when workers hooked another engine behind it to try to brake it. Both the CSX's engineer and conductor had climbed off the train in a yard near Toledo. The locomotive's brakes were set, but the train rolled away because the throttle was open enough to overcome them.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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