News In Brief

The US

The head of a powerful House committee urged Attorney General Janet Reno to name an independent prosecutor to investigate former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary or face removal from office. Rep. Gerald Solomon (R) of New York, chairman of the House Rules Committee, called on Reno to appoint a prosecutor after Johnny Chung, a Taiwanese-American businessman, said in an NBC interview that an Energy Department staff member accepted $25,000 for a private charity in return for setting up a meeting between O'Leary and a group of Chinese entrepreneurs.

President Clinton held an unusual 1996 meeting with Federal Express Corp. chairman Frederick Smith, the Washington Post reported. It said Smith pressed Clinton to impose sanctions on Japan, which has refused to allow Federal Express to deliver cargo from Japan to other lucrative Asian markets. During an eight-month period before and after the White House meeting, Smith and Federal Express gave $275,000 to the Democratic National Committee, the Post said.

A group of state attorneys general urged the White House to protect Liggett Group Inc. from financial obligations included in the proposed $368.5 billion tobacco settlement - despite objections by larger tobacco firms. Liggett, the smallest of the top-five US tobacco companies, enraged other manufacturers when it broke ranks with them in March 1996 and again in March 1997 to reach settlements with state attorneys general.

A grand jury in New York indicted 20 alleged leaders of a nationwide ring that lured dozens of Mexicans to the US to sell trinkets. The indictment, which consolidates several cases against the alleged ringleaders, includes a charge of placing 62 hearing- and speech-impaired Mexicans in involuntary servitude. The group first came to the attention of police in New York on July 19.

A prominent Arkansas Democrat switched to the Republican Party. Luther Hardin, who served 14 years in the Arkansas state Senate as a conservative Democrat, also acknowledged he was considering another US Senate campaign next year. He lost a Senate campaign last year. Earlier this year, Hardin was named by Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, to oversee the state's higher education system.

Investigators in New Hampshire found at least 600 pounds of ammonium nitrate on the rural property of an eccentric who gunned down four people before being killed by police on Tuesday. Carl Drega, who had a long-running feud with local officials over zoning and other property issues, also bought 61.5 gallons of diesel fuel and burned down his house in the middle of his spree. Diesel fuel mixed with ammonium nitrate was reportedly the explosive mixture used in the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings.

The international drug trade suffered severe setbacks in 1996, but multinational gangs supplying methamphetamines pose a new threat, a report from the National Narcotics Intelligence Consumers Committee said. Drug groups suffering the greatest setbacks were said to be cocaine suppliers in Colombia and heroin traders in Burma.

General Motors Corp. is recalling 475,000 pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles because seat belts were cut during crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. The vehicles affected are 1994-97 Chevrolet S/T-10 and GMC Sonoma extended-cab pickups, 1996-97 two-door Chevrolet Blazer sport utility vehicles, 1996-97 two-door GMC Jimmy sport utilities, and 1996-97 Isuzu extended-cab Hombre pickups.

Criminal charges will not be filed against at The Citadel military college cadets involved in the alleged hazing of two of the school's first female students. The incidents, which led cadets Jeanie Mentavlos and Kim Messer to quit the formerly all-male college, do not meet requirements for prosecution under South Carolina laws, a state prosecutor said.

The World

Two Russian cosmonauts were expected to perform vital power-supply repairs today on the Mir space station. Anatoly Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov were to go on an "internal space walk" of the Mir's Spektr module, which was depressurized after a June collision with a cargo ship. Among other goals, the two will try to reconnect electric cables to the Spektr's solar panels and locate holes caused by the accident.

Thailand's Premier Chavalit Yongchaiyudh is expected to meet with Cambodian defense officials today to discuss the repatriation of Cambodian refugees. Up to 35,000 refugees have crossed into Thailand to escape fighting between Cambodian strongman Hun Sen's forces and troops loyal to ousted Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Thai officials said the refugees can stay in Thailand until it is safe for them to return.

