News In Brief

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The US

Secretary of State Albright left Washington for her first official visit to the Middle East, with a Clinton administration spokesman saying she would attempt to convince Israel and the Palestinians that they have a common destiny in peacemaking. Asked whether she also would press for reconsideration of the old formula of trading land for peace, the spokesman said, "Yes." But the White House denied that she would try to pressure the two parties into reopening peace negotiations.

No one in the White House ordered the Democratic Party to bend the rules on raising funds for political campaigns, former chairman Don Fowler told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. In an opening statement, Fowler took responsibility for mistakes made by the party's national committee during the 1995-96 election cycle. But he said they were errors of "process, not intent." The party has returned $3 million illegally donated in that period, much of it from Asian business interests.

Recommended: 'The River': Six scary TV shows that came before it

Army Gen. Henry Shelton, President Clinton's new choice to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, headed to confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Dan Coats (R) of Indiana, a member of the panel, called Shelton "a terrific selection" who "will be easily confirmed."

US businesses increased their productivity at the fastest pace in 3-1/2 years between April and June, the Labor Department reported. It measured the gain at 2.7 percent, 1.3 percent higher than in the first quarter of the year.

Cigarette makers vowed to fight a $14 billion lawsuit filed by the state of Texas and said they would cut no more deals to pay for the treatment of ill smokers. The suit is scheduled to be heard in Texarkana beginning Sept. 29. Attorneys for the defendants said the industry stand was based on concerns that a tentative $368.5 nationwide settlement had bogged down in Congress and might not pass.

Attempts by gambling operators to solicit business in Minnesota via the Internet may be regulated by the state, a court in St. Paul ruled. In its opinion, the Court of Appeals said Las Vegas-based Granite Gate Resorts Inc. "purposefully availed [itself] of the privilege of doing business in Minnesota" and was successful in at least one solicitation. The company argued that the courts lacked jurisdiction because it had not mailed material to the state or paid to advertise in any media there.

Damages totaling $3.4 billion were awarded to New Orleans residents who claimed they had been harmed physically and emotionally by a 1987 railroad tank-car explosion. Some 8,000 people in a 200-block area were evacuated after a cargo of butadiene, a petrochemical, leaked and caught fire. Hardest-hit by the jury's decision was CSX Transportation, which was ordered to pay $2.5 billion of the amount. Defense attorneys called the award "outrageous" and vowed a prompt appeal.

A Philadelphia man should be stripped of his US citizenship for service to Nazi Germany in 1943, the Justice Department said. It accused Fedir Kwoczak of helping to kill thousands of Polish Jews while acting as a guard for the Hitler regime. Kwoczak told US immigration authorities in 1949 that he had worked on farms in Germany and Poland during World War II.

A low-cost automobile body that is made of plastic was to be unveiled by Chrysler in what the company said could be a breakthrough to allow sales of cars in the developing word for as little as $6,000. The process was to be demonstrated at an international auto show in Germany. The body will be made of predyed, crushed Fiberglas designed to stand up to the ultraviolet rays of the sun - unlike earlier cars with plastic bodies - Chrysler said.

A two-day exam for promotion to the rank of inspector was canceled by the San Francisco Police Department after discovery that the questions had been leaked to some of the candidates. The test, given every five to seven years, was to be taken by 700 officers. An internal investigation was ordered.

The World

NATO troops evacuated Bosnian Serb leaders loyal to war- crimes suspect Radovan Karad-zic from a hotel in Banja Luka, ending a standoff with supporters of Serb sub-state President Biljana Plavsic. Peacekeepers escorted the hardliners to NATO vehicles through an angry crowd of Plavsic backers who had surrounded the building. The evacuation came one day after NATO troops prevented buses carrying Karadzic supporters from entering the city.

Sinn Fein became the 10th and final party to enter Northern Ireland's peace talks by joining a declaration renouncing the use of violence. The leader of the party allied with the Irish Republican Army, Gerry Adams, signed the so-called Mitchell Principles in Belfast. The talks, chaired by former US Senate majority leader George Mitchell, are to resume Monday.

