News In Brief

The US

A 1993 US law designed to protect religion from government regulation is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-to-3 opinion. In other divided rulings, the court said people can be prosecuted for using inside information to buy or sell a company's stock even if they don't work for the firm. And it said government can force firms to help pay for generic advertising to bolster the health of an entire industry.

The House voted in favor of President Clinton's May 29 decision to extend China's most-favored-nation status for another year. The decision extends to China the trade relationship enjoyed by almost all US trade partners. The House vote was 259 to 173, but the victory margin was down from last year's 286-to-141 vote.

The Senate voted to gradually raise the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 67, but the outcome of the issue was in doubt. The White House said it won't go along with the change, which is not included in a House version of the bill.

The House warned Clinton that any plan to prolong the US troop presence in Bosnia faces bipartisan opposition. On a 278-to-148 vote, the House supported cutting off the peacekeeping mission after June 1998. The White House said there were no plans to stay past that date, but it opposed the House measure. The cost of the US troop commitment is expected to reach $7.3 billion by mid-1998.

A US judge blocked efforts to deport as many as 40,000 Nicaraguans and other Latin Americans who were allowed to enter the US in the 1980s because of civil wars in their homelands. Special status granted them by the Reagan administration is being phased out, and many of the immigrants have been issued deportation notices. The judge cited numerous instances in which deportation would cause severe hardship.

A hearing to determine whether the Army's top enlisted man will face charges of sexual misconduct began in Washington. Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney's hearing was expected to last sev- eral days. He is accused by four women of sexual misconduct, indecent assault, adultery, and obstruction of justice. McKinney denies the charges. Should he be convicted, he could spend up to 45 years in prison.

Leading US public-health advocates rejected a key part of the proposed tobacco settlement, calling restrictions on Food and Drug Administration regulation of nicotine "unacceptable." The panel, formed at the request of some antitobacco lawmakers, is headed by former FDA commissioner David Kessler and by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.

Mississippi and Florida officials threatened to go ahead with scheduled trials of lawsuits against the tobacco industry July 7 and Aug. 4, respectively. The two states were among the first to sue the industry to recover state costs of treating ill smokers. Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore acknowledged there was a risk that last week's proposed nationwide settlement with the industry could fall apart if his suit does go to trial as scheduled.

Louisiana health officials warned people to avoid using large areas of Lake Pontchar-train near New Orleans. Toxic blue-green algae affecting up to two-thirds of the vast lake are also a threat to animals, they said. Environmentalists said the problem began after 3 trillion gallons of polluted Mississippi River floodwaters were released into the normally brackish lake this spring to reduce pressure on levees in New Orleans.

Orders for costly manufactured goods weakened unexpectedly in May, the Commerce Department said, partly because of a drop in demand for commercial aircraft and cars. New orders for durable goods fell 0.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted $176.1 billion. Some economists had forecast a 0.6 percent increase.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's decision to send an envoy to witness installation of a Chinese-appointed legislature in Hong Kong Monday. A spokesman for Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said sending US Consul General Richard Boucher "undermines Albright's message by conferring legitimacy on the puppet legislature." Albright plans to attend a ceremony on Tuesday, when Hong Kong reverts from British to Chinese rule, but not the installation of the appointed legislature.

The World

Members of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's own political party were quoted as saying they did not expect his government to last the summer after it barely survived a no-confidence vote in the Knesset. The motion was rejected by a 55-to-50 margin, but 11 members of the Likud coalition abstained or stay-ed away in protest against what they called broken promises and an abrasive leadership style. Meanwhile, Netanyahu delayed in announcing a shakeup of his Cabinet amid reports that Foreign Minister David Levy had threatened to quit if hard-line Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon was admitted to Netanyahu's inner circle of advisers.

As new proposals for peace in Northern Ireland were to be made public, police in Belfast said they foiled a presumed IRA ambush in an area regularly used by British Army vehicles. Sinn Fein, the IRA's political ally, cautiously welcomed the peace proposals, which were believed to call for internationally supervised disarmament of all armed sectarian factions. But it said discussions with the new British government were needed to "clarify" the terms. Prime Minister Blair's office said such a request was not likely to be granted.

