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Nation/world digest 10/16/04

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Shoppers spring back to life in September

WASHINGTON -- Shoppers rediscovered their urge to splurge in September, catapulting retail sales up by the largest percentage gain in six months. Retail sales jumped 1.5 percent in September, the best showing since March and a turnaround from the 0.2 percent drop in August, the Commerce Department said Friday. In a separate report, the Federal Reserve said industrial production edged up by 0.1 percent in September. The subdued showing was blamed partly on recent hurricanes that curtailed activity in the oil and gas sector, petroleum refining and chemical production.

Antidepressants to carry stronger warning on label

WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration on Friday ordered that all antidepressants carry "black box" warnings that they "increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior" in children who take them. Patients and their parents will be given medication guides that include the warning with each new prescription or refill. The FDA's action was driven by data that showed that on average, 2 percent to 3 percent of children taking antidepressants have increased suicidal thoughts.

Israel ends offensive in northern Gaza Strip

JEBALIYA REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip -- Israel withdrew tanks and ground forces from populated areas in the northern Gaza Strip on Friday, wrapping up its bloodiest offensive in the area in more than four years of fighting. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the pullback at the urging of Israeli military commanders, who argued the two-week offensive had played itself out. Since Israel launched the offensive Sept. 29, responding to a deadly rocket attack on the southern Israeli border town of Sderot, at least 109 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds more wounded.

Judge OKs snowmobiles in two national parks

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- A federal judge Friday struck down a Clinton-era ban on snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks -- a move expected to leave the parks open to the vehicles for at least the next three winters. U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer ruled that the ban -- aimed at preventing air and noise pollution and protecting wildlife -- was imposed without adequate participation from the public and the states of Montana and Wyoming.

Fed chief downplays effect of high oil prices

WASHINGTON -- This year's price spike in oil should not be serious enough to push the country into a recession, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said Friday. Greenspan gave an upbeat assessment of the economy's ability to withstand the spike in oil prices of recent months, saying that he did not believe the country will see a replay of the oil shocks of the 1970s and early 1980s that triggered a series of recessions. He also said his forecast depended on oil prices not rising significantly higher than they already have. On Friday, crude oil prices in New York hit $54.93, up 17 cents from Thursday's record close.

U.S. Marines push ahead with assaults on Fallujah

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- American forces struck targets in an insurgent bastion on Friday, and there were no reports of casualties. U.S. jets and artillery pounded targets in the southern and eastern part of Fallujah -- the major stronghold of Sunni insurgents -- around sundown Friday as residents were taking the traditional meal that breaks the daily fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. U.S. officials indicated the bombing of Fallujah was not a prelude to a major offensive into the city that officials have said they might launch sometime this fall.

Karzai the early leader for Afghan president

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Early results Friday showed interim leader Hamid Karzai far ahead of his chief rivals in Afghanistan's Oct. 9 presidential election. Of 35,986 valid votes tallied in six northern and central provinces during the first day of counting Thursday, Karzai won 20,213, or 56.2 percent of the total, according to the official election Web site. If he keeps that up, he'll secure the simple majority needed to avoid a runoff vote with his closest of 15 rivals. Final results are due at the end of October, although it should be clear who has won after about a week.

-- From wire reports


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