News In Brief

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The US

The shuttle Atlantis docked with Russia's Mir space station for an exchange of US astronauts and a delivery of supplies. The shuttle skipper greeted Mir's commander and promptly passed him a sorely needed replacement for the station's troublesome computer. The old one had a minor problem prior to the docking of the shuttle, but kept the station steady for the arrival. Astronaut David Wolf is to replace Michael Foale, who has been on Mir since May.

President Clinton urged an audience in Houston to demand campaign-finance reform and support cutting campaign costs by offering lower-cost media ads to candidates who abide by fund-raising restrictions. His words came on a day when he raised $600,000 for his deeply indebted Democratic Party - and on the day GOP majority leader Trent Lott opened Senate debate on reform of campaign financing. Lott said debate would occur "against a background of lurid exposs" of how Clinton raised millions for his 1996 reelection campaign.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

A former top Clinton aide has told investigators that the president called several Democratic donors from the White House in 1994 to solicit contributions, the Los Angeles Times reported. Harold Ickes, ex-White House deputy chief of staff, said he was present when the president spoke by phone with several donors, sources said. Attorney General Janet Reno must decide by Friday whether to start a preliminary inquiry into telephone solicitations by Clinton and Vice President Gore to raise funds for the 1996 election.

A federal grand jury is investigating a loan involving former GOP chairman Haley Barbour that provided his party $1.6 million shortly before 1994 elections, two lawyers said. The Washington, D.C., grand jury has taken testimony about the transaction from several witnesses, they said. Hong Kong businessman Ambrous Tung Young reportedly put up money to guarantee a loan for the National Policy Forum. Most of the loan was used by the Republican Party to repay an old debt.

The Educational Testing Service uncovered widespread cheating in its programs but did not tell the public, The New York Times reported. The Princeton, N.J.,-based company, which runs most educational testing in the US, told the Times it had been as forthcoming as possible, given the dictates of privacy and test integrity. While the well-known SAT test apparently was not corrupted by cheating, others were - including a citizenship test for immigrants, the Times said. As a result, immigration officials said prospective citizens showing up with ETS English-competency certificates were unable to understand the language.

Aides to Teamsters leader Ron Carey have told prosecutors he was aware of a scheme in which the union donated money to liberal groups which, in turn, had their donors make contributions to his campaign, The New York Times reported. The article cited officials involved in the investigation. Carey has maintained that he did not know of the scheme and was betrayed by his aides.

California Gov. Pete Wilson vetoed a bill that would have banned the manufacture and sale of cheap, poorly made handguns known as "Saturday night specials" in the state. The measure would have outlawed guns that are easily concealed and can cost as little as $35.

The US gross domestic product grew at a 3.3 percent seasonally adjusted annual rate in the second quarter, the Commerce Department reported. That is down from a 4.9 percent rate in the first quarter. The slowdown was even more abrupt in consumer spending, which dropped from a 5.3 percent growth rate in the first quarter to just 0.9 percent in the second.

The Thrust jet car broke the world land-speed record. Royal Air Force fighter pilot Andy Green of Britain drove the huge black car across Nevada's Black Rock Desert at 714 m.p.h., shattering the previous record of 633 m.p.h. That mark was set in 1983 by Richard Noble, who is leading the Thrust team.

The World

Amid speculation that Israel and Palestinian negotiators were about to agree on resuming peace talks, senior representatives of the two sides prepared to meet today in New York with Secretary of State Albright. Their get-together was to follow a flurry of activity in the Middle East that began last Friday with the announced arrest by the Palestinian Authority of "up to 70" activists of the Hamas resistance movement. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu followed over the weekend by ordering the payment of $17 million in withheld tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority.

Hong Kong's newly appointed legislature approved a measure taking the right to vote away from 2 million people who used it in 1995, the last time local elections were held. Under the restructured election law, only 200,000 people will be eligible to participate in the next elections, in May. Democracy activists claimed the measure was intended to squeeze them out of the electoral process.

