The Nation In Brief

Moderate earthquake shakes Bay area

SAN JOSE, Calif. &

A magnitude-5.6 earthquake shook the San Francisco Bay area Tuesday night, rattling homes and nerves, but there were no immediate reports of serious damage or injuries.

The moderate temblor struck shortly after 8 p.m., about 9 miles northeast of San Jose, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Residents reported feeling the quake as far east as Sacramento and as far north as Sonoma.

The California Highway Patrol has received no reports of damage or injuries, spokesman Tom Marshall said.

It was the strongest tremor in the Bay Area since 1989, when a magnitude-7.1 quake killed 62 people.

The epicenter of the quake was near Alum Rock, in the Diablo Range foothills east of San Jose &

not far from the home of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

Astronauts work on energy problems


NASA scrambled today to deal with two power problems at the international space station that could delay future missions and make it even harder to finish building the orbiting outpost before the space shuttles must be retired.

Both issues competed for the precious little spacewalking time that's left in Discovery's mission, which already was extended a day after the first problem cropped up last weekend. Spacewalks were scheduled for Thursday and Saturday.

Astronauts Scott Parazynski and Douglas Wheelock were getting ready Wednesday to spend the mission's fourth spacewalk thoroughly inspecting a malfunctioning rotary joint that keeps the station's solar panels turned toward the sun.

But that task may be pre-empted if NASA can figure out how to repair a giant solar wing that ripped as it was being unfurled on Tuesday. The tear forced the space agency to halt the process before the wing was fully extended.

Until at least one of the problems is resolved, the station won't be able to generate enough power to support new equipment, such as a European lab that is supposed to be delivered by Atlantis in December. Delaying that mission would set back other deliveries, including the planned February installation of a new Japanese lab.

Federal Reserve expected to cut rates


With oil prices soaring and the housing market sinking, the Federal Reserve is likely to combat the economic turmoil with more interest rate cuts.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues were wrapping up a two-day meeting today and many economists believe they will announce that they have decided to follow September's half-point cut in the federal funds rate with a quarter-point cut at this meeting.

Many analysts said this rate reduction probably will not be the last either, as the central bank keeps reducing rates to help the economy overcome a host of problems.

The Fed cut the federal funds rate, the interest that banks charge each other, for the first time in four years at its September meeting, reducing it to 4.75 percent. Responding to that move, commercial banks cut their prime lending rate, the benchmark for millions of consumer and business loans, by a half-point as well to 7.75 percent.

Singer Robert Goulet dies at 73


The big-voiced baritone, Robert Goulet, whose Broadway debut in "Camelot" launched an award-winning stage and recording career, died Tuesday at a Los Angeles hospital, where he had been awaiting the transplant after being diagnosed last month with a rare form of pulmonary fibrosis. Goulet was 73.

"" The Associated Press

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