News In Brief

The US

US Rep. Bill Paxon denied participating in a plan to oust House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The New York Republican resigned late last week as chairman of the party's House leadership after press reports implicated him in the incident. There was concern that confusion in GOP ranks could complicate party efforts to reach a tax accord with the White House.

More than 100 Canadian fishing boats surrounded an Alaskan ferry in Prince Rupert, B.C., blocking its departure and demanding progress in a salmon-fishing dispute between the US and Canada. The two nations have been holding talks for months on how to divide Pacific salmon stocks, but failed to reach an accord before the start of the fishing season.

Bell Atlantic and Nynex apparently removed a major hurdle to the second-biggest merger in US history, promising to take steps to make it easier for rivals to compete in local phone markets. Three of four Federal Communications Commissioners reportedly said the pledge clears the way for the $23 billion merger, announced last year. It would create the second-biggest US phone company, controlling lines from Maine to Virginia.

President Clinton announced the nomination of Felix Rohatyn as US ambassador to France. Rohatyn retired this year as managing director of Lazard Freres & Co., a New York investment bank. Rohatyn was a key player in restructuring New York City finances during a fiscal crisis in the mid-1970s. He is a big contributor to the Democratic Party.

The Federal Election Commission said it had fined a German businessman $323,000 for numerous illegal political contribitions. Thomas Kramer agreed to pay the fine, the largest the FEC has levied against an individual, to settle the case. It involved $322,600 in illegal donations made in 1993 and 1994. The agency also fined the Republican Party of Florida $82,000 for accepting illegal contributions from Kramer. And it sent letters of admonishment to a long list of political candidates - including Democrats - but took no further action against them.

Episcopal Church leaders came within one vote of approving a motion to recognize same-sex marriages. Delegates attending the denomination's annual convention also voted to enforce a 1976 action that provides for ordaining and recognizing women priests. Four dioceses have refused to recognize women priests, a church spokesman said.

Some 5,800 auto workers voted to return to work in Pontiac, Mich., after overwhelmingly approving a tentative agreement with General Motors. It calls for GM to add 557 new workers and pay $9.5 million to settle grievances and other demands.

The state of New York sued the Environmental Protection Agency, saying it had failed to address the state's acid-rain problem. The lawsuit says the EPA failed to develop "deposition standards" to regulate emissions from Midwestern factories as required by law. Meanwhile, the American Trucking Associations, the US Chamber of Commerce, the National Coalition of Petroleum Retailers, and three freight firms also filed suit, saying EPA failed to consider the impact its clean-air standards will have on small businesses and had based the standards on "inadequate science."

Hurricane Danny was downgraded to a tropical storm after winds slackened from 75 to 70 m.p.h. It was drifting east across coastal Alabama toward the Florida panhandle, lashing the coast with torrential rains. Some 1,500 people spent Saturday night in shelters set up by the Red Cross in Alabama, where there was at least one storm-related fatality. Danny had come ashore earlier in Louisiana, between Grand Isle and the mouth of the Mississippi.

Clinton said 10 more cities would join an effort to track the sale of illegal guns to young people. Seventeen cities are already sending data on guns seized from juveniles to a computer system that tries to trace the weapons to the sellers for possible prosecution.

The World

The Irish Republican Army began a new ceasefire, after its political ally, Sinn Fein, received assurances that it could take part in peace talks if Britain determines the truce to be genuine. But the move was overshadowed by threats from pro-British Unionists in Northern Ireland to boycott the talks. British Prime Minister Tony Blair was scheduled to meet Ulster Unionist Party officials in London today to try to persuade them to keep negotiating. Irish newspapers reported the IRA planned to rescind the truce after four months if there was no progress in the talks on Northern Ireland's future.

Biljana Plavsic, the Bosnian Serb sub-state president, was expelled from her own political party by supporters of her rival and predecessor, Radovan Kar-adzic. The Serbian Democratic Party also formally urged her to resign from her post. The board met as NATO peacekeepers and vehicles massed in a show of force near Karadzic's heavily guarded house, although it was not clear whether the indicted war-crimes suspect was home.

