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A triple train collision that killed 36 people and injured more than 100 in south London may have been the result of a signal mix-up caused by work being done on the line, railway officials said yesterday. The British Railways Board said in a statement yesterday that modernization work of the line's 40-year-old signaling equipment may have caused the signal mix-up.

The resignaling at Clapham Junction is part of a $37 million project begun a year ago to modernize the equipment on the line.

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US trade deficit slips to a three-year low

The US current-account deficit, the broadest measure of trade performance, shrank to $30.89 billion in the third quarter, its lowest level in three years, the Commerce Department said yesterday. The July-September current-account deficit followed a revised $33.74 billion gap in the second quarter and $36.94 billion the first quarter.

Retail sales, meanwhile, rose 1.1 percent in November, to $138.05 billion, the Commerce Department said.

Pentagon to widen review of contractors over fees

Pentagon auditors will expand a review of top military contractors which has already found that US taxpayers are being billed for millions of dollars in questionable consulting fees, officials said yesterday. The first investigation covered a dozen contractors, but the new review will look at 18 more over the next 10 weeks, said William Reed, director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency.

The review was ordered by Defense Secretary Carlucci in the wake of the Justice Department's ongoing investigation of possible fraud and bribery involving defense contractors.

Panel recommends raise for members of Congress

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A presidential advisory commission yesterday recommended a 50 percent pay increase for members of Congress and similar boosts for federal judges and other top government officials. The commission said the increases should be given only if Congress bans its current practice of letting members collect special-interest speaking fees. The panel, the Commission on Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Salaries, also recommended that the president's pay, which has been fixed at $200,000 since 1969, be raised by Congress to about $350,000.

Salvadoran voting official killed; rightists blamed

Francisco Bonilla, the Christian Democratic voter registrar, was murdered Monday in the capital suburb of Soyapango. Christian Democrats blame the mayor, of the ARENA rightist party, and his municipal police. ARENA has accused the Christian Democrats of fraud in the registration drive.

Although ARENA is still favored to win the presidency next March, their edge has narrowed, according to a recent poll.

Mexican President offers economic growth package

President Carlos Salinas de Gortari announced Monday a package of economic measures aimed at promoting growth. A government statement said the measures would strengthen Mexico's bargaining position in foreign debt negotiations.

The package essentially represents a thawing of a nine-month-old freeze on wages, prices, and the peso/dollar rate, which is aimed at tackling inflation. Inflation was running at a year-on-year rate of 176 percent in January.

Filipino is acquitted of mutiny charge

A court martial has acquitted Rolando Abadilla, the intelligence chief of ousted Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, of mutiny charges, his lawyer said yesterday. Antonio Coronel said a six-man court ruled Monday that it found no evidence linking the former colonel to the takeover of a television station by mutinous soldiers in January 1987.

Ireland won't extradite priest in IRA bomb case

The Irish attorney general announced yesterday he has rejected a British request to extradite a Roman Catholic priest with suspected terrorist connections, saying Britain would not give him a fair trial. Attorney General John Murray, who made the decision, said the Rev. Patrick Ryan might face trial in Ireland on charges of involvement in Irish Republican Army bombings.

Britain seeks Fr. Ryan on four warrants alleging conpiracy to murder and cause explosions, and possessing explosives.

For the record

Rep. Dan Coats (R) of Indiana, who got his start in politics as an aide to Dan Quayle, was named Monday to take the vice-president-elect's seat in the Senate. Rep. Bill Nichols (D) of Alabama, who died yesterday, was a 22-year veteran of the House and the chairman of the House Armed Services investigations subcommittee.

In Sri Lanka, suspected left-wing rebels lobbed grenades into Colombo's main jail yesterday and freed up to 32 political prisoners, police said.

EPA faces suit on drinking-water record

The Environmental Protection Agency has failed to enforce water pollution rules for certain sources of drinking water, says the National Wildlife Federation, which is planning to sue EPA over drinking-water enforcement issues. The suit would charge that the EPA has not strictly enforced the Safe Water Drinking Act for so-called non-community water systems, which serve as many as 36 million Americans. These systems include wells, springs, and reservoirs serving non-residential facilities.

According to an internal EPA study released Monday by the federation, water ``was not properly retested and the public was not notified of the contamination as required by the regulations.'' In addition, the study says, the agency has not enforced water quality standards on airplanes, trains, and buses.

The report is an audit of enforcement practices in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia in 1986 and '87.

According to an EPA spokeswoman, the agency focuses, with limited resources, on community water systems that serve large chunks of the population and encourages states to oversee the smaller non-community systems.

Monitor fills senior editorial positions

Richard J. Cattani, editor of The Christian Science Monitor, yesterday announced several senior editorial appointments: Curtis J. Sitomer, managing editor; Ruth Walker, assistant managing editor; Brad Knickerbocker, editorial page editor; Peter N. Spotts, national news editor; and Keith Henderson, assistant editorial page editor.

``All are experienced writers and editors,'' Mr. Cattani said. ``They are steeped in Monitor tradition. They have a secure vision of the Monitor's purpose and mission. Together with international news editor Paul Van Slambrouck and feature editor David Holmstrom, who are keeping their editorships for the transition, this team should greatly help the Monitor succeed in its next, imminent adventure.''

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