News In Brief

The US

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.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

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.

Contradicting Moscow's claim that Chechen rebels were wiped out, a Chechen rebel leader Salman Raduyev said most of his aides escaped the tight Russian cordon around the village of Pervomaiskoye. Also, the rebels reportedly agreed to free 46 hostages in exchange for the bodies of rebels killed last week. And former Communist Yegor Stroyev was elected speaker of the Russian parliament's upper house. (Editorial, Page 20.)

Colombian President Ernesto Samper denied renewed charges that the Cali drug cartel financed his 1994 election bid. Breaking a long silence, Fernando Botero Zea, Samper's jailed campaign manager, said Samper was aware that the Cali cartel helped him win the election allegedly with $6 million in contributions. Botero's confession puts Samper's political future in jeopardy, analysts said. (Story, Page 6.)

Iran is using its official government mint to counterfeit US $100 bills, ABC News reported. ABC reported that the US made ''covert contacts'' with Iran to demand a stop to the alleged trade in phony bills. A White House source allegedly said the counterfeiting was ''tantamount to an act of war.''

China denied reports that it arrested two supporters of Zhang Shuyun, who provided much of the proof of abuse at a Shanghai orphanage. A New York-based human rights group said Xu Xinyuan, who lobbied Chinese local authorities to investigate Zhang's allegations, was among those detained. (Story, Page 13.)

Bahrain will try eight opposition leaders on charges of inciting crime to destabilize the government. Among them is Sheikh Abdul Ameer al-Jamri, a leading Shiite cleric who is seeking reinstatement of the elected parliament that was disbanded in 1975. A majority of Bahrain's natives are Shiites, but the ruling Al-Khalifa family belongs to the Sunni sect. The government accuses predominantly Shiite Iran of fomenting the unrest.

The US informed Austria about the locations of 79 secret US weapons caches scattered across Austria. Vienna was notified of the caches recently, almost 40 years after they were hidden to arm Austrian resistance fighters in the event of a Soviet invasion. The US said it will help dismantle the sites, and assured Austria the caches pose no environmental threat.

Former South Korean presidents Roh Tae Woo and Chun Doo Hwan were formally charged with sedition for their role in the 1980 massacre of pro-democracy protesters in the city of Kwangju. The two already face mutiny charges over the 1979 coup that propelled them to power. Chun and Roh have challenged the constitutional validity of a special law recently enacted to punish them.

No. 13 Chanda Rubin of the US advanced to semifinals of the Australian Open, outlasting No. 3 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain 6-4, 2-6, 16-14. Joining her was No. 1 Monica Seles (US) a 6-1, 6-2 winner over No. 7 Iva Majoli (Croatia). And men's No. 5 Michael Chang (US) cut short Mikael Tillstrom's (Sweden) winning streak 6-0, 6-2, 6-4.

Etceteras

A pothole on a street in Moline, Ill., is so big that Art Edwards's house shakes when city buses drive over it, Edwards says. So he rigged a vibration-measuring machine to show city officials how bad the vibes are. A good hit by the bus measures 4.7 on the Richter scale, he says.

For years a statue of Cupid attracted little attention in the lobby of a New York City mansion. Now art experts say it's likely the work of Michelangelo.

Top 10 Movies in the US, By Per-screen Revenue, Jan. 19-21

Today we begin a new measure of movie popularity - per-screen revenue. It gauges community response to a film and word-of-mouth publicity. Movie titles are followed by per-screen revenue, the number of theater locations, and number of weeks in release.

1. ''Dead Man Walking,'' $9,571, 180 screens, 4 weeks.

2. ''Leaving Las Vegas,'' $6,830, 206 screens, 13 weeks.

3. ''Mr. Holland's Opus,'' $6,570, 1,409 screens, 3 weeks.

4. ''Sense and Sensibility''; $5,555; 595 screens; 6 weeks.

5. ''From Dusk Till Dawn,'' $5,110; 2,004 screens; 1 week.

6. ''12 Monkeys,'' $3,845, 1,610 screens, 4 weeks.

7. ''Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood,'' $3,574, 1,010 screens, 2 weeks.

8. ''Eye for an Eye,'' $3,240, 1,680 screens, 2 weeks.

9. ''Grumpier Old Men,'' $2,668, 1,901 screens, 5 weeks.

10. ''Heat,'' $2,467, 1,506 screens, 6 weeks.

- Exhibitor Relations (Los Angeles)/AP

''I believe in freedom of the press. But now I rejoice in freedom from the press.''

- Former President George Bush at a Greater Washington Society of Association Executives Foundation lecture series.

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