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News In Brief

January 24, 1996

The US

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President Clinton's State of the Union speech was expected to be big on America's promise and possibilities and short on specific plans and the budget battle. Clinton aimed to ease Americans' anxieties about their economic future. And a new poll finds that only 27 percent of US citizens think the economy is getting better; 58 percent say it's getting worse. In the same ABC News poll last year, 44 percent were optimistic; 34 percent were pessimistic.

The budget deficit tops the public's list of concerns, beating out the economy and crime for the first time in years, a New York Times poll finds. And as budget wrangling continues, Republicans say they'll put a $125 -per-child tax credit in a temporary spending bill that will keep the government operating past Friday's deadline. It's expected to pass as early as today.

Israeli-Syrian peace talks are set to resume today in Maryland. Clinton told visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak the US will ''do whatever we can, whatever we are asked to do,'' to promote peace. But congressional opposition to US troops policing any deal is high. Also, Syria reiterated its commitment to ''a just and comprehensive peace'' based on Israel's withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

Hillary Rodham Clinton will testify before a grand jury Friday - an unprecedented move for a first lady. She will be asked about the ''discovery and content'' of law-firm records concerning her connection with the Madison S&L, which was owned by one of the Clintons' business partners.

$125 million is the opening bid at today's FCC auction of the last available Direct Broadcast Satellite service slot. MCI, AT&T, and Tele-Communications Inc. among the bidders for the hot direct-to-home market access. Also, AT&T acquired a $137 million stake in DirecTv - seller of 175-channel packages for 18-inch satellite dishes. It's another move in AT&T's drive to be a one-stop provider for all kinds of communications - from long distance to satellite TV.

March 1 is Treasury Secretary Rubin's firm date for US debt default - unless Congress raises the debt limit. The GOP wants Clinton to adopt more of its agenda before upping the limit. And Gingrich scoffed at the date, saying previous ones have passed without incident.

Apple Computer and Sun Microsystems have resumed merger talks. A deal between the two companies is ''imminent,'' the Wall Street Journal says. They had been talking since September, but negotiations broke off two weeks ago.

The Army confirmed it has a 30,000-ton chemical weapons stash, including mustard and sarin nerve gases. All are to be destroyed by 2004 at a cost of $12 billion. Incineration has already begun on a US-owned South Pacific atoll.

Federal contractors that hire illegal aliens won't be allowed to bid on new contracts in a new administration crackdown plan. If caught today, companies face losing their current contracts but are allowed to bid on new ones.

Public radio stations will have to show that listeners are tuning in or that a big chunk of funds comes from the community in order to get federal grants. The new Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) rules promote self-reliance. About 70 stations wouldn't qualify today.

The student-loan default rate has dropped sharply, the Education Department said, confirming the emergence of a trend. Default costs have fallen by more than two-thirds since 1992. The default rate fell from 22.4 percent in 1990 to 11.6 percent in 1993 - the latest year measured.

Reports of violence against America's inner-city minority women jumped 55 percent from 1987 to 1990, a University of Pennsylvania report says. Researchers attribute the rise to increasing poverty, the crack epidemic, and social breakdowns that leave women unprotected. About 60 percent of attacks were by husbands or boyfriends.

Journalist Linda Ellerbee will host an on-line monthly interview show on the Microsoft Network. ''If this is where journalism is headed, I don't want to be the last kid on the block to get there,'' says the woman who has criticized TV for putting style above substance.

The World

Bosnia's Muslim-led government promised to release more Serb prisoners after the US threatened to block military and financial aid. The Jan. 19 deadline for release of all prisoners was missed after Bosnia insisted that rebel Serbs account for 30,000 missing Muslims. And, Bosnian Serb rebel leaders Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, both indicted of war crimes, are rarely seen in public. Also in a new twist, Vojislav Seselj, a Serbian opposition leader, said he will testify at the UN War Crimes Tribunal that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic is responsible for war crimes.