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News In Brief

The US

Hillary Rodham Clinton defended her husband and blamed the right wing for a mean-spirited political agenda that has plagued the Clintons for years during an interview on NBC's "Today" show. "We've been accused of everything, including murder," she said.

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Monica Lewinsky's scheduled appearance before a grand jury was indefinitely delayed after her lawyer gave Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr an outline of what she would say if granted immunity from prosecution. Also, Clinton's lawyers asked a Little Rock, Ark., federal judge to move up the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit from its May 27 start date. The defense team said it made the request so Clinton could more fully respond to allegations that he had an affair with Lewinsky, which they said are hurting the country. Jones's lawyers rejected the motion.

As Congress resumed from its recess, Republicans and Democrats planned to huddle in private meetings to discuss the White House crisis. Earlier, moderate House Democrats rallied around Clinton after Vice President Gore enthusiastically spoke on his behalf.

American's wages and benefits rose 3.3 percent in 1997, the fastest pace in four years, the Labor Department reported. The figures indicate the tight labor market may finally be showing signs of wage pressure. Meanwhile, consumer confidence slid sharply in January from December's record high, the Conference Board reported. Analysts cited Asia's financial crisis for the drop.

The housing market in 1997 posted the highest sales total on record - 4.21 million units, the National Association of Realtors said. The association started collecting data on sales in 1968.

A Washington US district judge issued a temporary restraining order barring the Navy from honorably discharging Senior Chief Petty Officer Timothy McVeigh, who faced expulsion for homosexuality. Judge Stanley Sporkin said the Navy went too far in its allegations and by surreptitiously obtaining evidence against McVeigh from a computer online service.

Opening statements were to begin in St. Paul, Minn., in the state's $1.77 billion lawsuit against the tobacco industry. Lawyers plan to use 33 million pages of formerly secret company documents to make their case that Minnesota should be reimbursed for the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses.

A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers planned to introduce legislation to curb the Clinton administration's use of a special Treasury fund toward Asia's financial problems. The bill would bar the administration from applying more than $250 million from the Exchange Stabilization Fund without congressional approval. Treasury used the fund in 1995 to bail out Mexico.

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US Rep. Dan Schaefer (R) of Colorado announced he won't seek reelection. He has served in Congress for 15 years and chairs the House Commerce subcommittee on energy and power.

Ford Motor Co.'s profits climbed 50 percent in the fourth quarter, pushing the total to $6.9 billion for 1997 - up 57 percent. Earlier, General Motors said it earned $6.7 billion in 1997, and Chrysler said it earned $2.8 billion.

US stock exchanges agreed on a plan that would halt trading for the day if the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 20 percent. The plan would also end trading for the day if the Dow drops 10 percent after 2:30 p.m. The quadrupling of the Dow since the circuit breakers were first implemented after the 1987 stock-market crash made the current thresholds outdated. Executives from the exchanges expect to vote on the plan Feb. 5.

The World

Iraq has enough toxic weapons to "blow away Tel Aviv," UN weapons-inspections chief Richard Butler claimed in a New York Times report. The Times quoted Butler as saying Iraq had "never cooperated fully in the disarmament process" since the Gulf war. Meanwhile, indications grew that a military strike against Iraq might be imminent, although one US official said it likely was "weeks, not days" away.

President Clinton is a nominee for the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to promote democracy and protect world peace, it was announced in Oslo. His name was placed in nomination in December, before revelations of his alleged involvement with a White House intern. The prize will be awarded Dec. 10.

"I'll submit my resignation," Japanese Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka told reporters in Tokyo after apologizing for a bribery scandal that led to the arrest of two aides. In exchange for cash and other favors, the aides allegedly tipped off banks that were about to undergo surprise inspections by agents of the ministry. Mitsuzuka had earlier pledged to weed out corruption and toughen ethical standards in his agency.

In another sign of a possible diplomatic thaw, China's premier called for resuming direct negotiations with Taiwan. Li Peng said "the entire Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait" aspired to the "complete reunification of the motherland." Only a day before, senior leaders in Beijing said Taiwan did not need to acknowledge the People's Republic of China - only that Taiwan was part of China. Reunification talks between the two governments broke off 2-1/2 years ago.

Certificates showing that pregnant women have had mandatory abortion counseling will no longer be issued by Roman Catholic clinics in Germany, church leaders announced. The move was requested by Pope John Paul II. The church operates about one-quarter of the country's 1,000 clinics, where women desiring abortions are required to seek advice first. The Catholic church officially opposes abortion.

The Tamil rebel group accused of carrying out last Sunday's bomb attack on a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka was banned by the government and an arrest warrant was issued for its top leader. Three members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are believed responsible for the suicide mission, which also took the lives of 13 others. Analysts said the government's move closed the door to negotiations that might end years of civil war with the Tamils, who seek autonomy.

South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is empowered to grant amnesty for apartheid-era crimes, said its applications committee won't meet the deadline to finish its work. The panel said 4,471 such applications remained to be acted on by June 30. New legislation would have to be passed for the deadline to be extended. So far, amnesty has been granted to 139 of 2,575 applicants.

A new crackdown on Ethiopia's independent news media is under way, two organizations said. The Ethiopian Free Journalists Association said at least 14 editors and publishers of nongovernment-owned newspapers have been arrested without charge since mid-December The Paris-based Reporters Without Boundaries put the number at 20. The country's 1993 press law abolished censorship but still forbids publication of any material considered to be inflammatory.


"My attitude is that we've ... seen this before, and I'm just going to wait patiently

until the truth comes out."

- Hillary Rodham Clinton on NBC's 'Today' show, addressing the president's alleged affair with a White House intern.

True story: A crowd of strangers in a Westbrook, Conn., parking lot took time to entertain a 19-month-old boy whose mother had left him alone in her car while she went shopping. She didn't return for at least an hour. Meanwhile, passersby noticed the tot crying and tried to amuse him and keep a vigil at the same time to prevent the idling vehicle from being stolen. Police charged the woman with risk of injury to a minor.

But a crowd in Alor Setar, Malaysia, had no such high motives when it pounced upon masked men who'd just stolen $111,000 worth of jewelry from a goldsmith's shop. Not even a warning shot from one of the thieves served as a deterrent. By the time police arrived, everybody had fled. It's not known how the loot ended up being divided.

Reasoning perhaps that everyone else in Green Bay, Wis., would be preoccupied with the Packers' appearance in Super Bowl XXXII, two prisoners chose the day before the game to escape from Brown County jail - clad only in boxer shorts. Perhaps they should have waited 24 hours. They were quickly caught by police.

The Day's List

'Titanic' Steams Its Way Onto All-Time Sales List

"Titanic" grossed more than $20 million at the box office Jan. 23-25 for the sixth time in as many weekends. It now has earned $274.3 million - 10th on the list of all-time US motion-picture moneymakers. It bumped "Jaws," made in 1975, which earned $260 million in North American sales. Grosses (in millions) for the top 10 films over Super Bowl weekend:

1. "Titanic" $25.2

2. "Spice World" 10.5

3. "Good Will Hunting" 8.5

4. "As Good as It Gets" 7.5

5. "Fallen" 4.9

6. "Wag the Dog" 4.4

7. "Hard Rain" 3.7

8. "Half-Baked" 3.1

9. "Phantoms" 3.1

10. "Tomorrow Never Dies" 2.7

- Exhibitor Relations, Inc./AP

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