News In Brief

The US

Budget talks were set to resume today. With the Dec. 15 budget deadline nearing, Medicare and Medicaid - two of the largest unresolved issues - have yet to be discussed. In Medicaid - the stickiest of the two - the issue is whether to retain the guarantee that the poor get benefits. To save $163 billion over seven years, Republicans would do away with the guarantee except for pregnant women, children under 13, and the disabled. President Clinton would cut $54 billion and retain the guarantee. Failure to forge a deal by Dec. 15 would shut the government down again. (Editorial, Page 20.)

Congress won't use its power of the purse to curtail Clinton's Bosnia mission, say the chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees, Representative Kasich and Senator Domenici. But support in Congress is for the troops, not for Clinton or the peace deal brokered in Dayton, Ohio. (Opinion, Page 18.) ''We're not supporting the agreement. The troops are being deployed ... and we're supporting the troops,'' Senator Dole said. (Story, Page 1; See also World In Brief.)

More people entered US prisons - 89,707 - in the last 12 months than ever before, the Justice Department said. State prisons grew 9.1 percent; federal prisons grew 6.1 percent. Texas had the largest increase: 127,092 or 27 percent. Mandatory sentences for drug and violent crimes fueled the growth. But overcrowding has not increased because prison construction is keeping pace with the growth. (States and crime, Page 1.)

The Supreme Court denied Colorado's attempt to block abortion funds for poor women who are rape or incest victims. It also approved the FAA's plan to promote airline safety by limiting the flight attendants' shift lengths. The court also refused to shield the National Enquirer from an invasion-of-privacy suit by actor Eddie Murphy's son and the boy's mother. A California jury must now decide if an Enquirer story about them was ''newsworthy'' and therefore legally unassailable.

The ''Secret Seven'' will go public with views in Minneapolis Dec. 18, says former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas, a member of the centrist political group. He stopped short of saying whether group members will endorse a presidential candidate, but he says they are considering backing an independent.

Did Microsoft design its Windows 95 operating system to disable rival companies' Internet access programs? The Justice Department issued subpoenas to Internet firms in its probe of the claim, The Wall Street Journal said. Microsoft says the problem was caused by weaknesses in the other firms' software.

Union members at Caterpillar are going back to work after a bitter strike. They voted overwhelmingly to reject the Peoria, Ill., company's latest offer, but union leaders decided to end the strike. Workers lost an average of $30,000 in wages during the 17-month strike. The company must decide what to do with replacement workers it has been using. (Story, Page 9.)

After a 2.3-billon-mile journey, the spacecraft Galileo will begin orbiting Jupiter Thursday. (Story, Page 10.)

Getting $2.9 billion worth of copper for $1,745 thanks to a 123-year-old mining law would be a thing of the past under a new GOP bill, its supporters say. Last week's sale of 340 acres of federal land with tons of copper underneath it to ASARCO Inc. for $1,745 caused bipartisan outcry. But critics of the GOP remedy, who include Interior Secretary Babbitt, say the bill is a hoax and will only make true mining reform harder to enact later.

Major college football bowl games are taking shape, including a contest between undefeated Nebraska and Florida for the mythical national championship.

Dec. 25:

Aloha Bowl (Honolulu)

Kansas vs. UCLA

Dec. 31:

Sugar Bowl (New Orleans)

Texas vs. Virginia Tech

Jan. 1:

Citrus Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)

Tennessee vs. Ohio State

Cotton Bowl (Dallas)

Colorado vs. Oregon

Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)

Northwestern vs. So. Calif.

Orange Bowl (Miami)

Notre Dame vs. Florida State

Jan. 2:

Fiesta Bowl

Nebraska vs. Florida

The World

Some 56 British communications experts arrived in Split, Croatia, and a seven-member logistics team went to Sarajevo - the first troops deployed in the NATO peacekeeping mission. (Story, Page 1; List at right.) Also, France recalled Gen. Jean-Rene Bachelet (right), commander of UN peacekeepers in Sarajevo after he said the Dayton accord was unfair to Serbs in the capital.

Resisting compromise, France hired 1,700 private buses to help commuters stranded by a strike get to work. And tour boats are offering free lifts along the Seine. The nearly two-week-long walkout by transportation, postal, railroad, and utilities workers has left factories idle and department stores empty.

