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News In Brief

The US

House Speaker Newt Gingrich urged Republican lawmakers to put aside internal feuds that have overshadowed the GOP agenda over past two weeks and focus on major tax and spending bills. But many congressmen said they would press for an airing soon of issues that impelled a group of dissidents to attempt to oust the Speaker and ultimately forced Rep. Bill Paxon of New York to quit his post on Gingrich's leadership team.

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House and Senate Republicans agreed to a common stance for negotiations with the White House on tax legislation. Republicans said they would push for a reduction in the maximum capital-gains tax rate to 20 percent, from the current 28 percent - and for indexing the tax to take inflation into account. The White House opposes the indexing concept.

President Clinton promised to "defend the vote of any member of Congress, Democrat or Republican," who supported raising Medicare premiums for the affluent elderly. House Republicans were reportedly concerned that backing the proposed measure would make them vulnerable at the polls. A Senate proposal would raise Medicare premiums for single beneficiaries with incomes of $50,000 a year and for couples earning $75,000.

Democrats were expected to go on the offensive in Senate campaign-finance hearings. After weeks of testimony about illegal contributions to the Democratic Party during the recent presidential campaign, they were expect-ed to call witnesses who would discuss donations from foreigners that helped Republicans win 1994 congressional contests.

Sen. Fred Thompson (R) of Tennessee expressed frustration with the Justice Department refusal to specify why it opposed granting partial immunity so four Buddhist nuns would testify about a fund-raiser attended by Vice President Al Gore. The Senate committee probing campaign-finance abuses, which is chaired by Thompson, was scheduled to consider defying the department's objections and granting limited immunity.

Democrats threatened to slow down Senate action if a probe into alleged fraud in the 1996 Louisiana Senate race is not completed by July 31. Sen. John Warner (R) of Virginia, who chairs the Senate rules committee, said he wants it extended until Sept. 9. But he acknowledged that the probe so far has not found evidence of irregularities that would affect the outcome of the tight race, in which Democrat Mary Landrieu defeated Republican Louis "Woody" Jenkins.

Anti-tobacco senators introduced legislation to outlaw any trade negotiations that would weaken curbs on smoking in other countries and deprive people abroad of warnings about the dangers of tobacco. The bill is designed to prevent a repeat of 1988 trade talks that ultimately forced South Korea to eliminate a ban on tobacco advertising, said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey. It also would require that American cigarette exports bear the same warning labels required in the US.

Federal Reserve vice chair Alice Rivlin warned of the risk of inflation and said whether the central bank needed to raise interest rates further was a "tough call." Her congressional testimony came a day after a generally upbeat midyear report to Congress from her boss, Alan Greenspan, sent stock prices soaring. The Federal Reserve Board chairman's comments were generally taken as a signal the Fed sees no reason for an immediate interest-rate increase.

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United Auto Workers members walked off the job at a General Motors engine-component plant after talks failed to produce a new contract. The strike in Warren, Mich., affected some 2,800 hourly workers. Meanwhile, a strike was averted at another key GM parts plant in Indiana after a tentative accord was reached with workers there.

US home ownership reached its highest level in nearly 17 years from April to June, Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo said. In the second quarter, 65.7 percent of US households owned their residences, he reported.

The World

Protestant parties rejected guidelines for admitting supporters of the Irish Republican Army to participate in peace talks. The rules called for making IRA disarmament a goal in the negotiations that would have included IRA ally, Sinn Fein. Protestants want guarantees the IRA will disarm during talks on Northern Ireland's future. Three Protestant parties voted against the plan at a meeting in Belfast.

Making good on a preelection vow, Albanian President Sali Berisha resigned, one hour before the country's new opposition-dominated parliament convened in Tirana. The move clear- ed the way for Socialist Prime Minister Fatos Nano to choose a new president. Berisha's Democratic Party lost the June 30 election amid public perceptions that its leaders had profited from get-rich-quick investment schemes that cost thousands of Albanians their life savings.

