News In Brief

The US

President Clinton set an activist fall agenda for himself. In a wide-ranging speech at American University in Washington, Clinton promised to appoint a bipartisan Medicare Trust Fund commission, fight for new trade accords with emerging markets in Latin America and Asia, pursue his embattled plan for national testing of schoolchildren, continue a national dialog on race relations, and champion congressional action on measures designed to reduce smoking among young people and reform campaign financing.

Sen. Jesse Helms bowed to bipartisan pressure and scheduled a special meeting of his Senate Foreign Relations Committee for Friday. But the North Carolina Republican insisted that the nomination of William Weld to be ambassador to Mexico would not be on the agenda. Weld, a fellow Republican, has stepped down as governor of Massachusetts to pursue the nomination. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the committee's No. 2 Republican, labeled the Helms action "dictatorial." On NBC's "Today" show, he said committee members would use the meeting to press for a Weld hearing.

The legal counsel of the Democratic Party dismissed as "preposterous" suggestions that the party had consciously ignored illegal campaign contributions. Testifying before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, Joseph Sandler said the Democratic National Committee "had in place a prudent, responsible system for solicitation and review" of donations.

Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall said she would resign, effective Oct. 31. She will reportedly return to teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after serving for four years in the post. Widnall was the first woman to serve as a US armed-services secretary. Defense officials said Clinton was expected to nominate state Sen. Daryl Jones (D) of Florida to succeed her.

Two Democratic Party fund-raisers were each sentenced to 10 months incarceration and home confinement for arranging some $50,000 in illegal contributions in 1994 and 1995. In a US district court in Washington, Nora Lum and her husband, Gene Lum, were ordered to pay fines of $30,000 each. They had pleaded guilty to making about $50,000 in illegal donations to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts and Stuart Price, a son-in-law of then-Senate majority leader George Mitchell, a Maine Democrat. Price ran unsuccessfully for an Oklahoma congressional seat.

Abusive phone calls, hate mail, and other incidents of apparently racist-motivated harassment against Americans of Asian origin rose by 17 percent last year, a lobby group said. In a report, the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium said one contributing factor to the trend was publicity about dubious campaign contributions by people of Asian origin to the Democratic Party. The report called Asian-Americans "perpetual foreigners."

In New York's Democratic mayoral primary, black activist Al Sharpton forced a runoff against Manhattan borough president Ruth Messinger. She received 39 percent of the vote. Sharpton won 32 percent, using last month's beating of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima - allegedly by Brooklyn police officers - as a rallying cry. The winner of the Sept. 23 mayoral runoff, the first in New York in 20 years, will face GOP incumbent Ru-dolph Giuliani. Reports of other mayoral primaries showed incumbents advancing easily in Minneapolis; Detroit; St. Paul, Minn.; and Toledo, Ohio.

Young people who feel connected to parents or schools are less likely to suffer emotional distress or engage in harmful behavior, researchers said. Their report, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, is the first from a study by specialists at the University of North Carolina and the University of Minnesota. It is examining a range of issues and involving some 90,000 adolescents in what is reportedly the largest such project conducted in the US.

A US judge let lawyers for Paula Jones withdraw from her sexual harassment lawsuit against the president, but kept the case on course for a trial in May in Little Rock, Ark.

The World

Secretary of State Albright, in her bid to revive the Middle East peace process, said she'd tell Palestinian Authority President Arafat he must take steps to root out the "terrorist infrastructure" in areas under his control, when they meet today. The trip, which also is scheduled to include stops in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, is her first to the region since assuming the post.

US and North Korean negotiators met in Beijing to ensure that the latter will join talks Monday in New York that will also include China and South Korea. North Korea cast doubt on its participation after the US granted asylum last month to Pyongyang's ambassador to Egypt and his brother, a diplomat in Paris. Next week's talks aim to set an agenda for formal negotiations to end hostilities on the Korean peninsula.

Voters in Scotland will decide today whether they want their own legislature. According to opinion polls, two-thirds of the electorate said they would support the proposed 129-seat assembly, but less than half would back another question giving the new parliament limited power to set taxes.

