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News In Brief

The US

Former White House aide George Stephanopoulos was called before the grand jury studying President Clinton's ties to former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The New York Times reported that Lewinsky visited the White House 37 times after she was transferred to the Pentagon in the spring of 1996. Entry records show that her visits came as recently as Dec. 28, 11 days after she was subpoenaed to testify in the Paula Jones sexual-harassment lawsuit against Clinton, the Times said.

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The new Clinton budget received an icy reception from Republicans in Congress. Rep. John Kasich of Ohio said he was "astounded" Clinton would propose $150 billion in new programs. Senate Budget Committee chairman Pete Domenici of New Mexico said Congress would rewrite the White House proposal.

The Treasury Department said it would pay off a portion of the national debt this spring. If realized, the reduction of $75 billion to $80 billion would mark only the third time in 17 years that the US has even temporarily repaid a portion of the debt, now $5.4 trillion.

Former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta said he would not run for governor of California this year. He is the second high-profile Democrat to drop out of the race before getting into it. Panetta said Sen. Dianne Feinstein's decision not to run had forced him to reassess his own plans - and he had concluded he did not have time to raise the funds he would need for victory.

The FBI said it was investigating letters claiming the Jan. 29 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., women's clinic, which killed a police officer, was orchestrated by the "Army of God" - the group that said it bombed a similar clinic and a gay nightclub in Atlanta last year. The FBI said letters sent to media outlets were signed by the "Army of God" and handwritten in block print similar to ones sent after the Atlanta bombings.

Karla Faye Tucker awaited a decision from the US Supreme Court on an appeal for a last-minute reprieve from her execution, scheduled to take place last night in Huntsville, Texas. The appeal says Texas unfairly restricts its clemency process. Gov. George Bush (R), who could issue a 30-day reprieve, said he would not make a decision until the Supreme Court ruled. Tucker was found guilty of taking part in the murders of two people in 1983.

Florida charged American Family Publishers and its celebrity spokesmen, Dick Clark and Ed McMahon, with using deceptive tactics to sell magazine subscriptions through its multimillion-dollar sweepstakes. Attorney General Bob Butterworth filed the civil complaint in state court in Tampa. It seeks up to $15,000 per violation of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act and seeks a ban on several practices used in promoting the sweepstakes.

Former Arizona Gov. Fife Symington was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $60,000 for defrauding lenders during his days as one of the state's most prominent real estate developers. The former two-term GOP governor was also put on probation for five years. He has appealed his September 1997 conviction.

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A grand jury said it found evidence of pervasive fraud in Miami's November elections. The jury cited coercion of voters, fraudulently obtained absentee ballots, blank ballots stolen from mailboxes, and voters completing absentee paperwork while their ballots were marked by others. A criminal investigation is looking into the November election victory of Xavier Suarez over then-Mayor Joe Carollo.

Torrential rains, high winds, and tornadoes ripped through southern Florida, where residents suffered some of the worst weather to hit the area in five years. About 220,000 people were left without power. An emergency was declared in Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, where one person was reported killed.

The index of leading economic indicators remained unchanged in December, the Conference Board reported. Analysts expected a 0.1 percent rise after five months of gains for the index, a key barometer of future economic activity.

The World

US Defense Secretary Cohen is scheduling a tour of Gulf states next week to firm up plans for an American-led attack on Iraq, diplomats said. Meanwhile, Iraq officially denied Russian reports that it offered to open eight presidential palaces in a bid to end a tense standoff over UN weapons inspections.

An extra $69 million in emergency funds to pay for gas masks and other precautions in the event of an Iraqi missile strike was requested from parliament by the Israeli government. Reports also said pharmaceutical companies were working around the clock to produce antidotes for biological agents that Iraq might launch if attacked by Western allies. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Mordechai sought to calm public fears, saying the probability of an Iraqi strike was "very low."

