News In Brief

The US

There has been no decision on timing or venue of any 1998 summit meeting between President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, a White House spokesman said. Earlier, a report out of Moscow quoted Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov saying a Clinton-Yeltsin summit in March or April would precede a Moscow meeting of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations and Russia. The US spokesman said there was agreement at last month's summit in Denver to hold a meeting on energy issues next year, but not for heads of state.

Communications between the Mars Pathfinder and mission control in Pasadena, Calif., were restored, clearing the way for scientists to begin receiving data from the Red Planet for the first time in two days. It was not immediately clear what caused the problem. Over the weekend, a wrongly set radio antenna in Madrid disrupted the flow of data from the lander. The Sojourner rover was parked next to a Martian rock named "Scooby Doo."

Seven Mexican immigrants were arrested in New York on charges that include smuggling aliens into the US, grand larceny, and extortion. Acting on a tip from four Mexican deaf-mutes who walked into a Queens precinct house, police found 57 people over the weekend, most of them also deaf-mutes, living in two crowded homes in what was termed "virtual slavery" to bosses who confiscated their earnings from begging as payment for getting them into the US. The alleged ringleader was still at large. Twelve of the immigrants are children.

House Republicans, reeling from a failed attempt last week to oust Speaker Newt Gingrich, tried to minimize the party's disarray and focus attention on promised tax cuts and balancing the budget. Some said Gingrich's future as the top House Republican likely would be decided by the outcome of negotiations among congressional leaders and White House officials over tax-cut legislation. Gingrich told a group of some 300 business leaders in his home state, Georgia: "We are doing fine. We have to calmly keep our eye on the ball."

Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin defended the US policy of engagement with China, but said it could change if it is proven that Beijing illegally sought to influence US elections. At hearings last week, Republican and Democratic senators said it appeared China tried last year to influence US elections, but they disagreed on the extent of that attempt.

A Canadian court issued an order for the release of an Alaskan ferry blockaded in the harbor of Prince Rupert, B.C., by local fishing boats. Nonetheless, the fishermen, upset that Alaskan trawlers have been intercepting sockeye salmon bound for Canadian streams, said they wouldn't move until they talked with Canadian Fisheries Minister David Anderson, who was said to be enroute. Meanwhile, four US fisher- men were arrested by Canadian officials for illegally fishing for sockeye salmon in Canadian waters near Victoria, B.C. Two US boats, the Lynde E and the Wanda Mae, were reportedly seized.

There was no estimate of the damage done by hurricane Danny, but thousands of people were left without power across southern Alabama, where many homes and businesses were destroyed along 50 miles of coastline. In three days, the storm left 30 inches of rain across parts of Alabama and Mississippi.

At least four employees of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in New York, The Wall Street Journal reported. The subpoenaes could be a prelude to indictments in the federal probe of the company's billing practices, the Journal said. The investigation is reportedly focused on possible Medicare fraud and could last 18 months or longer.

Tobacco executive Bennett LeBow testified in Miami that industry giant Philip Morris offered to pay his Liggett Group's legal fees to fight antitobacco lawsuits during 1995 - and that he accepted the money for some months. Lebow told a jury hearing a $5 billion secondhand-smoke case, in which Liggett is one of nine defendants, that the offer came through his company's lawyers.

The World

Northern Ireland's main Prot-estant political leader was already criticizing Britain's new position on broadening peace talks as he arrived in London for a crucial meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair. David Trimble of the Ulster Unionist Party threatened to veto a key proposal tomorrow that would admit Sinn Fein, the political ally of the Irish Republican Army, to the talks before the IRA agrees to disarm. In Belfast, the smallest Protestant party in the talks, the UK Unionists, pulled out, accusing Blair of "terror appeasement."

Residents along sections of central Europe's Oden River reinforced dams, in anticipation of more flooding. Some 1.3 million acres in Poland remained under water, forcing 140,000 people to evacuate, officials said, with rains forecast to continue through tomorrow. At least 90 people, mostly in Poland and the Czech Republic, have died from the floods. Officials in Germany complained that Poland was providing only spotty information on developments upstream.

