News In Brief

The US

Everyone from Park Rangers to policy wonks - so-called ''non-essential'' workers - will likely be back at work Monday. A bill to keep the government functioning past the Oct. 1. deadline was set to pass the House and possibly the Senate today. But the bill, which President Clinton will likely sign, only delays the day of reckoning to Oct. 13 - when some of the 13 major spending bills may not be finalized.

Ben Franklin received a face-lift. The Founding Father's face is larger and, for reasons of contrast, his hair is darker on the new $100 bill that was released Wednesday. (Story, Page 1.)

Lawmakers want to tap Social Security to help balance the budget. But their approach is cautious on the politically explosive issue. Senator Moynihan (D) suggested Wednesday that the cost-of-living increase be lowered 1 percentage point - a move that would save the government $281 billion over seven years in lower Social Security checks and civil service and military pensions. The White House did not criticize Moynihan's proposal.

CIA agents in Guatemala could face punishment over their alleged ties to a man implicated in the 1990 murder of a US citizen in Guatemala. CIA director John Deutch planned to testify in Congress today on the scandal that erupted earlier this year.

Time Warner Inc. is getting out of the ''gangsta rap'' business, the media giant said Wednesday. By selling its 50-percent stake in Interscope Records - a top label for violent and sexually explicit music - Time Warner will extricate itself from a controversial debate over the lyrics of rappers like Tupac Shakur (above). The company says the move has nothing to do with content, but it comes just before the release of another violence-laced Interscope album that Time Warner sought unsuccessfully to revie w for content.

Even those Republicans skeptical about mixing tax cuts with $270 billion in Medicare trims closed ranks behind the Medicare-reform bill in the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday as it passed a preliminary measure on a party-line vote. A final Committee vote is expected today. Clinton says he will veto the bill.

The final defense bill - a $243 billion measure that is $6.6 billion bigger than the White House requested - was expected to get final approval in the House today. It includes funding for controversial C-17 cargo planes, although the Pentagon hasn't yet decided to build them.

US Marines in Okinawa are suspending training for ''a day of reflection,'' Defense Secretary Perry said yesterday. The move is part of a new, broader effort that aims to improve relations between the 200,000 US military personnel stationed abroad and the host communities, Perry said. It comes in response to the alleged rape by US servicemen of a Japanese girl.

Farm subsidies have deeper roots than lawmakers may have thought. When cotton-state Republicans defended them, the House Agriculture Committee abandoned its abandoned efforts Wednesday to dismantle the program. Chairman Roberts said he would attempt to fold the measure into a larger bill. (Story, Page 1.)

New jobless claims fell by 31,000 last week to the lowest level in seven weeks, the Labor Department said yesterday. Separately, job prospects could be improving: Some 27 of a group of 100 manufacturers said they will hire more full-time employees next year, and 18 percent said they would boost both full- and part-time payrolls. The firms were polled at a Washington-based National Association of Manufacturers' meeting.

Rage and jealousy motivated O.J. Simpson to kill his wife, said prosecutor Christopher Darden in closing arguments Wednesday. The defense pounded the theme ''If it doesn't fit, you have to acquit,'' saying the evidence against Simpson is flawed. Judge Ito expected the case to go to the jury on Monday.

Rep. Mel Reynolds was to be sentenced in Chicago yesterday. Convicted of sexual assault and having sex with a minor, he faces a minimum of four years in jail.

It will be 10 days before shuttle Columbia can take off, NASA said yesterday after a hydrogen leak in the engines scrubbed the planned launch.

The World

The PLO and Israel were scheduled to sign a peace agreement yesterday to expand Palestinian rule in the West Bank. President Clinton was to preside over the historic ceremony at the White House. Meanwhile, Israel closed the West Bank and Gaza Strip until Sunday to prevent possible attacks in Israel by militants. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad groups declared a strike in the West Bank. Israelis and Palestinians opposed to the signing planned protests. Also, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin indicated Israel migh t consider releasing Palestinians responsible for the killing or serious injury of Jews. (Stories, Pages 1 and 6.)

