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News In Brief

The US

Wholesale prices shot up 0.5 percent in December, the Labor Department said. This was the sharpest advance in a year, and it helped push the rate for 1996 to the highest in six years. A 2.8 percent increase in the producer price index last year was the biggest since a 5.7 percent advance in 1990. The department also said first-time claims for jobless benefits fell by 13,000 last week. Nonetheless, Federal Reserve vice chairman Alice Rivilin told the Mortgage Banker Association the economy was not overheating and inflation did not pose a problem.

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The college-loan default rate has declined to less than 11 percent, President Clinton announced. That is the lowest rate since the Education Department began reporting it in 1988. The high was 22.4 percent in 1990. Clinton said students are learning that opportunity brings responsibility. He used the good news on default rates to renew his call for $1,500-a-year tax deductions for college tuition to make higher education more affordable.

The House and Senate were to meet in joint session to officially declare Clinton and Vice President Al Gore winners of the Nov. 5 election. In a constitutionally required ritual, votes cast by 538 members of the electoral college in December must be opened and counted before members of Congress.

The president will meet new UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Jan. 23, their first meeting since the Ghanaian became head of the world body, the White House said. Annan said he would use the meeting to press the US to pay $1.3 billion it owes the UN. A State Department official said the Clinton administration is drafting a payment plan it hopes will be acceptable to UN critics in Congress. The US was the moving force behind the ouster of Annan's predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Clinton will deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress Feb. 4, the White House said. He will submit his fiscal 1998 budget Feb. 6.

Public hearings on Speaker Newt Gingrich's punishment for admitted ethical lapses will begin Monday, the House ethics committee said. Outside counsel James Cole will present his findings, and Gingrich's lawyer will have opportunity to respond. The hearings are set to end Jan. 17. The committee is scheduled to recommend a penalty by Jan. 19. Meanwhile, GOP House members not supporting Gingrich's reelection were not invited to a Republican National Committee dinner held for major donors and outgoing party chairman Haley Barbour.

American Airlines delayed a $6.6-billion order for Boeing jets after pilots rejected a contract proposal. The Allied Pilots Association, representing some 9,000 pilots, said 61 percent of those voting had turned down the contract and 39 percent had approved it. The airline said a union contract was essential to the purchase of 103 Boeing jets announced in November.

Eleven Citadel cadets face disciplinary action stemming from the hazing of two female cadets last year, the commandant of the state military college said. At a hearing on school security, a Justice Department lawyer discussed sending federal marshals to the South Carolina school to brief cadets on the importance of following federal statutes and reporting incidents of hazing.

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People in Japan and the US say relations between the two countries are improving, a newly released Harris Poll indicated. Americans say US-Japanese relations are better than in 1995, but 52 percent still consider them "only fair" or "poor," compared with 41 percent who say they are "excellent" or "good." Forty-seven percent of Japanese consider relations "good" and 28 percent "not good," with the rest unsure. The Japanese response was the most positive since 1986.

The World

The Serbian government conceded election defeat in Nis, Serbia's second largest city, but the opposition said it was not enough. Opposition leaders said they would intensify street protests until President Slobodan Milosevic concedes all 13 of their election wins.

Israeli troops killed three Shiite Muslim guerrillas attempting to infiltrate an Israeli-occupied border enclave in south Lebanon, Israeli officials said. One Israeli soldier was killed. The clash came amid a serious escalation of fighting in south Lebanon, in which guerrillas fired rockets at northern Israel and Israeli warplanes blasted guerrilla strongholds.

"Negotiation means exchanging favors," President Alberto Fujimori said, ruling out concessions to rebels who are holding 74 hostages in the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, Peru. But at the same time, Fujimori hinted that talks could resume with the rebels.

Bosnian Serbs celebrated the fifth anniversary of their state, but Muslims and Croats weren't pleased because the festivities were held in Brcko, a hotly contested city. Predominantly Muslim before the war, Brcko became 99 percent Bosnian Serb following the Dayton accord.

Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko returned to the French Riviera for medical treatment, leaving behind a rebel incursion and political crises. Meanwhile, more than 10,000 Rwandan refugees who were hiding in the dense Zairean forests were on the road home, three months after they fled Zairean rebel attacks on their camps.

About 500 Tamil rebels were killed or wounded when government troops repulsed a raid on a key Army base, Sri Lankan officials said. In the fiercest battle since September, 60 Sri Lankan troops were killed and 232 wounded. The attack on the Elephant Pass camp was significant because the area links the mainland with the northern Jaffna Peninsula, once a rebel stronghold.

The UN tribunal for Rwanda opened hearings in Arusha, Tanzania, but immediately adjourned until Friday because witnesses failed to appear. Officials said 31 Rwandan witnesses, due to testify against Jean-Paul Akayesu, had encountered visa problems. Akayesu, a former Rwandan village mayor and a Hutu, is among those charged with the 1994 genocide of some 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

A spate of bombings across Algeria discredits the government's claim that Muslim fundamentalist terrorism has been crushed, analysts said. Over 50 people have died this week in four separate incidents of either bombings or slaughter. Violence has haunted Algeria since early 1992 when the authorities cancelled a general election, which the Islamists were poised to win.

Bulgaria's ruling coalition chose Nikolai Dobrev as the country's new prime minister. And the decision sparked street protests by the opposition, which wants new elections. Dobrev's government will be Bulgaria's ninth since the end of one-party rule in 1989. Prime Minister Zhan Videnov resigned last month after months of criticism of his handling of the economy.

Former Bangladesh President Mohammad Ershad was bailed out of jail after 6 years. He was jailed on 19 charges of corruption. In June elections, Ershad won a seat to the parliament and extended his support to the ruling coalition government.

Pete Sampras of the US was named the top men's seed for the Australian Open tennis championships, the opening Grand Slam event of the year. Steffi Graf of Germany is the No. 1 women's seed. The championships begin Monday in Melbourne.


"Let me ask you; if Milosevic stole $10,000 from you and after 50 days gave back $6,000 would you be satisfied?"

- Opposition leader Vuk Draskovic, after the Serb leader conceded electoral defeat in Nis, but not 12 other cities.

A Florida woman has apparently experienced the convergence of wedding and bad-hair days, much to her displeasure. April Asker is suing a Tallahassee hair salon for a second wedding, new pictures, and another honeymoon at Disney World. Before getting married in 1994, Asker went to the salon to have her hair frosted. The law suit says hairdressers left chemicals on too long, yellowing her brown hair - and then, in an effort to set things right, turned her hair orange.

Construction workers tearing up a street in Miami Beach have unearthed a time capsule buried by actor James Stewart 43 years ago to mark the premiere of "The Glenn Miller Story." The steel tube contained the film's screenplay, congratulatory messages from actors Alec Guiness, Laurence Olivier, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., some film footage, a 1954 review of the film, and some of the props used in the movie.

Attention home shoppers! The inaugural committee is going to market souvenirs of President Clinton's second inaugural on the QVC cable-TV shopping channel. T-shirts and coffee mugs will only cost $5, but 18-carat gold medals bearing likenesses of Clinton and Vice President Al Gore will set you back $690. The network hopes to generate $5 million in sales.

Hillary Rodham Clinton Nominated for Grammy

The first lady has received a Grammy nomination for best spoken word or non-musical album for the recorded version of her best-selling book, "It Takes a Village." Her competitors are:

Lauren Bacall, Martin Landau, Jack Lemmon, and Gregory Peck for "Harry S. Truman: A Journey To Independence."

Edward Asner, Ellen Burstyn, CCH Pounder, and Alfre Woodard for "Grow Old Along With Me, The Best Is Yet to Be."

Charles Kuralt for "Charles Kuralt's America."

Garrison Keillor for "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."

- Associated Press

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