A suspected Hamas bomb-making laboratory was uncovered by Palestinian police in the West Bank town of Beit Sahour, officials said. They said it contained ready-to-use explosives as well as Israeli Army uniforms and Jewish religious clothing apparently meant for use as disguises. Hamas has claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks against Israeli targets - the most recent a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed four people in March.

Hundreds of posters in support of Radovan Karadzic were plastered on buildings in Serb-held Bosnia as his rival, sub-state President Biljana Plavsic, met with 5,000 of her own followers and professed a new freedom to "breathe with my full lungs." Plavsic, ousted over the weekend from Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party, called for a state based on "legality" and acceptable to the rest of Europe.

The contents of a rare letter written by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il call for "peaceful" reunification of the Korean peninsula, terming it "an urgent task" that his people "will do all we can" to achieve. The letter, to Washington-based journalist Mun Myong-ja, was made public by the state news agency. Kim's government is due to meet South Korea, the US, and China Aug. 5 in New York to finalize the agenda for negotiating a permanent peace.

France's new leftist government unveiled plans to reduce a stubborn budget deficit so that the country can qualify to participate in the proposed single European currency. They call for raising taxes on corporations and long-term capital gains to 42 percent - more than doubling the latter. They also would cut $1.6 billion in spending, notably on defense. France's deficit, which is hovering around 3.6 percent of gross domestic product, must be cut to 3 percent by 1999 to meet the terms for the euro.

An estimated 100,000 people jammed central Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic, to welcome opposition leader Jos Francisco Pea Gomez home from eight months of medical treatment in the US. He had vowed to quit politics after losing the 1996 presidential election to Leonel Fernandez by 2 percent of the vote. But he said on returning that he wanted to unify his left-leaning Dominican Revolutionary Party before next year's congressional elections.

Former faction leader Charles Taylor appeared headed for easy victory in Liberia's presidential election. Preliminary results gave Taylor 66 percent of the vote, to 18 percent for his nearest rival, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. But she and other opponents alleged massive fraud, claiming they were excluded from counting the ballots in many areas. They also accused elections officials and West African peacekeepers of interfering at polling stations.

Etceteras

"There's a complete gulf between his words to the IRA and his words to us."

- Northern Ireland's Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, taking aim at British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

If the rest of married life is no stormier than their wedding day, Natalie and Jeff Britt should do just fine. While hurricane Danny's 80-m.p.h. winds and torrential rains toppled at least 50 trees and snapped electric-power lines outside, the couple exchanged vows inside a hotel at Point Clear, Ala. Not all of the guests arrived, but the florist and caterer did, and the ceremony took place by candlelight.

Summertime and bats go together, on a baseball field. But as far as the Coughlin family of Sutton, Mass., is concerned, the same isn't true indoors. Their house is infested with bats: the kind that fly. The Coughlins - uh - pitched various solutions to state officials, but struck out. Summer is bat-breeding season, and state law prohibits their removal until the young are far enough along to leave at night in search of food.

Recently this space cited a Tennessee judge who had spotted a convict's name among participants in a golf tournament when the man was supposed to be attending a work-release program. Now police in New Hampshire have done the same with a traffic-law violator. They bust-ed him on the eighth green in Nashua after finding his score in a local newspaper.

The Day's List

Lexus Is Rated Tops in Customer Satisfaction

Lexus owners are the happiest drivers of light vehicles on the road, according to a survey by J.D. Power and Associates, an international marketing-services company in Agoura Hills, Calif. The 10 models ranking highest in customer satisfaction, based on analysis of responses from more than1 million car and light-truck owners, along with the customer-response rating for each model:

1. Lexus 174

2. Infiniti 170

3. Acura 159

4. Mercedes-Benz 155

5. Cadillac 154

(tie) Jaguar 154

(tie) Saturn 154

8. Audi 153

9. Honda 152

(tie) Volvo 152

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