News In Brief

By , Lance Carden, and Vic Roberts

The US

President Clinton signed legislation designed to balance the federal budget by 2002 and give the nation its biggest tax break in years. He did so in an elaborate ceremony on the White House lawn, before hundreds of invited guests and the watchful gaze of many of the Democrats and Republicans who forged the compromise package in Congress.

After months of diplomatic wrangling, North Korea joined the US, China, and South Korea for talks aimed at laying groundwork for a lasting peace on the Korean peninsula. The US and South Korea proposed four-party talks to replace the armistice that ended fighting in 1953. The talks are being held at Columbia University in New York.

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The US Supreme Court agreed to review the case of Thomas Martin Thompson, just hours before he was scheduled to be executed for the 1981 rape and murder of a woman in Laguna Beach, Calif. Earlier, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco had blocked Thompson's execution, saying his lawyer's incompetence raised a "grave question" about his guilt. California appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.

A US advisory panel wants to break up the Immigration and Naturalization Service and give its duties to other agencies, The New York Times reported. Recommendations in a draft copy of the US Commission on Immigration Reform report would have the Justice Department control borders and remove illegal immigrants, ask the State Department to oversee immigration services, and charge the Labor Department with enforcing laws that affect foreign workers.

The strike against United Parcel Service entered its second day with no talks scheduled between the company and the Teamsters Union. Ten union supporters were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, four in Chicago and six near Boston, police said.

A key gauge of future economic activity was flat in June, the Conference Board reported, The index of leading economic indicators was unchanged after rising 0.3 percent in May and falling 0.1 percent in April. The index climbed steadily each month in the year's first quarter before starting to level off in the second. The board, a privately financed research group, said the strongest negative influences in June came from higher initial claims for state unemployment pay and and a shorter average factory workweek.

Mortgage lenders still reject black applicants twice as often as whites, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council reported. The 1996 data indicate lending institutions turned down 48.8 percent of applications for home-purchase loans from blacks and 24.1 percent from whites. Disparities persist, even when adjusted for income levels. Rejection rates for applicants with more than 120 percent of median income were: blacks, 20.4 percent; Hispanics, 16.7; Asians, 10.6; American Indians, 16.6; and whites, 8.6.

Efforts to delay or overturn controversial new clean-air standards face tough opposition in the House, three Congressmen said. Henry Waxman (D) of California, Sherwood Boehlert (R) of New York, and Christopher Shays (R) of Connecticut said more than 145 of their colleagues had promised to back limits on smog and soot issued in July to take effect within the next eight years.

The wife of former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld gave $199 last year to Harvey Gantt, the challenger who ran against her husband's nemesis, conservative GOP Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, The Boston Globe and Boston Herald reported. Susan Roosevelt Weld gave the donation to Gantt, a Democrat, for his unsuccessful race. Weld, a GOP moderate. needs approval of Helms's Senate committee to become US ambassador to Mexico.

Boeing said it would establish a new defense division in St. Louis, home of its just-acquired rival, McDonnell Douglas. Company officials said the division would be responsible for all its defense business, about 40 percent of all operations.

The World

Israel will use a "sliding scale" to ease economic sanctions against Palestinian areas, Prime Minister Netanyahu's office announced. A spokesman said "some of the measures" would be relaxed as the Palestinian Authority took steps to crack down on Islamic militants. Earlier, the Palestine Authority complained of "collective punishment" by Israel in the wake of last week's suicide bombings in Jerusalem and appealed for UN Security Council condemnation. Meanwhile, 11 more Palestinians were arrested on suspicion of "hostile terrorist activity."

Franjo Tudjman was sworn in as president of Croatia, vowing to make no concessions to Western powers seeking to moderate his authoritarian rule. But he did pledge his commitment to peace in neighboring Bosnia - which analysts said he would have an opportunity to prove in meetings today with Bosnia's Muslim co-President, Alija Izetbegovic, and US envoys Richard Holbrooke, engineer of the 1995 Dayton peace accords, and Robert Gelbard.

