News In Brief

The US

Israel and the Palestinian Authority were close to an accord on new Israeli troop withdrawals from the West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. He made the comment on NBC's Today Show, just hours before a meeting at the White House with President Clinton and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Sunday in New York, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reportedly gained conditional Israeli acceptance of a plan to return more land to the Palestinians. But it wasn't clear whether a related accord on security measures for Israel would make that step possible.

Power outages were reported all along the Gulf coast as hurricane Georges moved ashore with gusts up to 172 m.p.h. Nonetheless, there were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries. And a slight easterly deviation in the course of the storm eased concern that New Orleans would be hit with a combination of heavy rains and storm surges that could submerge the city.

The public's job-approval rating for Congress fell 9 percent in the days after TV airing of the Clinton's grand-jury testimony, a new poll found. In the Time/CNN survey, Congress's approval rating was 54 percent, down from 63 percent before the airing of the videotape. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they approved of Clinton's job performance, down from 63 percent last week. In each poll, one-third disapproved. The more recent poll found 53 percent saying they wanted their representatives to vote against any motions to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. Forty-one percent favored a full investigation.

Three veteran politicians said there is little prospect of a bipartisan agreement to avert months of impeachment hearings - at least until after the Nov. 3 elections. Former GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole, former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta, and ex-GOP Senate leader Howard Baker expressed agreement on the issue on NBC TV. All have been mentioned as potential brokers of such a deal.

Lawyers for Paula Jones said they expect to reach a settlement soon of her sexual-harassment suit against Clinton. White House aide Bruce Lindsey said there was "some willingness to consider a settlement" but that the president in no way was admitting guilt. The lawyers for Jones said, even without an apology, a deal would be ample evidence that Clinton had wronged their client.

Federal Reserve officials were expected to cut key interest rates today. A recent Reuters poll of US economists found 27 of 28 anticipating a cut of at least a quarter percentage point in the federal funds rate, an overnight bank rate and benchmark for other short-term interest rates. Five of the specialists were looking for a cut of a half percentage point, and some said the Fed might also cut its discount rate, a rarely used rate for emergency loans to banks.

Microsoft has agreed to allow six independent software vendors to adapt and sell its products in China, the company announced. Microsoft will offer technical and marketing aid to the Chinese companies as they tailor for China such applications as Windows NT Server and Microsoft BackOffice Suite. In return, Microsoft will receive a share of the sales revenue, according to sources familiar with the negotiations. Microsoft did not disclose financial details of the accord.

Mark McGwire ended a spectacular baseball season by blasting home runs No. 69 and 70. By hitting five homers in the St. Louis Cardinals' last three-game series, McGwire left Sammy Sosa four behind in their race for a new single-season home-run record. Sosa still had a game to play last night in Chicago, a tiebreaker for the wild-card spot in National League post-season play.

The World

Talks on forming a coalition government and a trip to reassure skeptical leaders in France were two of the first issues on German Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schrder's agenda. His left-of-center Social Democratic Party won 41 percent of the vote and 298 seats in parliament in Sunday's election, to 35 percent (245 seats) for outgoing Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats. Schrder and the leaders of the environmental-activist Green Party said they'd meet for discussions Friday on a coalition that would give them a 21-seat majority.

Schrder accepted an invitation to Paris within the next 10 days to try to ease French concerns that he shares Kohl's commitment to the European Union rather than a policy of strong German nationalism. France and Germany are each other's largest trading partners as well as the principal forces behind a single European currency, which is due to be launched in January.

The largest bankruptcy in Japanese history was claimed by a leasing company that said it can't pay $16 billion in debts. Japan Leasing Corp., which trades in a range of equipment from airplanes to computers, filed for protection from creditors after efforts to restructure itself "proved to be impossible." Despite the announcement, the Nikkei index closed up 185.53 points on the Tokyo stock exchange.

The defeat of "armed terrorist groups" in Kosovo was announced by the premier of Serbia - a move aimed at heading off punitive air strikes by NATO. Mirko Marjanovic said Serb forces in the province would return to their barracks - one of the conditions for avoiding NATO attacks - but would resume their offensive against Albanian separatists "if new terrorist-bandit activity appears." At least 800 people have died in the conflict, and - with winter approaching - aid groups warn of a potential catastrophe because up to 50,000 refugees are living in the open.

Fresh violence erupted in Malaysia's capital as thousands of protesters regrouped after police tried to break up their antigovernment rally. It was the fifth such demonstration since the firing and subsequent arrest of Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim last week and took place despite a holiday to celebrate a better-than-expected performance by Malaysian athletes at the recent Commonwealth Games.

UN diplomats waited in suspense for a speech to the General Assembly today by Palestinian Authority President Arafat. It was not known whether he'd honor a request by the Clinton administration not to repeat his oft-stated pledge to declare a unilateral Palestinian state. But in an address to a Middle East peace group Sunday, Arafat did drop a line referring to the unilateral declaration.

A search was on in Slovakia for Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, who disappeared from public view after his government lost its parliamentary majority in last weekend's election. Observers speculated Meciar was having a difficult time accepting the end of his five-year rule. But the country's four opposition parties called on him to return to work and convene a special session of parliament so they can form a new coalition government.

An apparent breakthrough in the simmering border dispute between Peru and Ecuador was announced by their presidents. Meeting in neutral Brazil, Jamil Mahuad of Ecuador and Alberto Fujimori of Peru agreed to a plan that could reopen the zone to trade and navigation. Earlier this month, peace talks came to a temporary halt after Ecuadoran troops were accused of entering the zone.

Etceteras

"That's the poll that probably counts." - Former GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole, on the Nov. 3 elections and their significance for the Clinton presidency, compared with various public-opinion surveys.

True story: It was late in his shift, and Los Angeles policeman Kelly Benitez could have ignored the old Ford Thunderbird with an expired license. But rather than let the minor infraction go, he signaled for the car to pull over. What happened next is now the stuff of legend around the LAPD. The driver turned out to be the father Benitez last saw when he was a baby. The two had been searching for each other for 29 years. The elder Benitez, a school teacher, embraced his son so warmly that other motorists stopped to render assistance, thinking the cop was being assaulted.

OK, you're in Milwaukee and feel - um - imprisoned by the clothing styles in most of the stores. What to do? Well, for $69 you could buy one of designer George Keppler's new fashions: a blaze-orange jumpsuit on the back of which is stamp-ed "Milwaukee County Jail." Much to police dismay, they've become popular. After one buyer was taken off a bus on suspicion of being an escapee, however, Keppler agreed to stop making them for a while. But, looked at another way, if some future wearer is arrested for a real crime, that's one less piece of prison garb the county would have to issue.

The Day's List

Six Inventors Admitted To National Hall of Fame

The National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio, recently inducted six new members as part of its effort to celebrate the creative and entrepreneurial spirit. Best known among them is Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite and established the Nobel Prize. The new members and the inventions that won them hall-of-fame status:

S. Joseph Begun, first tape recorder for broadcasting

Douglas Engelbart, computer mouse

James Fergason, liquid crystal displays

Kary Banks Mullis, process used to identify and reproduce DNA

Alfred Nobel, dynamite

Henry Timken, tapered roller bearings

- Reuters

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