News In Brief

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The US

The nation's work force registered its best productivity gain in nearly five years in the third quarter, the Labor Department said. Nonfarm business productivity - output per hour worked - grew at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.1 percent, the largest gain since the final months of 1992. Analysts said such robust productivity gains are unusual so late in an economic expansion. Productivity increased 2.4 percent in the second quarter and 1.4 percent in the first.

Financier and philanthropist George Soros gave $4.5 million to help children and the poor in New York City. The money was donated to the Robin Hood Foundation, formed by a group of Wall Street financiers in the 1980s. Soros, best known for his grants to overseas causes, said he was expanding his giving in the US and would focus it on young people.

Recommended: Default

A clash between US and Canadian fishermen over salmon catches off the Pacific coast is gradually being resolved, US and Canadian officials indicated. Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles (D) said ferry service to Prince Rupert, B.C., was resuming for the first time since last summer, when angry Canadian fishermen blockaded his state's ferry, Malaspina, there for three days.

The New York Stock Exchange was to announce a widening of the "circuit breakers" that bring trading to a temporary halt after rapid drops in stock prices, Wall Street sources said. Currently, trading is stopped if the Dow Jones industrial average falls 350 points in one session. The new approach would be to stop trading when the Dow falls 10 percent, the sources said. At current levels, that would translate to a loss of about 800 points.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it will refer year-old safety recommendations relating to the explosion of TWA Flight 800 to an advisory group. A year ago, the National Transportation Safety Board issued recommendations for reducing flammability of vapors in the center fuel tanks of Boeing 747s. The FAA said it would refer the matter to an advisory committee within two months, instructing it to provide specific solutions six months later.

A US appeals court dismissed a lawsuit by human-rights victims seeking funds deposited in Swiss banks by the late Philippines president, Ferdinand Marcos. The three-judge panel in San Francisco ruled unanimously that a suit against Credit Suisse and Swiss Bank Corp. could not be heard in the US. If upheld, the ruling appears to block efforts by a Filipino group to use US courts to tap some $475 million held in the two banks.

The judge in the trial of Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski told lawyers they should aim to give opening arguments Dec. 29. Jury selection began Nov. 12, but has moved slowly. The cabin Kaczynski built and inhabited is being hauled through Butte, Mont., to Sacramento, Calif., where it will reportedly be shown to the jury by defense attorneys trying to prove he is mentally ill.

A trial began in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., where a $150 million defamation lawsuit has been brought against three advisers to Tawana Brawley, a decade after the then-15-year-old claimed white law-enforcement officers abducted and raped her. Former prosecutor Steven Pagones is suing the Rev. Al Sharpton, Alton Maddox Jr., and C. Vernon Mason, accusing them of defamation by saying he was one of six who allegedly attacked Miss Brawley in 1987. A 1988 grand jury report found her claim a fabrication. Sharpton recently came close to winning the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York.

There was new debate over whether a potato-size meteorite contains evidence of past life on Mars. Scientists who found it in Antarctic wastes said they had proved it contains no signs of life. But US space agency researchers, who stunned the scientific world with a discovery of remains of tiny bacteria in the rock, said they were more convinced than ever of their finding. Both views were published in the scientific journal Nature.

The World

The UN Security Council was expected to approve a six-month renewal of Iraq's oil-for-food deal, although the Baghdad government said again it would not agree to the extension until its grievances were addressed. In a letter to the UN, Iraq repeated its demand for the right to bar weapons inspectors from sites it deems "sensitive."

India's president disbanded Parliament, setting the stage for new national elections. K.R. Narayanan did not set a date for the second such vote in less than two years but said the next government must be in place by March 15. The outgoing administration fell last week when the powerful Congress Party withdrew its support of Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral's coalition.

A nationwide crackdown on crime and corruption was announced by Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo. He pledged to increase government spending on anticrime measures by 27 percent next year and to meet twice a month with a new Cabinet-level security team. Measures already taken by his administration, he said, "have clearly been insufficient." An estimated 60,000 protesters demanded action in a rally in Mexico City last weekend.

