News In Brief

The US

The Pentagon said it was trying to determine whether Russia had breached a self-imposed nuclear-test moratorium. A spokeswoman said no conclusions had been reached concerning a "seismic event" 12 days ago in the vicinity of a Russian nuclear test site. The Washington Times said Moscow was maintaining the event was an underwater earthquake, not a nuclear test.

The economy lost much less vigor in the spring than previously thought, the Commerce Department said, sharply revising its estimate of second-quarter growth. Gross domestic product grew at a 3.6 percent annual rate in the second quarter rather than the 2.2 percent rate reported a month ago, officials said.

The number of the newly unemployed applying for jobless benefits fell last week for the first time this month, the Labor Department said. First-time claims fell by 16,000 to 323,000 in the week ended Aug. 23. Wall Street economists had reportedly expected claims to decrease slightly to 331,000.

A top US railroad official gave a grim assessment of safety on the Union Pacific Railroad. Federal Rail Administration chief Jolene Molitoris mentioned dangerous train maneuvers, 90-hour work weeks, and missing freight data as factors undermining safety in the nation's largest rail company. Her comments came midway through a 10-day safety review, prompted by a series of train wrecks that killed seven people.

The son of late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown agreed to plead guilty to an election-law violation stemming from donations made during the 1994 campaign, the Justice Department said. Michael A. Brown will reportedly plead guilty in a Washington district court to one count of making a donation to Sen. Edward Kennedy's 1994 campaign that exceeded the $2,000 legal limit. At the time, Brown was an officer of an Oklahoma natural-gas company.

A business partner of former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker was expected to plead guilty to one of three felony counts. Boston businessman William F. Marks Sr. was scheduled to appear in federal court in Little Rock. A source close to the case said a plea arrangement would require prosecutors to request that Marks serve no jail time. He was Tucker's partner in a cable-TV firm scrutinized by Whitewater prosecutors. Tucker has been convicted of fraud in connection with the Whitewater scandal.

An appeals court replaced Stephen Jones as lead attorney for Timothy McVeigh. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver appointed Robert Nigh Jr., already a member of McVeigh's legal team, to handle his appeal. McVeigh wanted Jones off the case, contending the attorney had lied to him and mismanaged his defense. Jones denied the allegations.

Motel 6 said it was appealing a court decision that opens the door for a class-action lawsuit against the no-frills chain by black travelers who report being denied rooms, charged higher rates than whites, and given rooms that were unclean when others were available. On Aug. 15, US district court Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich ruled in Tampa, Fla., that 22 affidavits from across the US supported a charge of racial discrimination.

The Pentagon said it had sponsored some 2,400 studies and experiments on people, including radiation treatments on airmen and submarine crews, between 1944 and 1994. The 625-page report to Congress was part of a review of a number of controversial projects, many designed to assess the effects of fallout in a nuclear war.

Three men were charged with eavesdropping on New York City officials in what authorities termed the first indictment for illegally intercepting pager messages. US Attorney Mary Jo White said agents of Breaking News Network, based in Fort Lee, N.J., intercepted pager messages to the mayor's office, a city commissioner, and top police and fire officials to provide information to the media. Pagers that display messages are one means police use to send messages deemed too sensitive for police radios.

The World

Angry Bosnian Serbs pelted NATO-led peacekeeping troops with stones in three Bosnian towns. Reports of injuries were unclear. NATO said the peace force moved into Brcko, Bijeljina and Doboj to prevent violence between supporters of war crime suspect Radovan Karadzic and his chief rival, Bosnian Serb President Biljana Plavsic. The power struggle threatens to divide the Serb-held half of Bosnia.

Britain will announce today whether Sinn Fein will be allowed to join talks on the future of Northern Ireland. The move comes six weeks after Sinn Fein's ally, the Irish Republican Army, halted its violent campaign against British rule of the province. Despite their objections, pro-British parties expected Sinn Fein would be allowed to take part.

A bomb exploded in the Casbah neighborhood of the Algerian capital, Algiers, killing at least six people and wounding 20 others, sources at a nearby hospital said. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but officials have blamed recent violence on Muslim militants, who have battled since 1992 to overthrow the military-backed government. This week alone, some 200 people have died in massacres in villages south of the capital.

A Thai general said his forces fired across the Thai-Cambodian border, killing three soldiers loyal to Cambodian strongman Hun Sen. Maj. Gen. Chirasak Prommopakorn said the shelling came after repeatedly warning Cambodia's warring factions to keep their artillery fire on the Cambodian side of the border. Stray shells from the fighting killed a Thai soldier and wounded two others Wednesday. Hun Sen's troops are battling forces loyal to ousted Prince Norodom Ranariddh around the border village of O'Smach.

A national summit on whether to end Australia's formal ties with Britain was approved by the Australian Parliament. Prime Minister John Howard, an avowed monarchist, said the summit would be held by mid-1998 and Australians would elect half of the 152 delegates before the end of this year. The remaining delegates will be nominated by the government. Although Australia is independent, its formal head of state for the past two centuries has been the ruling British monarch.

Flooding in Thailand was blamed for the deaths of 30 people. Heavy tropical rains that began last Friday have swamped 10 southern provinces. But an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the floodwaters have begun to recede. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh inspected flooding in Chumpon Province and ordered an urgent dispatch of food and supplies to aid the victims.

Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party appointed a new premier and approved a modest cabinet shuffle in a long-awaited move to shore up a government tainted by scandals. Former economics minister Vincent Siew was named by President Lee Teng-hui to replace Lien Chan, who had served as premier since 1993. During Lien's term, scores of officials were convicted on corruption charges.

China asked Panama to withdraw an invitation to Taiwan's president to attend a global conference on the Panama Canal on Sept. 7. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman called the invitation "a mistaken act." Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province and wants to diplomatically isolate the island.

Sudanese rebel leader John Garang was expected to arrive in South Africa for peace talks Sunday with Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Meanwhile, anti-government rebels, attacked a village 300 miles south of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, killing four people, and setting ablaze warehouses of the US aid group, Save the Children, the Alwan newspaper reported. The rebels ignited a civil war 14 years ago.


"The people who are running away from the talks are the people who are gutless."

- Ulster Unionist lawmaker Jeffrey Donaldson, on Protestants in Northern Ireland who oppose peace talks if a party allied with the outlawed Irish Republican Army is allowed to participate.

Those who have reported cars stolen in Recife, Brazil, may want to take a closer look around the police station. Authorities there have seized about 100 stolen cars being used by police officers. The situation was most critical at the one police station dedicated to solving car thefts. All 40 of the cars used by the station's officers were found to be stolen vehicles, which police had recovered but failed to return to their owners.

A Swiss army knife saved the day during a choral concert in Sydney after a pencil fell into the pianist's Steinway. The giggling audience at Sydney University watched in disbelief as the conductor banged on the keyboard and a half-dozen choristers lifted up one end of the piano. Finally, a member of the audience pulled out a penknife, screwed off the front cover of the grand piano, retrieved the pencil - and the singers resumed their concert.

The Day's List

Top College Choices of 'Who's Who' Students

The publishers of "Who's Who Among American High School Students" say Stanford University was ranked highest by the 100,000 students who were selected for this year's edition. The annual "Who's Who" list consists of students with a "B" average or higher who have shown academic and extracurricular leadership.

Their top-10:

1. Stanford University

2. Harvard University

3. University of California at Los Angeles

4. Duke University

5. University of California at Berkeley

6. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

7. University of Texas at Austin

8. Texas A & M University

9. Florida State University

10. Yale University

- Reuters

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