Russian President Yeltsin rejected a controverisial draft law restricting religious freedom. In a statement, Yeltsin indicated the measure went against constitutional guarantees of equality for all faiths. The draft law favored Russia's traditional faiths by requiring smaller religions to wait 15 years before applying for full legal rights.

The European Commission recommended approval of a planned $15 billion merger between US aircraft manufacturers Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. The decision came after Boeing agreed to give up exclusive contracts with US airlines, averting the possibility of a US-Europe trade war. The concession addressed concerns that European manufacturer Airbus would be excluded from large parts of the US market. A final commission decision is due next week.

Cambodia watched from the sidelines while Laos and Burma were installed as members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The group said it still recognizes the ousted Norodom Ranariddh as Cambodia's co-premier. His designated replacement, Ung Huot, was not invited to the installation ceremonies in Mlaysia. ASEAN said Cambodia would not be initiated until the conflict over Ranariddh's ouster was resolved.

Moves to raise $1.4 billion for the rebuilding of war-torn Bosnia ran into immediate difficulty at an international donors conference in Brussels. Some of the 30 participants rebelled at pledging new contributions that would reach Serb-held territory until indicted war-crimes suspects there are brought to justice.

Swiss banks took the unprecedented step of running newspaper ads containing names of 1,756 holders of dormant World War II-era accounts, including assets left by Holocaust victims. The accounts reportedly contained around $40 million. The ad said more names would be made public in October. Some Jewish organizations claim up to $7 billion in assets remain hidden in Swiss banks.

Near-complete results from Liberia's presidential election gave faction leader Charles Taylor an insurmountable lead: more than 75 percent of the vote. One of Taylor's 11 opponents, former foreign minister Baccus Matthews, called the voting "reasonably free and fair." Liberia's election commission was expected to announce the winner no later than today.

Saying, "We emphatically deny that press freedom is threatened," members of President Fujimori's Cabinet opened testimony before Congress on the largest scandal in recent Peruvian history. The hearings were triggered by public outrage over the government's move against the owner of a Lima TV station. An hour before a scheduled report on systematic wire-tapping by government agents, the citizenship of Israeli-born Baruch Ivcher was revoked. The incident caused street protests, and five Cabinet chiefs have quit.


"This was a difficult decision. But many articles in the bill ... establish inequality of different faiths and contradict international obligations undertaken by Russia."

- President Boris Yeltsin, in vetoing controversial legislation that would have curbed religious freedom in his country.

Seen the bumper sticker "DARE to Keep Cops Off Donuts"? Harold Bruce has. And the Memphis, Tenn., police sergeant is taking its message to heart. He's the publisher of "The Donut Diaries," a monthly newsletter dedicated to keeping the men in blue in the pink - and off the doughy dietbusters. He says a growing number of the city's 1,400 officers have become slimmer and trimmer since publication began two years ago.

Critics of the Taliban movement, which controls much of Afghanistan, are wondering whether the superstrict Islamic fundamentalists also control the country's sneaker market. The Taliban religious police, otherwise known as the Department for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice, has decreed that females may not make noise with their shoes when they walk.

When Queen Elizabeth II isn't attending to matters of state or walking her Welsh corgis, her favorite way to pass the time now seems to be surfing the Internet. A royal spokesman says the British monarch takes special delight in reading the message book for her official Web site and in sending e-mail to her subjects.

The Day's List

Tracing Asian Investment In US Real Estate Market

California attracted the largest portion of Asian investment in US real estate over the past four years, according to a study by the Los Angeles-based E&Y Kenneth Leventhal Real Estate Group. The most attractive properties: hotels and office complexes. Hong Kong ($2.91 billion in total purchases) and Singapore ($1.42 billion) were the busiest buyers. The eight geographical entities (seven states, plus the District of Columbia) receiving the most Asian investment and each entity's four-year total (in millions of US dollars):

1. California $1,400

2. New York 1,300

3. Illinois 677

4. Texas 602

5. Florida 416

6. Hawaii 287

7. Michigan 223

8. District of Columbia 216

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