News In Brief

The US

The US space agency was reportedly reconsidering whether to send another astronaut to the troubled Russian space station Mir. While the US-Russian Mir crew prepared for a risky spacewalk, three US inquiries into safety aboard the station were proceeding. They will help decide whether astronaut David Wolf blasts off for Mir as scheduled on Sept. 25 on the US shuttle Atlantis. Meanwhile, although Mir's computer was fixed, its solar panels were still not properly aligned. The oft-delayed spacewalk to do some repair work was set for tomorrow.

UPS prepared to resume operations after a two-week strike, as Teamsters leaders approved a five-year contract. The vote freed 185,000 strikers to return to work, but ratification of the contract depends on secret mail balloting by union members, which could take up to four weeks.

The FBI launched a civil-rights inquiry at a Texas prison where guards videotaped prisoners being brutalized. The year-old tape shows prisoners being forced to crawl, one being attacked by a dog, and another being shot with a stun gun. As a result, officials in Oklahoma and Missouri were removing nearly 700 prisoners from Texas prisons, and reviewing so-called rent-a-cell contracts with Texas.

Representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted 995 to 15 to develop a new plan to share ministry with the Episcopal Church. On Monday, delegates to the biennial church assembly had easily approved a sweeping plan to share clergy and communion with the Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, and the Reformed Church in America - but had defeated a similar proposal to share full communion with Episcopalians.

Last year's ValuJet crash that killed 110 people was the result of failures by regulators, the airline, and its maintenance contractor and could have been avoided, a US agency said. Nonetheless - in a report on the flight's plunge into the Florida Everglades - the National Transportation Safety Board said the DC-9 probably would not have crashed, if the plane carried fire-detection and -suppression gear.

California launched an initiative to bring online access to every public high school classroom. The program is scheduled to provide schools with $500 million in state funds over four years. The state will give schools grants of $300 a student. To earn a grant, schools must first find matching funds and commit to installing computers within two years. Despite its reputation as a high-technology mecca, California ranks 45th out of 50 states in terms of its students' access to computers.

The Air Force said it was canceling all major flying competitions for the rest of the year, reducing the number of partici- pants in desert-warfare training for security forces, and ending a long-standing air-training program. In a statement released at the Pentagon, the Air Combat Command cited several recent studies that indicate lagging morale among its air crews - in part because of exercises that many commanders said were not worthwhile.

As expected, the Federal Reserve left short-term interest rates unchanged. On Wall Street, speculation about rate changes shifted to Fed meetings, scheduled for Sept. 30 and Nov. 12.

The US trade deficit narrowed sharply in June, as exports climbed to an all-time high and imports shrank for the first time in eight months, the Commerce Department said. The politically sensitive deficits with China and Japan grew, however. The total deficit for the month shrank by 14.5 percent to $8.16 billion, the smallest imbalance since March.

Investigators are reviewing Microsoft's proposed $150 million stake in Apple Computer, the Justice Department said. In addition to Apple, the probe focuses on Microsoft's recent purchase of stakes in three companies that make video technology for use on the World Wide Web. They are VDONet Corp., Progressive Networks Inc., and VXtreme Inc., a department spokeswoman said.

The World

Israeli planes launched three attacks into Lebanon, one day after Hizbullah fighters fired rockets into Israel. Among other targets, the jets fired at a car, a power station, and Hizbullah positions in the Bekaa valley. At least nine people were killed and scores wounded in the raids. Afterward, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri accused Israel of fueling instability in the Mideast. Analysts say the violence jeopardizes last year's Arab-Israeli agreement barring cross-border attacks on civilians.

NATO-led peacekeeping troops in Bosnia sealed off several police stations and seized truckloads of illegal weapons in Banja Luka, responding to a plea by Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic. The deployment was another indication that Western countries are siding with Plavsic in her power struggle with opponents loyal to former President Radovan Karadzic. The rivalry threatens to break apart the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia.

