News In Brief

THE US

TV news organizations - including CBS, NBC, and Fox - plan to decide soon whether to grant Senator Dole and Speaker Gingrich a request for Wednesday night airtime. The GOP leaders want the prime-time slot to respond to President Clinton's Tuesday State of the Union speech. ABC already denied the unprecedented request, saying audiences are best served by a response immediately following the address.

Jewelry, flowers, liquor are just a few of the personal charges that aides to Commerce Secretary Ron Brown put on government credit cards. So reports the Los Angeles Times, citing a confidential audit from the Commerce Department's inspector general. The Times also said Brown has spent 145 percent more on travel than his Republican predecessor did. But the spending reflects Brown's "determination to be more of an activist than his predecessors in promoting the interests of American business," Brown's press secretary said.

House Republican leader Dick Armey said Congress will approve a bill to keep the government running, probably for another 30 days. But it won't approve an increase in the US debt ceiling unless Clinton agrees to a substantial share of the Republican agenda, he added on NBC's "Meet the Press."

The US is in deep trouble, 50 percent of Americans surveyed in a Time/CNN poll said. Another 47 percent of the 800 citizens asked to comment on the state of the union said the country's problems are no worse than at other times. Are Americans better off now than three years ago? Some 31 percent said "yes," half "about the same," 18 percent "worse off." But 76 percent said their personal finances were doing fairly well or better.

MCA Inc. is reportedly close to an agreement to buy half of Interscope Records, the label dropped four months ago by Time Warner Inc. in a brouhaha over gangsta rap. The acquisition of Interscope would give MCA greater penetration into the rock music market and raise it two notches to the fourth-largest company in the music industry.

"Barbara, 'We the People' will miss you," President Clinton said, eulogizing former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros, Education Secretary Richard Riley, and Attorney General Janet Reno were among those who attended services in Houston for her. Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards called Jordan "an American original."

In the worst oil spill in Rhode Island history, a barge carrying about 720,000 tons of heating oil leaked at least 2,300 tons near a wildlife refuge after running aground in a storm. Home heating oil is lighter than crude oil and therefore less environmentally damaging. Crews hoped to have rescued the barge by today.

The start of a federal Empowerment Zone in Harlem has raised new optimism about an old problem: the failure of black businesses in this famous community. Only a month ago, when a black man torched a white man's clothing store, Harlem's economic hopes seemed to be going up in smoke. Federal officials announced that $300 million would be available over 10 years for training, social service, and loans, with another $250 million in business tax breaks.

A critic of the Church of Scientology violated copyright laws when he posted sacred church texts on the Internet, a federal judge has ruled. In a case closely watched by computer users, the church sued Arnaldo Lerma for placing the documents on the Internet as part of his long-running criticism of church practices he says are abusive.

New cases the Supreme Court agreed to hear: Whether the US government must pay damages to savings and loans for changing requirements on how much money they must have on hand; whether federal judges can revise monetary awards made by juries; whether monetary awards in civil rights lawsuits against employers can be limited; and whether late charges on credit cards should be considered interest or late fees.

The University of California regents voted to postpone indefinitely any action on a proposal to restore affirmative action programs to the nine-school system.

THE WORLD

Yasser Arafat headed for a sweeping victory in historic Palestinian presidential elections. He captured about 85 percent of the 90 percent of votes counted. The high turnout of almost 75 percent of voters is an endorsement by Palestinians of Arafat's Mideast peace initiative, Israeli Premier Shimon Peres and others said. Earlier, the Muslim militant group Hamas said a less than 50 percent voter turnout would mean its call for a boycott of the elections was successful.

NATO troops will protect suspected mass grave sites in Bosnia, said US Adm. Leighton Smith, commander of the NATO mission. Rebel Serbs have repeatedly blocked access to the sites at Bratunac and Prijedor, where thousands of Muslims are believed to be buried. Protecting the sites would mark NATO's first steps outside a purely military role in Bosnia and could lead to a confrontation with the Serbs, sources said. Haris Silajdzic said he will step down as Bosnia's prime minister after a disagreement with the ruling party.

