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News In Brief

The US

President Clinton signed the telecommunications reform bill - the largest overhaul of industry regulations in 62 years. Most large firms see great potential in the more deregulated market the bill creates. But some on-line users were protesting the law's ban on transmissions of smut on the Internet. They say it violates free speech guarantees. (Related story, Page 4.)

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Farm subsidies are closer to being phased out after the Senate voted 64 to 32 to break the link between farm prices and federal subsidies. Currently, falling market prices bring higher subsidies. Under the bill, farmers receive a series of fixed but declining payments. The bill would also end federal dictates over planting decisions. The House will take up the bill later this month. (Editorial, Page 20.)

Senator Gramm's presidential campaign is ''troubled'' if not ''dead,'' many observers say. His surprise loss in the Louisiana caucus and his absence in Washington for a farm-bill vote that is critical to Iowa were two strikes against him. And Gramm (below picking a Valentine's card for his wife, Wendy) admitted that if he do well in next week's Iowa caucus, he's out of the race. But even Gramm's opponents say his strong Iowa organization could make for a good showing. (Related story, Page 3.)

Former White House communications director Mark Gearan considered sending White House emissaries to Arkansas to check out the story of a former regulator. Statements by the former official, Beverly Bassett Schaffer, were of concern to the White House because she planned to speak about Mrs. Clinton's role in Whitewater. ''Make sure her story is OK,'' Gearan wrote in notes just released to the Senate Whitewater Committee. Although the emissaries apparently didn't go, investigators see the notes as evidence of possible White House tampering.

Thousands of Oregonians fled their homes and a prison evacuated its inmates during the state's worst flooding in 30 years. Helicopters and rescue boats plucked stranded people out of high waters. Many roads and freeways closed. Heavy rains and melting snow sent virtually every river in northwestern Oregon above or near flood stage. The rain continued for a fourth straight day yesterday.

The FCC was set to approve Walt Disney Co.'s $19 billion takeover of Capital Cities/ABC, but not without conditions. Disney would have one year to sell or swap a radio station or newspaper in both Fort Worth, Texas, and Pontiac-Detroit, Mich. In the deal it would own one of each in both cities - something federal laws prohibit.

US universities and colleges last year earned 15.5 percent on their endowments. That's the highest rate of return since 1986. They did it by steering more investments into stocks. But their nearly $16 billion in profits won't translate into lower tuition, more financial aid, or higher faculty salaries. Most endowment money is kept in reserve for leaner times. (See list at right.)

Consumer credit grew at a 9.3 percent annual rate in December, including a hefty 14.2 percent increase in credit-card use during holiday shopping. The explosive growth is why some banks are tightening loan approval terms. (Story, Page 9.)

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The median US home price last quarter was $113,800 - up 5 percent for the same period in 1994. Falling mortgage rates boosted consumer demand in all regions but the Northeast, where prices fell by 0.7 percent. The Midwest had the biggest growth: 8.4 percent.

The committee probing White House travel office firings issued 28 subpoenas of administration officials. The panel says its trying to ascertain if the firings were fair. Clinton, asked if the subpoenas were a political move, replied: ''That's almost a question that answers itself.''

The US may waive planned economic sanctions on China for selling nuclear-weapons-related equipment to Iran and Pakistan. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown is concerned about the sales, but won't likely press for sanctions. US firms doing business in China have pressured the administration not to act.

The World

The Muslim-led Bosnian government said it will continue to arrest suspected war criminals. And chief war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone said he expects the UN War Crimes Tribunal to decide on indicting the two top Bosnian Serb military officers the Bosnian government is holding within a few days. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic reportedly told Bosnian Serb leaders to break off talks with the Bosnian government until the detained Bosnian Serb officers are freed. (Story, Page 1; Opinion, Page 18.)

Protesting Chechen rebels defied the Moscow-backed regional government's call to disperse. The demonstrators erected barricades in the center of Grozny, Chechnya's capital, and demanded Moscow withdraw its forces from the region. Above, a Chechen woman sweeps a street in downtown Grozny as Russian soldiers patrol the area.

Yakhyo Azimov replaced Djamshed Karimov as Tajikistan's premier. It was unclear why Karimov resigned. Bowing to the demands of two warlords to purge the government of corrupt officials, President Emomali Rakhmonov fired some of his top aides last week. Also, Tajik forces headed to Tavildara near the Afghan border, to halt the advance of opposition Muslim forces, who are fighting to impose strict Islamic rule.

North Korea said it will not make new appeals for food aid and asked the UN not to seek help on its behalf. The Communist country, facing a severe food crisis, said it was disappointed by the marginal international support it received and accused South Korea of trying to block the aid. In a rare gesture, North Korea praised the US for a $2 million donation of food aid through the UN.

Japan unveiled a package of broad deregulatory steps to free up the country's pension funds. The move was made to encourage a greater flow of Japanese capital overseas, the Finance Ministry said.

Some 69 Khmer Rouge guerrillas and 13 soldiers were killed in fighting, Cambodia said. The Khmer Rouge is waging a low-level guerrilla war against the government. The group was blamed for the deaths of at least 1 million Cambodians during its reign of terror in the 1970s.

Strikes fueled by increasing petrol prices brought most of the Philippines to a standstill. Workers, priests, nuns, and students protested a 10 percent tax and 5.2 percent increase in petrol prices. Filipinos also demonstrated against a proposed measure to fight terrorism by giving the police more power. Religious and civil rights groups say the police could abuse their powers.

Rene Preval assumed Haiti's presidency in the country's first peaceful and democratic change of guard. But Haitians didn't give him a hearty welcome. Fewer than 200 people gathered outside the Parliament building for his inauguration.

The US must halt sale of advanced arms to Taiwan as a precondition to eliminate tensions between Beijing and Taipei, China said. President Clinton dismissed the possibility of a China-Taiwan conflict, saying the two nations won't risk economic growth for war.

Lithuania's parliament voted Premier Adolfas Slezevicius out of office by an overwhelming 94 to 24 votes. He repeatedly rejected oppostion calls to step down after it was revealed he withdrew his personal savings from Lithuania's largest bank two days before it shut down. President Algirdas Brazauskas is expected to nominate Mindaugas Laurynas to replace Slezevicius.


Astronomers have found new evidence of the existence of the Great Attractor - a huge region that's visible in Earth's southern sky that is drawing in the Milky Way galaxy with its gravitational pull. Now astronomers report in the journal Nature they have spotted a galaxy cluster that may be at the Great Attractor's core.

The European Union has given $125,000 toward the costs of rebuilding Venice's La Fenice opera house, destroyed by a fire last week. It's a symbol of EU commitment to the reconstruction. The cost of just the outer structure is estimated at $43 million, with the total cost in the hundreds of millions.

The weekly Village Voice, long called the people's newspaper in New York City, says it's going to end its $1.25 newsstand price and distribute copies for free locally, starting in April.

Billion Dollar Universities

The following US universities have the highest endowments. Amounts are in billions. (See also US In Brief.)

1. Harvard University $7.00

2. University of Texas system $5.00

3. Yale University $3.96

4. Princeton University $3.88

5. Stanford University $3.10

6. Emory University $2.23

7. Texas A&M University system and foundations $2.22

8. Columbia University $2.17

9. University of California $2.14

10. Massachusetts Institute of Technology $2.00

- National Association of College and University Business Officers/AP

'' I think it is clear that if I don't get first, second, or third,

that is going to knock me out of the race. But I am going to get first, second, or third.''

- Texas Sen. Phil Gramm on his presidential bid in Iowa.

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