News In Brief

The US

A Senate committee opened potentially explosive hearings on campaign financing. Fred Thompson (R) of Tennessee, chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, led off a series of opening statements by panel members. He said witnesses would be asked to explain a "systematic influx of illegal money" into the Clinton reelection campaign, and he specifically charged China with using contributions to advance its own interests. Witnesses were expected to begin testifying today.

Democrats demanded that the House scrap its Republican-led campaign-finance inquiry, citing alleged GOP mismanagement. Rep. Henry Waxman (D) of California, ranking minority member of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, said failures of the investigation were demonstrated when chief counsel John P. Rowley III quit along with three other staff members last week.

The Republican Party sued the Federal Election Commission for allegedly shirking its duty by failing to fine Democrats for paying for TV ads promoting a national health-care plan in 1993 and 1994. Earlier this year, the commission fell one vote short of approving a settlement with the Democratic National Committee that likely would have carried a fine. The case involved some $4.6 million worth of ads.

Photographs from Mars are showing strong evidence that gigantic floods once swept the now-dry planet, NASA scientists said. The images reveal boulders stacked by powerful currents, ripples in a salmon-pink landscape, and stains left behind by evaporated pools. The Sojourner rover was ordered to travel about six feet to inspect a second Martian rock, called "Yogi."

Twenty-eight GOP congressmen indicated they may back more funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. In a letter to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, they said the funds have supplied seed money for "nearly a million jobs across the nation." So far, GOP leaders have earmarked only $10 million for the agency, enough to shut it down.

President Clinton declared parts of Texas and Wisconsin federal disaster areas, freeing US funds for people recovering from severe storms and flooding in June. The action authorizes aid to four counties in Wisconsin and nine in Texas.

A suspect extradited to the US in connection with the bombing of a US military complex in Saudi Arabia has denied any knowledge of an attack that killed 19 Americans and injured hundreds of other people, The New York Times reported. Denials and shifting statements by Hani Abdel Rahim Hussein al-Sayegh suggest that the legal arrangements that brought him to the US may be unraveling, the newspaper said. Sayegh, who has been charged with conspiracy, faces a court hearing as early as this week.

Timothy McVeigh's lawyers asked for a new trial. They told a federal court in Denver the jury that condemned McVeigh to die for the Oklahoma City bombing was unfairly swayed by victims' testimony and "a firestorm of adverse publicity." There was no indication when US district judge Richard Matsh would rule on the motion.

A three-judge panel upheld the 1992 conviction of former Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega. They said he received a fair trial on drug-trafficking charges, despite being barred from claiming that millions of dollars he amassed had come from the CIA rather than from drug lords. His lawyers indicated they would appeal to the full 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly to the Supreme Court.

Harvey Johnson became the first black mayor of Jackson, Miss. Johnson called the event the realization of a dream of slain civil-rights leader Medgar Evers, who was killed outside his Jackson home in 1963 while serving as field secretary for the NAACP.

Montgomery Ward asked a bankruptcy court for protection from its creditors. The nation's largest privately owned retailer said it needed time to reorganize its finances. Montgomery Ward began as a dry-goods business in a livery stable about 125 years ago.

The World

NATO made history at its summit conference in Madrid by inviting former Soviet-bloc states Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join - probably in 1999. Russia, which bitterly opposes expansion, had no immediate comment. French President Jacques Chirac, who had pushed to include Romania and Slovenia in the expansion, warned NATO would not "durably survive" unless its balance of power shifted to Europe and away from the US.

Thai cargo planes ferried 1,000 foreign nationals out of Cambodia despite the return of relative calm to Phnom Penh. But forces of co-Premier Hun Sen reportedly were searching out and arresting opposition lawmakers in the capital after winning a violent power struggle over rival Premier Norodom Ranariddh. One leading opponent, Ho Suk, was executed as an alleged "master of sabotage."

