News In Brief

By , Abraham T. McLaughlin, and Peter Nordahl

THE US

Three former US presidents back President Clinton's Bosnia mission. George Bush and Gerald Ford said American prestige and credibility would be sullied if troops did not go. Jimmy Carter said the US had little choice but to undertake the mission. All encouraged Congress to support Clinton. But Senator Dole put off a vote on the issue until next week as opposition remained strong. Of greatest concern: lack of a specific exit strategy and of a commitment to train and arm Bosnian troops in order to create a peaceful balance of power.

Clinton is generating his own seven-year balanced-budget plan. The move, which came after GOP criticism, is seen as a positive step in the deadlocked, week-old budget talks. Clinton will likely suggest smaller tax cuts, more savings from welfare and corporate tax loopholes than his previous budget, and smaller boosts in spending for many domestic programs. The White House hopes to present its plan today as negotiations resume.

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The index of leading indicators fell 0.5 percent in October, its biggest plunge in six months. The news heightened hopes the Federal Reserve would cut interest rates at its Dec. 19 meeting.

Record amounts of child support have been collected, in the past two years, the Clinton administration says. Nearly $10 billion was collected in 1994 from parents who didn't have custody and an estimated $11 billion in fiscal '95. The GOP claims it could do even better under its proposed welfare reforms.

Voter participation was unusually high as Oregonians used mail-in ballots to nominate replacements for Senator Packwood. About 1.5 million ballots were sent out, and 55.5 percent were returned. In the 1994 state primaries 43.3 percent of voters cast ballots. The state also saved $1 million by using mail-in ballots. The primary winners: Democratic Congressman Ron Wyden and Republican Gordon Smith. The general election - also a mail-in - is Jan. 30.

Clinton isn't saying if he will veto a bill to restrict class-action securities-fraud lawsuits. The bill passed the Senate 65 to 30. Clinton may respond to critics who say it denies investors the power to sue corporate wrongdoers. But corporate supporters, including many high-tech firms who supported Clinton's 1992 campaign, say it protects them from frivolous suits that come as a result of volatile stock prices.

Should telephone companies be able to go into the cable television business? A legal ban on such business now exists. But the Supreme Court heard a case in which phone companies argued the ban violates their free-speech rights. The administration and the cable industry back the ban, saying it preserves competition. But Congress is moving to lift the ban, which would make the court's decision moot.

US protectors of Yellowstone National Park have a new incentive: The UN's World Heritage Committee has put the park on its list of natural treasures most threatened by development and environmental damage.

The head of Sony USA, Michael Schulhof, resigned after a bad year at the entertainment giant, which included flops like Michael Jackson's "History," and Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Last Action Hero." For now, Sony Japan will take direct control of US operations. Some analysts say the ouster may be a sign Sony is rethinking its Hollywood foray.

California wants to use the gas chamber for executions again. It wants a federal appeals court to overturn a 1994 ruling that banned the gas chamber as an inhumane punishment. If the 1994 ruling is upheld, the state will have to conduct its executions by lethal injection.

Galileo's Jupiter probe was set to descend into the big red planet's atmosphere. As it transmits data back to the orbiting Galileo, scientists hope to find out more about how planets were formed and may even see rain clouds. The artist's rendering above shows a shield, the probe, and its parachute.

THE WORLD

The needs of the Serbs and other ethnic groups should be addressed, US Secretary of State Christopher said at a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev. Christopher said he expects the issue to receive sizable attention at a conference in London tomorrow that will address the Dayton accord's implementation. And preparations for the arrival of NATO peacekeepers gained momentum: Medics streamed in from Germany and office supplies from Italy.

Israel and Syria are serious about restarting peace talks, US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross said after meetings with both countries. Talks have been frozen since June. Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres was expected to discuss the issue in a meeting with Jordan's King Hussein yesterday, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak today, and PLO leader Yasser Arafat tomorrow before flying to Washington for talks with President Clinton Monday. Also, an Israeli soldier and four Muslim guerrillas were killed in a clash in south Lebanon.