The Egyptian militant group Gamaa Islamiya (Islamic Group) has threatened to strike at US targets to avenge the jailing of their spiritual leader Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. A US court sentenced Abdel-Rahman to life in prison Wednesday for planning a war of violence in the US. In the past, the group has targeted foreign tourists mostly in upper Egypt in its bid to overthrow the government and replace it with strict Islamic rule.

Chechen rebels said they will release hostages tomorrow they took with them while escaping a Russian assault on the village of Pervomaiskoye. Although President Yeltsin declared the attack a success many rebels slipped through the Russian military ring around the village in Dagestan along with some hostages. And over the weekend, nine Chechen sympathizers holding 255 people hostage aboard a ferry in the Black Sea surrendered to Turkish authorities.

Austria demanded the US supply details of 79 secret US weapons caches scattered across Austria after they were hidden 40 years ago in case of a Soviet invasion. The disclosure came to light when a congressional committee, screening CIA activities, found documents pointing to caches of guns, explosives, and possibly gold hidden in Austria.

In an effort to avoid angering China and India, France reportedly froze lucrative deals to sell 550 Mistral missiles to Taiwan and 40 Mirage jets to Pakistan. China and India say such sales will affect bilateral relations.

China released Zhang Jian, the brother of a doctor who helped expose the abuse of children in a Shanghai orphanage. Zhang allegedly was detained for questioning over a case of a person illegally leaving the country, who some have speculated is his sister now living in New York.

A Lebanese man was arrested for allegedly causing a fatal fire at a home for asylum seekers in Lubeck, Germany. Earlier, police suspected the fire was started by neo-Nazis in an anti-foreigner attack. The motive reportedly was a dispute between Africans and Arabs, police confirmed.

EU farm ministers expect to give strong support to a fight today to maintain a ban on the import of US meat containing a growth hormone. The US warned last week it would challenge the EU's eight-year-old ban in the World Trade Organization, saying US beef posed no threat to health.

No. 3 Thomas Muster of Austria crashed out of the Australian Open tennis championships when he was beaten 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 by Swede Mikael Tillstrom in the fourth round. Top seeded American Pete Sampras earlier lost to Australian Mark Philippoussis 6-4, 7-6 (11-9), 7-6 (7-3) in the third round.

ETCETERAS

She jolted the nation's attention with her ... articulate defense of the Constitution, the American dream, and the common heritage and destiny we share, whether we like it or not."

- President Clinton, eulogizing former Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

An American marine research team plans to try to recover $24 million in gold from a Japanese sub lying on the bottom of the Atlantic. The T-52 was sunk by US aircraft in 1944 while on its way to German-occupied France.

Jerry Mulligan, who died at his Connecticut home, was a baritone sax player and cool jazz pioneer who played with Miles Davis in the '40s.

World's Biggest Oil Spills

A barge off Rhode Island's coast has leaked a relatively small 2,300 tons of heating oil. By contrast, the Exxon Valdez spilled about 35,000 tons of crude oil.

1. Atlantic Empress and Aegean Captain, Trinidad, 7/19/79 300,000 tons spilled

2. Castillio de Bellver, Cape Town, South Africa, 8/6/83 255,000

3. Olympic Bravery, Ushant, France, 1/24/76 250,000

4. Showa-Maru, Malacca, Malaya, 6/7/75 237,000

5. Amoco Cadiz, Finistere, France, 3/16/78 223,000

6. Odyssey, Atlantic Ocean, off Canada, 11/10/88 140,000

7. Torrey Canyon, Scilly Isles, UK, 3/18/67 120,000

8. Sea Star, Gulf of Oman, 12/19/72 115,000

9. Irenes Serenada, Pilos, Greece, 2/23/80 102,000

10. Urquiola, Corunna, Spain, 5/12/76 101,000

- "The Top 10 of Everything, 1996," Dorling Kindersley, publisher

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