News In Brief

Although Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak threatened to walk out of the Mideast negotiations at Camp David, the White House said it expected talks to continue - at the prodding of President Clinton, who delayed his departure for the Group of Eight meeting on Okinawa for at least 24 hours. Sources in both camps said the dispute over Jerusalem remained the crucial stumbling block. Israel reportedly was prepared to accept a partial agreement that left Jerusalem for further negotiations, but Palestinian sources said they were insisting on a full accord.

Spurred on by the start of the Group of Eight economic summit, marathon negotiations between the US and Japan finally yielded an agreement for the latter to open its $130 billion telecommunications market to more competition. Under the deal, a US official said, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. will slash the rates it charges outside competitors for access to its local lines, resulting in an expected $2 billion in savings over the next two years for American and other foreign telecom companies.

The US trade deficit widened by 1.8 percent to an unprecedented $31 billion in May, the Commerce Department reported. Analysts said the strength of the dollar against other key currencies was a key reason for the imbalance. The report said the gap with NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico surged to an all-time high of $6.4 billion; it also said the deficit with oil-producing nations, such as Saudi Arabia, was $4.1 billion, the second-biggest on record.

After its drivers paid sky-high prices at the gas pump for weeks, the Midwest now has the cheapest rates in the nation, the Energy Department reported. The price for conventional gasoline in the region fell 10.3 cents from last week to $1.488 a gallon. The national price for unleaded gasoline dropped 4.7 cents to $1.546 a gallon, the Energy Information Administration said.

After the Senate passed the so-called marriage-penalty tax bill by 61 to 38, the legislation moved to a conference committee that will work out differences with the House version. Republican leaders indicated they aimed to finish the process by week's end in order to have the bill on President Clinton's desk before the GOP convention begins July 31. Clinton has said he will sign the bill only if Congress also passes a Medicare benefit for prescription drugs.

At least eight deaths have been attributed to a week of temperatures above 100 degrees F. in Texas and neighboring states, authorities said. With air conditioners running full blast, electricity demand soared to an all-time high in the Houston area and was expected to in Dallas.

Colleagues described Sen. Paul Coverdell, who died in Atlanta, as an effective behind-the-scenes orchestrator for Republicans who worked tirelessly on education, among other issues. The Georgia lawmaker was first elected to the Senate in 1992, where he became the fourth-ranking Republican. He had been active in preparing for the coming GOP convention in Philadelphia.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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