News In Brief

THE US

Green Bay, Wis., embraced its Packers with a homecoming parade and rally after the team's 35-21 Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots. President Clinton congratulated the winners by telephone and praised the game's most valuable player, Desmond Howard, for his 99-yard kickoff return that resulted in a key touchdown late in the third quarter.

All four regions of the US shared in record sales of previously owned homes last year, the National Association of Realtors reported. The 4.09 million rec-ord broke a previous high of 3.99 million set in 1978. Still, sales in December fell 3.5 percent.

The US must remain assertive militarily and diplomatically in the world. That's the message being conveyed by newly confirmed Secretary of State Mad-eleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen. Albright is promoting NATO expansion to Eastern European countries. Co-hen, the only Republican in Clinton's Cabinet, is supporting an administration plan to put off a decision until at least 2000 on deploying a national missile defense system. He also said he would continue the "don't ask, don't tell" policy on homosexuals in the military.

Are several political donations to the Democratic Party linked to White House functions where corporate leaders were invited to hob-nob with the president? Democratic Party records indicate that guests wrote ample checks just before or after their visits. But Democrats say no requests for donations were made at the events. Holding fund-raisers at the White House would be illegal in most cases.

Unionized GM workers at a truck assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio, began their second day of strike after refusing to accept a tentative, three-year contract midnight Saturday. About 4,300 workers walked off the job because the company didn't resolve some 800 grievances, including one over the firing of 50 employees, the union's shop chairman said.

Pricey peas and costly corn: That's what American consumers can expect over the next few weeks as vegetable prices soar as much as 33 percent, economists say. The culprit? Winter, which unexpectedly plunged Florida temperatures to 19 degrees F. a week ago.

New York became the latest state to file a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. Attorney General Dennis Vacco accused six major companies of deceiving New Yorkers about the dangers of smoking and "illegally luring teenagers into smoking cigarettes."

Most spouses and dependent children of legal immigrants trying to gain citizenship must wait a minimum of 3.11 years to be admitted into the US, according to State Department figures. That's longer than in the past, and indicates a problem in the immigration system, according to a congressionally appointed study panel. Mexicans normally wait even longer - at least 4.8 years. Spouses and children of people who have attained US citizenship are admitted immediately.

A bomb that exploded outside a Wells Fargo Bank in Vallejo, Calif., caused extensive damage to automated teller machines. No injuries were reported, and no money was taken from the machines. Hours earlier, Vallejo children found a large bomb of dynamite and detonating devices propped against a public library that has a police evidence room in its basement. Experts dismantled the device.

Honda Accords were the most frequently stolen cars in the US in 1996, according to CCC Information Services of Detroit. The 1994 Accord E-X ranked No. 1. The Accord has ranked among the best-selling cars in the US for years.

Who's the Republican Party front-runner for the 2000 presidential elections? Colin Powell, according to a new Louis Harris poll. Other strong contenders, according to the poll, are Jack Kemp, former Vice President Dan Quayle, and Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

THE WORLD

A massive religious procession through Belgrade tested police willingness to crack down on opposition to Serbian President Milosevic. The march, led by Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Pavle was the largest of its type in the city since World War II. Police, who earlier had blocked student protesters from the same route, let it pass by. Pavle supports the pro-democracy rallies that have been a daily occurrence in Belgrade for 10 weeks.

Yasser Arafat now has pledged not to declare an independent Palestinian state before reaching final peace terms with Israel, a Jerusalem newspaper reported. Last week, the Palestinian Authority president said he would declare statehood over Israeli objections when the time was right. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu warned that he had a contingency plan to counter such a move.

Negotiations on the political future of Northern Ireland resumed, with US mediator George Mitchell declining to speculate on how to break the deadlock that has prevailed since they began. The resumption came against a backdrop of new bomb attacks. Meanwhile, police in Londonderry sealed off a Cath-olic neighborhood because of a bomb threat. It turned out to be a hoax.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin canceled a state visit to the Netherlands next week, and his office said no return to work was imminent. The word came amid increased concern about Yeltsin's health. He has spent only two weeks at his Kremlin desk since undergoing surgery in early November. No mention was made of a scheduled meeting Sunday with visiting French President Chirac.

Voter turnout in Chechnya was heavy despite tight security and biting cold, as the breakaway region chose a president and Parliament. The election was part of a peace deal with Russia, ending a costly fight for independence. The leading presidential candidates vowed to claim Chechen sovereignty. But the Kremlin has threatened to cut ties with any government that formally recognizes Chechnya.

Five former South African policemen admitted responsibility for the 1977 death of internationally known anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, a Port Elizabeth newspaper reported. It said the men were preparing amnesty applications to be presented to the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Biko's death from beatings allegedly inflicted while he was in police custody became a symbol of apartheid brutality.

A public-opinion survey in Pakistan showed ex-Prime Minister Bhutto would lose her bid for reelection if voters went to the polls today. The survey found 33 percent of respondents support-ed her main rival, Nawaz Sharif, while 25 percent favored Bhutto. The vote is scheduled for Feb. 3. Bhutto was dismissed in November by President Farooq Leghari on grounds of misuse of her office. She denies guilt, but her attempts to win reinstatement have been rejected by the courts.

Albania's parliament gave President Berisha increased powers to quell unrest, after an-gry crowds in several cities attacked police and ransacked buildings in continuing protests against the collapse of pyramid investment schemes. The government is blamed for the collapses, which have cost thousands of Albanians their life savings.

An estimated 10,000 impoverished protesters from rural Thailand refused to vacate government property in Bangkok until solutions to their grievances were found. Protest leaders met with Prime Minister Yongchai-yudh to demand higher prices for their produce, freedom from debts owed to a state-owned bank, and resolution of land disputes.

ETCETERAS

These are difficult times. And this is where we can find spiritual strength."

- Belgrade resident Mirjana Baltic, on the largest religious procession in the city since World War II, which many Serbs said was a way of expressing national unity.

Remember Izzy, the cartoon-like mascot of last summer's Olympic Games in Atlanta? You don't? Critics in Australia worry that you won't remember the mascot of the 2000 Olympics at Sydney, either. That's because organizers there rejected the country's world-famous symbols - the koala and kangaroo - in favor of the lesser-known echidna (a burrowing creature covered in quills), kookaburra (a bird whose call sounds like a giggle), and duck-billed platypus. But at least they have cute names: Milly, Olly, and Syd, respectively.

The SP2 taxi company in Paris has acknowledged that the city's notorious traffic jams are just too tough to deal with - at least in a conventional cab. So SP2 now ferries its passengers to rush-hour appointments by motorcycle, complete with helmets for safety and leather jackets to wear over their business clothes.

If you know little else about Siberia, you probably at least know that it's cold and bleak there in winter, with little to do until spring arrives. Maybe that explains why an unidentified man walked into a station on the Baikal-Amur railroad line earlier this month, posing as an engineer. He talked his way past the duty officer, climbed into a locomotive, and took it for a joyride. The locomotive was found abandoned late that night. Police are searching for clues to the culprit's identity.

THE DAY'S LIST

People Who Keep the Letter Carrier Busiest

Have you ever written a fan letter to a favorite entertainer or sports star? The following celebrities receive the most fan mail, according to Michael Levine, author of "The Address Book - How to Reach Anyone Who's Anyone."

Nobel Peace Prize-winner Mother Teresa

Pope John Paul II

President Bill Clinton

Basketball star Michael Jordan

Singer/actress Madonna

Actor Christopher Reeves

Actor Brad Pitt

- Associated Press

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