News In Brief

The US

The chief justice of the Supreme Court rejected a bid to prevent prosecutors in the Monica Lewinsky case from questioning White House lawyers about their advice to President Clinton. William Rehnquist's denial of the emergency request came after independent counsel Kenneth Starr subpoenaed yet another White House lawyer, Lanny Breuer, who did appear at the courthouse yesterday morning. The White House had the option of seeking help from any of the other eight members of the Supreme Court, but there was no immediate indication of whether it would do so.

The House passed a campaign-finance bill that could deprive both political parties of millions of dollars in donations by banning unregulated gifts. Rebuffing their own leadership, 51 Republicans joined Democrats in a 237-to-186 vote that would ban "soft money" contributions to political parties at both the national and state levels and expand disclosure. It would also regulate so-called issue ads, which purport to educate but are meant to benefit particular candidates. Republican leaders in the Senate have shown little interest in the reform measure.

The House gave final congressional approval to a bill providing farmers an early payment of $5.5 billion in US subsidies to help them through a drought in the South and a drop in grain prices. Clinton is expected to sign the GOP initiative, but also urge Congress to pass a Democratic proposal for $500 million in "indemnity" payments that would compensate farmers for repeated crop failures and severe income losses.

The House voted to cut voluntary contributions to the International Atomic Energy Agency by the amount the agency spends on nuclear-energy projects in Iran. The nonbinding measure, which passed 405 to 13, also tells the State Department to report annually to Congress on the international agency's programs to ensure that they are in line with various US nuclear nonproliferation policies.

Local TV news continues to feed viewers a heavy diet of violence despite falling crime rates, a media watchdog group said. Rocky Mountain Media Watch said it analyzed 102 local TV newscasts from 52 metropolitan areas taped March 11 and found its annual "Mayhem Index" changed little from previous years. Air time given to stories about crime, disaster, war, and terrorism compared to the total amount of news was 40.2 percent, down slightly from 41.6 percent in 1997.

The Pentagon is unloading dangerous surplus military technology around the world, a government report said. The study, ordered by a congressional committee on national security, says surplus items still laden with military technology range from decoders and night-vision devices to key components of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

A key gauge of future economic activity fell in June for the second month in a row. Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators for last month stood at 105, down 0.2 percent after a dip of 0.1 percent in May. The back-to-back decline is the first since early 1995, but the private business-research group said it signaled "slower growth ahead and only a slight risk of a contraction."

In the first week of school since voters approved Proposition 227, California teachers began adjusting to the new measure, which says children shall be taught "overwhelmingly" in English.

Ventriloquist Shari Lewis, who died in Los Angeles, was a beloved TV star for a generation of children. In her gentle programs, Lewis played straight woman to a host of colorful hand puppets, including Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy, and Charlie Horse. In addition to her television shows, for which she received 12 Emmy awards, Lewis wrote more than 60 children's books and produced more than two dozen home videos for children.

The World

Chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler cut short his Iraq visit after talks collapsed on dismantling the country's weapons of mass destruction. Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, halted the talks after Butler refused to give Baghdad "a clean bill of health" on getting rid of its prohibited weapons. Butler is scheduled to brief the Security Council on the impasse tomorrow.

Congo President Laurent Kabila vowed to crush an escalating Army rebellion, pleading for neighboring countries to stay out of the conflict. His appeal was directed at Rwanda, which Kabila blames for the mutiny, though officials there denied involvement. Rebels reported an easy victory in seizing control of the eastern town of Bukavu, and said Uvira, further south, was also captured. Fighting closed the airport outside Kisangani, the third-largest city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire.

NATO moved to correct US reports it had paved the way for military intervention in Kosovo. Diplomats in Brussels said NATO was still considering a range of options, denying State Department spokesman James Rubin's comments that the alliance had approved plans for the possible use of military force to resolve the crisis between Serbs and separatist ethnic Albanians. Meanwhile, a continuing Serb advance on Kosovo rebel strongholds was reportedly blocking aid agencies from reaching tens of thousands of refugees.

