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The US

The line-item veto, which allows US presidents to strip individual proposals from larger spending legislation without killing it entirely, was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in Washington. Thomas Hogan said the veto, adopted by Congress in 1996, violates the balance of powers required of the various branches of government by the Constitution Challenges were filed by certain agricultural organizations and by the city of New York after President Clinton exercised his new power to kill measures affecting them. The judge's ruling can be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

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Lewis Fox, the retired Secret Service officer who claims to have seen Clinton alone in the White House with former intern Monica Lewinsky, appeared at the federal courthouse in Washington where a grand jury is taking testimony in the case. Fox said he would make a statement "at an appropriate time" about what he saw. His account has not been directly denied by the White House. Lewinsky's mother, Marcia Lewis, did not appear for a third day of questioning after leaving abruptly Wednesday and appearing emotionally upset.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said he was "disappointed" that an independent counsel would be appointed to probe whether he lied to Congress about his role in rejecting an Indian tribe's application for a gambling casino. Babbit predicted he'd be vindicated. He was in West Palm Beach, Fla., to present a $46 million federal check for a water-cleansing project in the Everglades.

Prosecutors offered to let former Clinton business partner Susan McDougal go free if she testifies by videotape in the Whitewater case. But they said she risked further prosecution if she rejected the offer. McDougal has been in a California jail for 17 months for refusing a judge's order to answer questions before a grand jury.

Clinton planned to propose a new increase in the minimum wage over two years, administration sources said. They said he would ask Congress for an increase of $1 an hour - to $6.15. After bitter debate, Congress hiked the minimum wage in 1996, from $4.25 to $5.15.

Californians braced for two more El Nio-driven rainstorms on top of those that already have inflicted an estimated $300 million in damage to the state. Gov. Pete Wilson placed four more counties under emergency management, bringing the total to 31.

Five consumer-safety and health-advocacy groups asked the federal government to release more data on the design and safety performance of automobile airbags. Responding to concerns that airbags had caused 90 deaths they were supposed to prevent, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed last November that on-off switches be permitted on the passenger side of some vehicles.

No thanks to new-car shoppers, retail sales in January rose by only 0.1 percent, the Commerce Department reported. Auto sales slumped 1.1 percent for the month, but discount buying in department and clothing stores rose 1.6 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

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The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is all but broke and may have to cut staff and services if it is forced to pay for a new presidential election, The Washington Post reported. It quoted senior Teamsters officials as saying the union had a net worth of $702,000, whereas a new election would cost an estimated $7.4 million. Last fall the US government invalidated the reelection of president Ron Carey because of illegal campaign-finance tactics, ordered a new vote, and barred him from competing in it.

An item in this space Thursday, Feb. 12, erred in calling the Mashantucket Pequots an Indian tribe from Massachusetts. The tribe operates the Foxwoods resort and gambling casino near Ledyard, Conn.

The World

Russia's defense minister warned that a US military strike on Iraq could damage US-Rus-sian military ties. Marshal Igor Sergeyev expressed that concern to his US counterpart, William Cohen, at the start of talks in Moscow. Russia sent an envoy to Baghdad to try to negotiate a compromise in the dispute over UN weapons inspections there. Meanwhile, the Kremlin denied a Washington Post report that UN inspectors had found evidence of a Russian deal to sell Iraq equipment that could be used to develop biological weapons.

A plane crashed in southern Sudan, killing vice president Zubair Mohamed Saleh and at least seven other government officials. The government blamed bad weather for the crash 500 miles south of the capital, Khartoum, while rebels from the Sudan People's Liberation Army claimed to have shot down the plane. The rebels are fighting for autonomy from the Muslim-dominated government in the north.

Palestinian Authority President Arafat threatened to renew a popular uprising against Israel if peace efforts collapsed. Arafat also said he would declare statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip next year, regardless of the outcome of the talks with Israel, which are supposed to be concluded by May 1999. Negotiations on a final agreement have yet to begin as the two sides remain deadlocked over how to carry out interim deals.

Indonesian President Suharto ordered the armed forces to crack down on protesters as riots broke out in Jatiwangi, 100 miles east of the capital, Jakarta. About 500 people burned Chinese-owned shops in protest against rising prices and unemployment. Indonesia's stock market fell more than 9 percent on news of the violence. It was latest in a series of flareups as the country deals with economic hardships.

Heavy rains blamed on El Nio wreaked more havoc in Bolivia and Peru. A mudslide buried a Bolivian gold mine camp along the country's border with Peru, killing as many as 40 people, authorities said. Meanwhile, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori said flooding and mudslides have killed more than 200 people in his country this year.

Cuba released several dozen prisoners whose freedom was sought by Pope John Paul II during his trip there last month, the Vatican said. Those freed were on a list of several hundred prisoners given to Cuban authorities during the visit. Dissidents say that about 500 prisoners of conscience are held in Cuban jails.

About 240 inmates escaped from a prison in northern Honduras, officials said. The prisoners fled into the hills surrounding the El Provenir prison near La Ceiba after rioting and setting the prison ablaze. Police and about 200 Army troops were searching towns in the area. Violent breakouts are increasingly common in Honduras, where a majority of the country's 10,000 inmates have been held for years without trial in overcrowded conditions.

Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati will be allowed to keep his Olympic gold medal despite testing positive for marijuana, an appeals panel ruled. The panel, set up by the International Olympic Committee, said Rebagliati should not have been stripped of his medal after winning the men's giant slalom because the IOC did not have a legal agreement with the International Skiing Federation that clearly forbids the use of marijuana. Rebagliati said he failed the drug test due to ingesting secondhand smoke at a party in Canada last month.


"I think the list of hidden costs one has to pay for public service has just grown a little bit longer."

- Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, expressing disappointment that he's to be investigated by an independent counsel.

Next to the stamp on the front of the envelope was a US Postal Service caricature of a man thrusting out his chest, clutching his lapels, and proclaiming: "Service We're Proud Of!" There was just one problem: The envelope that arrived last week at a Hadley, Mass., eyeglass shop was postmarked in August 1989, 8-1/2 years ago. It was found under flooring that workers were tearing out, the Postal Service said - adding, "It literally fell through a crack." Oh, the contents of the envelope? A bill from a supplier.

By contrast, postal authorities had no explanation when the envelope that Larry Johnson mailed home to his family in Orangeburg, S.C., finally arrived three weeks ago - 9-1/2 years late. The address was correct. So was the return address, not to mention the amount of postage for the year in which he mailed it. The whole thing might not have mattered so much, except that the envelope held a $1,000 check.

The Day's List

Rating the Most Honest And Ethical Professions

For the ninth consecutive year, pharmacists topped the Gallup organization's rating of occupations based on public perceptions of their "honesty and ethical standards." The poll results were obtained via telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,003 adults. Gallup's top 10 occupations - out of 26 options:

1. Druggists/pharmacists

2. Clergy

3. Medical doctors

4. College teachers

5. Dentists

6. Police officers

7. Engineers

8. Funeral directors

9. Bankers

10. Public opinion pollsters

To Our Readers

The Christian Science Monitor will not be published Washington's Birthday, Monday, Feb. 16, a legal holiday in the United States.

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