News In Brief

By , Lance Carden, Caryn Coatney, and John Christian Hoyle

The US

The birth rate for unmarried black women dropped to 7.6 percent in 1996 - the lowest level since the US began keeping statistics in 1969. The National Center for Health Statistics also reported a 1 percent drop in all out-of-wedlock births. The center said some 1.2 million children were born to unmarried mothers in 1996, about one-third of all births.

The US net-debtor position jumped 60 percent last year to $1.22 trillion, the Commerce Department reported. Foreign-owned assets in the US rose 20 percent to $5.46 trillion. US-owned assets overseas increased 12 percent to $4.24 trillion. The national net-debtor position in 1996 was $767.1 billion.

Recommended: Default

Strikes at two key General Motors parts plants cost the company $1.18 billion in the second quarter, GM told the Securities and Exchange Commission. The strikes began June 5 and June 11 at two plants in Flint, Mich. They are the longest strikes at GM since a 67-day walkout in 1970.

Alabama Gov. Fob James won a GOP gubernatorial primary runoff, gaining the right to face Lt. Gov. Don Siegelman (D) in the fall. James drew endorsements from national leaders of the religious right for his outspoken defense of teacher-led prayer in schools and display of the Ten Commandments in a courtroom. With 93 percent of precincts reporting, James had 56 percent of the vote. His opponent, businessman Winton Blount, had 44 percent.

Governors of eight Western states said they hoped to establish a joint presidential primary in the Rocky Mountain region to attract more candidate attention to area concerns. At an annual meeting of the Western Governors' Association, Mike Leavitt (R) of Utah said officials from his state, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming plan to meet to set the date.

A federal judge in Little Rock, Ark., ordered sealed court files in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment lawsuit to be made public. But Susan Webber Wright delayed release of the documents to allow for appeals. The file contains pleadings, documents, and depositions from potential witnesses, including women alleged to have had relationships with President Clinton. They were ordered released at the request of a dozen news organizations.

An increase in postal rates will be implemented Jan. 10, the Postal Service Board said. The price of mailing a first-class letter will increase one penny, to 33 cents. Mail prices will rise an average of 2.9 percent. The Postal Rate Commission approved the new rates May 11.

The Justice Department may assist the State of Oklahoma in its own probe of the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled. The Justice Department said federal-state cooperation would begin July 6.

Ruling that a "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the military violates the California Constitution, a Superior Court judge ordered the state's National Guard to open its ranks to homosexuals. Judge David Garcia found in favor of a man who claimed he was improperly discharged from the National Guard because he's gay. The National Guard said it planned to appeal.

Residents evacuated hundreds of homes in towns near the Kennedy Space Center as firefighters battled new blazes in Florida's month-long fight against drought-induced brush fires. Residents were ordered to leave about 900 homes in the towns of Mims and Scottsmoor, west of Cape Canaveral. Some 2,500 firefighters were reportedly battling more than 200 fires in fields and scrublands from the panhandle to the Atlantic.

US manufacturing shrank in June after 22 months of growth, the National Association of Purchasing Management said. In a report that may signal a slowing economy, the purchasing managers' index slipped to 49.6 percent in June from 51.4 percent in May.

The World

Winding up his stay in Shanghai, President Clinton expres-sed regret that his tour hadn't produced the agreements needed for China to be admitted to the World Trade Organization. He also said he wasn't ready to try to make China's most-favored-nation trade status permanent. Meanwhile, another senior official said the US would continue to sell weapons to Taiwan despite Clinton's public endorsement a day earlier of the Beijing regime's "one China" policy.

Iraq's official news media accused the US of firing a missile at a civilian water reservoir. A government newspaper dismissed as a "lie" the American claim that the attack yesterday was against an antiaircraft battery whose radar had locked onto a British plane patrolling a no-fly zone.

In western Kosovo, hundreds of Albanian rebels tried to keep Serb forces from recapturing more territory after they won control of a strategic coal mine just outside the province's capital. As the fighting continued, a US envoy said peace efforts were complicated by the fact that the Albanians had no clear chain of command with whom to negotiate a cease-fire.

Protestant and Catholic members of Northern Ireland's new governing assembly met for the first time to choose a chief minister and his deputy. But there were concerns that a hard-line bloc of Protestants might try to disrupt the proceedings by raising the issue of a ruling that the Orange Order may not use a traditional marching route Sunday in Portadown. Some Orangemen have vowed to defy a ban on parading through a Catholic neighborhood.

"For the good of the country," Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Ezer Weizman agreed to end their public feud over Israel's stalled peace negotiations with the Palestinians. They said they'd discuss their differences in private. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council shelved an Arab-sponsored resolution that would have condemned Israel for deciding to extend municipal services from Jerusalem to Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

In a move denounced by Aboriginal leaders as racist, the Australian government secured enough support in Parliament to pass a controversial bill restricting indigenous land rights. Analysts said the deal meant Prime Minister John Howard now would not call an early election over the issue as he had repeatedly hinted he might.

Exxon, Texaco, and Chevron, were among major US oil companies on hand for the start of a conference in London at which Iran planned to accept investment bids on new exploration projects. The projects "might" yield as many as 20 billion barrels of oil, a senior Iranian official said. In Tehran, meanwhile, Iranian President Mohamad Khatami called on the US to show "practical steps" proving the "sincerity" of recent Clinton administration overtures toward reconciliation.

More World Cup soccer violence shook the French city of St.-tienne after England's tense 4-3 loss to Argentina, despite a police presence that had been almost doubled to protect against trouble. Thirty-six people were arrested, fans of both teams were escorted to separate trains and taken to Paris, and much of the city center was cordoned off to prevent further violence. Since the tournament opened June 10, more than 700 people have been arrested and at least 3,200 injuries have been reported.

Etceteras

"You've got to go back almost 30 years to find a GM strike that was worse than this."

- Burnham Securities analyst David Healy, after General Motors reported that two current walkouts by United Auto Workers members have so far cost the company $1.18 billion.

In an era when many people across the US can't be bothered to go to the polls on election day, Michael Hull is in trouble precisely because he did. Three times, in fact, since 1996. But the Batavia, Ohio, resident, a construction foreman, faces a possible 4-1/2 years in prison, $45,000 in fines, and maybe even expulsion from these shores for his actions. Reason: He doesn't have the right to vote in elections here because he isn't a citizen, although he'd somehow registered under the "motor voter" program. The New Zealander was caught when he returned a jury-duty summons, pointing out that he didn't qualify. Sentencing is scheduled for next week.

Kent Eberhardt considered himself a pretty fair paperboy; he just didn't know how his customers thought of him. He does now. For years, the teenager carried The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, accepting an occasional tip. But no one, apparently, appreciated the service quite as much as Jack Lemons. The late military-academy instructor remembered Eberhart in his will last month - to the tune of $50,000. A brand-new architectural engineering graduate, he will use much of the money to pay off college debts.

The Day's List

Freedom-Related Names Are Popular With States

Persons or themes associated with the struggle for American independence account for more than 200 incorporated place names across the US, the Bureau of the Census reports. Its list of the 12 most popular names and the number of cities or towns bearing each:

Franklin 37

Washington 33

Liberty 27

Jefferson 26

Lexington 19

Adams 14

Concord 13

Independence 10

Hancock 6

Philadelphia 6

Freedom 4

Bunker Hill 4

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