News In Brief

By , David Mutch, and Peter E. Nordahl

The US

President Clinton's nominee for surgeon general, Dr. Henry Foster, faced a second and possibly final round yesterday in his confirmation battle in the Senate. The White House stepped up efforts to secure the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster, after losing a first vote 57-43 on Wednesday, but prospects appeared dim. Foster has been bitterly opposed because he performed 39 abortions in his 38-year career.

The federal deficit increased by just under $39 billion in May, 21.5 percent more than for the same month a year ago. But for the first eight months of the fiscal year, the shortfall was 19.1 percent less than for the same period in 1994, the Treasury Department said. The deficit for the eight months ending May 31 was $133.2 billion, compared with $164.7 billion for the comparable period last year.

Recommended: Default

In a new sign of weakness in the job market, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits jumped 20,000 last week to 395,000, the highest level in a year and a half, the Labor Department said. The closely watched four-week moving average of new weekly jobless claims made its ninth straight advance, jumping by 3,750 to 381,000, the highest since October 1992.

The first spending bill passed by the House this year showed that the budget-cutting knife loses some of its edge when it comes to pet military projects back home. The $11.2 billion military construction bill passed Wednesday includes $500 million in projects not requested by the Pentagon or by Clinton.

The Base Closure and Realignment Commission was to begin voting yesterday on a hit-list of 177 military bases and installations across the US. It will decide whether to close, scale back, or realign those facilities - or whether to make additions to the list. The final list will be sent to Clinton by July 1.

Senate conservatives, led by Senator Gramm, denounced welfare legislation approved by the Senate Finance Committee, complaining that it does not deserve to be called reform. The conservatives want restrictions they say are needed to discourage out-of-wedlock births. (Story, Page 1.)

The Justice Department widened its probe of Microsoft's plans for a new on-line network, the New York Times reported. Microsoft intends to place the access software for its service, Microsoft Network, on the company's new operating system. The Justice Department is looking into whether this type of packaging gives Microsoft an unfair advantage over its rivals.

The Air Force directed a special panel to examine how its own investigators determine and report the causes of major crashes. It was responding to charges by a former safety official that the service has a poor record of safety probes because officers want to avoid embarrassment and hide culpability.

Sprint Corp. yesterday announced the signing of a $4.1 billion joint venture agreement with Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom to provide telecommunications services around the world. The European telecoms will purchase 20 percent of Sprint, including 86.2 million shares of newly issued Sprint stock. The deal will better equip the telecoms to compete if their markets are deregulated.

NASA said a leak in the space shuttle "Atlantis" is fixed, clearing the way for today's launch. But weather forecasters expect only a 20 percent chance of good weather for liftoff. If Atlantis takes off today, it will dock with Mir on Monday. (Story, Page 3.)

Former United Way chief William Aramony has been sentenced to seven years in prison for looting the national charity.

The World

A relieved Japan struggled to make sense yesterday of a 16-hour hijacking. Police stormed the hijacked plane at dawn yesterday, rescuing all 364 hostages aboard and seizing the man who reportedly threatened to blow up the aircraft unless a sect leader accused of masterminding the nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway was freed from jail. Police said no explosives were found and the man apparently was acting alone.

Hours before last-ditch talks to resolve an auto dispute got under way in Geneva yesterday, Japanese officials voiced hopes that a settlement would be reached to avert US sanctions. Trade Minister Hashimoto was quoted as saying there would be room for talks to avert a trade war if the Clinton administration would change its goals. Washington has threatened to impose $5.9 billion in tariffs on Japanese luxury cars if no deal is reached by June 28 on increasing access to Japan's auto market.

Chechen and Russian negotiators yesterday hailed an agreement on disarmament and troop withdrawals as a breakthrough that might end the six-month war. On Wednesday night, they signed a protocol setting up a commission to begin disarming the Chechens. In return, the Russians agreed to gradually withdraw all but two brigades. The Chechen delegation also promised to help find and arrest rebel commander Shamil Basayuev, who led a raid last week on Budennovsk.

The Russian government, stung by a parliamentary vote of no-confidence, threw down a gauntlet to the State Duma lower house to give it support or face dissolution. President Yeltsin backed the government's move but offered parliament a face-saving formula to withdraw its no-confidence vote by suggesting he was ready to ax ministers and top officials over the Chechen hostage episode.

The top UN official in the former Yugoslavia, Yasushi Akashi, has written to Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic, reassuring him that a new 12,500-strong rapid-reaction force will not take sides or act differently from other peacekeepers in Bosnia, the New York Times said. The US said it would pay a share of the rapid-reaction force but wants it to "robustly" fulfill its role of protecting peacekeepers and providing humanitarian aid. A shell hit a crowd of people waiting for water in a Sarajevo suburb, killing at least two. Mediator Bildt said the troops arriving in Bosnia give impetus to the peace process, but time is running out to reach a political settlement.

Unidentified gunmen shot dead a leader of the militant Islamic Jihad organization in Gaza, raising tensions as a deadline approaches for an accord on wider Palestinian self-rule. Israel would suffer "a net loss of security" by giving up even a small slice of the Golan Heights and will insist on compensating security measures from Syria, the chief Israeli negotiator said. Syria said next week's negotiations in Washington will be worthless unless Israel agrees to full withdrawal.

South Korea yesterday began loading emergency rice aid for impoverished North Korea. The North, however, remained silent about the decision to take economic aid from its capitalist rival.

