News In Brief

The US

US Rep. Tom DeLay (R) of Texas was under pressure to resign as House majority whip, but an aide said he would not. Delay also reportedly faced the possibility of a no-confidence vote when House Republicans caucused privately today. Of GOP leaders implicated in a recent abortive attempt to replace Speaker Newt Gingrich, DeLay is reportedly the only one who hasn't publicly denied any role. Rep. Bill Paxon of New York stepped down last week as Gingrich's appointed leadership chairman as a result of the controversy.

House and Senate Republicans tried to reconcile their differences on tax-cut legislation in an effort to present a united front in negotiations with the White House by midweek. On one key issue, Republicans said they had agreed to retain proposed indexing of a capital-gains tax cut to account for inflation. President Clinton has threatened to veto any tax bill that contains tax indexing.

Former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy has been informed he is a target of a criminal grand jury probe and could face indictment for accepting gifts from companies he regulated, The Washington Times reported. The Times said Espy received the news in a letter from independent counsel Donald Smaltz, who has spent nearly three years investigating allegations that Espy accepted favors from poultry and meat companies. The counsel's office has indicated it hopes to finish the inquiry this summer.

An Alaska-bound US ferry finally pulled out of the harbor in Prince Rupert, B.C., two hours after angry Canadian fishermen met with Canadian Fisheries Minister David Anderson. The fishermen were urged by Anderson to release the ferry so US and Canadian officials could resume negotiations on the salmon-quota dispute that sparked the blockade. Canadian fishermen accuse Alaska fleets of intercepting thousands of sockeye salmon as they head for spawning streams in British Columbia.

Alan Greenspan was to deliver his midyear report to Congress on the US economy. The Federal Reserve Board chairman was expected to explain Fed policy and its modest pre-emptive move against inflation in March. His comments were sure to be carefully followed on Wall Street, where his December testimony to Congress triggered a brief stock-market decline.

Comprehensive security standards are needed in the effort to protect US troops from terrorist attacks overseas, a congressional report said. The General Accounting Office said an anti-terrorism program established after last year's deadly barracks bombing in Saudi Arabia still lacked "consistency and coordination." GAO teams sent to 30 overseas military sites earlier this year found significant improvements at bases in Turkey and the Middle East, but they said "vulnerabilities remain."

The American Civil Liberties Union joined a public custody battle over Whitewater figure Susan McDougal, saying her incarceration in a county jail for federal contempt charges is illegal. The ACLU asked a US court in Los Angeles to transfer her to a federal facility while she awaits trial on charges of stealing $150,000 from symphony conductor Zubin Mehta while working as his bookkeeper. She was jailed for contempt in Little Rock, Ark., last September after refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating the finances of the president and first lady.

A new State Department report assails China for suppressing religion and urges President Boris Yeltsin to veto legislation restricting worship in Russia, The New York Times reported. New legislation awaiting Yeltsin's signature would reportedly restrict religious freedom for the first time since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The Vatican held for safe-keeping about 200 million Swiss francs plundered from Serbs and Jews by the Nazi puppet government of Croatia, according to a newly declassified Treasury Department memo kept secret for 50 years. In the memo, a Treasury agent cited rumors that part of the money was sent to Spain and Argentina, but said he thought it all remained at the Vatican. The document was discovered by the A&E cable television network during research for a documentary. The Vatican said there was "no basis in reality" to the report.

Clinton declared Pend Oreille County in Washington State a major disaster area because of flooding earlier this year.

The World

Hard-line Protestant leader Ian Paisley was to confront British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London with his pledge to withdraw from negotiations on Northern Ireland's future if Sinn Fein is included. Blair persuaded the Ulster Unionists - the province's largest Protestant party - to remain in the talks for now despite unhappiness with a new formula that would allow Sinn Fein's ally, the Irish Republican Army, to keep its weapons until a handover is negotiated.

Democracy activists in Hong Kong challenged the new government's tolerance of dissent, with their first demonstration against political repression on the Chinese mainland since the territory was handed over to Beijing July 1. They rallied outside the offices of chief executive Tung Chee Hwa and handed in a petition demanding the release of jailed dissidents - a move that would not be allowed anywhere else in China. Police watched the protest but did not interfere.

