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News In Brief

By CompiledCynthia HansonYvonne Zipp, and Sally Steindorf / August 2, 1996



THE US

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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.

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.