Cuba's Communist system successfully withstood a week in which the island was "in the hands of the pope and thousands of journalists," President Castro told a national TV audience. In a four-hour speech that ended after midnight, Castro said the Jan. 21-25 papal visit did not cause the system to falter because "the people" had looked after it. He also rejected an offer by a Miami-based exile group to funnel food and medical aid to needy Cubans, calling it "repugnant."

The tightest security measures in Sri Lanka history were in place for today's celebrations marking 50 years of independence. A reception for the guest of honor, Britain's Prince Charles, was canceled because of safety concerns. Almost all ceremonies were transferred to the capital, Colombo, after suspected Tamil rebels killed 16 people last week in a suicide truck-bomb attack on the island's holiest Buddhist temple at Kandy.

Despite the jailing of its leaders for the deadly 1995 nerve-gas attack on Tokyo's subway system, the so-called Japanese "doomsday" sect Aum Shinri Kyo is well on the way to rebuilding its membership and finances, a government report said. It said the sect is "becoming more secretive and defensive," has already earned more than $32 million through a computer-sales network, and attracted at least 3,300 paying guests to recruiting seminars on college campuses in the last three months of 1997.

The crew of balloonists attempting to circle the globe was denied permission to use Chinese air space, apparently dashing hope for the successful completion of their trip in 14 to 16 days. The refusal meant the Swiss-led mission would have to change course over Asia, missing a jet stream essential to its success. Chinese officials expressed "admiration" for the project, but cited potential safety and security problems

Searchers in the Philippines found the wreckage of a passenger jet missing since Monday. Officials said the DC-9, with 104 people aboard, crashed near the summit of a remote mountain 40 miles from its destination, the southern city of Cagayan de Oro. No signs of survivors were reported. The accident was being called the worst in Philippine history.

The president of Armenia was in deep political trouble after three crucial allies deserted him, apparently because of the long-running territorial dispute with neighboring Azerbaijan. Analysts linked the resignations of Levon Ter-Petrosian's foreign minister, central bank chief, and mayor of the capital, Yerevan, to the president's call for concessions by ethnic Armenians in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. The president has advocated de-facto independence for the enclave while it technically remains part of Muslim Azerbaijan. A fragile cease-fire in 1994 ended fighting over the enclave that took thousands of lives.


"I'd have to raise something like a million dollars a week, starting now, to be competitive."

- Former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta, on why he decided not to become a Democratic candidate for governor of California.

Jim Thomas has given jury duty a whole new meaning. The Dalton, Ga., adhesives-company chief was talked into voting with fellow jurors to convict a defendant of child molestation, although believing him innocent. Thomas tried to right the wrong by speaking up at the sentencing hearing - to no avail: The judge imposed a 10-year prison term. So Thomas spent his own money to hire a new lawyer for an appeal. Two weeks later, the alleged victim admitted he'd lied. The case was dismissed, and the defendant went free.

If you're scoring along at home, Groundhog Day resulted in the rodent from Punxsutawney, Pa., seeing its shadow for the 100th time in the 112-year history of the event. That's supposed to mean six more weeks of winter weather. But, according to the National Climactic Data Center, the groundhog has been right only 59 percent of the time over the past 18 years.

While there's still time to consider what to get that special someone for Valentine's Day, the results of a new poll indicate 79 percent of the respondents hoped for a gift certificate.

The Day's List

'Titanic' Stays Leagues Ahead in Box-Office Take

"Titanic" now has earned $308.2 million domestically, taking over as No. 7 on the list of all-time bestselling films from "Independence Day." Some industry analysts say it may yet supplant "Star Wars," which earned $461 million, as No. 1. Last weekend, for the seventh time in a row, "Titanic" took in more than $20 million at the box office. Estimated grosses for the top 10 films of Jan 30-Feb.1 (in millions):

1. "Titanic" $26.0

2. "Great Expectations" 9.9

3. "Good Will Hunting" 8.5

4. "Spice World" 7.0

5. "As Good as It Gets" 6.6

6. "Desperate Measures" 5.8

7. "Wag the Dog" 5.0

8. "Deep Rising" 4.6

9. "Fallen" 2.7

(tie) "Hard Rain" 2.7

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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