News In Brief

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The World

The US dollar nose-dived to the lowest level against the Japanese yen since the 1930s, but later recovered a bit. The greenback was also down against other major currencies. A strong German mark forced a devaluation of the Spanish peseta and the Portuguese escudo, and the Italian lira hit a new low against the mark before a slight rebound. Perceptions that the US Federal Reserve is finished raising interest rates have weakened the dollar, while analysts believe German rates are due to rise. Lawyers said Barings bank lost 50 percent more money than earlier thought. Nearly $1.5 billion went down the drain in the merchant bank's collapse following bad futures deals by trader Nicholas Leeson. The bank said it had accepted a takeover bid by the Dutch ING group: The deal preserves the Barings name and 4,000 jobs.

In Estonia, a mix of technocrats, farm leaders, and low-ranking ex-Communists defeated reformers in parliamentary elections. The governing Fatherland Party and its partner, the Estonian Independence Party, were projected to get only seven of 101 seats in the new parliament. Winner Tiit Vahi of the center-left Coalition Party said it and the Rural Union party would continue free-market reforms, but keep a tighter social safety net.

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Russia's interior minister fired Moscow's prosecutor and police chief. The move followed the gangland murder of a popular TV celebrity last week, which has fueled widespread public anger. Moscow Mayor Luzhkov had opposed the firings. Russia's Security Council was set to meet to consider anticrime measures. Meanwhile, Russian forces in Chechnya appeared poised for a ground assault on southern rebel strongholds following extensive air strikes.

Hong Kong voters rebuffed China, electing Democrats to 23 of 36 municipal-council seats. The largest pro-Beijing party won eight seats. In Beijing, Finance Minister Liu told the legislature defense spending would increase 21 percent in 1995 despite a rising deficit. He said the government wants to hold inflation at 15 percent.

Mexico's Congress was to begin debate on an amnesty bill to jump-start peace talks with Zapatista rebels. The rebels, in a letter written before details of the bill were announced, said they wouldn't negotiate with the government until the army stops hunting rebel commanders. In Mexico City, newspapers said the government will ask the US to extradite former federal prosecutor Mario Ruiz Massieu, whom US officials arrested last week.

Afghan President Rabbani's troops ignored a UN cease-fire and attacked a rival Islamic faction in southwestern Kabul. A UN peace plan calls for a multiparty council to take over from Rabbani March 21, but the 10 separate Islamic factions have not agreed on details.

UN peacekeeping troops traded fire again with Serb snipers in Sarajevo. One man was killed and two others injured in the shootings, which were a harbinger of fighting to come if a four-month truce is not renewed May 1. The Serbs also followed through on a threat to block overland relief convoys into the besieged Bosnian capital.

Nigerian magazines claimed that authorities thwarted a plot to overthrow the military ruler, General Abacha. At least 150 officers were arrested, including a brigadier general. A constitutional conference was scheduled to reconvene yesterday to draft a program for return to civilian rule.

UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali opened a huge antipoverty summit in Copenhagen. A senior UN official criticized President Clinton for not attending. He said a social summit without Clinton "is like playing Hamlet without the prince of Denmark. The US

Votes are set this week on several GOP bills that would give businesses the legal protection against consumer lawsuits that they have sought for years. The woman who was initially awarded $2.7 million after spilling McDonald's coffee in her lap is invoked as a symbol by both supporters and opponents. The proposals are part of House Republicans' Contract With America.

Acting Deputy FBI Director Larry Potts's future is in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. She must rule on FBI Director Freeh's unusual simultaneous recommendation that Potts be censured for poor management of the 1992 Idaho siege of white separatist Randy Weaver and promoted permanently to the FBI's No. 2 job. Potts's account of the siege is contradicted by the FBI's Salt Lake City chief.

