News In Brief

The US

An ''800-pound gorilla'' has stymied attempts by AT&T and other long-distance companies to influence the telecommunications bill. That ''gorilla'' - as he was termed by one lobbyist - is Speaker Gingrich. He says he rewrote the bill to increase greater competition. It will now enable smaller regional phone companies to enter the long-distance market more quickly. A vote was expected today.

Jobless claims fell by 51,000 last week - their biggest drop in a year, the Labor Department said yesterday. Also, a new study said US competitiveness in the world is rising. The Council on Competitiveness said yesterday that 1994 manufacturing productivity was at its highest in a decade. (Job Claims, Page 18.)

President Clinton will back a plan to regulate cigarette sales to minors, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. He hasn't discussed going beyond regulations directed at minors, but tobacco companies are concerned that adults could be included.

The federal family-planning program was preserved in a close House vote Wednesday. The program that sent $193 million to clinics nationwide last year was criticized for not lowering teen pregnancy rates. Supporters said defunding it would create unwanted pregnancies, more abortions, and more welfare dependency. None of the funds can be used for abortions. The measure is part of the $9.3 billion health, education, and labor budget that cuts $1.2 billion from last year's levels. A final vote was to be yesterday.

The future of the ''star wars'' missile defense system dominated Wednesday's debate on the $264 billion military budget. Republicans said the growing threat of missile attacks from renegade states warranted spending $3.77 billion - $770 million more than President Clinton requested - to set up a multiple-site defense system by 2003.

Former White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum made a ''terrible mistake,'' former deputy attorney general Philip Heymann said Wednesday. Nussbaum barred police from searching White House lawyer Vincent Foster's papers while investigating Foster's suicide. Nussbaum is expected to testify next week in continuing Whitewater hearings.

Hurricane Erin picked up speed over warm water in the Gulf of Mexico and lashed the Pensacola, Fla., with heavy rains and high winds yesterday. It was expected to move into Mississippi or Louisiana last night.

The Senate Ethics Committee resumed closed-door deliberations yesterday. The full Senate voted Wednesday 52 to 48 to uphold the panel's decision against public hearings for its investigation of Senator Packwood. The committee has found ''substantial and credible evidence'' that Packwood engaged in sexual and official misconduct. The committee's options range from dismissing the case to expelling Packwood.

Teenager Beverly Heard had to decide yesterday whether to accept prosecutors' offer of immunity. She has spent the last five days in jail for refusing to testify against Congressman Reynolds. Last year she said she had sex with with him as a minor. She recanted in January.

A man wanted in connection with the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was sent by Jordan to the US yesterday.

Gingrich promised tax relief and better schools in a meeting with Washington, D.C., residents Wednesday. They alternately called him ''cruel'' or ''intrusive,'' and asked for help, mostly with the District's failing schools.

A Virginia handgun law has disrupted illegal gun trafficking on the East Coast, says a study by the Washington-based Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. Virginia has long been a transit point for illegal guns, but in 1993 it limited gun purchases to one per month. Before the law, 35 percent of guns recovered on the East Coast were traced to Virginia. It's now 15 percent.

Survivors of the USS Indianapolis paid tribute on Wednesday to those who perished in a 1945 Japanese torpedo attack. The ship's sinking in shark infested waters was the Navy's worst wartime loss.

The World

Croatia and rebel Serbs, mobilizing tens of thousands of troops for battle, met yesterday in Geneva in an attempt to avert full-scale war in Croatia. Prospects for a settlement were bleak: Both sides sent low-ranking delegations with few negotiating powers. Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic said his forces would intervene if Serb-held lands in Croatia were attacked by the 100,000-strong Croatian force positioned along UN ceasefire lines with the Krajina territory. Some 50,000 Croatian Serbs are ready to respond. (Stories, Pages 1 and 6.)

