News In Brief

The US

The US space agency decided to send astronaut David Wolf aboard the shuttle Atlantis for a four-month stay on Russia's troubled space station. The shuttle was to blast off last night, carrying seven crew members, including Wolf, to Mir. The decision to send Wolf came after careful study of a pair of last-minute safety reviews.

The acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service was scheduled to testify before the Senate Finance Committee. Michael Dolan was expected to defend the agency against mounting criticism of its treatment of employees and allegations that it has long harassed taxpayers.

A House panel investigating campaign fund-raising voted unanimously to give immunity to three witnesses so they can testify about allegedly illegal donations to the Democratic Party. The immunity grants to the sister of Democratic fund-raiser Yah Lin Trie and two other witnesses clear the way for the first public hearings in the nine-month-old House investigation. The three are expected to appear before the Government Reform and Oversight Committee next month.

The House overwhelmingly rejected an effort to force a direct vote on a pay raise for members of Congress that was quietly approved last week with the knowledge of House leaders. Opponents failed in an attempt to attach a measure opposing the 2.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment to an unrelated bill.

A House committee refused to approve a bill that would give police increased ability to unscramble encrypted computer files. The Commerce Committee rejected an attempt by the FBI, Treasury Department, and others to require software companies to make sure programs created in, or imported into, the US can be decoded when required under court order. The committee decided instead to offering authorities the aid of a new high-tech Justice Department facility in their efforts to break computer codes.

Four-year US colleges raised fees about 5 percent this year, the College Board reported. The increase compares with a 2.2 percent rise in the consumer price index as of the end of July, the latest figure available. At two-year colleges, the reported rate of increase in fees was 4 percent for private and 2 percent for public institutions. At private four-year colleges, average fees rose to $13,664 from $12,994 last year. At public four-year colleges, the increase was to $3,111 from $2,975.

Orders for costly manufactured goods surged in August, posting a third straight monthly increase, the Commerce Department said. Demand for new aircraft and for electronic components was particularly strong. Total orders for durable goods rose 2.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted $186.6 billion -- much stronger than the 0.7 percent gain forecast by Wall Street economists -- after a revised 0.1 percent gain in July.

President Clinton returned to Arkansas to lead ceremonies marking the 40th anniversary of the turbulent desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock. It was desegregated Sept. 25, 1957, in the presence of US troops enforcing a court order in a historic test of the Constitution. The ceremonies were to honor the nine black students who were taunted and spat upon when they arrived at the school.

Tight enforcement of immigration laws is creating a shortage of farm workers willing to accept backbreaking seasonal jobs, employers told a House Judiciary subcommittee. They asked Congress to create a temporary program that would admit 25,000 foreign workers a year for a two-year pilot period to replace illegal aliens now being weeded out of the work force.

A Miami-area county became the latest and largest US school district to approve drug tests for high-school students whose parents approve. The Dade County school board voted 6 to 3 to begin random testing. The first tests by a private agency are expected in January. The aim is to deter drug use.

The World

The vow by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to build 300 more housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank will provoke new suicide bombings, Palestinian leaders warned. Islamic militant groups added that they have thousands of volunteers for such attacks.

Secretary of State Albright was to join a special UN Security Council meeting on Africa, called because of civil strife and poverty that have strained the agency's resources. African leaders complain that the Western-dominated UN responds faster to crises in other parts of the world and that US pressure to streamline the agency threatens economic-development programs on the continent.

Most of Northern Ireland's rival politicians agreed to begin full-scale negotiations on the future of the British-ruled province. The breakthrough came when the Ulster Unionists, the largest Protestant party, said they would not object to the talks even without the prior surrender of weapons by the Irish Republican Army.

Saying "critical times call for critical measures," fire officials in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, ordered that mist be sprayed from tall buildings in a bid to cut through the dense smog that hangs over much of Southeast Asia. The effort was expected to be duplicated elsewhere across the country, which has been under pollution-emergency conditions for a week. The haze is blamed on brush and forest fires in Indonesia and has affected the region from Thailand to the Philippines.

