News In Brief

By , Suzanne MacLachlan, and Peter E. Nordahl.

THE WORLD

Premier Li Peng said government error had fueled China's fastest inflation in 45 years. His rare admission, made during an annual address to parliament, reflected deep anger among the public and older members of the Communist Party. Li pledged to intensify the battle against inflation in 1995. He said China would be more selective in the foreign investment it attracts, would boost agricultural production, and would rekindle the war on government corruption.

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Unidentified gunmen assassinated a high-ranking Rwandan government official from the majority Hutu tribe. Pierre-Claver Rwangabo was the most-senior politician in the mainly Tutsi government killed since Rwanda Patriotic Front rebels won a three-month civil war last July. Meanwhile, a UN team that recently visited Burundi said Tutsi and Hutu extremists have created a ''potentially explosive'' climate there that could lead to new ethnic bloodshed.

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Bosnian Serbs, threatened with NATO action, allowed a UN convoy into the enclave of Srebrenica to supply Dutch UN troops who had no food. A sniper opened fire on a streetcar in Sarajevo yesterday, prompting French UN soldiers to fire back.

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The Mexican peso fell to an all-time low Friday, and the government was forced to seize a troubled bank. Many traders attributed the peso's slide to the arrest of former President Salinas's brother on murder charges. Traders also said the US dollar's descent in markets around the world was not helping Mexico. Meanwhile, Salinas called off a two-day hunger strike, saying the government had bowed to his demand to retract two serious allegations against him.

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Rival Dutch banks vied for the wreckage of Baring Brothers, Britain's oldest merchant bank, while inquiries into its collapse focused on whether poor management or a single trader was responsible. ABN AMRO made a formal bid with US broker Smith Barney, and court-appointed administrators said they were also talking with rival ING. Singapore officials said Barings was warned of potential disaster by one of its own managers in 1992 and by auditors in 1994.

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As Russian and Chechen commanders prepared to resume peace talks, Russian warplanes raided towns and villages east and south of Grozny, the Interfax news agency reported. Earlier, Russian commanders and Chechen elders agreed on a local truce in western Chechnya, but rebels said it wouldn't last long.

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South Africa's Inkatha Freedom Party said it would end its parliamentary boycott. It continued to insist, however, that President Mandela bring in international mediators to oversee regional autonomy for KwaZulu-Natal province. According to a resolution signed yesterday, Inkatha members would stop participating in the writing of a new constitution if the agreement on international mediation was not implemented within a month.

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The week-long UN World Summit for Social Development is set to begin today in Copenhagen. About 13,000 delegates are meeting to discuss ways to alleviate poverty, redirect foreign aid, fight unemployment, and improve health and education. Its central message: The burden of aid to needy countries will increasingly fall on private groups and individual governments.

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The US, South Korea, and Japan announced plans to launch an international consortium to underwrite a nuclear deal with North Korea, despite Pyongyang's refusal to let South Korea provide reactors for the project. The US said it would insist at a conference this week that South Korea be allowed to manufacture $4 billion worth of nuclear reactors for North Korea.

THE US

Speaker Gingrich said the GOP will develop by May a federal budget that will balance in seven years. He said it could be done by holding Pentagon spending level and by increasing spending at a lesser rate than economic growth. Without change, he said, Medicaid and Social Security will be in deep trouble early in the new century. President Clinton rejected an invitation to work with Republicans to develop budget cuts, saying that was Congress's responsibility.

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Clinton attacked Republican spending cuts, claiming they would ''sacrifice our children's safety to pay for upper-class tax cuts.'' He was responding to $17 billion in trims approved by a House committee last week, including money that expanded the safe- and drug-free schools program. Gingrich replied that the president was out of step with the public and that a GOP tax cut is designed to help families with children. Meanwhile, Democrats delayed a House committee vote on a $35 billion reduction in welfare spending.

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Colorado Democrats are fuming after Senator Campbell switched to the GOP. The Senate's only native American said he changed sides because of Democrats' opposition to the balanced-budget amendment, which the Senate defeated last week, 65 for to 35 against. Several other House bills face uncertain futures in the Senate.

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A global effort to back the greenback failed as the US dollar sank to a record low against the Japanese yen. Despite intervention by the Federal Reserve and other central banks, the US currency also dropped to a 2-1/2-year low against the German mark. Japan's finance minister said the effort to bolster the buck will continue. A weaker dollar means some imports will cost more, adding to inflationary pressure.

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Some scientists are concerned a planned underground nuclear dump in Nevada could explode. The New York Times said scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have debated the theory but haven't come up with a definitive answer. The Times said scientists outside the lab think the theory is wrong.

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The space shuttle studied a binary star in the constellation Sagittarius and a quasar 10 billion lights years away. Astronauts are looking for evidence of intergalactic helium that might bolster the Big Bang theory of the universe's origin.

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Another deadline passed with no end in sight to the baseball strike. Owners said the walkout had to end yesterday in order to begin the regular season on time with major-leaguers on the field. Talks continue in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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The manufacturer of the ATR-72 commuter plane will test a new system to remove ice from the wings. Ice buildup may have caused an ATR-72 to crash in Indiana last October, killing 68 people. An FAA engineer, however, said he doubts the system will be enough to counter the kind of icing that may have occurred in the accident. Meanwhile, the FAA issued new orders on aircraft taxi procedures at night after several near-misses.

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Despite a congressional order to make cuts, Washington Mayor Barry is planning a level budget for next year. His plan assumes that the federal government will gradually take over Medicaid payments. Congressional leaders have said they won't consider taking the payments over unless the city radically cuts spending to deal with a projected $722 million deficit.

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The next president of the Mormon Church will be Gordon Hinckley. As the senior apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he will succeed Howard Hunter, who died Friday. Hinckley is scheduled to be ordained in the Salt Lake City Temple sometime after Hunter's funeral on Wednesday.

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Los Angeles police detective Tom Lange is scheduled to resume his testimony today in the O. J. Simpson trial. Judge Ito fined two defense lawyers for hiding a tape of a preliminary interview with Rosa Lopez, who claimed to have seen Simpson's Bronco parked outside his house at the time the prosecution claims the murders of Simpson's ex-wife and a friend were committed.

ETCETERA

After being governor I don't think any combination of things meets what being governor supplies in terms of having a chance to do good things.''

--Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo

A World Bank team has embarked on what could become a $200 million project to clean up the huge oil pipeline spill in Russia's Arctic. This follows months of widely criticized Russian efforts. Many temporary dikes and dams the Russians built to contain the oil have failed.

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Mushers lined up Sunday in Wasilia, about 45 miles from Anchorage, for the official start of Alaska's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The dog teams are heading for the finish line in Nome, 1,100 miles away. The first musher is expected to complete the race in about 10 days.

Social Security Surplus (Projected)

(In billions of dollars)

1995 $59.6

1996 $64.7

1997 $69.2

1998 $73.7

1999 $78.8

2000 $84.9

2001 $90.9

2002 $96.6

2003 $103.2

2004 $111.2

2005 $120.7

2006 $130.6

2007 $139.7

2008 $147.2

2009 $152.2

2010 $155.6

2011 $156.7

2012 $153.2

2013 $146.1

2014 $134.8

2015 $118.5

2016 $97.8

2017 $70.3

2018 $37.1

2019 deficit of $718 million

Social Security Administration

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