News In Brief

The US

An urgent White House meeting on the status of Middle East peace in the wake of the latest suicide bombings in Jerusa-lem was to be attended by Secretary of State Albright and special US envoy to the region Dennis Ross. Albright, who cut short an Asian tour to return to Washington, said she had personal assurances from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Arafat that they remained committed to seeking peace. Meanwhile, some members of Congress argued for cutting off US funding for the Palestinians. And the House passed by 427 to 1 a resolution of solidarity with Israel.

Fewer Americans filed their first claims for unemployment benefits in the week ending July 26 than at any other time in more than 23 years, the Labor Department reported. It said the number of claims for the period was 277,000. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said US gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services, grew by 2.2 percent for the April-June quarter - down from 4.9 percent in the first quarter and 4.3 percent in the final quarter of 1996.

About 190,000 unionized employees of United Parcel Service were prepared to strike over pay and pension increases and subcontracting work to outside firms. UPS, the nation's largest shipper, said it had made its "last and final offer" to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with concessions in each area. Union officials were not immediately available for comment.

At 5-ft., 3-in., astronaut Wendy Lawrence isn't tall enough to fit a Russian space suit and will be replaced on the next joint crew aboard the orbiting Mir station, NASA said. It said backup David Wolf will go in her place if the US decides to send another American to the troubled station.

Richard Jewell received a public apology from Attorney General Reno for a news leak that identified him as the only suspect in last summer's Centennial Park bomb explosion in Atlanta. He later was cleared of any involvement but the FBI never offered an apology for its handling of the case. Reno said she would be happy to talk to Jewell but had not yet written to him.

Tobacco companies cannot use "public knowledge" that cigarette smoking is dangerous to human health as a defense, a state judge in Florida ruled. Jury selection in the state's $1 billion suit to recover public funds spent to treat ill smokers is scheduled to begin today. The industry had wanted to argue that the state should have to prove Medicaid recipients were deceived about the dangers of smoking in order to recover damages.

A new state law banning "partial birth" abortions was blocked by an Alaska judge, hours before it was to take effect. The state's Republican-controlled legislature passed the measure in May, overriding a veto by Gov. Tony Knowles (D). Physicians and abortion-rights groups, and the American Civil Liberties Union had sued to overturn it.

A petition drive asking the Food and Drug Administration to require more explicit labeling on products that contain caffeine was announced by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Currently, such labels indicate only that caffeine is included, but not how much. The group said caffeine is the only drug that is widely added to foods and drinks and can have a wide range of health effects on consumers.

A "salmon summit" between Western governors and Canadian fisheries officials was expected to exclude British Columbia Premier Glen Clark. It was called in response to tensions that escalated last month when Canadian fishermen protested US salmon-harvesting practices by blocking an Alaska ferry for three days. Clark, whose rhetoric appeared to contribute to the tensions, was not invited because Canada's federal government has authority over fisheries.

More than $1.2 billion borrowed from the public employees' retirement fund to help balance California state budgets in the early '90s was repaid by Controller Kathleen Connell. The system said it was still owed $300 in interest.

The World

Israel suspended peace talks, arrested 28 Palestinians, and urged foreign donors to halt aid to the Palestinian Authority after a double suicide bombing killed 15 people in Jerusalem. PLO officials said Israel's threat to send forces into Palestinian-controlled areas to arrest militants would be seen as a declaration of war. Other Israeli measures included closing the West Bank and Gaza Strip and ordering the arrest of the Palestinian police chief, who is accused of sending policemen to shoot Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

The Palestinian legislative council called on Yasser Arafat to dissolve his Cabinet in response to a report on corruption The council, which has no authority to enforce the resolution, urged Arafat to replace political appointees with technocrats and experts by September. The corruption report found widespread mismanagement of government funds and recommended three ministers face prosecution.

A Lebanese court sentenced five Japanese Red Army guerillas to three years each in jail for entering the country illegally. The defendants also were ordered to leave Lebanon at the end of their terms. Japan had sought their extradition after they were arrested in February, but Lebanon insisted on trying them first. The Japanese Red Army has claimed responsibility for a number of violent incidents since the 1970s, but arrests have depleted the group in recent years.

Algerian soldiers stepped up patrols in the capital after a car bomb killed eight people and wounded 25 at an Algiers caf. Authorities blamed Muslim militants. Some 500 people have been killed in attacks attributed to Islamic insurgents since the military-backed government won elections in June.

Thailand's armed forces rejected Cambodia's request for help to arrest Pol Pot. A Thai military spokesman indicated assistance was impossible because the notorious Khmer Rouge leader is in Cambodia. Co-Premier Hun Sen's plea came during an ABC-TV interview, in which he urged Pol Pot be brought before an international tribunal. Khmer Rouge guerillas have long been able to cross the Thai-Cambodian border with ease.

Rescue workers removed rubble from a southwest Australian resort after a mudslide pushed one ski lodge on top of another. Police believe up 20 people died in the disaster. Experts speculate the mudslide may have begun at the popular Thredbo resort 250 miles from Sydney when part of the mountain was hollowed out by an underground stream.

Albania's new government must restore security and improve human rights if it wants international aid, Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said. His comments were made at an international conference in Rome on Albania's reconstruction plans. Albania's newly elected Premier, Fatos Nano, met with diplomats from the US, Russia, Japan, and other European states. The International Monetary Fund and the World bank also sent delegations.

Two bombs exploded under a congested highway one mile west of the Ugandan capital, Kampala, police said. Six people were reported killed, and up to 40 others were hurt. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Officials said similar attacks have been due to the abundance of weapons and explosives in the east African country.

The Philippines is tapping all possible government agencies in its antidrug campaign, officials said. President Fidel Ramos's security force is being used in the effort because the problem, he said, has become a threat to national security. Justice Secretary Teofisto Guingona said 15 drug groups in the country already are capable of putting candidates into office. Drug experts say the Philippines is the second largest source of marijuana in the world after Mexico.

Etceteras

"I regret very much what happened to Mr. Jewell. I think we owe him an apology."

- Attorney General Reno, telling reporters she was she was sorry his name had been leaked as the FBI's only suspect in last summer's Atlanta bombing.

The Gingrich-Lott wedding is scheduled for Oct. 18. But while the Senate majority leader has a son and the Speaker of the House has two daughters, this will not be what you'd call a political marriage. Lisa Gingrich is employed by a bank in South Bend, Ind. Her future husband, Eric Lott, is a student at Bethel College in nearby Mishawaka. Both are Republicans, but they're not related to Newt or Trent.

Natural resources officials in West Virginia are about to give the state's fishermen a reel hard time. Weary of lazy anglers following their trucks from the hatchery to local streams during trout-stocking - and catching the fish right after release - they have decided to keep the schedule secret from now on.

If you're involved in a court case in Britain, or know someone who is, you may find the following - well - alarming: It's OK for judges to sleep on the bench. That ruling - from the Court of Appeal, second-highest in the land - stemmed from a trial in which the jurist nodded off during testimony. Said the court: What is vital is that judges should be able to "sum up the case fairly to the jury" when the time comes.

The Day's List

Latin, Caribbean Nations Rated OK for Air Safety

The Federal Aviation Administration has rated 30 Latin American and Caribbean countries for compliance with international aviation-safety standards. Eight are barred from flying to the US. Others have "conditional" status to to do so while making improvements. These 13 are allowed normal service to the US:

Argentina

Aruba

Bahamas

Brazil

Cayman Islands

Chile

Costa Rica

El Salvador

Guyana

Mexico

Netherlands Antilles

Panama

Peru

- Associated Press

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