Some European Union members distanced themselves from a proposal to expand the organization by embracing certain ex-Iron Curtain countries before others. Italy, Denmark, and Sweden warned that the tactic could cause resentment and set back the progress of political and economic reforms in countries not deemed ready for talks on EU membership. Last week, the EU's parent commission recommended moving Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, and Estonia to the head of the line. Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria would be kept waiting. Germany and Austria defended the plan.

EU leaders called their meeting in Brussels with Palestinian Authority President Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy "a step forward into hope" for progress in the Middle East peace process. But Levy insisted no progress could be made until Arafat does more to stop attacks on Israeli targets by Palestinian extremists. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated willingness to order a "token freeze" in construction of the disputed Har Homa housing project to get peace talks moving again.

The first move to scale back Islamic education in Turkey was sent to parliament by the new, pro-secular government. Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz - in a bow to the demands of the military - proposed increasing mandatory secular education from five to eight years, which would have the effect of shutting down the junior-high grades of Muslim secondary schools. If approved, the measure would be enforced at the start of the new school year. Angry opponents called for a national referendum on the bill.

Russian President Yeltsin weighed the loss of $200 million in US aid if he signed into law a controversial measure to restrict religious freedom.The bill favors traditional faiths and would require minority religions to wait 15 years before applying for full legal rights. The US Senate has threatened to withhold the aid if Yeltsin approves it. A decision was expected today.

An Italian military court said former Nazi SS Capt. Erich Priebke had to serve five years in prison for his role in the country's worst World War II atrocity, but it freed his codefendant, former Maj. Karl Hass. The court sentenced Priebke to 15 years, then reduced the term by 10 for complicity in the 1944 deaths of 335 Italians near Rome. It hand-ed Hass a sentence of 10 years and eight months but said he need not serve any time in jail.

Bulldozers reportedly uncovered mass graves containing dozens of human remains south of the Algerian capital. The newspaper El Watan said authorities could not determine whether the remains are those of civilians or Muslim rebels who helped to wage a five-year campaign to de-stabilize the country. The graves were found as government troops killed 140 rebels at Attat-ba in an advance on their base. Meanwhile, Algeria's new parliament met for the first time to examine ways to ease political and economic strife in the country.


"He's getting a bum rap. He has no intention of resigning. He's a valuable asset to the Republican Party."

- John Feehery, spokesman for US Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, who may be ousted in a Republican leadership shakeup.

Jami and Kent Oliver were leaving the Internal Revenue Service office in Columbus, Ohio - where they had just returned an $83,497 tax-refund that had been mailed to them by mistake - when they found a $15 parking ticket on the windshield of their car. Yes, the IRS was delighted at their honesty. No, it did not offer to pay their fine.

Chaos reigned. Traffic ground to a halt as a large object fell from a truck onto a street in Hong Kong. And bystanders howled with laughter as police, trying to restore order, had to prop up the thing so it could be heav-ed back onto the truck. In the end, the driver was fined $50 for not securing his load. The cause of the uproar: a six-foot-long, 220-pound frozen fish that was being delivered to a restaurant.

"OK, you caught me," Luciano Pavarotti told an Italian newspaper. The world-famous tenor admitted public-ly what had been known by relatively few people in the operatic world: He doesn't read music. Actor Vittorio Gassman told the paper he discovered Pavarotti's shortcoming as they rehearsed a duet for a festival last weekend. Pavarotti said he learns all his scores by ear.

The Day's List

'Men In Black' Stays Atop Box-Office Charts

"Men In Black" became the third film of the year to top box-office sales for three straight weekends. It had to fend off two new entries: "George of the Jungle," a remake of the 1960s animated TV series, and the Jodie Foster sci-fi drama, "Contact." The movies with highest estimated ticket sales for July 18-20 (in millions, with last week's ranking, if any, in parentheses):

1. "Men in Black" (1) $19.0

2. "George of the Jungle" 16.3

3 "Contact" (2) 16.1

4. "Nothing To Lose" 11.6

5. "Face/Off" (3) 9.0

6. "My Best Friend's Wedding" (5) 6.8

7. "Hercules" (4) 4.8

8. "Operation Condor" $4.7

9. "Out to Sea" (6) $3.1

10. "Batman & Robin" $1.8

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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