News In Brief

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The World

Mexican riot police surrounded a 16th-century cathedral in the tense southern state of Chiapas, after ranchers and business leaders attacked parishioners there. The attackers accused a Roman Catholic bishop of advising and inciting rebels in the area. Meanwhile, a Zapatista commander urged Indians to come out of hiding and return to their homes. She also asked the Mexican Army to withdraw from former guerrilla territory. (Story, Page 1.)

Serbian President Milosevic rejected the latest international enticement to restart peace talks. After a week of secret talks with Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev, Milosevic repeated his demand that UN sanctions be lifted before he makes concessions. Mediators have scheduled more talks. Meanwhile, Bosnian government forces and rebel Muslim forces battled over the weekend for control of the northwestern Bihac enclave.

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The PLO Executive Committee is set to meet today in Cairo to reexamine the peace process with Israel. PLO leader Arafat said although he remained committed to the peace deal, the two sides had reached an impasse. Arafat charged Israel with obstructing peace by slowing down its military withdrawal from occupied areas. Israeli Prime Minister Rabin responded that Israel would grant autonomy to the West Bank if Arafat helped fight militants. (Story, Page 6.)

Israeli planes blasted suspected guerrilla targets in two raids in southeastern Lebanon yesterday. The air raids came just a few hours after guerrillas attacked a hilltop outpost of an Israeli-backed militia.

Russian and Chechen forces clashed sporadically after a truce in the breakaway republic expired, but they did not resume large-scale fighting. Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said Moscow wants to pursue peace talks. Over the course of the war, Russia has demanded that Chechen fighters disarm as a condition for peace, while Chechen leader Dudayev has said he is "unconditionally" ready for peace as long as Russia withdraws its troops. (Russian Army, Page 1.)

British and Irish leaders were set to agree yesterday on a date and venue for the launch of an Anglo-Irish peace plan that has already been spurned by Northern Ireland's Protestant leaders. The British-ruled province's Protestant Unionist politicians are convinced the plan will weaken London rule and open the way for eventual reunification with the predominantly Catholic Republic.

Negotiations aimed at avoiding a trade war between the US and China continued in Beijing. Both sides reported progress but said important differences remained. Talks are scheduled to continue today and tomorrow. US Energy Secretary O'Leary arrived in Beijing over the weekend on an industrial promotion tour, apparently undaunted by the tense trade atmosphere there.

A Worldwatch Institute researcher said China's growing demand for grain could trigger a global crisis this year. China's growing population and conversion of cropland to nonfarm uses led the country to import a record 6.1 million tons of grain last year, much of it from the US. The US supplies half of the world's grain exports but won't be able to increase production, Worldwatch said.

About 300 Muslim militants demanded the execution of two Christians sentenced to death on a charge of blasphemy against Islam's Prophet Mohammad. A high court is scheduled to hear an appeal today. Prime Minister Bhutto said last week that she would amend Pakistan's blasphemy law.

The US

New Hampshire had its first look at the Republican candidates for president last weekend. The Granite State hosted what in effect was a GOP talent show, with nine contenders on display. All say welfare should be revamped, more power should be shifted to state governments, and federal taxes should be cut, or at least not increased. One area of disagreement is abortion, although Senate Majority Leader Dole, former Secretary of Education Alexander, and Senator Gramm all say they oppose abortion. Two polls gave Dole the early lead for the party's presidential nomination. Meanwhile, Gramm, who plans to announce his presidential bid Friday, denied dodging the draft for the Vietnam War. (Story, Page 1.)

The NAACP elected Myrlie Evers-Williams as its new chairwoman. Evers-Williams is the widow of NAACP field organizer Medgar Evers. She said must find a replacement for the ousted executive director, Benjamin Chavis, and try to erase the organization's estimated $3 million debt. The NAACP must also rejoin the political fray. Evers-Williams said she intends to take on the "attitudes and positions" in the new Republican Congress that could harm civil-rights advancements.

Boating Industry Executives said they are feeling more optimistic than they have in years. Meeting in Miami for the international boat show, they said the disaster of the recession and the ill-fated boat tax is fading into memory. The 1991 luxury tax caused sales in the boat industry to drop by 75 percent and eliminated up to 30,000 jobs. (New Yorkers build boats, Page 4.)

Striking baseball players said they will consider anyone who appears in exhibition games, including minor leaguers, to be strikebreakers. Some major-league teams have been telling minor leaguers that they will not be considered replacements until April 2, when the regular season starts. But the union says anyone participating in exhibition games, which start March 1, will be at odds with the 1,100 striking major leaguers. Negotiations could resume today.

New York's minority legislators are vowing to shut down the state Capitol and New York City with marches and protests to stop the Pataki administration's proposed budget cuts. Assemblyman Larry Seabrook was among several speakers at the New York Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators' annual weekend who lambasted Governor Pataki's $62.6 billion budget plans.

Art-museum Attendance Fell 6 percent nationwide between 1989-93 as a result of the last round of budget cuts in 1990 and 1991. The cuts forced admission prices up and a reduction in special exhibitions. As a result, revenues and corporate sponsorship declined. Boston's Museum of Fine Arts laid off nearly 20 percent of its staff last weekend to close a multimillion-dollar deficit. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and other museums dependent on city and state funding also face big cuts.

Three earthquakes struck southern California Sunday, but there were no reports of damage or injuries, authorities said. The 4.3 magnitude tremblor was centered in the Santa Monica mountains. Hours earlier, a 3.4 magnitude quake struck in the San Bernardino Mountains, about 100 miles east of Los Angles.The quakes followed a 6.6-magnitude tremblor Saturday night in the Pacific Ocean that was felt throughout most of northern California.

Seventy percent of the lawyers in a national poll said O.J. Simpson will not be convicted; 39 percent predicted a hung jury; and 31 percent said he will be acquitted, according to the poll of 301 attorneys in the National Law Journal. The results were more favorable for Simpson than a similar poll the newspaper conducted in September, when 61 percent of respondents predicted that Simpson will not be convicted.

Seals have been moving south over the past few years, migrating through New England, New York, New Jersey and now as far south as the Carolinas. The seals have not created big problems, but scientists and conservationists worry about their potential impact on people, the fishing industry, and the ecosystem.

Etcetera

Just like their Hollywood colleagues, most of the directors competing this year at The Berlin International Film Festival focused on murder sprees. But unlike US hits such as "Pulp Fiction," most of the murders in the European films occurred off-screen, reflecting the directors' concerns about the impact of violence on viewers.

Before the end of this century, astronomers will have the technology to start a full-scale search of the universe for other Earths orbiting other suns and, perhaps, harboring other life. Scientists said new instruments placed on the Hubble Space Telescope will give science the necessary tools to address these questions.

In her final US race, speed skater Bonnie Blair won the World Sprint Championship in Milwaukee. Blair swept all four races.

An American stockbroker crossed the halfway point in the first solo balloon flight across the Pacific. Top 10 Video Rentals 1. "True Lies," (FoxVideo) 2. "The Mask," (Turner) 3. "The Client," (Warner) 4. "Wolf," (Columbia TriStar) 5. "Blown Away," (MGM-UA) 6. "Clear and Present Danger," (Paramount) 7. "The Shadow," (MCA-Universal) 8. "Renaissance Man," (Touchstone) 9. "Maverick," (Warner) 10. "When a Man Loves a Woman," (Touchstone)-Copyright 1995,

- Billboard Publications Inc.

``Republicans are now behaving like Robin Hood on rewind. They're picking the pockets of the poor to pump up the purses of the prosperous." - Labor Secretary Reich

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