News In Brief

By , Peter Nordahl, and Shelley Donald Coolidge

THE WORLD

Nick Leeson, the trader at the center of the Barings Bank collapse, refused to respond to Singapore's charge that he committed forgery. He believes the accusation has nothing to do with the bank scandal, his attorney said. Leeson refused to be extradited voluntarily to Singapore, a German prosecutor said.

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Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Cuban President Fidel Castro arrived in France yesterday and basked in a red-carpet welcome from President Mitterrand while a senior conservative minister called him a dictator. Castro's three-day visit marks a diplomatic breakthrough for one of the world's last communist leaders.

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Former Mexican President Salinas left Mexico Saturday with his family and flew to New York on his way to Boston, the New York Times reported. A senior government official said Salinas would not be prevented from returning to Mexico but had agreed to stay abroad ''for a considerable time.''

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Norman Thagard, a NASA astronaut, is scheduled to blast off today on a Soyuz rocket with two Russian cosmonauts, heading for the Russian space station Mir. Thagard is the first American to be launched in a Russian rocketship and the first American to fly to the Russian space station.

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Human Rights Watch accused both Cambodia's military and Khmer Rouge rebels of abuses and urged foreign donors to exert pressure. The US-based human-rights organization issued its report on the eve of a conference of Cambodia's foreign financial donors in Paris. Cambodia hopes to obtain $295 million.

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Secretary of State Christopher raised hopeful signs of resuming stalled negotiations between Israel and Syria after he met with Syrian President Assad in Damascus yesterday. Christopher is touring the region to revive the flagging Middle East peace process.

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China will resume talks to join the World Trade Organization in April. WTO members agreed that China may qualify for easier entry requirements. China and the US also agreed to discuss US proposals on market access for insurance and telecommunications services after China resumes formal negotiations.

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The European Union suspended high-level meetings with Canada over a fishing-rights dispute. Senior EU diplomats agreed the Union would not negotiate an end to the standoff over fish-catch quotas unless Canada released a captured Spanish fishing trawler and its crew. The EU did not say whether it would boycott the June summit of the Group of Seven in Halifax, Canada.

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Somalia's rival militiamen began patrols of Mogadishu, putting into action an accord signed March 11 between the capital's two arch-enemies, Mohamed Aideed and President Mohamed. The accord said joint militia patrols would safeguard facilities in both parts of divided Mogadishu, keep other gunmen out, and protect foreigners.

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Vice President Gore assured Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania that they are still in the running for possible NATO membership. But he emphasized there won't be any quick decisions. The three Baltic nations would like to join NATO to counter a possible threat from neighboring Russia.

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Indian voters threw out governing parties they considered corrupt and incompetent for the third straight round of state elections. Observers speculated that voter dissatisfaction over corruption could lead to a national anti-corruption movement as India moves toward nationwide elections in 1996.

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Business in Swaziland's capital, Mbabane, and commercial center came to a halt in what observers describe as the biggest strike in 18 years. The Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions called the strike to press for workers'-rights legislation.

THE US

The House Budget Committee is expected to unveil spending cuts to pay for $188 billion in tax cuts promised by House Republicans. Chairman Kasich indicated he would pay for the tax cuts in part by proposing changes in laws governing automatic spending and reducing discretionary spending. Senator Gregg, meanwhile, released a draft report listing potential savings in benefit programs. The report suggests reining the growth of Medicare, shifting welfare to the states, and pairing other benefit programs.

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President Clinton's policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military faced its first legal challenge. Six active-duty and reserve service members told a federal district court in New York yesterday that the administration's ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell'' policy denies their constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection under the law. Lawyers for the ACLU and Lambada Legal Defense and Education Fund said they would try to prove the law is ''pure and simple prejudice.''

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Federal Reserve chairman Greenspan stepped up his campaign to alter the government's main price gauge, which he said would save taxpayers $150 billion over five years. Greenspan wants to create a panel of experts who would have authority to make revisions in the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index to more-accurately reflect inflation pressures.

