Nation briefs 12/23/02

Monday, December 23, 2002

Christmas Day lottery is Powerball's third-largest

OMAHA, Neb. -- Somewhere in a Christmas stocking or holiday card this season could be a lottery ticket worth nearly $300 million.

The multi-state Powerball lottery drawing is on Christmas, and with no winner Saturday, the prize is rising to what is expected to be its third-largest jackpot and largest Christmas jackpot since it started in 1992.

Figuring deductions for a lump-sum cash option and taxes, a single winner would receive about $92 million.

The jackpot amounts are driven by ticket sales, so it's impossible to predict exactly how much the jackpot will be by Christmas night, said Nebraska Lottery spokesman Brian Rockey. But from Wednesday to Saturday, the jackpot grew by $54.5 million to $217.8 million -- nearly $3 million more than anticipated.

"It would certainly make for a jolly Christmas," Rockey said.

Mormon church cuts hundreds of jobs

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's largest employer, the Mormon church, is cutting hundreds of jobs to counter a drop in investment income and a decrease in tithing by its members.

About 600 employees of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepted an offer of voluntary early retirement effective this week, and 40 percent of those positions will not be filled, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday.

The church employs an estimated 33,355 people in Utah, including about 18,000 faculty and staff members at Brigham Young University.

The church refused to provide employment specifics.

Bush 'positively fine' a day after vaccination

CAMP DAVID, Md. -- President Bush showed no ill effects Sunday from his smallpox vaccination, taking an early morning jog before going to church.

On the first day of a long Christmas stay at Camp David, Bush was up at 6:15 a.m. and jogging two hours later. He ran three miles in 21 minutes, 15 seconds. Later, he went to church.

Bush is feeling "absolutely, positively fine," said White House spokesman Adam Levine.

Experts estimate that 15 out of every 1 million people vaccinated for the first time will face life-threatening complications, and one or two will die. Reactions are less common for those being revaccinated, as Bush was Saturday.

On Dec. 13, Bush directed as many as 500,000 U.S. troops to get smallpox vaccinations, part of an effort to guard against bioterrorism. He promised to get the shot himself, though he said his family wouldn't, because the risk of a domestic attack did not justify it.

Tests show reactors could withstand jetliner impact

WASHINGTON -- Tests using engineering models support the nuclear industry's arguments that a reactor could withstand a direct hit by a jetliner, an industry-sponsored report says.

While the tests by engineers independent of the industry provide valuable data, federal regulators briefed on the findings say they are waiting for completion of their own tests before drawing conclusions.

The vulnerability of the 4-feet-thick concrete containment domes of reactors to an airborne attack has been of major concern since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Reactors are designed to withstand many natural disasters, from hurricanes to earthquakes. They never were designed specifically to be protected against a direct hit by a large aircraft such as the planes flown into the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

-- From wire reports

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