News In Brief

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The US

Progress toward peace in the Mideast seemed to hinge on the outcome of talks in New York, hosted by Secretary of State Albright. After a breakfast with five Gulf foreign ministers, she met with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy in anticipation of a three-way session later in the day with Levy and Mahmoud Abbas, a senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. The State Department said Albright hoped to reestablish negotiations between the two parties "very soon." Talks were halted in March after Israel broke ground on a Jewish housing project in southeastern Jerusalem.

Jury selection began in Denver for the trial of Terry Nichols, the second man accused of the Oklahoma City bombing two years ago. Timothy McVeigh, a co-defendant and former Army buddy of Nichols, was found guilty in June for his part in the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people. Nichols has pleaded not guilty. Late last week Congress authorized $5 million to help build and maintain a $24 million memorial at the site of the bombing, run by the National Park Service. The federal funds are to be matched by $5 million from the state of Oklahoma and $14 million from private sources.

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Bolstered by growing minority involvement, a national homebuying boom continues, a report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University said. It said the number of homeowners increased by 3.4 million, or 5.5 percent, over the past three years, pushing the rate of home ownership to 65.4 percent. After a record-setting year in 1996, when 4.1 million units were sold, home sales are likely to exceed 4 million units again in 1997, the study found.

Calmer weather helped crews battle a fierce wildfire in northern California. Officials said the blaze had destroyed 20 homes and forced 1,000 people to evacuate residences in Dobbins and the nearby town of Oregon House, about 150 miles northeast of San Francisco. The wind-whipped 5,743-acre blaze in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas was said to be 50 percent contained at the end of the weekend - and officials expected it to be fully contained by today. A short in a generator was said to have started the fire.

Americans' real income went up last year for the second year in a row, even as the poverty rate remained about the same, the Census Bureau said. The real median income of households rose by 1.2 percent from $35,082 to $35,492. The number of poor Americans in 1996 totaled 36.5 million, about 13.7 percent of the population. The previous year's figures were 36.4 million and 13.8 percent.

US consumers curbed their spending in August despite a healthy income gain, the Commerce Department said. Personal incomes rose 0.6 percent last month, tripling the 0.2 percent July gain. Wages and salaries, the most-watched component of personal income, rose 0.8 percent. Personal consumption increased 0.3 percent, following a 1 percent spurt in July.

The Federal Reserve was expected to hold interest rates steady at a meeting today in Washington. Reports show the economy growing vigorously with remarkably low inflation, which does not justify raising rates now, analysts said.

Senate confirmation hearings were to begin today on four new FCC commissioners. The Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is to consider the White House choice for chairman, Federal Communications Commission general counsel William Kennard, as well as Gloria Tristani, Michael Powell, and Harold Furchtgott-Roth. Susan Ness is the only commissioner staying on.

Thousands of Orthodox Jews gathered in New York and other cities around the world to celebrate the end of a 7-1/2- year reading of the Talmud, the early religious writings that make up Jewish civil and religious law. It was the tenth cycle completed since the program known as Daf Yomi began in Vienna in 1923. A crowd estimated at 26,000 turned out at Madison Square Garden. Another 20,000 people were expected at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

The World

Eight thousand more Palestinians were permitted to return to their jobs in Israel as the region awaited word on whether peace negotiations between the two sides would resume. An estimated 29,000 Palestinians now are free to get to their jobs, about half the number who usually hold work permits. But an aide to Prime Minister Netanyahu said it was "inconceivable" that Israel would consider handing over any additional West Bank land until the Palestinian Authority had made a serious effort to crush Islamic militant groups.

Heavy rains and winds clear-ed the air over much of eastern Malaysia, one of the areas most affected by smoke from out-of-control fires in neighboring Indonesia. But the joint US-Indonesian oil company, Caltex, said it had evacuated hundreds of employees' dependents from the island of Sumatra because of the fires. The smoke is blamed for the deaths of 234 people in last week's crash of a passenger plane on Sumatra. Another 29 people are missing in the collision of two ships in the Strait of Malacca because of the haze.