The driver in Diana, Princess of Wales's, fatal car crash was heavily medicated as well as impaired because of alcohol intake at the time of the accident, investigators in Paris said. A prosecutor's office statement said an examination showed Henri Paul had ingested two chemicals used in anti-depressant drugs.

Wasting no time, the beleaguered Institutional Revolutionary Party in Mexico settled on a successor to its president, Humberto Roque Villanueva. Less than a day after his resignation, party leaders endorsed Mariano Palacios Alcocer, their leader in the lower house of Congress, as the consensus candidate to replace him. Palacios Alcocer is expected to be confirmed today. In elections July 6, the PRI lost its majority in Congress for the first time since 1929.

The 1977 beating that caused black anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko's death was not intended to kill him, according to one of the South African police officials who administered it. Maj. Harold Snyman, who seeks amnesty for his role in the incident, told the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that Biko initiated a violent struggle with interrogators in a police building and "injured himself" in the process. Snyman admitted to an organized coverup of Biko's death because "it could have a negative impact" on South Africa's image. Biko's family opposes amnesty for Snyman and four other policemen in the case.

Fed up with gangland violence, thousands of Japanese rallied in Tokyo to demand tougher police action against organized crime. The protest stemmed from a wave of shootings in Tokyo, Kobe, and other cities over the past two weeks that has left two people dead and two others wounded. Hundreds of police raided known gangster havens in Tokyo, arresting at least eight suspects. An estimated 80,000 Japanese belong to, or are loose-ly affiliated with, crime gangs, police say.

Haiti's president declared a three-day mourning period for those who died earlier this week when an overcrowded ferry sank off the northern coast. More than 200 people may have been killed when the ferry went down 50 yards from shore. An international recovery team was expected to try to move the boat to shallow water.

A third day of fighting erupt-ed around the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, aid workers said. Taliban Army warplanes bombed the main opposition stronghold, and gunfire was reported in the city. Forces of the fundamentalist movement briefly captured the city's airport, but an opposition counterattack forced them to retreat. The Taliban rules the rest of the country, imposing a strict brand of Islam.

"The path to real security is not separable from the path to real peace. One goes with

the other. Neither can go it alone ..."

- Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in Jerusalem on Day 1 of her first peace mission to the Middle East.

Etceteras

If you're a college student or have a child who is, see whether the following seems to be on the money: Results of a newly released nationwide survey of collegians show that while almost all respondents believed they know as much as they need to about finances, only 34 percent could define what buying on credit means. Only 40 percent could come up with an accurate description of the word "budget."

Speaking of money, the city of Providence, R.I., needs more so it can - of all things - set its rivers on fire. About $200,000 has been donated for a Saturday night live "artwork" project in which torches of recycled wood are set ablaze on the Providence and Wonnasqua-tucket waterways. As they burn, an amplified soundtrack plays music while thousands of people stroll the banks or paddle by in canoes and kayaks. Organizers need another $30,000 to continue the project into mid-October.

Heard the old groaner: Marriage is a great institution, but who wants to be in an institution? Women all over Italy have, apparently. In a new survey, 43 percent of the respondents said they would not wed their husbands again. The wives' pet complaints: male laziness, "arrogance," and snoring.

The Day's List

Entertainer With Biggest Bankroll: It's Spielberg

The success of "The Lost World," the sequel to "Jurassic Park," propelled filmmaker Steven Spielberg back to the top of Forbes magazine's list of highest-paid entertainers. Spielberg fell to second place last year, behind talk show host Oprah Winfrey, based on a two-year running total of gross earnings. The magazine's top 10 for 1996-97 (in millions of dollars):

1. Steven Spielberg $313

2. George Lucas 241

3. Oprah Winfrey 201

4. Michael Crichton 102

5. The Beatles 98

6. Jerry Seinfeld 94

7. David Copperfield 85

8. Stephen King 84

9. Tom Cruise 82

10. Arnold Schwarzenegger 74

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