Senate majority leader Dole says he rejected an offer by Oregon Senator Hatfield to resign from the Senate when it came time to vote on the balanced-budget amendment. Hatfield was the only Republican to vote against it. On other issues, Dole urged the Clinton administration to look more critically at Russian President Yeltsin's actions toward breakaway Chechnya.

Warning of on-line troubles ahead, backers of a new bill in Congress want companies, universities, and anyone else providing access to the Internet to keep the worldwide network clean. One recent study found almost 100,000 pornographic images accessible by users of one university system. The Communications Decency Act was proposed by Senator Exon Representative Johnson.

The Supreme Court made it easier for employers to revise or cancel health insurance and other benefits provided to employees. Ruling in a New Jersey case, the justices said standard wording that gives a company the right to amend a plan is valid. The court also ruled that the government can stretch out Medicare payments that cover hospitals' losses from refinancing mortgage bonds. On another matter, the court refused to shield Representative McDade from racketeering and bribery charges.

Former Representative Oakar of Ohio faces indictment on seven felony charges. She is accused of failing to disclose a loan on a required summary of finances writing a $17,000 bad check, and filing false campaign records. The government has also accused former Representative Lukens of Ohio of bribery.

Astronauts aboard the shuttle Endeavour aimed their telescopes and gathered ultraviolet light from the Small Magelanic Cloud, an irregularly shaped galaxy near the spiral-shaped Milky Way. Seventeen galaxies are on scientists' 600-object wish list. Endeavour is due to land March 17.

Massachusetts Attorney General Harshbarger plans to sue the tobacco industry. He wants it to pay for the hundreds of millions of dollars the state has spent treating Medicaid patients for what were diagnosed as smoking-related diseases. Massachusetts joins a handful of states looking to hold cigarettemakers accountable.

Talks between striking baseball players and owners in Scottsdale, Ariz., broke down again. Meanwhile, the National Labor Relations Board was expected to rule against the owners this week, and that could lead to a federal injunction restoring the old work rules. Players say that if the injunction comes through, they would end the strike.

Residents of the seaside hamlet of La Conchita, Calif., had to abandon their homes to escape the rain-saturated hillside that threatened to release more waves of mud and rock. Nine homes were destroyed Saturday when a soggy hillside collapsed on La Conchita, about 25 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Etcetera

Tim Allen won four "People's Choice" awards for his ABC sitcom "Home Improvement" and the movie "The Santa Clause." The hit movie "Forrest Gump" and NBC's TV medical drama "E.R." each won two awards. NBC's "Ellen" and "Friends" tied for favorite new TV comedy series. Ron Howard received a special tribute for his career as a film and TV actor, director, and producer.

Embarrassed German authorities said dynamite, not a meteorite, caused a 65-foot-wide crater near Munich. A farmer said he heard a bang and saw mud and water blown 500 feet into the air. Authorities originally said a space object was responsible.

Twenty-six Pacific nations have launched a campaign to save the marine turtle from extinction, demanding a ban on commercial sales. Top 10 Pop Singles 1. "Take a Bow," Madonna (Maverick-Sire) (Gold) 2. "Creep," TLC (LaFace) (Platinum) 3. "Candy Rain," Soul for Real (Uptown) (Gold) 4. "Baby," Brandy (Atlantic) 5. "You Gotta Be," Des'ree (Music) 6. "Another Night," Real McCoy (Arista) (Platinum) 7. "On Bended Knee," Boyz II Men (Motown) (Platinum) 8. "If You Love Me," Brownstone (MJJ) (Gold) 9. "Strong Enough," Sheryl Crow (A&M) 10. "Hold My Hand," Hootie & the Blowfish (Atlantic) * (Platinum - more than 1 million copies sold; Gold - more than 500,000 copies sold.)- Copyright 1995, Billboard-Soundscan Inc. - Broadcast Data Systems.

``My commitment to a balanced federal budget is strong.... We do not need to amend the Constitution in order to do that." - Sen. Mark Hatfield (R), explaining his Senate vote against the balanced-budget amendment

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