News In Brief

FBI agent Robert Hanssen pleaded innocent to federal charges of spying for Russia and, earlier, the former Soviet Union at his arraignment in a Virginia district court. The arraignment came after Hanssen's lawyers and the government failed to negotiate a plea bargain. Hanssen, arrested in February, is accused of passing US secrets to Moscow for 15 years in exchange for $1.4 million in cash and diamonds. He could face the death penalty on charges that he identified Soviet agents secretly working for the US who were later executed. Plans were set for an October trial.

US forces in Bahrain, home of the Navy's 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf, were put on a heightened state of alert in response to a security threat, defense officials said. A spokesman said the decision was not related to the convictions of four Arabic defendants in the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Africa. About 1,100 personnel, the most important US military contingent in the Persian Gulf, are stationed in Bahrain.

A team of American researchers discovered fossils of what may have been the second-largest dinosaur on Earth. The creature weighed more than 60 tons, was 80 feet to 100 feet long, and lived on a lush coastal plain in what is now the Egyptian Sahara 90 million years ago. The research effort was led by Joshua Smith of the University of Pennsylvania. The monster was identified as a sauropod, a type of plant-eater.

A steady decline in violent crime in the US over the past decade is leveling off, a new FBI report said. Its data show total violent crimes increased 0.1 percent in 2000, while the overall index was unchanged from the year before. The trend triggered some concern that a slowing economy, record number of parolees from prisons, and other factors may fuel a return to high crime rates of the early 1990s.

At least 6,600 registered nurses prepared to strike today in Minnesota's twin cities, in what their union said would be its biggest job action yet. Thousands of replacements were prepared to step in. While nurses at three hospitals agreed to new contracts, thousands of others failed to reach agreements. Staffing levels, scheduling, and pay are of primary concern.

Amnesty International said the US has relinquished its role as leader on international human-rights issues and often sacrifices its concerns for political expediency. In its annual report, the world's most prominent monitoring group on human rights cited US failure to ratify a convention to ban antipersonnel land mines and opposition to establishing an international criminal court. It also criticized President Bush for taking a hands-off role in the Middle East. The report came four weeks after the US lost its seat on the UN Human Rights Commission.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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