News In Brief

By , Yvonne Zipp, and Sally Steindorf

THE US

Congress hoped to place at least three key bills on President Clinton's desk for signing today: the health-care bill, the welfare overhaul bill, and a minimum-wage bill. Congressional negotiators made a tentative deal on raising the minimum wage to $4.75 while providing $21.4 billion in tax breaks through 2006. The bill includes breaks for corporations, a $5,000 credit for adoption costs, and allows homemakers to contribute up to $2,000 to IRAs. And GOP leaders planned to ask the Clinton administration why some of the FBI's antiterrorism funds haven't been spent before a possible vote today on antiterrorism legislation that would expand wiretapping and tighten airport security.

The Senate was to take up a bill on the "dolphin safe" tuna label requirement after the House passed it. The bill would allow the label to be used even when fishermen chase or injure dolphins but don't kill them in their nets. Also, the Senate approved a $12.6-billion transportation spending bill that would provide for additional air-traffic-controller positions and aviation hazardous materials inspectors, and saves Amtrak from drastic cuts. The Senate voted to construct a temporary nuclear-waste storage site 100 miles from Las Vegas. And both Houses planned to vote on a bill to create a seven-year, $7.6 billion fund to upgrade decaying water systems nationwide.

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The Federal Communications Commission approved rules opening the $100-billion local phone industry to long-distance and cable TV companies and other competitors. It will take at least five years for most Americans to have more choices, most regulators say.

Tests have failed to show evidence of a bomb on a piece of front cargo door from TWA Flight 800 and any of the other pieces of wreckage, a source close to the investigation said. Also, choppy seas hampered divers' search for passengers' remains. About 46 bodies are still missing. Separately, the fire that caused May's ValuJet crash may have been fueled by plastic bubble wrap, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported. Tests showed the wrap, used to package oxygen containers, could have ignited if a canister accidentally activated.

Mexican drug cartels seeking new routes into the US are forcing ranchers to sell their land to them along the border, the Senate Judiciary Committee was told. A Texas rancher, disguised to hide his identity, told the committee drug traffickers have slashed fences, knocked down gates, and fired gun shots at his home. Barry McCaffrey, head of the National Drug Control Policy Office, testified that success in intercepting drugs at border cities has driven traffickers to look for other smuggling routes.

Olympic weightlifter Raed Ahmed of Iraq defected to the US, sneaking out of the Olympic Village to seek political asylum. Also, Marina Trandenkova, the fifth-place finisher in the women's 100 meters, is the first track and fifth Russian athlete to be kicked out of the Olympics for testing positive for drugs.

Boeing Company agreed to buy Rockwell International Corp.'s aerospace and defense holdings in a $3 billion deal. The world's largest maker of commercial jets will acquire the company for $860 million in stock and assume about $2.2 billion in Rockwell debt. Also, defense giants Raytheon and McDonnell Douglas are said to be considering combining some operations.

In the most robust expansion in two years, the gross domestic product shot up at a 4.2 percent annual rate in from April through June. It was more than twice the revised 2 percent growth during the first quarter of the 1996. The growth was partly attributed to companies restocking inventories to meet strong demands.

The IRS plans to lay off up to 5,000 people next year in an effort to cut its 63 district headquarters to 33. The IRS says the layoffs will save $500 million to $750 million over five years.

THE WORLD

The US said more negotiations on a global nuclear test ban treaty could ruin any chance of agreement. The US appealed to nations to put aside their differences and approve the deal now. India and China have led objections to the current treaty, and chances now appear slim that it will be ready for signature by the September deadline.

US envoy John Kornblum said Bosnian Croat leaders expressed willingness to stop obstructing the reunification of Mostar. Kornblum got the Bosnian Croats to agree to abolish a separatist area in the town and merge it with Bosnia's federation in compliace with the Dayton accord. A Bosnian Muslim-Croat stalemate emerged in Mostar when Croats refused to accept the Muslims' narrow election victory in June.

