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EUROPE US Secretary of State James Baker III said Dec. 12 his visit with East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow was intended to signal US support for peaceful change in East Germany. Soviet lawmakers Dec. 12 voted down a proposal to debate the Communist Party's monopoly on power. In Poland, Solidarity leader Lech Walesa urged parliament Dec. 12 to give the government special powers to implement emergency economic reforms. PLO leader Yasser Arafat proposed to the Polish foreign minister Dec. 13 that the PLO and Israel hold peace talks in Warsaw. The British government said Dec. 12 it would suspend deportations of Vietnamese boat people from Hong Kong for one week.

ASIA

The Philippine House of Representatives Dec. 13 voted President Corazon Aquino emergency powers to deal with future coup attempts. The Senate was expected to follow suit. In India, the kidnapped daughter of the country's home minister was released Dec. 13 in exchange for five Muslim Kashmiri radicals held by authorities in Jammu and Kashmir state.

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UNITED STATES

President Bush Dec. 12 signed into law a bill giving the District of Columbia 700 more policemen and requiring schools receiving federal aid to have antidrug education programs. In New York, hotel magnate Leona Helmsley was sentenced Dec. 12 to four years in prison and was fined $7.1 million for tax evasion. In Oak Ridge, Tenn., structural engineer Paul Nestel said Dec. 12 he was fired from a consulting job at the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons plant for reporting the plant would collapse during an earthquake or tornado. US and Canadian fishery officials Dec. 18 will discuss the Dec. 11 confrontation between a Massachusetts-based scalloping boat and a Canadian Navy destroyer. The Canadians say the boat was illegally fishing in Canadian waters.

SOUTH AFRICA

In South Africa, President F.W. de Klerk met with jailed black nationalist Nelson Mandela Dec. 13 to discuss how to conduct a dialogue on the country's future. Meanwhile, a South African policeman died when he was thrown from a train in violence over a five-week-old transport strike.

SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT

In Alaska, a federal judge refused to dismiss charges against the skipper of the Exxon Valdez, which caused the largest oil spill in US history last March. Environmental groups in Washington Dec. 12 called for a consumer boycott of so-called degradable plastic products, saying there is little proof they degenerate fast enough to protect wildlife or help solve the nation's garbage problem. NASA says the space shuttle Columbia will miss its scheduled Dec. 18 launch date by a day or two, but will lift off before Christmas. A Japanese firm has bought Moscow's only surplus Mir space station for $10 million. The Japanese space agency reacted coolly to the announcement.

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