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News In Brief

The US

President Clinton's lawyer, David Kendall, said he plans to seek a contempt-of-court ruling today against Whiteweater independent counsel Kenneth Starr for news leaks. William Ginsburg, Monica Lewinsky's lawyer, also requesting an independent probe by the Justice Department into what he called harmful leaks and false stories by Starr's office. Starr said he would "take appropriate action" against anyone found to have leaked information from his office. Earlier, Clinton denied reports that he tried to influence his personal secretary's recollections about his meetings with the former White House intern.

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Clinton's approval rating for his job has soared to 79 percent, according to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of 407 adults taken Saturday. His approval rating in a poll by the same group in December was 59 percent. Sixty-five percent polled said Clinton shouldn't be impeached even if allegations are true that he lied under oath about an affair with Lewinsky. And 64 percent said Starr is using the investigation for partisan political purposes.

A partial draft of a Senate report on alleged campaign fund-raising abuses fails to substantiate accusations that China plotted to influence the Democratic Party during the 1996 election, The New York Times reported. However, the report prepared by the Republican staff of the Governmental Affairs Committee details Asian donors' relationships with Democrats, in particular with Vice President Gore, it said.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she was confident that Saudi Arabia would not withhold support for a US-led attack against Iraq for its failure to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors. The Saudi government has said it opposes a military strike. Albright also told CBS's "Face the Nation" that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein now has only "weeks" to comply with the inspections.

House Republicans offered legislation to keep the White House from spending any of the proposed $368.5 billion tobacco settlement on new programs, The Wall Street Journal reported. Clinton's budget proposal would allocate $65 billion in the funds to new programs, especially child care, it said.

A San Francisco US district court issued a final judgment upholding Proposition 209, the California ballot initiative banning affirmative action. Judge Thelton Hederson ruled the controversial measure didn't violate the US Constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union vowed to continue fighting the measure through individual claims of discrimination arising out of its enforcement.

The computer security systems that control access to 40 airports worldwide through electronic badges have a design flaw that could make them vulnerable to terrorism, The New York Times reported. Government buildings, including the CIA, prisons, and industries with sensitive military or financial information, are also vulnerable to attack, the Times said. In some cases, an individual can dial into the computer and create security badges and unlock doors, the report said.

Another El Nio-driven storm is expected to hit California tomorrow or Wednesday after residents experienced a reprieve from drenching rains over the weekend. But power outages blacked out almost 100,000 customers in San Francisco. And residents from 300 houses located in Rio Nido were evacuated after six houses slid down a rain-soaked hillside. Meanwhile, residents on the East Coast dug out from a winter storm blamed for the deaths of 10 people in Kentucky.

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Carl Wilson, who died in Los Angeles, was one of the founding members of the Beach Boys. The guitarist sang lead vocals on one of the pop group's biggest hits, "Good Vibrations." The Beach Boys were founded in 1961 and are known for their laid-back "surfin" style.

The World

Defense Secretary William Cohen headed for meetings with Gulf leaders on the Iraqi weapons-inspection standoff. But even as he left Germany with permission for US forces to use that country's bases for air strikes against Iraq, Saudi Arabia repeated its opposition to any such attack. The Saudi statement followed reports of a phone conversation between King Fahd and President Clinton. Cohen's tour was to include visits with some US forces positioned in the region.

A secret letter from Prime Minister Netanyahu to King Hussein of Jordan suggests the Israeli leader may be prepared to accept an independent Palestinian state, the newspaper Maariv reported. Netanyahu's office did not comment immediately on the report that he told Hussein, "[a Palestinian] entity will have geographic, economic ... and political viability on the condition that it does not represent a threat of any kind" to Israel. The letter also broke with his usual practice and spoke of the "West Bank" instead of the Biblical names Judea and Samaria, the report said.

A scenario in which China could be drawn into the economic crisis affecting much of the rest of Asia appeared in official news reports in Beijing. The China Daily said prospects for falling exports and a drop in foreign investment this year "have probably never been dimmer." Moreover, at least 10 million Chinese already have lost jobs because of the government's campaign to turn around money-losing state industries, an analyst said.

Twenty-five political leaders from Taiwan were to leave today for a week-long trip to mainland China, believed to be the first of its type since 1949. The visit, at the invitation of the semiofficial Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, is another in a recent series of moves aimed at restarting negotiations on reunification that broke off in 1995.

Adverse weather and severe logistical problems were keeping relief workers in northern Afghanistan from reaching the villages hardest hit by last week's earthquake. Aftershocks jolted the region Sunday, collapsing hundreds more homes, reports said. UN and Red Cross officials in neighboring Pakistan said that except for fresh water, they had sufficient short-term supplies to deal with the emergency. But bitter cold, snow, and civil war were keeping them from reaching the remote area.

A suicide bomber in Sri Lanka's capital killed herself and eight others within hours of Prince Charles's departure after attending ceremonies marking the country's 50th anniversary of independence. The attack by a suspected Tamil guerrilla was the second of its type in less than three weeks.

A concert by the first Bosnian Serb musician to perform in Sarajevo since civil war began in 1992 drew thousands of fans from all three sectors of the ethnically fractured republic. The appearance by popular balladeer and social activist Djordje Djoka Balasevic was sponsored by a UN agency to benefit humanitarian causes. Despite his ethnic origin, Balasevic has campaigned against nationalism by Serbs as well as Muslims and Croats.

Residents hid in their homes as fighting between west African peacekeepers and forces of Sierra Leone's military junta neared Freetown, the capital. At least 10 were reported dead and 84 others hurt. The mission of the Nigerian-led peacekeepers is to restore the elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. Last October, junta leader Johnny Koroma OK'd an accord calling for Kabbah's return in exchange for amnesty. But Koroma has given conflicting signals about honoring the deal.


"If Saddam Hussein has nothing to hide, he has nothing to fear."

- Defense Secretary Cohen, insisting that UN weapons inspectors must have unconditional access to Iraqi presidential compounds.

Enough Americans have said they're tired of coverage of President Clinton's relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky that one Illinois newspaper decided to take them at their word. Springfield's State Journal-Register held out all references to the matter - even in the comic strip "Doonesbury" - from its Feb. 4 edition. Said one editor: "We did it to stimulate discussion. We had a really good response." But the coverage was back the next day.

If you were wondering whether anything could ever cause the British to join most of the rest of the world in driving on the right side of the road, you can stop now. Meeting with fellow transportation officials of the European Parliament last week, Britain's Gavin Strong called the switch "unthinkable."

Speaking of things unthinkable, another New York cabbie has made news by returning a fare's purse. Shah Sayed found it on the back seat, with $10,000 in cash inside. He turned it over to police, who tracked down the owner. Keeping it, Sayed said, was out of the question.

The Day's List

Times Square Becomes Costly Turf for Retailers

The makeover of New York's long-seedy Times Square has propelled it onto the list of the most expensive streets in the US for the first time, according to an annual survey by Chicago-based Equis Retail Group. Restaurants, theaters, a Disney store, and - soon - a wax museum have pushed rents in the square to an average of $340 per square foot. The 10 most expensive streets in the US:

1. Fifth Avenue, New York

2. East 57th Street, New York

3. Madison Avenue, New York

4. Times Square, New York

5. Rodeo Drive, Los Angeles

6. Union Square, San Francisco

7. Rockefeller Plaza, New York

8. Michigan Avenue, Chicago

9. West 57th Street, New York

10. Broadway, New York

- Reuter

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