News In Brief

The US

Massachusetts Gov. William Weld (R) confirmed reports that he was resigning from office to work full time on winning Senate approval as US ambassador to Mexico. Admitting he faced an uphill battle in Washington, the governor said, "Obviously, the existing setup down there is not calculated to have open hearings and open debate." Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has vowed to block hearings or any votes on Weld's nomination, characterizing his fellow Republican as too soft on drugs. Weld reportedly plans to request a meeting with Helms.

President Clinton and GOP leaders were reportedly on the verge of a tax and budget-balance compromise. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he hoped the plan would be unveiled as early as today, but a White House spokesman said vital issues were still unresolved. The two sides were apparently edging toward expanding a $500 child tax credit to include low-income workers as well as upper-middle-income taxpayers - and cutting the top capital-gains tax rate from 28 to 20 percent, congressional sources said.

Republicans may take action against Attorney General Janet Reno, Senate majority leader Trent Lott hinted. "The pattern here is extremely disturbing, and if it continues we're going to have to do something more," he told NBC's "Meet the Press." Other GOP senators have pushed for filing a lawsuit to force Reno to name an independent counsel to investigate campaign fund-raising abuses. Her department is pursuing its own inquiry.

Former Arkansas businessman Charles Yah Lin Trie said he may return to the US from China as early as this week, make a deal with the Justice Department, and discuss the $645,000 he raised for the Democratic National Committee from Asian-American sources. The money has been returned. Trie made his comment on ABC's "World News Tonight." He has refused to take part in the Senate inquiry into campaign financing.

Broad guidelines for new discs and players that would replace compact discs were agreed to by leading record companies and consumer-electronics manufacturers, The New York Times reported. The "digital versatile disc," or DVD, is able to store seven times more data than CDs. The industry reportedly is hoping the new format will lure consumers away from two-channel to multi-channel audio systems with six speakers.

Auto workers in Warren, Mich., approved a new contract, ending a six-day strike at a General Motors parts plant that had forced four assembly-plant shutdowns and threatened to halt GM production in all of North America. UAW local member Joanna was one of some 2,800 employees casting ballots two days after a tentative accord was negotiated by union leaders.

Most Americans believe there is intelligent life in outer space, but few think it will be found in our solar system, a new Harris poll indicated. The survey found that since an earlier poll in 1996 the belief that there is intelligent life in space has increased from 53 to 59 percent, while belief in such life in the solar system has fallen from 40 to 35 percent of respondents. The conviction that there is intelligent life in space was reportedly most common among young and better-educated respondents.

The state of Alaska was expected to launch a lawsuit against the Canadian government and 200 Canadian fishermen who blockaded the ferry Malaspina last week in Prince Rupert, B.C. The suit was to be filed in Vancouver, B.C., seeking up to $2 million in damages for losses incurred in the blockade, which was a protest against alleged overfishing of Pacific salmon by US boats. British Columbia Premier Glen Clark has assured those taking part in the blockade that the province will pay their legal bills, calling their action "courageous."

Washington's National Airport opened a new $450 million terminal, centerpiece of a $1billion renovation just across the Potomac River from Capitol Hill. The terminal contains art works, valued at $5.5 million, by 30 Americans.

The World

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will resume "in the next few days," Foreign Minister Levy announced. The talks broke down in March after Israel began work on the controversial Har Homa housing complex for Jews in Jerusalem. Against that backdrop, the Jerusalem Post reported that US envoy Dennis Ross would return to the Middle East in two weeks, bringing with him a new American initiative to revitalize the negotiations.

Sinn Fein representatives held talks with British officials in Belfast for the first time since the Irish Republican Army declared a cease-fire last week. The party allied with the IRA also was expected to meet with former US Sen. George Mitchell, who chairs peace talks on the political future of Northern Ireland. Under an Anglo-Irish plan, Sinn Fein will be admitted to those negotiations Sept. 15, if Britain is satisfied the IRA truce is genuine.

