News In Brief

The Commission on Elections, pledging to keep the Philippine Feb. 7 special presidential election clean, empowered a citizens' group known as the National Movement for Free Elections to act as watchdog in the national polling. A US Senate special commission which recently visited the Philippines has expressed support for the group's accreditation.

Meanwhile, opponents of President Ferdinand Marcos announced what they called the ``major defection'' of a Marcos provincial leader. Felicisimo T. San Luis, governor of Laguna province, broke from Marcos' New Society Movement to join the opposition led by Corazon Aquino, Marcos' rival for the presidency.

Gorbachev and Li of China talk of improving relations

Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev held an unannounced meeting with Chinese Vice-Premier Li Peng to discuss efforts to smooth relations between the two communist countries, according to official news reports. Mr. Li arrived in Moscow Monday morning en route home from visits to France, Czechoslovakia, and Bulgaria, and returned to Peking Tuesday.

Li was the highest-ranking Chinese official to meet a Soviet leader since Chou En-lai in 1969.

No details of the meeting were released.

Moscow `old guard' party chief removed from office

The Communist Party removed Moscow party chief Viktor V. Grishin, a member of the ruling Politburo, from his post Tuesday at a special meeting presided over by Kremlin leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the official news agency Tass said. The brief report said the 71-year-old Grishin retired and was replaced as Moscow party chief by 64-year-old Boris N. Yeltsin.

Mr. Grishin is one of the last members of the Politburo's ``old guard,'' that rose to power under the late Leonid I. Brezhnev.

Budget cuts called peril to NASA space station

Deep cuts in the next fiscal year in NASA's program to develop a space station would, if carried out, likely delay the project by three years, the industry magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology said. As part of the effort to reduce the national deficit, the White House proposes to cut $480 million of the $580 million NASA wants for the program.

Peking notes replacement of governor of remote region

The People's Daily said that the governor of the remote Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, Ismail Amat, has been replaced, a move that student sources said was one reason for protests in the region's capital on Monday. The Communist Party newspaper reported that a new governor, Tomir Dawamat, was elected at a recent regional party congress in Xinjiang to replace Mr. Amat.

Striking supermarket unions to vote on contract offer

The Teamsters and Meat Cutters Unions vote on new contract proposals today to try to end the violent seven-week-old supermarket strike and lockout in southern California, union officials said. Spokesmen for the unions and the Food Employers Council, which represents the markets, refused to discuss terms of the offer or confirm that union representatives had approved it.

Peking's largest church reopens on Christmas Eve

More than 1,000 Catholics crowded into Peking's largest church on Christmas Eve to celebrate its formal reopening after 27 years, but many recalled their sufferings at the hands of Maoist zealots.

Jury clears tobacco firm of liability in smoker's death

A jury has cleared the giant tobacco company, R.J. Reynolds, of any liability in the death of lifetime smoker, John Galbraith. Mr. Galbraith's family brought a wrongful death lawsuit for $1 million against R.J. Reynolds, claiming cigarette smoking was addictive, caused cancer and killed Galbraith.

Ex-federal employee pleads innocent to secrets sales

Former National Security Agency employee Ronald W. Pelton has pleaded innocent to charges he sold US secrets to the Soviets and will ask a judge to suppress his alleged confession, a defense lawyer said. Mr. Pelton, an intelligence communications specialist from 1965 to 1979, remains held without bail pending his March 24 trial.

Judge admits wiretap evidence in Donovan trial

A state judge has approved the use of wiretap evidence in the fraud and larceny trial of former Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan and nine other construction executives. The judge's approval has removed a major obstacle in the trial, according to prosecutors.

Mr. Donovan and the nine executives were charged in connection with a subway tunnel construction project. The charges forced Donovan's resignation from President Reagan's Cabinet in March.

US raps Soviets for treaty violations, but softens edge

The Reagan administration has accused the Soviet Union of posting military gains by violating arms control treaties, but it tempered the criticism by acknowleding that Moscow is complying with ``significant provisions'' of major arms agreements. Also, the President has sent Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev a ``conciliatory'' letter offering to discuss on-site inspection of nuclear testing in both countries, a newspaper quoted administration sources as saying.

Louisiana males rate as the diamond's best friend

Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but Louisiana men are the industry's biggest male backers. According to a survey, they received an average of $61.16 in diamond jewelry in 1983 -- the highest in the nation. Louisiana women ranked fourth in the nation, while Texas women received the most diamonds at an average of $106.05.

Most diamond jewelry is sold in the South and Southwest, a diamond broker says, adding that Southern women ``don't have that L. L. Bean look like the women in the Northeast.''

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