News In Brief

The US

The House Judiciary Committee is to make public today a videotape of President Clinton's grand-jury testimony and 2,800 pages of material supporting the report of independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Transcripts of grand-jury testimony by Clinton and others were to be available by this afternoon on these House of Representatives and Library of Congress Web sites: www.house.gov/icreport thomas.loc.gov/icreport

The US and Japan agreed to cooperate on research for a missile-defense system to protect the island nation in light of North Korea's progress in developing long-range weapons. The accord was reached during a meeting in New York of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen with their Japanese counterparts: Foreign Affairs Secretary Masahiko Komura and Defense Minister Fukushiro Nukaga.

Clinton promised to veto an $80 billion package of tax cuts that is close to passage in the House. He called the GOP-sponsored plan irresponsible and asked instead for narrower tax cuts that would reserve surplus funds for Social Security.

The government rejected former President Jimmy Carter's call for an inquiry into whether the Sudanese chemical plant destroyed last month in a US missile attack had a terrorism connection. Sandy Berger, the president's national-security adviser, defended the strike, saying the US had "overwhelming" grounds for attacking it. Carter said doubts about whether the plant was part of a chemical-weapons program were damaging US credibility overseas.

Some 220 US diplomatic posts will undergo security upgrades under an emergency $1 billion appropriation being negotiated with Congress, a federal official said. All 260 facilities were surveyed - following the bombings last month in East Africa - and only about 40 were deemed fully secure, the official said. Separate funding is being negotiated for the repair of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

House and Senate negotiators agreed on a $270.5 billion defense budget that supports keeping US forces in Bosnia, a 3.6 percent military pay raise, and new restrictions on exports of missile technology. The accord backed away from a ban on exporting satellites to China, but would return jurisdiction of such sales to the State Department - overturning a 1996 decision transferring authority to the Commerce Department.

Clinton's advisory committee on race completed a 15-month assessment by submitting a report calling for a new presidential council to continue its work. The report found that "white privilege" puts people of color in inferior positions, "despite more than 30 years of civil-rights laws and some progress directly attributable to affirmative-action and other programs."

The Senate failed to overturn Clinton's veto of a ban on a late-term abortion procedure, dealing a setback to those wanting to put an end to so-called "partial birth" abortions. The vote was 64 to 36, three short of the two-thirds required to override a presidential veto.

The House voted to turn 31 federal education programs into block grants to states, a step Republicans said would enhance community control and Democrats argued would undermine public schools. The vote on the measure, which the White House has threatened to veto, was 212 to 198.

South African President Nelson Mandela became one of only three people to receive an honorary degree from Harvard University at anything but a regular commencement ceremony. The others: George Washington in 1776 and Winston Churchill in 1943. "The name of an African is now added to those two illustrious leaders of the world," Mandela commented.

The World

US envoy Dennis Ross flew back to Washington on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, with no agreement on the Middle East peace process. But Palestinian sources said the Clinton administration hoped to "seal a deal" by the end of the month. Ross was said to have made "some headway" and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was to meet with both Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Arafat this week at the UN in New York.

Nine people were killed and at least seven others hurt when a rocket exploded in Kabul, Afghanistan, on the eve of talks on the country's deepening crisis with Iran. The attack was blamed on opposition forces fighting the ruling Taliban militia. Meanwhile, an estimated 10,000 Afghans rallied in opposition to Iran's massive buildup of troops along their common border and the Taliban threatened Iranian cities if Afghan targets were attacked.

A confrontation that had been building for weeks in Malaysia finally erupted as police arrested former Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim after he led a protest march calling for the head of government to resign. Anwar was fired Sept. 2 by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for being "morally unfit." Anwar had held almost daily rallies since, laced with biting criticism of Mahathir, who has held power for 17 years. The incident coincided with the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II for a four-day state visit.

The slim hopes of Chinese dissidents to launch an opposition political party were crushed when the Beijing government declared it illegal and jailed its principal organizer. Tang Yuanjuan had been visiting various cities to enlist support for the China Democratic Party. Activists had drawn encouragement when the Civil Affairs Ministry did not initially reject their registration efforts earlier this month.

Much of the eastern Caribbean braced for a possible direct hit from hurricane Georges, which weather forecasters were calling "extremely dangerous." The storm, with sustained winds of 150 m.p.h. and tides up to 10 feet higher than normal, was expected to reach the Leeward Islands late Sunday. Georges was rated as a Category 4 hurricane, almost identical in strength to Hugo (1989) and Andrew (1992), the most powerful in recent history..

A photo finish appeared likely in Germany's national elections this coming Sunday as Chancellor Helmut Kohl pulled to within two percentage points of challenger Gerhard Schrder in late opinion polls. Factoring in the margin for error made the outcome - once all but a foregone conclusion - too close to call, analysts said.

The Philippines Coast Guard confronted questions about why it allowed a heavily laden ferry to leave port Friday despite typhoon warnings. The Princess of the Orient sank in less than an hour between Manila and Cebu City, possibly because some of its cargo had shifted in rough seas, reports said. At least 311 of the 454 people aboard were rescued.

Calm was returning to Liberia's capital after weekend fighting between government troops and guards for former rebel chief Roosevelt Johnson that shattered a fragile two-year-old truce. At least six people died, dozens more were hospitalized, and residents of the city center fled. The clash erupted after President Charles Taylor ordered the seizure of a building occupied by Johnson's militia. US Embassy sources in Monrovia couldn't be reached to confirm reports that Johnson was seeking refuge there.

Etceteras

" Someone described the past year as 'zero year.' If you went to sleep at the beginning and woke up at the end, you'd find that nothing changed." - Commentator Ehud Manor, on the lull in Israeli politics, economics, and in the peace process at Rosh Hashana.

It's lush, tropical, and exotic, and people dream of going there. Still, the South Pacific island nation of Fiji has come up with a whole new way to market itself. Enterprising Fijians are promoting the fact that their country - just east of the International Dateline - will be one of the the first in the world to experience the Y2K problem. Global TV coverage of what happens when Fiji's computers reach midnight, Dec. 31, 1999, is being arranged.

Remember the 32-foot-high inflated breakfast bowl stolen from atop a Middletown, Conn., store and cited in this space last week? It has been found - deflated but otherwise undamaged - after police were tipped off to its whereabouts. Estimates say the bowl could hold enough cereal to feed the entire city of 43,000 people. But there's no sign any of them used it.

The Day's List

Top-10 Fastest-Growing US Companies: Fortune

Technology and energy firms dominate Fortune magazine's ranking of the fastest-growing US companies. Noble Drilling, one of the world's largest offshore prospectors, heads the list. But with oil prices low now, there wouldn't be so many energy firms (22) in the top 100 if the magazine hadn't based its rankings on earnings growth over a three-year period, Fortune said. The top 10, their locations, and annualized growth rates in earnings per share:

1. Noble Drilling, Houston 394%

2. Funco, Eden Prairie, Minn., (video game retailer) 276%

3. Marine Drilling, Sugar Land, Texas 268%

4. Vitesse Semiconductor, Camarillo, Calif. 227%

5. Central Garden & Pet, Lafayette, Calif. (distributor) 206%

6. Jabil Circuit, St. Petersburg, Fla. (circuit board maker) 200%

7. Cliffs Drilling, Houston 200%

8. Pairgain Technologies, Tustin, Calif. (copper wire) 187%

9. RMI Titanium, Niles, Ohio (aerospace products) 180%

10. Sanmina, San Jose, Calif. (electronics manufacturer) 179%

- PR Newswire

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