News In Brief

The US

Despite its denials, the government of China decided as early as 1995 to try to buy political influence in the US by contributing to congressional campaigns, the Los Angeles Times reported. The newspaper said the FBI uncovered the plan through intercepted communications between the Chinese Embassy in Washington and Beijing. At least $2 million was earmarked for the effort to counter what was perceived as Taiwan's disproportionate influence in the US, it said.

Chinese President Jiang Ze-min said he hopes his visit to the US next week will raise relations with the US "to a new level." In an interview with the The Washington Post, Jiang urged Americans to tolerate his country's political system. Meanwhile, US officials left for Beijing to try to fine-tune China's pledge to stop selling missiles to Iran and helping to develop the Iranian nuclear program, two issues Jiang is expected to discuss with President Clinton when they meet Oct. 29.

The world's two biggest accounting and consulting firms are expected to announce a merger this week, The New York Times reported. The proposed deal between Ernst & Young and KPMG Peat Marwick would result in a firm with revenues of $15.3 billion and nearly 12,000 partners.

Wall Street opens today after the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 119 points Thursday and 92 points Friday. The Dow closed at 7847, down 198.18 for the week. The drop was unsettling for investors on the eve of the 10th anniversary of Black Monday - the second most famous crash in Wall Street history.

Health-insurance premiums for most policyholders are likely to rise by at least 5 percent next year, The New York Times reported. Citing insurance industry sources and consultants, it said the premiums charged to small employers with older workforces could increase by as much as 30 percent. The rates have remained stable for four years, largely because of the growth of managed-care programs.

The Federal Maritime Commission was to decide whether its threatened ban on Japanese shipping should be dropped permanently. This, after negotiators reached a deal in principle late last week that would give American shippers freer access to Japanese ports. The agreement came just hours before an order barring Japanese container ships from US ports was to take effect, disrupting billions of dollars in trade. The commission had voted to impose the ban after Japanese shipping companies refused to pay $4 million in fines.

American women in the military were honored with a new memorial at a dedication ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery. Vice President Gore, Defense Secretary Cohen, and other top officials praised the nation's nearly 2 million women who have joined the armed forces.

The Florida Marlins were to face off with the Cleveland Indians in Game 2 of the World Series in Miami. In Game 1 of their first appearance in the series, the Marlins won, 7-4.

While returning home from a week-long Latin America tour, Clinton phoned about a half-dozen members of Congress from Air Force One to lobby for "fast track" authority to negotiate trade deals. Congress returns this week for an end-of-session push on new trade authority and must-pass spending bills.

FBI Director Louis Freeh scheduled a news conference for tomorrow to announce the appointment of physicist Donald Kerr to head the agency's troubled forensics laboratory. Critics say Kerr lacks the proper scientific background for the job and has never run a crime laboratory. Kerr ran the US nuclear weapons program during the Carter administration.

Experts were called in to detonate eight Vietnam War-era bombs uncovered by workmen laying track in a railyard near Roseville, Calif. About 400 residents were asked to evacuate the area. The bombs apparently were left from a trainload of munitions bound for the war that exploded in 1973. One bomb found last week was detonated.

The World

Exactly what the US means by a "timeout" in the construction of Jewish settlements was expected to be a key issue in discussions between American envoy Dennis Ross and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Israel also planned to raise with Ross its demand that Palestinian Authority President Arafat do more to combat terrorism as well as its desire to bypass interim peace negotiations with the Palestinians and move directly to talks on a permanent settlement, a Netanyahu aide said. Ross also was to meet separately with Arafat.

Argentine President Carlos Menem endorsed President Clinton's call for including developing countries in international efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. While agreeing to the concept, neither side has said what those limits should be. Clinton was unable to win such a pledge from Venezuela or Brazil, the other countries he visited in a week-long South American trip.