The ranks of Western countries refusing to offer accreditation to Bosnia's ambassadors grew as Spain said it would suspend contacts. The move came in response to a recommendation that all European Union states take the action after Bosnia's Muslim, Croat, and Serb co-presidents failed to meet an Aug. 1 deadline - later extended to Aug. 4 - for dividing 33 ambassadorships equally. Currently, Serbs are frozen out of the diplomatic posts. France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Sweden, Britain, and the US previously cut off contact.

Oxygen generators broke down on the Russian space station, Mir, but officials stressed the three-man crew did not face any immediate risks. They said the oxygen canisters on board could sustain life for more than two months. Mir awaited the arrival of a repair crew that lifted off from Kazakhstan. The station has experienced several breakdowns in recent months.

Within hours after a vow by Algeria's president to hunt down Muslim guerrillas, as many as 110 people were killed in new raids by the rebels on rural villages, news reports said. At least 250 people have died in such attacks in less than two weeks and more than 1,000 since Algeria held national elections June 5. Last weekend, President Liamine Zeroual said the crimes "defy human understanding."

The International Monetary Fund extended a $10 billion emergency credit line to Thailand to help revive the country's economy, the finance ministry in Bangkok said. In exchange, the Thai government agreed to tough austerity measures, including an increase in the value-added tax from 7 percent to 10 percent, and the closure of 42 troubled finance companies.

Police banned parts of Saturday's Apprentice Boys parade in Northern Ireland - the last of the Protestant marching season. The ban covers "feeder parades" through the villages of Dunloy and Bellaghy and part of Belfast prior to joining the main march in Londonderry. Police awaited word on whether their move would lead Catholics to call off counter-demonstrations. Violence erupted last month when Protestants marched through a Catholic area of Portadown.

The latest round of sectarian violence in Pakistan's Punjab province left four more people dead via drive-by shootings. Three of the victims - all Shiite Muslims - had been sitting at an outdoor caf in Jhang. A Sunni Muslim activist also was killed as he left a bank in Lahore. Seven other Shiites and one Sunni were shot a day earlier in Shorkot, near Jhang, while the attorney for several Sunni leaders was murdered en route to a court appearance in Lahore. Almost 200 people have died in Sunni-Shiite violence since the beginning of the year.

Etceteras

" I believe that together we have fulfilled the responsiblity of this generation to provide opportunity to the next generation."

- President Clinton, at the signing ceremony for the bipartisan legislation designed to balance the federal budget by 2002.

The sheriff's department in Effingham, Ill., is looking for just the right restaurant to treat its employee of the month - one of whose prizes is a free lunch. The winner for July helped to catch two men who stole a car. No one disputes that he deserved the award. The only problem: He's a German shepherd.

Contestants in today's beauty pageant in Ocean City, N.J., will wear shells instead of swimsuits. After all, to be crowned Miss Crustacean, you must be a hermit crab. Forty clawed crawlers will vie for the title already won by such legends as Copa Crabana, Crabunzel, and Santa Crab. The winner of the 22nd annual event gets a loving cup corked with a cucumber, which represents a year's supply of hermit crab food.

Weather systems and troop movements have long provided fodder for analysts using orbiting satellites. Now the object of a new observation project is . . . fodder itself. France's National Institute of Agronomic Research has strapped tracking beacons to Marguerite and Claudie, a pair of cows - and to a mare named Garrance - to study grazing patterns. Scientists say satellites can keep closer track of the animals than herdsmen can.

The Day's List

Movie Studios Hope '97 Is a Big Year for Sci-Fi

Not counting the re-released "Star Wars" trilogy, which rack-ed up huge grosses at the box office between January and April, Hollywood has issued - or plans to issue - 10 major science-fiction films in 1997, an unusually high number for a single year. Those already in theaters or on the launching pad:

"The Lost World: Jurassic Park" May

"The Fifth Element" May

"Men in Black" July

"Contact" July

"Spawn" August

"Event Horizon" later this month

"Mimic" later this month

"Starship Troopers" scheduled for November

"Alien Resurrection" November

"Sphere" December

- Associated Press

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