News In Brief

The US

The Clinton administration released a report geared at cutting the rate of airline accidents by 80 percent. The report from the White House Commission on Aviation Safety also includes recommendations for modernizing the air traffic control system and stepping up the fight against terrorism.

US Rep. Bill Richardson (D) of New Mexico received Senate confirmation as US ambassador to the UN. (Story, Page 1.) But Senate committees again postponed hearings for Anthony Lake, President Clinton's choice to head the CIA, on grounds that one of his aides met with a foreign business executive who made illegal contributions to the Democratic National Committee. And it postponed hearings for Federico Pea, Clinton's nominee for energy secretary, saying it wants more information on his role in a decision by the Coast Guard to cancel a contract.

Clinton and Republican lawmakers met to identify areas of common ground. They agreed to set up working groups on education, welfare reform, taxes, juvenile crime, and bailing out the financially troubled District of Columbia.

American Airlines and the Allied Pilots Association resumed talks to avert a pilot strike this weekend at the nation's largest domestic airline. The company and union have been battling over the contract for more than two years. Lawmakers have ask-ed Clinton to intervene.

Two more women, and possibly a third, alleged sexual harassment by now-suspended Sgt. Maj. of the Army Gene McKinney. The allegations were made in addition to those by Sgt. Maj. Bren-da Hoster, a former member of his staff, that he demanded sexual favors from her. Also, 11 US Army soldiers - apparently all female - alleged sexual assault or harassment by three male instructors at an Army training center in Darmstadt, Germany, a US military newspaper reported.

After a 16-year, $1.5 billion federal effort to build computer systems to track parents skirting child support, only 12 states have operational systems, the Associated Press reported. Yet collections were $12 billion last year, compared to $8 billion in 1992.

ITT Corp, owner of Sheraton hotels, rejected a $6.5 billion hostile takeover bid by Hilton Hotels Corp. The offer was too low and raised too many conflicts between the two chains, an ITT representative said.

Harold Ickes, senior aide for Clinton's 1996 reelection campaign, told the Los Angeles Times that he made some fund-raising mistakes, but denied breaking any laws. Ickes is under congressional investigation for soliciting campaign funds. Also, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee has prepared reams of subpoenas relating to Democratic Party fund-raising. Among other things, the panel wants to know whether coveted spaces on US trade missions led by the late Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown were given to businesses in exchange for donations.

Smugglers are skirting around US destroyers in the Gulf to ship thousands of tons of Iraqi fuel in violation of UN sanctions, a top US admiral said. Crews of intercepted ships claim that Iranian authorities are taking a cut of the profits. Some smuggled diesel oil is unloaded at ports in the United Arab Emirates, he added. The UN agreed last December to the sale of limited amounts of Iraqi oil, under its supervision.

Florida's Supreme Court reinstated a stay prohibiting a man diagnosed with AIDS from committing suicide with his doctor's help. Charles Hall won a lawsuit Jan. 31 to commit doctor-assisted suicide. Also, Michigan Dr. Jack Kevorkian won't be prosecuted for the death of a California woman whose body was found Feb. 3 in a van registered to him unless new evidence surfaces, investigators said.

The World

Serbian opposition leaders celebrated a new law recognizing their victories in local elections. But in a warning to President Milosevic, they said they viewed the move as only the first round in a campaign for more democracy. Analysts say the opposition now faces a vital choice between continuing street pro-tests and shifting the focus to reform of government institutions.

Amid tight security, Chechnya's new president, Aslan Mas-khadov, took his oath of office. He pledged to strengthen the breakaway republic's self-proclaimed independence from Russia. Russia's security chief, Ivan Rybkin, attended the inauguration, but the Kremlin has threatened to cut ties with any country that recognizes Chechen sovereignty.

One of the architects of North Korean communism asked for political asylum in rival South Korea. Hwang Jang Yop, a close adviser to government head Kim Jong Il, defected while on a visit to neighboring China. Analysts said he could provide vital information on the North's secretive affairs and that his defection suggests a high-level power struggle there.

