National briefs 09/25/01

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Leading indicators fall 0.3 percent in August

NEW YORK -- The economy was weakening even before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, a new Conference Board survey showed Monday.

The New York-based Conference Board said its Index of Leading Economic Indicators fell 0.3 percent in August to 109.6, following a revised 0.4 percent increase in July.

The index was based on data collected before the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The index is usually closely watched because it indicates where the overall U.S. economy is headed in the next three to six months. It stood at 100 in 1996, its base year.

Attacks make Thompson reconsider Senate run

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Republican Sen. Fred Thompson said Monday he had been leaning against running for re-election until the terrorist attacks convinced him that "now is clearly not the time to leave."

"This is probably not the best time in the world to say something political," he added. "But I think it's time to go ahead and address it and get it behind us."

Thompson's announcement ended speculation and worry for national Republican leaders, who wanted Thompson to run so time and money wouldn't be spent defending an otherwise safe seat.

Democrats now have a one-seat edge in the Senate, and two other prominent Republicans, Phil Gramm and Jesse Helms, have announced plans to retire.

Arson destroys historic log cabin in Maryland

ELKRIDGE, Md. -- A fire destroyed a 300-year-old log cabin being converted into a museum, and the fire marshal's office said Monday that it was a case of arson.

The cabin was one of the oldest in central Maryland's Howard County and had been moved to Rockburn Branch Park just two weeks ago.

The fire was started Sunday morning in the first floor of the two-story cabin, the fire marshal's office said in a statement.

"I am so sick to my stomach," said Mary Catherine Cochran, president of Preservation Howard County. "It is a significant, significant loss."

The cabin's original section was believed to date back to between 1696 and 1710.

Alcohol-related road deaths increase

WASHINGTON -- The number of people killed by drunken drivers increased last year for the first time in five years, according to federal data released Monday.

Overall highway deaths increased slightly in 2000 to 41,812, up from 41,717 in 1999, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Forty percent of those, or 16,653, involved alcohol, up from 38 percent, or 15,976, the previous year.

It is only the second time alcohol-related deaths have increased since 1986.

Survey finds few private doctors offer abortion pill

WASHINGTON -- A year after the abortion pill RU-486 won government approval, 6 percent of gynecologists say they have provided this form of early abortion, concludes a new survey by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

Dozens of abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood clinics offer the option. But when the abortion pill hit the market, proponents hailed it as a way for women to get more private abortions from their own doctor instead of potentially facing shouting protesters at clinics.

But the new survey shows RU-486 isn't popular with private gynecologists, offered by far fewer than the 27 percent of gynecologists who report performing surgical abortions, Kaiser reported Monday.

-- From wire reports

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