News In Brief

The US

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld withdrew his name from consideration to be US ambassador to Mexico, administration officials said. The moderate Republican informed the White House of his decision Monday morning, a source close to Weld said. His nomination sparked a feud within the Republican Party. Jesse Helms, the conservative GOP chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, refused to hold a hearing on Weld's nomination, saying he was not sufficiently tough on drugs for the Mexican post.

President Clinton was scheduled to declare a moratorium on new firms offering home care under the US health-care program for the elderly. The hiatus reportedly will stay in effect until new regulations set out tougher certification requirements. It is part of an effort to eliminate fraud in home health-care services, which represent more than $15 billion of the annual $200 billion Medicare program, a senior administration official said.

A weakening hurricane Linda veered away from southern California, moving further out to sea and losing steam. Last week, the hurricane, generating winds up to 220 m.p.h., was said to be capable of inflicting "catastrophic" damage. By Sunday night, winds had decreased to 85 m.p.h., and Linda was close to being downgraded to a tropical storm.

The youngest member of the US team that developed the atomic bomb passed secrets to the Soviet Union, according to statements in a book scheduled to appear in stores this week. In "Bombshell: The Secret Story of America's Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy," biophysicist Theodore Hall says he shared secrets with Soviet officials because of concern about a possible US nuclear-weapons monopoly. The book indicates Hall was investigated by the FBI in the 1950s and '60s, but never charged. Hall now lives in Cambridge, England.

Military officials were expected to face tough questions about aviation safety after two US planes crashed and a third was reported missing. A Navy fighter with at least one person aboard reportedly crashed in southwest Oman during a training exercise. An Air Force C-141, carrying nine passengers, was missing and may have collided off the coast of Namibia with a German military plane carrying 24 passengers. And an Air Force F-117A stealth fighter broke up and crashed into three houses in suburban Baltimore, injuring four people during a "fly by" performance at an air show. The pilot parachuted without injury.

Thousands of environmentalists rallied in Stafford, Calif., on behalf of ancient redwoods. Organizers said 4,000 people took part in what has become an annual call for the preservation of the Headwaters, which includes the world's largest privately-owned old-growth redwood grove. Former California Gov. Jerry Brown, actor Woody Harrelson, and singer Bonnie Raitt took part in the peaceful event. Last year more than 1,000 protesters were arrested for trespassing on land of the Pacific Lumber Co., which owns the Headwaters property.

The Internal Revenue Service is scrutinizing Paula Jones's income taxes, her legal-fund chairwoman said. Susan Carpenter-McMillan said Jones and her husband, Stephen, received an IRS audit notice late last week. Carpenter-McMillan described the timing of the notice as "very peculiar" because it came days after Jones rejected a settlement proposal in her sexual harassment suit against Clinton. A spokesman for the White House said there was no evidence any of any White House participation in the IRS decision to audit Jones's taxes.

The World

No pro-British Protestant parties showed up for the first day of Sinn Fein participation in talks on the political future of Northern Ireland. The province's largest Protestant party, the Ulster Unionists, said they likely would join the talks soon, pending agreement with mediator George Mitchell on terms of participation. Analysts said that might mean a refusal to sit in the same room with the political ally of the Irish Republican Army.

Large numbers of police protected a group of Jewish settlers who took over two houses in an Arab neighborhood of eastern Jerusalem. Angry Palestinians threw stones at the police and warned that more violence would follow unless the settlers were evicted. The settlers said the two houses had been purchased for them by Miami millionaire Irving Moskowitz.

On the last stop of her Middle East tour, Secretary of State Albright told the leaders of Lebanon that progress in peace talks with Israel was "absolutely essential" for a comprehensive settlement in the region. Leb-anon plays host to 30,000 troops from neighboring Syria and tends to follow Syria's lead in relations with Israel. Earlier, on leaving Jordan, Albright said her trip had accomplished only "small steps" in breaking the deadlock in the Middle East peace process.