Iraq has ordered its scientists to be ready for the resumption of chemical-weapons production on short notice, The New York Times reported. It quoted outgoing UN weapons inspector Rolf Ekeus as saying "documentary evidence" proved that the Baghdad government had sent instructions to "preserve a strategic capability" even if all of its stocks of chemical weapons were found and destroyed.

Thousands of Hong Kong Chinese lined up at foreign consulates to secure their protection once the colony reverts to Beijing's control. China does not accept dual citizenship and has declared it will treat all ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong as its own nationals. Without declaration forms from countries such as Canada and Australia, Hong Kong Chinese could expect difficulty in leaving once Beijing takes charge.

An official North Korean newspaper said the Pyongyang government now agreed to preliminary talks on a permanent peace treaty for the divided peninsula. Rival South Korea's Foreign Ministry said diplomats from both sides and the US would meet in New York Monday to plan the talks, which would begin in early August and would be joined by China. North Korea had insisted on food aid before talks could start, but dropped the demand in its announcement.

Suspected Islamic militants in Algeria exploded a bomb aboard a passenger train, injuring more than 50 people, witnesses said. The attack, in the Algiers suburb of El Harrach, was the fourth in less than a week. The earlier incidents reportedly caused at least 70 deaths. President Liamine Zeroual won reelection earlier this month partly on promises to end five years of insurgent violence.

Russian space-program officials again defended the safety of Mir, their orbiting station, after an unmanned cargo craft collided with it during a practice docking exercise. Astronaut Michael Foale and cosmonauts Vasily Tsibliyev and Alexander Lazutkin appeared to be in no immediate danger, but the collision caused a "localized" loss of air pressure and possible damage to a solar battery. Recent breakdowns have led US officials to question Mir's safety.

Australia will not hold a constitutional convention this year on becoming a republic after all, Prime Minister John Howard's office announced. The convention was to begin work in December, with half of the delegates appointed by the government and the rest chosen by a national vote-by-mail campaign. But that plan was defeated in Parliament by opposition lawmakers.

Jacques Cousteau, who died in Paris, was called by his son "the best ambassador France has ever had." The undersea explorer and environmental advocate, who devoted 60 years to his study of the marine environment, became internationally known through TV documentaries, a series bearing his name, and through his writings. His 1953 book, "The Silent World," was translated in 20 languages.

Etceteras

"He represented the defense of nature, modern adventure, the invention

of the possible."

- French President Jacques Chirac, in tribute to world-renowned undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Teachers and administrators in the US would never get away with what Malaysia is about to try. Beginning next month, the Asian nation is obliging its 1.5 million public school students - on top of their classroom work - to clean the restrooms and take out the trash. The Education Ministry said that the exercise is designed to teach the value of cleanliness - and that no parental objections are anticipated.

Next year, if current indications mean anything, the Mrs. America Pageant may pick its winner from among only 49 states (plus Washington, D.C.). That's because the organizer of the Mrs. Vermont competition says she's quitting for lack of interest. Not her own - the contestants'. The 1996 event drew only two entries, and this year's only one. In fact, interest has been so minimal that the Vermont pageant isn't even run by a Vermonter. Director Margie Gilbert lives in Massachusetts.

Mother Teresa had a courtesy visit this week with New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and wasted no time on small talk. More parking spaces, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner told him, are needed outside the six service facilities her order operates in the city.

THE DAY'S LIST

What's Left of Britain's Once-Global Empire

When Hong Kong transfers to the control of China next Tuesday, Britain will have given up the richest and most populous of its colonies. At that point, this is what will remain of an empire on which it used to be said "the sun never sets":

Anguilla

Bermuda

British Indian Ocean Territory

British Virgin Islands

Cayman Islands

Falkland Islands

Gibraltar

Montserrat

Pitcairn Island

St. Helena

South Georgia/South Sandwich Islands

Turks and Caicos Islands

British Antarctic Territory

- Associated Press

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