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WHITE HOUSE BLASTS BUDGET AMENDMENT Clinton administration officials are warning that a balanced-budget constitutional amendment could batter taxpayers, trim Social Security benefits, and slash state anticrime aid and other federal programs. The White House released a withering attack on the proposed amendment as rival senators prepared for a week of hearings on the measure that began Feb. 15. The dueling sessions are being held by Sen. Paul Simon (D) of Illinois, the amendment's chief sponsor, and Sen. Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia, its most vociferous opponent. Budget Director Leon Panetta acknowledged in an ABC broadcast there was public support for a balanced-budget amendment but said that was ``because it's a simple idea.... The problem is, passing a constitutional amendment to balance the budget doesn't balance the budget.'' Senate floor debate on the amendment is scheduled for later this month, and a vote is considered too close to call. Olympic results

Ending a 10-year Olympics drought with a vengeance, US skiers struck gold Feb. 15 for the second time in three days when Diann Roffe-Steinrotter won the women's super-G race. Ms. Roffe-Steinrotter took the silver in the giant slalom at Albertville in 1992, but was not a favorite this year. (Olympics, Pages 8 and 16.) Somali prisoners released

Somali kidnappers freed two Italian aid workers Feb. 15 almost 48 hours after they were seized, Italy's ambassador said. The kidnappers reportedly demanded a $50,000 ransom, but he said no money was paid. The kidnappings are part of a pattern of escalating violence that has accompanied the withdrawal of US and other Western peacekeeping forces. Viacom declares victory

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Viacom said Feb. 15 it had won its five-month battle against QVC Network for Paramount Communications Inc., the entertainment concern that has been the focus of the most fiercely fought takeover contest in years. There was no immediate comment from either QVC or Paramount. Afghan cease-fire

A four-day truce among warring Islamic factions in Afghanistan officially began Feb. 15, on the fifth anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal, but artillery blasted the Defense Ministry compound. The UN said there were food shortages in the capital, Kabul, that could turn into famine unless the fighting stopped and the international community stepped in to help.

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