News In Brief

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The US

The White House and congressional negotiators narrowed the gap on the spending bill needed to avoid a federal shutdown, top Republicans said. But Democrats said wide gulfs remain in the $500 billion-plus omnibus measure. Education and environmental issues top their list. The House and Senate vote today on the last legislation before Congress adjourns to campaign for Nov. 3 elections.

President Clinton returned to Washington after Republicans criticized him for attending Democratic Party fund-raisers in New York while Congress grappled with the stopgap spending measure. Aides said the president canceled fund-raising appearances in Miami to be present during the negotiations.

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The House approved a $9.2 billion tax cut over nine years that would extend credits for business research and for employers who hire individuals from group such as high-risk youth, ex-felons, and food-stamp recipients. A Senate plan would extend tax credits for a shorter period and include credits for employers who hire welfare recipients. Meanwhile, the White House proposed an additional $11.7 billion tax cut over nine years to the House plan, offset by a $13.1 billion tax increase.

The House unanimously approved a bill that would crack down on pedophiles who use the Internet to lure minors into sexual relations. It also would increase penalties for other crimes against children, including increasing to 15 years the maximum sentence for transporting a minor across state lines in order to engage in illegal sex or prostitution.

Three US-based scientists won the Nobel Prize in physics for discovering how electrons acting together in strong magnetic fields and extremely low temperatures can exhibit fractions of the supposedly indivisible unit electrical charge. This is like finding half a baseball. Robert Laughlin of the US, Horst Stoermer of Germany, and Daniel Tsui of China, who is now a US citizen, will share the $978,000 prize.

Uncle Sam is charging more greenbacks for green cards. The Immigration and Naturalization Service raised several of its fees affecting immigrants, including its application to apply for permanent residency from $130 to $220. But newcomers were given a reprieve on the cost of applying for citizenship: That won't change until Jan. 15, when application will soar from $95 to $225.

In a major gay-rights case, the Supreme Court let stand a voter initiative that barred Cincinnati from protecting homosexuals against discrimination. The justices, in a 6-to-3 decision, refused to hear a challenge to the controversial measure - which was approved by 62 percent of the voters in a 1993 referendum. It repealed two laws that had barred discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The court also planned to hear arguments on who should set some of the rules, such as price guidelines, when local phone markets open up to long-distance companies. Congress set a goal of opening the $100-billion industry two years ago. Now the federal government and AT&T and MCI are squaring off against state regulators and local phone companies over the competitive market. The court is expected to issue a decision next July.

American Home Products and Monsanto called off a proposed $33.5 billion merger, which would have been the biggest yet in the pharmaceutical industry. The merger, announced June 1, would have created a company with $3 billion in expected annual profits and a market value of $96 billion.

A former US Army intelligence analyst was arrested on charges of spying for Russia by allegedly passing highly classified documents to KGB agents. David Boone, who worked for the military's super-secret National Security Agency, was scheduled to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

The World

NATO's capacity for air strikes against Yugoslav targets will remain in place despite the breakthrough in peace talks between President Milosevic and US envoy Richard Holbrooke, senior officials said. To stave off punitive attacks, Milosevic agreed to a withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo, inspections by international observers in the troubled province, reconnaissance flights by NATO planes, and opening negotiations with Albanian separatists for a peace deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu won his Cabinet's go-ahead to negotiate a land-for-peace deal with the Palestinian Authority at their three-day meeting with US diplomats beginning tomorrow outside Wash ington. A US proposal calls for Israel to yield a further 13 percent of West Bank territory in exchange for tough measures by the Palestinians against terrorism.

"Talks about talks" between China and Taiwan are scheduled to resume today after a three-year lull. Delegations from the two sides are to meet in Shanghai to try to agree on a formula for reopening the dialogue that China broke off in 1995 over Taiwan's attempt to raise its international profile. China has insisted on reunification, although Taiwan would be allowed to keep its capitalist system. Taiwan is demanding recognition as an equal with the mainland.

Senior military commanders called the loss of their last stronghold in eastern Congo a "reversal" but not the end of the war with rebels seeking to topple President Laurent Kabila. Kindu, on the Congo River, fell after an eight-day battle, blunting a counteroffensive by Kabila's troops and opening the way to mining provinces to the west and south.

A vote of no confidence in Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma appeared possible in parliament after legislators defied his plea not to debate the government's handling of the worsening national economic crisis. A simple majority is needed to approve such a motion, which - under the Constitution - would require the government to resign. Kuchma pledged not to interfere with such a vote, but said, "No political force would benefit."

Despite official promises to act on student demands, street protests spread across France, and a nationwide demonstration was scheduled for tomorrow. Some of the protests - in Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, and other cities - deteriorated into fighting and looting as students and teachers called for smaller classes, new high schools, and updated curricula. The Education Ministry has said action on some demands must wait until the 1999 academic year.

A wider welcome mat for immigrants is being put out by the government of New Zealand in a bid to speed up economic growth, reports said. They said the immigration quota would be raised from the current 35,000 a year to an unspecified level. Recruiting offices for skilled workers are to be opened in China, Russia, and South Africa, and the proficiency standard in English has been lowered. Only last year, cutting immigration was a key issue in New Zealand's elections.

By a 113-to-4 vote, members of parliament in Lebanon amended the Constitution to clear the way for the country's Army chief to become president. Gen. Emile Lahoud's accession to the post was virtually assured after his endorsement last week by Syria, which stations 35,000 troops in Lebanon. Formal election, in a follow-up vote by lawmakers, is expected tomorrow. He'd be Lebanon's first military head of state since 1964. The Constitution had required senior "public employees" to leave their jobs two years before seeking the presidency.

Etceteras

"I think it's fair to say I've had more success out in the country - and maybe out in the world - than I have in Washington, D.C." - President Clinton, joking with celebrity guests at a fund-raiser for medical research in New York.

Even the police had to laugh at the image they projected early last Sunday in northern New Jersey. As we cut to the chase, cruisers from there and New York State were in hot pursuit of a vehicle traveling at high speed at 3 a.m. after it had been hijacked. The thief drove from Morristown, N.J., to the New York State Thruway, made a U-turn, and returned to New Jersey before he was caught. He was driving a van with the Dunkin' Donuts logo. It was making deliveries when it was stolen. Said a cop: "Imagine us chasing that in broad daylight. People would think: 'What, didn't they get enough cream?' "

If you're keeping score at home, Lindsey Thompson is your new winner of Easy-Bake Oven's baker of the year contest. The Little Rock, Ark., resident's toffee trifle cake triumphed over four other finalists last week. So what, you ask? Well, Lindsey is 9, and the oven is a toy that's heated by one 100-watt light bulb.

The Day's List

Family Problems Are Top Absent-Employee Cause

For the first time in seven years, illness no longer ranks as the leading cause of absenteeism in the workplace, results of a new national survey indicate. CCH Inc., a Riverwoods, Ill.-based provider of legal and human-resource information, polled personnel managers for 401 US employers and found that "family issues" were the main reason why employees did not report for work. The top reasons, the percentage of respondents who cited each, and what their companies have found to be the most effective solutions to reduce absenteeism:

Causes

Family issues 26%

Personal illness 22%

Stress 16%

"Entitlement mentality" (taking advantage of annual sick-day limit even when not ill) 16%

Solutions

Flexible scheduling

On-site child care

Emergency child care

Compressed work-week

School-function leave

- Reuters

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