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News In Brief

The US

White House attorneys were scheduled to begin today their defense of President Clinton before the House Judiciary Committee. They will have two days to air their arguments against impeachment. The panel originally scheduled one day for defense testimony, but the White House said last week it wanted three or four days. After the panel offered one extra day, the president's lawyers promptly - if begrudgingly - accepted.

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The president opens a White House Conference on the future of Social Security today, bringing together economists, members of Congress, and public-policy specialists. The administration hopes the gathering will lay the groundwork for bipartisan legislation to be considered in Congress next year.

US Sen. Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut called for a new conversation with Cuba, saying a four-decade policy of isolating the communist nation hasn't worked. He proposed five ways to improve relations with Cuba - including the lifting of a US ban on the sale of food and medicine to the island, lifting travel restrictions and increasing direct flights, and creating a commission to explore US-Cuban relations. Dodd made the proposal two days after meeting for six hours with Cuban President Fidel Castro in Cuba.

During a 6-1/2-hour spacewalk, space-shuttle astronauts were scheduled to link power cables between sections of the fledgling international space station. The first two parts of the station have been carefully joined together, creating a seven-story tower attached temporarily to the shuttle.

The number of foreign students attending US colleges and universities rose 5.1 percent in the 1997-98 school year, the Institute of International Education reported. New York University had the largest increase - 4,964 students. The institute's study also found that the number of US students studying abroad had increased by 11.4 percent to nearly 100,000.

Scientists said they had documented for the first time that industrial pollution and dust from Asia travels across the Pacific and degrades air quality in the US. Scientists at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco said the contribution of such air pollution to the total in any metropolitan area is very small.

Clinton removed Iran from the US list of drug-problem countries. In a letter to members of Congress, the president said that while Iran - which has carried out a program to eradicate opium poppy plants - continues to serve as a transit point to Europe, there is no evidence to suggest significant quantities arrive in the US.

University of California graduate teaching assistants returned to classes after gaining an agreement from school officials to discuss their demand to unionize. A 45-day "cooling-off period" was announced just in time for final exams at all eight undergraduate campuses. Talks were to begin within 10 days.

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College football will offer its fans a clear national-title matchup in the Fiesta Bowl Jan. 4. In final Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings, the Tennessee Volunteers and the Florida State Seminoles emerged as the nation's No. 1 and No. 2 teams at the Division 1-A level after a tumultuous weekend of upsets. The BCS standings use a complicated formula of polls, computer ratings, and strength of schedules to determine the top teams.

The World

The fate of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the possibility of early elections hung in the balance as Israel's parliament prepared to vote on whether to disband. Despite his two-seat majority, Netanyahu challenged opponents to try to topple him from power. A "yes" vote in parliament would move the next national election forward from late 2000 to early next year. President Clinton is due in Israel next week.

A senior Bosnian-Serb general, the highest-ranking war-crimes suspect in UN custody, pleaded not guilty to all charges of genocide before the international tribunal in The Hague. Radislav Krstic (c., being handed a set of headphones by a guard) was seized by NATO troops last week for his alleged role in the deaths of thousands of Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995, their burial in mass graves, and for transferring the remains to other graves to hide them from investigators. His indictment was kept secret until the last minute to discourage him from going into hiding.

Jubilant crowds celebrated far into the night as populist candidate Hugo Chvez coasted to victory in Venezuela's presidential election. Calling himself "a national feeling" and "a project," he denied opponents' claims that he'd use radical economic measures to fix the country's deep problems, most of them caused by a 12-year low in oil prices. Analysts said the election represented a victory of the masses over the political elite, which has failed to ease poverty and curb corruption.

Almost no young people have bothered to register to vote in next year's national election in South Africa, reports from Johannesburg said. The Independent Electoral Commission said of the estimated 9 million South Africans who did register over the past two weekends, more than one-third were over 70. In all, fewer than half of those eligible took the time to register, the commission said. The country's second election open to all races is to be held by July.

Africa's second-longest-serving president, Omar Bongo of Gabon - as expected - took the early lead in his bid for reelection. Bongo, who has held power since 1967, was seeking a new seven-year term against seven challengers. Voting Sunday was described as peaceful, but took place amid tight security. Oil-export revenues have given Gabon's people the highest per-capita income in Africa: $4,230 a year.

Hinting that he might provoke a class struggle between rich and poor, Haitian President Ren Prval blamed the elite in society for causing the Western Hemisphere's worst poverty. In a speech to subsistence farmers, Preval said 1 percent of the population controls half of Haiti's wealth. If "negotiations" don't bring a more even distribution, he said, "one day the state will have to force their hands open" to achieve "reconciliation" with the other 99 percent. He also blamed US agricultural companies for the deforestation that caused massive erosion throughout the island. US troops occupied Haiti between 1915 and 1934.

Business and Finance

ScottishPower PLC announced a $7.8 billion merger - widely seen as a takeover - of PacifiCorp, a US electricity utility. If approved, the deal would mark the first time a foreign company has acquired a US utility. The new group would be based in Glasgow and retain the ScottishPower name, the company said. Its US headquarters would be in Portland, Ore.

Samsung, South Korea's second-largest conglomerate, said it would swap its fledgling auto subsidiary for Daewoo Group's home-appliance businesses. The $10 billion deal was a highlight among plans announced by the chiefs of the nation's five largest conglomerates to cut the number of affiliates each controls and raise some $16.6 billion.

British Aerospace said it was in "relatively advanced" talks with other parties regarding a consolidation of Europe's defense industry, but a definitive accord had not been reached. The company did not comment on speculation that it was poised to announce a merger with Germany's Daimler Chrysler Aerospace.


"'What am I going to tell him, don't come? I can prevent him from coming?' - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a radio interview, reflecting Israeli unease over President Clinton's plan to stop in Gaza next week, a move that Palestinians see as a major boost to their sovereignty hopes.

AD and subtract

How wise is it to base a TV commercial on the Nativity scene? Judging by what happened to an Alberta, Canada, company: not very. Telus Mobility quickly pulled its ad from the air after at least 100 viewers complained. The commercial featured the three kings addressing someone off-camera - presumably the infant Jesus. One offered frankincense, one myrrh, and the third a deal on Telus's prepaid cellular phone plan. Said a manager: "We expected some calls. [But] the intensity of the feelings - that's new to us."


Speaking of phone companies caving in to pressure, Bell Atlantic has stopped imposing fees on towns in Maine for decorating its poles with lights and other holiday ornaments. The company had cited safety concerns for its policy, but backed down in the face of heavy criticism. One town official called Bell Atlantic "the Grinch who stole Christmas." Not so, the company said: "We did our best to work with the towns in the proper holiday spirit."

The Day's List

11 new contenders named for Baseball Hall of Fame

The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., released last week the list of 26 former players who appear on this year's induction ballot. Of 11 who are eligible for the first time, at least four - George Brett, Carlton Fisk, Nolan Ryan, and Robin Yount - are given a chance of being admitted to the hall in their first year of eligibility - an honor conferred to date on only 25 others. Voting results are to be announced Jan. 5, and induction ceremonies are to take place July 26. The new candidates:

George Bell

Mike Boddicker

George Brett

John Candelaria

Carlton Fisk

Charlie Leibrandt

Dale Murphy

Nolan Ryan

Frank Tanana

Mike Witt

Robin Yount

- Reuters

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