NEW THEORY ON DINOSAURS' DEMISE Dinosaurs weren't done in by a giant asteroid, as one theory holds, but by a change in the atmosphere that meant there wasn't enough oxygen to support their inefficient respiratory systems, a new theory suggests. A new analysis of air trapped in 120 million-year-old fossils casts doubt on the notion that the dinosaurs starved to death after a giant asteroid hit the planet 65 million years ago, sending up dust that blocked the sun and killed plant life. Dinosaurs were already on their way out by the time the meteor purportedly hit, says Gary Landis, one of four scientists presenting their theory at the Geological Society of America's annual meeting in Boston yesterday. Israel-Syria talks stalled

Israel has told Syria that their stalled negotiations won't resume in earnest until the [Israel-Palestinian] agreement gets under way, the Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday. The report said that Israel's position was conveyed to Syrian President Hafez Assad last week by US peace envoy Dennis Ross. Scholarship aid abuses

The Pell grant program, the nation's basic source of aid for students after high school, has lost millions of dollars because poor management opens it to fraud, congressional investigators say. Heading into two days of hearings yesterday on problems in the $6.3 billion-a-year program, they said a year-long investigation had turned up schools that paid apparent kickbacks to students to attend classes, grants that were obtained for students who never attended, and grants that were paid for ineligible students. Winds fan California fire

Firefighters in southern California yesterday battled an arson blaze that scorched hundreds of acres of dense brush and destroyed two homes in Thousand Oaks. Wind gusts reaching 55 m.p.h. fueled hot spots through the night, keeping some 600 firefighters on the defensive, said a spokeswoman for the Ventura County Fire Department. The fire had reached nearly 1,000 acres when the Santa Ana winds began to abate late Tuesday. Durable goods orders up

Orders for expensive durable goods items like cars and home appliances posted a second straight monthly increase in September as demand strengthened for everything except new airplanes, the United States Commerce Department said yesterday. Last month's 0.7 percent increase in orders followed a revised rise of 2.6 percent in August. The latest performance was stronger than anticipated by Wall Street economists, who had forecast no change in the level of orders from August. Cab drivers protest

More than 4,000 cabs converged on City Hall in New York Tuesday as their drivers demanded better police protection following the killing of a driver, the 35th to be killed this year. Following the demonstration that snarled traffic during Manhattan's evening rush hour, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said his department is already targeting bandits who prey on cabbies. Mr. Kelly said that a task force formed in April has made 134 arrests for taxi-related crimes, including 13 for murder. `Business' cities rated

A high concentration of doctorates and a ``brainy work force'' landed Raleigh-Durham, N.C., on top of Fortune magazine's annual list of best US cities for business. The magazine's Nov. 15 issue, which comes out next week, cites the area's three major universities, Research Triangle Park, and state-sponsored incubators for emerging companies in biotechnology and microelectronics. New York was ranked second and Boston third. Search for tax delinquents

The Internal Revenue Service is looking for a few hundred thousand people with incomes in the $200,000 range who are delinquent in submitting tax returns. IRS Commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson disclosed the figures Tuesday as she testified to the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee in Washington about the agency's expanded efforts to bring non-filers onto the tax rolls. Ironically, about 40 percent of these high-income earners are due refunds.

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