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News In Brief

The US

Linda Tripp went before a grand jury in Washington to tell what she knows about an alleged presidential affair and coverup. She triggered the Monica Lewinsky inquiry by secretly recording conversations with the former White House intern and turning the tapes over to special prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

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A US warplane fired a missile at a radar site in southern Iraq after ground radar locked onto allied jets flying a routine mission over the Iraqi no-fly zone, military officials said. A spokesman for Central Command in Tampa, Fla., which overseas US operations in the Persian Gulf, said an F-16 fired the missile. There was no immediate report on whether it struck its target.

The Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence rose to a 29-year high in June. The gain from a revised 136.3 in May to 137.6 last month pushed the index higher than Wall Street analysts had expected.

DNA testing has identified remains from the Tomb of the Unknowns as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Blassie, the White House announced. Earlier, the Pentagon informed families of servicemen whose remains officials thought might be in the tomb at Arlington National Cemetery. Blassie's family in Missouri had pressed for a new study of the remains.

Chief negotiators for General Motors and the United Auto Workers met for the first time in more than two weeks. GM and union officials declined to comment on details of the talks, but there was speculation both sides might be looking for a face-saving way to end strikes at two Flint, Mich., plants, which have idled more than 162,700 hourly workers in the US, Mexico, and Canada.

The US has given several air-charter carriers permission to resume direct flights to and from Cuba, airline officials said. Because they must now secure landing rights from Cuba, it seems unlikely that direct flights between Miami and Havana will resume before mid-July. President Clinton barred direct flights in 1996 after Cuban jets shot down two US civilian planes over the Straits of Florida, killing four members of a Cuban exile group.

The Teamsters Union election may have to be held without government oversight because of a funding dispute, a federal judge in New York warned. David Edelstein noted that Congress has barred the federal government from paying for costs of overseeing the election even though the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the government to do so. A new election was ordered for August after the 1996 outcome was nullified because of fund-raising abuses.

A leading anti-smoking group accused tobacco companies of violating federal election rules by pledging ad campaign support in November to lawmakers who voted to kill a massive tobacco bill. In a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids accused five companies of indicating they would mount the TV-advertising campaign in support of senators who would help thwart a bill sponsored by Arizona Sen. John McCain (R). His proposal was killed on a procedural move in June.

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Star Banc Corp. of Cincinnati and Firstar Corp. of Milwaukee were close to a merger that could be worth more than $5 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported. The merger would create a company with 625 branches in seven Midwestern states and Arizona - and with assets of about $35 billion.

Southbound barges began creeping past the site of an accident on the Mississippi River 80 miles north of New Orleans. Marine traffic had been snarled since Saturday morning when a tug pushing grain barges collided with another tug and two tank barges, rupturing a barge loaded with crude oil. More than 70,000 gallons have spilled into the waterway. Northbound river traffic resumed late Saturday night.

The World

Despite President Clinton's calls for improvement in human rights, Chinese police arrested a leading dissident for attempting to register an opposition party, refused to allow another dissident's wife to return from overseas, and forcibly escorted the mother of a third out of Beijing as she tried to purchase medicine, rights groups said.

Speaking in Shanghai, Clinton angered Taiwan by issuing what's believed to be his first public support for the Beijing government's "one China" policy. Previously, he had defined US policy with respect to Taiwan - which has been in place for two decades - in vague terms. In reply, a Taiwanese statement said: "The US and Chinese Communists are in no position to conduct bilateral negotiations on anything related to our affairs."

Chinese President Jiang Zemin and other senior officials flew to Hong Kong for today's ceremonies marking the first anniversary of its return to Beijing government control. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said Beijing had kept its word in giving the former British colony autonomy. Clinton is scheduled for a brief visit in Hong Kong, the last stop on his nine-day China tour.

With Clinton skipping Japan on his tour - at China's request - US Ambassador Thomas Foley and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin hastened to reassure the Tokyo government that it remained the cornerstone of American diplomacy in Asia and was crucial to the region's recovery from economic crisis. Foley said he was "puzzled" by suggestions that "warmer US-China ties somehow undermine" relations with Japan or that the latter should feel "slighted" by Clinton's decision not to visit.

An uneasy calm settled over East Timor after Indonesian troops killed one demonstrator for independence and wounded four others - the second incident of its type in as many days. The violence caused visiting European diplomats to cut short their fact-finding mission. The territory's Nobel Peace Prize-winning Roman Catholic Bishop, Carlos Belo, called for UN troops to police East Timor if Indonesians couldn't maintain order without resorting to violence.

Illustrating a smooth political transition, new Philippines President Joseph Estrada rode beside his predecessor to inauguration ceremonies in Manila. Outgoing chief executive Fidel Ramos had backed Estrada's rival in the May 11 election. Estrada has pledged to continue most of Ramos's policies but with new emphasis on raising the standard of living for the poor while cracking down on corruption in government and the nation's severe crime problem.

Just as signs of peace were emerging in Guinea Bissau's three-week civil war, government loyalists and rebels canceled their reconciliation talks. A Portuguese envoy said his country would still try to negotiate a cease-fire in the former colony but did not know when talks would resume. The Economic Community of West African States was scheduled to consider today the government's request for more outside military help in addition to 2,000 Guinean and Senegalese troops already in place. The rebels want an international force to serve as a buffer.

Three thousand police with armored personnel carriers were ordered to Karachi, Pakistan, as casualties mounted after another night of violence. Six more people died in automatic weapons fire between rival factions of an Indian Muslim refugee group battling for control of eastern and central sections of the city. More than 200 people have been killed in such clashes in the past month.


" Must we always measure progress by the golf courses of the rich?"

- New Philippines President Joseph Estrada, pledging in his inauguration speech to raise standards for the two-thirds of the population living below the poverty line.

The early-summer weather in Massachusetts triggered yet another thunderstorm over the town of Easthampton. Next thing Eric Handel knew, lightning had set his house ablaze. The fire department responded quickly, even bringing along police in case they were needed. They were - for an arresting development. Handel, it was discovered, used the place to grow marijuana.

Looking for an easy target, a robber in Bangkok, Thailand, picked a downtown jewelry store, brandished a knife, and demanded that the proprietor give him the best pieces. Instead of gold bracelets, however, he got a stainless steel set - handcuffs. The store owner is a policeman.

Then there was what happened to an unemploy-ed bookkeeper in Belgorod, Russia. He'd phone local businesses, posing as a tax inspector, and threaten "unpleasantries" unless they hired his "relative." Next, he'd present himself as the relative. He wasn't as good at keeping jobs, however, and was fired each time. No word on how unpleasant it was when the cops finally caught up with him.

The Day's List

A Big Week at Box Office For Actor Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy's new take on the "Dr. Doolittle" role played by Rex Harrison in 1967 made its debut as the leading moneymaker last weekend at theaters across North America. Meanwhile, the animated film, "Mulan," in which Murphy's voice is heard as a wisecracking dragon, remained in second place. The top box-office attractions for June 26-28, with their reported grosses (in millions):

1. "Dr. Doolittle" $29.0

2. "Mulan" 17.0

3. The X-Files" 13.3

4. "Out of Sight" 12.0

5. "The Truman Show" 8.5

6. "Six Days, Seven Nights" 7.6

7. "A Perfect Murder" 5.3

8. "Hope Floats" 2.4

9. "Can't Hardly Wait" 2.1

10. "The Horse Whisperer" 1.9

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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