News In Brief

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THE US

President Clinton planned to propose raising federal education spending to $29 billion for fiscal 1998, up from $26.3 billion this year, during a news conference. The plan would expand Pell grants and increase funding from $2,700 to $3,000 per student, administration sources said. Money to pay for the proposal would come from shifting funds from a tuition tax-credit plan proposed earlier by Clinton.

Consumer confidence rose 2.6 points in January to a seven-year high of 116.8, the Conference Board reported. It was the third consecutive monthly increase. The confidence index is calculated from a 1985 base of 100 and is derived from a survey of 5,000 households. Participants are asked whether job availability, business conditions, and family incomes will be better or worse six months from now.

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US workers' compensation in 1996 rose slightly faster than a year earlier, the Labor Department said. Pay and benefits combined rose 2.9 percent, up from 2.7 percent in 1995, but smaller than the 3 percent gain of 1994. And compensation rose 0.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 1996.

Clinton's pick for transportation secretary, Rodney Slater, is scheduled to appear before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee today. He is all but assured of Senate confirmation, several Republican aides said. But Clinton's pick for labor secretary, Alexis Herman, will likely face a battle. Republicans are concerned about her work on White House political activities and relationship to John Huang, a Democratic fund-raiser under investigation for questionable campaign contributions. She is not yet scheduled for confirmation hearings.

Hilton Head Corp. launched a $6.5 billion hostile bid to acquire ITT Corp., which owns Sheraton Hotels, Madison Square Garden, and the New York Knicks and Rangers sports franchises. A merger would create the world's largest owner of big hotels and casinos.

FBI officials were to meet with a Senate panel to discuss why some FBI crime lab workers were transferred after making allegations that resulted in a Justice Department investigation of the agency. Whistleblower Frederic Whitehurst, alleged a pro-prosecution bias and mishandling of evidence in crime-lab work or testimony on several high-profile federal cases. The Oklahoma City bombing is said to be one case that's been jeopardized. Whitehurst faces severe penalties for possible leaks to the news media.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott took issue with Clinton's plan to cut $100 billion in Medicare by cutting payments to HMOs and hospitals over five years. The proposed cuts could reduce needed care for the elderly, he told the American Hospital Association in Washington. Senior citizens, especially those who are well off, should pay higher premiums, Lott added.

The largest association of black churches began a three-year, $12-million campaign to rebuild burned-out churches in the South. The Congress of National Black Churches Inc. said it also will head up arson-suppression efforts. Some $6 million for the campaign was donated by the Indianapolis-based Lilly Foundation and the rest will come from fund-raising, it said.

The jury was expected to begin deliberations in the wrongful death trial against O. J. Simpson. At least nine of the 12 jurors must find him responsible for the June 12, 1994, murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman for their families to be awarded damages.

Newly released documents held for decades in Russian secret files show that more than 200 US Air Force fliers captured during the Korean War divulged valuable information - from the latest weaponry to troop sleeping times. The Soviets often masked their involvement by eavesdropping on interrogations by Chinese or North Korean officers. The records surfaced during a joint US-Russian probe into what happened to missing POWs.

THE WORLD

Separatist military chief Aslan Maskhadov neared victory in Chechnya's presidential election, according to elections commission reports. With the count almost complete, Maskhadov had 63 percent of the vote, to 27 percent for his nearest rival, guerrilla leader Shamil Basayev. In Moscow, the Russian government said it would "look for a way to cooperate" with the winner.

Russian President Yeltsin showed up for work at the Kremlin, one day after his office announced he had no immediate plans to do so. Yeltsin also had canceled an official visit to the Netherlands next week, increasing public speculation that his health was not improving.

Japan called for restraint in Peru's handling of the hostage crisis in Lima. Leftist rebels holding 72 hostages inside the Japanese ambassador's residence shot at police who were staging a show of force outside. One vehicle was struck repeatedly. It was the first time since the episode began that gunfire endangered anyone.