Russian space officials were expected to announce that vital repairs on the Mir space station will be carried out by a new crew due to arrive Aug. 7. They said two cosmonauts were training to repair Mir's power supply, which was damaged in a docking accident last month. Meanwhile, the current crew fixed eight of 12 devices that help to steady Mir.

UN officials said they had "irrefutable evidence" that 30 soldiers loyal to ousted Cambodian co-Premier Norodom Randriddh were subjected to beatings, torture, and other atrocities by the forces of rival Hun Sen. Meanwhile, Hun Sen rejected a proposal by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that he again share power, pending new national elections.

Many African heads of state gathered in Congo (formerly Zaire) for a regional development meeting that analysts said was an important show of solidarity for self-appointed President Laurent Kabila. Prominent among those at the one-day session were the leaders of Rwanda and Uganda, who backed Kabila's successful seven-month campaign to overthrow ex-President Mobutu.

Before an estimated 15,000 supporters in Managua, Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega called for a new election to replace Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Alman. He said Alman's government policies had caused increased unemployment, poverty, and hunger. Alman defeated Ortega in last October's presidential election.

Afghanistan's anti-Taliban alliance said it captured a key air base and the town of Charikar, both north of the capital, Kabul. If true, that would put it within rocket range of the capital, controlled by the Taliban Army. An opposition jet dropped bombs near Kabul's airport, killing at least seven people and injuring 12 others, residents said. The alliance is demanding the Taliban disarm and surrender Kabul to a neutral force.

Australian government spokesmen scrambled to limit diplomatic damage from a scath-ing report on the economies of 15 neighboring countries and the personal habits of some of their senior leaders. The top-secret document was left on a hotel table at a regional conference and found its way to news organizations, which published excerpts. Nauru and the Cook Islands called the 93-page report "inaccurate," "patronizing," and "insulting."

Oil-rich Qatar will proceed with a controversial economic conference in November, even if other Arab states boycott it, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said. The Middle East-North Africa summit, scheduled to be held in Doha, the capital, traditionally is attended by Israel. But Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates vowed to stay away if there was no progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco also said they may not go if other Arab states don't attend.


"We had tourists all over the place, with room for a few more. But Danny we didn't want."

- Marina owner Butch Gaspard of Grand Isle, La., on dealing with Hurricane Danny.

Ever wonder what first ladies talk about while their husbands are holding a summit conference? Some insights from Kumiko Hashi-moto, wife of Japan's prime minister: When she and Hil-lary Rodham Clinton met at the White House, she says the latter wanted to discuss childbirth in middle age. In Paris, French President Jacques Chirac's wife, Bernadette, brought up the subject of street sanitation.

Australians must file their income-tax returns by Oct. 31. So the Association of Tax Accountants thought it might be helpful to publish tips on what not to bother claiming as deductions - or, rather, what previous filers tried to claim, only to have them disallowed. Two favorites:

* a secretary's costs for dyeing her hair because her boss preferred blondes;

* an auto mechanic's bid to write off expenses for a guard dog. It was a miniature poodle.

At a hotel in Davenport, Iowa, over the weekend a women's group met for its third annual convention. Nothing unique about that, right? Maybe not, except that every one of those attending - roughly 100 - has the same first name. They're members of LINDA, otherwise known as Lindas Involved in Network Development Association.


World's Biggest Firms, Based on '96 Revenues

General Motors and Ford have jumped to the top of Fortune Magazine's Global 500 list - the first US companies so ranked since 1995. The 10 largest, their home countries, and 1996 revenues (in billions of US dollars):

1. General Motors, US $168.37

2. Ford, US 146.99

3. Mitsui, Japan 144.94

4. Mitsubishi, Japan 140.20

5. Itochu, Japan 135.54

6. Royal Dutch-Shell Group Britain/Netherlands 128.17

7. Marubeni, Japan 124.03

8. Exxon, US 119.43

9. Sumitomo, Japan 119.28

10. Toyota, Japan 108.70

- Reuters

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