World briefs 5/17

Friday, May 17, 2002

Housing market slows; jobless claims rise

WASHINGTON -- Home builders broke ground in April on the smallest number of projects in six months, a sign the housing market is slowing a bit.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that housing construction fell 5.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.56 million units. That was the lowest level since October.

It marked the second straight month that housing construction fell. In March, new housing projects dropped by 8.1 percent.

A Labor Department report Thursday showed that more Americans filed new claims for unemployment insurance last week. New claims rose by 2,000 to 418,000, suggesting that workers continue to experience the lingering effects of the recession.

Priest accused of sex crime found hanged

SILVER SPRING, Md. -- A 64-year-old priest who resigned from his parish in Connecticut amid allegations of sexual misconduct apparently killed himself Thursday at a Catholic psychiatric hospital, church officials said.

The Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., identified the priest as the Rev. Alfred J. Bietighofer, who was stripped last month of his priestly powers and ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation.

Two men told diocesan officials Bietighofer abused them when they were boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s, church officials said.

Bietighofer was found hanged in his room Thursday at St. Luke Institute, according to Prince George's County police and hospital officials.

Ex-Andersen partner saved some records

HOUSTON -- A former Arthur Andersen partner who illegally shred documents related to Enron Corp. testified Thursday that he preserved several potentially embarrassing records, including one labeled "Smoking guns you can't extinguish."

David B. Duncan, who pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges in April, said he kept records related to allegations of questionable accounting practices brought last August by Enron vice president Sherron Watkins.

Cardinal: Pope would resign if health fails

VATICAN CITY -- A leading cardinal said Thursday he thought Pope John Paul II "would have the courage" to resign if poor health left him unable to carry out his ministry, but another cardinal said the pontiff would "hold out" through his suffering.

Talk about the pope's future has heightened with his approaching birthday -- he turns 82 on Saturday -- and with several recent appearances that saw him struggling to climb stairs and often breathless during speeches.

Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras said he thought that if the pope realizes "he cannot continue to carry out his ministry for health reasons, he would have the courage to resign."

Ex-wife: Ex-Klansman lit fuse in bombing

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A former wife of an ex-Klansman testified at his murder trial Thursday that he claimed to have placed the explosive device and lit the fuse in the 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls.

"He said he got out of the car and put the bomb under the stairs the night before," said Willadean Brogdon, who was married to Bobby Frank Cherry in the early 1970s.

The 71-year-old Cherry is accused of joining other Ku Klux Klansmen in planting the bomb at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a rallying point for protests against segregation.

-- From wire reports

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