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Rain-weary Californians are bracing for more storms this weekend after the Sierra Nevada received about five feet of snow and coastal regions 3 inches of rain. Some 3,500 residents in northern California's Yuba County were allowed back into their homes after a levee broke under the pressure of five inches of rain. And in central Minnesota, more than 1,000 students spent the night at school after a snowstorm made roads impassable.

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A surprise freeze in Florida last weekend left behind nearly $300 million in crop damage - the worst losses this decade, officials said. They requested federal disaster aid for 20 counties. Farmers complained they didn't get enough warning of the temperature drop. The national agricultural forecast was cut from the federal budget last year.

Madeleine Albright was to be sworn in as secretary of state, following unanimous Senate confirmation. Former Sen. William Cohen (R) of Maine also received unanimous confirmation from the Senate. Senators praised President Clinton for reaching across party lines with his choice to head the Pentagon.

The Clinton administration is considering seeking an agreement with Russia on new cuts in strategic nuclear arms, The Washington Post reported. The cuts would go well beyond the roughly 50 percent reductions set as a 10-year goal by the country's leaders in 1993, officials said. Scrapping as many as 1,000 to 1,500 additional nuclear warheads on each side would leave the US with some 2,000 weapons - about the level of the US arsenal in 1956.

The InterTribal Bison Cooperative signed a pact with the National Wildlife Federation in Denver endorsing a plan to ship buffalo from Yellowstone National Park to tribes throughout the West. Buffalo that wander outside the park can be slaughtered by the Montana Board of Livestock or shot by ranchers. The plan would return them to the wild, where they once numbered in the millions.

A federal jury in Raleigh, N.C., awarded more than $5.5 million to Food Lion over an 1992 ABC "PrimeTime Live" report that accused the supermarket chain of selling expired meat and rat-gnawed cheese. ABC and two network employees were ordered to pay the punitive damages for the hidden-camera story for questionable newsgathering methods.

Publishers hailed a decision by a New York federal judge that says banning the sale of sexually explicit magazines on military bases is unconstitutional. The act, added to the new defense budget bill, passed without congressional debate last May. Opponents called it a free-speech victory. They warned earlier that the law's loose wording could extend the ban to the Internet, cable television, or even to Sports Illustrated magazine's swimsuit issue.

Clinton indicated he might support both making wealthier seniors pay more for Medicare and lowering capital-gains taxes. He also said he would consider increasing the retirement age as part of a package of Social Security reforms. He made the comments in an interview with New York station WBIS-TV.

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Under threat of federal court action, Phillip Morris Inc. decided to remove a large cigarette ad near one end zone in the stadium where Super Bowl XXXI is to take place. The Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act prohibits such advertising on television. Meanwhile, the National Football League agreed to consult with Fox Television, which is carrying the event, to avoid pictures of four smaller cigarette ads in more remote locations of the Louisiana Superdome.

Saudi Arabia hasn't given the US vital information it needs to investigate a bombing at a US military housing complex in Dhahran that killed 19 US airmen, Attorney General Janet Reno said. Law-enforcement sources said earlier they want to talk to about 30 suspects believed to be in Saudi custody.


A faceoff between pro- and anti-government demonstrators was shaping up in the Serbian city of Kragujevac over control of television and radio broadcasting. The city, 90 miles south of the capital, Belgrade, is the main center for broadcasts to central Serbia. Opponents of Socialist President Milosevic won control of Kragujevac's municipal government in November. But his forces tried to merge the local stations with state-run Radio-Television Serbia before leaving office.

Japan's trade surplus plunged by almost one-third in 1996 - the fourth such performance in a row, the Finance Ministry reported. But the ministry's figures showed a new increase in the surplus with the US, which is largely due to rising automobile exports. That surplus - a sore point in relations between Washington and Tokyo - had been declining until exports surged in December.

Peru increased pressure on the leftist rebels who hold 73 hostages inside the Japanese ambassador's residence. Police helicopters circled overhead, and armored personnel carriers moved to within two blocks of the diplomatic compound in Lima - despite a burst of warning fire from the rebels inside. President Fujimori said his government would not begin talks to end the 37-day standoff until the Tupac Amaru leaders dropped their demand for the release of hundreds of followers from jail.

