News In Brief

The US

The Senate approved an overhaul of the Internal Revenue Service already passed by the House. It would create a new oversight board and give taxpayers new rights in dealing with the IRS. President Clinton has said he will sign the bill despite a provision shortening to 12 months from 18 months the period investors must hold stocks and bonds in order to pay a 20 percent capital-gains tax on profits.

There were signs of progress in talks between General Motors and the United Auto Workers Union. Negotiations intensified as GM neared the end of its two-week summer shutdown. There was speculation the company was pushing to reach a deal by today because losses from the strike would begin accruing again Monday.

Clinton kicked off a $2 billion media blitz to bombard children with radio, TV, and newspaper ads discouraging them from taking drugs. The funds are expected to be spent on the ads over the next five years, with $195 million a year coming from the government and an equal amount from the private sector.

Oakland, Calif., approved one of the most liberal medical-marijuana ordinances in the US. It allows patients with a valid doctor's prescription to keep 30 outdoor marijuana plants, 48 indoor plants, or 1.5 pounds of the drug in bulk. Officials said the amounts are intended to allow a three-months supply.

Gov. George Pataki (R) of New York signed a bill designed to punish European insurance companies if they fail to resolve wartime claims of Holocaust victims. The law requires investigation of Holocaust insurance claims, eases standards for substantiating them, and slaps penalties on carriers that are uncooperative. Many of the world's major insurance firms have offices in New York.

An estimated 170,000 women who say silicone breast implants made them ill would get $3.2 billion from Dow Corning Corp. under a settlement tentatively approved by a US bankruptcy judge. The offer, which still had to be approved by plaintiffs and creditors, is $200 million more than the company had offered to pay, but $600 million less than plaintiffs sought.

Committed gay couples should have the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples, a special Colorado commission said. The 14-member group, including the Episcopal bishop of Denver, said state laws should be changed so members of same-sex partnerships have equal rights in the areas of inheritance, health insurance, retirement benefits, and dissolution of relationships.

Amtrak would receive $555 million next year under a compromise reached by a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. That is slightly less than the $621 million the national passenger railroad sought. Full committee and Senate approval is still required.

A federal jury convicted the four top leaders of the antigovernment Montana Freemen of engaging in a conspiracy against the US banking system. The four were among six Freemen convicted last week on several other charges. They could face lengthy prison terms and fines when sentenced. The jury said it was deadlocked on conspiracy charges against the remaining eight defendants and some other counts.

Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has rejected Guatemala's demand that it return objects experts say were looted from Mayan grave sites two decades ago, The Boston Globe report-ed. The article said the negative reply was delivered two weeks ago - nearly seven months after the museum's opening of an exhibition of antiquities from the Americas was clouded by accusations that many of them were looted.

Four Houston clinics where abortions are performed were disrupted after a substance thought to be acid was dumped inside the buildings. No one was seriously hurt, but 12 people needed treatment after being overcome by fumes.

The World

Nigeria's military rulers met for the second time in as many days to address calls for an immediate return to democracy after the death from apparent cardiac arrest of high-profile political prisoner Moshood Abiola. A shaky calm settled over much of Lagos, the largest city, after riots triggered by reports of his death just as he was about to be freed from four years in custody. But angry Abiola followers set fire to a large market in the city center.

Delegates from Northern Ireland's Protestant Orange Order got a polite reception but no satisfaction from British Prime Minister Blair in their bid to win reconsideration of a parade ban. They met in London, with Blair saying the ban on marching through a Catholic section of Portadown wouldn't be reversed. The order plans new parades to commemorate Sunday's anniversary of a decisive Protestant-Catholic battle in 1690, and police said they expect tensions to increase then.

Kosovo separatists ignored the international community's latest call for an immediate cease-fire and held their ground a few miles from the Albanian border. For the first time, the six-nation Contact Group urged governments to crack down on the flow of funds to the Kosovo Liberation Army. In an effort to curb the violence, observers from the US and Europe fanned out across the province for a first-hand look at battle zones.

Offering to promote development in Chiapas and to free some Zapatista rebels from prison, Mexico's Interior Ministry issued a five-point proposal for the resumption of peace negotiations in the impoverished state. The initiative calls on Zapatista leaders to set a time and place for talks. But it rules out the withdrawal of 50,000 to 70,000 deeply resented troops from the state. The Zapatistas did not immediately respond to the proposal, but critics said it contained "nothing new."

Indonesia's president urged his party to remodel itself into a democratic body, declaring, "It's not a shame to acknowledge the mistakes of the past." But as B.J. Habibie addressed the party's congress in Jakarta, hundreds of protesters gathered outside to declare its era was over. Habibie, who promis-ed general elections next year, said government policies had failed to reverse the worst economic crisis in 30 years.

Russian officials persuaded one set of coal miners to stop blockading the Trans-Siberian railway. But others maintained blockades for the seventh day in Yurga and Anzhero-Sudzhensk, letting only passenger and postal trains through. Kremlin officials are anxious to end to the protests against nonpayment of back wages, which have eroded confidence in Russia among foreign investors.

El Nio has reached its "dying stages" but its colder global sibling, "La Nia," is likely to surface soon, the World Meteorological Organization warned. An expert predict-ed La Nia, known as "the cold tongue," would "develop quick-ly," bringing heavy rain to Southeast Asia, cyclones to the Caribbean, and dryness to the western coast of Latin America.

Taiwan gathered the support of 11 diplomatic allies to seek membership in the UN - its sixth try in as many years. The Taipei government also announced a two-week mission to Europe aimed at enhancing entry into the World Trade Organization. Analysts attributed the efforts to worries of increased diplomatic isolation after President Clinton's first public statement of US opposition to UN membership for the island. Said the Foreign Ministry: "We have no illusion of entering [the UN], but we want to highlight the issue by bringing it up again."


"The paternalistic relationship the US government has kept them in was pathetic and inadequate. They literally got the worst of both worlds." - President Clinton, on neglect of American Indians during taping of a discussion on race issues for broadcast on PBS.

You had to know it was coming. With all her international exposure - the endless discussion on radio and TV talk shows, the magazine covers, the photo spread in Vanity Fair - could a song dedicated to perhaps the most famous White House intern of all time be far behind? Well, no, as it turns out. From California comes word that musicians David Gans and the Broken Angels are seeking a national distributor for their country-pop CD entitled "Monica Lewinsky."

A New Jersey police officer didn't realize he was also on a fishing expedition when he pulled a delivery-van driver over for speeding last weekend. Siut Cheng was nearing his destination - a restaurant - at the time, and, feeling trapped, made the mistake of offering an incentive if the cop would just forget the whole thing. Cash? Sure, most bribes involve money, right? But that's not all. Inside the van was seafood, including live lobsters, and Cheg allegedly told the officer to help himself to some of those, too. So now he's in even more of a stew. On top of the speeding ticket, he was arrested for attempted bribery and driving without a valid license.

The Day's List

Five Artists Win Awards For Lifetime Achievement

Winners of the 10th Praemium Imperiale Awards for outstanding lifetime achievement in the arts were named yesterday by the Japan Art Association. Five awards of 1.5 million yen each (about $110,000) are given annually in fields not covered by Nobel Prizes. Winners are selected by the association, based on the recommendation of international advisers and specialist committees. The awards will be presented at a formal ceremony in Tokyo this fall. The 1998 winners in their respective fields:

Architecture - Alvero Siza, Portugal

Music - Sofia Gubaidulina, Russia

Painting - Robert Rauschenberg, US

Sculpture - Dani Karavan, Israel

Theater/Film - Richard Attenborough, United Kingdom

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