US envoy Richard Holbrooke was to return to Sarajevo yesterday to try to secure a cease-fire. In Croatia, UN officials said more than 400 people were arrested, including soldiers, on charges of looting and burning houses that belonged to ethnic Serbs. The government blamed rebel Serbs for a deadly rocket attack on the town of Travnik in central Bosnia Wednesday, warning that such assaults could jeopardize progress toward peace. And Elisabeth Rehn, a representative of Finland's small Swedish minority, wa s named the new UN human rights investigator Wednesday.

China's Communist Party leaders purged a powerful colleague for corruption yesterday but were unable to agree on whether he should face criminal charges. He is the highest ranking leader to be brought down in the Party's anti-corruption drive. Also, China told the US Wednesday it would not go forward with a nuclear reactor deal with Iran.

Riot police in Toronto battled 5,000 protesters trying to storm Ontario's legislature Wednesday as new conservative Premier Mike Harris presented plans for slashing social spending in Canada's most populous province. The legislative building was evacuated later due to a bomb threat.

The lawyer for Colombia's President Ernesto Samper was injured, and two bodyguards killed, in a machine-gun attack Wednesday. A previously unknown group, the Movement for a Dignified Colombia, claimed responsibility. The group said Samper, his wife, and other government leaders would be targeted next. The foreign minister denied yesterday that Colombia suspects US drug agents of involvement in the attack. The interior minister had accused the agents of conspiring to topple Samper and destabilize Colombi a. (Story, Page 7.)

President Said Mohamed Djohar of the Comoros Islands reportedly was taken prisoner yesterday in a coup led by foreign mercenaries. The mercenaries freed all inmates at the prison in the capital, Moroni, including those sentenced for taking part in a 1992 coup. One of the poorest countries in the world, the Comoros has been politically unstable since gaining independence from France in 1975.

Russia and South Korea signed agreements yesterday to strengthen trade and investment ties. The documents underlined Seoul's desire to tap the Russian market and Moscow's hope to attract South Korean investment.

British Airways is being sued for $9 million by 61 French passengers who were on a plane seized by Iraq during the Gulf War. The jet endangered their lives by making an unscheduled stop to drop off British commandos in Kuwait, the suit claims. Most of the plane's 360 passengers were used by Iraq as human shields for about three months.

NATO Secretary General Willy Claes yesterday was to present plans for eastward expansion of the alliance to interested states from former communist Eastern and Central Europe. These include Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and the Baltic states. Russia, which opposes such plans, said it would attend.

Etcetera

The Save the Tiger Fund is about to get help from a source that hasn't always been welcomed by environmentalists - the Exxon Corp. The oil giant, which uses a tiger in its gasoline ads, said yesterday that it will donate $5 million over the next five years to protect tiger habitats in the wild.

Almost 10 million adult Americans have access to the Internet, and another 6 million are expected to join them on-line over the next year, according to a survey by O'Reilly and Associates released Wednesday.

The head of Russia's main TV network apologized Wednesday for canceling Nobel Prize-winning writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn's talk show, but said the network was under pressure from politicians demanding air time before December elections.

Top-Rated TV Shows, Sept. 18-24

Rank/Show/Network/Number of Homes

1. ''ER,'' NBC, 24.3 million

2. ''Seinfeld,'' NBC, 23.6 million

3. ''Caroline in the City,'' NBC, 19.7 million

3. ''Friends,'' NBC, 19.7 million

5. ''Home Improvement,'' ABC, 19.5 million

6. ''Single Guy,'' NBC, 18.4 million

7. ''Coach,'' ABC, 17.8 million

8. ''Murphy Brown,'' CBS, 17.3 million

9. ''NFL Monday Night Football,'' ABC, 16.4 million

10. ''Grace Under Fire,'' ABC, 15.8 million

- Nielson Media Research/AP

'' It's a great victory for our children and America's future,

and it does show me that Time Warner does have a corporate soul.''

- C. Delores Tucker of the National Political Congress of Black Women, on Time Warner's move to drop gangsta rap.

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