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News In Brief

The US

President Clinton is expected back in Washington tomorrow after a brief visit with US troops in Bosnia. In an effort to silence Republican critics of his decision to scrap plans for a US withdrawal by next June, the president will be joined by Bob and Elizabeth Dole. Hillary Rodham Clinton and almost a dozen members of Congress also plan to join the entourage.

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The White House won't offer any major proposals to cut or simplify taxes in its forthcoming budget, administration officials said. But it may create tax incentives for companies that implement cleaner-air programs in an effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. And officials are also considering tax cuts to benefit parents who rely on child care. The tax would be designed to ease the cost for lower-income workers.

Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz secured a deal with the Clinton administration to develop an oil pipeline in the Caspian region. Vice President Gore also oversaw the signing of a 2.5 billion contract between Turkey and Boeing Co. for the purchase of at least 26 commercial jetliners. Yilmaz backed away from threats to give up on European Union membership during a meeting with Clinton in the Oval Office. The US supports membership for Turkey, despite concerns about human rights violations.

A San Francisco federal appeals court reversed an earlier decision and upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 140, a California law that set term limits on state legislators. State Rep. Tom Bates, who challenged the 1990 voter-approved initiative after he was "termed out," said he would appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Most Americans face little danger of mercury poisoning from seafood purchased at grocery stores and restaurants, the Environmental Protection Agency said in an eight-volume study. But the long-awaited report ordered by Congress in 1990 warned that pregnant women living in subsistence-fishing communities should be cautious. The report estimated that industrial sources spewed about 159 tons of mercury into the air in the US in 1995.

Clinton nominated William Ivey as chairman of the controversial National Endowment for the Arts. If confirmed by the Senate, the longtime director of the Country Music Foundation would assume the post from actress Jane Alexander, who decided not to seek an extension of her four-year term at the $98 million agency.

Jurors in the Denver trial of Terry Nichols were to begin their fifth and possibly final day of deliberations after a weekend recess. Nichols could be sentenced to death if convicted in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people.

Intel chief executive officer Andrew Grove was named "Man of the Year" by Time Magazine. The magazine chose as the biggest story of 1997 the economic growth fueled by "the power of the microchip." Intel makes microprocessors for 90 percent of the world's IBM-compatible computers, and Grove has shaped the company for nearly 30 years.

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A Georgian diplomat was sentenced to 7 to 21 years in prison for causing an automobile accident in Washington that killed a teenage girl and seriously injured four others. Superior Court Judge Harold Cushenberry said he wanted to "send a message" not just to diplomats, but to all motorists, that drunk driving would be punished. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze last February took the rare step of waiving Makharadze's diplomatic immunity.

Chrysler Corp. announced it is recalling more than 1.3 million cars and pickups to fix problems related to suspensions and fuel tank valves. The suspension problem is blamed for two accidents, and the recall affects 1996 and 1997 Chrysler Sebring convertibles and 1995 and 1997 Chrysler Cirrus, Dodge Stratus, and Plymouth Breeze cars. The fuel tank valve problem affects 1994 and 1996 Dodge Ram pickups.

The World

Japan can expect far lower economic growth next year than the Tokyo government projects, a new International Monetary Fund report said. The forecast, revised since Japan announced a new package of economic stimuli last week, put the likely growth at 1.1 percent - 0.8 per- cent lower than official predictions. Among other conclusions in the IMF report: The US economy is growing at an unsustainable rate and may require an early rise in interest rates to cool it off.

Iraq said it would submit its new food-distribution plan to the UN this week, the next step in renewing the oil-sales deal between the two parties. But it again complained that the US was trying to keep the Security Council busy with "artificial questions," prolonging the sanctions that have been in place since 1991.

Early and deep divisions in Britain's Labour government have been exposed by a controversy over welfare reform, political analysts said. It surfaced when a letter from Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett, leaked to the press, expressed "grave anxiety" over plans to cut benefits for the ill and disabled. The letter was written one day before 47 Labour members of Parliament voted against a proposal by Prime Minister Blair to cut benefits for single parents. Blunkett's views are considered to carry extra weight because he is blind.

New Palestinian anger erupted over a speech in which the West Bank was called "part of Israel proper." Prime Minister Netanyahu's remarks late last week prompted stone-throwing by dozens of Palestinians in Hebron, which Israeli troops met with volleys of rubber bullets. Meanwhile, Jewish settlers picketed Netanyahu's office, demanding that his Cabinet end discussions over a partial troop pullback from the West Bank.

Incidents of right-wing extremism in Germany's armed forces rose five-fold this year, a new report acknowledged. The report, by Lt. Gen. Joachim Spiering, commander of the Army's Fifth Corps, said neo-Nazism grew fastest in the formerly communist eastern Germany. But Spiering said the growth was reflective "of society at large." For weeks, Defense Minister Volker Ruhe has rejected calls to quit over the issue, saying efforts have increased to weed out troops with far-right sympathies.

Early turnout at the polls was once again reported low in Serbia, as voters tried for the fourth time in three months to elect a president. The post has been vacant since July, when Slobodan Milosevic assumed the presidency of Yugoslavia. His hand-picked candidate, Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic, won 42 percent of the vote to 32 percent for ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj in a runoff Dec. 7. But the turnout was less than the legal minimum of 50 percent.

Leaders of Somalia's warring factions were expected to announce the results today of negotiations to end six years of fighting that has shattered the country. Reports said the leaders, meeting in Cairo, had agreed to a seven-point plan for reconciliation and a new democratic government. Somalia has been without an internationally recognized government since 1991. Several earlier peace accords have not restored order.

Voters in Laos, one of the world's poorest, least-developed, and most closed societies, went to the polls Sunday to choose a new parliament. Voting is mandatory, and all candidates were approved in advance by the communist government of Prime Minister Khamtay Siphandone. Like neighboring Vietnam, Laos is on a path to a market economy, but on a slower pace.


"The major source of uncertainty is how long this turmoil will go on and whether

additional countries will get pulled in."

- International Monetary Fund researcher Michael Mussa, on the IMF's new analysis of the Asian economic crisis.

Swedish defense officials decided to - as it were - peer over the shoulders of the troops who monitor the sophisticated submarine-detecting cameras placed along the country's lengthy coastline. They got an eyeful. No, not enemy subs, but lots of footage of unsuspecting bikini-clad young women frolicking in the surf. A newspaper for draftees was printing enlarged frames and close-ups from some of the tapes.

Ohio University and Ohio State squared off earlier this month in two contests - varsity wrestling and which of them should have exclusive rights to the name of the state. OSU, with almost three times as many students has a far higher profile. But Ohio U sought to protect a two-year-old provision that gives it the right to use "Ohio" alone on athletic apparel and other items. Ohio Dominion, Ohio Northern, and Ohio Wesleyan are staying out of the dispute.

The Day's List

17 Nations Make List of World's Most Biodiverse

More than two-thirds of Earth's biological wealth and diversity is found in just 17 countries, a new report by the group Conservation International says. Its list was developed by numbering mammal, reptile, amphibian, bird, and higher plant species that are "endemic" to each nation - occurring only within its borders. The 17 countries in order of decreasing biodiversity:

1. Brazil

2. Colombia

3. Indonesia

4. China

5. Mexico

6. South Africa

7. Venezuela

8. Ecuador

9. Peru

10. US

11. Papua New Guinea

12. India

13. Australia

14. Malaysia

15. Madagascar

16. Democratic Republic of the Congo

17. Philippines

- PRNewswire

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