News In Brief

The US

Jordan's King Hussein was joining Mideast peace talks outside Washington as efforts to reach a West Bank accord appeared to intensify. President Clinton reportedly pushed the two sides into a sixth day of bargaining, after canceling a scheduled fund-raising trip to California so that he could continue to help mediate between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. US officials left open the possibility of continuing the talks today; they were originally scheduled to end Sunday.

The nation's trade deficit surged to a record $16.8 billion in August as the Asian economic crisis pushed exports down for a fifth straight month. Overseas sales of farm products hit their lowest point in more than four years. The Commerce Department said the deficit for August was 15.3 percent higher than a revised $14.5 billion gap in July as exports dipped 0.3 percent while imports rose 2.2 percent. The nation's deficit with China recorded an all-time high of $5.9 billion.

The House was expected to pass a massive government spending bill that turned into a catch-all for unfinished legislative business. The Senate was tentatively set to vote on the measure today. Congress must approve the nearly $500 billion spending bill - one-third of the year's federal budget - before lawmakers can hit the campaign trail full time for the Nov. 3 elections.

Measures to carry out a 1997 chemical-weapons treaty and to reorganize the State Department found new life in negotiations over the big spending bill. Their inclusion was disclosed in documents released by the House Appropriations Committee. Both had been held hostage to unrelated issues. One measure would merge the Arms Control Disarmament Agency and the US Information Agency into the State Department. The other carries out terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which calls for destroying chemical weapons and monitoring firms making potential components.

A bill giving limited liability to companies sharing data about computer problems related to the arrival of 2000 was signed into law by Clinton. And the president's Council on Year 2000 Conversion kicked off a week of events designed to encourage business executives to prepare for 2000.

The largest of California's remaining medical-marijuana clubs shut its doors under a court order. The Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative closed down after a federal appeals court refused to grant it an emergency stay of a lower court's ruling that said the cooperative was violating US narcotics laws by distributing marijuana.

Police chiefs from some of the largest cities in North America voted to oppose ballot initiatives for the medical legalization of marijuana. The vote of the Major City Chiefs Association, including executives from the 52 largest metropolitan police forces in the US and Canada, was announced at an International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting in Salt Lake City.

The federal government will help Florida handle any mass arrival of illegal immigrants under an agreement signed by US and Florida officials. Doris Meissner, commissioner of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, said the accord is the first of its kind and will help the state respond to emergencies like the massive 1980 release of Cubans to Florida and the sudden influx of Cubans and Haitians in 1994. During similar circumstances in the future, Washington is to provide funds and personnel.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Benjamin Hooks were given awards by the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn. Gorbachev, a former president of the Soviet Union, was given the museum's 1998 International Freedom Award. Hooks, a former executive director of NAACP, received the museum's 1998 National Freedom Award.

The World

Relief convoys were back on the roads of western Kosovo after a one-day halt because of fresh fighting between Serbs and Albanian separatists. Meanwhile, NATO's American commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, was due in Belgrade to discuss with Yugoslav government officials how far they still must go to meet next Tuesday's deadline for withdrawing troops from the troubled province in order to avoid punitive air strikes.

Amid strained feelings and heavy criticism of his planned tax reforms, Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schrder and his Green Party allies signed a deal to give Germany its first "center-left" government in 16 years. All six of the country's top economic forecasting institutes issued a report calling the proposed $6.2 billion tax cut "well behind what is necessary" to pump up the flagging economy. Schrder also was surprised by the refusal of computer millionaire Jost Stollman to accept the post of economics minister because of the Cabinet's leftist orientation.

Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was fighting extradition to Spain, where prosecutors added genocide to the list of charges they want to try him for. Genocide is not covered by diplomatic immunity, which Pinochet's lawyers are invoking to keep him from going to Spain. He was arrested in a London hospital late last week for the alleged murders or "disappearances" of 94 Spaniards in Chile during his 17 years in power.

Angry high-school students were back on the streets of French cities in their second major protest in less than a week for academic reforms - among them lighter course loads, more teachers, and better buildings and equipment. The protest came one day before the Education Ministry was to present its new spending proposals to parliament.

All signs of confrontation between mutinous soldiers and government troops in the republic of Georgia were gone, reports said, although the leader of the one-day revolt apparently was in hiding to avoid being charged with treason. A brief gunfight near a town in western Georgia resulted in one death and two injuries. It was not immediately clear how many of the rebels had returned to their barracks.

Over Roman Catholic Church objections, ex-Communist Party leader Massimo D'Alema prepared to assume his duties as Italy's prime minister. D'Alema's Cabinet was expected to include at least two current Communists. His government - if it wins a vote of confidence in parliament - would be the first in Western Europe to be led by an ex-Communist. The Vatican has used its influence for 40 years to keep Italy's Communists out of power.

A new round of negotiations aimed at bringing peace to the Korean peninsula opens in Geneva today. Demands by North Korea that discussion focus first on US withdrawal of 37,000 troops from the South have blocked progress in earlier rounds of the talks among the two sides, the US, and China. Meanwhile, the US-led UN Command in South Korea announced that its annual joint exercises with the South's forces will begin Tuesday.

With time slipping away, senior Vietnamese and Chinese leaders agreed to speed up talks on settling their disputed border. The two countries fought a brief war over the issue in 1979 and again in 1988, when their navies skirmished over the Spratly Islands, which four other nations also claim. Vietnam and China normalized relations in 1991, but without deciding where the border should be drawn. Last year, they agreed to set a 2000 deadline for resolving it.


"It is amazing how much a government can do wrong before it has even taken office." - From a Sddeutsche Zeitung editorial, as German Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schrder ran into unforeseen obstacles in assembling his Cabinet.

You'd think Superman would have more vital missions to accomplish than putting a tiny Texas school district in its place. But DC Comics, which holds the copyright to the superhero's logo - a cut-diamond-shaped shield with an "S" inside - has told Schulenberg High it must stop using the design on football uniforms, letterhead, and class rings. Superman's logo is red and yellow; the school colors are orange, black, and white. Maybe the move has more to do with the fact that Schulenberg is one of the few Texas schools with 100 football wins already in this decade.

Here's a stunt you shouldn't try at home. The persistent noise from a construction site in Budapest, Hungary, so irritated a man who lives across the street that he phoned in a bomb threat in order to get some peace and quiet. Police rushed to the scene and found no explosives, but did trace the call. Now they're preparing charges - the criminal kind.

The Day's List

Winfrey Film Opens in 5th Place Over Weekend

"Practical Magic" took first place at North American box offices last weekend, but Oprah Winfrey's "Beloved" captured equal attention - in part because it's promoted as an Academy Award contender and in part because it played in only 1,501 theaters, compared with 2,400-plus for each of the other top-five films. The post-slavery epic had the best per-theater average - about $5,400 - of any movie in wide release and could pick up momentum as pundits hone their Oscar predictions. Reported grosses for top movies Oct. 16-18 (in millions):

1. "Practical Magic" $13.1

2. "Bride of Chucky" 11.8

3. "Antz" 11.2

4. "Rush Hour" 8.2

5. "Beloved" 8.1

6. "What Dreams May Come" 6.4

7. "A Night at the Roxbury" 3.8

8. "Urban Legend" 2.9

9. "Ronin" 2.8

10. "Holy Man" 2.4

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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