News In Brief

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The US

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.

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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.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese face a harsh winter without adequate clothing and, possibly, shelter because of devastating floods, visiting Red Cross observers said. A spokesman said nighttime temperatures in some regions already have turned cold, and flood victims "were only able to escape with the clothes on their backs. Authorities are racing to erect new shelters, but the flooding has destroyed an estimated 5 million homes.

An open-ended strike by 300,000 public-sector workers began in Israel, adding to complications caused by a teacher walkout that was in its third day. Strikers spared Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, but targeted the national telecommunications company, other utilities, surface transportation, ports, and government offices. The powerful Histadrut labor federation wants an 8 percent wage hike for its members; the government says it can't afford increases higher than the inflation rate - 4 percent.

In their only scheduled face-to-face confrontation, the two leading candidates for Germany's top government post made their cases before parliament and a national TV audience. Chancellor Kohl, seeking a fifth term, touted his experience in an 80-minute presentation. His challenger, Social Democrat Gerhard Schrder, accused Kohl of "splitting German society" and being "incapable of handling the future." Schrder leads in most opinion polls by margins of 4 to 7 percent prior to the Sept. 27 vote.

Rescue crews worked through the night off Halifax, Nova Scotia, to hunt for survivors of a Swissair jet crash. But the carrier said all 229 people aboard were believed dead. The plane went down on a flight from New York to Geneva after the pilot reported smoke was filling the cockpit. Terrorism was not believed to be a cause of the crash.

As soon as tomorrow, North Korea's parliament will confer full power on acting head of state Kim Jong Il, a senior diplomat was quoted as saying. At the latest, he said, Kim will be confirmed by Wednesday, the 50th anniversary of the country's founding. He has run the reclusive Communist country as military commander and chief of the Workers Party since the death of his father, President Kim Il Sung, in 1994.

Despite a three-week protest march to La Paz by hundreds of farmers and their supporters, Bolivia's president said he wouldn't stop efforts to eradicate production of the coca leaf. Hugo Banzer refused to meet with the marchers, who arrived setting off blasting caps, and shouting anti-government slogans. Some 14,800 acres of coca have been destroyed this year under an agreement with the US, but at least six times that many remain in production to supply the cocaine industry.

Etceteras

"I'm buying more. Everybody's buying more. What people can buy, they buy." - A Moscow retiree, stocking up on flour and cooking oil as the plunging value of the ruble sent prices of some staples more than 100 percent higher.

Feeling good about himself, James Liddell hurried out of a branch bank in Granite City, Ill., clutching the $4,500 he'd just - shall we say - withdrawn over the objections of a teller. But he wasn't quite so upbeat an hour later when police arrested him. How was he caught so quickly? It seems he left a couple of telltale clues behind: a payroll check imprinted with his name and an ID card he was using to cash it. No, he can't use the loot to help pay the $250,000 he could be fined if convicted on robbery charges.

But that holdup stands in sharp contrast to the crime spree that's puzzling police in Maryland. Bandits have been hitting beauty-shop supply stores in two counties: Anne Arundel and Prince Georges. The bad guys threaten employees with harm, then pull out trash bags and demand that they be filled with - no, not cash - electric clippers and hair-dressing scissors. Their - um - cut so far: more than $3,000.

The Day's List

Biggest Daily Gains For Dow Jones Average

When the US stock market roared back Tuesday after Monday's selloff, it accounted for the second-biggest daily increase in the Dow Jones Industrial Average - but was not even close to its biggest day in percentage terms. The 10 best point-days for the index, the number of points, and the percentage change in the value of the Dow:

Oct. 28, '97 +337.17 4.7%

Sept. 1, '98 +288.36 3.8%

Sept. 2, '97 +257.36 3.4%

Nov. 3, '97 +232.31 3.1%

Feb. 2, '98 +201.28 2.5%

Dec. 1, '97 +189.98 2.4%

Oct. 21, '87 +186.84 10.1%

April 29, '97 +179.01 2.6%

Sept. 16, '97 +174.78 2.3%

April 22, '97 +173.38 2.6%

- Associated Press

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