Palestinians rejected Israeli attempts to retain control over disputed West Bank land, leaving the faltering peace talks at risk of collapsing. Under a US-brokered deal, Israel was to hand over a further 13 percent of the West Bank to Palestinians. Instead, Israeli negotiators offered to relinquish 9 percent, and turn the remaining land into a nature preserve under Jerusalem's control.

India affirmed it was committed to talks on joining the global nuclear test-ban treaty as negotiators planned for a fourth round of discussions with the US later this month. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee told Parliament that India no longer needed tests for nuclear defense, saying its May tests were aimed at establishing a "minimum deterrent."

The Sudanese Army and rebels in the south agreed to put down weapons and look for a solution to their 15-year-old civil war. The cease-fire expanded the scope of a three-month truce agreed to last month between the government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army. Observers said the cease-fire throughout southern Sudan should allow aid to reach some 1.5 million people threatened by famine.

Sri Lanka imposed emergency rule across the country for a month, citing the need to "preserve public order" because of the threat posed by the Tamil rebels, fighting for a separate homeland. Some analysts said emergency rule was an excuse to postpone provincial-council elections, scheduled Aug. 28.

Some 200 Chinese were swept away when a dike broke along the Yangtze River during the country's worst flooding in more than 40 years. There were no reports on the number of survivors, if any. At least nine soldiers died as they tried to fortify the dike in Jiayu County, in the central Hubei province. State media said conditions along the world's third-largest river remained "extremely serious" and the Yangtze could burst its banks in any of some 3,200 places.

The UN planned to evacuate aid workers from 11 agencies in northern Afghanistan after the hard-line Islamic Army captured a provincial capital and launched an attack on the opposition's base in Mazar-i-Sharif. The Taliban militia controls about 85 percent of the country, and Mazar is the last remaining major city outside of its control.

Etceteras

If we don't start getting people back to their homes in the next week or two, we will really have a humanitarian nightmare on our hands."

- US envoy Christopher Hill, who is in Kosovo to assess conditions for a possible return of refugees.

All's well that ends well. That certainly seems the case for Jenny, a six-year-old dachshund who belongs to Mike Laird, his wife, and children in San Jose, Calif. Jenny, at this writing, lives with trucker Danny Gold and his wife, Evelyn, in Austin, Texas. The two families recently crossed paths at a rest stop on Interstate 10, where someone forgot to put Jenny back in the Laird motorhome. Instead, she eventually ended up in Danny Gold's rig. Fortunately, a phone number on a dog tag helped the Golds establish contact with Jenny's distraught owners. Delivery will be made on the Texans' next trip west.

You know the famous line: "I've been rich and I've been poor, and rich is better"? Not true, at least according to the results of a new survey of Europeans and Australians. Researchers from England's Reading University asked 4,000 people to rate "life's pleasures," such as dining out, listening to music, etc. They found differences between countries, between genders, and between the religious and irreligious. No difference between the affluent and the less well-off.

The Day's List

'Saving Private Ryan' Is Selling Lots of Tickets

The graphic World War II epic "Saving Private Ryan" was No. 1 in sales for a second straight weekend. Steven Spielberg's tale of a captain ordered to find and send home a private whose three brothers have been killed in action, has grossed some $73 million. "The Parent Trap" came in second in its weekend debut. Reported grosses for top movies at North American theaters July 31-Aug. 2 (in millions):

1. "Saving Private Ryan" $23.6

2. "The Parent Trap" 11.1

3. "There's Something About Mary" 10.9

4. "The Negotiator" 10.2

5. "Ever After" 8.5

6. "The Mask of Zorro" 8.3

7. "Lethal Weapon 4" 7.8

8. "Armageddon" 7.6

9. "Doctor Dolittle" 4.6

10. "Mafia" 3.7

- Exhibitor Relations Inc.

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