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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert KilbornCynthia Hanson, and Vic Roberts / October 20, 1997

The US

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Despite its denials, the government of China decided as early as 1995 to try to buy political influence in the US by contributing to congressional campaigns, the Los Angeles Times reported. The newspaper said the FBI uncovered the plan through intercepted communications between the Chinese Embassy in Washington and Beijing. At least $2 million was earmarked for the effort to counter what was perceived as Taiwan's disproportionate influence in the US, it said.

Chinese President Jiang Ze-min said he hopes his visit to the US next week will raise relations with the US "to a new level." In an interview with the The Washington Post, Jiang urged Americans to tolerate his country's political system. Meanwhile, US officials left for Beijing to try to fine-tune China's pledge to stop selling missiles to Iran and helping to develop the Iranian nuclear program, two issues Jiang is expected to discuss with President Clinton when they meet Oct. 29.

The world's two biggest accounting and consulting firms are expected to announce a merger this week, The New York Times reported. The proposed deal between Ernst & Young and KPMG Peat Marwick would result in a firm with revenues of $15.3 billion and nearly 12,000 partners.

Wall Street opens today after the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 119 points Thursday and 92 points Friday. The Dow closed at 7847, down 198.18 for the week. The drop was unsettling for investors on the eve of the 10th anniversary of Black Monday - the second most famous crash in Wall Street history.

Health-insurance premiums for most policyholders are likely to rise by at least 5 percent next year, The New York Times reported. Citing insurance industry sources and consultants, it said the premiums charged to small employers with older workforces could increase by as much as 30 percent. The rates have remained stable for four years, largely because of the growth of managed-care programs.

The Federal Maritime Commission was to decide whether its threatened ban on Japanese shipping should be dropped permanently. This, after negotiators reached a deal in principle late last week that would give American shippers freer access to Japanese ports. The agreement came just hours before an order barring Japanese container ships from US ports was to take effect, disrupting billions of dollars in trade. The commission had voted to impose the ban after Japanese shipping companies refused to pay $4 million in fines.

American women in the military were honored with a new memorial at a dedication ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery. Vice President Gore, Defense Secretary Cohen, and other top officials praised the nation's nearly 2 million women who have joined the armed forces.

The Florida Marlins were to face off with the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 of the World Series in Miami. In Game 1 of their first appearance in the series, the Marlins won, 7-4.

While returning home from a week-long Latin America tour, Clinton phoned about a half-dozen members of Congress from Air Force One to lobby for "fast track" authority to negotiate trade deals. Congress returns this week for an end-of-session push on new trade authority and must-pass spending bills.

FBI Director Louis Freeh scheduled a news conference for tomorrow to announce the appointment of physicist Donald Kerr to head the agency's troubled forensics laboratory. Critics say Kerr lacks the proper scientific background for the job and has never run a crime laboratory. Kerr ran the US nuclear weapons program during the Carter administration.

Experts were called in to detonate eight Vietnam War-era bombs uncovered by workmen laying track in a railyard near Roseville, Calif. About 400 residents were asked to evacuate the area. The bombs apparently were left from a trainload of munitions bound for the war that exploded in 1973. One bomb found last week was detonated.

The World

Exactly what the US means by a "timeout" in the construction of Jewish settlements was expected to be a key issue in discussions between American envoy Dennis Ross and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Israel also planned to raise with Ross its demand that Palestinian Authority President Arafat do more to combat terrorism as well as its desire to bypass interim peace negotiations with the Palestinians and move directly to talks on a permanent settlement, a Netanyahu aide said. Ross also was to meet separately with Arafat.

Argentine President Carlos Menem endorsed President Clinton's call for including developing countries in international efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. While agreeing to the concept, neither side has said what those limits should be. Clinton was unable to win such a pledge from Venezuela or Brazil, the other countries he visited in a week-long South American trip.