News In Brief

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The US

Two presidential spokesmen denied the White House had altered videotapes showing President Clinton courting donors to the Democratic Party last year. Press secretary Mike McCurry and senior policy adviser Rahm Emanuel said US Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana had made "baseless" and "unwarranted" comments on a Sunday TV news program in suggesting that some tapes released to congressional investigators appeared to have been doctored.

House minority leader Richard Gephardt (D) of Missouri was "likely" to join Republicans in support of legislation to reform the Internal Revenue Service, an aide said. The Clinton administration said Gephardt's endorsement of a bill introduced by Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Archer (R) of Texas was not "a problem" despite its opposition to key provisions, one of which would allow persons outside of government to serve on an oversight board.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Mostly because of huge oil imports and a record deficit with China the US trade gap rose 3.4 percent in August - to $10.36 billion - the Commerce Department reported. The deficit was the highest since January.

To stay competitive in the fiercely competitive banking industry, Citicorp will eliminate 7,500 jobs worldwide over the next 18 months, the company announced. Citicorp, the nation's second-largest banking business, reported a 45 percent drop in earnings for the third quarter.

Carbon dioxide emissions pose a problem for Earth's climate, the world's largest auto-maker acknowledged. Senior General Motors executives, in Japan for the Tokyo Motor Show, said they believe "very strongly" that improved technological efforts must be made to reduce such emissions. They also said energy prices should be raised to prod Americans into buying more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The federal government should be spending $1 billion a year by 2004 to combat computer terrorism, according to a presidential commission. In classified recommendations to the White House, but reported by The Washington Post, the panel also called for a new directorate within the National Security Council to coordinate all governmental efforts aimed at preventing hackers from using computer networks to sabotage US infrastructure systems.

Women fill only 815 of the almost 48,000 combat-related slots that were opened for them in the armed forces under laws passed in 1993 and 1994, according to a Defense Department study reported by The Washington Post. It said the study, to be released today, found "significant" reluctance by commanders to comply with the laws.

Results of a nationwide test administered last year indicate 43 percent of high-school seniors had a below-grade-level knowledge of science, a new study found. The National Assessment Governing Board said the comparable figure for eighth-graders was 39 percent and for fourth-graders 33 percent. The exam was given to 130,000 public- and private-school pupils.

Texas may be unfair to certain convicted killers in sentencing them to be executed, four US Supreme Court justices warned. They voted with the majority in declining to hear the appeal of a death-row inmate who contend-ed his lawyers were prevented from telling a jury that he would have to spend at least 35 years behind bars if sentenced to life inprisonment instead of to execution. But the four justices said they planned to watch future sentences in Texas carefully. Texas has executed 31 convicts so far this year, with five more scheduled to die by Dec. 31.

By a 4-to-3 vote, Florida's Supreme Court ruled the use of the electric chair is not cruel or unusual punishment. The decision cleared the way for the resumption of executions halted in March when the state's chair malfunctioned. But five justices urged state legislators to consider making lethal injections the sole method of execution for capital crimes.

The World

Russian opposition leaders signaled they would drop a no-confidence motion in the lower house of parliament after meeting with President Boris Yeltsin. Nikolai Ryzhkov, leader of one of three parties that had sought the motion, said Yeltsin "took steps to meet practically all our demands." The Duma, which last week postponed the no-confidence vote until today, wants Yeltsin to make concessions on his 1998 budget.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Thailand's main government buildings for a second day, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh. The demonstrations continued as the Thai Cabinet passed new laws deemed crucial to revive the country's flag- ging economy. Concerns over government instability caused Thailand's currency to plummet to a record low against the dollar.

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai were to meet at the border between Israel and Gaza, a Palestinian official said. The talks were brokered by US special envoy Dennis Ross, who is trying to restore momentum in the peace process.

French planes carrying medical workers and supplies arrived in the Republic of Congo to help the country recover from four months of civil war. More aircraft carrying 30 tons of equipment were due in coming days. The new Congolese military ruler, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, remained in a northern village, despite claiming to have seized power from President Pascal Lissouba, who fled to Burkina Faso.

Haiti's political crisis deepened as Rosny Smarth, who resigned as premier in June, quit handling the day-to-day business of government. In a letter, Smarth advised his 14 Cabinet ministers to follow his example and stay home. He complained that talks between President Rene Preval and lawmakers to find his successor had "not borne fruit." Smarth resigned four months ago to protest allegedly rigged elections, leaving Haiti without an effective government.

Muslim secessionists and government negotiators reached agreement to defuse tensions over an alleged military buildup around the main rebel camp in the southern Philippines. Under the deal, the government promised to withdraw its troops about a half mile from the area, while the rebels agreed to not execute prisoners they are holding. The camp is home to more than 10,000 people, many of them peasants attracted by the prom-ise of rising from poverty under strict Islamic laws.

A Danish nurse and doctor were charged with killing 22 elderly patients with drugs over a 2-1/2 year period. The nurse told a Copenhagen court she was not guilty but admitted giving morphine-based medicine to nursing-home patients on "one or two occasions" without consulting a doctor. The court has banned publication of the names of the nurse, the doctor, the nursing home, or any of the victims.

At least 23 people drowned from flooding in Kenya due to unusually heavy rains along the Indian Ocean coast, local officials said. The flooding submerged some neighborhoods in the port of Mombasa and brought transportation to a halt.

Campaigning for Argentina's midterm elections ends today with polls indicating the ruling Peronist Party and the opposition Alliance running neck-and-neck. On Sunday, voters will decide who fills nearly half of the seats in the 257-member lower house of Congress, where President Carlos Menem has a 51 percent majority. The outcome will decide whether Menem spends his last two years in office as a lame-duck, or continues to implement his economic reforms.

"Neither the Russian people, nor you, nor we, need this squabble."

- Russian President Boris Yeltsin, expressing opposition to a no-confidence motion in his government before meeting with parliamentary leaders.

Etceteras

Somebody in Albany, Ga., has turned the tables on a group that raises money for a park and struck a blow for taste at the same time. The group has been planting pink plastic flamingos in residents' front yards and then charging $25 apiece to remove them. But 10 of the tacky ornaments have disappeared, and now that summer is over local stores no longer have replacements in stock.

Madison, Wis., policeman Scott McConnell endeared himself to animal-rights activists when he responded to a call for help. A fawn had plunged into a resident's not-yet-drained swimming pool and was in no condition to escape because it was too cold. McConnell toweled it dry, loaded it into his cruiser, drove to a park, and ran the heater until the deer recovered and fled into the trees.

Political correctness has come to parochial education in Ireland. Because many children now come from single-parent homes, the Catholic Church has told pre-school teachers they should no longer refer to "mummy" and "daddy" in front of their pupils. Henceforth, elders are to be called "the people who look after you" or "the adults who live in your house."

The Day's List

Mileposts in the Race to Set Land-Speed Record

Last week, when Royal Air Force pilot Andy Green of Britain broke the sound barrier in a jet-powered car for the first time, he furthered a tradition that began 99 years ago - the pursuit of the world's fastest officially sanctioned speed over land. The major milestones along the way, the men responsible for them, and the speeds they reached (in miles per hour):

Gaston Chasseloup-Labat,

France, 1898 39.2

Paul Baras,

France, 1904 104.5

Henry Seagrave,

Britain, 1927 203.7

Malcolm Campbell,

Britain, 1935 301.1

Donald Campbell,

Britain, 1963 403.1

Craig Breedlove,

US, 1964 526.2

Craig Breedlove,

1965 600.6

Andy Green,

Britain, 1997 763.0

- Shell Services Co.

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