News In Brief

Under new chairman Joseph Lieberman (D) of Connecticut, a Senate committee opened broad-based hearings on gasoline, electricity, and natural gas prices, especially as they affect Western states. Lieberman said he doesn't believe in price controls as called for by California Gov. Gray Davis (D) but described the state's energy market as "not even functional." Meanwhile, unidentified sources with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) told the Los Angeles Times it is considering a significant expansion of its cap on electricity prices in California. But FERC chairman Curtis Hebert testified that the limit already has caused wholesale prices to drop.

Spurning federal prosecutors, the jury in the case of a Saudi national convicted of bombing the US Embassy in Kenya rejected the death penalty in favor of life imprisonment. Mohamad Rasheed Daoud al-Ohwali's life was spared, jury members said, so as not to make him a martyr to inspire other anti-US militants. The 1998 blast killed 213 people. The jury now must decide the fate of Khalfan Khamis Mohamad, found guilty of the simultaneous bombing of the US Embassy in Tanzania, which killed 224 people.

A record 15 percent drop in violent crime last year continued the downward trend that began in 1994, the Justice Department said. Its report said the roughly 1 million decrease in reported incidents affected virtually all demographic groups. The category does not include murder. Crimes against property also fell last year, by 10 percent.

Pregnancy among teenagers fell to record low levels in 1997, the most recent year for which data were available, the Health and Human Services Department reported. Researchers did not say why, although a heavy infusion of federal money went into sex-education programs that year. About 9.4 percent of all females aged 15 to 19 became pregnant in 1997, continuing a downward trend that traces to the start of the decade.

Consumers shifted gears last month, spending less on clothing, cars, and electronics and causing a smaller-than-expected 0.1 percent increase in retail sales, the Commerce Department reported. Analysts had forecast a 0.3 percent rise. The modest increase was due, in part, to the higher cost of gasoline, the report said. Retail sales rose 1.4 percent in April.

Prospects dimmed for building a $30 billion fleet of advanced destroyers for the Navy when a study conducted for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld found the ships wouldn't make "a substantial difference in operational capabilities, compared to [existing] systems."

A four-year ban on investing in tobacco companies was removed by overseers of the state of Florida's $100 billion pension fund. The decision contrasted with the 1997 selloff of $825 million in such stocks in what officials called a strategic move because the state was suing cigarettemakers at the time to recover the public costs of treating ill smokers. The fund covers more than 750,000 current and ex-state workers.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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