News In Brief

THE US

The future of UN peacekeeping - especially in Bosnia - was to be the top issue as 100 foreign ministers meet in New York today for the opening of the 50th UN General Assembly. Secretary of State Christopher was to speak today. Also at issue: how to keep the UN solvent. Its regular budget was depleted in August. The US, its biggest debtor, owes $1.6 billion. Also, Japan and Germany seek permanent seats on the Security Council.

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Gen. Colin Powell's autobiography is the fastest-selling book Random House has ever had and is topping bestseller lists. In Milwaukee, Powell's fifth stop on a national signing tour, the line started forming at 4:30 a.m. Powell hasn't decided to run for president yet, but White House hopefuls are eyeing his success: Senator Dole began a speech Friday with "I haven't seen this many people since I went to the Powell book signing."

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The Medicare eligibility age would gradually rise from 65 to 67 between 2003 and 2027 in the Senate GOP's reform plan released Friday. It would also require seniors to pay the first $150 in doctors bills next year - up from $100 this year - with $10 annual increases each year thereafter. Republicans plan to cut $270 in Medicare spending over seven years to balance the budget. Democrats say cuts will fund a tax break for the wealthy.

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Medicaid reform passed a crucial hurdle Friday. With support from only one Democrat, the House Commerce Committee passed a plan to turn over the health-care system for 36 million of the nation's poor to the states.

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Turner Broadcasting accepted Time Warner's "dream deal" Friday - a $7.5 billion buyout. But it could falter on antitrust grounds. Consumers Union, a consumer-rights group, is asking federal regulators to assess if the deal will raise cable prices. And US West, a Time Warner partner, claims the new telecom giant would improperly compete with Warner Bros. and HBO, both of which it owns with Time Warner. The deal has to be approved either by the Justice Department or the FTC.

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The jury in the 1993 Trade Center bombing trial was expected to continue deliberations today. They began deciding the case of Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman and nine others Saturday. Prosecutors say they aimed to force the US to change its Middle East policy by blowing up the UN, a federal building, and two New York traffic tunnels. Deliberations will likely be lengthy: The judge's instructions alone are 200 pages long.

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The federal deficit is on track to decline for the third straight year to about $160 billion, the Treasury Department said Saturday. Analysts say the decline is the result of a good economy creating tax revenues as well as declining federal spending. Meanwhile, congressional leaders plan to continue talks with the White House this week over avoiding a federal shutdown next weekend. Both reported progress in talks Friday.

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The FBI was "clearly in error" when it issued "shoot on sight" orders in the 1992 incident at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, according to former Justice Department official Barbara Berman. She testified Friday that the shooting directive was unconstitutional. On Thursday, former deputy FBI director Larry Potts said he gave agents permission to shoot at armed adults but did not tell them they "should" do so. Contradicting other testimony, he said Thursday that the head of the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team okayed the unusual order.

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Borrowing for college has jumped 50 percent since 1992 - to $24 billion nationwide - says the Education Resources Institute. A college education ranks equally with buying a house as a budget priority in most families, the report says. Also, on Friday Senate Republicans delayed voting on Senator Kassebaum's plan to cut $10 billion in student loans. GOP critics the plan protested a new fee on colleges. Democrats would make fewer cuts altogether.

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"Someday a woman will be president," read a T-shirt being sold in a Miami Wal-Mart. After two customer complaints, the company pulled the shirt Thursday, saying its slogan conflicted with company and family values. But after intense public outcry, the shirt went back on the shelves Saturday. Wal-Mart apologized, saying it overreacted.

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O.J. Simpson refused his right to testimony Friday. Closing arguments are set to start Tuesday.

