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World Briefs II

Gingrich Says GOP On Track; Quayle Disagrees Vehemently

The Washington Post

Just hours after House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., attempted to reassure nervous Republicans that GOP leaders remain committed to the conservative agenda, former Vice President Dan Quayle accused the party hierarchy in Washington of turning its back on fundamental conservative values.

In a stinging rebuke delivered after Gingrich's more upbeat assessment, Quayle suggested the Republican congressional leadership sold out to President Clinton in the recently enacted agreement to trim taxes and balance the budget by 2002. The deal, touted by both Republicans and Clinton as a monument to bipartisanship, was not worth all the hoopla it received, Quayle said.

"I know when you have divided government from time to time you have to compromise," Quayle said. "But you don't make compromise your top priority. There's a time to compromise and there's a time to stand firm. Now I know that it was a grand photo opportunity at the White House, but I'm afraid that the taxpayer once again got the shaft."

The starkly different assessments by the Republican leaders underscored the divide that continues to plague the GOP. In the past, Gingrich has dismissed the criticism as whining by a small and fringe element of the party.

Private Road Scheme Takes Its Toll On Strapped Mexican Treasury

Los Angeles Times
Mexico City

Its multibillion-dollar experiment in private toll roads in shambles, the Mexican government said Friday it will bail out 25 of the 52 privately built and operated highways to the tune of about $7.8 billion.

Mexican Secretary of Communication and Transportation Carlos Ruiz Sacristan admitted that the private roads program had been a failure because of excessively high tolls, inadequate planning and overly ambitious construction projects.

The government will assume $7.8 billion in debt and take over operation of the highways. It expects that over 15 years the toll revenues will repay all but $2.5 billion of the debt it is taking on.

While analysts do not expect the bailout to jeopardize the government's financial condition, some worried about the impact on concessionaires whose $3.5 billion equity investment will be wiped out. Among the hardest hit are giant Mexican construction firms ICA, Grupo Tribasa and GMD.

The private toll road scheme, begun in the late 1980s, was a favorite of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari because it shifted financial responsibility for construction of Mexico's much-needed new infrastructure to private concessionaires, or so he thought.

The undertaking has left Mexico with a 3,300-mile network of modern highways carrying hardly any traffic - because the private concessionaires who built them are charging tolls ranging from $20 for short hauls to hundreds of dollars for truckers.

Ruiz Sacristan said the bailout would include an immediate reduction in tolls by an average 30 percent for trucks and 13 percent to 15 percent for cars in hopes of generating more traffic volume.

Efforts to Reassure Hamburger Consumers Stepped Up

The Washington Post

Fast-food chains and grocers stepped up efforts Friday to reassure consumers of the safety of hamburgers, meatloaf and beef patties despite the recall of 25 million pounds of ground beef because of concerns the meat may be contaminated with a potentially deadly bacteria.

At the same time, U.S. Department of Agriculture investigators combed through records and interviewed workers at Hudson Foods Inc.'s Columbus, Neb., processing plant in an effort to determine how contamination might have occurred.

Hudson officials defended the company's safety record and said the firm would cooperate fully with the USDA's investigation.

The recall started Aug. 12, when Hudson voluntarily recalled 20,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties that had been implicated in 16 cases of food poisoning in Colorado caused by the E. coli bacteria. The USDA later determined that 1.2 million pounds of meat should be recalled as a precaution and sent inspectors to the plant.

Friday, restaurants and grocery chains that once carried or used Hudson products said the meat had been removed. Boston Market, Burger King and Wal-Mart all said they had immediately removed the meat products that were subject to recall from their stores and were taking steps to find alternative suppliers.

Golf Is Weak Link in Clinton's Vacation

The Washington Post

His lawyers were handling the latest hearing in the Paula Jones matter in Little Rock, but President Clinton was here, confronting scandal of a different sort. No matter what the skeptics might think, Clinton categorically denied cheating when he reported earlier this week that he had scored 79 on the golf course.

"Ask the guys I played with!" he protested as he prepared to tee off again Friday morning with his friend, Washington lawyer Vernon Jordan. "Ask Jordan. He was there. I've had three rounds under 80 in my life, two last year and the last one. It was just a lucky day."

That is about as weighty as it has gotten for Clinton in the irst of his three weeks of vacation on this island resort. No foreign crisis has diverted him from the links. No domestic politics have kept him from his nightly parties. The week has been so quiet that he and Hillary Rodham Clinton even tried their hand at some cooking.

"This is not particularly a working vacation," deputy White House press secretary Barry Toiv said early in the week. "I don't want to swear to you that he's not going to make any decisions while he's here, but there are not any major issues pending that he's going to be working on - at least as of right now."