Britain's new Labour government will make its intentions known on joining the European economic and monetary union (EMU) "about the turn of the year," Finance Minister Gordon Brown said. He denied news reports that the government soon would call a national referendum on the issue. Meanwhile, results of a new public opinion poll showed 93 percent of respondents approved of Prime Minister Tony Blair's performance since his election May 1.

Early exit polls indicated Swiss voters - by an overwhelming majority - would approve continuation of the nation's liberal policy on narcotics. A key feature of that policy is distribution by the state of heroin to addicts, which opponents say helps to make Switzerland the "drug island of Europe." A referendum on a more restrictive antidrug strategy was opposed by mainstream religious groups, unions, police, and most younger voters.

A motion of no confidence in the government of Thai Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh failed in Parliament. But analysts said Chavalit now was under increased pressure to revive the sagging economy. A shuffling of Chavalit's Cabinet is expected before he leaves for a visit to Japan Oct. 6. New economic reforms are expected to be announced Oct. 15. Parliament also approved a new draft Constitution aimed at ending political patronage.

The pro-democracy forces of Nobel Peace Prizewinner Aung San Suu Kyi held their largest gathering in years in Burma, calling again for dialogue with the military government. But the National League for Democracy demanded the right to name its own delegation to such a meeting. The party gathering, at Suu Kyi's home in Rangoon, was limited to an estimated 700 delegates by police.

Two days after India's and Pakistan's prime ministers met and pledged to try to stop armed clashes along their common border, the New Delhi government announced it had begun production of a medium-range ballistic missile that Pakistan regards as a threat to peace. Defense Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav also said Pakistan "is not true to its words" in wanting improved relations with India and warned of retaliation "if Pakistani troops continue to shell our areas." At least 15 people died in artillery fire across the border last month.

Nine candidates for president of Cameroon kicked off their allotted two weeks of campaigning even though only incumbent Paul Biya is expected to attract a significant share of the vote. Three main opposition parties have announced plans to boycott the Oct. 12 balloting because Biya refuses to allow independent monitors to oversee the election. Biya has held the office since 1982. Earlier this month, the National Assembly, dominated by his party, extended the presidential term from five years to seven.

"I'm going to like this place."

- US astronaut David Wolf, on taking a quick look around the orbiting Russian space station, Mir, after his arrival.

Etceteras

Quick, what's on the front of the new $50 bill? Answer: President Ulysses S. Grant's portrait - and a tiny printing flaw. The boo-boo, a break in the concentric lines behind the portrait, would cost 4.8 cents per note to correct. But since 30 million bills have it, that adds up to $1.44 million, so federal officials are taking their time deciding whether to destroy or circulate them.

What must have been one of the most colorful memorial services ever seen in London took place last week as descendants of a native American chief prepared to take his remains back to the US for reburial. Long Wolf of the Lakota Sioux died while with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1892. His casket was exhumed, draped with a Sioux flag, and carried to a church for departure ceremonies, followed by the descendants and a shaman - all dressed in feather bonnets and blankets and accompanied by a drum and chants in the Sioux language.

Londoners had literally tons of things to deal with that day. It seems a delivery truck overturned at rush hour, spilling 10,000 pounds of packaged Yorkshire pudding on a busy highway. Traffic backed up for 10 miles. The mess didn't include roast beef. Nor did emergency crews clean it up with forks.

The Day's List

Biggest Mergers in the US Securities Industry

When Travelers Group Inc. said last week it had agreed to acquire the parent of Salomon Brothers, it was in effect attempting the second-largest merger in the nation's securities sector. The top five US securities-industry mergers, when they occurred, and figures (in billions of dollars) for their estimated combined assets and liabilities:

1. Morgan Stanley Group- Dean Witter, Discover & Co.

February 1997 $10.6

2. Salomon Inc.-Travelers Group,

September 1997 $9.0

3. Bankers Trust-Alex. Brown & Sons Inc,

April 1997 $2.1

4. Mellon Bank-Dreyfus Corp.,

December 1993 $1.8

5. Scudder, Stevens & Clark-The Zurich Group,

June 1997 $1.7

- Securities Data Corp./Associated Press

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