News In Brief

The US

The US used nerve gas during the Vietnam War, targeting American defectors and others, CNN and Time magazine said. Adm. Thomas Moorer, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly confirmed that sarin nerve gas was used in 1970 in a secret raid into Laos called Operation Tailwind. Capt. Eugene McCarley, commander of the mission, told CNN "upwards of 100" people perished in the attack, including women and children. The report quoted soldiers who took part in raids as saying sarin gas was dropped on more than 20 missions in Laos and North Vietnam. Sarin is the gas used in the 1995 Tokyo subway attack that killed 12 people and made thousands ill.

US officials were certain Iraq would use chemical or germ-warfare agents in the 1991 Gulf War, a new book says. In "Against All Enemies," Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh quotes retired Gen. Ronald Griffith as saying US officers were told Iraqi field commanders had both mustard gas and nerve agents and the permission to use them at will. In the end, neither material was reportedly used.

The US is not considering sending troops to Kosovo to end ethnic fighting in the Serbian province, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said. Senate majority leader Trent Lott had said earlier he would not rule out use of American troops. Berger said "in the next day or so" the US and its allies might reconsider a recent decision to suspend economic sanctions against Yugoslavia, whose dominant republic is Serbia.

The US Supreme Court agreed to decide whether eight Chippewa Indian tribes may continue hunting and fishing on 13 million acres of public land in Minnesota without state regulation. Granting appeals by state officials, counties, and private landowners, the justices voted to review rulings that said the tribes never lost unfettered rights obtained in an 1835 treaty with the federal government. The justices were also to hear arguments over special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's attempt to obtain notes taken by the lawyer for White House aide Vince Foster at a meeting shortly before Foster's 1993 suicide.

GOP leaders promised an evenhanded inquiry into technology transfers tbo China, and they toned down their rhetoric on the issue. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah,, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said "we're not convinced at this point" that national security was compromised. Majority leader Lott said the inquiry would focus, at least for now, on national security issues and not on campaign fund-raising.

After one final farewell, the space shuttle Discovery departed from Mir, marking the end of America's three-year partnership with the Russian space station and the transition to another phase of space flight - the international orbiting station. Discovery is due back at Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday with Andrew Thomas, who spent four months aboard Mir. The shuttle's visit was the last planned to the space station, which Russian officials say they will shut down next year.

Wells Fargo & Co. and Norwest Corp. said they were merging in a stock swap that values the former at about $34 billion and would create a banking powerhouse. San Francisco-based Wells Fargo and Minneapolis-based Norwest would combine under the deal to form a company with about $191 billion in combined assets. It would retain the Wells Fargo name, be based in San Francisco, and become the sixth-largest US bank, if all other bank mergers announced so far this year are in fact completed.

Florida wildfires destroyed dozens of buildings and thousands of acres of forest in the tinder-dry central area of the state. A blaze in and near Palm Coast burned 1,700 wooded acres. The forecast was for continued hot, dry weather, although there a few thunderstorms were reported.

The World

Hours of rumors that Nigerian President Sani Abacha had died were confirmed by family members and friends in the capital, Abuja, as the Monitor went to press. The rumors were touched off by word that Army troops had surrounded Abacha's residence and office. But reporters - even those with state-controlled news outlets - who had been summoned to a briefing at government headquarters were denied entry and were waiting outside for an explanation.

Financial traders in Tokyo were waiting to see whether the Bank of Japan would intervene to keep the yen from sliding further against the US dollar. The dollar rose above the key 140 level for the first time in seven years, with analysts saying the trend would likely continue until Japan's economy shows signs of recovery. Deputy finance ministers from the Group of Seven countries aren't expected to agree on a strategy to halt the yen's slide when they meet today in Paris.

Concern grew that Singapore's powerhouse economy was headed into recession this year as stock and currency markets could not pull out of a three-week slump. The markets also were shaken by word that a partner in a major condominium-development project failed to meet a $40 million payment on its land - the first such default in the republic. The government announced it would revise forecasts of a 2.5 to 4.5 percent growth in the economy this year.

Sixteen more political prisoners will be released later this week, Indonesia's Justice Ministry said. But the announcement did not keep tens of thousands of marchers in Surabaya and on Bali from protesting the pace of reforms under new President B.J. Habibie. Meanwhile, Habibie's predecessor, Suharto, planned a news conference to address demands that his family return much of its wealth to the state.

Communist members of Russia's parliament are expected to open impeachment proceedings against President Yeltsin today. Comprising the largest faction in the Duma, or lower house, the Communists accuse Yeltsin of driving Russia to the brink of chaos. But analysts said the move stood little hope of success, since the Constitution is weighted in Yeltsin's favor.

With the opening of the World Cup soccer tournament one day away, French police arrested nine more people suspected of having ties to an immigrant Islamic guerrilla network. That brought to 80 the number of people questioned or under investigation for possible plans to disrupt the tournament with acts of terrorism. Meanwhile, the government rejected an offer by striking pilots of Air France, the World Cup's official carrier, to work without pay so foreign fans would not miss the games.

Ex-Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos appeared likely to face imprisonment after all for a 1993 conviction on graft charges. The federal prosecutor who asked last week that the Supreme Court overturn the conviction and a 12-year prison sentence was fired by President Fidel Ramos, and his successor was ordered to withdraw the recommendation, reports from Manila said.

Over the objections of Austria, neighboring Slovakia activated a controversial nuclear power plant 70 miles from their border. The plant, at Mochovce, is of old Soviet-era design, although it's equipped with newer Western technology. A Slovak official rejected Austrian concerns that the steel in the reactor will be safe only for the early years of operation. Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima called the startup "unfriendly" and "irresponsible."


"Since he quit as president, only a few people still sincerely want to meet him."

- An aide to ex-President Suharto, who observed his birthday alone as thousands of Indonesians were still protesting the excesses of his 32 years in power.

Bradley Schneider knows the courts are backlogged. But he's suing the Los Angeles Police Department anyway - the same folks who did him a good turn by finding and returning his stolen Jeep. It's not that he didn't appreciate the deed. No, what prompted the lawsuit is that the LAPD can't seem to accept the fact that this is one of its success stories. Four times since Schneider got his vehicle back, he has been pulled over by cops certain that they've just caught the thief red-handed.

But alert police in Sacramento, Calif., cracked a case after listening to a compact disc allegedly financed with the loot from a string of armed robberies. As we pick up the story, thieves who also considered themselves pretty fair rap artists used much of the money to set up their own recording company. But on one of their albums they couldn't resist describing a hypothetical holdup whose modus operandi was virtually identical to that of a credit-union heist the cops were investigating. The address on the CD label led them to the studio, where they found some of the suspects. Last week, one of them was convicted of the real crime.

The Day's List

'Art' Declared Best Play In Tony Award Surprise

"Art," which had not taken a single earlier prize, upset the favored "Beauty Queen of Leenane" for the 1998 best-play Tony Award in ceremonies Sunday night in New York. More predictably, "The Lion King" won the Tony for best musical, edging out "Ragtime." Other major Tony Awards:

Play: "Art" by Yasmina Reza

Musical: "The Lion King"

Revival-Play: "A View From the Bridge"

Revival-Musical: "Cabaret"

Actor-Play: Anthony LaPaglia, "A View From the Bridge"

Actress-Play: Marie Mullen, "The Beauty Queen of Leenane"

Actor-Musical: Alan Cumming, "Cabaret"

Actress-Musical: Natasha Richardson, "Cabaret"

- Associated Press

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