The dollar continued its climb against the Japanese yen yesterday after the two countries took steps to boost the US currency. The yen's sharp and persistent rise against the dollar in the last few years has crimped Japan's emergence from a four-year recession. Separately, Emperor and Empress Akihito ended a week-long prayer pilgrimage to visit Japanese cities damaged in WWII. (Story, Page 8.)

Colombian Defense Minister Fernando Botero, who directed President Samper's 1994 presidential bid, resigned Wednesday amid accusations the campaign accepted millions from the cartel. The men have denied knowing about any Cali campaign funding. (Story, Page 5.)

A logjam on the issue of water caused a PLO-Israeli committee to break up yesterday and table the topic until Monday. The committee is part of ongoing talks on expanding Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank. Also, Israeli police removed protesting Jewish settlers from a West Bank hilltop as a second group set up mobile homes at another site in the fourth day of protests. And Israeli planes attacked guerrilla positions in Lebanon for the second day.

China expelled two US Air Force officers accused of spying yesterday after detaining them for five days. Also, China braced for more rain in flood-swamped Liaoning and Jilin Provinces, which are experiencing their worst floods in a century. (Opinion, Page 19.)

The Honduran Army sent tanks into the streets of Tegucigalpa, and its commander expressed support for soldiers implicated in human rights abuses, in a show of force apparently aimed at cowing investigators. The deployment came a day after the civilian government asked the US for help in identifying officers implicated in the disappearance of 184 people in the 1980s.

A report released by the UN shows that nearly two-thirds of the women in southern Asia are illiterate, and the US has the second-highest rate of teen pregnancies in the developed world, behind Bulgaria. The figures were released as the UN prepares for a conference on women to be held next month in Beijing.

Peter Graf, father of tennis star Steffi Graf, was arrested at his home in Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday on suspicion of tax evasion, state prosecutors said. They made no mention of Ms. Graf, although she was reported under investigation earlier.

Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga yesterday confirmed plans to devolve power to the country's minority Tamils. The rebels would be given uncontested administrative control, including police powers, in one of eight proposed new regions in the country under a government peace plan. She also promised all communities equal rights. The plan seeks to forge a peaceful end to the 12-year civil war that has killed 35,000 people.


Moscow now has its very own, very Russian fast-food restaurant. The Russkoye Bistro serves up Romanov pea soup, mushroom- or cabbage-stuffed pirozhky (pies), and kvas (a traditional drink) near the glittering shops on Tverskaya Street.

Americans are leading the tourist charge to Britain this year. Through May, the number of US visitors was up 11 percent over last year. Meanwhile, tourists are motoring to Alaska in record numbers; totals are up 12 percent over last year.

Oseola McCarthy spent her working life washing clothes for others. Along the way, she scrimped and saved $150,000 that will go into a scholarship fund at the University of Southern Mississippi so poor blacks can go to college, which she never could afford to do.

Top 10 Television Shows, July 24-30


l. ''Friends,'' NBC, 17.1, 16.3 million homes

2. Seinfeld,'' NBC, 14.0, 13.4 million homes

3. ''ER,'' NBC, 13.8, 13.2 million homes

4. ''20-20,'' ABC, 13.7, 13.1 million homes

5. ''Home Improvement,'' ABC, 13.1, 12.5 million homes

6. ''Primetime Live,'' ABC, 13.0, 12.4 million homes

7. ''Dateline NBC,'' (Tuesday) NBC, 11.7, 11.2 million homes

7. ''Murphy Brown,'' CBS, 11.7, 11.2 million homes

9. ''CBS Sunday Movie: There Was a Little Boy,'' CBS, 11.6, 11.1 million homes

10. ''Cybill,'' CBS, 11.5, 11.0 million homes

(Rating equals percentage of American homes with TVs.)

- A.C. Nielsen Co.

'' In my view the ballistic missile threat to this country is real and growing.''

- Senator Thurmond on why the ''star wars'' missile defense system should be funded

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