News In Brief

The US

United Parcel Service and the Teamsters Union broke off talks aimed at ending the week-old strike that has crippled operations of the largest US package carrier. The two sides began meeting Thursday, at the request of Clinton administration, but ended their discussions on Saturday. Meanwhile, a UPS driver was stabbed as he sat in a truck at a traffic light Friday in Hialeah, Fla. A local TV station said two strikers were charged with attempted murder after the driver, Roderick Carter, was treated and released.

Clinton's approval rating remains strong, despite hearings into campaign fund-raising, CBS News reported. In a poll taken Aug. 5 and 6, the president enjoyed a 61 percent approval rating, near levels attained by Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower at similar stages in their second terms. Only 15 percent of respondents thought Clinton guilty of doing something illegal in his fund-raising, 42 percent thought he had done nothing wrong, and 18 percent said he had done something unethical but nothing illegal.

Clinton ordered most federal facilities to be smoke-free within one year. The order applies to every building owned or leased by the US government, with the exception of those used by federal courts or Congress. The military and some 18 US agencies had already restricted smoking in their facilities.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana hinted that Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina could jeopardize his state's tobacco interests if he continues to block a hearing on former Mass. Gov. William Weld's nomination to become ambassador to Mexico. Lugar, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, sits on the Foreign Relations Committee chaired by Helms, who has refused to call a hearing on the Weld nomination.

More Americans believe in life after death than at any time in the past quarter century, author and sociologist Father Andrew Greeley said. In a paper prepared for a meeting of the American Sociological Association, Greeley said the percentage of people believing in life after death rose to 81 in the 1990s from 77 in the 1970s. The data were drawn from National Opinion Research Center surveys. The belief grew most among Catholics (increasing from 65 to 84 percent), Jews (22 to 40 percent), and those with no religious affiliation (31 to 50 percent).

An Amtrak train derailed when a trestle collapsed in northwest Arizona, injuring 153 people, at least one of them critically. A flash flood in a normally dry stream bed swept the ground away from supports for the trestle, about 13 miles east of Kingman, a Burlington Northern-Santa Fe spokesman said.

The space-shuttle Discovery launched a German-built satellite to check on Earth's frayed ozone layer, tried out a prototype robot arm that may be used in a proposed international space station, and focused a telescope on the Hale-Bopp comet after soaring into orbit late last week. Discovery is to return to Earth at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 18.

The World

US envoy Dennis Ross met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Arafat, attempting to get the two sides to resume security cooperation in the wake of the deadly July 30 market bombing in Jerusalem that killed 15 people. Palestinian officials insist that any security talks also address political issues, such as Israeli settlement expansion. Israeli officials told Ross that the Palestinians are withholding information on the bombing. Netanyahu plans to visit Jordan Wednesday to discuss the crisis with King Hussein.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry demanded talks on obtaining more aid to alleviate severe food shortages before joining a Korean peace conference. Preliminary negotiations last week in New York between the two Koreas, China, and the US adjourned until Sept. 15 after failing to agree on an agenda for the conference. The US insists that food aid be discussed only after peace talks begin in Geneva.

Taliban soldiers said they had captured two rebel-held districts after heavy fighting erupted north of the Afghan capital, Kabul. The claim could not be verified as the militia prevented journalists from reaching the front lines. Taliban is battling an opposition coalition led by ousted defense chief Ahmad Shah Masood. The Red Cross says more than 6,800 people have died in fighting across Afghanistan over the past five months.

Bosnia's Serb co-President Momcilo Krajisnik promised to have indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic disappear from Bosnian politics. US envoy Richard Holbrooke announced the promise after he met with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade. Holbrooke gave Serbian leaders a grace period to remove Karadzic, who continues to rule the Serb-controlled area of Bosnia despite having stepped down as president of the region last year.

Receding water levels allowed thousands of residents along Central Europe's Oder River to return home. An evacuation order was lifted for 5,200 residents in Germany's Oderbruch region, while on the other side of the river some 16,000 evacuees from the Polish town of Slubice also returned home. Six German villages upstream were still submerged. Officials say that damages could run into the billions of dollars.

Renewed fighting led Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmonov to call for an emergency session of his Security Council. Presidential guards clashed with forces loyal to maverick government commander, Makhmud Khudoyberdyev in the capital, Dushanbe. Rakhmonov reportedly plans to ask Russian-led peacekeeping troops to take over security in Dushanbe. The violence threatens a peace agreement signed in June between the government and Islamic opposition groups to end a four-year civil war.

Funds for Nonmedical Care Challenged

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, decided last week to seek to intervene in defense of a new federal law that authorizes Medicare and Medicaid payments for treatment at "religious nonmedical health care institutions." The law has been challenged in a lawsuit against the US government filed last week by Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD) Inc.

Congress enacted the law in July to satisfy constitutional concerns about using federal health-care funds to pay for nonmedical nursing services at Christian Science nursing facilities.

A federal judge ruled last summer - in response to a 1996 CHILD Inc. suit - that such payments violated the First Amendment because they explicitly applied to just one religious group, Christian Scientists.

The new law applies to not only Christian Scientists but also other persons or groups with religious objections to receiving medical treatment.

CHILD Inc. attorney Robert Bruno argues that the law still violates the Constitution. "Medicare is set up to provide medical treatment," Bruno says. "If you want something else, you are free to have it, just not to have the taxpayers pay for it."

But many members of Congress have long held the view that Medicare and Medicaid are programs aimed at providing health care, rather than exclusively medical care. The conference report that accompanied the new law asserted that it "comports with the First Amendment, and indeed that it serves the interest of religious freedom." A church official said that the church believes the law will survive these new challenges.

Etceteras

" If Ross comes to discuss security arrangements only, it means we are not going to discuss anything at all."

- Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, on hearing US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross will focus on security.

John Davis's Christmas card to his brother came back undelivered the other day - and not because it bore the wrong address. The Postal Service had misplaced it - for 55 years. The retired Tinley Park, Ill., resident mailed the card Dec. 22, 1942, from Jackson, Miss., to Maryville, Tenn. Given his not-exactly uncommon name, Davis can't even figure out how the card finally found its way to his Chicago suburb.

The Day's List

Garth Brooks Dominates Country-Music Sales

In a long-awaited appearance, country singer Garth Brooks gave a free concert before an estimated 250,000 people in New York's Central Park last Thursday night. Earlier this year, Brooks set a record rather than making one, becoming the best-selling country solo artist of all time - with more than 60 million copies sold. The top-selling country albums in the US:

1. "No Fences," Garth Brooks 1990

2. "Ropin' the Wind," Garth Brooks 1991

3. "Some Gave All," Billy Ray Cyrus 1992

4. "In Pieces," Garth Brooks 1993

5. "Garth Brooks," Garth Brooks 1990

6. "The Hits," Garth Brooks 1995

7. "The Chase," Garth Brooks 1995

8. "Greatest Hits," Patsy Cline 1987

9. "Brand New Man," Brooks & Dunn 1991

10. "Feels So Right," Alabama 1981

- Russell Ash, "The Top 10 of Everything/1997"

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