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News In Brief

The US

Opening statements were scheduled to begin in the trial of Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski in Sacramento, Calif. Earlier, Judge Garland Burrell Jr. denied Kaczynski's request to fire his lawyers, who are planning a mental-illness defense, saying it came too late. Kaczynski wanted to hire J. Tony Serra, a controversial San Francisco attorney, who would have allowed him to voice his philosophy. Serra has previously represented the Hell's Angels and Black Panthers.

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President Clinton is scheduled to speak at fund-raising receptions in Texas today for two congressional representatives. He plans to call attention to recent legislation increasing assistance for college students and unveil a higher-education proposal, White House spokesman Barry Toiv said. Earlier, Clinton was to speak at two New York fund-raisers for the Democratic Party.

The Justice Department accused a California biotechnology company of conspiring with Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp. to grow high-nicotine tobacco secretly in foreign countries. It was the department's first criminal charge in its investigation of the tobacco industry.

Former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros pleaded not guilty in Washington to 18 counts of lying, obstructing justice, and conspiracy to mislead FBI agents about payments he made to a former mistress. US District Judge Stanley Sporkin set a Nov. 4 trial date.

US District Judge Kevin Duffy sentenced Ramzi Yousef to life in prison without parole. In two separate New York trials, Yousef was convicted of being the main plotter in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and bombing of an airplane in 1994 that killed a Japanese. Duffey said he will recommend Yousef remain in solitary confinement for life.

The Federal Aviation Administration is considering issuing an emergency order calling for inspections of some Boeing 737 aircraft. Preliminary data indicate that fasteners that attach the skin of the plane to its frame were missing in the wreckage of the SilkAir 737 that crashed Dec. 19 in Indonesia. The flight data and cockpit voice recorders are being examined by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Justice Department asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to temporarily set aside his ruling striking down key portions of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, pending an appeal. Judge Joe Kendall ruled portions of the act unconstitutional. The act requires regional Bell telephone companies to open their local networks to competition before being allowed to enter the lucrative long-distance market.

The Congressional Budget Office forecast a $5 billion deficit in fiscal 1998. Single-digit deficits were forecast until 2001, when the CBO predicted a $14 billion surplus. The last time the federal government was in the black was in 1969, with a $3.2 billion surplus. The narrowing deficit will push interest rates lower than previously anticipated, World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz said during a Helsinki speech.

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Prices paid for wholesale goods dropped unexpectedly in December by 0.2 percent, and first-time jobless claims rose to a higher-than-expected level last week, the Labor Department said, indicating a slowing economy. Initial filings for unemployment benefits jumped by 20,000.

Moscow dropped its demand that Richard Bliss return to Russia tomorrow to face espionage charges. Bliss was arrested in November while surveying for the San Diego-based telecommunications company Qualcomm Inc., which is installing a cellular phone system in southern Russia. He was released for the holidays on condition that he return by Jan. 10. He could still be asked to go back, his employer said.

The World

Panic buying of household commodities erupted in Indonesia as the rupiah sank to an all-time low of 10,100 against the US dollar. Shoppers lined up 20 deep to buy sugar, rice, eggs, cooking oil, and other staples despite the prohibition on eating or drinking until after dark during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. They ignored calls for calm by the military. Meanwhile, the country's main stock index fell by just under 12 points.

Stock prices and currency values elsewhere across Asia reacted to the sell-off in Indonesia by dropping further themselves. Stock prices closed down sharply in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia and hit a four-year low in Manila. Japan's Nikkei index also fell, but only by 0.06 percent.

Britain's Secretary for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, is expected to meet with convicted killers from Protestant paramilitary groups in Belfast's top-security Maze Prison today. The unprecedented move is billed as an attempt to keep pro-British militants from deserting peace negotiations, which resume Monday.

Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai threatened to quit if there was no troop pullback from the West Bank within three months. But Prime Minister Netanyahu said there would be no such withdrawal unless the Palestinian Authority first fulfilled obligations agreed to under the Middle East peace process.

Hong Kong scrapped a 19-year policy of granting special treatment to so-called "boat people" fleeing repression, chiefly in Vietnam. The territory's legislature was expected to approve a new measure that would block new asylum-seekers from being screened and resettled. It calls for the immediate repatriation of new arrivals. Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese had used the old policy since war ended in their country in 1975.

Six opposition newspapers in Cambodia were ordered to cease publication after running stories critical of the Hun Sen government. Copies of the papers were seized and lawsuits against their editors were filed. The government warned last month it would take legal action against "unbalanced" coverage of fighting between Hun Sen's troops and forces loyal to ousted co-Premier Norodom Ranariddh.

The Mexican judge who freed five confessed killers of a US businessman is now the subject of a higher-court review, officials in Mexico City said. Maria Claudia Campuzano's decision last month brought a storm of protest on both sides of the border. If her ruling is found to be illegal, she could be dismissed or imprisoned, a senior justice said. Meanwhile, Chiapas state Gov. Julio Cesar Ruiz Ferro resigned because of the international uproar over the Dec. 22 massacre of 45 civilians by paramilitary gunmen.

A formal apology for decades of discrimination was offered to Aboriginal people by the government of Canada, which said it was "deeply sorry" for setting up church-run boarding schools in the 1800s to assimilate Indians into white culture. But in Australia, the government again refused to apologize to Aborigines, saying it would not be influenced by Canada's move.

By a vote of 56 to 26, the lower house of Chile's Congress repudiated former President Augusto Pinochet's plan to assume a seat for life in the Senate. Pinochet is expected to retire as armed forces chief as soon as the end of this month. The declaration said his presence in the Senate, after 17 years of repressive rule, "will not help" the process of reconciliation between the Chilean public and the military.


Bostonians are wondering just who was watching whom after a bank robbery was reported last Friday. It seems FBI agents, acting on an "educated hunch," had the bank under surveillance during the late afternoon. They hoped to catch thieves who had struck there at that period of the day Dec. 12. But at 5:20 p.m. the agents gave up and left. Twelve minutes later the bad guys did indeed arrive, held up the bank a second time, and got away with still more cash.

Speaking of thefts, there was good news and bad news for a museum in the resort city of Ito, Japan. A burglar broke in and made off with three prized exhibition pieces, a 600-year-old platter from China's Ming Dynasty and two Sung Dynasty vases. The good news: The vases were still intact as he reached his getaway car. The bad news: The platter, estimated to be worth $385,000 and apparently uninsured, slipped from his grasp and shattered on the ground

The Days List

Fortune Magazine Ranks 10 Best US Employers

Because of its "jocular culture," Southwest Airlines ranked No. 1 in Fortune magazine's list of the 100 best US companies to work for. The top 10, based on surveys randomly distributed at 161 companies the magazine selected as viable candidates:

1. Southwest Airlines, Dallas

2. Kingston Technology, Fountain Valley, Calif. (manufacturer of computer memory devices)

3. SAS Institute, Cary, N.C. (world's largest privately held computer-software company)

4. Fel-Pro,, Skokie, Ill. (maker of auto, truck, and motorcycle gaskets)

5. TDIndustries, Dallas (installs and services air-conditioning and plumbing systems)

6. MBNA, Wilmington, Del. (Second-largest issuer of credit cards)

7. W. L. Gore, Newark, Del. (manufactures Gore-Tex and other high-tech materials)

8. Microsoft, Redmond, Wash.

9. Merck, Whitehouse Station, N.J.

10. Hewlett-Packard, Palo Alto, Calif.

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