The European Union's senior official for humanitarian aid said she was not afraid for her own safety while Taliban militiamen were beating members of her entourage with rifles at a hospital for women in Kabul, Afghanistan. Emma Bonino's party - one of whom was CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour - was detained for three hours after cameramen took pictures of some of the women inside, a violation of Taliban religious policy. All were released with an apology.

Zapatista rebels declared an area of southern Mexico autonomous and named it for the late Cuban revolutionary leader, Che Guevara. The area, the first of several planned by the rebels, was to have its own council and budgets for education, economic development, and public works. The rebels and the government signed an agreement last year calling for Indian autonomy, but President Ernesto Zedillo says its wording is unconstitutional.

Saying, "the giving and the commitment have been total," Italian President Scalfaro called for national unity in the wake of last week's earthquakes. At least 11 people died and an estimated 80,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in the central regions of Umbria and Marche, and many survivors have complained of a slow response by emergency units. The quakes hit amid increasing demands by the Northern League political movement for separation from the rest of Italy.

Eugene Terre'Blanche, perhaps the most visible right-wing Afrikaner leader, was expected to apply for amnesty from South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Terre'Blanche, leader of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement, has criticized the commission probing apartheid-era crimes. But he said he would seek to be absolved for acts of political thuggery by his followers in 1979 and 1991. He also is appealing a prison sentence for beating a black gas station attendant last year.

Work was to begin on restoring one of Bosnia's most famous historic landmarks, the 16th century bridge at Mostar that was reduced to rubble by Croat and Serb artillery in 1992-93. Engineers with the NATO-led peacekeeping force hoped to pull every piece of the span from the Neretva River onto a drying platform by Nov. 15. Reconstruction of the bridge, which stood inside Muslim-held territory, is scheduled for next spring at a cost of more than $7 million.

Iraq was attacked by warplanes from both Iran and Turkey in separate actions aimed at exiled rebel groups. The Iranian jets hit camps at Kut and Ja-lula used by guerrillas of the Mujahideen Khalq, both within 100 miles of Baghdad. But a government news agency said Iraqi air defenses drove them off. Meanwhile, Turkish planes bombed Kurdish rebel bases at Zab and Khwakurk in northern Iraq. The bases apparently were reestablished after being occupied by Turkish troops earlier this year.

"This report is good news for America and great news for American families."

- Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo, on a Harvard University study that indicated home ownership is growing among blacks and other minority groups.

Etceteras

Paul McCartney had a profound influence on musical tastes with the Beatles. His influence on tastes in food is less certain. McCartney sent German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, one of the world's heartiest eaters, a copy of the cookbook "Veganissimo," urging him to join the ranks of nonmeat-eating Germans. Nice try, Kohl wrote back, enclosing a cookbook filled with beef and pork recipes.

Even agents from the CIA are into the cookbook game these days. But most of the dishes in their new 224-page edition, "Spies, Black Ties, and Mango Pies," were contributed anonymously - giving new meaning to the term "secret recipes."

Sotheby's, which has auctioned off mansions, yachts, and priceless art, is putting something really big on the block this week in New York. The prize: a 65 million-year-old, virtually complete 50-foot fossil skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex considered an "irreplaceable world treasure." Don't bother bidding unless you're prepared to offer at least $1.5 million.

The Day's List

Ranking US Donors In Terms of Giving in '96

Ted Turner's $1 billion gift to United Nations charities ranks among the most generous philanthropic gifts of all time, statistics show. The top 10 US philanthropists, according to Fortune magazine, and their 1996 gifts (in millions of dollars):

1. George Soros, president, Soros Fund Management $350

2. L.S. Skaggs, retired chairman, American Stores 155

3. Bill Gates, chairman, Microsoft Corp. 135

4. Walter Annenberg, former chairman, Triangle Publications 128

5. William Hewlett, co-founder, Hewlett-Packard 100

6. Leslie Gonda, chairman, International Lease Finance Corp. 73

7. Jay and Robert Pritzker, Hyatt Corp., Marmon Group 70

8. Ted Arison, retired founder Carnival Cruise Lines 60

9. Robert Galvin, retired chairman, Motorola 60

10. William Davidson, chairman, Guardian Industries 35

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