News In Brief

By , Robert Kilborn, and Yvonne Zipp

THE US

President Clinton was out stumping in Florida, where his campaign's polling shows only about a six-point lead over GOP nominee Bob Dole. He then planned to wrap up a four-day campaign swing and fly back to Washington for a fund-raising dinner. Earlier, he announced that the number of Americans who own their own homes climbed to a record 66.3 million households this year. And he signed the War Crimes Disclosure Act, which urges federal agencies to make public any records they may have on Nazi war crimes.

Dole courted Georgia and Florida after a series of stops in Michigan and Ohio. The Southern states are traditional Republican strongholds where Democrats have made political inroads. Dole promised an upset akin to Harry Truman's narrow 1948 victory over Republican Thomas Dewey. A new Los Angeles Times poll of Californians over a five-day period that shows Clinton with a 20-point lead there.

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The Pentagon announced plans to send letters to 20,800 troops indicating they may have been exposed to chemical weapons during the destruction of an Iraqi ammunitions depot in 1991. It acknowledged that hundreds more nerve gas rockets may have been exploded than previously thought. Officials also are investigating a third explosion in addition to the detonation of two weapons sites, which is believed to have released up to 2 tons of sarin nerve gas.

A senior FBI official was charged with obstruction of justice in connection with the deadly 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Federal prosecutors in Washington said E. Michael Kahoe, chief of the FBI violent crimes section at the time, had destroyed an internal critique of FBI actions during the siege. Four other top agency officials remain under investigation in the coverup probe.

California Gov. Pete Wilson declared a state of emergency in three counties and asked for help from the federal government as fires in southern California continued to spread across 35,000 acres. More than 130 homes have been damaged or destroyed and six firefighters injured.

The Pentagon said the US might speed withdrawal of 15,000 US peacekeeping troops from Bosnia because of the delay in municipal elections there until June. It also said the Bosnian Serbs were "on probation" and could lose international aid or face new sanctions if they don't cooperate with the Organization for European Security and Cooperation on the polls. Meanwhile, the main shipment of a $100 million arms package from the US for Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation is due to arrive in the Adriatic port of Ploce tomorrow.

GM was expected to ratify a deal with striking Canadian auto workers in Detroit today after the two parties reached a tentative contract agreement. The key issue is outsourcing - the practice of farming out parts work to lower-cost, outside suppliers.

Norfolk Southern Corp. opened a railroad bidding war by offering $8.1 billion for Conrail Inc. - nearly $1 billion more than CSX's offer last week. CSX's cash and stock offer was for $8.4 billion, but its stock price has fallen more than 6 percent since the bid.

Black leaders convened an emergency meeting in Boston after Center for Disease Control statistics showed that blacks continue to have AIDS in disproportionately high numbers. The number of AIDS cases diagnosed among blacks and whites were, for the first time, equal in 1995. Both amounted to 40 percent of newly reported cases.

New population projections from the Census Bureau for the year 2000 could result in 11 seat changes in the House. The South and Rocky Mountain states are projected to gain; the Midwest and Northeast to lose. Texas, Georgia, and Arizona each could gain two seats, while New York and Pennsylvania each could lose two. But California wouldn't gain, despite a projected population increase. Each state is guaranteed one of the 435 House seats, and the rest are handed out based on population.

THE WORLD

French President Jacques Chirac's stormy visit to Israel ended with a speech to Palestinian legislators that drew a standing ovation. Chirac, the first foreign head of state to address the lawmakers, said the creation of a Palestinian state was the best hope for Middle East peace. He sharply criticized Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed Chirac's bid for a greater role in the peace process. Meanwhile, Palestinian negotiatiors said agreement was near on the redeployment of Israeli troops from Hebron, the last West Bank town they occupy.

Iraq's two feuding Kurdish factions agreed in principle to a new cease-fire and to more peace talks, US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pelletreau said. He met in neighboring Turkey with leaders of the Iranian-backed Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which has sided with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. But the KDP accused its rival of fresh attacks. Numerous cease-fires in the region have been broken since late 1994.

