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At least eight Republican Congressmen reportedly remain uncommitted on the reelection of Newt Gingrich as House Speaker. Several have said they want to hear the House ethics committee recommendation on how Gingrich should be punished before deciding how to vote. The GOP leadership has said it would like to reelect Gingrich when the 105th Congress convenes Jan. 7.

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The US Transportation Department is expected to propose new air-bag rules today, allowing automakers to install less-forceful bags and making it easier for consumers to have them disconnected. Advocates of the new rules are pressing for a decision by mid-February so less-powerful air bags can be installed in 1998-models. President Clinton spoke out in favor of the new rules over the weekend.

A second powerful storm hit the Pacific Northwest late Saturday. An earlier one pounded the region Thursday and Friday, leaving more than a foot of snow in some areas. More than 110,000 homes and businesses were still without electricity as the new storm moved in. The National Weather Service posted flood warnings for the Russian and Napa rivers in northern California. Lowland flooding was reported in northwest Oregon, and all western Oregon rivers were under a flood watch.

Orders for big-ticket durable goods fell in November for the first time in three months, the Commerce Department reported. Orders for durable goods were off 1.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted $171.8 billion. Reduced demand for electronic equipment was reportedly a major factor in the relatively low figure for November.

Clinton met privately Friday with House Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Archer (R) of Texas, the Washington Post said Sunday. They reportedly discussed tax policy, Medicare, Social Security, and other budget matters. The meeting, reportedly suggested by Archer, was seen as another indication of bipartisan cooperation in Washington.

Sophisticated new X-ray machines will begin arriving in major US airports next month. Chicago's O'Hare Airport will be the first to receive the devices, designed to detect explosives in checked baggage. Under a $52.2 million contract, InVision Technologies of Foster City, Calif., will install 54 machines nationwide during 1997, federal aviation officials said. The new technology has already been tested in San Francisco and Atlanta.

Gov. George Pataki wrote to Clinton, seeking US disaster aid to help New York state and local governments pay costs associated with the crash of TWA Flight 800. Their combined costs have reportedly been more than $12 million.

The world's population is growing more slowly and could conceivably stabilize at 8 billion by 2025, the Population Institute said. The Washington-based institute said world population growth is almost 90 million annually, down from the 100 million of recent years. The number of the world's inhabitants is expected to pass 6 billion by 2000.

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The year-end US population is 266,499,365, the Commerce Department projected. That is an increase of 2.3 million (0.9 percent) for the year. Net migration of 809,000 accounted for about a third of the increase.

Regulations limiting commercial-aviation tours of the Grand Canyon are expected to be announced tomorrow by the Interior Department. The proposal is part of a broad Clinton administration effort to reduce aircraft noise in national parks.

A board created by Congress ordered deep cuts in the Washington, D.C., municipal budget to close an $85 million deficit. After trimming funds for schools, human services, and higher education, the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority gave city officials two weeks to recommend further cuts to eliminate the deficit.


Twenty more hostages were released from the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru, after the first face-to-face meeting between Marxist rebels and an envoy of President Alberto Fujimori. Analysts see the negotiations as a sign of a slight easing in the hard-line stances of Fujimori and the guerrillas, who still hold 83 hostages.

A landmark peace treaty was set to be signed yesterday between the Guatemalan government and left-wing rebels. Many rebel leaders arrived in Guatemala City from exile in Mexico City to the cheers of hundreds of ecstatic supporters who celebrated the end of a brutal 36-year civil war. As many as 140,000 people were reportedly killed in the fighting.

For the first time, North Korea tendered an official apology to South Korea. In a two-sentence statement, hammered out with US diplomats in New York, North Korea expressed "deep regret" for an incursion by one of its submarines into South Korea in September. The incident sparked a manhunt involving 60,000 troops. Seoul cautiously welcomed the apology. Analysts called it a desperate attempt by Pyongyang to qualify for food aid from the US. North Korea is facing a severe food shortage.

