News In Brief

The US

Negotiators for UPS and the striking Teamsters Union returned to the bargaining table. However, their meeting was billed as a discussion, not a negotiation, suggesting the two sides remained far apart. They agreed to renew the talks on Day 11 of the strike at the urging of Labor Secretary Alexis Herman.

President Clinton issued guidelines making it clear federal workers have such religious freedoms as keeping a Bible or wearing a yarmulke at the office. The memo reportedly requires US agencies to allow employees to engage in personal religious expression and to "reasonably accommodate" holy days, even if doing so creates a hardship for the agencies.

Eighty-two US senators joined Clinton in urging Germany to pay pensions to Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut revealed. Germany has paid more than $54 billion to Western survivors of the Nazi regime, but some 15,000 to 40,000 survivors in former Soviet-bloc countries were unable to apply during the cold war. The US plea, in a letter sent Aug. 1 to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, came before German-Jewish talks scheduled to be held next week in Bonn.

Southern Baptist leaders stepped up a boycott of the Walt Disney Co., asking each member of the country's largest Protestant denomination to withhold the spending of at least $100 on Disney products during the coming year. The church also asked its 15 million members to send Disney chairman Michael Eisner an accounting of the funds they do not spend.

Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was scheduled to be formally sentenced to death. In an interview with a reporter for The Buffalo News, McVeigh accused his lead defense attorney of mishandling his case and lying to him - and said the attorney, Stephen Jones, should not be allowed to handle his appeals. There was speculation McVeigh would use the occasion of his sentencing to say more about his case. He was almost completely silent during the 11-week trial.

Greenpeace, the environmental group, is cutting its US staff to 65 from about 400 and closing regional offices, a spokeswoman said. Most of the layoffs stem from a decision to discontinue a door-to-door canvass that had been the mainstay of Greenpeace efforts to raise money, gain new members, and collect petition signatures, she said.

Two alleged New York drug-gang leaders were extradited from the Dominican Republic to the US to face drug and murder charges, following a year of diplomatic negotiations. Dominican officials refused to comment on the return of Francisco Medina and Maximo Reyes, but there was speculation it could open the door to many more extraditions. At least 400 Dominicans wanted for trial in New York are hiding out in the Caribbean country, according to New York police commissioner Howard Safir.

Consumer prices edged up a modest 0.2 percent in July, the biggest advance in five months, the Labor Department said. Prices so far this year are rising at a 1.5 percent annual rate, less than half the gain in 1996.

High-school seniors scored higher on the ACT college-entrance exam for the fourth time in five years, test officials said. Students averaged 21 out of a possible 36 points on the American College Testing Program exam, up from 20.9 last year and 20.6 in 1992. Officials credited more students taking higher-level classes for the jump. Using calculators for the first time, they scored notably higher in math.

Despite higher entry fees, national parks had more visitors the first half of this year than in the same period last year, the National Park Service said. More than 112 million people visited the parks through June, up nearly 5 percent from 1996. Congress approved doubling fees at many sites to pay for improvements and repairs.

The Pappas restaurant chain, which had pleaded guilty to hiring illegal aliens and hiding them during inspections by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, will pay a record $1.75 million fine, Justice Department officials said.

The World

The last important town still held by troops loyal to ousted Cambodian copremier Norodom Ranariddh was expected to fall within days to his rival, Hun Sen. Neighboring Thailand sent reinforcements to prevent refugees from O'Smach from crossing the border as the town came under heavy weapons fire from Hun Sen's soldiers.

Israel eased a travel ban in the West Bank and Gaza, but Palestinian leader Arafat said 60,000 workers still were being denied "any economic life," because they were unable to enter the Jewish state. He called on Israel to pay $40 million in tax revenues it is withholding from the Palestinian Authority. Prime Minister Netanyahu imposed the sanctions after the July 30 marketplace bombing in Jerusalem.

India began celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence from Britain with parades, fireworks, and other festivities in the capital, New Delhi. Prime Minister Kumar was to address the nation today. Meanwhile, a train bombing killed seven people in northeastern India. The blast, blamed on tribal rebels, served as a reminder of separatist tensions in the country.

