News In Brief

By , Lance Carden, and Caryn Coatney

The US

President Clinton challenged world leaders to work together to control illegal drugs. In the opening address at a UN special session on the issue, he praised Mexico for its cooperation in fighting the movement of narcotics and announced a $2 billion antidrug media campaign aimed at young people.

Retired Admiral Thomas Moorer backed away from a CNN-Time magazine report quoting him as confirming that the US had used sarin nerve gas in the Vietnam War. In an interview with Reuters, Moorer cited "rumors," but said he had no personal knowledge of sarin use in the conflict. Defense Secretary William Cohen ordered an inquiry into the report, but said he also knew of no evidence to support the allegations.

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Clinton asked Congress for $294 million to bolster US defenses against biological- or chemical-weapon attacks. Most of the funds would be used for equipment, training, and planning for chemical or biological terrorism - and to build up civilian stockpiles of various antidotes.

Most of the military will continue to train men and women together despite sexual harassment problems, Defense Secretary Cohen announced. But he noted the Marine Corps would not end its tradition of training men and women separately - and the Army would continue to train men separately for frontline combat units.

The Federal Trade Commission filed a narrowly focused complaint against Intel Corp., saying it illegally abused its monopoly over computer microprocessors to restrain competition. Intel is charged with violating fair-trade law by withholding key information from three computermakers in an attempt to stifle competition and innovation. The case will be heard by an administrative-law judge in the fall.

Honda Motor Co. agreed to pay $17.1 million and extend warranties to settle charges that it disabled pollution monitors on 1.7 million cars and vans. The total cost could reach $267 million if future free auto-repair work is included, Justice Department officials said. Separately, Ford Motor Co. agreed to a $7.8 million settlement in a case involving tampering with emission controls on 60,000 Econoline vans.

The US banned American investments in Yugoslavia and froze that country's assets in the US in response to violence against Albanians in Kosovo. The action came just hours after the European Union announced similar measures. State Department spokesman James Rubin said military intervention in the Kosovo conflict had not been ruled out.

A strike in Michigan stopped work at two General Motors assembly plants and slowed production at three others. A facility in the town of Orion, north of Detroit, and another in Kansas City, Kan., were idled after a strike by nearly 3,400 workers at the GM Metal Center in Flint, Mich., caused shortages of sheet-metal parts. Other affected operations were a light-truck plant in suburban Moraine, Ohio, a Chevrolet Lumina and Monte Carlo facility in Oshawa, Ontario, and a Buick plant in Flint.

Actor Charlton Heston was elected president of the National Rifle Association at its annual convention, held in Philadelphia.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush asked Clinton for US firefighting resources, saying his state was suffering a severe drought. Bush said there was an "imminent risk" of fires in 207 of 254 Texas counties because rainfall totals for 1998 are 80 percent below normal. A Bush spokeswoman said major fires had already burned 67,000 acres.

The Federal Reserve approved a merger of the US operations of two big Swiss banks. Fed governors approved the melding of Swiss Bank Corp. and Union Bank of Switzerland to create United Bank of Switzerland. With some $706 billion in assets, it would rank as the world's second-biggest bank, after Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.

The World

Gen. Abdusalam Abubakar was hastily sworn in as Nigeria's ninth military ruler after former leader Sani Abacha's death. The US, European Union, and Nigerian opposition leaders urged Abubakar to begin a peaceful transition to democratic civilian rule even before the country's scheduled presidential elections Aug. 1.

New international sanctions against Yugoslavia because of its offensive against Albanian separatists in Kosovo were met with scorn. Belgrade government officials called the measures imposed by the US and European Union "unnecessary, strange, and unreasonable." Meanwhile, Russian President Yeltsin offered to use his influence with the Yugoslav government to help resolve the Kosovo conflict.

