News In Brief

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The US

Federal Reserve officials began two days of crucial talks yesterday to set the course for interest rates. Economic analysts are divided on whether the Federal Open Market Committee will signal a change in its monetary policy by cutting rates to stimulate the economy or decide to wait for further economic data. The Fed has not changed rates since February.

Gathering in Minneapolis for their annual convention, many teachers in the country's largest teachers' union, the National Education Association, criticized proposals in Congress to eliminate the Education Department. Many of those supporters said they want the agency to stay mostly hands-off. Teachers said they worry that recent Supreme Court actions allowing student-led prayer at graduations could erode church-state separation.

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Since 1991, four top universities have charged the government at least $17 million to pay tuition for relatives of faculty working on federal research, according to the US General Accounting Office. The four are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins. Of the faculty members whose relatives' tuition was covered by the government, about one-fifth earned more than $100,000 annually, the GAO investigation found. The federal Office of Management and Budget recommends that the government stop the practice, but the universities have filed objections.

GOP presidential candidates used Independence Day celebrations to proclaim their conservative credentials in New Hampshire. Five of the major GOP candidates, speaking at a picnic in Dunbarton, N.H., pledged lower taxes and a balanced federal budget. Senator Gramm vowed not to seek a second term if the budget is not balanced during his first four years in office.

Senator Helms has called for reduction in federal funding for people with AIDS, according to a report in the New York Times. Helms is a longtime foe of rights for homosexuals, who comprise the largest group of Americans infected with the HIV virus. Helms argued that AIDS is only the ninth-leading cause of death in America but accounts for more federal financing than diseases that kill more people.

In a letter to journalists, Treasury Secretary Rubin said he is concerned that congressional hearings on the raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, may erode support for firearms laws. Rubin said the hearings cannot be understood properly outside the context of the Oklahoma City bombing, which focused attention on the militia movement in the US.

The crew of the shuttle Atlantis resumed tests yesterday on astronaut Norman Thagard and Russian cosmonauts Vladimir Dezhurov and Gennady Strekalov to see how they fared during several months living on space station Mir. The American shuttle and Russian station parted ways Tuesday. Atlantis will land at Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Friday.

Toll collectors returned from a strike that briefly turned the New Jersey turnpike into a true freeway. About $300,000 in uncollected tolls was lost before replacements filled in. Union members returned to work after a judge intervened.

A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll of legal immigrants shows 61 percent favor an ID card to distinguish citizens and legal residents from illegal immigrants. Thirty-seven percent want to erect a wall along the Mexican border, and 35 percent favor barring illegal immigrants from public schools and hospitals.

Senator Gramm holds two small admirers in New Hampshire.,

The World

Prime Minister Major launched a sweeping Cabinet reshuffle yesterday to set the seal on his reelection as leader of Britain's Conservative Party. Major's critics promised to close ranks behind him only if he moved the Cabinet to the right, especially on European policy. Major defeated challenger John Redwood 218-to-89. Eight Conservatives abstained, and 12 spoiled their ballots in hopes of a second vote. The European media generally was not impressed with Major's victory, saying his political problems are far from over. (Story, Page 1.)

PLO leader Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Peres said a much-delayed deal on holding Palestinian elections in the West Bank, expanding Palestinian autonomy, and redeploying Israeli troops should be ready to sign by July 25. Negotiators warned that many details still had to be written down. The challenge has been to arrange the security details of the Israeli pullback in a way that would protect the 135,000 Israelis living in settlements. US Secretary of State Christopher offered to hold the signing ceremony in Washington.

France's armed forces chief, Admiral Jacques Lanxade, said the UN's Rapid Reaction force being assembled in Croatia will be ready to open a supply road into besieged Sarajevo by July 15 at the latest. French UN soldiers and Bosnian Serbs are locked in a dangerous confrontation over the Mount Igman route into the capital. Other UN workers remained under fire as Serbs battled Bosnian government forces on Sarajevo's suburban outskirts. A Serb jet reportedly attacked targets in the government-protected enclave of Bihac, a breach of the no-fly zone over Bosnia. In Geneva, UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali said any withdrawal of UN peacekeepers ''will make the situation worse.''

After positive reports from Chechen negotiators, Russian President Yeltsin met with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin to chart Russia's negotiating stance at peace talks with the separatists. In a major expression of confidence, meanwhile, the Russian government pledged to keep the ruble below 4,900 to the dollar until at least October. It was the first time the government has officially targeted the ruble rate since it hit a low of 5,130 in May.

Indian rebel leaders from Mexico's Chiapas state hardened their position in peace talks, demanding that Mexico strengthen its democratic system and end political repression. The rebels accused President Zedillo's party of election fraud and mass assassination. The fourth round of the talks were set to begin yesterday.

Armenians voted yesterday in their country's first parliamentary election since the end of Soviet rule and in a constitutional referendum that could boost the powers of its president. More than 2 million voters were electing 190 members of parliament.

At least three people were killed and nine others were wounded yesterday as talks aimed at bringing peace between the Pakistani government and the ethnic Mohajir National Movement were delayed.

Thailand's new coalition government looked settled as its seventh member, the Nam Thai party, signed on and all parties agreed on a division of cabinet jobs. Coalition members still must nominate candidates for the posts. The coalition is to assume power late in the week.

Iraq admitted for the first time the offensive nature of its biological weapons program, a senior UN official said yesterday.

Etcetera

Average students in the US lag behind their peers academically in three surveyed European countries, according to an American Federation of Teachers study. Students in France, Germany, and Scotland reach higher levels of achievement, and do so earlier than American students, the study said. The US has the largest number of university graduates in the world, but the report raises questions about the education given the 75 percent of US students who don't graduate from college.

Top-seed Andre Agassi moved into the Wimbledon semifinals yesterday with a victory over Jacco Eltingh. Second-seed Pete Sampras was to continue his drive for a third straight Wimbledon title, playing Japan's unseeded Shuzo Matsuoka in a quarterfinal round. Steffi Graf will play Jana Novotna today, and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario will face Conchita Martinez.

A small, bankrupt New Jersey record label said it won a legal battle against Sony Entertainment Inc. for ownership of a collection of unreleased master tapes made by legendary musicians. The 3,000 reels of tape contain 20,000 tracks of performances by such music icons as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, and Louis Armstrong. The ruling gives Clark Entertainment Group rights to sell the tapes, valued at more than $100 million. The group bought the recordings for $6,000.

Top 10 Video Rentals

1. ''Interview with the Vampire,'' (Warner)

2. ''Legends of the Fall,'' (Columbia TriStar)

3. ''Junior,'' (MCA-Universal)

4. ''The Shawshank Redemption,'' (Columbia TriStar)

5. ''The Professional,'' (Warner)

6. ''Disclosure,'' (Warner)

7. ''Forrest Gump,'' (Paramount)

8. ''Quiz Show,'' (Hollywood)

9. ''Richie Rich,'' (Warner)

10. ''Bullets Over Broadway,'' (Miramax)

- Billboard Publications Inc.

'' Opponents of law enforcement have spread misinformation about what happened at Waco. We will set the record straight.''

- Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin on congressional hearings on the raid on the Branch Davidian compound

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