News Currents

UNITED STATES The US House of Representatives Oct. 31 voted to ban smoking on virtually all domestic airline flights. The legislation was expected to go to the Senate for approval Nov. 1. A compromise between the Bush administration and Democratic congressional leaders will probably result in raising the minimum wage to $4.25 an hour. A House vote was planned by Nov. 1, and Senate leaders promised action by the end of the month. Congress sent President Bush a bill Oct. 31 to raise the cap on home mortgages that can be federally insured to $124,875. A government report says private pension coverage is declining among US workers, suggesting future retirees may depend more on Social Security and other retirement income. MIDEAST

An Iranian-born reporter for the London Sunday Observer told Iraqi television Oct. 31 that he was spying for Israel when arrested in September. In London, the newspaper said it was clear Farzad Bazoft's statement was made under duress. Lebanon's rival Christian and Muslin cabinets are arguing over a complaint sent to the United Nations Security Council by Christian leader Gen. Michel Aoun protesting the presence of Syrian troops there. Artillery battles between Christian and Syrian forces continued. A Saudi diplomat was killed by machine-gun fire in Muslim West Beirut following threats by pro-Iranian extremists to sabotage a peace plan for Lebanon negotiated in Saudi Arabia.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto survived a no-confidence vote in parliament. France exploded a 20-kiloton nuclear device on Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific Nov. 1, New Zealand scientists said. Poland has become the second Warsaw Pact nation after Hungary to establish diplomatic relations with South Korea. China has issued new regulations giving the state power to disband groups it deems undesirable. The state will also have power to ban rallies considered threatening to social order. In Sri Lanka, military sources said Nov. 1 that 28 bodies of political-murder victims had been found as fighting between government troops and Sinhalese extremists continues.

AVIATION SAFETY

US officials said Oct. 31 they are not ready to conclude that a hairline crack in an engine fan disk caused a United Air Lines DC-10's engine to explode, resulting in a crash landing in Sioux City, Iowa, in July. Pan American World Airways has filed papers in US federal court seeking to prove that Israeli agents warned US authorities that terrorists planned to attack Pan Am Flight 103 a day before a bomb blew up the jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December, according to a London newspaper. The French daily Le Figaro reported Oct. 31 that investigators have found links between the explosion of a French DC-10 over the Sahara desert last month and the 1985 bombing of a Paris department store. The French press says dissident Palestine Liberation Organization members are thought to be involved.

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