France's strike, called to protest a planned government overhaul of the welfare system, neared the two-week mark with no end in sight. French Premier Alain Juppe took a hard-line stand and said reforms were non-negotiable. Labor leaders remained equally adamant. In Montpellier, clashes erupted with the police after a 25,000-strong demonstration, which left barricades burning in the streets.

General Dynamics Corp. is the latest company name to surface in South Korea's slush-fund scandal. Prosecutors grilled former Defense Minister Lee Sang Hoon on allegations that the US company paid former President Roh Tae Woo a huge kickback in a contract for F-16 fighter jets. The company has denied the allegations. Meanwhile, the ruling Democratic Liberal Party changed its name to the New Korea Party to distance itself from Roh and former President Chun Doo Hwan, who has also been arrested.

Japanese prosecutors arrested former Labor Minister Toshio Yamaguchi on suspicion of playing a key role in a scandal over illegal loans involving two financial institutions.

Deborah Katzman, a US member of a UN human rights mission in Guatemala, escaped kidnappers by jumping from a moving car. The incident occurred within days of the discovery of bodies of two other kidnapped foreign women - a Mexican UN worker and a US citizen living in Guatemala. The killings were "part of a wave of violence" besetting the country, a US Embassy spokesman said.

Egypt's second round of parliamentary elections was reminiscent of the first: reports of widespread vote fraud, arrests of government opponents, and violence in which six people were killed. In the first round, last week, the government took 90 percent of 138 seats decided. The rest went to independents supporting the government. Independent monitoring agencies called the elections unfair.

The Sri Lankan government offered amnesty to all Tamil rebels who lay down arms. It also appealed to an estimated 500,000 Jaffna residents, displaced by a seven-week-old Army offensive, to return to Jaffna. Within hours of the offer, rebels killed 23 police commandos and wounded 14 in an attack on an eastern military base.

"Building the Chinese-style socialist road is completely correct," a Chinese newspaper quoted Cuban President Fidel Castro as saying. The comments came after Chinese President Jiang Zemin gave Castro a tour of Shenzhen, the cradle of China's free-market revolution. And, in New York, China, Russia, the two Koreas, and Mongolia, signed two accords to develop the Tumen River area - which abuts Russia, China, and North Korea - into a free-trade zone. Analysts say the $30 billion scheme will slash export costs.

ETCETERA

In this bill, Grandma loses."

- Sen. Joseph Biden, on a bill to restrict class-action investor lawsuits against corporations for earnings forecasts that don't pan out. President Clinton hasn't said whether he will veto the bill, which has passed the Senate.

Archaeologists digging in the shadows of Egypt's pyramids say they have found the 4,200-year-old tomb of a pharaoh's minister that might be part of a previously unknown cemetery. The tomb complex, discovered last month, includes some of the earliest examples of wall paintings decorating a burial chamber, according to Czech archaeologist Miroslav Verner.

A cobra crawling across a busy street resulted in a huge traffic jam in New Delhi. Most Indians will not harm a cobra because it was the mythical pet of Shiva, one of the most revered Hindu gods. After a 15-minute standoff, the snake was carried to a field and traffic resumed.

United Parcel Service is taking on a whale of a job. It will fly Keiko the killer whale, the star of the "Free Willy" movies, from Mexico City to the Oregon Coast Aquarium - for free.

A new report says New York City's air and waterways are cleaner than 25 years ago, but the drinking water isn't as good, and garbage is still a problem.

Lobby Reform Makes It "The Last Christmas"

The recently-passed lobby-reform bill bans all gifts to members of the House of Representatives and gifts over $50 to Senators. Many on Capitol Hill are calling this "The Last Christmas" - the last time they'll receive traditional presents such as these:

Wooden barrels full of snacks from RJR Nabisco.

Chardonnay wine from the Securities Industry Association.

Pewter plates from the United Transportation Union.

Two-CD set of Barbara Streisand's Madison Square Garden concert from the Recording Industry Association of America.

An 8-gallon tin of flavored popcorn from Ameritech, the regional phone company.

Four-pound boxes of candy from MCI.

Gift boxes of sample products, including toilet paper, from Kimberly-Clark.

Toy earthmovers from

Caterpillar Inc.

- Associated Press

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