News In Brief

Cooler air moved into much of the Midwest and headed into the East and South as officials tallied the human toll after a period of high heat and humidity in much of the country. The total in Illinois alone was at least 80 heat-related fatalities; nationwide, the figure was reported to be more than 190 since July 19. The wave of high temperatures was described as unexceptional by historical standards, but drought in the Northeast was said by one US weather expert to be the second-worst of the century.

The Clinton administration declared six mid-Atlantic states agricultural disasters because of the recent excessive heat and a long period of drought. The declaration will allow farmers in 88 counties in Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia to receive low-interest government loans to help them cope with their losses.

The Senate was scheduled to begin debate over contending farm-rescue plans. Sen. Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa is proposing a $9.9 billion package. Republicans were reportedly preparing an alternative $6.5 billion measure. Both would try to bolster soybean and livestock prices - and replenish a cotton-sales subsidy.

US Gen. Wesley Clark, who is stepping down early as NATO commander, clashed with Gen. Mike Jackson, the British commander on the ground in Kosovo, after the alliance's victory there, Newsweek said. The dispute reportedly arose after Russian troops set up camp at Kosovo's Pristina airport. Without citing its sources, the magazine said Clark "was so anxious to stop the Russians from stealing a march to Pristina airport that he ordered an airborne assault to take the field before them," but Jackson refused to follow the order.

Ninety-nine percent of federally insured financial institutions are now Y2K-ready, US regulators reported. The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council said only 1 percent of those bank, thrift, and credit-union institutions had failed to meet a June 30 deadline for ridding their critical systems of potential year-2000 computer problems.

President Clinton is "comfortable" with the views expressed by his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the White House said. Press Secretary Joe Lockhart made the comment to reporters who were seeking the president's reaction after Mrs. Clinton spoke about her husband's "weaknesses" and the strains caused by his past infidelity during an interview for this week's premier issue of Talk magazine. She blamed some of the president's problems on the strains of an abusive childhood environment.

Higher mortgage rates and home prices pushed housing affordability downward during the second quarter of 1999, the National Association of Realtors reported. Nonetheless, the trade group said its housing-affordability index remained higher than a year ago. The index fell to 134.5 in the second quarter from 140.2 during the first three months of the year, but was still up slightly from 134.4 in the second quarter of 1998.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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