US peace envoy Dennis Ross plans to meet with Prime Minister Shimon Peres today. Israel reportedly will ask Ross to deliver a request to Syria to break the deadlock over the future of the Golan Heights. Separately, an Israeli Army sergeant became the first person indicted in Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. He was charged with smuggling weapons from his military base and giving them to assassin Yigal Amir and Amir's brother, Hagai.

The Irish High Court granted a right-wing lobby group permission to challenge last month's paper-thin referendum vote that scrapped a ban on divorce. The group says the government misused its position in mounting a prodivorce ad campaign. Meanwhile, a leading Irish nationalist said President Clinton's visit gave the peace process in Northern Ireland the ''kiss of life.''

A US serviceman accused of raping an Okinawa schoolgirl told a Japanese court that US investigators forced him to admit to the crime. He said he helped plot the abduction but didn't rape her. The testimony followed charges by family members that the three servicemen accused in the case were treated unfairly by the military, possibly because they are black.

A car bomb exploded outside the headquarters of the Moscow-backed government in Chechnya, killing at least four people and wounding more than 20. Chechen rebels oppose government plans to hold elections Dec. 17.

South Korean prosecutors began questioning retired Army top brass, including former Defense Minister Roh Jae-hyon, about their involvement in a 1980 coup. Some are speculating that the arrest of former President Chun Doo Hwan will trigger a major political reorganization.

A time bomb planted by Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger guerrillas demolished the main administration building in the former rebel stronghold of Jaffna. Earlier, government troops symbolically raised the national flag over the Jaffna Fort, which was captured from the guerrillas.

Three of four Westerners held hostage by the Al-Faran militant group in Kashmir entered their sixth month in captivity yesterday. The Indian government asked the rebels to release the hostages before Christmas.

Venezuela's former ruling Democratic Action Party claimed the lead in regional polls to select governors, mayors, and local councillors. It said it won at least 13 of 22 governorships in elections marked by voter apathy. President Rafael Caldera's Convergence Party apparently failed to convince voters it could haul the country out of economic crisis: It won only one governorship. In Bolivia, the ruling coalition led municipal elections and was expected to win half of the country's mayoral offices.

Cambodia handed over to US officials suspected remains of at least four marines killed in the last US military action of the Vietnam War. The remains, recovered during a joint US-Cambodian operation last month, will be sent to a lab for identification.

Mexico's former President Salinas pledged to testify about his administration and brother's legal problems. Believed to be living in Canada, it was the first time Salinas has gone on the offensive since leaving fiscally battered Mexico in March.

Etcetera

Snow time has been a dud so far in Anchorage, Alaska. The wind still rustles up the sound of fallen leaves, unmuffled by snow. Snowmobilers and cross-country skiers are growing frustrated. It was the city's driest November since 1985. That area of Alaska usually gets 39 inches of snow in November.

Robertson Davies, who died Saturday, was one of Canada's most acclaimed authors. He was a novelist, actor, teacher, critic, and playwright. He is best known for two trilogies written in the 1970s and '80s.

Steve Tisch, a producer of ''Forrest Gump,'' has signed with Christopher Darden to make a movie about the latter's life, in a deal that could pay the O.J. Simpson prosecutor up to $1 million.

If you can't afford to live in Middleburg, Va., - a town of million-dollar estates - an address there is the next best thing. So coveted is its zip code that the town has three times as many post-office boxes as residents.

Bosnia's Military Melting Pot

Contributing nations and troop numbers for NATO's Bosnia mission:

United States 20,000

United Kingdom 14,000

France 7,500-10,000

Germany 4,000-5,000 (with parliamentary approval)

Italy 2,100

The Netherlands 2,000

Canada 1,200-1,500

Spain 1,000-1,500

Belgium 1,000

Denmark 1,000

Turkey 1,000

Norway 750

Portugal 300-900

Luxembourg 300

Greece no figure given

Non-NATO countries that will or may contribute troops: Austria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ukraine, Malaysia, Latvia, Lithuania, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Slovak Republic, Sweden, Russia.

- The Department of Defense, NATO, and the Associated Press

'' If Bill Clinton is going to have the entry strategy,

the rest of us should have the exit strategy.''

- Senate majority leader Bob Dole, on sending US troops to Bosnia.

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