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UNITED STATES

Housing starts jumped 10.4 percent in August, the Commerce Department reported Sept. 22. It was the largest increase in 18 months.... An Air Force hearing board Sept. 21 recommended the discharge of an airman who announced on network television that he is gay. It rejected the 11-year veteran's plea to stay in the service.... Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton leads President Bush 58 percent to 37 percent in an ABC News-Washington Post poll released Sept. 22. But a survey by the Tarrance Group

of Alexandria, Va., showed Clinton with only a 47 percent to 41 percent lead over Bush. Only 19 percent of those surveyed said the president's agenda would help the country. The tracking survey of 1,000 voters was completed Sunday for the Boston Herald.... US Ambassador to Russia Bob Strauss said Sept. 22 he will leave his post after the November election. Strauss said he only planned to stay for a year. He arrived in Moscow in August 1991. ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

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The People's Bank of China will give up its role as overseer of the country's two stock exchanges by year's end in favor of a Western-style national regulatory body, a central bank official announced Sept. 22. Conflict of interest was cited as the reason.... Japanese land prices fell 3.8 percent for the year ending in July, the National Land Agency said Sept. 22. It is the first drop since the government began surveys in 1975.... In a trial crucial to the future of Japanese politics, a Japanese trucking executive Sept. 23 denied allegations that he gave millions of dollars in dubious donations to politicians. The denial followed months of anticipation that either he or prosecutors would disclose the names of politicians who allegedly received such money.

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