News In Brief


The US trade deficit rose to $11.3 billion in September - the second-worst showing on record. Analysts blamed the steep rise on oil imports and the deficit with China, which once again surpassed the US trade gap with Japan.

House Republicans voted by acclamation to keep Newt Gingrich as Speaker despite concerns about his ethics problems. The vote all but ensures the Georgian will lead the House again. But a full House vote is required when Congress convenes Jan. 7.

The former Texaco executive who secretly taped himself and other company executives making disparaging remarks about black workers was charged with obstruction of justice. The government charged Richard Lundwall with shredding documents in a racial discrimination case. Observers said the arrest could be a prelude to a deal in exchange for his testimony.

The Federal Aviation Administration was expected to testify on hazardous materials in cargo holds during week-long hearings on the crash of ValuJet Flight 592 in Florida's Everglades. Also, seven US airlines agreed to quickly divulge to the State Department the names of passengers believed to be on international flights that crash. The agreement follows the July crash of TWA Flight 800 over Long Island, N.Y. Family members complained the airline delayed giving out information about relatives on the flight.

National Transportation Safety Board regulators planned to announce changes in air-bag safety rules. The rules would eventually require systems to control deployment according to the size of occupants. The NTSB estimates air bags have saved 1,000 lives since 1989. But they are blamed for the deaths of 30 children and 19 adults.

NTSB investigators recovered the cockpit voice recorder from a United Express commuter plane that collided with a smaller private aircraft in Quincy, Ill., killing 14 people. The small airport where the planes crashed doesn't have a control tower.

Residents of the Pacific Northwest began recovering from heavy rains and snow that left as many as six people dead and tens of thousands without electricity. Streams and rivers continued to rise in Washington and Oregon, causing flooding that stranded motorists and forced evacuations from homes.

Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary announced the government will pay $4.8 million to families of 11 deceased hospital patients who were injected in the 1940s with plutonium. The payments also include a woman, still living, who was injected with uranium. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the government has yet to compensate about 20,000 other Americans used for biochemical experiments in the '40, '50s, and '60s.

A vote planned by the board of the Allied Pilots Association on a contract with American Airlines could result in the company's purchase of 100 jets from Boeing valued at nearly $6 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported. A new six-year contract would need approval from American's 9,100 pilots next month.

Shuttle Columbia's astronauts released an ultraviolet telescope into the atmosphere about eight hours into their 16-day mission. The US-German telescope, part of a $93 million project, will look at newborn and dying stars and the moon's atmosphere.

Robert Citron, the former Orange County, Calif., treasurer whose risky investments precipitated the biggest municipal bankruptcy in US history, was sentenced to a year in jail and fined $100,000 for fraud. The county emerged from bankruptcy in June after declaring a $1.64 billion loss in 1994. The bankruptcy highlighted a risky type of investment known as derivatives.

A special outside audit of Swiss banks will look for dormant accounts of Nazi victims and looted assets, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker announced. Three US accounting firms will perform the audit. Volcker, who heads a special committee established by the Swiss Banks Association and the World Jewish Restitution Organization, said an initial probe is expected to be finished by mid-1998 with a final audit a year later.


A meeting in Germany to plan the international intervention force for central Africa was postponed until tomorrow. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said several participating countries were rethinking their commitment of troops to the mission. Meanwhile, the Rwandan government denied accusations by international aid agencies that it was thwarting efforts to distribute food to hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming home from camps in eastern Zaire.

Visiting Secretary of State Warren Christopher heard more warnings from Chinese officials in Beijing. Foreign Minister Qian Qichen told him that US support for Taiwan could derail improving relations with China. But a spokesman for Christopher said the US would not bow to Chinese pressure on arms sales to the Taiwan government. As Christopher arrived in Beijing, Chinese officials said criticism of their policy on human rights would not be welcome. The secretary said the US would consider limited peaceful nuclear cooperation with Beijing.

