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News In Brief

The US

An impromptu remark by Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto helped to precipitate the biggest point fall in the Dow Jones industrial average since the 1987 market crash. After Hashimoto said Japan had at one point been "tempted" to sell some of its huge cache of US government securities, the Dow fell 192 points. Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka said later that Hashimoto's "real intention was not reported correctly" and that Japan had no intention of selling US securities.

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In June, Americans' confidence in the economy was at its highest level since August 1969, the Conference Board said. The private business-research group said its consumer-confidence index rose to 129.6 in June, the highest since an August 1969 reading of 131.7.

Notes of White House lawyers' discussions with Hillary Rodham Clinton were surrendered to the Whitewater independent counsel, following a Supreme Court decision that they are not protected by lawyer-client privilege. Prosecutors reportedly are trying to find out who was responsible for barring Justice Department officials from searching the office of deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster after his death in 1993 and why Mrs. Clinton's law-firm billing records mysteriously reappeared last year after disappearing at the conclusion of the 1992 presidential campaign.

Whitewater figure Webster Hubbell overbilled Los Angeles for consulting work and three city officials contributed to the improprieties, a report released by the city controller found. Hubbell was hired by the city's Department of Airports in 1994 after resigning from the Justice Department. Three months later, he pleaded guilty to defrauding clients and partners at an Arkansas law firm. The Airports Department severed Hubbell's six-month contract after his convict- ion and paid him half of a $49,500 fee. The report says the city should try to recoup the money and the US should consider prosecuting Hubbell for mail fraud, wire fraud, and filing a false claim with the city.

A group of 44 House members urged the Clinton administration to drop plans for testing nuclear weapons without exploding them. A letter signed by House whip David Bonior (D) of Michigan and top Democrats on the House National Security, Science, and Resources Committees said the US program would encourage nations with less-advanced technologies to conduct underground testing. The Energy Department is to begin the nonexplosive tests, known as subcritical experiments, within a week.

Former FBI agent Earl Pitts, was sentenced to 27 years in prison for spying for Moscow during and after the cold war. A federal judge in Alexandria, Va., said Pitts had yet to fully apologize for his actions. The sentence is longer than prosecutors requested and longer than the 23 years CIA turncoat Harold Nicholson received earlier this month.

Louisiana lawmakers gave final approval to "covenant marriages." These optional contracts would require premarital counseling and all but eliminate the possibility of an easy divorce. To get out of a covenant marriage, a spouse would have to prove physical or sexual abuse, abandonment, adultery, or alcoholism, if the couple had not lived apart for at least two years. If Gov. Mike Foster (R) signs the bill, his state will be the first to offer this option. No-fault divorces would still be available to those choosing traditional marriages.

The House gave unanimous approval to a proposal to deny military funeral benefits to anyone convicted of a state or federal crime in which death is a possible punishment or who has been sentenced to prison without parole. The Senate last week passed a similar measure on a 98-to-0 vote amid concern that Timothy McVeigh, convicted in the Oklahoma City bombing, might be buried in a military ceremony with full honors.

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Betty Shabazz, who died in New York, was best known as the widow of slain civil-rights leader Malcolm X. In addition to rearing six daughters, she went on to earn a PhD from the University of Massachusetts and to become an educator and activist in her own right.

The World

Hard-line Israeli Cabinet member Ariel Sharon diverted some of the attention away from the Knesset's no-confidence vote on Prime Minister Netanyahu by demanding to join the latter's inner circle of security advisers. Sharon, ousted as defense chief after a 1982 massacre at two Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, said "I have to be on this team" with Foreign Minister David Levy and Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai. Netanyahu owes Sharon political favors for helping in his election. But analysts said such a move would alarm the Arab world and the US. Meanwhile, it appeared at least four members of Netanyahu's Likud coalition would abstain, but that he would win the no-confidence vote.

Protestant and Catholic leaders from Northern Ireland were summoned to London to hear a new proposal for disarming their respective paramilitary forces. No details of the joint British-Irish plan were announced, but sources said it was aimed at persuading both sides to give up their weapons gradually under international supervision "in parallel" with speeded-up negotiations on the province's future.