Voters will try again Sunday to elect a president of Serbia after an earlier attempt in October failed because of too low a turnout at the polls. Analysts warned that voter apathy might again keep second-round participation below the legal minimum of 50 percent. The candidates, Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic, Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, and Vuk Draskovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement, are bidding to replace Slobodan Milosevic, who assumed the federal presidency of Yugoslavia in July.

Permission for a peaceful march through Cambodia's capital by political opponents of Prime Minister Hun Sen was denied. The procession, planned for Sunday, was to be led by Khmer Nation Party chief Sam Rainsy. He was among more than 100 people wounded in March in a grenade attack on a Phnom Penh rally that also killed 16 followers. Hun Sen is widely believed to have been behind the incident.

In an emotionally charged atmosphere, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela denied every allegation against her before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Testifying in her own behalf, the ex-wife of President Nelson Mandela used the term "ludicrous" in describing charges that she had ordered or helped to carry out kidnappings, torture, or the murders of antiapartheid activists who had turned against her.

Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were again denied permission to use the facilities of Britain's House of Commons unless they swear allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II. They were elected to Parliament in May, but decline to take their seats on grounds that their allegiance "is to the people of Ireland." Speaker Betty Boothroyd, who turned down an identical appeal following the election, said the oath "cannot be set aside by administrative action."

Canada's 45,000 postal workers said they would return to their jobs because legislation approved by Parliament was forcing them to end their two-week strike. But they vowed to process the backlog of pre-Christmas mail for delivery even without sufficient postage.

An opposition party that lost almost one-third of its seats in Morocco's parliament because of alleged vote-buying was denied an official investigation by the government. Prime Minister Abdellatif Filali's spokesmen said the Nov. 14 election was "transparent and fair" and that agreeing to a probe would undermine the Constitution. Istiqlal is one of several parties that claim widespread irregularities at the polls because of manipulation by authorities.

Etceteras

"[It] is really the equivalent of the inmate telling the warden what the terms

of his incarceration are going to be."

- Secretary of Defense William Cohen, on Iraq's renewed demand to deny access to UN weapons inspectors.

There are spectacular thefts, and then there is what happened at a Philipsburg, Pa., trucking firm. A 44-ton locomotive and two freight cars being stored there by a local railroad museum were jacked up off the ground so their 18 brass bearings could be stolen. The bearings, weighing 15 pounds apiece, would be worth a total of $113.40 if sold for scrap.

The students at a Siberian preschool may not have had their subject matter down cold. But they were more than a little that way themselves after a pipeline carrying heat and hot water to their building broke in minus 63 degree F. weather. Rescuers evacuated the school in Susman, 3,700 miles east of Moscow, as repair crews went to work on the ruptured pipe.

Next time you see the Michelin man in a TV commercial, don't be surprised if he seems to have lost weight. He has. The French tiremaker put its portly, 100-year-old icon on a diet "to look like the leader he is" in today's leaner, more competitive times.

The Day's List

Survey Uses Crime Data To Rank Safest US Cities Looking for a low-crime area in which to settle? You might consider Amherst, N.Y., a Buffalo suburb. It has been named the nation's safest city for the second year in a row by Money magazine. Amherst had no murders in 1996 and the fewest burglaries among 207 cities included in the survey. Money asked Morgan Quitno, a research firm in Lawrence, Kan., to rank US cities, using FBI crime statistics, weighted according to the magazine's own opinion poll on which crimes most concern Americans. The magazine's list of the 10 safest cities:

1. Amherst, N.Y.

2. Simi Valley, Calif.

3. Sterling Heights, Mich.

4. Thousand Oaks, Calif.

5. Sunnyvale, Calif.

6. Irvine, Calif.

7. Livonia, Mich.

8. Santa Clarita, Calif.

9. Mesquite, Texas

10. Plano, Texas

- PRNewswire

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