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News In Brief

By CompiledYvonne Zipp and Suman Bandrapalli / June 7, 1996



THE US

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The Senate was to vote on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget that Republicans said had little chance of passing. The vote was a "meaningless gesture" and a "sad commentary" on Senator Dole's last days in Congress, a White House official said. Also, House Democrats are proposing a comprehensive rail safety bill to add rail inspectors and improve grade crossings. There have been 54 rail accidents so far this year.

The FBI is considering disrupting the "freemen" group's radio, satellite TV, and cellular phone signals, The New York Times reported. Law enforcement officials may also block the Jordan, Mont., antigovernment group's access to fishing ponds, crops, and storage buildings. Meanwhile, 200 local Montanans have signed a petition urging the use of "reasonable force" against the group. They planned to ask a local sheriff to deliver it to the FBI.

Stratton Oakmont Inc. brokerage house violated its own rules to help Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R of N.Y.) make money, a confidential SEC report said. He earned $37,125 in one day in 1993 on a lightly traded initial public offering underwritten by the firm. The report mentions no wrongdoing by D'Amato.

The Medicare Hospital Fund could be saved from bankruptcy partly by moving some of its expenses to a companion fund, US Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala said. Senator Dole called the proposal a "shell game" that doesn't address the problem but just moves money around. The fund will run out of money in five years unless emergency measures are taken, a Medicare trustee report found.

Adm. Jay Johnson, President Clinton's pick as the Navy's top officer, resigned from his $33,000 a year position on the board of USAA insurance company. The move came hours after Senate Armed Services chairman Strom Thurmond questioned whether active-duty military officers should have paid corporate positions. Johnson said Pentagon rules allow him to serve on the board, but he doesn't want any glitches in his confirmation as chief of naval operations.

Clinton aides obtained a confidential FBI background file on fired travel-office head Billy Dale by claiming he was being considered for a White House pass, a House oversight panel found. The White House says record keepers may have asked for the file mistakenly as part of a routine document-gathering effort on current employees. The FBI has launched a thorough investigation into the matter.

The Energy Department may have illegally spent some travel funds, a draft report by the department's inspector-general said. The report cites sloppy record-keeping and mismanagement on four overseas trade missions headed by Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary. The cost for O'Leary's 16 overseas trips was $4.57 million - $600,000 more than originally thought. O'Leary requested the six-month investigation after her travel expenses came under fire by Republicans.

In an effort to make owning a home more affordable for Americans, Clinton was to announce a quarter-point cut on a Federal Housing Administration insurance premium paid by buyers, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development said. The move will shave about $200 off closing costs for houses bought with some US-backed loans.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to propose new rules to protect consumers from pay-phone price gouging. The proposal will include requiring a rate disclosure before connecting some calls.

US Fish and Wildlife Service director Mollie Beattie resigned for health reasons. Beattie was the first woman to head the department.

The search for wreckage from the ValuJet crash may wind down today, investigators say. About 70 percent of the wreckage has been recovered, but officials say it will be at least two months before they determine the cause of the crash.

Retail sales climbed 13.9 percent in May, as women shopped enthusiastically for clothes for the first time in several years.

THE WORLD

Turkey's Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz resigned ahead of a no confidence vote tomorrow that his three-month-old coalition government was expected to lose. His resignation may give the Islamic party a chance to form the new government. President Demirel said he would decide today after meeting leaders of other parties.

OPEC met behind closed doors in Vienna to discuss a strategy for readmitting Iraq. Risks in global prices - which plunged 70 cents a barrel Wednesday - were a major issue. Members were also divided over whether to reduce production. Before the sanctions, Iraq produced 3.4 million barrels a day. The void was filled primarily by Saudi Arabia.