The News in Brief

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The US

The nation's work force registered its best productivity gain in nearly five years in the third quarter, the Labor Department said. Nonfarm business productivity - output per hour worked - grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.1 percent, the largest gain since the final months of 1992. Analysts said such robust productivity gains are unusual so late in an economic expansion. Productivity increased 2.4 percent in the second quarter and 1.4 percent in the first.

Financier and philanthropist George Soros gave $4.5 million to help children and the poor in New York City. The money was donated to the Robin Hood Foundation, formed by a group of Wall Street financiers in the 1980s. Soros, best known for his grants to overseas causes, said he was expanding his giving in the US and would focus it on young people. A clash between US and Canadian fishermen over salmon catches off the Pacific coast is gradually being resolved, US and Canadian officials indicated. Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles (D) said ferry service to Prince Rupert, B.C., was resuming for the first time since last summer, when angry Canadian fishermen blockaded his state's ferry, Malaspina, there for three days. The New York Stock Exchange was to announce a widening of the "circuit breakers" that bring trading to a temporary halt after rapid drops in stock prices, Wall Street sources said. Currently, trading is stopped if the Dow Jones industrial average falls 350 points in one session. The new approach would be to stop trading when the Dow falls 10 percent, the sources said. At current levels, that would translate to a loss of about 800 points. The Federal Aviation Administration said it will refer year-old safety recommendations relating to the explosion of TWA Flight 800 to an advisory group. A year ago, the National Transportation Safety Board issued recommendations for reducing flammability of vapors in the center fuel tanks of Boeing 747s. The FAA said it would refer the matter to an advisory committee within two months, instructing it to provide specific solutions six months later. A US appeals court dismissed a lawsuit by human-rights victims seeking funds deposited in Swiss banks by the late Philippines president, Ferdinand Marcos. The three-judge panel in San Francisco ruled unanimously that a suit against Credit Suisse and Swiss Bank Corp. could not be heard in the US. If upheld, the ruling appears to block efforts by a Filipino group to use US courts to tap some $475 million held in the two banks. The judge in the trial of Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski told lawyers they should aim to give opening arguments Dec. 29. Jury selection began Nov. 12, but has moved slowly. The cabin Kaczynski built and inhabited is being hauled through Butte, Mont., to Sacramento, Calif., where it will reportedly be shown to the jury by defense attorneys trying to prove he is mentally ill. A trial began in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where a $150 million defamation lawsuit has been brought against three advisers to Tawana Brawley, a decade after the then-15-year-old claimed white law-enforcement officers abducted and raped her. Former prosecutor Steven Pagones is suing the Rev. Al Sharpton, Alton Maddox Jr., and C. Vernon Mason, accusing them of defamation by saying he was one of six who allegedly attacked Miss Brawley in 1987. A 1988 grand jury report found her claim a fabrication. Sharpton recently came close to winning the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York. There was new debate over whether a potato-size meteorite contains evidence of past life on Mars. Scientists who found it in Antarctic wastes said they had proved it contains no signs of life. But US space agency researchers, who stunned the scientific world with a discovery of remains of tiny bacteria in the rock, said they were more convinced than ever of their finding. Both views were published in the scientific journal Nature. …


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