News In Brief

By , David Mutch and Cynthia Hanson

THE US

Economists are urging caution as the Federal Reserve decides whether to continue on a course of interest-rate cutting. The Fed decided Thursday to reduce its target for the federal funds rate - the rate banks charge each other for overnight loans - by one-quarter of a percentage point to 5.75 percent. The Fed, which raised rates all through last year to cool an overheated economy and prevent inflation, reversed course when it appeared inflation was no longer a threat and the economy was slowing. Economists predict the move was the first of several as the Fed attempts to steer the economy to a period of moderate, sustained growth.

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Recommended: Default

President Clinton, saying he is close to agreement with Congress on overhauling the nation's welfare system, warned that GOP extremists may kill chances to enact a bill this year. Senator Dole was forced to delay a vote on a welfare-reform bill he supports after some conservatives in his party, led by Senator Faircloth of North Carolina, vowed to filibuster the legislation. The lawmakers have demanded that the Senate bill contain a provision included in the House version that would ban states from using federal funds to help unwed mothers under 18.

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The White House refused to back last-minute efforts by liberal Democrats to restore funds for social programs in a major spending-cuts bill awaiting final approval in the Senate. The administration also stood by its order to agencies not to spend the nearly $16.4 billion targeted for cutting in the bill.

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About 1.3 million US residents faced an assailant armed with a firearm during 1993, the Department of Justice announced yesterday. About 86 percent of the time, the weapons were handguns, the department said. Meanwhile, Nevada has made it easier for residents to carry concealed handguns. Governor Miller signed a law that puts the burden of proof on sheriffs in denying permits to carry a concealed weapon. Previously, sheriffs had greater discretion to deny permits.

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The NAACP, which opened its 86th annual convention in Minneapolis, said its top priority is getting its financial house in order. Newly elected Board Chairwoman Evers-Williams said going public with a long-awaited audit is "part of the healing."

Space shuttle Atlantis glided to a landing Friday after the first East-West linkup in orbit in 20 years, bringing home an American who spent an often-dreary 3 1/2 months aboard Russian space station Mir. Norman Thagard accepted a call of congratulations from Clinton before walking from the shuttle. His two Russian comrades were carried from Atlantis on stretchers.

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Holders of $800 million in Orange County municipal bonds voted overwhelmingly to give the bankrupt government another year to pay. Earlier, a US bankruptcy judge approved an agreement assuring bondholders that they can sue the county's former lead broker, Merrill Lynch & Co., if the county doesn't pay up next summer. The judge also ruled, however, that any such suits would have to be filed in federal district court rather than in his bankruptcy court.

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Retired General Westmoreland, former commander of US troops in Vietnam, said the US shouldn't reestablish full diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Westmoreland's comments came as Clinton prepares to announce a decision this week on establishing diplomatic ties.

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Susan Smith, who is charged with drowning her two sons, goes on trial today in Union, S.C. Smith has confessed to the crime, and her attorney is expected to mount an insanity defense.

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Civil-rights leader Jesse Jackson and supporters will protest moves by the University of California to dismantle affirmative action, even if it means going to jail, a spokesman said. The university will hold a meeting in San Francisco July 20 to decide whether to curtail preferential policies for women and minorities at the school.

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House Speaker Gingrich said the District of Columbia should be returned to Maryland as a way of giving the city's nearly 600,000 residents voting representation in Congress. Gingrich said there is no sentiment in Congress to make the nation's capital a state.

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F-A-18 fighter bombers flying combat air patrols over Bosnia will be equipped with electronic radar jammers that the Pentagon rejected three years ago because of test failures. Defense Secretary Perry approved the shipment of Navy jammers for installation on 12 F-A-18 Hornets.

THE WORLD

Chechen officials turned three prisoners of war over to a Russian delegation as peace negotiations in Grozny resumed. The three Russian soldiers were captured on New Year's Eve, the first day of Russia's assault on the Chechen capital. Fighting continued despite a cease-fire. In Moscow, President Yeltsin reportedly was working on a decree that would excuse Chechen fighters from prosecution if a peace deal is reached.

