News In Brief

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 300 points to below 10,000, its lowest level since October, then rebounded slightly as the Monitor went to press. Investors reacted partly to news from Japan, which said the world's second-largest economy was in a state of deflation. Meanwhile, a Commerce Department report showed business inventories of unsold goods rose 0.4 percent in January - the largest since October - and sales remained flat as companies struggled to bring supplies back in line with demand.

The federal government expanded a ban on imports of livestock and fresh meat to all 15 members of the European Union - temporarily shutting down more than $1 billion in annual trade - after a case of foot-and-mouth disease was detected in France. The ban, which also applies to unpasteurized dairy products, would have the biggest impact on imports of pork from the Netherlands and Denmark. The US had already suspended animal imports from Britain. The disease does not harm people, but kills cattle, sheep, and hogs.

President Bush indicated he intends to back off from a campaign pledge to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants, citing concerns that it could increase already-soaring energy prices. The shift, cited in a letter to Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) of Nebraska, occurs days before moderate Republicans were to introduce legislation that would require limits on carbon dioxide releases. Environmental groups criticized Bush.

The Navy pilot whose bombs killed six people in a training accident in Kuwait had received the go-ahead from a ground controller who then attempted to wave off the misplaced strike, defense officials confirmed. The Pentagon sent a three-star general to lead an investigation into whether the blame rests with the pilot, the controller, or other Navy officials.

The Senate was expected to pass what could become the most sweeping overhaul of bankruptcy laws in 20 years. The measure, which would make it tough for people to erase debts in bankruptcy court, passed in the House earlier this month. The bill is said to ensure that people who can afford to pay back some of their debts do so rather than walk away under Chapter 7 bankruptcy law. Although banks and credit-card companies say the measure would protect them from abuse of the law, consumer groups argue it would harm victims of an aggressive credit-card marketing system. Bush is expected to sign the bill.

Influential House Republicans were trying to up the ante on Bush's $1.6 trillion in tax cuts, with a broad proposal that would boost them to $2.2 trillion over 10 years. The group, which includes House majority leader Dick Armey, said passing Bush's plan remains its first priority but indicated there's room for greater tax relief within the projected $5.6 trillion surplus between now and 2011.

About 60 percent of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing and agree with his plans for the budget surplus, a new CBS-New York Times poll showed. After almost two months in office, his approval rating is a similar to that of predecessor Bill Clinton after the same period in office.

A proposal to ban blessing rituals for same-sex couples in the Presbyterian Church was defeated. The decision leaves clergy free to conduct such ceremonies so long as they are not confused with marriages. The vote among the church's 173 regional legislatures was seen as a victory for the liberal side in the conflict over homosexuality, which has divided Presbyterians for more than two decades.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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