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Productivity surged 5.3 percent last quarter, pushing the key measure of rising living standards toward its fastest pace in 17 years. The increase in output per hour of work beat analysts' predictions and bolstered expectations that the Federal Reserve will leave interest rates unchanged at its next meeting Aug. 22.

Radioactive debris will never be fully contained at more than 100 nuclear sites, a study from the National Research Council warned. Probable system failure, inadequate knowledge, and lack of funds leave the long-term safety of many of the nation's nuclear weapons development sites in doubt, the report said. The study is the latest unfavorable news for the Department of Energy, which recently came under fire for several security breaches at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Defense Secretary William Cohen is withholding judgment about plans for a national missile defense system pending a technical analysis, a Pentagon spokesman said. Cohen is expected to issue his recommendation within weeks to President Clinton, who in turn is expected to decide later this year whether to begin work on the system slated for deployment in 2005.

A suspect whose violent videotaped arrest sparked renewed attention on police brutality will have his most serious charges dropped, Philadelphia authorities said. Prosecutors confirmed that Thomas Jones, who was shot five times and beaten by police officers for 30 seconds, did not shoot officer Michael Livewell. Jones still faces 52 criminal charges related to carjacking, a series of purse snatchings, and two car chases.


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