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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Cynthia Hanson / May 12, 1998

The US

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SBC Communications agreed to purchase rival Ameritech Corp. for $62 billion in a stock-swap deal that might be the second-largest merger in corporate history, the companies said. The only one that would be larger, a $72 billion merger of Travelers Group Inc. and Citicorp, also is pending. The new SBC deal would create a powerhouse company with operations in nearly every region of the US. An SBC-Ameritech combination would give the combined company 57 million phone lines, or nearly one-third of the nation's total.

The government grounded older models of the Boeing 737, the world's most popular jet, after mandatory inspections of some aircraft found extensive wear in power lines running through their wing fuel tanks. The Federal Aviation Administration said early indications were that about half of the Boeing 737s with more than 50,000 flight hours had noticeable wear and tear. The order affected 15 percent of the 737s operating in the US and caused scattered flight cancellations as the business week began.

The US is "deeply disappointed" by India's surprise nuclear tests, a White House spokesman said. He had no comment on the possibility of sanctions, but other officials said India could be subject to a series of measures based on laws designed to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons. Among other things, they deny US credits and credit guarantees to countries violating terms of the legislation. President Clinton was expected to visit India and Pakistan later this year.

The United Arab Emirates was expected to announce today its intention to buy some $6 billion worth of US warplanes following talks at the White House. Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Khalifa bin Zaid al-Nahayan was to hold talks with Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

China has released a leading religious prisoner in another apparent attempt to ease human-rights criticism ahead of Clinton's visit in June, a US religious leader reported. Roman Catholic Bishop Zeng Jingmu of Shanghai was freed six months before the scheduled end of his three-year sentence for holding unauthorized services in a private home, said New York Rabbi Arthur Schneier. He received the news in a call from James Sasser, US ambassador to China.

The federal government is unable to ensure the safety of many imported foods, a General Accounting Office study said. The findings by the congressional investigative agency were expected to boost administration efforts to strengthen the authority of the Food and Drug Administration to set standards for imported fruits, vegetables, fish, and processed foods. Food imports, growing more than 50 percent since 1990, were valued at about $33 billion in 1996.

Seagram Co. was poised to make another huge investment in the entertainment industry with a planned buyout of Polygram, The Wall Street Journal reported. Seagram planned to make the purchase for $9 billion to $10 billion, the newspaper said. Seagram's talks with another record company, EMI Group PLC, recently unraveled. Seagram entered the entertainment business in 1995 with the $5.7 billion purchase of MCA Inc.

Legislation opposing a plan to turn New York's Governors Island into a casino resort is to be introduced in Congress this week, The New York Times reported. It said bills to be filed by New York and New Jersey Democrats would create an 11-member commission to study potential use of the island. Clinton has promised to give the federally owned island to New York once the city has a suitable plan for it. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R) reportedly believes a casino is one of the few businesses that could generate the $30 million a year needed to maintain the former Coast Guard base.

The World

Palestinian officials rejected a reported Israeli compromise strategy for ceding additional territory on the West Bank. The plan, detailed by the Jerusalem Post, would ultimately give the Palestinians 13 percent more land, as proposed by the US, but in two installments: 9 percent up front and the remainder as the Palestinians stepped up their promised efforts to curb extremist terror tactics. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu hinted he would take his dispute with the Clinton administration over West Bank land directly to the American people when he visits the US later this week.

In a move certain to anger rival Pakistan, India conducted three underground nuclear weapons tests at its Pokhran desert site, 330 miles southwest of New Delhi. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said the explosions - the first since 1974 - released no radiation into the atmosphere. He made nuclear-weapons development a priority of his new government when he took office March 20, prompting Pakistan to conduct a "review" of its own nuclear policy.