USA

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (below) declared a "war on bureaucracy" in the Pentagon, saying he wants to combine some civilian and military staffs, cut duplicate positions in the armed services, and shift some jobs to the private sector. Rumsfeld offered few specifics but said changes are vital to saving money in the Pentagon's $300 billion-plus budget to modernize the military. The Defense Department includes 1.4 million active-duty personnel, 1 million more in the National Guard and reserves, and 659,000 civilian employees. Separately, Rumsfeld said he hopes to persuade Congress to mothball or partially shutter military bases that are scheduled to be closed.

About 300,000 to 400,000 children, or 1 percent of all US young people, are victims of prostitution, pornography, and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, a new study found. Many children who become entangled in the commercial-sex industry took to the streets to escape abuse at home, University of Pennsylvania researchers said, and most victims were white and middle-class. Less than a quarter of children were from poor homes. The study included data from three countries and 28 cities, including 17 in the US. (Editorial, page 10.)

Two key congressional Democrats suggested the need for new tax cuts, including the until-now sacrosanct Social Security payroll tax, in light of the rising US unemployment rate and other unfavorable economic data. In separate TV interviews, Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota and John Kerry of the Massachusetts and the Finance Committee said such cuts might help spur economic growth.

The US economy will grow at a slow pace than previously thought, but a recovery from the year-long slowdown is likely to come by year's end, a National Association for Business Economics panel said. CNN reported the panelists cut their estimate for gross domestic product growth to 1.6 percent from 2.0 percent and cut 2002 GDP projections to 2.7 percent from 3.1. But two-thirds of the economists on the panel said recovery would start by the end of 2001.

The gender gap in the US narrowed over the last decade to a ratio of 96.3 males to every 100 females, largely because of immigration and falling death rates, 2000 Census Bureau data revealed. There were 138.1 million men in 2000, a 14 percent surge from 1990, and 143.4 million women, or a 13 percent increase in the same period. The gender gap has been closing since 1980, when the male-female ratio was 94.5 to 100. Alaska had the highest ratio, at 107 men to 100 women. The lowest ratio - 92.5 to 100 - was in Rhode Island.

A weekend crime spree near Sacramento, Calif., ended after a security guard who had been suspended from his job took his own life after a high-speed police chase and shootout. Joseph Ferguson allegedly shot five people to death, four of them former co-workers. Police said Ferguson went on the rampage because he was upset at the suspension and over the breakup of a relationship with a woman friend.

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