News In Brief

THE US

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center warned hurricane Hortense could be on Florida's doorstep by week's end. The storm will be 280 miles east of Fort Lauderdale by tomorrow night if it stays its present course. Hortense battered Puerto Rico with winds of 80 m.p.h., flooding low-lying areas and raising concerns of dangerous mudslides. Also, North Carolina's Gov. Jim Hunt declared hurricane Fran the worst disaster in the state this century. And in Washington, officials began assessing flood damage from the Potamac River.

President Clinton planned to embrace a welfare program that converts public assistance funds into paying jobs during a speech to southern governors in Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas City program gives federal welfare and food-stamp funds to employers for wage supplements of $500 a month for each former welfare recipient they hire.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to pull out of the Golan Heights to forward peace talks with Syria. He took the position during talks with Clinton in the White House on gaining US help in opening talks with Syria.

The alleged mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing told federal agents he considered unleashing poison gas during the attack, which he said was meant to topple one of the twin towers, the Daily News reported. Ramzi Yousef said he decided not to use the gas because it was too expensive to implement. He reportedly made the comments to agents while being extradited, according to a secret, 21-page report obtained by the newspaper.

Former presidential adviser Dick Morris denied a tabloid report that he told a prostitute Hillary Rodham Clinton was behind the improper FBI file searches conducted on White House employees. He simply told Sherry Rowlands that polls show that's what most people believe, Morris said in a sworn statement to the House Government Reform Oversight Committee.

Divers recovered two key pieces of the center fuel tank of TWA Flight 800 from the Atlantic. Investigators are trying to determine whether the explosion of the fuel tank was the original one that caused the plane crash. Also, US officials proposed requiring airlines involved in an aviation disaster on an international flight to provide a passenger list to the State Department within hours of the incident. Many families of people killed in recent plane crashes complained that confirmation that their relatives or friends were on board took too long - sometimes days.

Officials are investigating the launch of a NASA rocket Aug. 29 that came within four miles of an American Airlines jet. The 15-foot rocket, launched from Wallops Island Flight Center in Virginia, carried classified research experiments for the defense department. The National Transportation Safety Board said it's confident NASA followed proper safety procedures and the rocket posed no threat.

Prosecutors in the Oklahoma bombing case can win convictions and death sentences against defendants Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols without proving they intended to kill, a US district judge in Denver ruled.

The US trade deficit shot up to $38.8 billion in the April-June quarter, the worst showing in a year. In the same quarter, workplace productivity rose at a 0.5 percent annual rate.

US District Judge Alfredo Marquez ruled an Arizona law unconstitutional that required minors to get permission from their parents or a judge to have an abortion. The law lacked specifics on how permission from a judge can be obtained and whether doctors can offer emergency abortions, he said.

Arson is suspected in a fire that destroyed the predominantly black New Home Missionary Baptist Church in Sacramento, Calif., investigators said. The fire occurred shortly after the congregation celebrated the church's 31st anniversary.

THE WORLD

President Saddam Hussein issued a general amnesty to Kurds in northern Iraq, the foreign minister said on state-run television. Also, the UN geared up for a possible refugee crisis after about 300,000 Kurdish refugees fled the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah. The city, the last stronghold of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was captured by the Iraqi-allied Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Russian President Yeltsin signed an order giving Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin control over national security during his upcoming operation, the Kremlin said. Yeltsin will retain control over the "nuclear button."

Chechnya's Moscow-backed government met with rebel leaders to discuss peace in the republic. Relations between the two sides are tense, and Moscow says it's concerned that the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya would leave the breakaway republic ripe for civil war.

Pakistan said it won't sign the proposed global nuclear test-ban treaty because its rival, India, refuses to support the agreement. The UN was expected to vote soon on the draft, which is sponsored by 126 states. Earlier, Australia asked the General Assembly to approve the treaty despite India's veto. New Delhi opposes the draft because it fails to include a provision for eliminating stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

Colombian President Ernesto Samper announced new measures to combat left-wing guerrillas that would step up military intelligence, boost communication, and improve troop mobility. The move came after rebels blew up an oil pipeline in the south that carried 58,000 barrels a day. They were protesting Bogota's efforts to stop coca growing.

Indonesian opposition leader Megawati was questioned for the third time about July 27 riots in Jakarta that erupted after police raided her party's headquarters. Authorities have been unable to link Megawati to the riots, which they say was a plot against President Suharto. Also, the opposition reopened a party headquarters in defiance of the military government.

Guatemalan leaders and leftist guerrillas will sign an agreement on the country's military, the last major issue in talks to end a three-decade civil war, President Alvaro Arzu said. He did not disclose details of the accord, which he said will be signed Sept. 19 in Mexico City.

Philippine President Fidel Ramos ordered the disarming of Christian vigilante groups in the south so they won't threaten a peace treaty signed last week with Muslim rebels. Earlier, Muslims turned out to vote in peaceful elections that marked the first test of the treaty. Rebel leader Nur Misuari, who negotiated the treaty with Ramos, ran unopposed for governor of four southern provinces.

Typhoon Sally battered southern China. At least 114 people were killed and 110 are missing. More than 215,000 houses in Zhanjiang were destroyed. The giant oil processing plant Maoming Petrochemical Corp. was forced to halt production after the typhoon cut off power in Guangdong Province.

President Bizimungu said almost all the 1.1 million Rwandan refugees in Zaire would return home voluntarily if hardliners intimidating them were removed from their camps.

Northern Irish politicians linked to loyalist militant groups defended their right to remain at peace talks. The Progressive Unionist Party and the Ulster Democratic Party declared they were committed to democracy and peace, after the Democratic Unionist Party demanded their expulsion after guerrillas issued death threats against two of their own members. The issue has stalled peace talks, which were to have resumed yesterday.

ETCETERAS

"He just closed his eyes and did it."

- New York police investigator Michael Kopy, talking about volunteer firefighter Daniel Santos, who made a heroic leap off a 150-foot bridge to save a woman who was attempting suicide. Both Mr. Santos and the woman survived.

Spaniards flooded TV and radio switchboards with calls after news broadcasts reported space aliens hovering over New York. The alien invasion was in fact ads for the film "Independence Day," which opens in Spain Friday. The ad agency figured viewers wouldn't be taken in by the spoof on Orson Welles's radio play "The War of the Worlds," which caused similar panic in the US in 1938.

Bill Monroe, the Kentucky musician who introduced the world to bluegrass, died. The term came from his band - the Blue Grass Boys. In 1989, Monroe won the first Grammy ever given for bluegrass music.

New York police have developed the canine cam - a 3-pound video camera fitted to the collar of a police dog. The dog can go into situations too dangerous for a human officer and relay pictures of the scene.

THE DAY'S LIST

Freedom Fighters

1996 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the highest US civilian honor:

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, for his fight "against social injustice, poverty, and ignorance."

James Brady, leader in the fight for gun control.

Rosa Parks, human-rights worker who founded a career-training institute in Detroit for teenagers.

Former Rep. Morris Udall, for his political contributions.

Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity.

David Alan Hamburg, president of the Carnegie Foundation and lobbyist for family legislation.

John Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, for breaking stereotypes and building self- respect in the black community.

Eugene Lang, creator of I Have a Dream Foundation. He paid college tuition for members of a sixth-grade class he adopted.

Jan Nowak-Jezioranski, member of the Polish underground during World War II.

Antonia Pantoja, who devoted her life to promoting community development.

Ginetta Sagan, member of the World War II Italian resistance who devoted her life to fighting human rights abuses worldwide.

- Associated Press

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