News In Brief

The US deficit in the broadest measure of trade surged to an all-time high of $435.4 billion last year as an increase in exports failed to offset a huge rise in imports of consumer goods and oil, the Commerce Department reported. The deficit was up a sharp 31.3 percent from the previous record of $341.5 billion set in 1999.

The number of people signing up for first-time unemployment benefits in the past four weeks rose to the highest level in more than 2-1/2 years, the Labor Department reported. The four-week moving average of initial claims rose to 364,250 in the week ending March 10 from 356,500 in the prior week.

President Bush is withdrawing 750 US peacekeeping troops from Bosnia and is consulting with NATO allies on additional cutbacks, aides said. However, a pledge by Secretary of State Colin Powell to stay the course in Kosovo is to remain in effect. CBS reported that the administration plans eventually to reduce by 80 percent the 4,400 US troops in Bosnia.

A comparison of satellite data from 1970 and 1997 has yielded the first direct evidence that so-called "greenhouse" gases are building up in Earth's atmosphere, scientists said. They had theorized that carbon dioxide and other pollutants have caused the trapping of heat close to Earth. But whether the greenhouse effect will lead to global warming or cooling is unclear, they said, because it could start a cycle in which more clouds are formed, blocking the sun's energy from reaching Earth's surface in the first place. (Editorial, page 10.)

Philadelphia's transit union said it had not ruled out an immediate strike after its contract expired early Thursday. A strike would shut down bus, subway, and trolley services in the city affecting about 400,000 commuters and 23,500 schoolchildren. Harry Lombardo, leader of Transport Workers union, said healthcare benefits remained a major sticking point in contract negotiations with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

American women outnumbered men by almost 8 million last year, or 51 percent to 49 percent, the Census Bureau reported. The bureau also said 24 percent of women age 25 and over had earned at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 28 percent of men. But more men working fulltime - 13 percent - earned at least $75,000 a year. That compares with 4 percent of women earning the same amount. The percent of women and men who finished high school was equal, at 84 percent.

For the fourth straight year, Doug Swingley won the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail sled race in Alaska. The Lincoln, Mont., musher (above, with his lead dogs Peppy and Stormy) crossed the Nome finish line in 9 days, 19 hours, and 55 minutes after the race began in downtown Anchorage.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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