Queen Elizabeth II announced her government's last legislative agenda before British voters must go the the polls next year. Among the 13 initiatives: automatic life sentences for anyone convicted of a violent crime and a ban on most handguns.

Zaire accused Rwanda and Burundi of attacking camps in the refugee zone along their common border. Clashes between Zairean troops and Tutsi rebels have driven hundreds of thousands of Hutus who fled ethnic tensions in the two countries out of the camps. Relief workers said the Hutus and Zairean civilians fleeing the the fighting urgently needed food aid.

A leader in Aung San Suu Kyi's democracy movement in Burma was arrested and accused of helping students organize their largest protest in years. Kyi Muang, vice chairman of the National League for Democracy, was taken into custody after about 500 students staged a sit-down rally for six hours near Rangoon University to protest police brutality. The students insisted the demonstration was nonpolitical.

Norway's first woman prime minister - in a surprise announcement - said she will step down tomorrow after almost 15 years in office. Gro Harlem Brundtland remained politically popular despite staking her prestige on a losing vote for Norwegian membership in the European Union in 1994. She has frequently been mentioned as a possible candidate for the post of United Nations secretary-general now held by Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Norway is scheduled to hold national elections next September.

A US-owned Boeing 707 cargo plane bound for Miami crashed in flames shortly after takeoff in Ecuador. The plane came down in a residential neighborhood of Manta, about 160 miles from the capital, Quito. Officials said more than 20 people, among them the plane's four crewmen, were killed in the accident, which also destroyed many houses and a church.

Foreign investors should not be intimidated by Zimbabwe's campaign to reduce the economic power of whites, President Robert Mugabe said. He told an international conference in Harare, the capital, that his government encouraged joint ventures with outside companies as long as black Zimbabweans were involved. Critics said Mugabe wanted to head off criticism that he has taken an increasingly hard line against whites, who make up less than 1 percent of Zimbabwe's population.

ETCETERAS

"Islam allows women to have a life. Women should go to school, not be illiterate. We won't accept this."

- Fasyan, one of 400 Afghan women demonstrating against Taliban curbs that force females to stay at home.

The "Greatest Living Explorer" (according to "The Guinness Book of World Records") has come out of retirement to tackle the last great polar record. Britain's Sir Ranulph Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes is attempting to cross Antarctica alone and unaided. But he'll have some competition. At least three other explorers - a Norwegian, a Pole, and a South Korean - also plan to make the attempt.

Phoenix TV-station engineer Dean Fazzini takes the prize for stick-to-itiveness. In a local contest, he kept his lips pressed to a fishing boat for 71 hours, 15 minutes. The powerful pucker won him the $15,000 boat. The runner-up had to bow out when asked how he was doing. In answering, his lips lost contact.

First, they said they found life on Mars. Now, researchers have located oxygen on Jupiter's largest moon. Ganymede has a thin oxygen atmosphere and possibly auroras at its poles, Johns Hopkins University astronomer Doyle Hall reported. Still, there's no sign the moon supports life.

Maybe old money really is better: In the early 1960s, church treasurer Robert Zentz of Taneytown, Md., plucked a small fortune from the collection plate by replacing some old $10 bills with new ones. He put the old bills in a bank vault. One of the sawbucks, printed in 1905, is now worth $400. Zentz is selling the collection, with the proceeds benefiting the church.

THE DAY'S LIST

2000 Population Boom

Expected state population increases from 1995 to 2000, according to the Census Bureau.

1. Texas 1.395 million

2. Fla. 1.068 million

3. Calif. 932,000

4. Ga. 674,000

5. N.C. 582,000

6. Ariz. 580,000

7. Wash. 427,000

8. Colo. 422,000

9. Tenn. 401,000

10. Va. 379,000

- Associated Press

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