News In Brief

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The US

The US space agency touched off a brief panic when officials in Houston said both main and backup oxygen-generating systems on Mir were not working - and two Russians and one American on board would have to fix them within days or face abandoning the beleaguered space station. As it turned out, the problems had already been resolved when the statement was made, but officials in Moscow had not told their US counterparts. The mixup reportedly reflects the conflicting public relations attitudes of US and Russian space officials. The Russians are apparently much more reluctant to publicize problems on Mir, where solar panels providing energy to the station were still not functioning properly.

The state of Missouri sued a Texas county where guards videotaped prison inmates being abused as they crawled on the floor. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon said the lawsuit sought damages from Brazoria County and its officials for failing to live up to a contract under which Missouri sent convicts from its crowded prisons to Texas to serve their sentences. Nixon said Texas officials were refusing to cooperate with the Missouri Department of Corrections, which is investigating the incident.

Recommended: Default

Orders for durable goods fell 0.6 percent in July, due in part to slack demand for aircraft and electronic and communications gear, the Commerce Department said. Orders totaled a seasonally adjusted $180.5 billion - down from $181.6 billion in June, when they shot up 2.9 percent. Analysts had expected a slight drop in July after the big increase in orders during June.

Federal rules on the export of encryption software are unconstitutional, a judge in San Francisco ruled. US District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel called such licensing requirements an unconstitutional prior restraint on free speech. She issued a permanent injunction barring the government from enforcing the regulations against plaintiff Daniel Bernstein or anyone who seeking to use, discuss, or publish his encoding program. The US has cited national-security concerns in connection with the export of encryption programs.

The state of Georgia decided to sue the cigarette industry. Gov. Zell Miller and Attorney General Thurbert Baker said a lawsuit seeking to recoup Medicaid funds spent treating smokers could be filed by the end of the week. Forty other states have sued the US tobacco industry and two states - Florida and Mississippi - have won multibillion-dollar settlements.

Navy experts will search six mountain lakes in Colorado this week for bombs lost in the mysterious April 2 crash of an A-10 fighter jet, the Air Force said. The remains of the pilot, Capt. Craig Button, were found in late April in wreckage on Gold Dust Peak, but four 500-pound bombs were not located. Members of a Navy team based in San Diego will use remotely operated underwater vehicles to look for the bombs and verify that the lakes are safe for public use.

The California Supreme Court gave Merrill Lynch & Co. a temporary victory in its battle to prevent confidential grand-jury transcripts from being made public. The court delayed at least temporarily the release of about 9,000 pages of transcripts that could shed light on the firm's role in the bankruptcy of Orange County. The court stayed the release so it could review the firm's appeal, giving no indication how long that might take.

Drug czar Barry McCaffrey said the US and Mexico have a unique opportunity to press their war against drug traffickers because of recent disruptions caused by the deaths and arrests of top cartel leaders. McCaffrey conferred with officials in El Paso, Texas, then walked across the border to confer with Mariano Herran Salvati, the chief of Mexico's top antidrug agency. Following their meeting they said the US and Mexico will have a common antidrug strategy by year's end.

Microsoft Corp. plans to get into the real estate business with an Internet site designed to make it easier for people to buy homes, product manager Larry Cohen said. Microsoft reportedly wants to form partnerships with real estate brokers and maybe lenders rather than get directly involved in listing homes.

The World

Two North Korean diplomats have entered the US after defecting, unidentified US officials said. North Korea's ambassador to Egypt, Jang Seung-il, and his brother Jang Seung-ho, who worked for North Korea as trade representative in Paris, were reportedly carrying information about their country's missile sales to Iran and Syria. The defectors were said to have taken their families with them. Jang Seung-il's defection is the first by a North Korean senior diplomat.

Former South African President F.W. de Klerk resigned as head of the opposition National Party and quit politics. De Klerk said his retirement was "in the best interest of the party and the country." After becoming president in 1989, he began to dismantle apartheid laws, and freed future President Nelson Mandela from prison. Mandela and De Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their efforts to bring democracy to South Africa. The National Party, which has been troubled by a rash of defections by more moderate members, plans to name a successor next month.