Foreign Ministry officials from Japan and North Korea held talks in Beijing aimed at establishing diplomatic relations, a move that could lead to Japanese aid to ease food shortages in North Korea. The North is still angry at Japan for colonizing the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Tokyo wants ties to reduce North Korea's potential military threat. Previous talks ended in failure in 1992, when North Korean negotiators walked out after Japan demanded information on a Japanese woman believed to have been abducted by North Korea.

Palestinian authorities began enforcing a partial boycott of Israeli goods, setting up roadblocks at the entrances of autonomous Palestinian areas and turning away trucks carrying Israeli products. The action comes in response to Israel's closure of its border with the West Bank and Gaza. Meanwhile, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu accused Yasser Arafat of being "two-faced," after the Palestinian leader held two days of talks with Islamic militant leaders in the Gaza Strip. Israel wants Arafat to crack down on militants, following last month's suicide bombings in Jerusalem.

Chinese meteorologists described typhoon Winnie as the worst storm to hit China in a decade. The storm slammed into China's eastern coastal province of Zhejiang Monday, killing more than 140 people, injuring 3,000, and destroying tens of thousands of homes, officials said. Winnie also ravaged parts of Taiwan and the Philippines.

Britain offered adults leaving the volcanic island of Montserrat an emergency grant of $3,840 each, payable over six months - and said it would consider further aid to individuals. People under 18 are to be offered $960 each. It was the first official confirmation of such payments. Many islanders have protested that Britain is being too tight-fisted. Most of the Caribbean island's residents - once 11,000 - have left since July 1995, when volcanic eruptions began.

Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui named a ruling Nationalist Party lawmaker as premier. Vincent Siew was told to prepare to replace Lien Chan, following the completion of a Cabinet reshuffle on Sept 1. The switch had been in the works for months, with Siew viewed as the best hope to tackle public discontent with the government and Taiwan's perennial feud with China.

A regional leader of the Armed Islamic Group and three of his lieutenants were killed in the mountains east of Algiers, an Algerian newspaper reported. Hassan Hattab, who was linked to the assassination of former Prime Minister Kadi Merbah in 1993, reportedly died in a clash with a vigilante "self-defense group." Meanwhile, Algerian security forces killed 13 rebels during an offensive aimed at crushing a 5 1/2-year-old insurgency. by Muslim militants. About 900 people have died in a wave of sectarian violence since June elections were won by pro-government parties.


"We'll do whatever we can to help those unfortunate people...."

- Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Pitak Intrawityanunt, who said there was no time limit on how long

some 35,000 Cambodian refugees could remain in Thailand.

Officials in a Pittsburgh suburb were in quite a fix when some property owners stopped repairing their dilapidated buildings. When levying fines failed to spark improvements, Wilkinsburg leaders decided to put signs in front of the eyesores. What was the message? No, not "for sale," but simply "slum property" - in an attempt to embarrass owners into picking up a hammer.

For rumors, there's nothing like a small, cozy island. So it's not surprising that Bill Clinton's summer retreat on Martha's Vineyard, Mass., is the focus of gossip as persistent as the eel grass rimming the island's dunes. Yes, TV personality Merv Griffin did show up for a presidential party, along with singer Carly Simon. But, no, the Princess of Wales was not on Griffin's yacht - and Tiger Woods wasn't scheduled to play golf with the president.

Britain's longest-married couple just celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary. Retired steelworker Tom Blacker and wife, Rene, marked their "radium anniversary" with some of their three children, eight grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

The Day's List

Cost of a Movie Ticket in 10 of World's Big Cities

If you think movies are expensive in the US, try comparing them with the ticket prices in some countries overseas, where the strength or weakness of the US dollar against individual foreign currencies helps create significant differences. Runzheimer International, a management- consultant firm based in Roch-ester, Wis., recently surveyed prices of goods and services in a number of cities around the world. The reported average cost of a movie ticket in 10 of those cities (in US dollars):

Tokyo $15.78

London 9.57

Sidney 9.02

Paris 7.97

Hong Kong 7.75

Rio de Janeiro 7.54

Los Angeles 6.14

Toronto 5.08

Madrid 4.83

Mexico City 2.56

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