News In Brief

As many as 50,000 protesters are expected to show up in Seattle tomorrow as the World Trade Organization (WTO) opens a new round of global talks. Up to 100 members of Congress and representatives of many of the nation's largest corporations also are expected to be in Seattle to try to influence the outcome of the meeting. The WTO was created in 1995 to govern global commerce. From 76 charter members, the number of participating nations has risen to 135.

The $81 billion merger between Exxon and Mobil is expected to gain approval tomorrow from the Federal Trade Commission. Oil-industry analysts said the companies have agreed to sever ties with about 15 percent of their retail service stations. The combined company, to be called Exxon Mobil Corp., will be based in Irving, Texas.

Analysts projected a 5-to-6 percent increase in holiday sales this year at retail stores - and at least a doubling of online sales. Last year, US merchants had more than $170 billion in sales during the holiday period.

The Coast Guard ended its search for three Cuban nationals missing and presumed drowned after their boat capsized during an attempt to reach the US. On Thursday, a five-year-old boy and two adults were found clinging to inner tubes off the southern Florida coast. The bodies of seven others who were aboard the power boat when it capsized last Tuesday were recovered from the ocean during three days of searching that turned up no other survivors.

New polls found Arizona Sen. John McCain with a slight lead over George W. Bush in New Hampshire, but trailing far behind him in South Carolina. The CNN/Time surveys of likely Republican voters in the states' presidential primaries had Governor Bush trailing Senator McCain 37 percent to 35 percent in New Hampshire, but found Bush leading McCain 62 percent to 15 percent in South Carolina.

The state of Alaska asked the US Supreme Court to grant it control of waters in Glacier Bay National Park and other areas of the Inside Passage. The lawsuit stems from a dispute over commercial fishing in Glacier Bay, where the National Park Service plans to gradually end commercial fishing to protect the environment. Alaska's lawsuit also asserts state jurisdiction over land under waters off the Tongass National Forest and specific enclaves and pockets off the Alexander Archipelago.

Slumping cigarette sales may cut state returns from last year's tobacco settlement, analysts said. Tobacco companies agreed to pay about $206 billion over 25 years to settle lawsuits against them by 46 states over costs the states incurred to treat ailing smokers. Starting with the April installment, however, payments will be adjusted according to the number of cigarettes shipped in the US in 1998 and 1999, Connecticut's anti-tobacco MATCH Coalition noted. Price increases and marketing restrictions have meant an 8.6 percent reduction in the number of cigarettes sold this year, according to federal estimates. Last year, sales were down about 3 percent.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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