News In Brief

The US

After a 12-inch journey, the Sojourner rover put its sensors tight up against a Martian rock dubbed "Barnacle Bill." The stone was the robot vehicle's first "close encounter" after rolling off the Pathfinder spacecraft onto Red Planet soil. Its next target: probably a more distant wide-bottomed rock nicknamed "Yogi," according to a spokesman for the scientists remotely controlling the rover.

The space agency's Pathfinder Web site has recorded more than 100 million individual visits since July 4, a spokesman said. The Web page runs pictures, video, and audio "live" from Mars. As a result of its popularity, 20 similar sites have been set up at different addresses. Visits have increased dramatically since December 1995, when the Galileo probe orbited Jupiter and 5 million hits were recorded in a week. The original site address: http://mpfwww.jpl.nasa.gov/

A delivery of food, supplies, and vital repair equipment arriv-ed at the Russian Mir space station. The docking of the unmanned Progress cargo ship was done on automatic, unlike the practice manual docking that resulted in a damaging collision with the station last month. In about nine days, cosmonauts will perform a tricky indoor spacewalk, in which they will attempt to hook up cables to deliver more electricity to the ailing station.

Senate hearings focusing on charges of Democratic Party fund-raising abuses were to begin today. Of particular interest to the Governmental Affairs Committee is the possible influence of foreign money. The committee has released a potential witness list of 30 people, including President Clinton's closest aide, Bruce Lindsey. Committee chairman Fred Thompson (R) of Tennessee has reportedly asked nearly 200 people to testify. The panel plans to meet through July, take a break in August, and resume in the fall.

A real estate holding company operated by former Commerce Department official John Huang apparently was used to funnel money from Indonesia into US election campaigns, The Washington Post reported. The newspaper, quoting sources close to the Senate probe, said investigators found documents that show Hip Hing Holdings, part of the Lippo Group for whom Huang was working, received regular deposits of foreign funds and made about $79,000 in political contributions.

The US antidrug agency confirmed the death of one of Mexico's most notorious drug traffickers, saying it would significantly disrupt smugglinging operations. Amado Carrillo Fuentes was reported to have died late last week in Mexico City in a private clinic following surgery to alter his appearance. His Juarez-based crime group is reportedly associated with Colombia's Cal cocaine cartel.

Almost 7 in 10 US cities report improving financial conditions, the National League of Cities said in releasing a recent survey. The reports of sounder finances continue a five-year trend, it said. About one-third of the responding cities reported fiscal conditions worse than a year ago.

Airborne firefighting resumed in southern California, a day after a crash that killed a pilot battling a 2,400-acre blaze in the San Bernardino mountains east of Los Angeles. Crews also were trying to douse a wildfire that had blackened 3,500 acres in the San Gabriel mountains.

Detroit Edison crews continued work on restoring power to 6,500 customers, following last week's heavy thunderstorms, which were blamed for 16 deaths. State police estimated that the storms caused at least $135 million in property damage across much of southeastern Michigan.

Temperatures set new marks in Minnesota, but not the kind normally expected in July. The city of International Falls broke its record low for July when the mercury dipped to 34 degrees F. The old record of 35 degrees, set July 2, 1972, had been tied over the weekend. A record low was also set in the city of Austin, in the state's southeastern region, with a reading of 45 degrees F. That broke the former record for the date of 46 degrees, set in 1984.

The World

Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party took huge losses in Sunday's elections. With 80 percent of the vote counted, the PRI appeared head-ed for its worst setback in seven decades in power. It lost control of the lower house of Congress, was defeated in the first mayoralty race this century in Mexico City, and was the likely loser in two key governors' races.

The US planned to ask its NATO partners for "possible coordinated action" in isolating Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Secretary of State Albright said. She told reporters in Madrid, where the alliance's summit meeting opens today, the US hopes to shore up support for Karadzic's successor as president of the Serb sub-state, Biljana Plavsic, who is locked in a struggle for power with him. NATO was scheduled to open its doors to three former Soviet-bloc countries at the summit: Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

Britain's new secretary for Northern Ireland said, "Nothing justifies the orchestrated violence we have seen in the past 24 hours," after rioting erupted in Belfast, Londonderry, and other cities. At least 29 people were hurt as anti-British demonstrators wrecked stores, hijacked and burned cars, and attacked police and troops with guns, grenades, and gasoline bombs. The outbursts were set off by a Protestant march through a Catholic neighborhood in Portadown.

