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The US

A two-pronged approach to disposing of tons of plutonium left over from nuclear warheads was scheduled to be unveiled by Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary. The $2 billion plan calls for burning some of the 50 tons of plutonium in atomic power plants after mixing it with uranium. The rest would be encased in glass and buried. Critics say commercial use of weapons-grade plutonium is dangerous because it might be stolen. The Energy Department says adequate safeguards can be maintained.

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The top foreign-policy goal for President Clinton's second term will be an expanded NATO, including a stronger partnership with Russia, his new choice for national security advisor said. Sandy Berger, now the deputy national security adviser, was named last week to succeed Anthony Lake as head of the National Security Council. Lake was chosen to head the CIA.

The US Supreme Court heard arguments on the validity of a Georgia congressional map that features just one majority-black district. In 1995, the court struck down a Georgia plan that featured three such districts. The Clinton administration and minority-rights activists say a three-judge federal court went too far recently in rejecting a plan for two majority-black districts in the state. The court also agreed to rule on whether a US government attempt to keep smut off the Internet violates Constitutional rights of free speech. And it left intact a lower-court ruling that relatives of victims killed in air crashes over international waters can collect monetary damages for pain and suffering.

US Rep. John Kasich (R) of Ohio said he would press to end the US military role in Bosnia by spring. Kasich, the House budget chairman, characterized Clinton's decision to let US troops stay up to 18 months past the original Dec. 20 deadline as a "big mistake."

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott called for lower interest rates from the Federal Reserve. Referring to the comments by Fed chairman Alan Greenspan that rattled stock markets worldwide last Friday, Lott said Greenspan "probably wishes now he had "chosen some other words."

Job prospects for the next crop of college graduates should be very good, a Michigan State University survey reported. The study said demand for computer science majors, computer programmers, engineers, and actuaries will exceed supply. Salaries are expected to be 3 to 4 percent higher. Chemical engineers can expect to draw the highest pay - almost $43,000 a year.

Representatives of Latin American and Caribbean nations began a five-day conference in Miami. They will discuss plans for a hemispheric free-trade zone by 2005. The goal was set in Miami at a 1994 Summit of the Americas. Presidents of Haiti, Guatemala, and Nicaragua were scheduled to attend, along with the prime minister of Barbados.

The National League of Cities warned of a coming crisis in affordable housing. In a letter to Clinton, the league said cities cannot provide current levels of housing services next year in the wake of $3.5 billion in public housing cuts over the past three years.

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Power was slowly being restored to areas of the Northeast hit by winter storms over the weekend. More than a foot of snow fell in some areas. More than 105,000 Connecticut residents were without electricity and heat early Monday. In Massachusetts, 60,000 people were reportedly without power. In New Hampshire the number was 12,000; in Maine, it was about 4,000.

Homestake Mining Company said it will acquire Santa Fe Pacific Gold Corporation for $2.3 billion. The agreement will create the second-largest gold producer in North America.

Yesterday's "Football Bowl Lineup," which appeared on this page, listed Associated Press projections for 18 postseason major college games. In the actual pairings, announced after press time Sunday, there were changes in two New Year's Day matchups: Alabama was named to play Michigan in the Outback Bowl, and Tennessee was scheduled against Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl.

The World

Thousands of Serbian demonstrators were again in the streets of Belgrade, protesting the arrest and beating of a student for satirizing President Milosevic. But a move to mobilize unhappy union workers to join the protest got off to a slow start. Meanwhile, government-controlled television suggested that the nearly three weeks of daily demonstrations were sponsored by foreign interests.

In Brussels, NATO ambassadors approved a planned force of up to 30,000 troops to take over for the peacekeeping troops in Bosnia when their mandate expires Dec. 20. The new 18-month mission now must be OK'd by the UN Security Council.

Hundreds of Palestinian students defied Israel by reopening Hebron's Islamic University. It was closed for a year last March after a series of suicide bombings by Muslim militants in Israeli cities. Soldiers ordered the students to leave but did not interfere when they refused. Israel was believed not to want a confrontation while its negotiators are trying to close a deal on redeploying troops from the West Bank city.

Burma's military government sent police to close universities in Rangoon, chase protesting students through the streets, and again confine democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi to her home. Suu Kyi was accused of having links to the recent anti-government protests centering on the university campuses - the strongest challenges to military rule in years - and to the country's dormant Communist Party. She denied all such accusations.

The prime ministers of Britain and Ireland attempted to revive the stalled Northern Ireland peace process. But there were no reported breakthroughs. Britain's John Major said he would not accept another "phony cease-fire" by the Irish Republican Army in exchange for admitting the IRA's political ally, Sinn Fein, to talks on the future of the disputed region. Meanwhile, in the mostly Protestant town of Ballymena, Northern Ireland, police extinguished an arson fire before it could destroy a Roman Catholic church.

The first referendum on building a nuclear power plant in Russia was rejected. Officials said 87 percent of those voting in the Kostroma - a resort area northeast of Moscow - did not want the plant despite the prospect of new jobs and a revitalized economy. The referendum was binding.

Iraq received the go-ahead to begin pumping oil for export from UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and international inspectors said the pipeline that will carry it out of the country is in working order. Iraqi UN Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon said oil would begin flowing before the end of the week. Russia is expected to be among the first customers. With the UN's approval, Iraq will be permitted to sell $2 billion worth of oil every six months to buy food and medicine for its citizens. (Story, Page 1.)

A US congressman won the release of three Red Cross workers who had been held captive by rebels in southern Sudan. Rep. Bill Richardson (D) of New Mexico agreed to trade rice, Jeeps, radios, and a health survey for American John Early, a Kenyan pilot, and an Australian nurse. A splinter group of the Sudan People's Liberation Army originally had demanded $100 million for their freedom.

An estimated 150 people in two communes were killed by gunmen in Sierra Leone, witnesses said. Military authorities in Freetown, the capital, declined to comment on the report. The government and rebel leaders signed a peace accord last week.


"This is a victory for the poorest of the poor in Iraq - for the women and children."

- UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, on giving Iraq the go-ahead to begin implementing its long-delayed oil-for-food deal.

The latest bid to qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records comes from Geneva. A public square in the Swiss city was graced last week by what sponsors claimed as the world's most expensive Christmas tree. Precious gems, watches, and other pieces worth more than $8 million were hung from its branches by the jewelry maker Piaget - but only for a few hours and under heavy insurance cover.

Speaking of Christmas, have you ever - well - "recycled" a present that someone else gave to you? If so, you're not alone. A survey by American Express found that more than 1 in 4 respondents admitted to passing along a previously received Christmas gift.

Egyptian authorities are hunting for a safecracker, but not because of a burglary. It seems a 1930s-vintage strongbox in the national library holds 13,000 ancient coins, and the staff can't open it. At this point, the library doesn't care which side of the law its assistance comes from.

Wisconsin businessman Jim Oelstrom is enjoying the Green Bay Packers' banner season even more than most pro football fans. That's because he closely resembles Packers head coach Mike Holmgren. Oelstrom is regularly approached by people who want to meet him or ask for his autograph. "It's fun," he says - at least as long as the team keeps winning.

College Football's Top 10

The final regular-season rankings of the nation's best major-college teams, as voted by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. List also shows first-place votes (in parenthesis) and total points.

1. Florida State (62) 1,670

2. Arizona State (5) 1,612

3. Florida 1,539

4. Ohio State 1,454

5. Brigham Young 1,322

6. Nebraska 1,271

7. Penn State 1,259

8. Colorado 1,248

9. Tennessee 1,078

10. Virginia Tech 1,037

- Associated Press

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