News In Brief

The US

The Army released a report on sexual harassment throughout the service. New measures include improving the education of trainees regarding sexual misconduct regulations and ensuring that rules are enforced. Earlier, the Army reprimanded the former commander of Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Ground, following a major sex harassment scandal at the training base. Maj. Gen. Robert Shadley said he would contest the usually career-ending reprimand.

National Security Adviser Sandy Berger was to testify before the Senate committee investigating campaign fund-raising abuses. Republicans on the panel have challenged the legality of Vice President Al Gore's fund-raising calls from the White House, disclosing memos that they said indicated he should have known some money he solicited was covered by a law barring such calls. Democrats said the memos were not sufficiently specific to warn the vice president.

A new poll indicated the GOP attack on Gore is having its effect on the public. In an ABC-TV survey, 64 percent of respondents said they viewed the vice president's fund-raising calls from the White House as inappropriate, and 54 percent favored an independent investigation. The poll showed Gore's approval rating slipping to 49 percent, from 56 percent in March. President Clinton's approval rating fell to 57 percent, from 60 percent in March.

The House will begin its own hearings into campaign fund-raising abuses on Wednesday, its chairman announced. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana said his Governmental Reform and Oversight Committee would first call the sister of Democratic Party donor Charlie Trie. He has refused to testify and is reportedly in China.

Clinton asked Congress for special powers to make trade deals, but last-minute wrangling forced him to delay submitting legislation. "Fast track" authority would allow the administration to negotiate a hemispheric free-trade region planned for 2005 without Congress being able to amend the accord. Congress could only approve or disapprove. Clinton aides were trying to find language acceptable to critics on both sides of the political spectrum.

Chicago's Lyric Opera reached an agreement with its musicians, averting a possible strike that had jeopardized its scheduled opening night gala Sept. 20, the opera company said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed pending approval by the entire orchestra.

The deficit in the broadest measure of US trade shrank slightly, to $39 billion from April through June, the Commerce Department reported. The imbalance in the current account shrank 2.4 percent from a first-quarter deficit of $40 billion. Meanwhile, first-time claims for jobless benefits fell by 14,000 last week to the lowest level in a month, the Labor Department said.

The Mars Global Surveyor was to begin a critical maneuver this evening to slow the spacecraft down and place it into an elliptical orbit. Over a period of four months, Surveyor will use the friction of the Mars atmosphere to trim its orbit to a near-circle 234 miles above the planet. From there, it will begin compiling maps of Mars and gathering other data.

Army Gen. Henry Shelton received a Senate panel's unanimous recommendation in his bid to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After the Senate Armed Services Committee vote, confirmation by the full Senate was expected this week. Shelton would replace Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, who plans to retire at the end of the month.

Life expectancy reached an all-time high of 76.1 years in the US last year - up from 75.8 in 1995 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

Talks aimed at ending a commuter-rail strike in and around San Francisco broke down, prolonging a period of traffic chaos in the region. A contract dispute has halted Bay Area Rapid Transit trains since Sunday, when the commuter system's two largest unions went on strike.

The World

Yasser Arafat agreed that "terrorists are terrible" but not on how to get the Middle East peace process back on track, Secretary of State Albright said after a three-hour meeting with the Palestinian Authority president in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Albright said she urged Arafat to wage a determined fight against Arab militants, but balanced her insistence on tougher security measures with criticism of Israel's punitive tactics against Palestinians.

The sharpest decline in Japan's economy in 23 years was reported by the Economic Planning Agency in Tokyo - in contrast to continued government pronouncements that a recovery is under way. The agency said gross domestic product fell 2.9 percent in the April-June quarter, the steepest since a 3.4 percent drop in the first quarter of 1974. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hashimoto replaced the minister in charge of the agency - but not his finance minister - in a major overhaul of his Cabinet.

China will never copy Western-style democracy, the ruling Communist Party declared in preparing to open its first congress since the death of senior leader Deng Xiaoping. Analysts said the declaration meant the only reforms likely to emerge from the session would be aimed at giving new momentum to struggling state-owned industries. The congress, held every five years, opens today.

The Irish Republican Army distanced itself from the code of nonviolence signed earlier this week by its political ally, Sinn Fein. In a newspaper interview published in Dublin, a spokes-man said the IRA "would have problems" with the so-called Mitchell Principles and would not put down its weapons until a lasting political solution is agreed to in Northern Ireland. Negotiations on the province's future - including, for the first time, Sinn Fein - are due to resume Monday.

Banner headlines in Scotland proclaimed "Today We Make History" as voters trekked to the polls for a referendum on establishing their own parliament. Analysts saw symbolism in the fact that the vote was held on the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, in which Scottish forces won a decisive victory over England.

After a campaign that appealed more to ethnic loyalties than to discussion of the issues, Bosnian voters prepared for this weekend's key municipal elections. The main party of Bosnian Croats called for a boycott.

North Korea agreed to attend next week's preliminary talks in New York on reunification with rival South Korea. After meetings with North Korean officials in Beijing, Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth said the two sides agreed not to link the talks with the granting of asylum by the US last month to two North Korean diplomats.

There were more conflicting signals from Philippine President Fidel Ramos about his political future as he left Manila for an overseas tour. Ramos, who said earlier in the week he would not call on the Army to keep him in power, declared at the airport that whether Filipinos liked him or not, they should help keep the ship of state afloat, adding, "I am the captain of that ship." He is due back Sept. 20, one day before a large planned rally against efforts to revise the Constitution and allow him to run again when his term expires next year.

Shippers will notice little difference in the way the Panama Canal is operated after the US yields control Dec. 31, 1999, an international conference there was told. "There is a fear of what will happen. Nothing will happen," Panama's minister in charge of the waterway pledged as the four-day meeting closed.

"You have had few opportunities to express your own political views .... The time is now. Take it!"

- International aid coordinator Carlos Westendorp, urging voters to take part in this weekend's Bosnian elections.

Etceteras

Tired of phone calls from window-replacement companies or bond salesmen that interrupt dinner? A Pensa-cola, Fla., man has come up with an antidote. Kenneth Jursinski's Phone Butler is activated by pressing the * button on the keypad. His parents taught him it was rude to hang up on people, so in a polite but firm British accent the $50 device tells callers: "Pardon me . . . I have been directed to inform you that this household must respectfully decline your inquiry." Jursinski has even sold one to a telemarketer.

Some American peacekeepers in Bosnia weren't having a banner day, until US Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey stepped in. The troops wrote to the state, asking for a New Jersey flag to display at their base and remind them of home. The answer was "no" - unless they paid for it. That didn't fly with Lautenberg, who picked up the $57.90 tab to buy and ship the flag.

Do you have photogenic kids who love macaroni and cheese? Then Kraft Foods would like to hear from you. The company is conducting a nationwide search for 6- to 12-year-olds to appear on boxes of the product, in celebration of its 60th year on the market.

The Day's List

Rating Airports With The Best Dining Facilities

The International Air Transport Association ranked restaurants and snack facilities in airports around the world. Of those with the highest rankings, half are managed by Bethesda, Md.,.-based Host Marriott Services. IATA's top 10 (asterisk denoting Marriott facilities):

1. Melbourne International*

2. Sydney International

3. London Gatwick

4. Singapore Changi

5. Amsterdam Schiphol*

6. Manchester (England)

7. Vancouver (B.C.) International*

8. Calgary (Alta.) International

9. Greater Cincinnati International*

10. Hartsfield Atlanta International*

- PRNewswire

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