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News Briefs

Chechen Propaganda War Heats Up

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- MOSCOW

As Russia’s new war in Chechnya gains force and casualties mount, the Chechen side is using the Internet to publicize its side of the story and its claims of civilian casualties.

On the opposite side, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin has taken personal control of Russia’s effort in the propaganda war, launching a new government information center.

Putin’s move underscores the high stakes for him in the renewed Chechen war. He has gambled his position as the anointed heir to President Boris N. Yeltsin on winning the conflict. He is determined not to repeat the mistakes of the 1994-96 Chechen conflict, in which Russia lost the propaganda war badly and suffered a humiliating military defeat by the Chechen guerrillas.

He flatly denied Thursday that Russian tanks had fired on a bus in northeastern Chechnya on Tuesday, killing dozens of civilians.

But the Chechens had already posted photographs on the Internet showing a bus shot to pieces and the mangled corpses of several women passengers.

“If such an incident had really taken place, Chechens would not have fled to Russia,” said Putin, referring to a flood of more than 100,000 refugees who have fled Chechnya since Russia’s heavy bombing of villages began last month.

Trump Announces Exploratory Committee For Reform Party Nod

THE BALTIMORE SUN -- WASHINGTON

Real estate tycoon Donald Trump inched closer to a third-party presidential run Thursday, announcing that he was forming an exploratory committee to seek the Reform Party nomination.

The New York developer and casino operator, in the midst of a series of TV appearances to promote an upcoming book, is one of several celebrities who have attracted publicity in recent weeks by hinting that they might enter the 2000 race.

Trump, describing his poll numbers as “unbelievable,” said on CNN that he was forming a committee to advise him on a possible run. Two national voter surveys have pegged his support at only seven or eight percent, though a recent poll of Reform Party members showed him running close behind Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, who is threatening to join the third party soon.

Trump said his first choice of a running mate would be talk show host Oprah Winfrey. The two have not talked about it, he added.

Labor Talks Intensify as UAW Strike Deadline Approaches

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

Labor negotiators for Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers are talking overtime, trying to settle a new contract before a union-set strike deadline, set for 11:59 p.m. Friday night.

Ford is the last of Big Three auto manufacturers in the United States to meet in nearly round-the-clock bargaining sessions with the UAW. The other two, General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG, recently accepted rich, four-year agreements with the union.

But money is not an issue at Ford, any more than it was at GM and DaimlerChrysler. The U.S. auto industry is running at full throttle, and is on the road to record sales and profits for calendar 1999.

Some bargaining sources said Thursday that Ford already has agreed, in principle, to the same economic deal accepted by its rivals: a three percent annual wage increase over the life of a new, four-year contract; improved cost-of-living adjustments to help offset increases in the inflation rate; improved pension benefits; and a one-time, up-front signing bonus of $1,350.