News In Brief

The US

President Clinton presided at a memorial ceremony for 10 Americans killed last week in the bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. The services in a hanger at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., came after the president ordered a report to be prepared within days on the safety of the US embassies. A senior State Department official said the US ambassador in Kenya - concerned about terrorism - had asked eight months ago for the construction of a new embassy there but a lack of funds prevented quick action.

Swiss banks reached a $1.2 billion settlement of Holocaust survivors' claims to assets lost during World War II. The money will be paid over three years, a lawyer for the banks said. The accord, announced in New York by Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R), covers not only the two big Swiss banks - UBS AG and Credit Suisse - but also the Swiss government and the Swiss Central Bank, which bought billions of dollars in looted Nazi gold.

Clinton signed a law speeding up $5.5 billion in subsidy payments to cash-strapped farmers. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said a disaster-aid package exceeding the $500 million already pending in Congress is needed. In its first forecast of the fall harvest, the government said at least 2.2 million bales of cotton and 200 million bushels of corn have been lost in Texas and the Southeast. Nonetheless, a good harvest elsewhere is expected to maintain low to moderate food prices.

Clinton declared a major disaster in areas of Wisconsin, recovering from storms and flooding over the past week. Federal funding is now available to affected individuals in Milwaukee, Rock, Sheboygan, and Waukesha counties. Damage surveys continue - and additional counties could yet qualify for assistance, the White House said.

Independent counsel Kenneth Starr says his contacts with reporters shouldn't be revealed because they are equivalent to dealings with confidential informers. Starr is trying to block a court order that he turn over evidence of his office's contacts with reporters as part of a probe into whether he leaked grand-jury evidence to the news media. Starr's arguments are part of court records released last week.

The Teamsters Union said it would not contribute to the cost of monitoring a rerun of a union election. Under a 1989 agreement designed to root out union corruption, the Justice Department promised to pay for supervisory costs, but Congress has refused to authorize spending an estimated $8.6 billion for that purpose. The election is needed to replace former president Ron Carey. His narrow 1996 win over James P. Hoffa was thrown out because of illegal fund-raising by Carey's campaign.

A July slump in auto sales produced the worst decline in retail sales in 15 months, the Commerce Department said. The slowdown in auto sales reflected the effect of the recent General Motors strike, analysts said. Outside of autos, sales were about average, and the drop in retail sales wasn't as steep as some economists expected. Retail sales fell 0.4 percent from the month before, to a seasonally adjusted $229.2 billion, after rising just 0.1 percent in June.

Ira Fishman, head of a US program to subsidize Internet connections for schools and libraries, plans to resign next month, a spokeswoman said. Fishman has been criticized by congressional Republicans who say the program is poorly managed and too expensive. The Federal Communications Commission created the nonprofit agency to gather fees from telephone carriers and dispense it, giving the largest of its subsidies to schools and libraries in the poorest districts.

The World

Kosovo Albanian leaders signalled a major breakthrough in efforts to achieve peace in the war-torn province, saying they would form a negotiating team to talk to rival Serb officials. The announcement followed US and European pressure on them to put aside factionalism and form a broad-based delegation to negotiate with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. The team will not include representatives of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army, which is fighting for independence from Serbia.

A UN envoy was scheduled to meet Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz in a bid to get the country's leadership to start cooperating with weapons inspectors. Iraq announced Aug. 5 it would cease cooperating with a UN special commission that was helping to dismantle the country's weapons programs. The commission's head, Richard Butler, told the Security Council that the Iraqi restrictions meant arms inspectors could not tell whether the country was reviving its weapons programs.

Five people have been questioned in connection with the bombing of the US Embassy in Kenya last week, FBI agents and Kenyan officials said. They declined to give the names and nationalities of the detainees, and a Kenyan source said they are not considered prime suspects, noting that "the case has a long way to go." Tanzanian police are holding 13 people - six Iraqis, six Sudanese, and a Turk - in connection with the bombing of the US Embassy there, but none had been charged.

A wave of ethnic violence has spread across the Congo since the Tutsi-led rebellion against President Laurent Kabila began Aug.2, diplomats and aid workers said. They accused the government of embarking on a "witch-hunt" as it cracked down on rebel sympathizers, rounding up 1,000 ethnic Tutsis and shooting some of them on the spot. Government officials said the Tutsis were being held to save them from public lynching, The Red Cross would be allowed to visit some detainees, officials said. The neighboring country of Rwanda called for international aid to prevent persecution.

.Russia's stock market suffered another dismal day as the central bank intervened to protect the ruble and the banking system amid calls for devaluation of the currency. Stock prices fell by some 15 percent early on, but recovered to finish down 9 percent. Meanwhile, Russia's Prime Minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, met Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov to get his backing for convening a special parliamentary session next week on the economic crisis. Kiryenko said it was vital that parliament drop opposition to some economic austerity measures demanded by international lenders.

Foreign aid workers and Afghan families fled a northern rebel stronghold as the country's Taliban militia closed into the area in a bid to seize control of the entire country.

Hundreds of ethnic Chinese prepared to leave Indonesia, reacting to rumors of imminent riots during the country's independence day, Aug. 17. President B.J. Habibie dismissed the speculation, but concern grew with reports that some 300 people had attacked shops owned by ethnic Chinese in a town in western Java.

Five medical experts said the death of Nigerian opposition leader Moshood Abiola was due to a heart condition, refuting claims by his family that the government had plotted to kill him. Abiola died July 7, just as his release from a four-year prison term seemed imminent.

Etceteras

" They were what America is all about." - President Clinton, praising the motive to serve others of 10 Americans killed in the bomb attack on the US Embassy in Kenya last week.

Think of crocodiles and you imagine such exotic places as the Nile or the Australian outback. So a San Franciscan can be excused for calling police to come collect a renegade "iguana" after spotting a hissing reptile eyeballing her cat. The beast turned out to be a 3-1/2-foot croc. The apparent owner later contacted the city's Animal Care and Control Center to check on the unusual pet, whose name, he said, is "Ernest." The caller was not so forthcoming about his own name. Owning a crocodile in San Francisco is punishable by up to six months in jail.

A fugitive alligator is keeping summer bathers from enjoying the pleasantly cool waters of Lake Accesa in Tuscany, southwest of Florence. A German tourist reported seeing a man and woman walking the reptile on a leash. When their pet managed to slip loose, the couple searched in vain for it before giving up, getting into an automobile, and driving off. The mayor of Massa Marittima has signed an order that prohibits swimming until "bathers' safety can be assured."

The Day's List

All-Time Favorites of Film-Rental Market

Variety magazine publishes a regularly updated ranking of what it refers to as "all-time top-film rentals," based on movie studio and other industry estimates. "Star Wars" recently overtook "E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial" for the No. 1 spot on the list. The current top 10, with year of release and estimated current gross from rentals for each film (in millions):

1. "Star Wars" (1977) $271

2. "E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial" (1982) 228

3. "Jurassic Park" (1993) 213

4. "Return of the Jedi" (1983) 192

5. "Independence Day" (1996) 177

6. "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980) 174

7. "The Lion King" (1994) 173

8. "Forrest Gump" (1994) 156

9. "Batman" (1989) 151

10. "Home Alone" (1990) 140

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