The token political opposition in Iran will nominate its first presidential candidate for next August's election, a Tehran newspaper reported. But Iran-watchers say the Freedom Movement's choice is unlikely to be permitted on the ballot, since the strict Muslim-run government screens all political candidates. The opposition boycotted parliamentary elections in March after most of its candidates were disqualified.

This week's presidential election in Zambia was not free or fair, a panel of poll-watchers said. The Committee for a Clean Campaign cited vote-buying by the ruling party, flawed registration procedures, and biased reporting by the state-run news media. President Frederick Chiluba and his Movement for Multiparty Democracy were headed for a landslide victory in the election. The monitoring committee was funded by the US and other Western countries.

Russia successfully launched a supply satellite to the orbiting Mir space station three days after the failure of an unmanned, $300 million mission to Mars. But, like the Mars probe, the supply launch took off behind schedule because of the troubled space program's shortage of funds.

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat demanded that a 1994 economic agreement with Israel be rewritten. Arafat told World Bank donors in Paris that autonomous Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza lose $7 million a day because Israel has closed off access to their workers since last winter's terrorist bombings. Israel said it also would demand changes if the pact is rewritten.

Libya changed focus on immigration policy and ran newspaper ads inviting "all Arab citizens" to settle there permanently. The invitation, which was circulated across the Middle East, is valid until Dec. 31. Over the past 18 months, the Libyan government has expelled upwards of 100,000 Palestinians and Sudanese. Many Arab immigrants do not seek Libyan citizenship because that means losing the right to send their earnings to family members back home.

Jamaica, eastern Cuba, and Haiti braced for the possible full force of hurricane Marco. Forecasters in Miami predicted the late-season storm would remain in the Caribbean at least through tomorrow. Winds at its center were clocked at 75 m.p.h.

Security personnel defused a pipe bomb inside the former US Navy base at Subic Bay in the Philippines, where next week's Asia-Pacific economic summit is to be held. The bomb was discovered beside a telephone booth and was not near the building where US President Clinton and other world leaders are scheduled to meet. In Canberra, Clinton pledged a continued strong US commitment to the Pacific region in a speech before Australia's parliament. He is visiting Australia en route to the summit.


''It's truly ironic that the only person accused is the individual who came forward with the tapes. If the only person ... to be punished is the whistle-blower, then it's very negative."

-- Christopher Riley, attorney for a former Texaco executive who secretly taped himself and colleagues belittling blacks.

Walter Cronkite reported on space exploration with obvious relish when he was anchor of the "CBS Evening News." Now his enthusiasm is being rewarded. The California Institute of Technology has named an asteroid for him. The debris formerly known as 1990 WA is now called 6318 Cronkite.

The Bureau of the Census is offering a statistical cross-section of some of what happens across the US in an average day. According to its 1996 Statistical Abstract, due out today: 11,000 babies will be born; 27 million transactions will take place at automated teller machines; 14,000 people will exchange wedding vows, and - perhaps most importantly to some folks - manufacturers will produce 2 million gallons of ice cream.

Frances Hanson believes that traditional - but often unpalatable - holiday gift, the fruitcake, needs a new image. She says commercial bakers use "petrified" fruits and alcohol that make the cakes as hard as brick. The Rawlins, Wyo., resident has compiled a book of recipes for moist and chewy homemade cakes. It's entitled "An American Treasury of Heirloom Fruitcakes and Puddings."

Women's Wage-gap Woes

Average earnings for females in the US are only 68.5 percent of what men make, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington. But the gap varies considerably. The highest and lowest ratios:


District of Columbia 87.5%

Hawaii 76

Alaska 75

Vermont 75

South Dakota 74.6

California 73.3


Michigan 61.8

Alabama 61.2

Indiana 61.1

Louisiana 60

Wyoming 59.7

West Virginia 58.9

- Institute for Women's Policy Research/Associated Press

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