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NEWS CAPSULES

Around the world

SECRET TALKS: Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres will hold secret talks in hopes of breaking the impasse over withdrawing troops from the occupied West Bank, the two leaders said Wednesday. "We feel the best way to arrive at an agreement is doing it discreetly and on a very high level," Peres told reporters after 21/2 hours of talks at the PLO chief's office in Gaza City.HOT AND COLD: Sydney, Australia, sweltered through its hottest December day in decades as the mercury soared to a searing 111 F Wednesday. Rail lines buckled, scores were treated for heat exhaustion and power consumption reached record levels as many thousands of city dwellers turned on fans and air conditioning systems seeking some relief from the heat. Meanwhile in Moscow, 14 people froze to death this week as the mercury dipped to record-breaking lows in the Russian capital. Officials said all were drunk. Six people froze to death overnight on Moscow's icy streets and 14 were hospitalized with hypothermia, authorities said.

Across the nation

FAMILIES SETTLE: Families of children who were killed or injured when a school cafeteria wall in Goshen, N.Y., collapsed in a storm five years ago have agreed to a settlement that will pay them $6.75 million. A state justice approved the settlement Monday. It was less than one-third of the $21 million that the families originally sought. "It was never about money," said John Lichtler, whose 7-year-old daughter, Joanna, was killed in the collapse at East Coldenham Elementary School, about 50 miles north of New York City. He said the goal was to push for adequate school inspections. The disaster prompted a 1992 state law requiring school officials to make annual visual inspections for structural deficiencies.

PRODUCER DIES: Donald Fedderson, a television producer whose shows included "My Three Sons" and "Family Affair," died Sunday of heart problems in Los Angeles at age 81. In the 1950s, Fedderson formed his own television company and signed Liberace, who hosted several shows. He produced "Life With Elizabeth," "The Millionaire" and "A Date With Angels." Fedderson also produced "Do You Trust Your Wife," which later became "Whom Do You Trust," and "To Rome With Love."