Co-Premier Hun Sen appear-ed to have won his struggle for supremacy in Cambodia with rival Norodom Ranariddh. He called Ranariddh "a traitor and a thief" after the prince fled to France as fighting between their forces broke out. At least 12 people died in the shooting. Rana-riddh vowed to organize a resistance movement. In Manila, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations said it might reconsider Cambodia's scheduled admission to membership because of the violence.

Prime Minister Netanyahu surprised Israelis by failing to name hard-liner Ariel Sharon as his new finance minister. Chosen instead was former justice minister Yaacov Neeman in a move that analysts said could help to ease a crisis in the Cabinet. Foreign Minister David Levy had threatened to quit if Sharon's influence in the Cabinet grew.

Kenyans who ignored government warnings not to attend rallies for constitutional reform were chased from a park in Nair-obi by riot police, and witnesses said scores of people were beat-en after being caught. Much of the city was deserted as others stayed home rather than risk exposure to violence. Organizers had refused to apply for permits to hold the rallies, calling them educational, not political.

Albania's Socialist Party won 16 more seats in parliament in runoff elections last weekend, adding to its new two-thirds majority. President Sali Berisha's Democratic Party gained only five additional seats, following its landslide defeat in the first round of voting June 29. Democratic chairman Tritan Shehu resigned, opening the way for Berisha to assume control of the party.

Hong Kong's new leader, Tung Chee Hwa, was to meet with his advisory council today for the first time since the former British colony reverted to Chinese control. On the agenda: what to do about thousands of children who have migrated illegally from mainland China and what type of electoral system should replace the British model scrapped by Beijing when it took over July 1.

Army troops will be sent to Naples in an effort to quell mob violence, the Italian government said. More than 80 people have been killed and dozens of others injured there since the year began as rival Mafia factions battle for supremacy. Some hotel operators complained that the sight of armed soldiers in the streets would adversely affect tourism.

Etceteras

"Mexico has made an irreversible, definitive, historic step toward

becoming a normal democracy."

- President Ernesto Zedillo, speaking on national TV, after the outcome of Sunday's elections became apparent.

Chase Ludwig has been approved for a private White House tour next week. But he doesn't especially want to meet the president or see the Oval Office. In fact, he may not go inside at all. What interests him most are the gardens and greenhouses. The Huntsville, Ala., resident is an avid horticulturalist even though he's only halfway through elementary school.

Heard about the hot new spectator sport in Finland? It's wife-carrying. Feminist objections aside, 28 European couples competed last weekend for $200 in cash, a cellular phone, and the wife's weight in - shall we say - a popular beverage. As almost 6,000 fans watched, the contestants waded through waist-high water, cleared two timber hurdles, and swatted away mosquitoes on the 278-yard course. The winning time: 65 seconds.

Loitering at shopping malls usually is illegal under local ordinances. But in Lake Charles, La., one man will be hanging around outside a discount store all day for two months with the full approval of the courts. It's his punishment for shoplifting. He was sentenced to hold a message reading: "I stole from Wal-Mart, and that's why I must stand here with this sign."

The Day's List

Where US Housing Stock Is Growing the Fastest

Between 1990 and 1996, Nevada had a 31.9 percent increase in number of housing units, the largest gain in the nation and 4-1/2 times the national average, according to new estimates released by the US Bureau of the Census. A ranking of the dozen states with the highest estimates of increases in housing units for the seven-year period:

1. Nevada 31.9 %

2. Idaho 15.5

3. Georgia 14.1

4. Utah 14.0

5. Arizona 13.9

6. North Carolina 13.4

7. Washington 13.0

8. South Carolina 12.6

9. Oregon 12.4

10. New Mexico 11.6

11. Hawaii 11.1

12. Florida 11.0

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