Heavy new rioting erupted across Northern Ireland as angry Catholics continued to retaliate for a Protestant march last Sunday. But in Londonderry, Mayor Martin Bradley invited civic groups and religious leaders to a meeting aimed at heading off further violence over another Protestant parade scheduled for this Saturday.

A bomb exploded aboard a crowded commuter train in the politically volatile Indian state of Punjab, killing at least 30 passengers and injuring 67 others, police said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Sikh militants in the state conducted a 10-year secessionist revolt that ended earlier this decade.

Political tensions rose in Chechnya after three separate incidents that President Aslan Maskhadov called "a provocation by forces trying to obstruct the building of an independent state." Nine Russian policemen died and 13 others were hurt when a bomb exploded under a truck taking them to guard duty at the border. Five passengers were seized from a bus bound for Chechnya from neighboring North Ossetia, and a French medical-aid organization said one of its workers was kidnapped.

Saying, "Really, now, you must be joking," hard-line Israeli Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon denied reports that he felt betrayed after changes in the Cabinet. Sharon got neither the finance minister's post nor inclusion in Prime Minister Netanya-hu's inner circle of advisers on negotiating peace with the Palestinians - which he had demanded. Foreign Minister David Levy and Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai had objected to expanded roles for Sharon, with Levy threatening to resign.

Three years of official mourning for North Korea's "Great Leader," Kim Il Sung, ended with a massive ceremony in the capital, Pyongyang. But no announcement was issued on when his son, Kim Jong Il, would assume full control of the government or ruling Communist Party.

Despite a rally that turned violent, Australia's leading anti-immigrant lawmaker vowed that efforts to build support for her cause would not stop. Pauline Hanson blamed 1,500 "political terrorists" for disrupting a meeting of her new One Nation Party near Melbourne. Police said there were numerous injuries, that they had made seven arrests, and were studying videotape of the rally to try to identify other attackers.

American troops under NATO command confiscated a large cache of unauthorized weapons from Bosnian Serb police loyal to indicted war-crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic. The arms were stored at a station in the strategic city of Brcko, which is forbidden under the 1995 Dayton peace accords. The police are commanded by Serb sub-state Interior Minister Dragan Kijac, who has refused to comply with the peace terms. An internal power struggle ensued when Serb President Biljana Plavsic tried to fire Kijac last week.


"We will be wanting to know: Who knew about it? Who should have known ... and was there an attempt to cover it up?"

- Senate Government Affairs Committee chairman Fred Thompson, opening hearings on Democratic political fund-raising.

Ever wish a neighbor was home to answer the phone when it rang endlessly? Then imagine what the folks next door to a Brandon, Vt., couple go through. For 35 years the couple has operated the only answering service in town. Their house has so many phones - 28 - that they often have to feel for which one is vibrating to pick up the right receiver.

Speaking of phones, you are urged to use yours to call someone in New Jersey and ask forgiveness for any jokes you've ever made at the state's expense. It seems this is "Be Nice to New Jersey Week." Experts claim it's the nation's most-ridiculed state because of its reputation for organized crime, high insurance costs, garbage dumps, medical wastes washing up on beaches, and the like.

A Somerset, Pa., policeman is $20,000 richer because of his keen eyesight last winter. A court ruled he was entitled to keep the cash he found in the snow along a rural road. The next-most serious claim was from a man who said he accidentally threw it out his car window but didn't report the loss because the town hall was closed that day. Nice try, the judge said, but nobody else would be so nonchalant about that much money.

The Day's List

Science-Fiction Comedy Wins Weekly Film Derby

"Men in Black" came in first at the box office over the Independence Day weekend. The new release stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as secret police who catch interplanetary criminals. The top films from Friday through Sunday, with their estimated grosses (in millions):

1. "Men in Black" $51.0

2. "Face/Off" $16.5

3. "Hercules" $12.4

4. "My Best Friend's Wedding" $11.0

5. "Batman and Robin" $8.6

6. "Out to Sea" $5.6

7. "Con Air" $3.6

8. "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" $2.7

9. "Wild America" $1.8

10. "Speed 2: Cruise Control" $1.3

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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