News In Brief

Consumer prices edged up 0.1 percent in March, the smallest rise in seven months, as energy costs retreated, the Labor Department reported. The small jump in the consumer price index, the government's most closely watched inflation gauge, followed a 0.3 percent rise in February. With inflation posing little risk to the economy, the Federal Reserve would have latitude to further lower interest rates when it meets again in May, analysts said.

Hawaii's public school teachers, professors, and state officials were to resume talks today over a strike that has kept 220,000 students out of classes since April 5. Some 13,000 members of the state teachers association and 3,100 University of Hawaii educators are demanding pay raises that meet Hawaii's cost of living, which is at least 20 percent higher than on the US mainland. Their salaries are below the national average, but Gov. Benjamin Cayeano (D) says the state can't afford a raise. A federal court has threatened to take control of schools if the dispute is not resolved this week.

The Bush administration said it would let stand an environmentally friendly Clinton-era rule to protect 20,000 acres of wetlands and 150 miles of streams. The move will plug a loophole in the Clean Water Act that could have hurt marshes, bogs, and streams by allowing discharges into them from development activities such as land clearing or ditch-digging. Wetlands provide flood protection and homes for a wide range of birds, fish, and other wildlife. They also serve as natural filters for pollutants.

PG&E Corp., parent of the bankrupt northern California utility, reported a $4.1 billion fourth-quarter loss and acknowledged the company may not be able to recover soaring electricity costs it was not allowed to pass on to consumers last year. San Francisco-based PG&E's regulated utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, filed for bankruptcy protection April 6.

Dozens of federal agencies use unauthorized software that tracks Internet users - despite a rule imposed by ex-President Clinton that bans such data-gathering, according to a report by Sen. Fred Thompson (R) of Tennessee. Investigators found that 64 federal sites use unauthorized "cookie" software files that allow them to track browsing and buying habits of users. The sites are run by the departments of Education, Treasury, Energy, NASA, and others. Some agencies didn't know about the data mining; others say they benefit from it.

The Mississippi River was rising close to record levels in four states, along a 403-mile stretch from Iowa to Minnesota. Nine counties in western Wisconsin were under a state of emergency and a disaster proclamation was posted for 10 Iowa counties. Roads were closed, and hundreds of families have fled their riverside homes.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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