The fourth terrorist bomb in less than a week exploded in Algeria, killing 10 people and injuring 30 others. The attack - 25 miles south of the capital, Algiers - appeared to be the work of Islamic militants who have vowed a reign of violence during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The nation's main secular opposition leader, Hocine Ait Ahmed, called on President Clinton to name a special mediator to try to end the spiral of violence.

The last surviving Frenchman accused of World War II crimes against Jews must stand trial, the country's Supreme Court ruled. Maurice Papon, now in his mid-80s, is charged with deporting 1,690 French Jews, many of whom later died in Nazi concentration camps. Papon, then a local police supervisor, denies knowing about the Holocaust and says he never embraced the Nazi ideology.

The Swiss government broke with the country's bank-secrecy tradition and provided a Jewish group with the names of Holocaust victims whose bank accounts were used to pay postwar reparations. A World Jewish Congress spokesman said the gesture was appreciated, but he was angered to learn that many of the accounts listed living heirs to whom the Swiss banks could have returned the deposits, valued at tens of thousands of dollars.

South Africa has pledged not to reconsider the controversial sale of sophisticated weapons to Syria for three years, the Jeru-salem Post reported. The newspaper said the Israeli government was officially notified of the decision by South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo. The proposed $650-million sale was protested by Israel and the US, causing an angry exchange of words between Washington and the government of President Mandela in Pretoria.

Taliban militiamen overran two opposition strongholds north of Kabul, Afghanistan. Troops of the religious army captured the towns of Gulbahar and Jebul Siraj, two days before a new round of peace negotiations was due to begin in neighboring Iran. The Iranian government has criticized the Taliban's rigid interpretation of Islamic social codes. Meanwhile, in Washington, the State Department said it was concerned about Taliban "human rights deficiencies," especially concerning women and girls.


Society is better served by protecting our cherished right to free speech, even at the cost of tolerating speech that is outrageous, offensive, and demeaning."

- US District Judge Shira Scheindlin, in ruling that sexually explicit magazines may remain for sale on military bases.

Every day, Frank Parry simply walks away from his problems . The Rome, N.Y., attorney first went for a five-mile hike on May 11, 1983, to help cope with a divorce. Some 5,000 days later, he still follows the routine, despite a few close calls. He once had to dive into a snowbank to avoid a passing plow.

A few days ago, this space reported the plight of an Illinois clothier who was notified that his store wasn't good enough to continue carrying Levi's jeans. Well, the story has taken a new turn. After some soul-searching (and several faxes and phone calls from angry custom-ers), the company reconsidered. Rathert Clothing - bare walls, exposed wiring, and all - may keep selling Levi's, at least until the end of the year.

In classic role-reversal, elementary school kids in Wichita, Kan., are teaching Internet literacy - to adults. L'Ouverture Computer Technology Magnet School offers the free instruction, and the first class was full. But it end-ed at 8:30 p.m., so the teachers could be home by bedtime.


New NFL Head Coaches

Published reports indicate that Super Bowl XXXI likely will be Bill Parcells's final game as head coach of the New England Patriots. If so, that would make the Patriots the 11th NFL team to change coaches this season. The other 10, their old coaches, and successors (in parentheses).

Atlanta Falcons - June Jones (Dan Reeves)

Cincinnati Bengals - Dave Shula (Bruce Coslet)

Detroit Lions - Wayne Fontes (Bobby Ross)

New Orleans Saints - Jim Mora/Rick Venturi (TBA)

New York Giants - Dan Reeves (Jim Fassel)

New York Jets - Rich Kotite (TBA)

Oakland Raiders - Mike White (TBA)

St. Louis Rams - Rich Brooks (Dick Vermeil)

San Diego Chargers - Bobby Ross (Kevin Gilbride)

San Francisco 49ers - George Seifert (Steve Mariucci)

- Associated Press

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