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News In Brief

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"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.

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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.


"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:


Family issues 26%

Personal illness 22%

Stress 16%

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


Flexible scheduling

On-site child care

Emergency child care

Compressed work-week

School-function leave

- Reuters