News In Brief

The US

President Clinton chose UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright and Sen. William Cohen as his new secretary of state and defense secretary, a White House official said on condition of anonymity. Albright would be the first female secretary of state. Cohen is a Republican. The official said Clinton had decided to name national security adviser Tony Lake as the new CIA director - and to replace Lake with Sandy Berger, his deputy.

The world's nuclear powers should begin negotiating new nuclear treaties, an international group of 60 generals and admirals said in a joint statement. The group, which includes retired US Air Force Gen. George Lee Butler, also called for removal of nuclear warheads from all missiles - in effect taking such weapons off alert status.

Clinton wants to travel to Latin America in the first half of 1997, the White House said. The president planned to discuss the idea with visiting Argentine President Carlos Menem during a meeting later in the day, aides said.

Hawaii was granted permission to continue banning same-sex marriages, pending appeal of a ruling that the ban is discriminatory, a state court ruled. The appeal process is expected to take at least a year.

Fifty-six men were executed in 16 states last year, the most since 1957, the Justice Department reported. Those executed had been on death row an average of 11 years, two months - about a year longer than the 31 inmates executed in 1994.

Republican requests for a special prosecutor to investigate the immigration service's citizenship program were rejected by the Justice Department. Rep. William Zeliff (R) of New Hampshire and four members of his House criminal justice subcommittee had charged that thousands of ineligible aliens were given US citizenship in a effort to win votes for Democrats in the last election. The Justice Department said it was imposing new rules on the citizenship program.

Eight days of sensitive US military logs from the Gulf war are missing after an exhaustive search, The New York Times reported. The logs were supposed to record any incidents in which chemical or biological agents might have affected US troops.

Cloudy skies forced NASA to cancel a scheduled return to Earth by the space shuttle Columbia . The one-day delay will make this Columbia voyage the second-longest shuttle flight ever. The mission, which began Nov. 19, was marred by a jammed airlock hatch that forced cancellation of two space walks.

Anxious parents are competing fiercely for some best-selling Christmas toys, retailers said. In some cases, mothers and fathers have lined up by the hundreds before dawn in front of stores rumored to have popular items. Among the most coveted: Tickle Me Elmo, the latest Nintendo, and Barbie on CD-ROM.

A US watchdog group criticized the Clinton administration and other major world governments for putting profits ahead of human rights. But officials of Human Rights Watch credited growing consumer aversion to products made under harsh labor conditions for helping to counter the trend. Policies of the US, Japan, the European Union, and the World Bank came under particularly strong attack.

Makers of coin-operated arcade games deserve very low marks for efforts to rate their products for sexual and violent content, the National Institute on Media and the Family said in a report based on a private survey. Makers of video and computer games began rating their products in 1994.

Two-thirds of plants and animals protected as endangered species are in decline or their status is unknown, the Environmental Defense Fund said. A fund report said fewer than one in 10 of the protected species is growing in number.

Workplace productivity fell 0.3 percent at an annual rate during the July to September quarter, the Labor Department reported.

The World

The Serbian government announced a series of moves that critics said were aimed at "buying" its way out of confrontations with angry protesters. Belgrade newspapers said overdue pensions and student loans would be paid and recently raised electricity rates would be cut. The annulment of local elections won by opposition candidates triggered 16 straight days of street demonstrations in Belgrade.

Serbia's Foreign Minister pledged that the independent radio station shut by the government in Belgrade earlier this week for its coverage of the protests would soon be permitted back on the air. The announcement came at the close of a 43-nation conference in London on implementation of the Bosnian peace agreement. The US warned at the meeting that indicted war criminals still at large in Bosnia could expect an intensified effort to bring them before the international tribunal in The Hague.

Security across France was tightened even further in the wake of this week's bomb attack on a Paris subway train. Army troops joined police in patrolling border crossings, tourist sites, transportation terminals, and the shopping districts of major cities. School entrances were protected against possible car bombs by special crash barriers, and workers sealed thousands of public toilets and trash bins in metropolitan Paris.

UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali suspended his candidacy for a second term, and African governments were expected to offer new nominations for the post. Some diplomats called Boutros-Ghali's decision a face-saving maneuver to keep from seeing his support dwindle in the Security Council after the US vetoed his nomination last month. The New York Times reported that the US had offered him the leadership of a foundation in his own name if he would step down from the UN post.

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat said he was willing to meet Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for a discussion on redeploying troops on the West Bank. A Netanyahu aide said remaining differences on the issue could be resolved in one session and that the pullback from Hebron could be completed as early as this weekend. It is already nine months behind schedule.

Antigovernment rebels in Tajikistan widened their assault by attacking a Russian helicopter base. Officials said at least 40 people have died and more than 100 others have been taken prisoner by the militants since last weekend. In New York, a UN Security Council diplomat described the situation as "deteriorating." The on-again-off-again rebel campaign began after the Tajik government won a civil war in 1993. The government is supported by some 25,000 Russian troops.

India pledged not to begin producing a new class of medium-range missiles unless national security is threatened. The Agni system is considered a potential deterrent against China, with which India has a longstanding border dispute, and critics attacked the New Delhi government for announcing its decision on the heels of a state visit by Chinese President Jiang Zemin. But India has also been under pressure from the US to roll back its missile program.

Striking coal miners in Russia are being sent $236 million in emergency payments, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said. That is $34 million less than the miners say they are owed in back wages. In announcing the move, Chernomyrdin acknowledged the failure of previously promised subsidies to arrive. Estimates put the number of strikers at between 61,000 and 400,000.

Etceteras

" Parents are breaking down doors for some of these toys. There's not just one hit this year, but a couple that everyone wants."

- Frank Reysen, editor of Playthings magazine, on soaring demand for this season's hit toys.

When read over the radio, do Web site addresses go by faster than you can write them down? If you live in New York, California, or the Canadian provinces of Quebec or Ontario, that may not matter soon. Early next year, phone directories in those areas will offer the option of listing e-mail and Web page addresses alongside customers' telephone numbers. Bell Canada is already taking orders for the service.

Schools of journalism are supposed to turn out the reporters and editors of tomorrow. But the one at Columbia University in New York was unwittingly producing something else as well - counterfeit money. Until federal agents intervened, four former Columbia students were using a color copier in the basement to print bogus $20 bills, which experts judged to be of "fair" quality. Court documents allege that more than $80,000 of the funny money was spent around the city.

The Day's List

States in Which English Is the Official Language The US Supreme Court has heard a challenge to Arizona's 1988 statute making English the official language. States with similar statutes and the year in which each went on the books:

Alabama 1990

Arkansas 1987

California 1986

Colorado 1989

Florida 1988

Georgia 1986

Hawaii 1978

Illinois 1923

Indiana 1984

Kentucky 1984

Mississippi 1987

Montana 1995

Nebraska 1920

New Hampshire 1995

North Carolina 1987

North Dakota 1987

South Carolina 1987

South Dakota 1995

Tennessee 1984

Virginia 1996

Wyoming 1996

- Congressional Hispanic Caucus/Associated Press

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