News In Brief

The productivity of US workers surged at the fastest rate in nearly three years during the final quarter of last year, the Labor Department reported. Productivity, a measure of output per worker-hour, climbed 3.7 percent for those outside the farm sector - the biggest gain since a 4.2 percent increase in the first quarter of 1996. The productivity burst at the end of 1998 helped produce a healthy 2.2 percent increase in productivity for the year.

Iowa Republican caucuses will be held Feb. 7, 2000 - two weeks earlier than previously scheduled, state party chairman Kayne Robinson announced. He said that was the earliest allowable date under Republican National Committee rules. The Louisiana Republican Party has said it hopes to hold regional caucuses before Iowa's, which have been a traditional launching pad for the presidential-campaign season.

Soil samples from a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant destroyed by US cruise missiles in August have yielded no evidence the factory was used to make chemical weapons, according to a US scientist hired by the plant's owner, The New York Times reported. Quoting Thomas Tullius, chairman of Boston University's chemistry department and the sampling-project leader, the article said analysis of soil, sludge, and debris from the bombed-out El-Shifa plant in Khartoum, Sudan, failed to detect Empta or Empa - two precursors of chemical-weapons agents the US has said were produced at the factory.

The Clinton administration proposed dropping limits on the number of flights at airports in Chicago and New York in five years, calling the caps an outdated curb on growth. The proposal, part of a broad aviation bill, would also allow unlimited flights by 70-seat regional jets into Chicago's O'Hare and Kennedy and La Guardia airports in New York, as of Sept. 1, 2000, in an effort to improve service to small cities underserved by major carriers.

American Airlines said it had to cancel nearly 500 (about 20 percent) of 2,250 daily flights in the third day of a slowdown by pilots concerned over how it will absorb a newly acquired low-cost regional airline, Reno Air. American, a unit of AMR Corp., said it will consider asking courts to restore service before the Washington's Birthday holiday weekend if pilots do not end their job action soon.

Land under drug cultivation in Colombia increased 26 percent last year, White House drug-policy chief Barry McCaffrey said. Citing intelligence figures, McCaffrey said Colombia's "explosion in production" was linked to political instability - but he praised antidrug efforts of Colombian President Andres Pastrana. The US must decide by March 1 whether Colombia should be certified this year as an ally in the war against drugs.

"Shakespeare in Love" and "Saving Private Ryan" dominated Academy Award nominations. "Shakespeare" received a near-record 13, including nominations for best picture, director, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress, and original screenplay. "Saving Private Ryan" had 11 nominations. The record of 14 nominations is held by "Titanic" (last year) and "All About Eve" (1951).

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