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News In Brief

The US

President Clinton was scheduled to visit US troops at Tuzla Air Force Base in Bosnia. Enroute, he walked through downtown Sarajevo and pledged US support for those Bosnians ready to build a united, multiethnic country.

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US diplomats pressed reluctant UN Security Council members to back military action against Iraq, if that proves necessary to gain access to all suspected weapons storehouses. Prior to a scheduled Security Council meeting, it appeared the US had failed to get Russian, Chinese, and French support to even condemn further moves by Iraq to keep UN inspectors out of palaces and other "sovereignty sites" that have been declared off limits. Nonetheless, US Ambassador Bill Richardson told NBC TV: "We believe we will have support within the Security Council" if force is necessary.

The number of Americans who believe in God has increased more than 10 percent over the past decade, a new survey indicated. The poll, released by the Pew Research Center in Washington, found 71 percent of respondents saying they never doubt the existence of God. In a similar 1987 survey, the figure was 60 percent. The poll found 61 percent saying they believe miracles come from the power of God, an increase of 14 percent from a decade ago. Fifty-three percent said prayer is important to daily life, up from 41 percent in 1987.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service will make a new effort to impose hefty fee increases, the agency's commissioner said. Doris Meissner told the Associated Press the INS is preparing a plan that would substantially increase more than two dozen of the fees it charges for such services as processing naturalization applications, issuing border-crossing cards, and renewing green cards for resident aliens. The agency retreated in September from a similar proposal, after an outcry from lawmakers and advocacy groups.

Immigrants are being pressured to pay back health and welfare benefits they have legally received, the Los Angeles Times reported. Officials of the State Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, along with federal immigration judges and state agencies, have reportedly pushed for repayment of benefits. In some instances, immigrants who temporarily left the US were prevented from returning until they agreed to pay off their "debt," the Times said.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy is about to test plans to spend $195 million on an ad campaign to convince children to stay away from drugs, director Barry McCaffrey said. He said his office will spend $20 million on radio, TV, and print ads during a four-month test in 12 cities, beginning next month. The program is designed to combat rising levels of drug use among young people.

An experimental vaccine with unknown health effects was given to 8,000 unwitting soldiers during the Gulf war, despite an Army review board's recommendation not to administer it, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. The botulinum toxoid vaccine was meant to protect against chemical and biological warfare, but is now being studied as a possible source of health problems known as "Gulf war syndrome," the newspaper said.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were reportedly considering bans on corporations that use high-pressure pitches to recruit graduates - sometimes giving them only 24 hours to respond to job offers. Elizabeth Reed, interim director of career placement at MIT, told the Boston Herald that school officials may fashion a policy on when firms may offer jobs and how long students should have to decide on the offers.

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American International Group agreed to acquire American Bankers Insurance Group Inc. for $2.2 billion in AIG stock. AIG, a New York-based insurance giant, said it had agreed to pay the equivalent of $47 a share to acquire the Miami-based provider of specialized insurance services.

The World

British officials were trying to hold the Northern Ireland peace process together after Protestant leaders complained of too many concessions to the rival Irish Republican Army. Nine IRA prisoners were freed last week by the Irish government before completing their sentences, and Britain followed by transferring another from a prison in England to one near his home in Northern Ireland. The Protestant Progressive Union Party threatened to leave peace talks. Two others quit when the IRA's political ally, Sinn Fein, was admitted to the negotiations in September.

With the consent of President-elect Kim Dae Jung, South Korea's outgoing chief of state pardoned two disgraced predecessors, Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo. They had been in prison for their roles in a 1979 military coup and the brutal suppression a year later of a prodemocracy movement. Meanwhile, Kim Dae Jung reversed course and said he now supported layoffs by employers facing bankruptcy to help the battered economy recover.

Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic claimed victory in the fourth attempt to elect a president in Serbia. But his ultranationalist rival, Vojislav Seselj, claimed the election was rigged and suggested he would challenge the outcome in court. The turnout was put at 50.5 percent, barely enough to qualify as legal. Milutinovic was hand-picked by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who had held the post until last July.

Ousted Cambodian co-Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh announced plans to return home Jan. 15 to prepare for next year's national elections. Ranariddh left the country July 6 after a violent overthrow by the rival with whom he shared power, Hun Sen. Hun Sen has insisted that Ranariddh must be tried for "political crimes, and government officials said he would be arrested on arrival in the capital, Phnom Penh.

Military ruler Sani Abacha's own deputy and 11 others were arrested in Nigeria for what the government said was a plot to seize power "violently." Most of the accused are Yoruba tribesmen from southwestern Nigeria, which has led opposition to military rule. Yoruba businessman Mashood Abiola was poised to win the presidency in 1993 until the Army voided the election. Abacha, who is from northern Nigeria, has promised to give up power to an elected president next October. But the only legal political parties are viewed as fronts for the Army.

Hundreds of leftist guerrillas overran an Army communications base in southern Colombia, and casualties were reportedly heavy. A helicopter carrying reinforcements turned back after being hit by gunfire, indicating the base was still surrounded. The attack, by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, was the most serious in four months.

A runoff election for president in Lithuania was set for Jan. 4 after voters failed to give either of two political novices a majority. Former prosecutor Arturas Paulauskas led Valdas Adamkus, a retired environmentalist who has spent most of this decade in the US, by 45 percent to 28 percent. Parliament Speaker Vytautas Landsbergis, who led Lithuania to independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, finished third.

Following up efforts to reenergize peace negotiations for Cyprus, the island's Greek voters will go to the polls Feb. 8 to choose a new president, the Interior Ministry announced. Six candidates, among them incumbent Glafkos Clarides, are expected to seek the post. Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiators held two sets of talks last fall to try to end the dispute that has divided the island for 34 years.

"In the end, the future is up to you - not to Americans, not to Europeans, not to anyone else."

- President Clinton, addressing the people of Bosnia and their quarrelsome leaders at a stopover in Sarajevo.


Central Pennsylvanians are chuckling over what happened when the United Way of Lebanon County held its year-end drawing to give away a new car. Of the 8,000 people who were eligible - by virtue of their donations to the charity - the winner was . . . a man awaiting trial in a jail 50 miles away on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and without a license. The prize, a $10,000 1997 Dodge Neon, now will go to his fiance.

In Omaha, Neb., The Weather Channel's ratings are - well - sky high this week because of an auto dealer's idea for a promotion to pump up flat sales. Olsen Nissan-Hyundai offered $10,000 to any customer who bought a new or used car by last Thursday night - provided the city gets at least four inches of snow between midnight Dec. 24 and midnight on Christmas as measured at the local weather observatory. Sixty-seven people are eligible. Just in case, Olsen did a little buying of its own: a $1.5 million insurance policy from Lloyd's of London. The early forecast for Omaha: possible snow.

The Day's List

Most-Requested Gifts For the Holiday Season

Have you finished shopping for that special someone this Christmas? While there's still time to buy, do you really know what he or she is most hoping to find under the tree? Market Facts, an international research firm, and Kurt Salmon Associates, a New York-based retail consultant, jointly polled 1,000 Americans 18 and over to find their most-requested presents. The top five responses, by gender:


1. Clothes

2. Jewelry

3. Electronics (TV, radio, stereo equipment)

4. Home appliances

5. Car/car accessories


1. Electronics

2. Clothes

3. Sporting goods

4. Car/car accessories

5. Tools

- PRNewswire

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