After an eight-year break, the Philippine government and rebels are to resume formal negotiations in Brussels Monday in hopes of ending one the world's last leftist insurgencies. President Ramos's government and the National Democratic Front will discuss human rights, political and constitutional reforms, and an end to the hostilities.

British Prime Minister Major resigned as leader of the Conservative Party to force a leadership election he said he would win. Major did not resign as prime minister, but said he would if he lost the party leadership election.

Iran yesterday rejected EU demands to withdraw a death sentence against British writer Salman Rushdie.

A relieved Japan struggled to make sense yesterday of a 16-hour hijacking. Police stormed the hijacked plane at dawn yesterday, rescuing all 364 hostages aboard and seizing the man who reportedly threatened to blow up the aircraft unless a sect leader accused of masterminding the nerve-gas attack on the Tokyo subway was freed from jail. Police said no explosives were found and the man apparently was acting alone.

Hours before last-ditch talks to resolve an auto dispute got under way in Geneva yesterday, Japanese officials voiced hopes that a settlement would be reached to avert US sanctions. Trade Minister Hashimoto was quoted as saying there would be room for talks to avert a trade war if the Clinton administration would change its goals. Washington has threatened to impose $5.9 billion in tariffs on Japanese luxury cars if no deal is reached by June 28 on increasing access to Japan's auto market.

Chechen and Russian negotiators yesterday hailed an agreement on disarmament and troop withdrawals as a breakthrough that might end the six-month war. On Wednesday night, they signed a protocol setting up a commission to begin disarming the Chechens. In return, the Russians agreed to gradually withdraw all but two brigades. The Chechen delegation also promised to help find and arrest rebel commander Shamil Basayuev, who led a raid last week on Budennovsk.

The Russian government, stung by a parliamentary vote of no-confidence, threw down a gauntlet to the State Duma lower house to give it support or face dissolution. President Yeltsin backed the government's move but offered parliament a face-saving formula to withdraw its no-confidence vote by suggesting he was ready to ax ministers and top officials over the Chechen hostage episode.

The top UN official in the former Yugoslavia, Yasushi Akashi, has written to Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic, reassuring him that a new 12,500-strong rapid-reaction force will not take sides or act differently from other peacekeepers in Bosnia, the New York Times said. The US said it would pay a share of the rapid-reaction force but wants it to "robustly" fulfill its role of protecting peacekeepers and providing humanitarian aid. A shell hit a crowd of people waiting for water in a Sarajevo suburb, killing at least two. Mediator Bildt said the troops arriving in Bosnia give impetus to the peace process, but time is running out to reach a political settlement.

Unidentified gunmen shot dead a leader of the militant Islamic Jihad organization in Gaza, raising tensions as a deadline approaches for an accord on wider Palestinian self-rule. Israel would suffer "a net loss of security" by giving up even a small slice of the Golan Heights and will insist on compensating security measures from Syria, the chief Israeli negotiator said. Syria said next week's negotiations in Washington will be worthless unless Israel agrees to full withdrawal.

South Korea yesterday began loading emergency rice aid for impoverished North Korea. The North, however, remained silent about the decision to take economic aid from its capitalist rival.

After an eight-year break, the Philippine government and rebels are to resume formal negotiations in Brussels Monday in hopes of ending one the world's last leftist insurgencies. President Ramos's government and the National Democratic Front will discuss human rights, political and constitutional reforms, and an end to the hostilities.

British Prime Minister Major resigned as leader of the Conservative Party to force a leadership election he said he would win. Major did not resign as prime minister, but said he would if he lost the party leadership election.

Iran yesterday rejected EU demands to withdraw a death sentence against British writer Salman Rushdie.

Etcetera

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum will unveil a scaled-down exhibit next week of the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan. The museum's original plans drew a firestorm of criticism.

The Moscow-based Yakovlev Design Bureau has joined with Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., in a competition to design a multipurpose fighter for the 21st century, Jane's Defense Weekly reported.

Scientists discovered cosmic X-rays bearing the mark of a very close brush with a black hole. The X-rays provide the closest look yet at a black hole's awesome power.

The 1.8 million women who have served in the US military since the American Revolution received recognition yesterday when ground was broken for The Women's Memorial, a $25 million complex in Arlington National Cemetery.

One historian calls it "the equivalent of King Tut's tomb" for Lincoln scholars. A researcher has turned up 59 previously undiscovered documents signed by Lincoln when he was a pension lawyer in Springfield, Ill.

Top 10 Television Shows, June 12-18

Rank/Show/Network/Rating

1. "PrimeTime Live," ABC, 25.9, 24.7 million homes

2. "NBA Final Game 4," NBC, 14.9, 14.2 million homes

3. "Friends," NBC, 14.2, 13.5 million homes

4. "Roseanne," ABC, 13.9, 13.3 million homes

5. "ER," NBC, 13.4, 12.8 million homes

5. "Seinfeld," NBC, 13.4, 12.8 million homes

7. "Grace Under Fire," ABC, 12.3, 11.7 million homes

8. "Home Improvement," ABC, 12.2, 11.6 million homes

9. "20-20," ABC, 11.5, 11.0 million homes

10. "Coach," ABC, 11.4, 10.9 million homes

(Rating equals percentage of American homes with TVs.)

- A.C. Nielsen Co.

" You are giving some people, who have no business at all to interfere, the right to determine what is in the mind or heart of somebody else."

- Poet and political activist Zien al-Abdin Fouad, on Egypt's crackdown on freedom of expression

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