News In Brief

There was an 11 percent drop in the number of people who tried to buy guns from licensed firearms dealers between 1999 and 2000, according to new figures from the Justice Department. The report also showed that most of those denied a purchase had felony convictions or indictments; background checks stopped 153,000 of the nearly 7.7 million attempted gun purchases last year. Analysts attributed the drop in prospective buyers mostly to the general decline in overall crime rates in the 1990s, saying people may feel safer. But the report does not necessarily mean fewer weapons overall were sold, researchers said.

Consumer spending rose by 0.5 percent in May, the Commerce Department reported. The figure, a key indicator since consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity, is slightly higher than many analysts were forecasting. The strength largely reflected a jump in purchases of costly manufactured items like cars and washing machines. Meanwhile, the National Association of Purchasing Management reported that while activity in the US manufacturing sector fell for the 11th straight month in June, it was at a slower pace.

United Airlines and US Airways began discussions to abandon their planned $4.3 billion merger, the airlines said. United is reportedly dropping the acquisition due to concerns that the merger wouldn't pass federal antitrust scrutiny. It will have to pay US Airways at least a $50 million breakup fee. A weakening economy that has hurt United's parent, UAL Corp., also contributed to the airline's decision to abandon the costly merger, reports said. The deal had initially faced criticism from some consumer groups and politicians.

The Navy is preparing to recover the Japanese fishing trawler sunk by the USS Greeneville in February, in hopes of recovering nine bodies believed to be inside the boat. It plans to move the Ehime Maru, which sank in 2,000 feet of water, to 115-foot deep waters off the coast of Hawaii. The estimated $40 million operation will be the first time the Navy has salvaged such a large ship from such depths. Navy divers and technical experts toured a Japanese boat built from the same plans as the Ehime Maru to better understand the challenges the team of some 60 US and Japanese divers will face.

Revolutionary War reenactors conducted artillery exercises on the Washington Mall during a weekend exhibition meant to draw attention to the 225th anniversary of the American Revolution. Thomas Jefferson held the first Independence Day celebration at the White House 200 years ago this week.

Comair returned to the skies yesterday with its first flight since a pilot strike shut down the regional airline for three months. Employees cheered as the plane took off from Cincinnati with 19 customers aboard. Pilots ratified a new contract over a week ago, but flights couldn't begin until they had completed required training. Comair doesn't expect to fly with full planes for a while, its president said. It is now offering discounts of up to 60 percent to win customers back.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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