News In Brief

Workers planned to rally outside the US headquarters of embattled Japanese tiremaker Bridgestone/Firestone in anticipation of a nationwide strike tomorrow described by union representatives as inevitable. But the company, which has been negotiating a new contract since March for 8,000 workers, still hoped to reach an agreement with the union today, a spokeswoman said. A strike would come at a difficult time for the company as it increases production to replace millions of tires recalled last month.

Bringing closure to its controversial takeover efforts a step nearer, Japan's NTT Communications said it will pay $5.5 billion for Englewood, Colo.-based Internet service provider Verio Inc. The four-month ordeal had drawn intense scrutiny from US officials concerned it could present a foreign espionage risk by giving state-controlled NTT access to US wiretapping activities. But last week, President Clinton declined to block the sale.

Orders to US factories plunged by a record 7.5 percent in July, sparked by the biggest one-month drop in demand for transportation equipment to date, the Commerce Department reported.

Amid concerns of rising inflation and a weakened euro, the European Central Bank raised a key interest rate by a quarter-percent to 4.5 percent. The move marked the fifth hike this year by the ECB governing board, which sets policies for the 11 countries using Europe's common currency. The euro sank to a three-month low of 88.7 cents against the US dollar in trading Wednesday.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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