News In Brief

THE US

Opening ceremonies for Bosnian peace talks were set to be held at the Hope Hotel at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, today. With representatives from each side - Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia - housed in spartan officers' barracks, US officials hope close proximity will speed negotiations. (Above, President Milosevic leaves Serbia yesterday). At issue: dividing Bosnia in a way that satisfies combatants, averts war in Croatia, and keeps Croats and Muslims from fighting. Another sticky issue is reports that Bosnian Serbs killed thousands of Muslims near Srebrenica in July. Separately, the House passed a nonbinding resolution Monday telling Dayton negotiators not to assume the US will send peacekeeping troops to Bosnia.

As Speaker Gingrich and Senator Dole picked their budget-negotiating teams yesterday, economists weighed in on a balanced budget's economic effects. Many of them say it could bring a higher standard of living, lower trade deficits, and higher productivity in the long term. But they say the next seven years could see slower economic growth and higher jobless rates as Washington cuts $1 trillion in spending.

Exploring how the US can avoid defaulting on its debts during the battle over the budget was to be on the agenda of Clinton's meeting with congressional leaders this morning. Senate Budget Committee chairman Domenici said Monday he favors a one-month debt-limit extension - much shorter than the three months that Treasury Secretary Rubin wants.

The CIA's operations in the former Soviet Union were riddled with double agents who sent disinformation back to the US. This according to a long-awaited CIA report that was to be released at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing yesterday. A preview obtained by The Los Angeles Times said many of the double agents went undetected until CIA mole Aldrich Ames was arrested last year.

New, single-family home sales jumped a healthy 3.3 percent in September to an annual rate of 727,000, the Commerce Department said yesterday. The median price of a new home: $130,000, down $5,000 from August. Also, US workers' wages, salaries, and benefits rose 2.7 percent in the year ended Sept. 30, the Labor Department said. It was the smallest gain on record, showing that compensation was not keeping up with inflation.

Four public housing agencies are off the Housing Department's "troubled" list. Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros said yesterday. The four are: Jacksonville, Fla.; Johnstown, Pa.; Memphis, Tenn.; and Spartanburg, S.C. Also, after battling drugs and crime, Philadelphia's projects have vastly improved, Cisneros said. Only a dozen cities and counties remain on the department's "troubled" list, down from 19 some 33 months ago.

Restoring public confidence in law enforcement was Senator Hatch's stated aim as he began hearings on the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' role in the 1992 Waco, Texas, standoff yesterday. He said the panel aimed to "identify necessary policy changes" in the incident's wake.

Thousands of volunteers made the difference. In Detroit and in Camden, N.J., in past years, Halloween eve has been marked by rampant arson. Early reports from Detroit (above) said the city had just 41 fires, down from 182 last year.

Those convicted of possessing five grams of crack cocaine face a minimum five-year jail term under a law signed by Clinton Monday. Some critics say the law is racist because most crack users are black, while most users of powdered cocaine - who face a minimum of just 10 months probation - are white.

A jury ordered Ford to pay $62.4 million to two women injured when their Bronco II rolled over in an accident they claimed was caused by design flaws. Ford said it plans to appeal.

THE WORLD

Canada survived intact - just barely - as 50.6 percent of Quebeckers voted non to an independence referendum Monday. But analysts said the vote resolved little. Defiant separatists pledged another breakaway attempt, while Prime Minister Jean Chretien called for reconciliation. In a nail-biting finish, voters who backed national unity squeaked through by a margin of barely 50,000 votes out of 4.7 million cast.

Ramadan Abdallah Shallah will lead the Islamic Jihad, the group confirmed Monday. Shallah ran a controversial US think tank on Islamic affairs associated with the University of South Florida in Tampa. Also, in Amman, Jordan, Israel agreed to buy $2 billion in natural gas from Qatar yesterday. It is the first Israeli deal with an Arab Gulf state. And Egypt will replace Libya as the candidate for the Arab seat on the UN Security Council, diplomats said.