Iraq was expected to make a full disclosure of its biological weapons program before the end of today, chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler said. He spoke after meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz in Baghdad. Releasing the information would be a dramatic change for Iraq, which must convince the UN it has dismantled its weapons of mass destruction before UN sanctions, imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, can be lifted.

Mir's crew fixed the latest series of problems aboard the space station, restarting its main computer and realigning solar panels to absorb maximum energy from the sun, Russian Mission Control said. The computer failed Monday, forcing the crew to shut down some systems.

A political scientist was chosen to lead South Africa's National Party, which began and then dismantled the policy of apartheid. Martinus van Schalkwyk, a member of parliament, will replace former President F.W. de Klerk, who announced last month he was quitting politics. Van Schalkwyk has been a strident critic of the ruling African National Congress.

About 2,500 unarmed Zapatista rebels and their supporters headed toward Mexico City in buses to demand greater Indian rights. The caravan, which left San Cristobal de Las Casas in the southern state of Chiapas, is due to arrive in Mexico City Friday. The trip comes more than 3- 1/2 years after the Zapatistas promised an armed march on the capital after launching a brief rebellion.

Red Cross officials from Japan and North Korea signed a detailed agreement in Beijing allowing Japanese women, who married North Korean men and live in the communist state, to begin home visits within a month. About 1,800 such women moved to North Korea between the 1950s and 1980s after marriage. The two countries agreed in principle to the visits last month in talks to normalize relations.

A plan to resolve Nicaragua's long-standing land disputes was agreed to by the government and the Sandinista opposition. The proposal announced by President Arnoldo Alemn aims to settle bitter feuds over ownership and compensation for nearly 2.5 million acres of property confiscated by the Sandinista government during the 1980s. It would give land titles to thousands of poor families occupying confiscated property, while allowing for their relocation when necessary to make way for public-improvement projects.

Tamil rebels set ablaze a car-go ship along Sri Lanka's northeastern coast, killing five government troops and leaving 12 soldiers and crew members missing, military officials said. Navy gunboats battled the rebels after the Panamanian-registered Cordiality and its Chinese crew were attacked before dawn.Tamil rebels have been fighting since 1983 for an independent homeland in northern Sri Lanka.

"This is a watershed. There is an expectation and an understanding out there of the importance of this moment."

- Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, as his IRA-allied party signed a document to gain entry to Northern Ireland peace talks.

Etceteras

What happens when you stage an endurance contest and the judges wear out before the finalists do? That happened in Los Angeles, where a boat company want-ed to give away one of its $15,000 models to the contestant who could sit with his or her lips pressed against it longest. Fifty-five hours later, 18 other competitors had quit, but neither Jesus Vega nor Maureen Huertas was willing to kiss off the prize. So the sponsors called it a draw and awarded each of them a boat.

What is 54 feet long, weighs a quarter of a ton, and had to be assembled in a rented railroad station? Answer: perhaps the world's largest braided rug. The Country Braid House of Tilton, N.H., didn't even want the assignment when a New York designer called with the request - because its shop was too small. But it now thinks its labors have set a record. The teal-colored rug required half a mile of wool, and 26 folding tables were needed to support it during construction.

The Day's List

'Fire Down Below' Soars To Top of Box Office List

In its first week in release, Steven Seagal's environmental thriller is the new No. 1 film at the box office, according to industry estimates - although analysts blame the start of the fall television season for a drop in overall movie earnings compared with those at the height of summer. The top-grossing films for the Sept. 5-7 weekend, with estimated revenues (in millions of dollars):

1. "Fire Down Below" $6.1

2. "G.I. Jane" 5.5

3. "Money Talks" 4.9

4. "Hoodlum" 4.3

5. "Air Force One" 4.1

6. "Conspiracy Theory" 3.5

7. "Excess Baggage" 3.0

8. "Copland" 2.5

9. "Mimic" 2.4

10. "Men in Black" 1.8

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

CORRECTION

In a Page 1 story Sept. 8, "Doing Good in Camera's Harsh Eye," Mother Teresa's name was misspelled.

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