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The US trade deficit rose 6.5 percent to a record $29.2 billion in February as the oil-import bill reached its highest level in more than nine years, the Commerce Department reported. Total imports climbed 1.5 percent to an unprecedented $113.4 billion, while total exports slipped by 0.2 percent to $84.2 billion. On the other hand, overseas sales of US consumer goods, especially household appliances, rose to a record monthly high of $7.3 billion.

The Washington police department said it was investigating allegations by a group of demonstrators that they were assaulted by persons attached to the city's Cuban mission last Friday, The Washington Post reported. No arrests were made and there were no injuries reported at the time, the Post said, quoting a Secret Service spokesman. The State Department asked for an explanation of the event from a Cuban diplomat, but so far the mission only has said the protesters engaged in "provocative" actions. The demonstrators were demanding that Elian Gonzalez not be returned to Cuba.

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Legislation that would create the closest thing in the US to gay marriage won final approval in Vermont's Senate. Stopping short of recognizing same-gender marriages, the measure would provide for "civil unions" that would entitle homosexual couples to all 300 or so rights and benefits available under state law to married couples. The bill now returns to the House for consideration of changes to its version. The legislation is expected to win final approval there as well, and Gov. Howard Dean (D) has said he will sign it.

Black activist Rev. Al Sharpton and 26 others were arrested at a rally against alleged police brutality held in New York's Times Square. Some 200 protesters gathered on a traffic island at the height of evening rush hour, chanting, "No justice, no peace." Sharpton has been calling for federal supervision of the city's police department after a string of shootings by police of unarmed black men, including the last year's killing of Amadou Diallo. Protesters were expected to march today to City Hall.

A meeting in a Detroit senior citizens complex whose tenants wanted to talk with a neighbor about his use of vulgar language ended with the shooting deaths of two women. Another person was injured. The gunman was identified as Kenneth Ray Miller, the neighbor, who police said was under the influence of narcotics.

The first three months of 2000 were the warmest in the US in 106 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported. The January-through-March average temperature was 47.1 degrees F., 1 degree warmer than the previous record set in 1990. Data also showed that June 1999 through March 2000 was the warmest yet for those months in the nation. A warmer Earth means sea level could rise 20 inches in the next 100 years, the NOAA said.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society


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