News In Brief

The US

Several White House changes were to be announced. Bruce Reed, an aide of the president's, is expected to replace domestic policy adviser Carol Rasco, who said she is leaving. Federal Highway Administrator Rodney Slater is President Clinton's choice to replace Transportation Secretary Frederico Pea, administration officials said on condition of anonymity. Clinton labor secretary choices narrowed to: White House aide Alexis Herman, Rep. Esteban Torres (D) of California, and former Missouri Congressman Alan Wheat. Top candidates to replace Hazel O'Leary as energy secretary: Chang-Lin Tien, chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Elizabeth Moller.

Clinton formally approved NATO's plan for a 31,000-member peacekeeping force to begin its mission in Bosnia tomorrow. The force, which has an 18-month mandate, is to include 8,300 Americans. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary William Perry, meeting with NATO colleagues in Brussels, pushed for a specially trained police force to hunt down indicted war criminals in Bosnia.

Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh announced a news conference to discuss the arrest of an FBI agent, who has been accused of spying for Russia. Federal officials said the agent, who worked at the FBI facility in Quantico, Va., was arrested yesterday.

The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged, apparently unfazed by new strength in housing and manufacturing.

A bipartisan group of 13 mayors planned to meet with Clinton to discuss urban issues. On their agenda: budgetary concerns, public safety, welfare reform.

The UN General Assembly confirmed the Security Council's election of Kofi Annan of Ghana as secretary-general. Annan has pledged to streamline the UN's costs. House Republicans say the world body must clear several hurdles before it will support a Clinton administration plan for the US to pay off the $1 billion it owes the UN in back dues.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld almost $2 billion in damages against Ferdinand Marcos's estate for the tortures and killings of nearly 10,000 Filipinos during his 14-year rule. It upheld an earlier verdict in Hawaii. It was the first international human rights suit ever tried as a class action, a lawyer said.

The nation's air is significantly cleaner than it was 25 years ago, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Levels of six major pollutants targeted by the EPA have decreased nearly 30 percent during that time even though the economy has doubled, a new report states. But the EPA says 3 in 10 Americans still breathe air that doesn't meet existing standards.

Evan Hunziker, who was recently freed from North Korea, committed suicide in Tacoma, Wash. He was accused by North Korea of spying and held there for three months. He was released just before Thanksgiving after Bill Richardson (D) of New Mexico negotiated his release.

A banker won a $10 million judgment in a libel suit against ABC over a "20/20" segment about a complex financial deal at the height of the savings and loan crisis. Alan Levan charged the network and producer ruined his reputation. The 1991 report focused on the chief executive of BankAtlantic and his real estate partners, who said he bilked them in deals called roll-ups.

Piracy of software programs worldwide rose 9 percent in 1995 to $13.1 billion for US and foreign companies, according to a study by International Planning and Research of Redmond, Wash. But the worldwide piracy rate - the estimated percentage of all software illegally copied - fell to an estimated 46 percent in 1995 from 49 percent in 1994. Dollar losses grew because the volume of software sold globally rose, the study said.

A long-lost, 150-year-old photo of abolitionist John Brown goes on display at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington today. The primitive daguerreotype was made by the son of a former slave in about 1847.

The World

Armed guerrillas from the leftist Tupac Amaru movement threatened to begin executing the first of 300 hostages inside the Japanese ambassador's residence in Peru as the Monitor went to press. The rebels were demanding that Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori personally negotiate the release from prison of their comrades. They released about 170 other guests unharmed, among them Fujimori's mother. Many of the hostages were ambassadors who had been attending a reception.

Opposition leaders accused Serbian President Milosevic of "mockery" after a new turn in the country's ongoing political confrontation. A local election that the opposition had won was first annulled by Milosevic-controlled courts, then ordered reinstated. But elections officials in Smederevska Palanka refused the reinstatement order Tuesday. Milosevic then demanded that his Justice Ministry investigate the matter. Meanwhile, demonstrators were back in the streets of Belgrade for another day of anti-Milosevic protests.

