News In Brief

By , Lance Carden, and Vic Roberts

The US

A public-opinion survey found most people skeptical about the balanced-budget and tax bills passed by Congress late last week. In a Time magazine and CNN poll, 62 percent said they believed it was "somewhat or very unlikely" the bills will produce a balanced budget by 2002, and 58 percent said the tax cuts will be "unfair" because they mostly benefit the rich. President Clinton said he would sign the package into law tomorrow. A White House spokesman noted these will be the first bills reviewed under terms of line-item-veto authority approved by Congress in January.

More than 185,000 Teamster Union members at United Parcel Service were poised to go on strike if agreement could not be reached on a new contract, the union said. Talks between the union and UPS broke off last Friday night after a first strike deadline passed at midnight Thursday. No time was set for further talks.

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The US dollar hit an eight-year high against the German mark, powered by new economic data that raised the prospect of higher interest rates. The Labor Department said the July unemployment rate returned to a near-24-year low of 4.8 percent. The National Association of Purchasing Management said July manufacturing expanded to the highest level in nearly three years. And the government reported gains in June incomes, spending, and factory orders, further suggesting a vibrant economy.

Clinton ended a 20-year ban on the sale of high-tech US warplanes and other advanced weapons to Latin America. The Carter administration adopted the arms-sales policy at a time when most of Latin America was under military regimes. The change will have the most immediate effect on Chile, which has been seeking to buy advanced fighter aircraft, US officials said.

Two men from the Middle East were arrested for plotting to bomb a New York subway, and the FBI was trying to determine whether they were linked to the militant Palestinian group Hamas. A spokesman for Hamas denied any link, saying the group "does not consider the American people an enemy and it does not target any of its communities." A third suspect was being held on charges of being in the US illegally, officials said.

A former Ku Klux Klansman was sentenced to 21-1/2 years in prison for conspiring to burn a migrant labor camp and the Macedonia Baptist Church, whose congregation is predominately black. Both sites are 80 miles south of Charleston, S.C. Arthur Haley told a district court judge in Charleston he was innocent, despite having entered a guilty plea in December. Another conspirator, Hubert Rowell, is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 25.

Gov. Paul Cellucci (R) of Massachusetts said he would file a constitutional amendment to prohibit prison inmates in the state from voting. His comment came hours after The Boston Globe reported that a group of convicts was trying to start what was believed to be the first prisoner political action committee in the state, and possibly in the nation.

Three men charged in Los Angeles last week with smuggling deaf and mute Mexicans into the US and forcing them to hawk trinkets have been operating since at least 1995, officials said. All three are reportedly deaf and speech-impaired.

Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., was to induct four new members: Tommy Lasorda, who managed the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series titles in 20 years; 318- game-winning knuckleball pitcher Phil Niekro; 12-time All-Star second baseman Nellie Fox; and Willie Wells, a slick-fielding shortstop who hit over .300 in 10 of 20 Negro Leagues seasons.

Beat-generation writer William S. Burroughs, who died Saturday in Lawrence, Kan., was a counter-culture icon. He was best known for his novel "Naked Lunch," published in 1959 but banned for three years in the US before winning a landmark anti-censorship decision from the Supreme Court.

The World

The expected return of special US envoy Dennis Ross to the Middle East later this week was cited by Palestinians as grounds for hope that the latest chapter of violence could soon be closed. But extra-tight security measures kept Palestinians and Israelis alike bottled up and on edge following last week's suicide bombings in Jerusalem. A new bomb alert appeared on Israeli TV screens Saturday night, and senior officials said they had a "series of details" that pointed to the possibility of new attacks.

Squabbling political leaders in Bosnia were given until today to agree on measures to integrate the government or face new sanctions. Carlos Westendorp, senior envoy from the so-called Contact Group of countries monitoring compliance with the 1995 Dayton peace accord, said the "international community is not going to deal with" Bosnia's ambassadors because they "do not represent" all of the country. Currently, all ambassadors are Muslims or Croats, even though Serbs control 49 percent of Bosnia.

