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MIDDLE EAST DEVELOPMENTS The United States and Iraq have pledged no concessions only four weeks away from a United Nations deadline for Baghdad to leave Kuwait or risk attack by US-led forces. Neither side budged in a dispute over dates for proposed direct talks, which Washington insists would not be negotiations and Baghdad says must be give-and-take encounters.... Baghdad lashed out yesterday at the 12-nation European Community, accusing it of appeasing the US and ignoring its own interests in the Middle East, after it rejected a meeting with a senior Iraqi minister.... The UN accused Iraqi troops of killing, torturing, and abducting Kuwaitis and other nationals in Kuwait. The UN General Assembly Tuesday also singled out Iran, El Salvador, and Afghanistan for human rights abuses.... Japan Tuesday fended off US criticism that its $4 billion aid package offered to nations involved in the military standoff against Iraq was too small.


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Administrative Judge Daniel Davidson Tuesday recommended that a cease-and-desist order be issued against Neil Bush, which would limit his involvement in the banking industry. Bush was director of the now-defunct Silverado Savings and Loan, whose failure cost taxpayers $1 billion.... In a move to boost the US economy, the Federal Reserve Board lowered its key interest rate to 6.5 percent from 7 percent, effective yesterday.... Scientists told Congress Tuesday that the nation's stockpile of nuclear weapons should be rebuilt with new safety devices and warned the danger of an accidental explosion in a warhead's plutonium core is greater than once thought.... New York State's highest court has opened the way for health insurers to test applicants for the AIDS virus by striking down a rule set in 1987 by the state's former Superintendent of Insurance.... A new federal study shows a first-ever decline in the number of frequent cocaine users in the US. Government sources said Tuesday that the survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that overall drug use continues to fall.


In Washington, environmental groups urged the Bush administration to include tough energy efficiency standards and the development of renewable fuels in its National Energy Strategy. The 16 organizations, joined by Sen. Timothy Wirth (D) of Colorado, feared that Bush would exploit the Persian Gulf crisis to bolster oil exploration in Alaska.... Electric customers in Pennsylvania will bear millions of dollars in costs during the next decade to clean up the region's electric plants, an industry group said. The Edison Institute said utilities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, and Tennessee will shoulder 44 percent of the costs of complying with revisions to the federal Clean Air Act.... Tests show gasoline containing alcohol fuel additives can significantly reduce carbon monoxide and smog-forming emissions in car exhaust, auto- and oil-industry researchers said.

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