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Despite its denials, the government of China decided as early as 1995 to try to buy political influence in the US by contributing to congressional campaigns, the Los Angeles Times reported. The newspaper said the FBI uncovered the plan through intercepted communications between the Chinese Embassy in Washington and Beijing. At least $2 million was earmarked for the effort to counter what was perceived as Taiwan's disproportionate influence in the US, it said.

Chinese President Jiang Ze-min said he hopes his visit to the US next week will raise relations with the US "to a new level." In an interview with the The Washington Post, Jiang urged Americans to tolerate his country's political system. Meanwhile, US officials left for Beijing to try to fine-tune China's pledge to stop selling missiles to Iran and helping to develop the Iranian nuclear program, two issues Jiang is expected to discuss with President Clinton when they meet Oct. 29.

The world's two biggest accounting and consulting firms are expected to announce a merger this week, The New York Times reported. The proposed deal between Ernst & Young and KPMG Peat Marwick would result in a firm with revenues of $15.3 billion and nearly 12,000 partners.

Wall Street opens today after the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 119 points Thursday and 92 points Friday. The Dow closed at 7847, down 198.18 for the week. The drop was unsettling for investors on the eve of the 10th anniversary of Black Monday - the second most famous crash in Wall Street history.

Health-insurance premiums for most policyholders are likely to rise by at least 5 percent next year, The New York Times reported. Citing insurance industry sources and consultants, it said the premiums charged to small employers with older workforces could increase by as much as 30 percent. The rates have remained stable for four years, largely because of the growth of managed-care programs.

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