A presidential runoff election between an ally and a foe of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was held in Montenegro. Milosevic's proxy, Momir Bulatovic, edged challenger Milo Djukanovic in a vote Oct. 5, but failed to win an absolute majority. Analysts say a win by the reform-minded Djukanovic could lead to Milosevic's downfall.

Thailand's finance minister, Thanong Bidaya, threatened to resign after the government rescinded an oil tax imposed to help the country out of its economic crisis. Public outrage led Prime Minister Chavalit Yong-chaiyudh to scrap the tax late last week, only three days after he announced it. Thanong said the funds generated by the tax are necessary to meet revenue demands set by the International Monetary Fund as part of its $17 billion rescue package.

Handing over notorious Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot for trial on genocide charges would be "no problem," the group said in a broadcast from hiding in Cambodia. But it said if an international tribunal heard Pol Pot's case, then Cambodian Prime Minister and coup leader Hun Sen also should be tried for "crimes, treason, and mass killings of the Cambodian people." Pol Pot's former followers sentenced him to life imprisonment for treason in June, although some analysts say the move may have been a propaganda ploy.

A discovery by British scientists could lead to the production of headless human clones, The Sunday Times of London reported. Scientists at Bath University say the method they used to create a frog embryo without a head could be combined with the recently discovered cloning technique to grow human organs and tissue for transplantation. Some scientists and ethicists accused the embryologists of meddling with nature.

Rival Kurdish groups in northern Iraq traded angry words over the cease-fire that began late last week. The Kurdistan Democratic Party accused the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of an artillery attack that killed 10 of its followers over the weekend. The PUK said its fighters would retaliate unless captured territory was returned. The truce, brokered by the US, was another in a long series since fighting between the two sides broke out in 1994.

US drug policy adviser Barry McCaffrey met with government officials in Bolivia, where one-third of the world's cocaine is produced. After flying to the main cocaine producing region 500 miles south of La Paz, McCaffrey watched as soldiers destroyed illegal coca fields and incinerated $15 million worth of refined cocaine. Bolivia has pledged to eliminate coca-leaf cultivation within five years and must destroy 17,000 acres of the crop by the end of the year or face the loss of US aid.

It is morally regressive to create a mutant form of life."

- Oxford University ethicist Andrew Linzey, on the development of a headless frog embryo by British scientists.


If you got a Christmas card from Tung Chee Hwa last year, be advised that you're now off his list. As a matter of fact, everybody else is, too. The chief executive of Hong Kong has notified the environmental group Friends of the Earth by letter that he will send no official cards this year in an effort to help save trees. It is not known whether the letter was written on recycled paper.

Imagine the look on the insurance agent's face when Gael Bissell filed a damage claim. It seems the Missoula, Mont., resident and her family were at their cabin near Glacier National Park when a grizzly bear happened by. It headed straight for their Ford Explorer, smashed a window, climbed inside, chewed up the seats, and left. Bears forage resolutely for food this time of year to put on fat for winter hibernation: Perhaps someone in the family had spilled French fries. Yes, the claim was accepted.

The Day's List

Rating Privately Held Powerhouse Companies

A toothbrush with fast-moving bristles pushed Optiva Co. to the top of Inc. magazine's list of the 500 fastest-growing privately held businesses in the US. The publication's top 10:

1. Optiva, Bellevue, Wash. (makes "sonic" toothbrushes)

2. Duke & Co., New York (investment banking, placement, initial public offering services)

3. Natural Gas Transmission Services, Dallas (markets/trades natural gas and electricity)

4. Scrip Plus, Fresno, Calif. (provides funding resources)

5. Accord Human Resources, Oklahoma City (provides employee-leasing services)

6. New Work Technologies, Ashland, Mass. (develops computer software)

7. TH Properties, Franconia, Pa. (develops residential properties)

8. Commercial Financial Services, Tulsa, Okla. (restructures, collects loans)

9. International Profit Associates, Buffalo Grove, Ill. (management consulting services)

10. PhotoDisc, Seattle (publishes digital stock photographs online and on CD-ROM)

- Associated Press

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