A powerful bomb rocked Lhasa, Tibet's capital, injuring five people. Tibetan Radio said it was one of the largest explosions ever in the city. Chinese officials put the blame on supporters of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader. Separately, a Chinese court sentenced Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan music scholar, to 18 years in prison for spying on China for the Dalai Lama.

An agreement giving Palestinians control of 80 percent of Hebron will be signed this week, Israeli and Palestinian officials said. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Palestinian demands for shared control of a disputed shrine in Hebron. Netanyahu said Israeli troops will remain in the center of Hebron to protect Jewish settlers and guard the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Some 10,000 demonstrators defied a police ban and publicly mourned the first victim of the Belgrade protests against Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. The victim died from a beating by Milosevic supporters. Meanwhile, international mediators in Geneva urged Milosevic to reverse his annulment of opposition victories in Nov. 17 local elections.

Russia and China pledged to forge closer military and economic ties to counter the influence of the US. The announcement came at the end of Chinese Premier Li Peng's three-day visit to Moscow, which both countries called a "complete success." Separately, Alexander Lebed, the most popular politician in Russia, announced the formation of his own party. He said it would provide a centrist alternative.

Iraq praised France's decision to end its participation in air surveillance over the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. France said it would not participate in a revised version of the mission, which no longer includes delivery of humanitarian aid.

Some 20,000 South Korean workers rallied in Seoul and threatened to clog all expressways unless a controversial labor law was revoked. Under the new law, companies can lay off surplus workers, hire temporary staff, and replace strikers.

Police defused a bomb that was planted on the car of a leading official of Sinn Fein, the political ally of the IRA. If the bomb in Londonderry was the work of Protestant militants, it would be a serious breach of a cease-fire which the militants announced in October 1994.

Muslim fundamentalists in Algeria killed 28 people in a pre-dawn attack in the village of Dhamnia, some 75 miles southwest of Algiers. A few hours later, a bomb exploded in Algiers, seriously injuring 20 people.


"Peace is not born on paper. It is born in the heart."

Pedro Coy, a Guatemalan peasant, as his country celebrated a peace accord after 36 years of civil war.

Drivers in Louisville, Ky., sought to find some humor in a Christmas morning mishap that left no one injured but shut down I-64 for about 10 hours. A trailer load of ground French-roast coffee spilled onto the westbound side of the interstate, requiring the use of a front-end loader to - well - scoop up the grounds. At least one local wag referred to it as life in the espresso lane.

Polls indicate that after being out of power since 1979, Britain's Labour Party may finally win the national election that must be held next spring. But it couldn't beat Prime Minister John Major of the Conservative Party in another key election. Listeners to the BBC chose Major "Personality of the Year." The radio network disqualified Labour's leader, Tony Blair, because his party actively tried to influence the vote.

The Kansas City Chiefs appear often in the National Football League playoffs. So it seemed safe for a local pizza shop to mail 20,000 coupons offering free pies as a promotion if the Chiefs somehow failed to qualify this season. But fail they did. At least 30 people have claimed their freebies so far. The shop owners are hoping the coupons expire before the remaining 19,970 recipients show up too.


Top 1996 Concert Draws

Top acts on the concert circuit in 1996 (with their estimated gross ticket sales), according to the trade publication Pollstar. Concert-goers spent an estimated $1.05 billion on admissions in 1996. That is up slightly from the $950 million spent last year, but it is substantially lower than the record $1.4 billion set in 1994.

Kiss $43.6 million

Garth Brooks 34.5 million

Neil Diamond 32.2 million

Rod Stewart 29.1 million

Bob Seger 26.3 million

Jimmy Buffett 26.2 million

Reba McEntire 26.1 million

Alanis Morissette 23.2 million

Hootie & the Blowfish 21.4 million

Ozzy Osbourne 21.3 million

- Associated Press

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