News In Brief

Two key national economic reports contained less than favorable signals. The Labor Department said consumer prices jumped 3.4 percent last year, the biggest in a decade. The gain largely was attributed to a surge in energy prices. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, reported that output by factories, mines, and utilities fell 1.1 percent in last year's October-December period - the first quarterly setback since January-March 1991. For all of 2000, however, industrial output rose 5.7 percent, compared with a 4.2 percent gain in 1999.

The Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 that keeping sexually violent predators confined after their prison terms expire does not automatically violate their constitutional rights. The justices, in deciding the case of a six-time rapist in Washington State, said such prisoners cannot win their release merely by challenging the conditions of their confinement. Instead, they said, sexual predators can take other action, such as filing civil rights lawsuits, to try to force a state to provide proper treatment or otherwise improve conditions.

In another last-minute action before leaving office, President Clinton created seven new national monuments, which will prevent commercial exploitation of more than 1 million acres of land. That brings the acres that Clinton has declared as part of national monuments to 5.6 million, an aide said. The newest additions include Pompeys Pillar near Billings, Mont., where explorer William Clark carved his name in 1806 on his historic westward trek with Meriwether Lewis.

Trying to get a handle on the energy crisis, California's state Assembly passed emergency legislation that permits the state to buy electricity from wholesalers and sell it to utilities at a reduced rate under long-term contracts. The measure now goes to the Senate. Meanwhile, one of the largest utilities, Southern California Edison, said it was unable to pay $596 million in payments due to creditors and would run out of cash Feb. 2. (Story, page 2.)

During the first day of his Senate hearing, Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft was grilled by Democrats about his ability to separate conservative personal beliefs from public service. He vowed to do so, but was pressed on whether he had brought up such issues himself when, as a senator, he opposed the confirmation of several nominees. Although the hearing is expected to continue through at least today, several Democrats already have conceded he'll probably be confirmed.

In reportedly the largest gift yet to a US public university, a Silicon Valley couple announced they're making a $250 million donation to the University of Colorado. The money from Bill Coleman, head of BEA Systems, and his wife, Claudia, is intended for developing technology to help people with disabilities such as Down's syndrome and autism.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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