African leaders were unclear when or if economic sanctions against Burundi would go into effect a day after deciding to impose them at a summit in Arusha, Tanzania. Burundi's new ruler Maj. Pierre Buyoya seemed undeterred by the threat of sanctions, and continued setting up a government to replace the one ousted in last week's coup. Also, more than 1,000 Hutus reportedly are fleeing daily to Zaire due to concerns about a future under the new Tutsi president.

Palestinian demonstrators called for the resignation of Nablus Mayor Ghassan Shakaa after a Nablus man was allegedly tortured to death. President Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, which has been increasingly critical of the mayor's harsh methods of silencing dissent, called for the protest strike.

President Elias Hrawi said Lebanon would not accept a conditional Israeli withdrawal from its south and would not break ranks with other Arab countries to sign a separate peace deal with Israel.

Mexico's lower house unanimously approved a sweeping electoral-reform package. The 17 consitutional amendments are designed to loosen the ruling party's 70-year-hold on power and fulfill President Zedillo's promise to expand democracy.

Rival Liberian warlords promised to disarm this month after marathon talks in Lagos with Nigeria's ruler Gen. Sani Abacha. Analysts say this peace deal could succeed where more than a dozen have failed. Abacha is chairman of the Economic Community of West African States, which has been trying to broker an end to the conflict.

Iraq's Al-Thawra newspaper claims more than 70,000 Iraqis died in the first half of 1996 due to medicine shortages caused by six years of UN sanctions. The report couldn't be confirmed, but relief workers reported higher mortality rates because of sanctions, imposed after Iraq's invastion of Kuwait.

Three Argentine policemen and a retired officer were indicted in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 86 people.

A Jakarta court refused to rule on allowing Indonesia's opposition members to return to their party headquarters. Opposition leader Megawati was stonewalled in a 30-minute hearing on government efforts to have her removed as party leader. Her trial was postponed until Aug. 22. Also, President Suharto gave police permission to question Megawati about antigovernment protests that erupted after police raided the party's headquarters.

Typhoon Herb's 87-mph winds slammed into China after killing 14 Taiwanese and flooding thousands of homes. Floods also swamped parts of India, Bangla-desh, Thailand, and North Korea.

ETCETERAS

"I ... looked at [President Clinton] and I could not believe my eyes. He was standing and applauding us. I know if the Games were in Iraq, Saddam Hussein would not clap for the US."

-- Iraqi Olympic weightlifter Raed Ahmed, as quoted in The New York Times, on a key experience prompting his defection.

Feeling computer illiterate? These accounts compiled by Woodside Asset Management might make you feel better. One man called technicians to complain his computer wouldn't read files - after he rolled his diskettes into a typewriter to label them. And tech support asked a woman to send in a copy of defective diskettes. She complied, mailing the company xeroxed copies.

Cosmic Bowling anyone? Teenagers from Lubbock, Texas, can disco the night away at Brunswick South Plains Bowl. The lanes turn psychedelic on weekends with black lights, day-glo pins, a mirrored ball, and a fog machine. It's not the game your father used to play, says manager Joe Decker.

Three Muskogee, Okla., students had their diplomas withheld after wearing ethnic symbols to graduation - African tribal cloth and an eagle feather. But they were all offered full scholarships to the University of Minnesota and may receive outstanding leadership awards.

Vebjorn Rodal won Norway's first gold in athletics since 1956 in the 800 meters. Paea Wolfgram won Tonga's first medal in boxing. China's Fu Mingxia won gold in the three-meter springboard, becoming the first woman in 36 years to receive two golds in diving.

THE DAY'S LIST

Republican Veep Race

Who will be tagged for the Republican's No. 2 seat? Bob Dole's presidential search team has considered these prospects.

Sen. Connie Mack of Florida

Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma

Former Gov. Carroll Campbell of South Carolina

Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania

Gov. Jim Edgar of Illinois

Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin

Gov. George Voinovich of Ohio

Gov. John Engler of Michigan

-- Associated Press

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