Serbian opposition leaders said they would again appeal a ruling that overturned their election victory in Belgrade city government. A district court struck down the election outcome for the second time after it was endorsed by the city elections commission. The court is believed to be controlled by ruling Socialist Party President Milosevic.

Bulgaria's ruling Socialist Party ignored an appeal by President Stoyanov and said it would form a new government. Stoyanov had urged the Socialists to bow to opposition demands for an early election in hopes of ending the country's severe economic crisis. It has led to 21 straight days of street protests in Sofia, the capital.

Albania's ruling Democratic Party staged a counter-rally to denounce the protests and violence sweeping the country over failed pyramid investment schemes. Thousands of people chanting pro-government slogans gathered in the capital, Tirana, to hear a speech by President Berisha. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund offered to help end the crisis, which has plunged many Albanians into financial ruin.

Hard-line Tutsi and Hutu political leaders boycotted a so-called "national debate" on peace in Burundi. The military-backed government of Maj. Pierre Buyoya, a Tutsi, called the process a first step to peace but said it was not the start of negotiations with Hutu rebels. He also called for an end to the economic boycott of Burundi by neighboring nations.

For the second time in a month, the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia warned Americans living there to exercise "extreme caution" because of possible new terrorist attacks. Two bomb explosions in the past 14 months took the lives of 24 Americans in the kingdom.

Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi denounced the sentencing of 14 more Burmese for political agitation. She said they were tried secretly, without benefit of defense counsel. The military junta said five of them belonged to Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy and were involved in antigovernment demonstrations last month. The junta announced 20 similar convictions Jan. 18.

Public opinion in Britain is heavily against spending tax money for a new royal yacht, a poll conducted for The Guardian newspaper found. More than 70 percent of respondents said they opposed using public funds for a new vessel. It was proposed as a symbol of national pride but has become a controversial political issue. The yacht would cost an estimated $100 million.

Taiwan's Cabinet canceled five trade exchanges with arch-rival China, but denied published reports that the move had political implications. A newspaper in the capital, Taipei, had said the budgets for the exchange programs were cut to protest China's latest attempts to isolate Taiwan diplomatically.

ETCETERAS

This election is about our freedom. The Chechen people have waited hundreds of years for this."

- Former Chechen rebel Hassan Khalidov, on the vote for president and parliament in the breakaway region, a concession from Russia as part of a peace deal.

Looking for some charming waterfront property at a bargain price? The US government has just the thing, and there are almost 200 options to choose from. One catch: Your new investment will come with a powerful automated beacon above the living quarters. The properties are available because the Coast Guard is giving up all but one of its lighthouses on the Great Lakes. If state or local governments don't want them, they'll be auctioned.

State revenue officials in New Jersey think there's more dough in the pizza business than local shop operators admit. To reverse the estimated $50 million a year in unpaid taxes, officials now will compare the size of orders placed with suppliers of sauce, cheese, and other ingredients to the volume of sales that pizzerias report.

The Church of England says a London newspaper caught some of its priests "on the hop" when they failed a test on the Ten Commandments. Only 34 percent of the priests surveyed by the Sunday Times could recite all of the commandments without prompting. "Given time, they would," a spokesman said, adding that it's substance, not words, that counts.

THE DAY'S LIST

How Super Bowl XXXI Rated Among US Viewers

The Packers-Patriots game, televised by the Fox Network, reached an estimated 128.9 million viewers in the US, earning a 43.3 rating, as measured by Nielsen Media Research. (The overseas audience added millions more to that estimate.) It was Fox's best rating yet.

The top five Super Bowl ratings.

1. 1982 (San Francisco '49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals), CBS 49.1

2. 1983 (Washington Redskins vs. Miami Dolphins), NBC 48.6

3. 1986 (Chicago Bears vs. New England Patriots), NBC 48.3

4. 1978 (Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos), CBS 47.2

5. 1979 (Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys), NBC 47.1

- Associated Press

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