News In Brief

The US

The first half of this year was the warmest six months ever recorded - and July is likely to set a record as well, climate experts said. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data showed June temperatures over both land and water at an all-time high. Records for each of the previous five months were also eclipsed. Vice President Al Gore said the temperatures were more evidence of a long-term warming of the planet caused by man-made pollution.

A heat wave that has seared Southern states for weeks has caused dozens of deaths and ruined thousands of acres of crops, reports from Arizona to Florida indicated. Temperatures often above 100 degrees have been blamed for at least 23 deaths in Texas, six in Oklahoma, and at least 20 in Louisiana since mid-May. Drought in Texas has cost an estimated $1.5 billion. Four Georgia counties have been declared disaster areas because of crop losses.

Independent counsel Kenneth Starr subpoenaed Larry Cockell, head of President Clinton's security detail, and up to six other plainclothes officers to appear before a grand jury in the Monica Lewinsky probe. Starr previously sought testimony from two Secret Service officers and a Secret Service lawyer, but not from agents on Clinton's personal detail. Starr's latest move followed a Justice Department appeal of a court ruling requiring the testimony of Secret Service officers.

Clinton signed legislation to restore export credits for agricultural sales to India and Pakistan, giving US farmers a chance to sell nearly 13 million bushels of wheat to Pakistan. The credits were cut off last month as part of economic sanctions designed to discipline India and Pakistan for their nuclear tests.

A chartered Boeing 767 carried 203 passengers from Miami to Havana, as the US resumed direct flights to Cuba. The US trade embargo against Cuba remains in place, but Clinton lifted the ban on direct flights in March after the January visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba. The Treasury Department has granted approvals to nine companies to resume direct flights.

Business inventories fell in May for the first time in two years, the Commerce Department said. In a new sign of a slowing US economy, total inventories dipped 0.1 percent.

Hispanics will become the nation's largest minority within seven years, Census Bureau projections indicated. For the first time, there are more Hispanic children than black children in the US, the bureau reported. Each of the two groups now makes up about 15 percent of American children.

A million young blacks are expected to march in Atlanta on Labor Day as part of a four-day gathering to prepare youth for the new millennium, organizers said. Dennis Rogers, national chairman for the event, said it would be patterned after the 1995 Million Man March in Washington and a subsequent women's march. The youth march is supported by the NAACP, Jesse Jackson's Rainbow-Push Coalition, and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. (BNSF) was blamed for an Amtrak derailment last August that injured 183 people aboard the train. The National Transportation Safety Board said the probable cause of the crash was displacement of a BNSF track due to erosion of the foundations of a bridge during a flash flood. BNSF should have inspected more thoroughly, the board said.

All 50 states agreed to a new round of negotiations with the tobacco industry. At a meeting in Durango, Colo., Christine Gregoire, Washington State's attorney general, said she and her colleagues in other states are taking a three-track approach: first, to try to reach a settlement that will apply to all states; second, to go ahead with lawsuits in lieu of a settlement; third, to pressure Congress to pass legislation.

The World

Buoyed by international hopes that Japan's next government will revive the ailing economy, most Asian stock markets surged. Tokyo's Nikkei index gained more than 125 points for the second day in a row amid optimism that the successor to Prime Minister Hashi-moto, who resigned after his party's electoral defeat, would enact drastic fiscal measures. The Liberal Democratic Party haggled over Hashimoto's replacement, with Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi apparently emerging as the favorite.

Saying, "a just cause gains abundant support," China's leaders promised financial and moral backing for a Palestinian state that has yet to be formally declared. Bidding goodbye to visiting Palestinian Authority President Arafat, they said Chinese businesses would invest in the state he has vowed to proclaim next year. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and ally of Israeli enemies Syria, Iraq, and Iran, China has the potential to be a major player in the future of the Middle East. In May, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu left China with no agreement on bilateral cooperation.

Calls for greater democracy intensified among Hong Kong residents as support for Beijing-appointed chief executive Tung Chee-hwa plunged due to the Asian economic downturn. But Hong Kong's legislature defeated a motion calling for popular election of members and Tung's successor by 2002. Government officials said rapid political change could endanger economic recovery.

Setting their sights on turning Kosovo's capital into an underground network in the campaign for independence, separatist rebels were trying to recruit young ethnic Albanians, reports said. Claiming they'd been approached for such purposes, youths in Pristina said guerrilla forces were "closer than many people think" after making gains in the countryside. For the first time in six years, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe was scheduled to visit Yugoslavia to negotiate with the Belgrade government and opposition leaders on the crisis.

"Serious human rights problems" threaten to keep Cambodia's July 26 election from being certified as fair, a senior UN administrator warned. Thomas Hammarberg told reporters that US, Japanese, and European poll-watchers would have to weigh such factors as the intimidation of voters by Premier Hun Sen's government, denial of equal access to the news media for opposition parties, and failure to investigate the execution of almost 100 supporters of Hun Sen's rival, Norodom Ranariddh.

In Iran, a new confrontation with hard-line members of parliament appeared imminent after relatively moderate President Mohamad Khatami nominated a key ally to be his interior minister. Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari, also known for his moderate views, would succeed Abdollah Nouri. Debate on his nomination was scheduled for next Wednesday. Nouri was impeached June 21, but Khatami then appointed him to a senior position that does not require parliament's approval.

The fate of a UN mission monitoring human rights abuses in Rwanda was to be decided in talks in the capital, Kigali. The government suspend-ed the team in May for criticizing the public execution of genocide suspects. Human rights groups said stopping the mission would be "disastrous" because Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-dominated Army were committing abuses almost daily.

With aid workers estimating more than 2 million Sudanese are at risk of starvation, rebels declared a three-month cease-fire to allow the flow of humanitarian assistance to the stricken south. A People's Liberation Army spokesman said the decision was made after international pressure "to see that people are saved." A British official was to meet government leaders in Khartoum to discuss corridors for aid deliveries.

Etceteras

"There is no time in recorded-data history that we've seen this sequence of record-setting for six consecutive months." - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief James Baker, on Earth's all-time-high temperatures.

When the history of the Burger King company is written, here's an anecdote that deserves at least a footnote. Earlier this week, as the only employee on duty was preparing sandwiches at the BK outlet in Portland, Conn., a gunman entered, intent on robbery. As the worker fumbled with the cash-drawer lock, oven timers in the kitchen went off. Apparently thinking they were security alarms, the bandit fled without so much as a quarter-pounder.

In Worcester, Mass., last Sunday, it didn't take a triple wedding to bring the couples together. They already lived under the same roof - on separate floors of a three-story house.

Speaking of weddings, think of the fun society columnists in the former Soviet Union could have with one on Saturday. Aidar Akayev, son of Kyrgyzstan's president, is to marry Alia Nazarbayev, daughter of Kazakstan's president, at a lake resort. No word on which dad will get the presidential suite for the occasion. And if the couple hyphenate their last names, will it be Akayev-Nazarbayev or Nazarbayev-Akayev?

The Day's List

Need a Job? Best Place To Look May Be Arizona

In the current robust US economy, Arizona - with a 4.6 percent increase - had more growth in nonfarm employment from May 1997 to May 1998 than any other state, says a report published by MBG Information Services in Washington. Using US Labor Department statistics, it indicates Maryland was the only state reporting negative job growth - a decline of less than 1 percent. The national average was 2.6 percent. The 10 states reporting the most nonfarm job growth for the period:

Arizona 4.6%

South Carolina 4.3

Nevada 4.1

Delaware 4.0

Florida 3.9

Georgia 3.9

Texas 3.6

Utah 3.5

California 3.3

Massachusetts 3.2

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