President Suharto of Indonesia warned his country's news media against imitating the way foreign journalists cover political developments. He said recent accounts of ethnic violence and the prodemocracy movement did not reflect Indonesian "values" and made many people "restless." At least 39 people have died in clashes between Muslims and Christians there since Jan. 29.

New antigovernment protests in Albania were headed off by hundreds of security police in the capital, Tirana. But thousands of demonstrators were back in the streets of the city of Vlora, which has been the scene of daily protests against President Berisha. Many Albanians hold him responsible for the collapse of pyramid investment schemes that have cost them their life savings.

"Not a single area" of the Rwanda war-crimes tribunal functions effectively, the UN was told. The findings of an internal review presented to new Secretary-General Kofi Anan said the court established to prosecute genocide cases was fraught with mismanagement and frequently violated UN rules. So far, only one case has come before it.

The Tajikistan government sent helicopters to bring 40 rebels home from exile in neighboring Afghanistan - in a bid to win release of UN hostages being held by the rebel leader's brother. Bakhram Sadirov had threatened to execute the hostages by Feb. 12 if his brother, Rizvon, was not permitted to return. Bakhram Sadirov heads a guerrilla force that has waged a four-year war against Tajik authority.

Germans who have jobs should be prepared for little or no increase in pay in the next few years, Chancellor Kohl said. He told the newspaper Bild that "doing without growth in prosperity" was necessary to improve job prospects for a record 4.7 million unemployed Germans. Opposition leaders said such a strategy would further weaken the economy by lowering consu-mer buying power.

Separatist rebels were blam-ed for an attack on a village in India's Tripura state that left at least 17 people dead and 20 others wounded. Officials said security forces were searching for militants from the All Tripura Tiger Force, whose assault east of the capital, Agartala, was the latest in a series of incidents aimed mostly at immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

Etceteras

It was hairy. One little Iranian gunboat had two $800 million destroyers totally tied up."

- An unidentified US Navy officer, on claims that Iran is helping to smuggle Iraqi oil in violation of UN sanctions.

George and Gaynel Couron vowed nothing would keep them apart when they met in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 1916. Eighty-one years later, they're still together in the longest-lasting marriage in the US, according to the group Worldwide Marriage Encounter. The couple now live in Sacramento, Calif., where they've kept busy with 14 children, 43 grandchildren, 75 great-grandchildren, and at least 30 great-great-grandchildren.

Butch McCormick was hunting in western Maine when his dog, Dodger, became lost. No problem: Dodger wears a radio collar, so tracking him figured to be easy. But to escape the cold, Dodger had crawled into a small cave that turned out to have a hibernating bear in it. Apparently mistaking the dog for one of her cubs, the drowsy bear tried to keep him from leaving when Butch and a friend arrived. Dodger was rescued with only a bite on one ear. A shaggy dog story? No; Butch recorded it all on videotape.

Just in time for Presidents' Day, Fremont, Ohio, is honoring all 42 US chief executives with an exhibition at its Rutherford B. Hayes Center. Among the mementos: Calvin Coolidge's 800-pound electric hobby horse and Bill Clinton's saxophone.

The Day's List

Valentine's Day Rings Up Big Sales for Retailers

Roses are red, violets are blue, lovers like Valentine's Day - and retailers, too. The following statistics from the National Retail Federation indicate the depth of feeling both groups have for this annual commemoration.

More than 1 billion Valentine's Day greeting cards were sold last year.

Valentine's Day ranks third for floral sales, following Christmas and Mother's Day.

Some 146 million roses were sold last Valentine's Day.

Some 73 percent of men buy flowers on Valentine's Day; 27 percent of women do the same.

Jewelry worth more than $1.2 billion was sold in February 1996.

Some 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate were sold for Valentine's Day, 1995.

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