News In Brief

The Federal Reserve unexpectedly cut interest rates by another 0.5 percent - the fourth reduction this year. The move to 4.5 percent on key lending rates, sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average soaring by more than 400 points as the Monitor went to press. The Nasdaq Composite Index also surged back above 2000 for the first time since March 15.

The trade deficit showed dramatic improvement in February, shrinking to its lowest point since December 1999, as imports of foreign goods from petroleum to shoes dropped by the largest amount on record. The Commerce Department reported the gap for February narrowed by 18.8 percent from a January imbalance of $33.3 billion to $27 billion. The narrowing deficit reflected a 4.4 percent decline in imports.

By almost 2-to-1, Mississippians voted to keep the Confederate banner on the state flag. The vote, largely along racial lines, defeated an alternative that would have substituted a cluster of 20 stars. Opponents argued that the symbol is racist and that the controversy could become a barrier to economic development. Last year, South Carolina lawmakers removed the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome. In January, Georgia shrank the Confederate symbol that had dominated its flag since 1956. Above, Stanley Lott, a black voter who nonetheless favors keeping the Confederate symbol, demonstrates on the Capitol steps in Jackson.

President Bush's foreign policy advisers recommended against the sale of destroyers equipped with the Aegis radar and weapons system to Taiwan, a senior administration official said. They instead advised Bush to allow the sale of other, less-advanced weapons systems. A final decision is expected to be made public next week.

The Supreme Court upheld a much-litigated North Carolina congressional district, ruling those who challenged it did not show that race was the main factor in its creation. The 5-to-4 ruling marked the fourth time the justices had looked at the state's 12th district. The case is a follow-up to a landmark 1993 decision that racially drawn districts may violate the rights of white voters.

Bush planned to push ahead with new regulations requiring 10,000 more businesses to inform the federal government as well as nearby residents about lead released into the environment. The rules, issued during the Clinton presidency and effective immediately, aim to reduce cases of lead poisoning. They require industrial plants that emit at least 100 pounds of lead a year to report releases, a sixfold increase from before.

University of Hawaii professors reached an agreement with the state, ending a 13-day strike that kept more than 40,000 students out class. The deal would increase salaries up to 12 percent. Public school teachers, however, remained on the picket line, keeping 180,000 students out of classes. They seek pay raises totaling 22 percent.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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