News In Brief

The US

Attorney General Janet Reno said the Justice Department is investigating whether the Democratic National Committee tried to skirt campaign-spending limits by transferring money to state parties for use in President Clinton's reelection effort last year. The New York Times reported that the DNC transferred at least $32 million in such a plan.

Clinton was to announce a food-safety plan that would bar imports of fruits and vegetables that failed to meet certain standards. The plan would set aside $24 million to inspect farms overseas. US farmers also would be held to new sanitation guidelines.

The Senate passed a $25 billion annual Treasury spending bill that would ban US imports of products made by forced child labor. Some $100 million worth of merchandise produced by child labor enters the US each year, activists on the issue say. Meanwhile, the Senate joined the House in approving a compromise spending bill that would allow a $3,100 cost-of-living increase for Congress - its first pay raise in five years.

The PRTC was put up for sale by Gov. Pedro Rossello in April after passage of the 1996 Federal Telecommunications Reform Act. Opponents say he is selling their national patrimony.

The Senate Finance Committee voted to give Clinton "fast track" trade authority. The special powers would allow him to negotiate trade agreements that cannot be amended by Congress. Advocates say such authority is needed because negotiations could be hindered over concerns that Congress might make substantial changes.

Executions in the US rose to their highest level in four decades with the lethal injection of Texas inmate Dwight Adanandus. This year's total of 57 could exceed the 1957 number of 65 if executions continue at the current pace. Adanandus was convicted for gunning down a businessman who tried to stop him from robbing a bank.

House and Senate conferees compromised on a $13.7 billion bill to fund next year's national parks and other public land programs, and to operate the National Endowment for the Arts. The lawmakers finally agreed to use money from a fund generated from oil and gas federal leases to buy land to prevent development of a gold mine near Yellowstone National Park and to protect the Headwaters Forest in California's redwood country.

United Parcel Service pilots voted 1,861 to 39 against the company's contract offer. They said UPS had failed to keep their pay in line with major airlines and rival Federal Express Corp. During a UPS drivers' strike in August, the pilots warned that they also might walk off the job around the Christmas season.

The Agriculture Department asked federal prosecutors to assist in the investigation of Hudson Foods Inc. for possible criminal violations. The company recalled 25 million pounds of hamburger from its Nebraska plant in August after several people became ill from consuming beef contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

A proposal to have the Federal Aviation Administration profile potentially dangerous airline passengers was cleared by the Justice Department as nondiscriminatory. A White House commission recommended implementation of the Computer Assisted Passenger Screening System over the objection of civil-rights groups.

Some motorists will be allowed to deactivate car airbags under rules to be proposed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, CNN reported. The rules would allow installation of on-off switches, but only if a car has no back seat or cannot accommodate all passengers under 12 in the back seat. Some medical conditions also warrant exceptions.

Paula Jones announced she hired a Dallas law firm to continue her sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton, and they aren't interested in settling out of court. The conservative Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville, Va., has agreed to raise funds to pay the legal bill, she said.

The World

Defiant opponents of Yugo-slav President Milosevic vowed a return to the street protests of last winter "until the final victory." Riot police twice broke up demonstrations this week over the ouster of Milosevic rival Zoran Djindjic as mayor of Belgrade, beating and arresting dozens of protesters. With political tensions high over Sunday's presidential runoff election, analysts said they expected new street demonstrations would be met with equal force.

Palestinian Authority President Afafat visited newly freed Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin in a Jordanian hospital but called his release by Israel an "expulsion." Palestinians have complained that Arafat was kept in the dark about the release and that Yassin, who is ill, should have been returned to his home in Gaza. Israel freed Yassin from prison following an appeal by the king on humanitarian grounds.

