News In Brief

The balance of power in the Senate officially shifts today to Democrats, by a 50 to 49 margin, for the first time since 1995. James Jeffords of Vermont left the GOP late last month to become an independent but will side with Democrats in reorganizing the chamber. Republicans relinquish their committee chairs, and Tom Daschle becomes majority leader, replacing Trent Lott. The switches position Democrats to challenge President Bush's agenda on matters including education and the environment as well as his judicial nominees.

American workers' productivity fell at an annual rate of 1.2 percent in the first quarter - the biggest drop in eight years, the Labor Department reported. The downward revision in productivity, the amount of output per hour of work and a key measure of rising living standards, reflected the weakened economy, analysts said. The Labor Department had previously estimated first-quarter productivity at 0.1 percent.

Nevada lawmakers approved a bill allowing the state to become the first to offer Internet gambling - a move that could bring casinos $6 billion in additional revenues by 2003. The Justice Department considers Internet gambling illegal, so it has been largely conducted by offshore companies. Nevada officials say court challenges could change the federal government's position. Rules governing Web gambling would prohibit minors from playing, as well as people living in states that prohibit gambling. The bill now goes to Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) for his signature.

Federal prosecutors asked a district court not to delay Monday's scheduled execution of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, saying "there is no case where the death sentence is more appropriate." McVeigh, who admits planting the bomb that killed 168 people in 1995, is seeking a delay on grounds that the FBI withheld 4,400 pages of documents that could have been useful to his defense. He also wants to see if those papers offer grounds for seeking a new trial. Prosecutors say the documents should not affect his execution because he has admitted guilt.

Media tycoon Michael Bloom-berg officially entered New York's mayoral campaign, seeking the Republican nomination in this fall's election. Bloomberg is one of at least six men seeking to succeed Rudolph Giuliani (R), who is barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term. Bloomberg is founder and chief executive officer of Bloomberg LP, a global financial information company.

Bush was to initiate a sweeping trade case that would impose sharp restrictions on steel imports and protect beleaguered US companies. The Commerce Department plans to bring the case before the International Trade Commission, the federal agency that must OK import protections. The move represents a victory for US steel producers, who for years have sought protection against low-priced imports.

A divided US Commission on Civil Rights concluded minority voters in Florida were unjustly penalized in last year's presidential election. Its draft report criticizes Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Secretary of State Katherine Harris for not ensuring that election procedures, including the types of voting machines and ballots used, did not discriminate against certain voters. The commission is composed of six Democrats and two Republicans. The latter said the draft wasn't shared with them before being made available to news outlets.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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