News In Brief

The US

As the House prepared to launch a formal impeachment inquiry, Congress was straining to pass the appropriations needed to prevent a government shutdown. President Clinton signed a $20.8 billion bill to fund energy, nuclear, and science programs, but it was only the second of 13 annual spending bills to be signed into law this year. With temporary funding for much of the government set to expire at midnight Friday, White House and congressional negotiators were trying to craft an alternative, catchall spending package.

Americans' economic worries may help Clinton in his struggle to avoid impeachment. A new poll conducted for The Christian Science Monitor found that most respondents say removing Clinton from office could damage the job market. Women and minorities were particularly concerned. The poll found that most of those who approved of Clinton's performance were worried about possible economic fallout if he is replaced.

Clinton signed into law a bill designed to make college more affordable. The statute cuts interest rates on federally backed student loans to the lowest levels in 17 years and raises grants to poor students to their highest levels. It also contains new grants for states to improve teacher training and allows new teachers and child-care workers who take jobs in poor school districts to write off up to $5,000 in student loans.

The president vetoed an agriculture-spending bill containing a $4.2 billion GOP-backed emergency farm-aid plan. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Clinton found the farm aid inadequate and he wants House and Senate negotiators to try to fashion a new package even though Congress plans to adjourn this weekend. The emergency-aid provision was part of a $60 billion spending measure.

Visa and MasterCard are limiting choice and inhibiting competition by preventing their participating banks from offering other cards, the government alleged in an antitrust lawsuit. The nation's two biggest credit-card networks reportedly account for 75 percent of US credit-card sales. The lawsuit, filed in US court in New York, also challenges joint control of the two networks by the same group of large banks.

Major League Baseball seemed headed for a fundamental change as the House sent Clinton a bill that would partially overturn a 76-year-old Supreme Court ruling that exempted baseball from antitrust laws on grounds that it is a game and not a business. The exemption deprived players of some of the protections enjoyed by other professional athletes, and it has been blamed for baseball's many strikes.

The Senate gave final approval to a measure providing $97 million in military aid to Iraqi rebels trying to drive President Saddam Hussein from power. The bill, which also earmarks $2 million for Radio Free Iraq, had already passed the House. It cleared the Senate on a voice vote.

The House voted to require firms doing business on the Internet to verify an adult's age before showing material "harmful to minors." Included in the measure, passed on a voice vote, was a less controversial proposal to require companies on the Internet to obtain parental consent before taking personal data from children. If passed, the bill would offer the first federal privacy protection for people using the Internet.

US copyright protections would be extended by 20 years in line with European practice under a bill approved by the Senate. Current copyright law gives authors, songwriters, and other artists exclusive rights to their work for life plus 50 years. Most European countries had offered the same protection until 1995, when the European Union extended its policy to life plus 70 years. The Senate passed the bill, now headed to the House, on a voice vote.

The World

Foreign-embassy staffs and UN refugee-agency personnel were bailing out of Kosovo and the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, with punitive air strikes by NATO expected "in the next few days," according to Secretary of State Albright. She ordered special US envoy Richard Holbrooke back to Belgrade for more talks with Yugoslav President Milosevic. But the latter said the threat of NATO attacks "obstructs the continuation of the political process" toward a Kosovo settlement.

Albright was to brief delegates from the so-called "Contact Group" nations in London on the Kosovo crisis. One of them, Russia, opposes military intervention, but Albright said: "If force is necessary, we will not be deterred by the fact that the Russians do not agree." NATO, said US Defense Secretary Cohen, has 430 planes ready to bomb Yugoslav targets - 260 of them American.

Leaders of the militant Hamas movement were warned by the Palestinian Authority not to carry out attacks against Israel with agreement on a troop pullback from the West Bank apparently close. Authority President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are due to meet with President Clinton in Washington Thursday to conclude a possible deal. Meanwhile, in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron, one Palestinian died and at least 20 others were wounded when Israeli troops fired rubber-coated bullets at stone-throwers protesting a week-long curfew.

The first fighting between Iranian and Taliban forces massed along the border with Afghanistan was reported. TV newscasts in Tehran said Taliban units had shot at border posts but were driven off by an Iranian counterattack. No casualties were mentioned. Taliban spokesmen denied that three weeks of tensions had escalated into battle.

Three days after his call for establishment of a national security council that would give Pakistan's military a role in setting economic, social, and political policy, Army chief Jehangir Karamat abruptly resigned. His words had stirred worry about a possible new seizure of the government by soldiers. Editorials called his resignation announcement "the honorable way to settle what appeared to be yet another messy and destabilizing" power struggle between Pakistan's civilian government and the military.

Five senior opposition leaders, encouraged that Nigeria's new military ruler is opening up the political system to democratic reform, returned from self-imposed exile. They'd fled the authoritarian rule of the late President Sani Abacha. Each said he'd participate in the process leading to new elections next year. The group did not include Nobel Literature Prize-winner Wole Soyinka, whose treason charges were dropped by Abacha's successor, but his return also was expected within days.

A landslide victory appeared likely for Azerbaijan President Haydar Aliyev in his bid to win a second five-year term Sunday. Aliyev needs a two-thirds majority to avoid a runoff against any of five challengers, but analysts said there was little doubt he'd get it. Much of his campaign was based on the $40 billion in new deals he signed with foreign companies to develop Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea oil reserves.

The 1998 Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to Portuguese novelist Jos Saramago - the fourth European in a row to be so honored. The selection committee praised his work for its "imagination, compassion, and irony." His best-known work, "The Stone Raft," describes a vision of Portugal and Spain, the Iberian Peninsula, breaking off from Europe and drifting out to sea.

Etceteras

" Time is all but gone." - Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, telling reporters in Brussels that NATO commanders would receive authorization 'in the next few days' for punitive air strikes against Yugoslavia.

Remember Rosie Nelson? She's the Charleston, W.Va., resident cited in this space recently who was notified twice in June that since she'd died her Social Security checks were being cut off. Each time, bureaucrats assured her the mix-up would be corrected. But guess what? Earlier this week, the US Treasury asked for her latest payment back since it had learned she was dead. Once again, the folks at the Social Security system are looking into the problem.

Despite expecting heavy demand for "Titanic" costumes this Halloween - due to the box-office success of the film - rental shops in Boston; Derry, N.H.; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., report that it hasn't happened so far. What most trick-or-treaters have been requesting are masks of President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky - along with such items as berets and the necktie styles she gave him.

The Day's List

Cost of Going to College Outpaces Inflation Again

A new College Board survey of 3,000 institutions indicates students are paying their colleges and universities about 4 percent more this year than they did in 1997 - more than double the inflation rate. Adjusted for inflation, tuition at public four-year institutions has risen 50 percent over the past decade. During that period, inflation-adjusted family income rose only 1.5 percent. A look at the average of college expenses this year, as indicated by the survey:

Tuition and fees:

Private 4-year college $14,508

Private 2-year college $7,333

Public 4-year college $3,243

Public 2-year college $1,633

Room and board:

Private 4-year college $5,765

Private 2-year college $4,666

Public 4-year college $4,530

Public 2-year college (not avail.)

- Associated Press

TO OUR READERS : The Christian Science Monitor will not be published Columbus Day, Monday, Oct. 12, a legal holiday in the United States.

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