NATO leaders, meeting in the Netherlands, said the alliance's defense umbrella over the formerly communist countries of eastern Europe must be kept minimal and told incoming members Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic they would have to cover most of the cost.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin - one month after declaring he would step aside when his term expires in 2000 - hinted he might reconsider the decision. Russia's Constitution allows heads of state only two four-year terms. But Yeltsin supporters reportedly have been looking for loopholes he could use to run again. Yeltsin said aides have urged him not to discuss the subject publicly for now.

India's and Pakistan's prime ministers conferred via a telephone hot line on ways to halt the border clashes that have resulted in at least 39 civilian deaths this week. Intensified shel-ling by both sides has dampened hopes for progress in the peace process that was revived earlier this year following a three-year hiatus. Inder Kumar Gujral of India and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan discussed the same issue last week at the UN in New York.

Hours after terrorist bombs exploded in a crowded New Delhi market, injuring 30 people, three more explosive devices went off aboard a passenger train leaving the capital. The second set of bombs killed two people and injured 35 others. Police were investigating whether the incidents were connected and whether militant separatists were involved.

South Korea will take its dispute with the US to the World Trade Organization if sanctions are imposed over automobile imports, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said in Seoul. The US has cited South Korea because of what it says are restrictive import policies that limit foreign car sales to less than 1 percent of the market. Importers say they expect to sell even fewer foreign-made cars this year than the 10,300 units recorded in 1996.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi met with his coalition partners to try to find a way to stave off the collapse of their government. Prodi said he would not back down on $9 billion worth of proposed cuts to his 1998 budget, despite the threat of hardline Communists in Parliament to vote against it. One-third of those cuts would be to the welfare sector, which the Communists say is too deep. The cuts are considered necessary if Italy is to qualify for entry into the European monetary union.

The regional trade embargo imposed after last year's military coup is causing a "humanitarian catastrophe," Burundi's prime minister complained. Pascal Fermin Ndimira said the sanctions have quadrupled inflation and have taken a toll on public health and education. Aid donors also have abandoned the country, he said. Six African presidents decided last month to maintain the embargo they applied after Burundi's mainly Tutsi Army seized power and returned former President Pierre Buyoya to office.

"We ... cut the major nutrition program for children, and at the same time we're about to vote for a salary increase. I just don't see the justice of it."

- US Sen. Paul Wellstone (D) of Minnesota, contrasting two key votes in the upper house of Congress.

Etceteras

Ever made a phone call you regretted later? It's likely that Annette Edwards has. The Fairfield, Conn., retiree chatted with her son in Kansas long enough to run up a $6.22 charge, which she paid by check. But somehow an extra digit was added in the bookkeeping process, and $6,226 was deducted from her account and credited to the bill. Until it's repaid, she could spend - at 10 cents a minute - 43 days on the phone before using up the credit.

The aria Renee Fleming was singing didn't call for a duet, but the Metropolitan Opera soprano found herself part of one anyway in a performance of "Manon" last week. At a particularly demanding moment, a Russian wolfhound - on stage as part of a crowd scene - howl-ed in accompaniment. The dog was led off by a handler and, not surprisingly, didn't appear in the next show.

Not much else aboard Mir has been working properly of late, but at least one piece of equipment is still performing the way it's supposed to. A small electronic organ taken aboard in 1988 by French astronaut Jean-Loup Chreten plays perfectly despite continuous exposure to high humidity and radiation.

The Day's List

Rating the Leading US Cable/Satellite Providers

After surveying 10,541 satellite and cable TV subscribers, J.D. Power & Associates ranked Primestar and Cox Communications, respectively, as tops in customer satisfaction. The Agoura Hills, Calif., market research firm measured such criteria as cost, programming offer-ed, reception quality, and timely service. The top finishers and the satisfaction index of each:

Satellite Providers

1. Primestar 137

2. Dish Network/Echostar 134

3. DIRECTV/USSB 126

Cable Providers

1. Cox Communications 109

2. Marcus 101

3. MediaOne 100

(tie) Time Warner 100

5. Jones Intercable 99

6. Cablevision Systems 98

(tie) Charter 9 8

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