News In Brief

The US and China agreed to new talks on Chinese entry into the World Trade Organization, improving the atmosphere for a presidential summit over the weekend. The two nations' most senior trade officials hashed out the decision in Auckland, New Zealand, skipping a dinner of trade ministers attending Pacific Rim free-trade talks. Presidents Clinton and Jiang Zemin are to meet tomorrow in Auckland prior to a summit among members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Attorney General Janet Reno chose former Sen. John Danforth (R) to investigate the FBI's 1993 standoff at the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas. Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi called for Reno's resignation, citing recent revelations that the government had withheld evidence about its use of force in the April 19, 1993, assault. Before entering the Senate, Danforth served as attorney general in Missouri for eight years.

Plans to give $15 million in grants to local officials for gun buy-back programs were unveiled at the White House. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo said mayors would be able to tailor their projects to meet local needs. He suggested $50 be paid for each weapon. That would allow the purchase and destruction of some 300,000 guns nationwide.

Drought has spread and deepened across much of the Eastern US, the Agriculture Department reported. It said severe to extreme drought conditions exist from Maine to Indiana and southward through Florida. A month ago, those conditions were confined primarily to the mid-Atlantic states, plus portions of Kentucky and Ohio.

Public schools reopened in Detroit after striking teachers voted to return to work, pending the outcome of balloting on a new contract. Ballots were expected to be mailed to teachers around Sept. 20, said Keith Johnson, the union's lead negotiator. Rejection of the tentative deal could send teachers back to picket lines, but Johnson said he didn't think that was likely. The strike began Aug. 30.

Auditors have found almost 48,000 Holocaust-linked accounts in Swiss banks - far exceeding a claim by Swiss bankers in 1995 that only 775 such accounts existed, according to a draft report of an international group probing the issue. The summary report of a commission set up in 1996 by Swiss banks and the World Jewish Congress was obtained by the Associated Press. It finds no evidence of "systematic efforts to divert the funds of victims of Nazi persecution to improper purposes," but criticizes Swiss banks for "questionable practices" and "widespread insensitivity." The panel is headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

A Texas family agreed to sell the 95,000-acre Baca Ranch in northern New Mexico to the Forest Service for $101 million. Situated in the Jemez Mountains about 60 miles northwest of Santa Fe, the ranch is rich in wildlife, including one of the nation's largest wild elk herds. It is owned by heirs of oil man James Dunigan, who died in 1980. Last year, Congress authorized a $40 million down payment for the purchase, and the White House agreed that a trust should be set up to manage the property.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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