News In Brief

Consumer prices were unchanged in May after a huge gain the month before, the Labor Department reported, possibly taking some pressure off the Federal Reserve to boost interest rates. The consumer price index, the main US inflation gauge, was flat for the first time since March 1998. It had jumped 0.7 percent in April, its biggest increase in eight years.

Vice President Al Gore returned to his Carthage, Tenn., hometown to officially declare his candidacy for the White House. Before the announcement, Gore told reporters it would allow him to publicly disagree with President Clinton on certain issues - something he has not previously felt free to do as vice president.

The House voted to increase aviation funding, brushing aside warnings that the spending would bust the federal budget. A bipartisan 316-to-110 majority backed the move to speed the upgrade of airports and air-traffic-control systems while promoting airline competition. The five-year, $57.4 billion bill exceeds budget limits by $14.3 billion, but protects aviation spending from future cuts by taking it off-budget and tapping the entire Aviation Trust Fund. Nearly half of the fund - raised from aviation taxes - is now used to offset other spending.

The Senate voted to protect businesses against lawsuits stemming from Y2K computer glitches, despite a White House veto threat. The bill - approved on a 62-to-37 vote - would delay filing of lawsuits related to year-2000 computer problems during a 30-to-90-day cooling-off period, make it harder to file Y2K-related suits, and cap punitive damages in certain cases. The White House said it was unfair to consumers and would reduce incentives for companies to update their computers. Some experts say Y2K litigation costs could reach $1 trillion.

Thirty-four American Indian tribes were to file a lawsuit against the tobacco industry to recover billions of dollars they say they've spent treating smoking-related illnesses. The tribes - mostly from the West and Midwest - also seek an end to advertising that targets Indian teenagers. They accused the industry of targeting Indians, who have the highest adult smoking rates among US ethnic groups.

There are more than 70,000 Americans age 100 or above - almost twice as many as in 1990, the Census Bureau said. The bureau predicted there would be 834,000 US centenarians - and perhaps as many as 4.2 million - by 2050. Only 37,000 were recorded in the 1990 census.

A popular device for downloading and storing music from the Internet doesn't violate anti-piracy laws, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. It said the hand-held Rio MP300, manufactured by Diamond Multimedia Systems, is not subject to restrictions of the 1992 Audio Home Recording Act. The MP3 format is widely used by lesser-known artists to distribute their music. The record industry says it will lead to rampant piracy in cyberspace.

Cool, moist weather slowed a pair of fires that burned nearly 16,000 acres in rural Alaska over five days - including one that briefly forced the evacuation of hundreds of soldiers and their families from Fort Greely, an Army post near Delta Junction.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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