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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / September 3, 1998

The US

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Attorney General Janet Reno showed key lawmakers a series of Justice Department memos recommending she seek an independent counsel to probe Democrats' campaign-fundraising. Republicans, who have threatened to hold her in contempt of Congress for withholding the documents, commended Reno for producing them but complained about 50 pages that were blacked out. Meanwhile, department sources said Reno is expected as early as next week to decide whether to seek an independent counsel to probe the use of so-called issue ads in President Clinton's 1996 campaign.

Hurricane Earl lashed the Florida panhandle with 80 m.p.h. winds and torrential rain. Two fishermen were reported missing, but there were no immediate reports of deaths or serious injuries. Winds were decreasing as the storm moved north into Georgia, and forecasters said they expected Earl would soon be downgraded to a tropical storm. But that did not lessen concern about flooding as heavy rain fell as far north as the Carolinas.

Productivity of nonfarm, nonsupervisory workers rose at a 0.1 percent annual rate during April, May, and June, the Labor Department said. It was the smallest gain in nearly two years, but better than advance figures released last month that had projected a 0.2 percent drop in productivity for the second quarter. Meanwhile, construction of single-family homes and apartments increased 3.5 percent in July - the highest rate in nearly 1-1/2 years, the Commerce Department said. That followed a 1.4 percent rise for June.

Northwest Airlines and its striking pilots union agreed to meet tomorrow in Chicago with federal mediators for "exploratory" talks. The announcement came as the company laid off more than half its work force and canceled all of its flights through Labor Day, Sept 7.

Some supermarket workers have filed a grievance over Safeway's policy of requiring smiles and personal acknowledgment of customers, their lawyer said. The labor grievance, filed in May with the National Labor Relations Board by Martinez and Vallejo, Calif., locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, says the smile-at-all-cost policy is forcing female workers into situations they cannot control.

Freddie Mac has discriminated against black employees, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled. The commission sided with former employee Tony Morgan, who filed a lawsuit in June seeking $15 million in damages and accusing the chartered home-mortgage company of dismissing him because of his race. Freddie Mac, recently renamed the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., denied the allegation and said it has a good record of hiring minorities and lending to them.

The Agriculture Department will spend $17.2 million to help save productive farmland in 19 states, Vice President Al Gore announced. The US funding, combined with state and local subsidies, will reportedly protect 53,000 acres of land on 217 farms from residential or commercial development.

Lightning strikes from thunderstorms sparked more than a dozen new blazes in southern California, and fierce winds reinvigorated a fire that had scorched 7,000 acres in Santiago Canyon in Orange County. Meanwhile, wildfires in California, Nevada, Washington, Montana, and Idaho had consumed a total of more than 50,000 acres of wilderness. Two blazes in southwest Washington near Kelso forced evacuation of more than 500 people. No injuries were reported.

The University of Nebraska promised to return the bones of 1,702 Indians to their tribes for reburial. Apologizing to tribes in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, and North and South Dakota for the way its researchers and students have handled American Indian remains, the university also agreed to build a memorial on a campus field where other bones were burned in an incinerator more than 30 years ago.

The World

Prices for staples in Russia were rising as fast as the ruble was falling in value, as the government acknowledged it was virtually powerless to control the situation. The ruble was trading as low as 17.4 to the US dollar - 11.2 below the rate late last month when its slide began. Amid the chaos, President Yeltsin said he'd sent parliament a modified version of their collapsed deal to allow formation of a new government.

With President Clinton visiting Northern Ireland, the Irish Republican Army told the renegade faction responsible for last month's bombing at Omagh to disband within two weeks or "action will be taken." The so-called "real IRA" provoked international outrage with its Aug. 15 strike in the rural town, which killed 28 people and threw hopes for peace in the province into turmoil.