Ten of 12 opposition parties will petition the high court to nullify Tanzania's first multiparty election on the grounds of fraud, they announced yesterday. Tanzania's ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party won 19 of the 24 seats announced in the 230 member parliament. The elections are co-financed by 17 foreign donors, led by Scandinavian countries, as a democracy-building process.

In his first statement since Thursday, Russian President Yeltsin demanded an explanation yesterday from the Central Election Commission on its decision to bar the reformist Yabloko party from the Dec. 17 elections. And leading democrats vowed to boycott the elections if the decision was not overturned.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, a poet, and three other Nigerian Ogoni minority rights activists were sentenced to death for murdering four political moderates at a rally last year. On Monday, the court passed death sentences on three other Ogoni leaders for the 1994 murder of four Ogoni leaders.

Germany joined France and England yesterday to back former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers as NATO chief in the wake of Willy Claes' recent resignation. So far there are no official candidates, but Lubbers is apparently well liked in Washington as well. Meanwhile, Denmark said it will back its own candidate.

South Africa's first all-race local government elections take place today. Soaring crime is a key issue. Most candidates are black local authorities. President Nelson Mandela's (above) African National Congress is likely to gain victory in most of the nearly 600 constituencies. (Story, Page 8.)

Tamil rebels and civilians were fleeing Jaffna Province yesterday as the Sri Lankan Army advanced to within 4 miles of the rebel stronghold, relief workers said. About 11,000 refugees crossed into the southern town of Kilinochchi. The latest offensive is the biggest in 12 years by the Sri Lankan Army.

Croatian President Franjo Tudjman's modest election success could boost the chances of peace negotiations beginning today in Dayton, Ohio, observers say. His party got 44 percent of the vote, while six opposition parties fared better than expected.

The Clinton administration is prepared to make new concessions to Japan on scaling back US military bases, Defense Secretary Perry said yesterday. The White House is determined, he said, to find ways to overcome the antimilitary backlash triggered by the September rape of a schoolgirl on Okinawa. Three US servicemen accused of the crime go on trial next week.

About 3,000 bakers, butchers, and other traders protesting a tax hike rioted in Bordeaux, France, Monday.

ETCETERA

There are not many countries in the world where citizens can debate peacefully, calmly, and without violence the very existence of the country itself."

- Quebec's separatist leader, Lucien Bouchard, after Monday's referendum.

When President Clinton welcomed King Harald of Norway to the White House Monday, he said they would have to compare notes on the White House. Harald lived in Washington as a boy during the 1940s when he and his mother fled Nazi occupation of Norway. They stayed at the White House briefly at President Roosevelt's invitation.

About 250 astronomers and other stargazers gathered Monday in Harvard, Mass., to watch as a new 84-foot-across radio telescope was switched on. Dedicated to listening for aliens in space, it is some 300 times more powerful than its predecessor, which stood on the same hilltop.

Performers from the 1960s and '70s marked the 1996 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced in Cleveland Monday. Included are: Jefferson Airplane, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, the Velvet Underground, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Little Willy John, and the Shirelles.

Remember Jennings Osborne, the Arkansas man whose neighbors sued him over his huge Christmas display? The state Supreme Court Monday found him in contempt for failing to adequately reduce his display last year. Osborne cut it from 3 million lights to 175,000. The court wanted still fewer.

Fortune's Top Cities

In rating the world's top cities for business, Fortune magazine considered not only office-rent prices, access to law firms, ports, and available brain-power, but also unemployment rates, transit systems, and recreation.

Top world cities Top US cities

1. Singapore San Francisco

2. San Francisco Atlanta

3. London Denver

4. New York New York

5. Frankfurt Boston

6. Hong Kong Seattle

7. Atlanta Austin

8. Toronto Dallas-Ft. Worth

9. Paris Houston

10. Tokyo Phoenix

- Fortune/AP

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