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News In Brief

The US

No bombshells are likely to surface among a new round of documents to be made public tomorrow in the impeachment investigation, Democrats and Republicans agreed. But there was little doubt some of the material - about 4,000 pages of grand-jury testimony, FBI interviews, and transcripts of Monica Lewinsky's secretly recorded telephone conversations - would buttress opinions on both sides of the aisle. The fact that some of the material was already leaking to the press was decried by the White House.

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The Federal Reserve's widely expected interest-rate reduction was hailed by many businessmen and lawmakers as a step that would help restore financial stability. Nonetheless, markets reacted cautiously and some investors said the Fed should have cut rates more drastically. It reduced the federal-funds rate banks charge each other on overnight loans - which determines most other short-term rates - by 0.25 of a percentage point to 5.25 percent.

A key gauge of future economic activity held steady in August - a sign the economy is likely to continue expanding through early next year. The Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of leading economic indicators remained unchanged. It rebounded 0.5 percent in July after two months of decline.

Sales of new homes fell 4.4 percent in August, the Commerce Department said. Homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 838,000, the lowest level so far this year.

The 1998 federal budget surplus will total about $70 billion, the White House announced on the final day of the fiscal year. The surplus will be the government's first in three decades.

The Senate gave unanimous approval to a bill that will cut student-loan rates and make more grants available to low-income students. A new formula effective July 1 will lower interest rates on federally backed student loans to about 7.43 percent, down from the current 8.23 percent. Clinton is expected to sign the bill, which had already passed the House.

Sixteen GOP lawmakers urged House Speaker Newt Gingrich to quickly repeal a law requiring the Immigration and Naturalization Service - beginning today - to keep a record of all entries and exits of foreigners so it can identify those overstaying visas. Immigration officials have complained they aren't ready for such a complex program, and the group of lawmakers told Gingrich "disruptions and delays" at the border would severely harm trade and tourism. Repeal has already passed the Senate.

The US military is showing signs of "serious wear" and needs more funding, Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. His testimony came as the Senate passed and sent to the president a $250.5 billion defense-spending bill for fiscal 1999 that gives military personnel a 3.6 percent pay raise. The funding is nearly $3 billion short of estimates of what is needed to keep pace with inflation.

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Two students and a teacher suffered minor gunshot wounds inside a high school in North Miami after two teenage boys allegedly sneaked guns past security guards and opened fire. The violence occurred during the lunch hour in a hall outside the cafeteria at North Miami Senior High. The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear.

As hurricane Georges moved northeast into Georgia and South Carolina, thousands of evacuees returned home to the Gulf coast to begin the cleanup of damage and debris left behind by the storm. Clinton declared the entire storm-damaged swath a disaster area.

Tom Bradley, who died in Los Angeles, was a Texas sharecropper's son who became the first black mayor of Los Angeles. He presided over the glory of the city's 1984 Olympics and the tragedy of its 1992 race riots. Bradley, a Democrat, served from 1973 to 1993.

The World

International reaction mounted as word spread of the massacre of Albanian civilians in a wooded area of western Kosovo. Serb officials denied responsibility for the execution-style slaying of 18 adults and children but said they'd investigate "based on press reports." Meanwhile, there was condemnation from Britain and the group Human Rights Watch. Austria demanded an immediate international probe. Germany offered troops and planes to help stop the fighting in Kosovo. UN refugee commissioner Sadako Ogata accused the Serbs of excessive force, but said the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army also was guilty of abuses.

Squabbling over the timetable for the Irish Republican Army to surrender its weapons brought a series of urgent meetings between British Prime Minister Blair and parties to the Northern Ireland peace process. The row began when the province's first minister, Protestant David Trimble, insisted the IRA begin disarming before Sinn Fein members of his Cabinet take their seats. But Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA's political ally, protested that last April's peace accord allows two years for the handover. The accord requires a "summit" between Trimble's Cabinet and the Republic of Ireland government by Oct. 31.

Japan will respond to calls that it do more to help lead Asian countries to economic recovery by proposing a $30 billion aid package at a Group of Seven meeting Saturday in Washington, its finance minister announced. Kiichi Miyazawa said the funds would be used to buy the government bonds of its Southeast Asian neighbors, to establish social "safety nets," and restructure weakened companies, although Japan's own economic problems are "severe."

Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was beaten by police while in their custody, a medical report confirmed. He was ordered examined by doctors after complaining of abuse as he awaited arraignment on corruption and sodomy charges. The report brought protests by the US government and Amnesty International, but Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, who fired Anwar last month, claimed he could have inflicted the bruises on himself.

Heavy shelling and mock assaults by infantrymen, were the first signs of action by Iranian forces massed along the tense border with Afghanistan. But Iran's defense ministry had yet to announce the formal opening of war games for which it deployed 270,000 troops after Afghanistan's Taliban militia admitted responsibility for the deaths of an Iranian journalist and eight diplomats in August.

Amid signs that her reelection effort has lost momentum, controversial Australian lawmaker Pauline Hanson said she'd now speak to reporters "on my terms rather than theirs." Opinion polls showed the One Nation Party leader faced an uphill battle to keep her own seat in parliament after early hopes that her group would emerge from Saturday's vote with virtual veto power over legislation. Hanson, who's widely accused of racist beliefs, has complained of over-aggressive news coverage of her campaign.

A vital city fell to government troops in northern Sri Lanka as the island experienced its heaviest fighting this year. Mankulam was described as the "most strategic junction" for Tamil rebels seeking to retain control of the highway to their Jaffna peninsula base further north. Amid the clashes, the rebels turned over to the Red Cross the remains of 600 soldiers they'd killed. In the capital, Colombo, hospitals sent home other patients to make room for wounded combatants.


" The Yugoslav Army and Serbian police are fighting a war against civilians; this is another sad example of the unspeakable atrocities being committed against them." - Human Rights Watch official Holly Cartner, on the disvcovery of a massacre of Albanians in a Kosovo forest.

No trashy jokes, please, but perhaps you can empathize with a Sioux Falls, S.D., couple whose teenage son accidentally threw away a candy wrapper that looked as though it was the winner in a national giveaway contest. The Snickers wrapper from the company's $2 million NFL Shockwave MVP game ended up in Shirley and Tim Garrett's refuse somewhere in the city dump. They enlisted friends to help search for the precious piece of paper. The city's response: No way, because the landfill also holds hazardous wastes. Said a philosophical Mrs. Garrett: ""It's OK; life will go on. We've got each other."

In Mexico City, where police are having trouble fending off corruption allegations, Adolfo Garcia has become a poster boy for honesty. Garcia, who's paid only $6,000 a year, chased down a man trying to get away with $10,000 in cash accidentally dropped outside the US embassy by a departing diplomat. Yes, he returned every cent of it.

The Day's List

Costliest US Hurricane? That Was Andrew in '92

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released this ranking of the 10 costliest US storms in terms of total damage, disregarding any loss of life or injuries. Those storms, the year each occurred, the affected region, and a damage estimate (in billions, adjusted to 1996 dollars):

1. Andrew (1992), Florida, Louisiana $30.47

2. Hugo (1989), South Carolina $8.49

3. Agnes (1972), Northeast $7.50

4. Betsy (1965), Florida, Louisiana $7.43

5. Camille (1969), Mississippi, Alabama $6.01

6. Diane (1955), Northeast $4.83

7. Frederic (1979), Alabama, Mississippi $4.33

8. Unnamed (1938), New England $4.14

9. Fran (1996), North Carolina $3.20

10. Opal (1995), Florida, Alabama $3.01

- Reuters

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