News In Brief

The US

The framework of a Middle East peace accord seemed to finally be taking shape on the seventh day of negotiations outside Washington. The CIA would supervise the jailing and disarming of suspected Palestinian terrorists in a land-for-security accord President Clinton was pressing hard to seal between Israelis and Palestinians, officials at the talks said. A signing ceremony might take place today, they added, although it was far from certain.

The Senate sent a massive $500 billion spending measure to the White House, where it was expected to be signed into law quickly by Clinton to keep the government running. Democrats and Republicans claimed credit for various components of the package, but lawmakers in both parties deplored the process that forced them to vote on a 4,000-page document that landed on their desks Tuesday afternoon, giving them scant opportunity to review it before voting.

White House aides were to meet for the first time with House Judiciary Committee investigators in an effort to set up a framework for the panel's probe of potentially impeachable allegations against Clinton. The committee is reportedly eager to know whether the president will testify at House hearings and whether his lawyers will stipulate which testimony and other evidence they accept as accurate - thus helping the panel establish the facts in the case without the need for new time-consuming testimony.

The House approved legislation aimed at curbing bribery in international business. Supporters said it would level the playing field for US firms and make them more competitive. The bill, expected to gain quick approval in the Senate, endorses a convention of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development against bribery of officials in governments or in certain international organizations.

Clinton appointed John Podesta his new White House chief of staff, replacing Erskine Bowles. Podesta, who will take up his duties Nov. 1, has been deputy chief of staff for the past two years and previously served as Clinton's staff secretary.

Sen. Don Nickles (R) of Oklahoma dropped his opposition to Dr. Jane Henney, Clinton's choice to head the Food and Drug Administration. As a result, the Senate was expected to confirm her before adjourning. Clinton nominated Henney in June, but some Senate conservatives blocked confirmation, partly because they thought she might lead the FDA across the boundary between regulation and legislation.

Vice President Al Gore unveiled what may be an aggressive new Democratic strategy for the coming elections. Gore said he would welcome a Nov. 3 referendum on the GOP-led congressional inquiry into allegedly impeachable offenses committed by Clinton. The vice president's comments came as he campaigned for fellow Democrats in Iowa.

Clinton signed legislation funding the Central Intelligence Agency and naming its headquarters in suburban Virginia in honor of former President George Bush, who once served as its director. The president said the new name was "an appropriate and well-deserved tribute" to Bush.

Rains let up, but flooding continued unabated in south Texas. Officials said floods were affecting 60 counties - nearly one-fourth of a state that a few months ago was experiencing a devastating drought.

A public-health emergency was declared in Oakland, Calif., after the forced closure of one of the state's largest medical-marijuana clubs. The action by the City Council, on a 5-to-4 vote, will allow officials to seek alternative ways of selling marijuana to about 2,200 patients no longer able to obtain the drug at the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, which was closed Monday by court order.

The World

Israelis were sending loud signals to Prime Minister Netan-yahu in the US that they oppose any deal with the Palestinians that would trade land for peace. The ultranationalist Moledet Party called for a vote of no-confidence in Netanya-hu's government Monday, although leftist and centrist parties were expected to give him enough support in parliament to cling to power. Other legislators threatened to vote against any settlement when it is presented for ratification. Outside West Bank towns, settlers blocked highway intersections "to show that this is Jewish country and should not be given away to non-Jews."

Yugoslav President Milosevic said he remains committed to the deal he accepted earlier this month for peace in Kosovo, "despite armed provocations" by Albanian separatists. Meanwhile, Western monitors in Kosovo said they would stress to both sides the necessity of restraint if the disengagement process Milosevic agreed to was to work by Tuesday's deadline for punitive strikes against Yugoslav targets by NATO planes.

Congo President Laurent Kabila's three military allies agreed to mount a joint counteroffensive against rebels attempting to topple him from power. No details were announced following a meeting of Zimbabwe's, Angola's, and Namibia's presidents in Harare, the Zimbabwe capital. Kabila, who was said to be ill, did not attend. Earlier this week, Zimbabwe acknowledged that rebels in eastern Congo had captured 16 of its soldiers.

Afghanistan's Taliban movement is "not happy" that alleged terrorism-financier Osama bin Laden is in exile there and would put him on trial if the US can provide convincing evidence, a senior official told The Washington Post. Abdul Hakeem Mujahid said bin Laden, a Saudi national, is under Taliban control. But he rejected demands that bin Laden be sent to the US for trial in the Aug. 7 bombing of two American embassies, saying the Taliban lacks extradition treaties with other nations. US officials discounted the comments, accusing the Taliban of having a close alliance with bin Laden.

Hard-line conservatives were calling for a high voter turnout tomorrow in Iran's election for the powerful Assembly of Experts, a clergy-based panel that works to protect the Islamic system that has dominated the country for two decades. But political analysts predicted many Iranians would boycott the polls. Only 30 of the 160 candidates for the 86 seats at stake are supporters of relatively moderate President Mohamad Khatami, whose attempts at political reform are regularly blocked by the assembly.

The first of thousands of "urgent" reparations to South Africans who were tortured at the hands of the former white apartheid government or by black liberation movements have been made, reports said. But officials said victims of brutality could be provided only with token assistance from a pool that is jointly funded by the government and private sources. Individual payments can range as high as $4,035 a year for six years.

Only a month after declaring that a proposed nuclear waste site in Texas appeared safe, the Mexican government reversed itself and sent a formal protest to the State Department calling for it to be relocated. The Foreign Ministry acknowledged feeling heavy pressure from legislators and "civil organizations." The facility, at Sierra Blanca, 15 miles from the border, would accept low-level wastes from power plants, research labs, and hospitals as far away as Maine. The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission was to vote on licensing the dump yesterday.


"Do I know what's in the bill? Are you kidding? Only God knows what's in this..."

- US Sen. Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia, on a 4,000-page, $500 billion spending measure about to clear Congress scarcely 24 hours after it was delivered to lawmakers.

Once and future astronaut John Glenn should see several thousand points of light next Friday night as he passes over Perth, Australia, aboard the shuttle Discovery. In cooperation with NASA, residents have been encouraged to flick the "on" switch in unison, just as they did 26 years ago to salute his first three-orbit space mission.

For no apparent reason, 10-year bond futures offer-ed by the French government suddenly plunged in value back on July 23. But the mystery now has been solved. Investigators found that, without realizing it, a Salomon Brothers trader in London was leaning on the "Instant Sell" key of the nearest computer terminal, placing 145 orders and sending the bond price into free fall. No comment from the brokerage ... and no word on whether the trader is still employed there.

The Day's List

Poll Says 'Godot' Is Best Modern Play in English

The British National Theatre recently surveyed more than 800 playwrights, actors, directors, theater professionals, and arts journalists to identify the most important plays of the 20th century. When the results were in, Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" was at the head of the list. Five of the 10 most popular were American plays. Somewhat controversial is the theater's decision not to include musicals. The top 10:

1. "Waiting for Godot" Samuel Beckett

2. "Death of a Salesman" Arthur Miller

3. "A Streetcar Named Desire" Tennessee Williams

4. "Look Back in Anger" John Osborne

5. "Long Day's Journey into Night" Eugene O'Neill

6. "The Crucible" Arthur Miller

7. "Private Lives" Noel Coward

(tie) "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead"

Tom Stoppard

9. "Angels in America" Tony Kushner

(tie) "The Caretaker" Harold Pinter

- Independent on Sunday

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