Israeli forces and Hizbullah guerrillas traded gunfire in south Lebanon after some of the guerrillas were spotted attempting to infiltrate a security zone. Three Hizbullah members were reported killed in the 30-minute exchange. The battle followed an international investigation into a rocket attack on an Israeli village late last week.

The UN said it was suspending night operations designed to help Hutu refugees return home to Rwanda. The announcement was made after one of its convoys was fired on at a military checkpoint near the border with Tanzania. The UN said the suspension was indefinite. A spokesman put the number of Hutus who have returned so far from Tanzania at 225,000.

Most international aid agencies pulled their staffs out of Chechnya following the murders of six Red Cross hospital workers Monday night. The attack was the worst involving foreign nationals since the war for independence from Russia began there in 1994. No group has claimed responsibility for the killings. Russian officials said the incident was intended to disrupt Chechnya's elections, scheduled for Jan. 27.

Government troops in Tajikistan subjected cease-fire monitors to a mock execution, the UN said. A statement said the incident last weekend was the second of its type in less than a month. The soldiers were accused of forcing two UN observer teams to stand in a field while machine-gun fire was sprayed around them. Negotiations were scheduled for today in Moscow to end a four-year civil war in the former Soviet republic.

Beleaguered British Prime Minister John Major got some good news - a drop in unemployment that far exceeded government expectations. The number of working-age Britons without jobs fell below 2 million - or 6.9 percent of the workforce - in November for the first time in six years. Major, whose Conservative Party trails badly in public opinion polls and has lost its majority in parliament, called the data "magnificent."

The European Union officially announced its concern over the planned merger of US aerospace manufacturers Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. EU Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert said the deal - if approved by regulators and stockholders - posed a potential threat to fair international competition. He warned that the EU could exercise its power to block the merger.

The South African government formally converted the prison where President Nelson Mandela spent 27 years behind bars, into a museum. Mandela was one of about 3,000 black activists confined to windswept Robben Island at various times during the apartheid era. In earlier years, the island housed lepers and the mentally ill.

Etceteras

"This hits at the heart of the Red Cross and ... at the motivation of every one of us who is working for the humanitarian good."

- International Red Cross official Jean de Courten, after six of the agency's workers were murdered in Chechnya.

If you were planning to buy Christmas presents by phone from a mail-order house - and it's still not too late to do that at many of them - AT&T suggests you put it off a little longer. The phone company says the number of calls to the popular gift suppliers tends to be lightest after 11 p.m.

Headlines resulted when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences lost a court fight to keep the late Clark Gable's 1934 Best Actor award from being sold at auction. There were more headlines when an anonymous buyer paid $550,000 for the statuette. Now the buyer's identity has been revealed. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg emerged with the prize and donated it back to the grateful academy, which claims its Oscars aren't meant to be articles of trade.

It turns out that flamboyant pro basketball star Dennis Rodman has his eclectic side, too. The Chicago Bulls' ace rebounder - whose most recent antic was showing up for a book signing in a wedding gown - paid a record $827,500 for a 1907 Double Eagle gold coin, at auction. The coin, designed for President Theodore Roosevelt, is considered one of the most beautiful ever minted.

The Day's List

Top 10 Grossing Films in the US and Canada, for Dec. 13-15 Weekend

1. "Jerry Maguire," Sony, $17.1 million.

2. "Mars Attacks!", Warner Bros., $9.4 million.

3. "101 Dalmatians," Buena Vista, $8.9 million.

4. "The Preacher's Wife," Buena Vista, $7.6 million.

5. "Daylight," Universal, $4.1 million.

6. "Jingle All the Way," Fox, $4.1 million (more weeks in release, more locations than "Daylight")

7. "Star Trek: First Contact," Paramount, $3.4 million.

8. "Ransom," Buena Vista, $3 million.

9. "Space Jam," Warner Bros., $2.3 million.

10. "The English Patient," Miramax, $1.8 million.

- Exhibitor Relations/AP

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