THE WORLD

Israel and the PLO initialed an interim peace accord yesterday to expand Palestinian rule in the West Bank and end 28 years of Israeli occupation in major Arab cities. The signing is scheduled to take place at the White House Thursday. Earlier, PLO Chairman Arafat stormed out of the meeting. But he returned to negotiations with Israeli Foreign Minister Peres after intervention by US peace envoy Dennis Ross and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

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Foreign ministers of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia are due to hold peace talks tomorrow in New York. Meanwhile, the Bosnian government said it dug up a mass grave Saturday with 540 bodies - Muslims and Bosnian Croats "ethnically cleansed" three years ago - near Kljuc in northwestern Bosnia. Government troops recaptured the area from rebel Serbs last week. Also, aid workers reported Friday that nearly 500 Muslims were driven from the Serb-held town Doboj in northern Bosnia by Bosnian Serbs. Doboj has been under attack by the government Army.

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The world's growing land mine crisis is the focus of a UN-sponsored conference that begins in Vienna today. Attendees are seeking tougher international restrictions on the production, sale, and use of land mines and other weapons that strike indiscriminately. More than 400 adults and children are killed every week by such weapons.

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Russian and Chechen negotiators didn't show up for talks yesterday on turning over Chechen heavy weapons to Russian forces. Russia's envoy to Chechnya promised Saturday to speed up compensation for victims of the conflict and asked that $66 million be made available immediately. Russian officials have admitted that the reconstruction of Grozny and other parts of Chechnya would require several billion dollars. Also, Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin banned power cutoffs to military facilities for nonpayment of bills after a local plant shut down electricity to a submarine base. The shutdown nearly provoked disaster because control was lost over nuclear reactors on some submarines, he said.

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A two-day EU aid conference to help rebuild Angola after 19 years of civil war is expected to open today in Brussels. Angola has requested $700 million in aid to revive its dismal economy. Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Jonas Savimbi, leader of the opposition party UNITA, are expected to attend.

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Amid criticism of President Clinton, China approved the White House's nomination for ambassador to China, Sen. Jim Sasser. An editorial in Beijing's Xinhua News criticized Clinton for the second time in four days for meeting with Tibet's Dalai Lama. China's acceptance of Clinton's choice is expected to improve tense relations between the two countries. The choice still needs Senate approval.

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US officials reportedly have evidence about Cali drug cartel corruption of Colombian politics that could bring down President Ernesto Samper. Cartel bookkeeper Guillermo Pallomari provided the evidence when he recently surrendered to US drug agents in Washington.

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Some 3,000 Buddhist monks marched in Sri Lanka to protest a government plan to end a 12-year separatist war. They urged President Chandrika Kumaratunga Sunday not to divide the island nation into ethnic regions laid out in the peace package.

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British Interior Minister Michael Howard ruled out allowing 3.3 million people from Hong Kong into Britain after China takes over the colony in 1997. He was hoping to quell an immigration row triggered when the colony's governor, Chris Patten, asked London to grant the right of abode to colony residents.

ETCETERA

Soon after the "Taiwan card,' [the US] played the "Tibet card,' inflicting new injuries to [Sino-US] relations while the old wounds have not healed."

- China's Xinhua news agency on Washington's foreign policy.

in New York City.

It was some yard sale. The House of Representatives Saturday auctioned off five warehouse floors of stuff it had discarded. Included were desks, tables, lamps, bookcases, and hundreds of chairs. All money taken in went to the US Treasury. Also eliminated was the $235,000 rent for storing all that stuff.

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Eight draws in a row to start the Professional Chess Association world championship is a record. The draw Friday by champion Garry Kasparov and challenger Viswanathan Anand beat seven ties set by ex-champ Anatoly Karpov against Viktor Korchnoi in 1978.

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It looks as if the history books have been shooting straight about Jesse James. Forensic scientist James Starr says DNA testing shows the remains from the outlaw's Missouri grave seem genuine.

Top Tourist Freebies

Budget Rent a Car and travel expert Arthur Frommer say these are the world's top 10 free attractions:

1. The Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.

2. Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia

3. Shakespeare in the Park, New York (July and August)

4. The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston

5. Board of Trade, Chicago

6. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

7. Cable Car Museum, San Francisco

8. Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Orlando, Fla.

9. House of Commons, London

10. Centre Pompidou, Paris (free on Sundays only)

- USA Today

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