Thailand will seek emergency aid - estimated at $20 billion - from the International Monetary Fund to prop up its struggling economy, the Finance Ministry said. Analysts said the announcement amounted to an admission that the government in Bangkok lacked the ability to reverse a series of economic problems that could cause the country's first recession in 30 years.

Secretary of State Albright stepped up criticism of Burma's narcotics trade during a meeting with foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. She called on ASEAN to not deal with drug-tainted Burm-ese businesses. US officials say Burma has a $1 billion annual drug trade in opium and heroin.

Some of Mexico's senior military commanders may have accepted gifts in return for protecting drug traffickers, a weekly magazine reported, citing documents from a secret Defense Ministry investigation. The ministry said those named in the probe were no longer in uniform and that 34 current and former officials had been charged with such cooperation. The armed forces have been under scrutiny since Mexico's top antidrug official was jailed in February amid charges he had taken bribes from the country's top trafficker.

The Taliban Army and its opponents traded heavy shelling only 12 miles north of Afghan-istan's capital, Kabul. But although the sounds of war could be heard in the city, no significant advances by either side were observed. Analysts called the situation a stalemate and said even if opposition forces captur-ed Kabul it was doubtful they could hold it.

A quota system aimed at integrating more blacks into sports organizations will be enforced, South African officials decided. The plan, ratified by the country's Sports Council, calls for national teams to be at least 40 percent black and for larger black representation on junior teams. No deadline was set for when the quotas were to be met. Apart from soccer, South African teams remain heavily white, despite three years of majority rule under President Nelson Mandela.

Agreement on repatriating 90,000 refugees was reached between Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), the two countries said. Most of the refugees fled Zaire's eastern provinces last year in the early stages of self-proclaimed President Laurent Kabila's successful campaign to overthrow Mobutu Sese Seko.

Indian Prime Minister Inder Gujral appeared to backtrack from an offer to hold unconditional talks with Muslim separatists from the contested state of Kashmir. The offer came at the start of a two-day visit to the troubled region, which has been at the center of two wars with Pakistan. But after Hindu nationalists protested, Gujral said there was no change in India's policy of not meeting with Kashmiri separatists until they had put down their weapons.

Etceteras

"We are deciding to return to the talks ... out of a desire to restore mutual trust."

- Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, announcing that his country and the Palestinian Authority will try again to discuss peace.

Holding onto your spare change makes - well - cents in New York these days. That's because money mavens, among them US Treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow (her autograph is on any current bills you may have), are dropping $1,000 worth of rare coins into the city's money supply in the runup to a coin collectors convention beginning tomorrow to encourage more people to take up the hobby. One of the rarities: a 1914 penny stamped with a "D" and worth $80.

New York police commissioner Howard Safir was at dinner in a restaurant in the city's Little Italy section, when in walked a news photographer to take his picture. It turns out someone recognized him and knew the place had been declared off-limits by the NYPD over concern that cops would be corrupt-ed there. Safir said he had no idea it also was a favorite of crime boss John Gotti.

Maybe you've heard of Flea, bass guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Well, that's what he'd need to be if he wanted to play a guitar built by scientists at Cornell University. Carved out of crystalline silicon, the nanoguitar is 20 times thinner than a human hair. It shows the possibilties of building devices at a scale equal to one-billionth of a meter.

The Day's List

How US Consumers Use Their Media Budgets

American consumers will spend an average of $546 this year on media and entertainment - up 6 percent from 1996, according to a survey released by the investment-banking firm Veronis, Suhler & Associates. According to its data, these are the likely top 10 media investments of the average consumer:

1. Subscription TV $156

2. Books $85

3. Home videos $83

4. Recorded music $59

5. Daily newspapers $52

6. Magazines $37

7. Computer online services $27

8. Movies $26

9. Video games $17

10. Computer software $4

- Reuters

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