More shells from the fighting in the Congo Republic landed across the river in Congo (formerly Zaire), causing the latter's government to accuse the combatants of trying to draw it into the war. Meanwhile, fresh shooting in the capital, Brazzaville, further eroded the truce that was supposed to have been extended until the end of the week. Togo and Senegal offered troops for a proposed UN peacekeeping force that would try to restore order so the country's July 27 presidential election could take place as scheduled.

Hong Kong's lame-duck legislature passed two laws aimed at minimizing punishment for political dissent after the colony reverts to Chinese control July 1. The measures stipulate punishment for pro-democracy rallies only if they turn violent and make seditious statements legal in speeches or publications. China strongly criticized earlier drafts of the laws, and its appointed legislature is expected to pass a new subversion law.

The most senior suspect currently in custody went on trial before the UN war-crimes tribun-al in The Hague. Bosnian Croat Gen. Tihomir Blaskic turned himself in last year, claiming he is innocent of leading an ethnic purge that killed or drove out hundreds of Muslims in 1992 and 1993.

US Senate investigators were due in Indonesia to look into links between President Clinton and the country's wealthy donors to the Democratic Party. Sources close to the matter said the investigators would seek interviews with Lippo Group chairman Mochtar Riady, his son, James, and other executives of the company who allegedly made huge illegal contributions to the Democrats. The investigators also were scheduled to go to Hong Kong, Maco, and Taiwan as part of their probe.

Women's rights activists wept, but right-wing politicians cheered an Egyptian court ruling that struck down a government decree against female genital mutilation. The decision on what is widely considered a medically dangerous practice was another in a series that critics say constitute victories for Muslims trying to transform Egypt into a strict Islamic society. The court did not rule out government regulation of the procedure. Rights activists said they would continue their campaign to eradicate it.

Nigeria, the world's sixth-largest crude-oil producer, will import emergency supplies of gasoline to avert a worsening shortage, military ruler Sani Aba-cha announced. The crisis, blam-ed on the need for repairs to all of the country's refineries, caus-ed commuters to walk to work in Lagos, the largest city, as buses ran out of fuel. Abacha did not say how or when the refineries would be repaired.

"Sharon's the best player in town. He's taking Netanyahu to school."

- Israeli analyst Shimon Shiffer, on the demand by infrastructure chief Ariel Sharon to join Prime Minister Netanyahu's inner circle of advisers.


If you're the sort of person who'll give a pet a good home, Kathy Bishop would love to chat with you. Under a new town ordinance, the Cameron, Mo., resident has fewer than 60 days to dispose of a bear, two bobcats, a cougar, and a boa constrictor - all raised from infancy. The Kansas City Zoo won't take them, and she doesn't want to sell or have them put to sleep. But finding takers is proving to be a challenge. "They ask what kind of pets you've got," she says.

His official residence in Olympia was driving him batty, so Washington's new governor, Gary Locke (D), moved out. It seems the governor's mansion is infested with a colony of bats, which had made life uncomfortable for Locke, his wife, and their infant daughter. Exterminators were called in to - uh - do battle with the pests.

Every time there's a kil-ling frost in Brazil, world coffee prices tend to rise. Now more tons of beans have been taken out of circulation. Robbers broke into a warehouse in central Brazil, held workers at gunpoint all night, and swiped 2,000 bags of the best beans, worth $300,000. The theft took seven hours. No word on whether they stopped for a coffee break.

The Day's List

'Batman' Sequel Is Tops In Box-Office Returns

"Batman and Robin," the fourth installment of the "Batman" series, brought in top revenues over the weekend. But the gross for "My Best Friend's Wedding" was the highest yet for a romantic comedy. The top-grossing films for June 20-22 and their estimated revenues (in millions):

1. "Batman & Robin" $43.6

2. "My Best Friend's Wedding" $21.5

3. "Con Air" $10.2

4. "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" $8.0

5. "Speed 2: Cruise Control" $7.2

6. "Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery" $1.4

7. "Gone Fishin' " $1.2

8. "Addicted to Love" $0.9

(tie) "The Fifth Element" $0.9

10. "Buddy" $0.8

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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