News In Brief

The US trade deficit, after setting records earlier this year, posted a decline of 0.4 percent to $30.4 billion in April, the Commerce Department reported. Imports fell for the first time in 15 months, reflecting a drop in crude-oil prices that has proved to be short-lived. But even with April's favorable figures, the deficit for the first four months of this year is running at an annual rate of $350 billion, far surpassing last year's record of $265 billion. And the deficit with Japan surged to an all-time high of $7.3 billion in April.

The House voted 207 to 197 to block funds for the Justice Department's lawsuit against the tobacco industry, despite warnings from Attorney General Janet Reno that she may have to drop the case without the money. Under current plans, the Justice Department would pay for $14.2 million of the suit's $26.2 million projected cost next year, and the remaining expenses would be divided among the departments of Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Health and Human Services. The measure the House passed, part of a spending bill, bars Veterans Affairs from contributing $4 million. Similar provisions exist in other House and Senate bills, all of which the Clinton administration has threatened to veto.

Another computer virus, this one appearing as a text file, caused the shutdown of e-mail systems at four Fortune 100 companies, technology experts said. Like the "Love Bug" problem, the so-called "Stages" virus sends itself to everyone listed in affected e-mail address books. The virus's e-mails contain an ".shs" extension, which by design is hidden. Although the risks of such extensions were raised in 1998, experts said this is the first reported ".shs" virus.

Following the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA championship win on their home court, scores of fans torched two police cars, vandalized businesses, and set small bonfires. At least 12 people were injured, and there were at least a dozen arrests, law-enforcement officers said. Police used rubber bullets in restoring calm soon after the violence erupted. Earlier, inside the Staples Center, the Lakers clinched their seventh title with a 116-111 win in Game 6 against the Indiana Pacers. Shaquille O' Neal was named most valuable player of the finals.

Officials reported almost total containment of two Colorado fires that have scorched 21,200 acres and destroyed more than 70 homes and other structures. Investigating authorities were deciding whether to file criminal charges against a local man whom police said may have had an open fire that started the Bobcat Gulch blaze. The cause of the Hi Meadow fire was still being probed.

Internet users spent an average of 296 hours online last year - up from 80 hours in 1995, a survey by the National Science Foundation reported. The study also found that the percentage of home computers having modems, for Internet connection, increased from 21 in 1995 to 46 in 1999.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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