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News In Brief

The US

The Justice Department is investigating Labor Secretary Alexis Herman over allegations of corruption in office, law enforcement officials said. ABC News, which first reported the allegations, said they concern Herman's accepting payments for using her influence while serving as a White House aide from 1994 to 1996 - including helping someone obtain a Federal Communications Commission license for a satellite telephone system.

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Hillary Rodham Clinton denied under oath that she knew anything about White House acquisition of FBI files on employees of past GOP administrations. She was interviewed for 10 minutes by Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr at the White House. The Clinton administration in 1993 and 1994 requested and received hundreds of secret background files .

President Clinton is to be questioned under oath tomorrow by lawyers for Paula Jones. The pretrial deposition will take place at the law offices of Clinton attorney Robert Bennett in downtown Washington, sources close to the case said. Jones, who has brought a potentially explosive sexual harassment case against the president, has vowed to be present.

A federal judge denied a Microsoft request to remove Harvard law Prof. Lawrence Lessig as court-appointed "special master" in an ongoing antitrust case in Washington. US District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson called Microsoft's comments about Lessig "defamatory" and "not made in good faith." Jackson scheduled closing arguments for Jan. 22. The Justice Department wants Microsoft to provide a simple way to separate its Internet Explorer program from Windows 95, but the company has said this would make its Windows 95 program useless.

Clinton was to address a conference in New York convened by the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition of the Rev. Jesse Jackson to promote discussion of race and gender on Wall Street. The three-day conclave commemorates the Jan. 15 anniversary of the birth of slain civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The New York Stock Exchange is to close in his honor for the first time Monday, when the US officially celebrates Martin Luther King Day.

The son of civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy was censured by colleagues in the Georgia Senate for trying to smuggle marijuana. Sen. Ralph David Abernathy III (D) still could face impeachment proceedings. He was fined $500 by the US Customs Service after agents found a quarter of an ounce of marijuana in his belongings on a return from Jamaica Dec. 1. Abernathy's father was a top lieutenant of Martin Luther King Jr.

Airlines and courier services aren't following required security procedures for detecting dangerous cargo, the Federal Aviation Administration reported. The agency issued a strict warning to the industry. The FAA director of civil aviation security reportedly informed the industry in November that new security procedures were being considered.

Five health-industry officials pleaded guilty in what US prosecutors said was a scheme that used fraudulent visas to smuggle hundreds of Filipina and Korean nurses into the US to work at below-market wages. A Texas nursing-home operator and four recruiters entered pleas in US District Court in Lubbock, Texas, to charges stemming from a 33-month, nationwide investigation.

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Inventories of US businesses rose in November for the 17th straight month, the Commerce Department reported. There were enough goods on shelves and in back lots to meet demand for 1.38 months at the current sales pace, the department said. So far, the reported low in inventories for last year came in February, when there was a 1.35-month supply.

The World

UN weapons-inspection chief Richard Butler is due in Baghdad Monday for discussions on Iraq's latest refusal to cooperate with a US-led team of investigators. His trip follows adoption by the Security Council of a statement deploring the Iraqi action. But newspapers in the Iraqi capital continued their drumbeat of criticism, saying American team leader Scott Ritter aimed "to provoke Iraq" by trying to find evidence that chemical and biological agents were tested on prison inmates in 1995.

Indonesian President Suharto signed a document committing the country to wide-ranging economic reforms qualifying it for a $38 billion bailout of its troubled economy. But the measures, intended to restore investor confidence, failed to re-assure stock and currency markets. The main stock index closed down 4.1 percent and the rupiah was trading as low as 8,500 against the US dollar.

Labor leaders reversed their earlier position and agreed to join a new advisory group looking into ways to downsize South Korea's troubled industries. Massive layoffs are a condition of the record $57 billion bailout of the country's economy by the International Monetary Fund. But the labor leaders said they would agree to no layoff formula that did not include major concessions from employers and the government.

Israeli troops and Palestinian police pointed assault rifles at each other in the Gaza Strip as tensions rose another notch before their respective leaders hold key meetings next week with US President Clinton. No shots were fired in what began as a protest rally, but analysts said the confrontation hinted at possible fresh violence in the region if Clinton's talks in Washington Tuesday with Prime Minister Netanyahu and later with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat generate no new momentum in the Middle East peace process.

In yet another turnabout, the government of Algeria said it would accept a delegation of senior European Union ministers next week to look into the massacres of civilians by suspected Islamic extremists. Approval for such a mission was extended, then canceled when the government complained that the delegation was composed of low-ranking officials. The EU said the delegation would look into all matters related to the violence, "no matter how sensitive."

Calm returned to the streets of Montenegro's capital after a night of violent confrontations between police and thousands of supporters of outgoing President Momir Bulatovic. Forty-five people were hurt when Bulatovic called on his followers to show their strength - after earlier saying he would yield his office to elected successor Milo Djukanovic with dignity.

Cambodia's elections in July will be financed, in part, with an $11.5 million grant from the European Union, the latter announced. Analysts say the vote is a bid by co-Premier Hun Sen to regain political legitimacy lost in his violent coup against rival Norodom Ranariddh. Other politicians who fled the country with Ranariddh say they won't return to contest the election because Hun Sen is not serious about restoring peace. The EU grant, about half the aid Hun Sen says is needed, is earmarked for voter registration and poll-watching.

Prospects for lasting peace between the government and Muslim opposition forces in Tajikistan appeared uncertain after the latter's representatives abruptly quit a commission seeking ways to stabilize the republic and prepare for elections. They accused President Imomali Rakhmonov of reneging on pledges to share power. The capital, Dushanbe, was reported calm, with opposition leader Said Abdullo Nuri forbidding his men to carry weapons off their bases.


Heard about the No. 1 issue consuming Japan these days? No, it's not the country's financial or political woes. Instead, endless news coverage has been devoted to what keeps snuffing out the Olympic flame en route to next month's Winter Games at Nagano. Three different torches are being carried to the city by relay runners. Their flames died eight times in a little over a week. Now, sleuths think they know why: Tired runners are tipping the torches, blocking the flow of fuel. New and improved torches are to be substituted Sunday. Until then, runners are advised to switch hands occasionally.

The Day's List

Turner Tops List of '97's Most Generous Donors

Cable TV magnate Ted Turner's $1 billion gift to the UN propelled him to the top of Fortune magazine's ranking of US philanthropists. Its list of last year's most generous is based on gifts by living donors to not-for-profit organizations and doesn't include bequests from estates, corporate grants, or grants from foundations funded prior to 1997. The top 10, their homes, and the amounts donated last year:

1. Ted Turner, Atlanta $1 billion

2. Kathryn Albertson, Boise, Idaho $660 million

3. George Soros, New York $540 million

4. Bill Gates, Seattle $210 million

5. Leonard Abramson, Blue Bell, Pa. $100 million

6. Michael and Jane Eisner, Los Angeles $89 million

7. Mitchell Wolfson Jr., Miami $75 million

8. Phyllis Wattis, San Francisco $70 million

9. Raymond Nasher, Dallas $50 million

10. Dwight Opperman, Dellwood, Minn. $50 million

- Associated Press

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