Nation digest 07/13/02

Saturday, July 13, 2002

Shoppers splurge, push up retail sales in June

WASHINGTON -- Energized by warm weather and favorable incentives, shoppers splurged on cars, clothes and appliances last month, boosting retail sales by 1.1 percent.

With consumers playing a key role in the shape of the economic recovery, the Commerce Department's stronger-than-expected sales figures for June offered a dose of good news Friday.

The 1.1 percent jump in retail sales from May's level came even though Americans' confidence in the economy, as measured by The Conference Board, a business research group, fell in June to a four-month low, pulled down by the accounting scandals and worries about jobs.

Feds seek 7 1/4 years in prison for Traficant

CLEVELAND -- Prosecutors are asking that Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. get at least 7 1/4 years in prison for corruption.

Traficant, a Democrat running for re-election as an independent, is set for sentencing July 30 and could get up to 63 years. The congressman was found guilty of payoffs from businessmen and his own staff.

In court papers Friday, federal prosecutors argued that Traficant showed no remorse and made his crimes worse by repeatedly accusing the FBI, the Justice Department and the courts of misconduct.

A Traficant spokesman declined to comment.

Traficant attorney Richard Hackerd filed a motion Friday saying Traficant's sentence should be reduced because of his record of public service.

Space shuttles grounded for two more months

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA's shuttles were grounded Friday for at least two more months because of small fuel-line cracks that the space agency fears could splinter into dangerous chunks of metal.

All four space shuttles apparently have been flying with the cracks for quite some time, perhaps since the beginning of the 21-year-old program, shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore said .

In all, 11 cracks have been discovered over the past month, three each in Atlantis, Discovery and Columbia and two in Endeavour.

Man pleads innocent to shooting Maryland priest

BALTIMORE -- A man pleaded innocent Friday to shooting a priest who allegedly molested him in his youth, and his attorney said he planned to argue temporary insanity.

Dontee Stokes, 27, should not be held criminally responsible because there was evidence he suffered a "psychotic episode" at the time of the May 13 shooting, attorney Warren Brown said.

Stokes is charged with attempted murder in the wounding of the Rev. Maurice Blackwell. Stokes told police he shot Blackwell after the priest failed to apologize for abusing him in the early 1990s, police said.

Stokes had told authorities in 1993 that Blackwell was molesting him. Authorities dropped the case for lack of evidence.

Stokes' trial is set for Oct. 21.

Gov. Jesse Ventura released from hospital

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Gov. Jesse Ventura was released from the hospital Friday, three days after he was admitted with a blood clot in his lung.

"He's feeling fine. He's on his way to his home," said spokesman John Wodele.

Doctors treated Ventura with blood thinners to break up the clot.

The same condition during the mid-1980s forced Ventura to give up his professional wrestling career.

'The Jerry Springer Show' named worst of all time

NEW YORK -- The worst TV shows ever are pretty bad -- but "The Jerry Springer Show" tops TV Guide's list.

"Awful television shows are a storied part of our society," TV Guide editor-in-chief Steven Reddicliffe said Friday. "No one has turned guilty-pleasure TV into more of an art form than Jerry Springer."

The list is in the July 20 issue of the magazine.

Second worst on the new list was NBC's "My Mother The Car," 1965-66, followed by NBC, UPN and TNN's "XFL," 2001; ABC's "The Brady Bunch Hour" (1977); and CBS' "Hogan's Heroes" (1965-71).

-- From wire reports

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