Nation briefs 2/10/06

Friday, February 10, 2006

30-year mortgage rates rise for third week

WASHINGTON -- Rates on 30-year mortgages edged up for a third straight week, rising to the highest level since late December, Freddie Mac reported Thursday. The giant mortgage company said its nationwide survey showed that rates on 30-year mortgages rose to 6.24 percent, up from 6.23 percent last week. It was the third consecutive increase and left the 30-year mortgage at the highest level since it stood at 6.26 percent on Dec. 22. Rates had dropped as low as 6.10 percent in mid-January before beginning their latest increase. A year ago, 30-year mortgages averaged 5.57 percent, 15-year mortgages stood at 5.10 percent, one-year adjustable-rate mortgages were at 4.11 percent and five-year hybrid adjustable rate mortgages averaged 4.99 percent.

Group claims New Orleans election plans hurt blacks

NEW ORLEANS -- An advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging plans for city elections in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, alleging the process would keep blacks out of elected office. The Advancement Project, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that has been active in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, claims the plan relies too much on cumbersome absentee voting. Most displaced voters are black. The group wants changes to the election plan, including polling stations outside the state. Meanwhile, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People warned that it might organize protests and challenge the elections in court unless displaced voters are given greater consideration in plans to hold elections April 22.

Man apparently kills himself in jet lavatory

DENVER -- A man apparently hanged himself in plane bathroom during a coast-to-coast flight. Gerald Georgettis, 56, of Miami, was found dead in the bathroom Wednesday during a United flight from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, according to the Denver medical examiner. The plane was diverted to Denver when the body was found. A man with the same name and age was accused of causing nearly $1 million in damage at a Ford dealership in Miami by setting his new Ford on fire. Police have said the suspect was upset about the car's price; they wouldn't confirm it was the same man.

Girls starting drug use at higher rates than boys

NEW YORK -- In a reversal of past trends, teenage girls are trying marijuana, alcohol and cigarettes at higher rates than boys, the White House drug czar said Thursday. The findings from a new government analysis come even as teen drug use is declining overall. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released by John Walters, the national drug policy director, indicates 1.5 million girls ages 12 to 17 started drinking alcohol in 2004, the most recent year for which data is available. That compares with 1.28 million boys. Among the same age group, 730,000 girls started smoking cigarettes in 2004, compared with 565,000 boys, and 675,000 girls starting using marijuana, compared with 577,000 boys, the survey found. The nationwide survey, based on interviews with 70,000 families, also found that girls surpassed boys in abusing prescription drugs. Of the youths surveyed in 2004, 14.4 percent of girls and 12.5 percent of boys reported misusing prescription drugs.

-- From wire reports

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