Leading indicators rise in May, jobless claims dip

Friday, June 20, 2003

NEW YORK -- A key predictor of economic activity rose sharply in May, fueling hopes for an economic rebound, though economists cautioned that it will take a few more months of positive readings to inspire the business confidence needed for full recovery.

"Everything is pointed in the same direction, but except for the leading indicator, none of it is pointing too hard," said Standard & Poor's chief economist David Wyss.

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose 1.0 percent in May to 111.6, the New York-based Conference Board said, higher than the 0.6 percent rise analysts had expected.

The forecast followed encouraging news from the Labor Department that unemployment benefit claims had declined by a seasonally adjusted 13,000 to 421,000, a five-week low.

Governor talks of healing for riot-torn Michigan city

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm urged healing and reconciliation Thursday after surveying the damage from two nights of rioting and meeting with leaders in this city plagued by poverty and racial tensions.

"The state must wrap its arms around this community," Granholm said. "It should never have to take violence to have elected officials pay attention, but we are paying attention and we are moving forward."

Hundreds rioted in Benton Harbor on Monday and Tuesday nights after the death of Terrance Shurn, 28, whose speeding motorcycle crashed as police chased him into the city from neighboring Benton Township. Several fires were set, police and firefighters were attacked, about a dozen people were hurt. Ten were arrested.

With hundreds of police on the streets, Benton Harbor was mostly calm Wednesday night and Thursday, although two fires were set overnight, including one that extensively damaged a home, authorities said.

FBI: Suicide pilot may have targeted air base

TAMPA, Fla. -- Newly released FBI documents say a 15-year-old boy who stole a plane and crashed it into a skyscraper might have originally targeted MacDill Air Force Base in his suicide mission.

An FBI review of Charles Bishop's Internet activity showed the teen sought maps of the base and information about it. He also sent an e-mail to a classmate asking where Central Command was located on the base.

Bishop died on Jan. 5, 2002, when he flew a Cessna stolen from a flight school into the Bank of America building in downtown Tampa. He left a note expressing sympathy for Osama bin Laden.

Killer whose lawyer slept in court pleads guilty

HOUSTON -- A convicted killer who won a new trial because his attorney slept through parts of his case pleaded guilty to murder Thursday in a deal that spared him from a possible death sentence.

Calvin Burdine, 50, received consecutive life sentences for the 1983 stabbing of his lover and roommate, W.T. "Dub" Wise.

In 1984, Burdine was found guilty and sentenced to die. But a federal judge threw out the conviction because of evidence that his attorney, Joe Cannon, slept for up to 10 minutes at a time during crucial testimony.

Prosecutors agreed to the deal because of "the guarantee that he would die in prison," District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said. Also, he said the evidence had deteriorated over the years.

Cannon denied falling asleep. He has since died.

-- From wire reports

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