News In Brief

The US

Traces of a man-made chemical found in a sample of Sudanese soil formed the basis of a decision to launch a strike on a purported pharmaceuticals plant in Sudan, a US intelligence official said. It was, the source said, obtained "by clandestine means" from the plant property. The sample reportedly showed traces of a manmade chemical called EMPTA, which has no commercial use and is a key ingredient of VX nerve gas. US officials believe Iraqi scientists aided in production of the chemical at the plant.

The US would consider cooperating with a UN probe of the missile strike against the plant in Sudan, White House spokesman Mike McCurry said. He made the comment after Sudanese officials strongly denied the factory made weapons-related materials and said it produced medicines. Last week, senior US officials said they knew of no commercial products made at the plant, but Western journalists touring wreckage there found pills and medicine bottles strewn about the site.

The US must reduce dependence on foreign oil in response to the terrorism threat, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson warned in his first day on the job. The US imports about half the oil it consumes, and foreign oil shipments are expected to increase as US production drops. Richardson said he wants to reverse that trend. He is temporarily both energy secretary and UN ambassador because the Senate has yet to confirm his designated UN successor, Richard Holbrooke.

An appeal to the US Supreme Court was expected after a lower court said the Census Bureau may not use statistical sampling in the 2000 census. The Census Bureau argued it could produce the most accurate numbers by combining its traditional head-counting methods with a statistical sample that uses data from a random selection of households to help produce a total population figure. Republicans, led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, filed a lawsuit in February challenging the sampling plan as vulnerable to manipulation.

The percentage of traffic fatalities related to alcohol has hit its lowest point in more than two decades, the Department of Transportation said. Last year, alcohol was a factor in 38.6 percent of all traffic fatalities, down from 40.9 percent in 1996. It was the first time since record-keeping began in 1975 that the figure had dropped below 40 percent.

Consumer confidence fell for a second straight month in August. The Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence fell 4.1 points to 133.1 in August from a revised 137.2 in July.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt was expected to call for the peregrine falcon to be removed from the US endangered-species list. Widespread use of DDT and other pesticides nearly wiped out the falcons 30 years ago. Officials credited the recovery of the world's fastest bird to the Endangered Species Act.

Remnants of tropical storm Charley killed 15 people and left as many as 30 others missing in drought-stricken south Texas and northern Mexico. Entire neighborhoods were submerged in the Texas border town of Del Rio, where the flooding killed seven people. Rio Grande flood waters were expected to reach Laredo today.

Evacuation of barrier islands in North Carolina's Outer Banks was ordered after Hurricane Bonnie turned toward the coast. Bonnie could bring sustained winds of 115 miles an hour to the islands today, officials at the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, who died in Richmond, Va., played a pivotal role in shaping US law during 15 years on the court. Although conservative in criminal-law issues, he often supported abortion rights, affirmative action, and continued separation of church and state.

The World

The steepest one-day plunge in the value of the Russian rouble in four years overshadowed efforts by new Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to form a coalition government that included Communists. The rouble fell another 10 percent, to 7.88 against the US dollar. It was devalued last week. Meanwhile, Chernomyrdin said opposition Communists in parliament could be offered seats in his new Cabinet, a move previously resisted by President Yeltsin.

Nigerian officials ended the suspense over when new elections for president would be held, announcing them for Feb. 27. The national elections commission also said voting for state governors and legislatures would be held Jan. 9 and for parliament Feb. 20. Interim military ruler Abdulsalam Abubakar had pledged a return to civilian rule by next May.

Prime Minister Blair's plan to call the British Parliament back from summer recess to pass new antiterrorism laws is "a massive overreaction" that could jeopardize the Northern Ireland peace process, the political ally of the Irish Republican Army said. The measures would make it easier to convict persons for membership in banned organizations, based on the testimony of police officers. Sinn Fein said Northern Ireland's mostly Protestant police are the most discredited in Western Europe. The new laws were expected to be in place by the time President Clinton visits Northern Ireland next week.

In an unannounced visit to Jewish settlers in the tense West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu promised to build new housing for them. The gesture appeared aimed at hard-line critics who demanded Israel break off negotiations with the Palestinians after the murder of a popular Hebron rabbi last week.

"Hundreds of people" - most of them civilians - were killed in airstrikes by foreign planes supporting the government of Congo, rebel spokesmen claimed. They said their positions south of the capital, Kinshasa, were attacked by Angolan and Zimbabwean planes helping President Laurent Kabila fend off a revolt by ethnic Tutsi troops. The claim could not be independently verified, but Reuters reporters said they heard heavy gunfire in the general area.

With antigovernment protests outside parliament in their second day, Cambodian opposition leaders called on Premier Hun Sen to resign. The demonstrators, alleging fraud in last month's election, want a caretaker government to oversee a new vote. Led by deposed co-Premier Norodom Ranariddh and former Finance Minister Sam Rainsy, the protesters vowed to keep the pressure on Hun Sen until their demand is met. The government said the demonstration could continue as long as it remained orderly.

Secular government officials in Turkey fired a new salvo at the country's Muslim political movement, announcing that two of its leaders would be tried for fraud. Convictions against ex-Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and his successor as Islamic political chief, Recai Kutan, could result in jail terms of three years each and forfeiture of their right to seek elective office again. Kutan's Virtue Party is an early leader in opinion polls for next April's national elections.

Senior Libyan officials were monitoring international TV coverage of the proposal to put two suspects on trial in The Hague for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. But news outlets in Tripoli, the capital, were silent on the US-British plan for charges against the suspected intelligence agents to be heard by Scottish judges. Sympathetic North African states, however, called the plan "a great success for Libya," which has resisted handing the men over for trial in the US or Britain.


"Putting together a technical team to confirm something that we already know ... doesn't seem to have any point to us." - US Deputy UN Ambassador Peter Burleigh, on calls for a probe of last week's bombing of a Sudanese factory.

What could be more winsome than the sight of small children behind a sidewalk lemonade stand? But in this era of canned fruit drinks and everpresent vending machines, does anyone stop and buy the homemade variety anymore? Well, yes. In Torrington, Conn., the six children of the Berdan family have just closed their stand for the summer after raking in a tidy $1,163. They plan to donate the proceeds to medical research. The youngsters' salesmanship earned them the ceremonial keys to the city and a letter of commendation from Gov. John Rowland (R).

In nearby Winsted, Conn., officials also are preparing to get out the keys for a couple of residents - to cells in the city jail. It seems an anonymous tipster telephoned the police station, urged the cops to go outside, walk to the end of the lot where they park their cruisers, and take a good look at the house next door. They did and found a crop of three-foot-high marijuana plants being grown openly on the back porch. A man and a woman from the house now await trial on charges of cultivation and possession of a controlled substance.

The Day's List

New Action Flick, 'Blade,' Overtakes 'Private Ryan'

"Saving Private Ryan" slipped to second place at the box office after four weekends in the No. 1 spot. "Blade," based on the comic-book series about a half-human, half-vampire superhero, grossed about $17 million in its debut.

Grosses for top movies at North American theaters Aug. 21-23 (in millions):

1. "Blade" $17.1

2. "Saving Private Ryan" 10.1

3. "There's Something About Mary" 7.7

4. "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" 6.5

5. "Snake Eyes" 5.0

6. "Dead Man on Campus" 4.7

7. "Ever After" 4.6

8. "Dance With Me" 4.5

9. "The Parent Trap" 3.9

10. "The Avengers" 3.7

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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