News In Brief

Interest in buying guns has been running high in December, with more than a million requests for background checks from would-be owners, according to data kept by the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check system. Gun-sale experts attributed the surge to concern about possible new antigun laws, as well as current and pending litigation aimed at restricting firearm purchases - not to Y2K. Since background checks began in November 1998, state and federal officials have conducted roughly 9.8 million background checks.

At the moment the new year begins, don't reach for the phone, US telephone officials urged. That's not because of any anticipated Y2K failures either, but because of the potential for a good, old-fashioned overload. Officials said too many calls at the same time might jam the lines just when the phone companies will be trying to keep lines free for emergency services. A better midnight test of home services, one spokesman said, is to check on whether the refrigerator is running.

Economic vitality could continue well into the new year, judging from the latest measure of leading economic indicators. The Conference Board, a business-sponsored study group, said its index rose 0.3 percent, to 108.3 in November, the highest level in 40 years.

About 1,000 firefighters and a fleet of water-dropping aircraft battled a wildfire in the eastern Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia. Although some 750 acres in the steep San Gabriel Mountains burned, no structures were damaged and only a few minor injuries were reported. Firefighters said they expected to have the blaze surrounded within two days.

Nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee said he may have "accidentally" passed on information about US nuclear weapons to a foreign country, a colleague testified during the second day of a bail hearing in Albuquerque, N.M. Richard Krajcik, deputy director of the Los Alamos Laboratory's nuclear-weapons division, shared the admission by Lee, who is being held without bail. He's charged with transferring material from secure to unsecured computers, and has pleaded innocent to 59 counts. Lee is seeking his release. pending a trial that may be a year away.

Minnesota Public Radio, the largest state public-radio network, was sued by the state's attorney general. The lawsuit claims MPR committed fraud by sharing donor lists with the Democratic National Committee and other groups without fully disclosing its actions. MPR says its practices are ethical and consistent with what other nonprofit groups with mail-based fundraising efforts. The case echoes a similar controversy involving at least two-dozen public TV stations.

In a follow-on story to one it broke last fall about 1950s Korean War atrocities, the Associated Press Wednesday reported that declassified US military documents and Korean and American witnesses indicate US jets also attacked some South Korean refugees who were suspected of harboring North Korean infiltrators.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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