News In Brief

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The US

David Kessler, the US Food and Drug Administration commissioner who waged war on the tobacco industry, announced his resignation. Despite appeals by the White House to stay on, he said six years as head of the agency was enough. Kessler had called tobacco an addictive drug used to hook children on cigarettes and published the nation's first regulations of tobacco marketing. Some of Kessler's other accomplishments: new nutrition information on labels and speeding drug approvals.

The broadcast, computer, and consumer electronics industries came to a landmark agreement: The marketplace, not the government, should decide the format for displaying images on screens, and screen sizes and shapes. The decision opens the way for a government plan, possibly by the end of the year, on standards for futuristic, cinema-quality TV.

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The Federal Communications Commission adopted an order that could lower international phone rates and save Americans billions of dollars. The rates would free US companies to negotiate fees with foreign carriers and more closely reflect the actual costs of making such calls. Consumers pay an average of 99 cents a minute for international calls. Based on actual costs, that amount should only be about 50 cents, regulators say.

US and Japanese negotiators ended two days of talks in Tokyo with little progress in resolving a dispute over access to Japan's insurance market. The Clinton administration says Japan has not lived up to a 1994 agreement calling for easier access by foreign companies to its insurance market - the world's second- largest. New talks were scheduled for Dec. 6 in an effort to resolve the dispute before a Dec. 15 self-imposed deadline.

America's family makeup is stabilizing. That's the picture presented by a Census Bureau report that found households with members related by marriage, birth, or adoption made up 70 percent of 98.9 million US households last year. That's down from 81.2 percent in 1970, but most of the change occurred in the first 20 years. The figure was 70.8 percent in 1990. Households with married couples with children declined to 25 percent in 1995 from 26.3 percent in 1990 and 40.3 percent in 1970.

Two new government studies support claims of Gulf war veterans that their service led to health problems, The New York Times reported. The veterans are more than three times as likely as other troops to have problems, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control. A Navy survey arrived at similar findings, Pentagon officials said. Many veterans blame their health problems on exposure to chemical or biological weapons.

Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros proposed $20 million in federal aid to help rebuild and revitalize St. Petersburg, Fla. The city erupted in race riots twice last month after the fatal shooting of a black motorist by a white policeman and again after a grand jury cleared the officer.

Texaco executives, not shareholders or employees, should suffer financial penalty because of racial slurs at the oil company, California's state treasurer Matt Fong said. He was referring to a boycott called for by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, which he said was "well-intentioned but misdirected." Texaco Corp. agreed to pay $176.1 million to settle two-year-old discrimination claims after a recording of executives belittling black employees was made public this month.

Consumer confidence in the economy held steady during November, with most Americans remaining optimistic about business conditions, the Conference Board said.

A winter ice storm that coated roads from Texas to Missouri eased after being blamed for 26 deaths, stranding hundreds of travelers, and leaving thousands without power. Crews dumped roughly 80 tons of sand on streets in Mineral Wells, Texas, which were covered by as much as 2 inches of ice.

The World

Many of Iraq's poorer citizens danced in the streets at word that President Saddam Hussein's government had OK'd the final conditions of its oil-for-food deal with the UN. The deal allows Iraq to sell $2 billion worth of oil every six months if the proceeds are used to buy food and medicines, in short supply since UN sanctions were imposed in 1990.

US reconnaissance planes hunted for thousands of Hutu refugees in the hills of eastern Zaire. Meanwhile, Tanzania said it wanted more than 600,000 Rwandan Hutus to return home.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed in the West Bank that Jewish settlements there would continue to grow. He said Israel would not bow to international pressure to stop construction and would not uproot any settlement as part of the Middle East peace process.

In Belarus, 111 members of parliament sided with President Alexander Lukashenko, leaving no more than 70 who continue to oppose him. Lukashenko met with his supporters, who declared themselves the country's true parliament. Their rivals said they would continue to pursue impeachment proceedings against the president, who easily won a controversial referendum on expanding his powers.

African diplomats to the UN said Egypt's Boutros Boutros-Ghali remains their only candidate for the post of secretary-general. But UN sources said African states do not want to submit his name for a new vote, out of concern that support for him may drop. The Security Council has agreed that priority for the job be given to another African. The US vetoed a second term for Boutros-Ghali last week.

Opponents of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic asked the country's Supreme Court to uphold the local elections they won earlier this month. Lower courts believed to be under his control nullified the outcome in dozens of cities and towns and ordered new voting today. The capital, Belgrade, braced for a repeat of massive anti-Milosevic demonstrations with protesters heaving eggs at government buildings Monday.

The British government began an investigation to find out who leaked top-secret budget documents to a London newspaper. The Daily Mirror did not print the details, saying that would have produced chaos in international financial markets. Word of the break brought further embarrassment to Prime Minister John Major, whose government is widely expected to fall in elections next spring.

The UN sent a North Korean sailor home to ease tensions between his government and South Korea. Chung Kwang-son was rescued from a small boat drifting in rough seas. But North Korea responded to the gesture by demanding the remains of 24 infiltrators who died on a spying mission in September. Pyongyang also delayed the release of American Evan Carl Hunziker, who was to have been freed today. Hunziker is accused of spying for South Korea.

In new blows at his critics, Zambian President Frederick Chiluba suspended six journalists and froze the bank accounts of independent election monitors. The actions came one day after police raids on the offices of two watchdog groups that had called Chiluba's reelection unfair. The journalists were accused of moonlighting for one of the monitoring groups.

Central African Republic President Ange-Felix Patasse appealed to mutineers from the country's Army to disarm and rejected their demand that he resign. Patasse returned to the capital, Bangui, from a trip to France under heavy guard. The uprising was his third since April. Rebel leaders had no comment on Patasse's announcement.

Etceteras

"Don't punish the person pumping the gas. Punish the board of directors."

- California State Treasurer Matt Fong, suggesting a pay cut for Texaco's top brass after executives uttered racial slurs rather than the boycott proposed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

What do California almond growers and the government of Taiwan have in common? Answer: a marketing strategy. The Californians try to spur sales via TV ads featuring actor/growers atop a massive pile of nuts. "A can a week; that's all we ask," one of them says facetiously. Taiwan's Agriculture Council is trying a similar ploy. "Eat more garlic," it's urging the nation's 21.5 million people. Says an official: "We simply planted too much this year."

The Humvee, that squat Gulf war successor to the Jeep, hasn't really caught on in the US as a passenger car. But it may have found a civilian application after all. Rural Worden, Mont., has converted three "Hummers" into fire trucks. A town official says they're ideal for the job: They'll do 70 m.p.h. on the open road and blast right through deep snow.

The Day's List

Top Ten Movies in the US And Canada, Nov. 22-24

Per-location revenue gauges a film's popularity by community response. Titles are followed by per-location revenue, number of locations, and weeks in release.

1. "Star Trek: First Contact;" $10,923; 2,812; one week.

2. "The English Patient;" $10,123; 268; two.

3. "Space Jam;" $6,120; 2,650; two.

4. "Jingle All the Way;" $5,045; 2,401; one.

5. "Ransom;" $4,763; 2,768; three.

6. "Set It Off;" $3,271; 1,016; three.

7. "The Mirror Has Two Faces;" $3,219; 2,489; two.

8. "Swingers;" $2,479; 122; six.

9. "William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet;" $1,767; 1,808; four.

10. "Big Night;" $1,641; 216; ten.

- Exhibitor Relations/AP

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