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More than half of California was declared a disaster area after storms and five days of flooding left at least 12 people dead. Rain continued to fall yesterday in northern California, forcing more people to abandon their homes. Mud from fire-denuded hills near Los Angeles inched closer to the sea, shutting down miles of the Pacific Coast Highway and oozing into Malibu beachside homes.

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Negotiators for baseball owners met yesterday to prepare a ''best offer'' that they are expected to present to players today or tomorrow. The National Labor Relations Board will tell players and owners this week how it will rule on the union's unfair-labor-practice charges. Players said they want the NLRB to seek an injunction returning baseball to the economic system that existed before owners implemented a salary cap on Dec. 22.

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The Transportation Department began an internal probe into whether Denver officials improperly diverted federal funds intended for the city's new airport to other civic services, the Washington Post reported. Transportation Secretary Pena, who was mayor of Denver during part of the time covered by the probe, told the paper that all federal funds were properly used.

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Operation of the space shuttle should be consolidated under a single government contract and eventually be transferred to the private sector, a management review panel told NASA. Dr. Christopher Kraft, a key figure in the Apollo moon program, also said NASA should relax some of its safety and quality controls on the shuttle and take a customer-oriented approach to hauling space cargo.

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California Governor Wilson, trying to shore up his conservative credentials as he considers a presidential run, reversed a new state policy allowing adoptions by gay and lesbian couples. Wilson acted after learning that the Sacramento Bee was going to publish details of the policy. A Los Angeles Times poll shows most Californians don't want Wilson to run for president.

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Senator Gramm said he would filibuster the nomination of Dr. Henry Foster for surgeon general when it comes up for consideration in the Senate in the spring. Gramm also said he wouldn't push for a constitutional amendment to ban abortions if elected president next year, but he would work to see that no federal money is used to fund abortions.

ETCETERA

It's unfortunate, but we're living in kind of a tabloid atmosphere today ... and this kind of thing can really hurt people in the nomination process.''

-- White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta on the failed CIA director nomination

More than 50 writers are awaiting the verdict of a grueling competition in London to complete a novel in 24 hours. Contestants included a 13-year-old boy. Judges will announce a winner and two runners-up March 20. Organizers hope to run the event in Washington, Toronto, and London next year.

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Demographers at the Census Bureau say more native-born Americans are leaving the US to live elsewhere. Research shows that at least 48,000 Americans a year left in the 1980s, and the figure may be as high 100,000 annually now. Businesspeople, students, and older Americans are the most likely to leave.

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Snapping off a salute, 99-year-old Fred Roberts received his Purple Heart, almost eight decades after he was gassed in World War I. The ceremony, held in a Los Angeles suburb, was delayed because of a mix-up in his Army records.

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One out of 4 cabs in New York City is a former police cruiser. Twice a month, the city auctions off wrecked patrol cars. Taxi-fleet owners find the price right for these virtually new, well-equipped vehicles.

Top 10 Pop Singles

1. ''Take a Bow,'' Madonna, (Maverick-Sire) (Gold)

2. ''Candy Rain,'' Soul for Real, (Uptown) (Gold)

3. ''Creep,'' TLC, (LaFace) (Platinum)

4. ''Baby,'' Brandy, (Atlantic)

5. ''Red Light Special,'' TLC, (LaFace)

6. ''Big Poppa - Warning,'' The Notorious B.I.G., (Bad Boy) (Gold)

7. ''Strong Enough,'' Sheryl Crow, (A&M)

8. ''If You Love Me,'' Brownstone, (MJJ) (Gold)

9. ''You Gotta Be,'' Des'ree, (Music)

10. ''On Bended Knee,'' Boyz II Men (Motown) (Platinum)

(Platinum - more than 1 million copies sold; gold - more than 500,000 copies sold.)

Copyright 1995, Billboard-Soundscan Inc.--Broadcast Data Systems.

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