News In Brief

The US

President Clinton will visit China from June 25 to July 3, the White House said, formally setting dates for a trip that has long been in the works. The announcement came on the same day Clinton said he was renewing most-favored-nation trade status for China. Lawmakers have 90 days to overturn the decision, which faces determined opposition as Congress probes allegations that sensitive US rocket technology was transferred to China and that campaign donations flowed from China to US Democrats.

Sidney Blumenthal was to testify again before the Whitewater grand jury in Washington, White House officials said. The presidential aide had previously refused to answer certain questions on grounds of executive privilege, but the White House withdrew that claim this week. Meanwhile, Monica Lewinsky's new defense team contacted prosecutors in a prelude to negotiations for an immunity deal, legal sources said.

A rerun of the Teamsters Union presidential election will begin Sept. 14, a US judge decided. It will pit James Hoffa Jr. against Tom Leedham and perhaps other candidates. Delegates who attended the union's last convention will receive nominating ballots June 15. Election ballots, to be mailed Sept. 14, must be returned by Oct. 14. Hoffa narrowly lost the last election to Ron Carey, who was suspended and barred from running again because of alleged illegal fund-raising in his campaign.

The House approved legislation that would protect churches and charities from creditors suing to recover donations made by bankrupt contributors. The Religious Liberty and Charitable Donation Protection Act would also allow debtors to give charitably after declaring bankruptcy. The Senate has approved an identical bill, and Clinton is expected to sign it.

House passage of a measure restoring food stamps to some 50,000 legal immigrants seemed likely after Republicans cleared the way for a vote on the $1.9 billion bill, which also contains crop-insurance guarantees for US farmers. Following criticism from farmers and Hispanic groups, Rules Committee chairman Gerald Solomon (R) of New York agreed not to try again to delete the food-stamp provision.

Efforts to ease sanctions against Cuba have little hope of congressional approval, House International Relations Committee chairman Benjamin Gilman (R) of New York indicated. As a result of a May 18 US accord with the European Union, the Clinton administration wants Congress to waive a provision in the sanctions that denies US visas to foreign executives of firms doing business on expropriated US property in Cuba. Gilman said the accord has "a number of serious deficiencies." Cuba is part of a larger debate over use of sanctions as a foreign-policy tool.

Holocaust survivors filed an $18 billion class-action lawsuit against two German banks, accusing them of concealing and profiting from assets taken from victims by the Nazi regime. Three plaintiffs representing at least 10,000 other Holocaust survivors filed the suit in federal court in New York, accusing Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Bank of working with the Nazis by accepting and selling looted property.

A Palestinian sought for 16 years in the bombing of a US jetliner was arrested abroad and brought to a US court in Washington. Mohammed Rashid pleaded innocent to charges of planting a bomb aboard a Pan Am flight from Japan to Hawaii in August 1982. The explosion killed a Japanese teenager and injured 15 other passengers.

Growth in worker productivity lapsed to an annual rate of 1.1 percent in the first three months of the year, the Labor Department said. The slip from the 1.4 percent growth rate of the last three months of 1997 reportedly resulted in part from employers hiring more people to handle an expanding workload. In 1996 and 1997, the annual rate of growth in US worker productivity averaged 1.8 percent.

The World

As many as 40,000 people now are on the run from ethnic violence in Kosovo, UN officials estimated, as Germany urged immediate measures to prevent the flow from becoming a torrent that could spread across Europe. Albania asked NATO for humanitarian relief to help "about 11,000" who had sought safety there. Montenegro's refugee commissioner said his republic already had received another 7,000. In Washington, the State Department said new sanctions could be imposed against Yugoslavia for provoking the flood of Kosovo refugees.

President Clinton's decision to renew most-favored-nation trade status for China was "wise," the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said. But it said critics of China in Congress, where renewal faces a tough fight for approval, should "do something beneficial" to improve bilateral relations. A spokesman also said ceremonies welcoming Clinton to Beijing June 25 will not be moved from Tiananmen Square, site of the 1989 military crackdown on democracy demonstrators. Members of Congress have urged Clinton not to receive the welcome there.

