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News In Brief

The US

Four House Republicans who voted to impeach President Clinton urged the Senate to consider censuring him. In a letter to majority leader Trent Lott, Reps. Sherwood Boehlert and Benjamin Gilman of New York, Michael Castle of Delaware, and Jim Greenwood of Pennsylvania said their votes should not be taken to mean they "view removal from office as the only reasonable conclusion of this case." Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia - an expert on Senate procedures - hinted at the possibility of censure, but said "there must be no deal involving the White House."

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The White House said it will press for a boost in military pay and benefits to help the services recruit and retain personnel. The package, costing an estimated $30 billion, calls for an across-the-board pay hike of 4.4 percent next summer, followed by annual 3.9 percent increases for five years. It includes additional pay increases up to 5.5 percent for some noncommissioned and mid-level officers - and would give all personnel 50 percent of their base pay annually on retiring after 20 years. Congress rejected a similar proposal in 1996.

The season's first big cold wave surged across much of the country as a giant storm system moved east. Frigid temperatures forecast for the East Coast had already clamped an icy grip on the Plains and most of the Northeast. In Oregon and California, there was concern about crop damage. Icy weather was blamed for more than two-dozen traffic fatalities, almost half them in Oklahoma.

The US will reimburse Pakistan nearly $470 million for 28 F-16 fighter planes that were paid for but never received, the White House said. New Zealand has agreed to lease or buy the planes, officials said. Delivery of the aircraft was halted after 1990, when the US stopped all aid to Pakistan to protest its program to develop nuclear weapons.

Members of the International Olympic Committee will no longer be allowed to visit cities bidding for the Olympics as part of a response ordered by president Juan Antonio Samaranch to a wave of corruption charges. In another move, Samaranch called an extraordinary executive-board meeting for next month to act on the Salt Lake City bribery scandal and consider changes in the system of selecting host cities.

Top GOP leaders denounced plans by David Duke to seek the House seat being vacated by Louisiana's Bob Livingston. Duke, who has ties to the Ku Klux Klan, has been an embarrassment to Republicans since winning a Louisiana House seat in 1989. Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican National Committee was among those denouncing Duke's plans.

The incoming mayor of Washington, D.C., will be allowed to run all city departments when he succeeds Marion Barry, the chairwoman of a congressionally appointed oversight panel announced. Barry, who will be replaced in January by Anthony Williams - the city's former chief financial officer - had been stripped by the panel of all but ceremonial duties.

The World

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New national elections in Israel could be delayed until after the threatened declaration of Palestinian statehood, Prime Minister Netanyahu said. Early elections became a foregone conclusion after parliament overwhelmingly OK'd the first reading of a bill to disband. Two more readings are necessary for the measure to become law. Netanyahu's term doesn't expire until late 2000. He's believed to favor April 27 for a new vote - one week before Palestinian Authority President Arafat has vowed to proclaim statehood. But pushing the date beyond such a declaration could win Netanyahu valuable points with voters, political analysts said.

"Stray missiles" were fired by US and British warplanes that violated Iraq's airspace, the Baghdad government alleged. News reports did not define what was meant by the term "stray" and did not say whether any targets had been hit. Both countries denied any such attack, which would have been the first against Iraq since punitive air strikes ended last weekend. Earlier, Iraqi officials said 62 soldiers had died and 180 others were hurt in the strikes. They also said "many" civilians were killed, but declined to be specific.

China spurned criticism of the harsh prison terms handed out to political dissidents and announced the third lengthy sentence in two days. A court in Wuhan ordered Qin Yongmin jailed for 12 years for his role in organizing the fledgling China Democratic Party. Two other co-founders, Xu Wenli and Wang Youcai, were sentenced to 13 and 11 years, respectively, on Monday. The Foreign Ministry said they had accepted "overseas assistance" in their effort to subvert state power but refused to identify the alleged sources.

The UN's High Commissioner for Refugees angrily denied she is biased toward Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority. After meeting with Yugoslav President Milosevic and visiting with civilians displaced by the fighting in Kosovo, Sadako Ogata defended herself against Serb claims that she has shown preference. An estimated 175,000 people remain in shelters because of the unrest.

Efforts to catch the person or persons who've been sabotaging German trains intensified as police arrested an unemployed man for threatening to blow up a station. No bomb was found at Fulda, 55 miles northeast of Frankfurt. But passengers experienced long delays because of security checks there and at other stations. Officials also announced that empty trains were being used to ensure that no main lines had been sabotaged before daily schedules begin.

"An important step in taking Bolivia out of the cocaine-trafficking circle" was proclaimed by President Hugo Banzer. Despite the resistance of local coca farmers, he said government forces had wiped out almost a quarter of their production this year - twice the amount eradicated in 1997. Thirteen people died in the violence. An estimated 200,000 Bolivians depend at least indirectly on coca-leaf production for their livelihood. Banzer has pledged to eliminate cocaine production by the end of his term in 2002.

Business and Finance

The US Agriculture Department will buy an additional $15 million worth of pork to help bolster prices, Vice President Al Gore announced. More than $80 million worth of pork has already been purchased by the department since March. The new quantities will be used to replenish food banks for the hungry, Gore said.

CIGNA Corp. is in negotiations to sell its property-casualty insurance business to Bermuda insurer ACE Ltd. in a deal that could be worth as much as $3 billion, sources familiar with the situation said. Both companies declined comment. CIGNA is one of the largest US health insurers.

An announcement that government officials didn't think was "big news" nonetheless rocked Japan's financial markets, sending the Nikkei index to its lowest close since Oct. 30. The Finance Ministry said it would no longer buy government bonds in the markets, and the Bank of Japan hinted it would at least reduce its purchases. Between them, they've bought an average of 21 percent of government debt since 1993, according to outside estimates - a level that the Bank of Japan called "not natural." Concern over the two announcements was blamed for a 373-point drop in the Nikkei.


'China's signature on a human-rights treaty isn't worth the paper it's written on ...' - Human Rights Watch director Sidney Jones, after Chinese courts imposed long prison terms on three prominent political activists in two days.


The responsible thing to do, the folks who run Bank One Texas in Dallas figured, would be to ensure that their computers aren't tripped up by the Y2K problem. So they put the system to a test: recognizing more than 2,000 phony overdraft notices that had been generated for dates in 2000 or later. At a cost of "millions of dollars," it did. Only one step then remained. The notices were supposed to be disposed of in the trash once the test was over. But you can see where this is going, right? Right. The overdraft statements ended up in the mail instead, and anguished depositors demanded to know what was going on. Said a spokesman: "We've apologized profusely," adding that, unfortunately, "human error still exists."

The Day's List

Impeachment - by a nose - voted top news story of '98

In an international poll of Associated Press subscribers, the investigation and impeachment of President Clinton was voted the year's biggest news story. Completed ballots were submitted by 84 news-media subscribers in 39 countries, with editors listing their top-10 story choices. Ten points were awarded for each first-place vote, nine points for second, and so on. The impeachment process garnered 23 first-place votes and a total of 638 points to edge out the Asian economic crisis, which had more first-place votes (28), but only 561 points overall. The top stories, as judged by respondents, and the point totals for each:

1. Impeachment of President Clinton 638

2. Asian economic crisis 561

3. India-Pakistan nuclear tests 288

4. Hurricanes Mitch and Georges 282

5. Northern Ireland peace accord and Nobel Prize 276

6. Russia's economic and political crisis 271

7. Gen. Augusto Pinochet arrested in Britain 244

8. Kosovo conflict 243

9. Political unrest in Indonesia 229

10. UN/US-Iraq conflict 195

- Associated Press

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