Algeria's government rejected all outside help in bringing an end to the massacres of civilians by suspected Muslim fundamentalist rebels. More than 500 Algerians have died since Aug. 29 in such attacks, which are aimed at destabilizing the country. Calls for help have been led by nongovernmental humanitarian groups such as Doctors Without Borders.

The 1994 Rwandan genocide could have been prevented if not for the decision of senior UN officials, The Washington Post reported. Citing an urgent fax to UN headquarters in New York from the commander of peacekeeping forces in Rwanda, it said details of a Hutu government-backed plan to kill thousands of Tutsi civilians and the locations of arms caches to be used by Hutu militiamen were known in advance. The fax sought permission to confiscate the weapons. But the request was denied by unnamed UN personnel, and the killing began about three months later, the Post said.

Ex-Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao went on trial in New Delhi on charges that he bribed members of Parliament in 1993. Rao is alleged to have paid $85,000 to influence four lawmakers not to vote for a no-confidence motion against his government . He is the first former Indian head of government to be tried on such charges. Rao, who left office last year, denies guilt.

In an unprecedented ruling, a Brazilian cigarettemaker was ordered to pay damages for contributing to the 1995 death of a four-pack-a-day smoker. A district court in Rio de Janeiro awarded the widow and children of Nelson Alves Cabral $82,000 plus monthly support payments from Souza Cruz SA, one of the world's largest exporters of tobacco products. The company said it would appeal the order.

International law was broken by both Hungary and Slovakia in their bitter feud over a hydro-electric dam on the Danube River, the World Court ruled. In 1990 Hungary backed out of a 13-year-old treaty to build the Gabcikovo dam jointly, citing environmental concerns. Slovakia went ahead, diverting Eastern Europe's largest river at Dunakiliti, 100 miles west of Budapest. The court said both sides must operate the dam, with Hungary paying a share of the construction and operating costs.

"This careful review of shuttle missions analyzed risk, readiness, and - foremost - safety."

- NASA chief Daniel Goldin, on his decision to send astronaut David Wolf to the troubled Russian space station, Mir.

Etceteras

Alex Grunwald will do almost anything to help his radio station climb in the ratings. Grunwald was driving back to WTCF in Midland, Mich., when a woman stop-ped him, asking for help because her cat was stuck in a tall tree. He took his microphone and shinnied up, giving listeners an on-air account of the effort. With the cat safely in her arms, the woman left. But Grunwald couldn't get back down, and firemen wouldn't come to his aid, sensing a prank. An hour later, a roofer en route to a job site rescued him.

A physician in the Netherlands is looking for work, but he won't find it at Rotterdam's Southern Hospital. It seems he developed an urge to take his motorcycle for a joyride, so he did - across Southern's lobby, into an elevator, up to the third floor, and past the intensive care unit. Hospital officials can't explain why he did it, but they're sure he wasn't looking for a faster way to make his rounds. Yes, he was fired.

The Day's List

Heritage Artists Receive Awards at White House

Hillary Rodham Clinton presented awards last week to a dozen Americans chosen by the National Endowment for the Arts to be honored as National Heritage Fellows. Those receiving the $10,000 awards were:

Edward Babb, gospel trom- bonist

Charles Brown, West Coast blues composer

Gladys LeBlanc Clark, Cajun weaver

Georgia Harris, Catawba Indian potter

Hua Wenyi, Chinese singer and director of the Hua Kun Opera, San Francisco

Ali Akbar Khan, composer of North Indian Music, Anselmo, Calif.

Ramon Jos Lopez, sculptor in Latin American santero tradition

Jim and Jesse McReynolds, bluegrass musicians

Phong Nguyen, Vietnamese musician, Kent, Ohio

Hystercine Rankin, quilter, Lorman, Miss.

Francis Whitaker, blacksmith and wrought-iron craftsman

- Associated Press

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