Jobless claims reach 18-year high

WASHINGTON

The number of laid-off workers drawing jobless benefits reached an 18-year high last week, reflecting the nation”s economic hard times, though fewer Americans filed new claims for state unemployment insurance.

The Labor Department reported yesterday that for the work week ending Nov. 3, new jobless claims fell by a seasonally adjusted 46,000 to 450,000. That followed a drop of 11,000 the week before.

The number of laid-off workers continuing to receive unemployment benefits rose to 3.72 million for the work week ending Oct. 27. That was the highest level since April 23, 1983.

“It”s a difficult climate for workers,” said economist Clifford Waldman of Waldman Associates. “It will take more hard work and looking to find a job in this atmosphere.”

Companies have cut production, trimmed hours and let workers go in response to the lagging economy and the Sept. 11 attacks.

The nation”s unemployment rate soared from 4.9 percent in September to 5.4 percent in October and companies eliminated 415,000 jobs, the biggest one-month drop in 21 years. Economists predict the jobless rate will climb and payrolls continue to be trimmed.

Postmaster wants $5 billion to fight anthrax

WASHINGTON

Postmaster General John Potter told a Senate panel yesterday that he needs $3 billion to help the U.S. Postal Service pay for new technology to fight anthrax, as well as $2 billion to cover projected lost revenue since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But lawmakers immediately signaled reluctance to approve a $5 billion bailout.

“Users of the mail should not be burdened with these extra costs through the price of postage,” Potter said. “This could quickly threaten the foundation of a universal postal system serving all Americans.”

Under pointed questioning, Potter estimated that his critical short-term need would be about $1 billion for technology and security. That was the cost lawmakers seemed most willing to try to accommodate.

“We probably are not going to cover”” lost revenue, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), the ranking Republican on the appropriations committee that covers the Postal Service, told Potter and his colleagues, noting that President Bush has threatened to veto requests for additional emergency spending beyond the $40 billion Congress has already approved.

Palestinian suicide bomber dies in raid

JERUSALEM

A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up when Israeli commandos stormed his hide-out yesterday, while a Palestinian official said Europe is working on an initiative to stop 13 months of Mideast violence.

Before daybreak, the Israeli border police special anti-terror unit stormed the building where the bomber was hiding in the West Bank town of Baka al-Sharkiyeh, just across the invisible boundary with Israel.

The Palestinian detonated the explosives, killing himself and wounding two commandos, said Lt. Col. Amos Yaakov of the border police.

Police said they believed the bomber intended to blow himself up in an Israeli city. The militant group Hamas said the bomber was acting on its behalf.

Supreme Court to hear drug test case

WASHINGTON

The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether schools may give drug tests to nearly any student involved in after-school activities, from the chess club to cheerleading, without evidence the student or the school has a drug problem.

Critics say such broad testing is unconstitutional and a step toward universal screening. Supporters say it is necessary in the face of drug use by young people.

“I felt they were accusing us and convicting us before they had given us a chance,” said Lindsey Earls, who participated on an academic quiz team when testing began in Tecumseh, Okla.

Only children involved in competitive extracurricular activities were tested on the theory that by voluntarily representing the school, they had opened themselves to greater scrutiny than other students.

Surgeon buys strip club for extra cash

NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev.

A renowned cardiovascular surgeon has bought an all-nude club and cabaret, saying the cash from his new venture will help pay for medical research.

Simon Stertzer of Stanford University is the new owner of the Palomino Club and an adjacent cabaret along a seedy strip of Las Vegas Boulevard.

“Whatever will provide cash flow will do,” Stertzer told the North Las Vegas City Council before it approved his business license application Sept. 5.

Stertzer performed the first coronary angioplasty in the country at New York”s Lenox Hill Hospital in 1978, hospital spokeswoman Ann Silverman said.

He has previously used revenue from business investments to pay for research. He also owns some land in Las Vegas where a car repair business is located.

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