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News In Brief


Washington lawmakers didn't get what they wanted for Christmas: A balanced budget. But GOP lawmakers, White House chief of staff Panetta, and other administration officials are expected to open negotiations again tomorrow. President Clinton, House speaker Gingrich, and Senate majority leader Dole plan to meet Friday. Meanwhile, Clinton signed legislation passed by Congress that allows benefit checks to be mailed to veterans and poor families and issues money for adoption and foster- care services. Dole pushed a bill through the Senate letting furloughed workers return to work, since they're being paid anyway. The House needs to vote on the bill. And Clinton vowed to veto a Republican welfare reform plan that cleared both Houses of Congress. (Related story, Page 1.)

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Israeli Syrian negotiations are scheduled to begin tomorrow at Wye Plantation on the shore of Chesapeake Bay near Washington. It is the third time Washington has brought the two parties together this year.

The Senate joined the House and overruled a veto by Clinton of a bill that limits stockholders' ability to sue for fraud. The bill alters rules put in place during the Great Depression to discourage stock manipulation.

Thomas Lewis Lavy committed suicide in his Little Rock jail cell after being arrested on a biological weapons charge for possessing ricin, a lethal extract of the castor-bean plant. Lavy was crossing the border into Canada when four guns, 20,000 rounds of ammunition, $89,000 in cash, and the ricin were discovered.

Twelve pages of notes taken by a former Clinton aide William Kennedy have finally landed in the hands of GOP lawmakers after the Senate threatened a court battle over them. The GOP is pointing to several titillating entries and say Kennedy, other White House aides, and Clinton's new lawyer can expect to be subpoenaed to testify about them before the Senate. The White House says the notes prove what Clinton said all along: He has nothing to hide.

Defying its ethics committee, the House voted to let lawmakers receive unlimited book royalties as long as they have their book contracts cleared by the ethics panel and do not accept advances. Democrats accused the GOP of passing the more liberal rule to shelter Gingrich's book royalties. Also, the House ethics committee named James M. Cole as special counsel to investigate possible ethics violations by Gingrich.

Senator Hatch of Utah introduced a "religious equality" amendment in the Senate. Supporters say it will keep judges from misinterpreting the Constitution and issuing rulings unfair to church groups. Hatch said it will clarify the role of religion in public life. Representative Hyde has already introduced the amendment in the House. Both men are Republicans.

Congress could vote on a bill this week that would changed how Americans receive and pay for phone, TV, and telecommunications services. Senator Pressler of South Dakota is overseeing reconciliation of the Senate and House bills. The former measure faces opposition from House Republicans, who say it doesn't give media and phone companies enough freedom.

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The cleanup continued in Effingham, Ill., site of a fatal freight train wreck. Fire officials said two people were dead and a third was missing after a three-train collision. Firefighters are standing by, allowing a diesel-fuel fire to burn itself out.

One Washington agency has managed to cut through the budget red tape. The Smithsonian Institution reopen its National Museum of American History today after officials shifted private trust fund money to pay some workers. Other Smithsonian museums will remain closed until the budget impasse is resolved. Also open: the National Air and Space Museum.


More than 400 people, mostly children, were killed after fire broke out during a school prize-giving ceremony in Dabwali, India, 125 miles northeast of New Delhi. Police believe a short circuit ignited the fire where an estimated 1,000 people attended the ceremonies under a tent. The tent was surrounded by a 10-foot-high brick wall, had one main entrance and a smaller gate that was locked.

Bosnian Serb and Muslim armies each traded more than 100 prisoners of war in a Christmas Eve swap that put a human face on the country's peace process, witnesses said. Meanwhile, two British soldiers were injured in a land-mine explosion in Bosnia. Experts estimate between 3 and 6 million land mines are hidden throughout Bosnia.

Bethlehem draped itself in festive garb for its first Christmas under Palestinian self-rule in 28 years. And, in Cairo, Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak called on Egypt to influence Arab countries into maintaining better relations with Israel.

A coalition is the likely outcome of Turkey's parliamentary elections Sunday, polls indicate. The elections are a referendum on whether Turkey should strengthen ties with the West or follow a more Islamic-oriented path, analysts say. In Kyrgyzstan, polls indicate an easy win for President Askar Akayev in his country's first post-Soviet presidential elections. The Sunday elections were declared valid after voter turnout far exceeded the required 50 percent.

Russian troops said they captured Gudermes, Chechnya's second biggest town, after a week of fighting with Chechen rebels. Also, some 50 Chechen rebels were killed in clashes with Russian forces near Benoi the military said. Hundreds of refugees reportedly are flooding to Grozny, Chechnya's capital. Separately, more than 65 Tajik rebels were killed in clashes with Rus- sian border guards, a Russian commander said.

In a remote Alpine forest near Grenoble, France, French authorities found 16 bodies they believe are missing members of the Swiss-based Order of the Solar Temple. The members died in a ritual that was a murder-suicide. In 1994, a similar ritual by the sect left 53 dead in Switzerland and Canada. Among the dead were the wife of a former French ski champion and two French policemen, sources said.

Former Communist Alexander Kwasniewski was sworn in as president of Poland. He promised to continue the nation's democratic and free-market reforms. He succeeds Lech Walesa, whom he edged out in Nov. 19 elections. Meanwhile, Walesa said he will not attend the swearing-in ceremony.

South Korean prosecutors have begun grilling relatives of former President Chun Doo Hwan about alleged secret slush funds he accumulated while in office. Meanwhile, abundant anti-US rhetoric marked the fourth anniversary celebrations of North Korea's appointment of Kim Jong Il as Army chief.

Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui has pledged to end hostility between his nation and China, while officials reportedly disclosed that Taipei is preparing for talks with Beijing. Lee said both sides should renounce military force and promote stable relations.

The dispute between Yemen and Eritrea over a strategic Red Sea Island will end soon, Ethiopia's Foreign Minister Seyoun Mesfin said. Mesfin, who has been mediating the dispute, did not explain why he was optimistic.


Today tastes like honey. We did not expect to see the day when Palestinian land would come under Palestinian rule."

- An elderly West Bank Palestinian in Bethlehem.

A famous eight-course Christmas dinner at Yosemite has become a casualty of the current partial government shutdown. With the park closed, the meal for guests from as far away as Australia was canceled. The 1,650 guests, who paid $185 a ticket, will have their reservations honored next year.

Elders of the Church of England say Prince Charles must do more than say he doesn't want to marry again. He must sever ties to Camilla Parker Bowles to preserve the sanctity of the monarchy. Queen Elizabeth had urged Prince Charles and Diana, the Princess of Wales, to divorce. He agreed, adding he that did not plan to remarry.

Most Affordable Places To Roost in the US

A July-Sept. survey covering 436,000 sales of new and existing single-family homes in 191 metropolitan areas provided the following information on housing affordability.

Region Most affordable

Midwest: Kansas City, Kan.

Northeast: Binghamton, N.Y.

South: Jackson, Miss.

West: Bakersfield, Calif.

Least affordable

Midwest: Chicago

Northeast: New York

South: Laredo, Texas

West: San Francisco

National Association of Home Builders/Associated Press

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