News In Brief

A one-year extension of trading privileges for China was expected to be sought by President Clinton, since hope has faded for its early admission to the World Trade Organization. A scaled-down request for Normal Trade Relations, once called Most Favored Nation status, likely will come Thursday, reports from Washington said. The request is considered likely to spark a more intense battle than usual in Congress, in the wake of last week's release of a special House report on nuclear-weapons spying. The request has strong support from business groups, but unions oppose it. No negotiations with China on trade have been held since NATO bombs struck its embassy in Yugoslavia May 7.

Senior Energy Department officials sought to spread the blame for lapses in US nuclear security. The agency's counterintelligence director, Edward Curran, told ABC's "This Week" that Congress failed to allocate funds to plug gaps in security and that Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Shelby (R) of Alabama didn't attend briefings on "sensitive cases." Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told NBC-TV he'd fire or demote subordinates who didn't act on signs that China was stealing secrets from US weapons laboratories.

Recreation-seekers were order-ed out of an area of northern Arizona as wildfires grew to an estimated 10,000 acres. Another fire 80 miles west of Phoenix was 25 percent contained, authorities said. Meanwhile, a 40,000-acre fire charring swamp land in northern Florida jumped the state line and was spreading into Georgia. And 900 firefighters were battling a blaze started by lightning that burned more than 13,000 acres of fragile habitat at Joshua Tree National Park on the edge of the Mojave Desert in California.

A gap in the restrictive new gun laws passed by the Senate following the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado was exposed by an Associated Press reporter based in California. Handgun novice Andrea Orr went out of her way to buy a $380 revolver via the Internet from a licensed dealer who followed federal rules. But in researching her report, she received "more than 10 e-mails a day" from other dealers offering to ship guns - no questions asked - without requiring paperwork or a waiting period.

Astronauts from the shuttle Discovery boarded a chilly and unfinished International Space Station to hook up key pieces of equipment and unload 1-1/2 tons of gear that will be needed by its permanent crew next March.

The dividing up of Conrail assets - trackage, locomotives, and freight cars - was to begin by Norfolk Southern and CSX Corp. Conrail, which once enjoyed a near-monopoly in rail freight in the Northeast, was acquired in a complex $10.3 billion deal in July 1998. To smooth the transition, CSX and Norfolk Southern have retained hundreds of Conrail employees familiar with the local operations.

A new distance record for electric cars was set in the 11th annual Tour de Sol rally, which ended at Lake George, N.Y. One entry completed 156 miles of the 250-mile event without a recharge. The previous record was 143 miles.

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