Saying, "It is obligatory that there be broad public support," Israeli Prime Minister Netanya-hu indicated he might support a national referendum on yielding control over more of the West Bank. But he stopped short of a commitment to such a vote. His Cabinet is expected to hold its own vote later this week on a US proposal calling for Israeli troops to pull back from an additional 13.1 percent of the West Bank. The US plan has been endorsed by the Palestinian Authority.

Ground combat intensified in the undeclared border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea as the latter's president said he foresaw no early end to the conflict. But Isayas Afewerki added that he'd have "no problem" meeting Ethiopian counterpart Meles Zenawi for peace talks, although "technical experts" would be needed to help reach a solution.

An early-morning attempt by government troops to crush rebel forces in Guinea Bissau's capital failed, and ex-military chief Ansumane Mane declared himself the new leader of the West African nation. Mane, who was fired last weekend by President Joao Bernardo Vieira, demanded the immediate resignation of the government and said he intended to call "free and transparent" elections.

Hundreds of thousands of protest marchers were stalled on the outskirts of Bangladesh's capital when supporters of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina blocked their way with trucks. The demonstration, led by Hasina's predecessor, Khaleda Zia, had official permission. It aimed to underscore opposition to last December's peace deal with rebellious hill tribes. Critics say the government gave away too much in reaching the agreement.

Voters in Turkey will go to the polls a year early under an agreement expected to be signed later this week by Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz and leftist opposition leaders, news reports from Ankara said. Elections are not due until late 2000. Yilmaz's coalition partners and President Suleyman Demirel denounced the plan as unwise.

Russian air-defense missiles have been delivered to Cyprus despite Turkey's vows to keep that from happening, a Moscow newspaper reported. The Greek Cypriot government in Nicosia would not comment. Nor would Russia's Foreign Ministry, except to call the missiles a nonthreatening "defensive weapon." But Russia's arms-trading monopoly denied the report and said the missiles were not due to reach the island until August.

Longtime Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who died in Rome, was credited with decades of cautious diplomacy that helped the Roman Catholic Church survive in Eastern Europe during the cold war. He was also considered responsible for much of the tough language on human rights and religious liberty written into the 1975 Helsinki Accords.

Etceteras

" It's up to the international community to say: 'We're sick and tired of the degeneration of a potentially great society.' "

- Leading Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka, on his hopes for the future following the death of dictator Sani Abacha.

You couldn't blame the staff of a bank in Richmond, Va., for wanting to - well - withdraw after what happened recently. Not long after the doors opened in the morning, a robber walked in, handed a threatening note to one of the tellers, and fled with a bundle of cash. All other transactions ground to a halt as police came to investigate, asking lots of questions and searching for evidence. Enough excitement for one day? Not by half. Hardly had the cops left, three hours later, than another bandit showed up. He, too, got away with an unspecified amount of money.

Since the dawn of the automotive age, highways have had to be closed due to all sorts of obstructions: flooding, snow, fog, fallen trees, rockslides, and the like. Now add another: honeybees. For three days, police have rerouted traffic in northwestern Romania because a truck spilled its cargo of hives, and thousands of swarming bees were intimidating passing motorists. Not wanting to resort to extermination, the authorities sent for a beekeeper to move the damaged honeycombs and queens to new hives so the rest of the critters would follow, thereby allowing the road to reopen.

The Day's List

Pinning Down the Costs Of Operating Our Cars

Fuel prices may currently be low, but the expense of owning an auto in the US has never been higher, according to a new report by Runzheimer International. The Rochester, Wis.-based management-consulting firm has estimated the average cost of various necessities as a percentage of the total expense of owning an intermediate-size vehicle today as compared with a decade ago:

Expenses 1988 1998

Depreciation/Interest 54.5% 54.0%

Fuel 18.1% 14.7%

Insurance 15.0% 15.2%

Maintenance 6.2% 8.0%

Tires 2.4% 3.4%

License 0.3% 0.6%

Other 3.5% 4.1%

Total 100% 100%

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