News In Brief
The Justice Department favors breaking Microsoft Corp. into as many as three parts, sources close to the government's antitrust lawsuit against the software giant said. A federal judge would have to agree to such a plan, whose details were not disclosed. Mediation talks involving Microsoft began late last month after a US district court judge ruled in November that Microsoft used monopoly power to harm consumers and competitors.
The US population will double by 2100 from the current 274 million to 571 million, the Census Bureau projected. It also said that by 2005 Hispanics could become the largest minority, surpassing blacks. Asian and Pacific Island groups are expected to become more prominent too, while non-Hispanic white populations are projected to increase at a slower pace.
Wholesale prices shot up 3 percent last year, the biggest increase since 1990, the Labor Department reported. But the increase was largely due to a 18.4 percent rebound in energy costs, which had fallen sharply in 1998. Gasoline prices rose 76.4 percent last year, the largest annual gain since 1980.
Claiming disparities in US policy toward would-be immigrants, especially involving young Cuban Elian Gonzalez, an estimated 3,000 Haitian-Americans demonstrated in Miami. They called attention to the New Year's Day attempt by 400 Haitians to reach the US, in which their boat ran aground in Florida waters. While one mother was brought ashore for medical reasons, her two children were among those turned away. US officials said they'd have acted differently had they realized the family connection.
A newly declassified Pentagon intelligence report said a Hong Kong-based company operating at two leased port facilities in the Panama Canal Zone could pose security problems for the US. The report, cited earlier this week in The Washington Times, said the Chinese cargo-handling firm Hutchinson Whampoa Ltd. could facilitate the movement of arms and other prohibited items into the Americas. Asked for comment, a State Department spokesman repeated earlier assertions that his agency does not view Hutchinson Whampoa as a security threat.
The Federal Railroad Administration proposed a rule requiring train whistles to be blown at all public crossings. Some 247 communities across the US have enacted bans on the warnings. But that has caused a 62 percent increase in train-vehicle collisions, the agency said. Under the proposal, whistles still could be silenced if additional safety steps are taken, such as installing cameras to catch violators or adding barriers to keep drivers from zigzagging around lowered gates.
The administration ruled out a US role in any efforts to mediate the conflict between Russia and Islamic rebels in Chechnya. But the State Department said it is asking Russia to clarify reports that Chechen males would be detained for questioning about whether they had ties to the rebels. Russia has rejected outside intervention in the conflict.
Global warming has accelerated over the past 20 years by just under 0.50 degrees F., a panel of the National Academy of Sciences said. But its study, which evaluated surface temperatures over a 100-year span, stopped short of making predictions or attributing the trend to atmospheric pollution.
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