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News In Brief

The US

In a victory for anti-abortion protesters, the US Supreme Court ruled that demonstrators have a free-speech right to confront abortion clinic patients up close on public streets, even if patients ask to be left alone. The court struck down a federal judge's order barring protesters in the Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., areas from coming within 15 feet of patients and staff members. The court upheld a law that keeps protesters at least 15 feet away from clinic doorways and driveways. It also ruled that police can order passengers and drivers out of vehicles during traffic stops, saying the need to protect officers' safety justifies "minimal" intrusion. And it heard arguments on a key religious-rights issue.

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President Clinton proposed that $200 million be set aside for states and cities to fight gangs. Among his recommendations during a talk at the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts: hiring prosecutors to focus on gang-related crime and cracking down on gang-witness intimidation.

Several countries being considered for NATO membership are involved in arms sales to Iran, Sudan, North Korea, and Iraq - countries identified by the US as sponsors of terrorism, the Washington Times said, citing a classified CIA report. Poland has made five shipments to Iran of tanks. Bulgaria sold production equipment to a weapons factory in Sudan, and a Bulgarian company sold explosives to North Korea's military. And a company in the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia was involved in a deal to supply tank parts to Iran, the newspaper said.

Laws should be changed to make it easier to revamp schools where students don't learn and dropout rates are high, Education Secretary Richard Riley said in a speech in Atlanta. Such changes include replacing teachers and principals, and overhauling union contracts with teachers. He also said algebra should be routinely taught in the eighth grade, and reiterated Clinton's push for national tests of fourth-graders in reading and eighth-graders in math.

Space shuttle Discovery unloosed the upgraded Hubble Space Telescope and headed for a touchdown tomorrow in Florida. Elsewhere in space, the Galileo spacecraft was expected to come within 360 miles of Jupiter's moon Europa for the closest look yet at its surface. Scientists believe Europa may contains two essential ingredients for life: water and a source of internal heat.

Consumer prices gained just 0.1 percent in January, the smallest gain in seven months, the Labor Department reported. Declining food prices helped offset a record increase in natural gas costs - the steepest since the department began keeping track in 1952. Also, the Commerce Department said the US trade defi-cit surged to $114.2 billion last year - the worst performance since 1988.

The Air Force and National Transportation Safety Board cleared an F-16 pilot of wrongdoing after his close encounter with a commercial airliner off New Jersey's coast earlier this month. The Nations Air plane was flying, with permission, through military air space when the jet began tracking it for identification. The fighter pilot's maneuver set off collision alarms on the commercial plane, causing it to dive and climb in an evasive move. The encounter has promp-ted the Air Force to make changes in how pilots make identifications.

Ford Motor Company said it will sell its heavy-duty truck business to Freightliner Corp., a subsidiary of Germany's Daimler-Benz AG - one of the world's largest commercial truck manufacturers. Terms of the deal, which are subject to regulatory approval, were not disclosed.

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A man caught by police inside a Fall's Church, Va., abortion clinic was charged with arson and burglary after the building was set on fire. There were no reports of injuries at the American Women's Clinic. It was the latest in a string of attacks on abortion clinics around the US.

The World

The Kremlin declined to comment on the assembling of a joint Russian/NATO peacekeeping force for Europe, as proposed by Secretary of State Madel-eine Albright. A spokesman said it was hoped she would elaborate on the plan in talks tomorrow in Moscow with President Yeltsin. After her proposal at NATO meetings in Brussels, Albright declined to give details. She then left for meetings in London with British leaders on the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Albanian President Sali Berisha was jeered but unhurt when he mistook a crowd of protesters for supporters after a speech explaining his handling of the country's pyramid-scheme crisis. He said he was not to blame for the high-risk investments that have cost thousands of people their life savings. The crisis has led many Albanians to seek work permits in nearby countries.

South African President Nelson Mandela offered to sponsor peace talks between the Zairean government and rebel leaders and said they could begin as soon as today. Mandela met with other top African officials on the heels of the UN Security Council's endorsement of a five-point plan to stop the fighting in Zaire, which has raged since September. If accepted, his initiative would be the first face-to-face meeting between the two sides.

Peru's Tupac Amaru guerrillas probably won't win the release of all their jailed followers, one of the group's top leaders acknowledged. The release is the key demand of the group, which holds 72 hostages inside the Japanese ambassador's home in Lima. Speaking from a jungle hideout, "Comrade Alejandro" said his group might reduce its demand to a lesser number of followers, based on their importance to the movement.

The Mexican government's "drug czar" was fired and then arrested on suspicion of accepting bribes from a major trafficker. Gen. Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo had held the post for less than three months. The move came two weeks before the State Department must certify to Congress that Mexico is making its best effort to combat drug trafficking. US aid may be cut if the report indicates otherwise.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu bowed to internal political pressure and pledged to build a new Jewish settlement in Arab East Jerusalem. The plan calls for 6,500 houses at Har Ho-ma, a site captured by Israel in 1967. Netanyahu denied telling US President Clinton in talks last week that the project would be frozen. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of what they hope will be their future state. A Palestinian leader called the plan "a decision of war."

Lawmakers in Algeria passed a new law banning political parties based on religion. A government spokesman said the move was aimed at stabilizing the country after almost five years of an Islamic fundamentalist insurgency that has killed more than 60,000 people.

The home computers of three Croatian high school students were confiscated after they were caught breaking into highly classified US Defense Department files. Published reports said they had copied material from nuclear and satellite-research data bases. The break-in left a trace on the Internet that investigators used to find them.

Thailand agreed to serve as host for talks aimed at "national reconciliation" in neighboring Cambodia, a Cambodian official said. There was no immediate comment from Khmer Rouge guerrillas, but a 15-man government delegation has been meeting with guerrilla representatives at Anlong Veng, their last major stronghold. Since Khmer Rouge ranks split last year, an estimated 10,000 guerrillas have defected to the government side.


We need to stop making excuses and get on with the business of fixing our schools."

- Education Secretary Richard Riley, in his annual speech on the state of public schooling in the US.

Parents of small children often fret at the cost of day care, which takes a hefty chunk out of most budgets. But it's doubtful that anyone ever got a higher bill for such service than the 600 families whose little ones were looked after at a center in Espoo, Finland, last month. How high? Try $70 billion each. The "obvious mistake" was blamed on a "haywire" computer. The corrected bills are for a more affordable $200.

And on the subject of watching the kids, there's the mother whose daughter reported for basic training at an Israeli Army base. Nothing unusual about that: 18-year-olds in Israel are liable to be drafted regardless of gender. But this particular mother was caught behind a tree, photographing her daughter's movements. Authorities say she'd been hiding on the base for four days. Not surprisingly, all training camps are now off-limits to parents.

The College of William and Mary in Virginia tests the political awareness of applicants for admission by asking whose faces ought to be on a Mount Rushmore for the 20th century. The leading vote-getters: Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy.

The Day's List

High-Schoolers Weigh What's Worth Learning

In a nationwide survey, Public Agenda, a nonprofit research and education group in New York, asked students which subjects were "extremely important, somewhat important, or not that important" to learn by the time they finish high school. Numbers indicate percentage of "extremely important" ratings:

Basic reading, writing, and math skills 94

Computer skills 75

Practical job skills for office or industry 59

Biology, chemistry, physics 44

Advanced math 41

US history and geography 38

History and geography of such places as Europe or Asia 32

Sports or athletics 27

Literary classics, such as by Shakespeare or Plato 23

Modern American writers, such as Hemingway 18

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