News In Brief
Commenting on the concluded six-year investigation of President and Mrs. Clinton, independent counsel Robert Ray said there was "insufficient" evidence to prosecute either one. He will submit under seal a lengthy report on the Clintons' business dealings, including their Whitewater real estate venture, to the court that appointed him. Ray now is expected to focus on whether to bring criminal charges against the president in the scandal involving former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. (Story, page 2.)
The Senate, as expected, approved historic yet controversial legislation that grants China permanent normal trade relations. The White House said Clinton would sign the bill, which passed by a 85-to-15 vote. The agreement, by some estimates, will boost annual US exports by about $13 billion in five years, cutting into China's current $68 billion trade surplus.
A day after the vote on the China bill, the Commerce Department reported that the US trade deficit had set another record monthly high - up 6.9 percent to $31.9 billion in July. The imbalance with China, specifically, rose to an unprecedented $7.6 billion, the highest monthly deficit the US has experienced to date with any trading partner. Records also were set with Japan, Western Europe, and Canada. Analysts attributed the readings mainly to sky-high oil prices.
Eight survivors from a small Cuban plane that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico began interviews with US authorities aboard the Panamanian-flagged ship that rescued them from the water. Many questions remained about the situation, including whether the flight from Cuba was a hijack attempt, an asylum bid, or both. Also uncertain was how many people were aboard. The interviews marked the beginning of a process that will determine whether the survivors can reside in the US or must go back to Cuba. Under US immigration policy, Cubans who are rescued at sea are usually returned to Cuba unless they can convince authorities they would face persecution if repatriated.
Before granting Wen Ho Lee a plea bargain, federal prosecutors learned the Taiwanese-born scientist duplicated the original computer tapes he made containing US nuclear secrets, government officials revealed. The FBI had known for more than a year that Lee had saved restricted data onto 10 tapes, but reportedly first learned of the copies from defense lawyers during plea-bargain negotiations. One of Lee's lawyers said his client will tell the FBI next week that he destroyed any missing tapes containing secrets. The government agreed to drop 58 charges against him in exchange for a tell-all interview.
The seven crew members of Atlantis completed what was deemed a successful 12-day mission, returning to Earth in only the 15th nighttime landing in space-shuttle history. The astronauts spent the past eight days outfitting the international space station with three tons of equipment in preparation for the arrival of the orbiter's first full-time crew in early November. Construction of the space station, a joint international project, won't be completed before 2006.
Another tire recall was launched, as Charlotte, N.C.-based manufacturer Continental General Tire announced it would replace 160,000 that can lose their tread when exposed to heat. Most of the tires were original equipment on 1998 and 1999 Lincoln Navigators.
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