Secretary of State Albright and delegates from the world's official nuclear powers held hastily arranged talks in Geneva to try to cool the "uniquely dangerous" arms race between India and Pakistan. Among their goals was to ease tensions between the two rivals over Kashmir. But in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee rejected mediation, saying only bilateral discussions could resolve the decades-old Kashmir dispute.

The mayor of Iran's capital, caught in a power struggle between hard-line conservatives and the more moderate President Khatami, is due to go on trial Sunday. Gholamhossein Karbaschi was arrested in April on graft charges that supporters say are politically motivated, since he backed Khatami in last year's presidential election. He was freed on bail 12 days later after massive street protests. The government has pledged an open trial, which analysts predicted will generate intense public interest.

UN officials welcomed the pledge of two powerful American helicopters to speed the flow of relief supplies into northern Afghanistan. The US aircraft, expected to arrive tomorrow, carry seven times more cargo than the few currently in use in the region devastated by earthquake last weekend. Aftershocks added four more villages to the 50 already wrecked by the quake, which killed an estimated 3,000 people and left tens of thousands of others homeless.

Mexican justice officials released all but 16 of the 167 people arrested in a massive early-morning raid on their Chiapas village. The detainees were accused of being sympathizers of the Zapatista rebel movement who had expelled other residents loyal to Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. Officials said the raid was peaceful, but TV pictures showed police beating suspects and firing tear gas.

German officials placed temporary speed restrictions on intercity express trains and announced new safety checks in the wake of Wednesday's crash at Eschede that killed at least 92 people. The accident was the worst of its type in Europe since 1974.

No survivors were reported in the crash of a helicopter carrying most of Indonesia's senior military commanders in the troubled territory of East Timor. Officials said the craft struck treetops in a heavy rain, killing 12 generals and colonels and their pilot. Armed separatists still resist Indonesia's 1975 takeover of the former Portuguese colony.


" Collaborating together is the only way to save human lives and the peace in Kosovo."

- Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano, pleading for NATO intervention and humanitarian aid to deal with the crisis in the volatile Yugoslav province.

Take a bunch of people - say, 383 - who are unhappy with their weight. Enroll them in a diet-and-exercise program called Fight the Fat. Finally, have them pick the combined avoirdupois they want to lose over the 10 weeks of the program. Two tons would be a nice round number, would it not? Indeed, that was exactly the goal of the folks in Dyersburg, Iowa, who committed to the campaign in March. Their deadline arrived this week, and they all gathered on a truck scale to learn how close they'd come. Answer: 3,998 pounds - just 2 short of their target. Or, put another way, about how much one of them might have lost by skipping lunch that day.

In a weekend caper that gives the term "street crime" a whole new meaning, thieves stole thousands of century-old paving stones from from a commercial neighborhood of Liverpool, England. The blue granite stones, worth a combined $16,300, were dug out of the roadbed by a machine. Based on the evidence - only tracks left in the soil - police were expected to have a challenge cobbling together a case.

The Day's List

Orange County Slowly Recoups Some Losses

In December 1994, Orange County, Calif., declared bankruptcy after risky investments by its former treasurer lost more than $1.6 billion. Since then, the county has sued an array of investment firms, financial advisers, and others, seeking to recover as much of the loss as possible. Some of the suits have led to settlements that will return more than $600 million. Those settlements, the parties involved, dates, and the amounts (in millions):

Merrill Lynch & Co., June 1998: $400

KPMG Peat Marwick, May 1998: $75

Credit Suisse First Boston Corp., May 1998: $52.5

LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, April 1998 $45

Five Wall Street investment firms, December 1997 $3.1

Merrill Lynch & Co., June 1997 $30

- Reuters

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