News In Brief

By , Lance Carden, and Caryn Coatney

The US

There were signs negotiators were close to ending the dispute between General Motors and the United Auto Workers Union. Talks were to resume Monday after running nonstop Saturday and Sunday at two strikebound parts plants in Flint, Mich. - as well as at two brakes plants in Dayton, Ohio, a stamping plant in Indianapolis, and the Buick City complex in Flint. Arbitrator Thomas Roberts did not say when he would release a ruling on whether the strikes violate a UAW-GM contract, as alleged by the company. A timely settlement could make his decision moot.

President Clinton was to deliver an address on social security and participate in a forum and town meeting on the subject during a visit to Albuquerque, N.M. Considerable debate was expected on proposals to privatize part of the retirement system.

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Temperatures in Dallas set a new record: 24 consecutive days without a reading below 80 degrees F. Neighboring Oklahoma had its third straight day of record-setting temperatures. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman declared 66 counties in southern and central Oklahoma a federal disaster area, making low-interest US loans available to farmers experiencing a loss of 30 percent or more on any single crop. Last week, Clinton declared all Texas counties eligible for aid.

The shootings at the US Capitol gave new force to the idea of erecting a visitors center to add another layer of security to the building. Senate majority leader Trent Lott said $25 million in private money had already been committed to the concept of an underground center, which would cost an estimated $125 million. Meanwhile, Clinton was to attend a brief memorial service today for the two police officers who died in Friday's incident, and the public was to be allowed to file past the men's caskets on display in the Rotunda from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. EDT - a tribute normally accorded only to former presidents and military heroes.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee disagreed about whether a refusal by Clinton to cooperate with a subpoena might be reason enough for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings. Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that it would "certainly be grounds to file articles of impeachment" But Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said on CNN's "Late Edition" that he did not believe ignoring a subpoena would be sufficient grounds for impeachment.

Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp. are discussing a merger that would be worth as much as $55 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported. In what would become the latest in a series of high-profile mergers, GTE's dominance in local and long-distance services and Bell Atlantic's virtual monopoly in the Northeast could create a giant that has one-third of the nation's local phone lines and would dwarf the pending union of SBC Communications and Ameritech Corp, the Journal said.

Russia is once again involved in a war in Afghanistan, The New York Times reported. It said the Kremlin is supplying heavy weapons, training, and logistical support to rebel groups holding onto the northern tier of Afghanistan against the Taliban Islamic movement, which controls most of the country. Factions supported by Russia are reportedly controlled by former leaders of CIA-backed Islamic guerrillas who fought the Soviet Army in the 1980s. Senior US officials were quoted as saying Russia may be trying to reassert influence over Central Asia and its oil reserves.

Air Force Lt. Gen. David McCloud, who commanded all military forces in Alaska, died along with a passenger in a private plane crash. McCloud was flying his YAK-54, a Russian-made, single-engine, aerobatic plane, when it crashed in a paratrooper drop zone at Fort Richardson, east of Anchorage. Officials said the cause of the crash was not immediately known.

The World

America and Europe expressed alarm over rising tensions in Burma as police prevented Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from attending a meeting of her pro-democracy party. As the Monitor went to press, Suu Kyi was still living in her car - for the fourth complete day - after police would not allow her to drive to the meeting in Bassein. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the standoff would exacerbate the "already dangerous" situation in Burma, also known as Myanmar, and the US would hold the military government "directly responsible" for Suu Kyi's welfare. The European Union urged the government to start talks with the opposition and hold democratic elections.

Asian and Western nations urged India and Pakistan to halt their nuclear weapons programs at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum (ASEAN) in Manila. Ministers from 20 countries and the European Union said they "strongly deplored" the May tests - a statement rejected by India's representative. Meanwhile, two Indian defense analysts who had been champions of the country's nuclear program called on the government to show "restraint," saying the weapons should only be kept in reserve to act as a deterrent.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair fired four ministers in his first Cabinet reshuffle since his Labour Party's landslide victory in May last year. Although he wasn't pressured into overhauling the Cabinet, analysts said Blair wanted to put his personal mark on it after inheriting the Labour opposition's shadow Cabinet when he assumed leadership.

After a devastating 50-day civil war, Guinea-Bissau's capital saw its first day of peace as a cease-fire appeared to take hold between the government and rebel soldiers, who had staged a leadership coup. Fellow Portuguese-speaking countries helped negotiate the truce, which calls for peace talks next week.

North Korea threatened to take "powerful self-defensive steps" against US plans to deploy warships closer to the divided Korean Peninsula and increase anti-submarine surveillance. The US announced the plans this month to counter recent North Korean spy infiltrations of South Korea. North Korea's media said the US move was "tantamount to a declaration of war."

China maintained the right to use military force against Taiwan and railed against the US in its first public defense-policy review in three years. Meanwhile during the ASEAN conference, Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan gave Secretary Albright new assurances Beijing would redirect strategic nuclear weapons away from US targets.

Indonesia will withdraw 1,000 combat troops today from secessionist East Timor, military officials announced. Western diplomats welcomed the move, made ahead of next month's scheduled UN-sponsored talks, aimed at finding a solution to the conflict over Indonesia's 1976 invasion of East Timor. They noted there were up to 15,000 Indonesian troops in East Timor. Meanwhile, East Timorese students and residents waved banners showing the image of jailed rebel leader Xanana Gusmao at an independence rally.

Announcing a move to fight corruption and speed financial reforms, Georgia President Eduard Shevardnadze accepted the resignations of three key ministers in a Cabinet overhaul, which is to be completed next month. Political observers said the development was triggered by complaints of government corruption by international investors.

Etceteras

" His response is quite typical of an authoritarian government that just doesn't get it."

- Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, after a Burmese government leader defended the repressive treatment of Nobel laureate and democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

When a Bennington, Vt., court found a couple guilty of cruelty to a feline, the case took on - um - cataclysmic proportions. Mab and Francis Englehart drew a six-month suspended sentence, a $400 fine, and were ordered to pay veterinary fees and issue written apologies to the community. All for spraying a neighbor's cat with oil-based white paint. They hoped that would alert the feathered friends that used their backyard feeder - on whom the cat preyed. Solvents in the paint were a danger to the animal, a vet said. Perhaps the whole cat-astrophe could have been avoided by using a simple bell.

Heard about the Reno, Nev., man whose charge for shoplifting had to be reduced from felony theft to petty larceny, a mere misdemeanor? His haul added up to $254, the gendarmes said - $4 over the dividing line set by state law. But he argued that a bottle of cologne he'd boosted was on sale. It was, which lowered the total to $248.16.

The Day's List

Who Spent What to Pay For Congressional Trips

The Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics reports that the 10 freest-spending private groups paid more than $1.6 million last year to sponsor trips by members of Congress, their spouses, and/or members of their staffs. Its figures show the top recipient in the Senate was Delaware's William Roth (R), whose trips cost $35,414. Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) led the House with $44,428 in free trips. The top sponsors and what they spent in 1997:

Aspen Institute $432,499

Chinese National Association of Industry/Commerce 335,801

American Israel Public Affairs Committee 299,120

Nuclear Energy Institute 144,855

Center for Strategic and International Studies 94,589

Tax Foundation 91,751

Congressional Economic Leadership Institute 74,827

Ripon Educational Fund 74,595

National Center for Public Policy 64,068

Tobacco Institute 60,921

- The Washington Post

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