Iran's parliament approved all 22 Cabinet ministers proposed by President Mohammed Khatami after 15 hours of heated debate. The new government officially starts work today. Meanwhile, Israel stopped an Iranian opposition group from using an Israeli satellite to broadcast anti-Iranian speeches into Iran. Israeli officials said they halted the radio and TV broadcasts as a conciliatory gesture to the new president.

President Yeltsin proposed an amnesty for roughly half of Russia's prison population to alleviate overcrowding, the Kremlin press service said. Urging parliament to pass the measure, Yeltsin argued that many of the 445,000 prisoners eligible under his proposal did not pose a serious public threat and could be safely released, but he said the amnesty should not apply to people sentenced for serious crimes. Human Rights groups have described conditions in Russian prisons as "appalling and inhumane."

Fighting intensified between warring Cambodian factions in O'Smach - the last town held by forces loyal to ousted Cambodian co-premier Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Two rockets landed in neighboring Thailand as the battles moved to within 500 yards of the border. Meanwhile, Cambodian co-premier Hun Sen said Cambodian officials would meet with Thai officials today to ar-range the return of thousands of refugees who fled across the border. Thailand wants them to return to Cambodia within a week.

Suspected Muslim militants ambushed two police vehicles in southern Egypt, killing five officers and a passerby, police said. Security forces sealed off the town of Manfalut, 190 miles south of Cairo, and rounded up 63 people in the search for the killers. Islamic extremists have carried out at least four attacks on Egyptian police since declaring a ceasefire last month.

Winds and torrential rains from Typhoon Winnie killed some 75 people in east China, officials and news reports indicated. The toll was expected to rise as information comes in from outlying areas. TV news reported supplies and transportation returning to normal in most areas.

Two Colombian Cabinet ministers quit after a news magazine published excerpts of a phone conversation of them discussing how to award radio-broadcast licenses to allies of President Ernesto Samper. The president accepted the resignations of Energy Minister Rodrigo Villamizar and Communications Minister Saulo Arboleda, who awarded 81 new FM licenses last month.

Turkey's government vowed to crack down on demonstrations against an education law that increases secular schooling from five to eight years and forbids children under 12 from attending Koranic courses. Thousands of Islamists have taken to the streets since the measure was enacted Saturday.


"Don't give your city to tyrants!"

- Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic, urging a crowd of 1,500 in Banja Luka to support her campaign against forces loyal to indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic.

The phrase "dumb as an ox" proved all too true when seven musk oxen decided to walk onto a barren island off of Alaska's North Slope in May. The animals became stranded after the ice they crossed on melted. Concerned the oxen would starve, villagers tried to scare the them off the island by hollering at them. When that didn't work, Ben Linn held a piece of driftwood over his head, pretending to be the baddest musk ox around. The scared beasts swam safely to the mainland.

It's not exactly the ideal place to watch a play but if you don't mind passing garbage trucks, whistling car alarms, and the occasional stray dog, there's "Shakespeare in the Parking Lot" - free performances of the Bard, acted out in a New York City municipal parking lot. The summer festival must have some appeal; it's in its third year.

High fashion and high culture collided recently at the English National Ballet - and, as you might imagine, fashion had to bow out. Reassembling after a five-week holiday, dancers were reportedly told to lose their suntans because their toasted bodies were beginning to look more like lobsters than swans. The troop is preparing for a production of "Swan Lake."

The Day's List

New Stallone Film Cops Top Spot at Box Office

The Sylvester Stallone police drama "Cop Land" was No. 1 at the box office over the weekend, with "Air Force One" and "Conspiracy Theory" in hot pursuit, according to studio estimates. The top-grossing films from Aug. 15 to Aug. 17, with their estimated revenues (in millions of dollars):

1. "Cop Land" $13.5

2. "Air Force One" $12.4

3. "Conspiracy Theory" $12.3

4. "Event Horizon" $9.5

5. "Spawn" $5.0

6. "George of the Jungle" $4.8

7. "Men in Black" $4.2

8. "Picture Perfect" $3.3

9. "Contact" $2.9

10. "How to Be a Player" $2.5

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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