Moderate cleric Mohammed Khatami was confirmed as Iran's new president. He called for peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world, but - in an apparent message to the West - said he opposed the "high-handedness of certain big countries." Khatami, who is scheduled to take the oath of office today, is expected to carry on the economic and political policies of his predecessor, Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The Chinese government gave its answer to human-rights groups calling for an end to the punishment of dissidents by subjecting them to political "reeducation" in labor camps. An official newspaper said the practice "can only be strengthened and cannot be weakened." The Legal Daily said China maintains more than 280 such camps, with "about 230,000" detainees. Critics say the practice increasingly is used to remove dissidents from circulation without trial.

For the second weekend in a row, Thailand's military rejected speculation that it might seize control of the government. Army chief Chetta Thanajaro told the Bangkok Post that "getting involved in politics is not our duty," despite the country's economic woes. Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, a former armed forces commander, has been unable to reverse an economic decline since his election last year. The Thai military has a history of toppling civilian administrations.

Charles Taylor was sworn in as Liberia's president at a ceremony witnessed by about a dozen other African heads of state or their envoys in Monrovia, the capital. Taylor, who won more than 75 percent of the vote in last month's election, promised to set up a human-rights and reconciliation commission to mediate between former civil war rivals. His forces began the war in 1989.

Thousands of German soldiers and volunteers raced the clock to prop up dikes along the Oder River. Water levels were receding slowly, but officials said the situation remained critical. About 15,000 people have been evacuated from low-lying areas. Germany has escaped the worst of a month of flooding that has killed more than 100 people in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Less than three months after a huge Canadian gold-mining venture collapsed in Indonesia, Placer Dome Inc. of Vancouver broke ground on a similar mine that is estimated to be Latin America's richest. Las Cristinas, 750 miles east of Caracas, also is the centerpiece of a plan to boost Venezuela's flagging economy. But the mine, which is expected to cost $600 million to develop, is opposed by Indian and environmental groups and its ownership is being contested by a third Canadian firm, Crystallex International. Bre-X Minerals folded the Busang mine in Indonesia May 6.

Etceteras

"There has been nothing like this in the political history of the world."

- Security official Muhammad Dahlan, attacking Israel's arrest warrant for his colleague, Palestinian Authority police chief Ghazi Jabali.

True story: In southwestern England, Neil Symmons was so proud of his ability to imitate the call of the tawny owl that almost every night for a year he'd hoot away from his garden. He was just as delighted when the calls were answered - apparently by a real owl in the wild. That is, until his wife told a neighbor about the pastime and found out that the neighbor's husband was the "real" owl. No, it didn't ruffle Neil's feathers. But he says it did make him feel like "a twit."

Homeowners in central Belgium are reporting a lot of thefts from their gardens - and not just rakes, watering cans, or prized shrubs. Instead, police are on the lookout for a gnome-napper and have alerted residents to bring their dwarf-like ceramic statues indoors at night. Suspicion falls on the Gnome Liberation Front, which has claimed responsibility for several disappearances.

File this under "how quickly they forget." In Japan, a recently published list of undeliverable mail intended for foreigners had one missent missive apparently for a former US vice president and ambassador. Tokyo's Post Office said the letter for Walter Mondale had an incorrect address.

The Day's List

Ranking World's Most, Least Corrupt Countries

Transparency International, a private Berlin-based group that aims to help cut corruption in government, ranked 52 countries based on surveys of businesspeople. Using data from the past 12 months, it rated the US 16th-best, with a score of 7.61 on a scale of 1-10. The top five in each category and their scores:

Least Corrupt

Denmark 9.94

Finland 9.48

Sweden 9.35

New Zealand 9.23

Canada 9.10

Most Corrupt

Nigeria 1.76

Bolivia 2.05

Colombia 2.23

Russia 2.27

Pakistan 2.53

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