Four of the eight top Bosnian Serb generals boycotted talks with President Biljana Plavsic. The meeting was to determine who may be backing her rival - indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Plavsic also was expected to nominate Gen. Momir Talic to be the new Army chief of staff, Army sources said. Meanwhile, the pro-Karadzic Bosnian Serb parliament met in Pale, ignoring Plavsic's recent order dissolving the body.

China rejected a peace overture by rival Taiwan. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said relations between the two could improve only if the island halts activities to "split the motherland." China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province. On Monday, Taiwan Vice President Lien Chan called for an end to years of hostility and exchange of visits by their leaders. He also vowed not to pursue independence. Meanwhile, Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui won a third term as Nationalist Party chairman at the party's annual congress.

Cambodian strongman Hun Sen's regime rejected a call for a cease-fire to welcome this week's return of King Norodom Sihanouk to the country. The appeal was made by Sihanouk's son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who was ousted by Hun Sen in a coup last month. Troops loyal to Ranariddh continued to battle against Hun Sen's forces in the village of O'Smach near the border with Thailand. Sihanouk plans to return to Cambodia Friday after spending the past six months in Beijing for medical treatment.

Tidal waves caused by typhoon Winnie flooded 265,900 acres of North Korean farmland, and destroyed more than 10,000 buildings in three western coastal provinces, official news reports said. The damage follows a severe heat wave in July that aggravated food shortages in the country. Meanwhile, China estimated the typhoon caused $2.7 billion in damages after it battered the eastern coast last week.

Taliban police arrested more than 100 men, most of them from ethnic minorities, during a raid on a hillside community outside Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, residents said. Kabul's security police chief said his agents had evidence those arrested were loyal to ousted defense chief Ahmed Shah Massood, who is leading an anti-Taliban opposition coalition.

Helicopters bombarded the town of Mlida, south of the Congo Republic's capital, Brazzaville, witnesses said. Mlida is home to President Pascal Lissouba's predecessor and main rival, Denis Sassou Nguesso. Lisouba supporters reportedly fired rocket launchers toward the town in support of the raid. Hundreds of people have died in fighting that began on June 5, when government soldiers surrounded Sassou's home as part of a crackdown on his private militia.

Etceteras

"I would like to be remembered positively as one of the leaders who at the right time did the right thing."

- Former South African President F.W. de Klerk, on announcing his decision to retire from politics.

Minnie Zaccaria doesn't like losing. After winning the New Jersey Championship Tomato Weigh-In six times, she lost last year. Over the weekend, Zaccaria returned with a vengeance - and a record-breaking 6.16-pound tomato that won her $1,000. In 1996 she lost to Richard Tempalski, who set a record with a 4.78-pound entry.

Some folks in Shanghai think new price controls there take the cake. To show its determination to keep a lid on rising prices, the city has warned makers of mooncakes that they must be sold retail at no more than 20 percent above recent manufacturing prices. Many of the round sweets are certain to be sold between now and Sept. 16, as they are a traditional part of a mid-autumn festival that will be celebrated on that date in connection with a full moon.

A former employee who earned less than $10,000 a year has left Miami University in Ohio $6.5 million. Arretha Cornell Sheriff worked as a student adviser and counselor from 1948 to 1962. Her bequest has one string attached - that her name not be associated with the spending of the funds.

The Days List

Red Sox Close to Joining Baseball's .300 Club

Red Sox fans are already looking to next year, as Boston's 1997 team struggles to end the season with more wins than losses. Nonetheless, this year's club has no problem slugging the ball. The team batting average hovers around .298, and Boston threatens to become the first club to hit above .300 for the season since the Red Sox hit .302 in 1950. Since then, the '96 Cleveland Indians came closest, batting .293. The 10 teams with the highest averages in baseball's modern era:

New York Giants, 1930 .319

Detroit Tigers, 1921 .316

Philadelphia Phillies, 1930 .315

St. Louis Cardinals, 1930 .314

St. Louis Browns, 1922 .313

New York Yankees, 1930 .309

Pittsburgh Pirates, 1928 .309

Philadelphia Phillies, 1929 .309

St. Louis Browns, 1920 .308

St. Louis Cardinals, 1921 .308

- Total Baseball

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