Vote-counting in Bosnia was under way after two days of municipal elections with organizers saying continued international involvement would be necessary to ensure that the results were successfully implemented. In Serb-held Bosnia, feuding leaders Biljana Plavsic and Radovan Karadzic both claimed massive victories in their respective strongholds.

Once again, the main computer aboard Mir failed, throwing the Russian space station out of alignment with the sun, mission control officials in Moscow said. They said it was not clear how or when Mir's repair crew would fix the computer, but that the two cosmonauts and US astronaut Michael Foale were in no immediate danger. The same computer crashed Sept. 8 and was fixed within 24 hours.

World economic growth will not be sufficient this year to reduce poverty in developing countries or to cut unemployment in industrial states, UN analysts said. In an annual report, the agency's Conference on Trade and Development warned of a backlash against free trade unless the process of integrating developing nations into global financial systems was better shaped to attack poverty and unemployment problems.

Army troops should stay out of the bitter dispute over changing the Philippines Constitution so President Ramos could seek reelection, Defense Secretary Renato de Villa said. He spoke at a ceremony in which he turned his duties over to a retired general in order to enter the running for Ramos's post. De Villa's comments followed those last week of military chief Arnulfo Acedera, who warned civilians to stay away from a planned Sept. 21 rally against changing the national charter.

Residents of Bangkok were advised not to worry that arriving troops might help stage a coup against Thailand's beleaguered government. Takeover rumors coincided with reports that key members of Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's coalition were maneuvering to quit the government. Senior commanders also have been pressing Chavalit to abandon his opposition to constitutional reforms aimed at cleaning up political corruption. The arriving troops were due to participate in a promotion ceremony for senior officers.

Quebec's Lucien Bouchard boycotted a meeting of Canadian premiers aimed at keeping the French-speaking province in the federation while weakening its separatist sentiments before next year's elections. Those attending agreed to consult with their constituents on how to recognize Quebec's distinctiveness without granting the province special privileges. Bouchard is expected to organize a new referendum on independence if he wins reelection next year. A similar vote in 1995 was defeated, but narrowly.

"It's two minutes ... to midnight. We'd better have a message for those Quebeckers

who still believe in this country."

- Saskatchewan Premier Romanow, saying it's urgent that French-speaking Quebec feel welcome in the Canadian union.


A burglar in Geneva probably couldn't believe his ears when he found out how police tracked him down. Using microscopic analysis, authorities found the bad guy's ear print on the doors of 380 looted houses, presumably where he had listened for indications that someone was inside before entering. After a hearing, a judge sentenced him to four years in jail.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, a clumsy gangster wrote his own prescription for trouble after shaking down a medical clinic for protection money. Chan Koon-shing's lawyer called his client "an amateur" for issuing a sign-ed receipt for the $400 payment ($50 in US funds). Clinic officials turned the receipt over to police, who found and arrested Chan. He'll have a year in prison to reflect on his misdeed.

And, did you hear about the humble bank depositor in Bangkok who went to an automatic teller machine to withdraw the last $2.90 from his account? When it stopped pumping cash 20 minutes later, he was holding a windfall of more than $20,000. Bank officers were grateful to get the money back, blamed the situation on computer error, and rewarded him with. . . a set of crockery.

The Day's List

States Leading Way in Converting Rails to Trails

Almost every state has turned some abandoned railway into a public trail to provide expanded opportunity for hiking, jogging, biking, skating, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, and other forms of public recreation. According to the Washington, D.C.,-based Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the following are the 10 states that have done the most converting to date (with each state's total rail-to-trail mileage).

1. Wisconsin 1,226 miles

2. Minnesota 1,174

3. Michigan 1,081

4. Pennsylvania 705

5. Iowa 495

6. Washington 440

7. New York 433

8. Maine 410

9. Illinois 367

10. West Virginia 289

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