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News In Brief

The US

Attorney General Janet Reno is expected to announce today that she won't appoint an independent counsel to investigate President Clinton's and Vice President Gore's use of White House telephones to solicit campaign funds. A decision is also expected on a probe of former Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary, who is accused of illegally seeking a $25,000 contribution from Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chung in exchange for agreeing to meet with Chinese businessmen.

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The US military should shift its focus from major wars to emerging threats such as hit-and-run biological attacks on American cities, a congressionally chartered panel is expected to recommend today. The National Defense Panel plans to suggest to Defense Secretary William Cohen and Congress that the Defense Department devote $5 billion to $10 billion a year to developing such a strategy through experimentation with new weapons and fighting concepts.

The Commerce Department released a positive report on consumer spending on the busiest shopping day of the year. Consumer spending rose 0.5 percent in October, while incomes also were up for a 12th consecutive month by 0.5 percent. Unemployment was at a 24-year low of 4.7 percent. Also, the dollar jumped to a five-year high against the Japanese yen as dealers anticipated another failure in Japan's financial sector.

Complaints of investment fraud were up 25 percent by the middle of 1997, The New York Times reported. Americans lost $6 billion through stock market fraud in 1996, state securities regulators said. Such fraud involves the sale of marginal companies' low-priced stock by phone solicitors to investors. The Times said investors often are told a company could be the next Microsoft or McDonald's, only to find its shares end up being worthless.

Americans are more willing than their government to take early, unilateral steps to counter global warming, according to a New York Times poll taken before the international conference on the issue opened in Japan today. Sixty-five percent said the US should take steps to cut its emissions "regardless of what others do." Some 57 percent of 953 people polled said environmental improvements should be made regardless of the costs. Only 15 percent said the US should delay acting until there is consensus among many countries. Only 16 percent said global warming resulted from normal climate fluctuations rather than from fossil fuel emissions.

Prosecutors in the Oklahoma City bombing trial showed jurors a small piece of wood paneling they say links defendant Terry Nichols to the 1995 blast. The paneling has crystals embedded in it that are the same type as those of the fertilizer allegedly used in the bombing and found at Nichols' home, they contend. The FBI says the wood came from the side of the Ryder truck used to transport the bomb, and was found in a parking lot across from the Alfred P. Murrah federal building.

A man who helped the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms infiltrate Arizona's Viper militia was abandoned by authorities and is on the run, the Los Angeles Times reported. In 1966, Drew Nolan helped expose the group's plan to bomb federal buildings. But the ATF failed to follow up on its promise to pay him a stipend, refund his expenses, and keep his identity secret, the Times said, quoting an interview with Nolan. ATF officials "won't publicly acknowledge Nolan exists" since the agency doesn't identify confidential informants unless they testify in court, it said.

Coleman Young, who died in Detroit, led the city as its mayor for five terms, from 1974 to 1993. While credited with bringing its black population into political power, he was criticized for alienating white businesses and accelerating Detroit's economic decline.

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The World

Israel's Cabinet approved Prime Minister Netanyahu's plan for the handover of additional West Bank territory to Palestinians. The proposal, calling for an estimated 6 to 8 percent more land provided the Palestinian Authority cracks down harder on Islamic militants, was seen as a move to appease the US, which has called for greater Israeli flexibility in the Middle East peace process. But the authority already has rejected the plan, calling for at least 20 percent more land.

Iraq accepted an extension of its oil-for-food deal with the UN, but said it was still no substitute for removing all economic sanctions. The Baghdad government also said its offer to allow weapons inspections of President Saddam Hussein's residences did not extend to members of the UN's arms-monitoring teams.

The prospect of early elections loomed in India as the powerful Congress Party appeared unlikely to be able to form a new government. Congress withdrew its support of Prime Minister Gujral's government, causing it to resign late last week. President K.R. Narayanan planned to meet with the Congress and the rival Bharaiya Janata Party to explore the possibility of asking one of them to try again to cobble together a coalition before calling the second national election in less than two years.

Whether the Army might seize power in Pakistan remained in question, analysts said, as a bitter feud pitted Prime Minister Sharif against President Farooq Leghari and Supreme Court Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. Leghari ordered the Army to protect Shah after thousands of Sharif supporters stormed the court late last week during the prime minister's trial on contempt charges. Sharif blocked the callout, accused Leghari of "intemperate language," and scheduled an address to the nation.

South Korea agreed to terms for a $20 billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund. Details were not immediately announced. The sides had been haggling over whether to liquidate or attempt the restructuring of the country's banks.

Environmentalists and the host government were quickly at odds as delegates and visitors assembled in Kyoto, Japan, for the UN conference on global warming. Japan hailed US proposals on cutting greenhouse gas emissions as the key to a successful outcome of the 10-day session. But environmental groups labeled the US - the largest producer of such gases - as "villains" and sided with a European Union proposal for deep cuts in emissions.

Calls for a major overhaul of Taiwan's government followed the ruling party's worst election defeat in 52 years. The Nationalists lost all but eight seats in mayoral and county executive races in what analysts said was a backlash against rising crime and an inability to curb corruption. The big winner: the Democratic Progressives, Taiwan's main opposition party, which also strengthened itself for the presidential election in 2000.

The last contingent of peace-keeping troops in Haiti was to begin withdrawing, although the UN Security Council approved leaving a force of 300 civilian police behind for one more year.

His austerity program no longer popular, Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus resigned, along with his entire Cabinet. A campaign-finance scandal also helped lead to his downfall, but analysts said most Czechs had grown tired of the belt-tightening he introduced in 1991 in the transition to a market economy. President Vaclav Havel planned to meet with leaders of Klaus's coalition to discuss forming a new government.

"All the elements are [in place] for a really good Christmas, with sales up

4-1/2 to 5 percent."

- MCM MoneyWatch economist Kevin Harris, on prospects that US retailers may record strong holiday earnings.


Now that Christmas shopping season is officially under way, are you looking for an out-of-the-ordinary gift to make the recipient glow with happiness? A Massachusetts utility has come up with just the thing; no assembly required. Chicopee's Electric Light Department is selling gift certificates in various denominations that can be used to help pay January's bill.

Police in Orchard Park, N.Y., haven't yet found the culprit in a hit-and-run case. But at least they know who they're looking for. The driver got away unnoticed after his car hit a house, causing structural damage. But he left a telltale clue behind - his license plate, embedded in the wall.

Even easier was the police work necessary to catch a suspected drug dealer in New Britain, Conn. Deputies at the courthouse heard buzzing from the direction of the metal detector inside the front door. They checked and in the adjacent desk where visitors' property is kept found a pager and two tiny bags of cocaine. They simply waited for the owner to reclaim them.

The Day's List

Ranking the World's Top Carriers of Phone Traffic

Three of the top 10 carriers of international telephone calls are US companies, the Washington-based market-research firm TeleGeography Inc. reported. Its annual survey, published in cooperation with the International Institute of Communications in London, put the volume of cross-border calls in 1996 at 70 billion minutes, providing carriers with gross revenues of $61 billion. The top carriers, their home countries, and the volume they handled (in billions of minutes):

1. AT&T, US 9.5

2. MCI, US 5.4

3. Deutsche Telekom, Germany 4.8

4. British Telecom 3.2

5. France Telecom 3.1

6. Sprint, US 2.5

7. Telecom Italia, Italy 2.1

8. Swiss PTT, Switzerland 1.9

9. Hong Kong Telecom 1.7

10. Stentor, Canada 1.5

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