U.S. to build power plants at 'closed' Russian cities

Friday, July 18, 2003

WASHINGTON -- An agreement was reached Thursday between the United States and Russia on Western access to two traditionally closed Russian nuclear cities, marking another step toward shutting down Russia's last two plutonium producing reactors.

The agreement signed in Moscow establishes arrangements for foreign access to the once highly secret cities of Seversk and Zheleznogorsk for the construction of two fossil fuel-burning power plants.

The cities, part of Russian nuclear weapons complex, are among some of the most secret real estate in all of Russia. While some foreigners, with advance permission, have had access to work on joint projects, the cities remain generally off limits to anyone but those working in nuclear programs and their families.

"This is one further step in what has been a long process" to get the plutonium reactors replaced, said Matthew Bunn, a researcher at Harvard University who has closely followed Russian nuclear issues.

Boeing to cut thousands more jobs than planned

SEATTLE -- The Boeing Co. plans to cut 4,000 to 5,000 more jobs than previously planned from its commercial airplane division by the end of the year, as the airline industry remains mired in the worst downturn in its history.

The cuts will come through attrition and layoffs, Boeing spokesman Bill Cogswell said Thursday.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Boeing had said it would need to cut 35,000 from its work force by the end of 2003.

Now, with the continuing aviation slump, worsened by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak this year, Boeing believes it needs to further slash its employment levels, Cogswell said.

The additional cuts disclosed Thursday represent up to 8 percent of the commercial airplane division's work force of 61,000.

Chicago-based Boeing has long said it would tie employment to its forecast production levels. But so far, the company has not changed its forecast of delivering 280 airplanes in 2003, and between 275-300 airplanes in 2004, Cogswell said.

Mortgage rates climb but still historically low

WASHINGTON -- Rates on 30-year and 15-year mortgages climbed this week to their highest levels since the beginning of May. But even with the increase, mortgages rates are still lower than they were a year ago and should continue to keep the housing market healthy.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for the week ending July 18 was 5.67 percent, up from last week's rate of 5.52 percent, Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant, reported Thursday in its weekly nationwide survey.

In the middle of June, rates on 30-year mortgages slid to a new weekly low of 5.21 percent, the lowest level since Freddie Mac began tracking this benchmark mortgage in 1971. Records that reach back earlier indicate that rate was the lowest in more than four decades, economists said.

Airport security finds gun inside boy's teddy bear

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Airport security workers found a loaded handgun stuffed inside a brown teddy bear that a 10-year-old boy was carrying on a trip home after his family's Florida vacation, authorities said Thursday.

The FBI is investigating how the gun got inside the teddy bear.

A Transportation Security Administration worker noticed the outline of a gun when the bear passed through an X-ray machine at Orlando International Airport on Saturday.

The TSA found a loaded .22-caliber gun after the bear was opened. The boy's family told investigators that the bear was a gift from a girl at the hotel where they stayed during their Orlando vacation.

"She appeared at their hotel room door and offered them the bear," said Robert Johnson, a TSA spokesman in Washington. "The mother said it was OK and so the boy took it."

--From wire reports

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