Nation digest 06/15/02

Saturday, June 15, 2002

Fed reports moderate growth for U.S. industry

WASHINGTON -- The nation's industrial sector -- after being knocked down by last year's recession -- is back on its feet, but isn't bursting with vitality.

The Federal Reserve reported Friday that production at factories, mines and utilities rose for the fifth straight month, nudging up 0.2 percent in May, the smallest increase this year. That was a bit weaker than the 0.3 percent gain many analysts were forecasting.

Production of automobiles and parts, and communications equipment declined last month. But higher output was reported for home electronics, computers and office equipment, and appliances, furniture and carpeting.

"It's good news, but not exuberantly good news," said Tim O'Neill, chief economist at Bank of Montreal.

State troopers to watch for plutonium shipments

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Gov. Jim Hodges ordered state troopers and other authorities to South Carolina's borders Friday to stop federal shipments of plutonium that could begin arriving from Colorado as early as this weekend.

Hodges, who has vehemently opposed the shipments, read a statement declaring a state of emergency but refused to answer any questions about specific plans for roadblocks or other barricades at South Carolina's Savannah River Site, a nuclear weapons complex near Aiken.

On Thursday, a federal judge refused to block the shipments of weapons-grade plutonium. Hodges appealed the ruling and asked for a delay until the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could hear the case.

The Energy Department plans to move the material from the Rocky Flats weapons installation in Colorado, which is being cleaned up and closed, to the Savannah River Site, where the material would be converted into nuclear reactor fuel.

Astronauts finish packing to leave space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Space shuttle Endeavour's astronauts finished packing Friday for their departure from the international space station and the trip home.

The shuttle was scheduled to undock from the station on today following an eight-day visit to pick up one station crew and drop off another, and to fix the orbiting outpost's arthritic robot arm.

Astronauts Daniel Bursch and Carl Walz and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Onufrienko spent their last full day aboard the space station giving advice to their replacements.

They are due back on Earth on Monday.

Sect leader sentenced to life in death of infant son

TAUNTON, Mass. -- A religious sect leader who said he was following instructions from God when he let his infant son slowly and painfully starve to death was convicted of murder Friday and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The jury took 6 1/2 hours to find Jacques Robidoux, 29, guilty of first-degree murder. His son, Samuel, was fed only his mother's breast milk for 51 days and died in 1999, three days shy of his first birthday.

During the trial, Robidoux said his sister had received a vision from God telling the couple to stop feeding the baby solid food. Robidoux said he believed that the sight of Samuel's misery was a test of the family's will from Satan and that a miracle would save the boy.

Robidoux's wife, Karen, 26, faces trial Sept. 3 on a second-degree murder charge.

Citibank to block credit card use for Net gambling

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Citibank, the nation's largest credit card issuer, has agreed to block online gambling transactions using its credit cards, the state attorney general said Friday.

The agreement announced by the bank and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is expected to significantly reduce illegal, underage and potentially addictive Net gambling, Spitzer said. It applies to all Internet gambling transactions, not just those in New York, and goes into effect in 60 days.

Other companies, including Bank of America, MBNA and Chase Manhattan Bank, also have begun blocking the gambling transactions, Spitzer said.

-- From wire reports

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