Last-minute changes in the format for Pakistan's official 50th-anniversary celebrations were caused by a squabble between Prime Minister Sharif and President Leghari over who would address a joint session of Parliament. Sharif won the dispute and called in his speech for an end to differences with India that have kept their border one of the world's most tense. Leg-hari was expected to lay a wreath at the tomb of Pakistan's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

Two Russian cosmonauts returned to Earth, ending a troubled six-month tour on Mir. Alex-ander Lazutkin and Vasily Tsibli- yev had endured the space station's collision with a resupply ship, a fire, and repeated breakdowns of the station's oxygen generator. A two-man Russian replacement crew boarded Mir last week. US astronaut Michael Foale will remain with them until his replacement arrives next month.

A law allowing Colombia's government to seize ill-gotten assets from drug traffickers was upheld by the country's Constitutional Court. Rejecting a challenge from lawyers representing drug bosses, the court said the law can be applied to assets confiscated before it took effect last year. More than 360 properties worth billions of dollars have been seized to date, mostly from traffickers in Medelln and Cal. Sales of the assets are intended to benefit landless peasants and pay for social programs.

The UN Security Council considered proposals aimed at preventing sanctions against Angola's former rebel movement, UNITA. The sanctions were to be imposed today unless the council was satisfied that UNITA had moved to comply with the 1994 peace accord ending 20 years of civil war. The proposals address demands that UNITA hand over the vast areas it still controls, list its men under arms, and convert its radio station into a nonpartisan broadcaster.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was to pay his first visit to Australia's South Pacific neighbors since publication of a scathing government report on their economies and the personal habits of their senior leaders. It found its way into print last month after being left unattend-ed at a conference center. Australian diplomats have since tried to assure other governments in the region that the report didn't reflect official policy.

An unusual meeting of Serbia's government was held in Kosovo, the politically volatile province where secessionist-minded ethnic Albanians outnumber Serbs 9 to 1. The meeting focused on regional develop- ment. Kosovo is to hold elections Sept. 21, which Albanians have vowed to boycott. More than 30 people have died in ethnic violence there in the past year.


"Let's hope that everything that went wrong is leaving with us."

- Alexander Lazutkin, as he and fellow cosmonaut Vasily Tsibliyev returned to Earth from the troubled Mir space station.

Talk about marching to a different drummer! It must have been a bit uncomfortable for British soldiers parading through an Argentine winter resort as part of the festivities before an international ski tournament - to the tune "Malvinas Argentina." It calls for sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, the site of a 1982 war between the two nations, won by Britain. Asked why his musicians chose that number, Army chief Martin Balza would only smile.

Acting as his own lawyer, businessman Leung Ka-ching appealed the sentence imposed on him by a Hong Kong judge and won a reversal. Leung was charged in an illegal advertising case, but that's not what got him a $65 fine. It was handed down for chewing gum in contempt of court. His defense: Out of respect for the court he want-ed to have fresh breath.

As if riding the New York subway system isn't challenging enough, thieves at Court Street station in Brooklyn have made it even more-so. So what was stolen that caused the inconvenience: the tokens? No, 80 aluminum escalator treads, valued at $1,000 apiece and weighing a combined 3,200 pounds. Transit officials theorize the steps were sold for scrap.

The Day's List

Fall Harvest Expected to Keep Food Prices Stable

Following a highly positive estimate of the fall harvest by the US Agriculture Department, market analysts say stable food prices are probable this year. The forecast includes a record soybean crop and the nation's fourth-largest corn harvest. Last year, low inventories of wheat and corn helped to drive up food prices 3.3 percent, the largest rise this decade. This year's expected abundant crops should drive grain prices down. The department's forecast for five major crops (with percentage increase or decrease from last year):

Wheat +11.0%

Rice +6.2%

Oats +20.6%

Corn - 1.0%

Soybeans +15.0%

Barley - 4.0%

- Reuters

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