US MOVES TOWARD NUCLEAR TEST BAN The US, which for years resisted international efforts to negotiate a total ban on nuclear weapon tests, pledged on Jan. 25 it would now work for quick conclusion of such a treaty. John Holum, director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, told the 1994 opening session of the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament that Washington ``will be out front pulling, rather than in the back dragging our heels'' in the drive for a test ban. All five traditional nuclear powers the US, Russia, China, France, and Britain sponsored a UN General Assembly resolution, overwhelmingly approved last October, on launching the Comprehensive Test Ban negotiations. Previous US administrations insisted that a test-ban treaty had to be a long-term goal rather than an immediate objective, insisting that detection methods were not sufficiently developed. But President Clinton signaled the turnaround last July when he announced the US would observe a conditional moratorium on testing. Health-care costs slow

The cost of employee fringe benefits such as health care rose at the lowest rate in six years, helping to hold the increase in compensation for American workers at a modest 3.5 percent last year, the Labor Department reported Jan. 25. Analysts have cited the small increase in wage costs as one of the primary reasons inflationary pressures have remained in check. With continued corporate layoffs, economists say that wage pressures are likely to remain in check. NYNEX makes major cuts

Nynex Corporation announced Jan. 24 it is cutting 16,800 jobs over three years to position itself for the revolution in communications. The Baby Bell company said the cutbacks represent 22 percent of its employees. With Congress working to eliminate barriers in telecommunications, phone companies are changing the slow business practices they maintained for years as monopolies. Arafat ends Saudi visit

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat left Saudi Arabia Jan. 25 after a landmark visit that should start the gradual revival of the PLO's previously strong links with the Arab oil states of the Gulf. Ahmed Qoray, head of the PLO's economic department, said that Saudi Arabia had ``asserted its commitment toward the Palestinian cause and toward helping in building its institutions and infrastructure.'' China dissident jailed

Veteran Chinese dissident Qin Yongmin has been sentenced to two years in a ``reeducation through labor'' prison camp for advocating progress toward a democratic society, his wife said Jan. 25. Immediate government confirmation was not available. Mr. Qin was arrested in November after he and eight others released a ``Peace Charter'' calling for a national dialogue on political change. News of his sentence came just after US Secretary of State Warren Christopher said China needed to further improve its human-rights record if it was to enjoy continued most-favored-nation trade privileges. Qin became well known last year when he tried to mount a campaign to fight Beijing's bid for the 2000 Olympics.

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