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Bosnian Serbs advanced into the enclave of Srebrenica yesterday, detaining 20 Dutch peacekeepers. Bosnian government troops, meanwhile, prevented Dutch soldiers from following orders to leave another site vulnerable to Serb attack. A Dutch peacekeeper was shot and killed by Serbs Saturday. The Serbs reportedly are trying to take control of important supply routes. UN chief Boutros-Ghali told top aides to redouble their efforts to persuade the warring sides to make peace or face a withdrawal of peacekeepers and aid convoys. He also said he was determined to keep operations going.

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China formally arrested Chinese-American human-rights activist Harry Wu, charging him with espionage. Wu was detained June 19 when he tried to enter China from Kazakhstan.

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Violence erupted when 50 Palestinian demonstrators tried to stop Israeli army bulldozers from clearing land for a joint Israeli-PLO liaison office in the West Bank. Palestinian prisoners ended a 19-day hunger strike after an announcement that the Israel-PLO deal will include a staged prisoner release. In south Lebanon, Israeli soldiers fired anti-personnel shells, killing a 16-year-old girl and her sister. The shells are banned by international conventions. The Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will move to Italy this week, the PLO said.

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An American tourist kidnapped while hiking in Kashmir escaped his captors. John Childs said another American and two Britons were still being held. A German also has been captured, but it was not clear if the same group of rebels was responsible.

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EU finance ministers meet today to begin drafting a plan for the introduction of a single currency, perhaps by 1999. EU leaders will meet again in December to consider the plan.

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More than 10,000 Sri Lankan troops marched on Tamil guerrilla-held Jaffna Peninsula in northern Sri Lanka yesterday. It was their first military offensive against the guerrillas since a cease-fire ended in April.

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Northern Ireland appears to be heading into a second week of tension as police oversaw marches by Protestants proclaiming loyalty to Britain yesterday in Portadown, 25 miles from Belfast. Police reinforcements are also being called into Belfast Wednesday - where the Orange Order plans to march - to keep any irate Catholic residents at bay.

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A leader of the Colombian Cali drug cartel surrendered to police in Bogota, the fifth Cali drug lord to give up or be captured in less than a month. The government offers leniency to drug traffickers who surrender and cooperate with police.

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Somali warlord Aideed appealed yesterday for aid to relieve starvation and disease in the country. His request came shortly after the French agency International Action Against Hunger reported that 1 in 4 Somali children under 5 years old are starving in Mogadishu.

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Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrier II and two companion ships manned by Danish anti-nuclear protesters tried to reach Mururoa Atoll in the South Pacific for the 10th anniversary of France's sinking of the original Rainbow Warrior on July 10, 1985. The ships are part of a protest against France's current plans to test nuclear weapons.

ETCETERA

After a generation of debate, we have a chance, finally, to do what is right for the taxpayers who pay for a failed welfare system and for the people who are trapped by it."

-- President Clinton on possible welfare-reform legislation

Steffi Graf captured her second Grand Slam crown of 1995 Saturday, winning Wimbledon in a memorable match against second-seeded Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. With this win, Graf collected her sixth career Wimbledon championship and her 17th Grand Slam singles triumph. American Pete Sampras won his third straight Wimbledon title, beating German Boris Becker yesterday.

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A German appeals court banned Benetton's controversial advertising campaign, ruling that the Italian clothing company violated competition laws by exploiting human suffering. Benetton vowed to fight the decision on constitutional grounds and blamed Germans' guilty consciences for the ruling.

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For a special audience, a showing of the film "Apollo 13" was more than pure entertainment. Engineers and technicians of United Technologies Corp., who jury-rigged the life-support system for the Apollo 13 astronauts 25 years ago, sat on the edge of their seats as they watched an oxygen tank rupture on the spacecraft. One engineer said, "I have lived through it twice now."

Interest Rate Changes

A chronology of the Federal Reserve's interest-rate moves since it last cut the federal funds rate on Sept. 4, 1992.

Date Rate

Sept. 4, '92 Cut to 3.00%

Feb. 4, '94 Raised to 3.25%

March 23, '94 Raised to 3.50%

April 18, '94 Raised to 3.75%

May 17, '94 Raised to 4.25%

Aug. 16, '94 Raised to 4.75%

Nov. 15, '94 Raised to 5.50%

Feb. 1, '95 Raised to 6.00%

July 6, '95 Cut to 5.75%

(The federal funds rate is the interest rate banks charge each other for overnight loans.)

- Associated Press

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