News In Brief

The US

A Senate panel asked President Clinton's legal defense fund to turn over complete records of its operations. The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is investigating alleged campaign-finance abuses. Among other things, Senate investigators are interested in $460,000 that US businessman Charles Yah Lin Trie delivered to the defense fund last March, a committee source said.

The president's proposal to allow drivers to disconnect air bags is "bad public policy," four former top US highway safety officials said. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at Clinton's urging, has proposed letting mechanics disconnect airbags for consumers in response to concerns about deaths caused by the devices. In a Feb. 5 letter, the four former NHTSA chiefs - three of whom served under Republican presidents, one under a Democrat - strongly opposed the proposal.

The US foreign trade deficit climbed to $114.2 billion in 1996, the worst showing in eight years, the Commerce Department said. The deficit with Japan narrowed to $47.7 billion, the smallest imbalance since 1991. But deficits with all other major trading partners worsened significantly.

Indiana became the 22nd state to sue the tobacco industry to recover millions of dollars spent treating smoking-related health problems. Indiana claims nine tobacco companies destroyed and concealed evidence on the dangers of smoking and violated the state's antitrust law by agreeing not to market safer cigarettes.

US Sen. John Glenn scheduled a news conference to discuss his future plans. The Ohio Democrat was expected to announce plans for retirement, but members of his staff were said to be holding out the possibility that he would announce another run for the Senate. On Feb. 20, 1962, Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth.

The Federal Communications Commission made 3-1-1 telephone numbers available to police departments nationwide for nonemergency distress calls. The new numbers are expected to make the emergency 9-1-1 system more responsive. Estimates of non-emergency 9-1-1 calls reportedly have ranged from 70 percent of all 9-1-1 calls in Norfolk, Va., to 90 percent in Arapahoe County, Colo.

The space shuttle Discovery was scheduled to land at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida early this morning after a 10-day mission to modernize the $2 billion Hubble Space Telescope. The telescope already has revolutionized astronomy with photos that look deeper into time and space than ever before.

The commander of a US training center in Darmstadt, Germany, was reassigned following allegations that three male instructors raped, sodomized, and harassed female GIs, the Army said. The report came as a team of Army investigators arrived in Germany to look into charges of sexual abuse at US bases there and in Italy and Bosnia. The Army's European headquarters set up a complaint hot line.

The armed services disbursed more than $200 million in flight pay over the past three years to people in nonflying jobs, congressional investigators said. A General Accounting Office study recommended review of some 10,000 nonflying positions to determine whether they could be handled by nonpilots.

A Republic of Georgia diplomat involved in a car crash that killed a 16-year-old girl surrendered to police in Washington. Georgy Makharadze faces possible involuntary manslaughter charges. Excessive speed and alcohol may have played a role in the Jan. 3 accident, police said. Georgia has waived diplomatic immunity, but Georgian officials may ask that, if convicted, he be imprisoned in their country.

Housing starts rose 2 percent in January, the Commerce Department said. Construction of new homes and apartments totaled 1.35 million at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, up from 1.32 million in December.

The US has agreed to provide $10 million in emergency food aid to North Korea in response to an appeal from the United Nations, State Department officials said.

The World

Ten thousand guests have been invited to Beijing's Great Hall of the People for a "memorial meeting" to honor the late Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese government said. Flags flew at half-staff on the first of six days of official mourning for the senior lea- der, but activity in the capital was otherwise normal. Tributes to Deng poured in from foreign lea-ders such as US President Clinton, who called him "an extraordinary figure on the world stage." But the Dalai Lama accused Deng of responsibility for "repression and suffering" in Tibet.

Analysts said they expected little immediate political change in China in the aftermath of Deng's passing. His designated heir to power is President Jiang Zemin. Senior officials said Chi-na's policies on Hong Kong and Taiwan also would remain unaffected. But Taiwan, regarded by Beijing as a renegade province, maintained a military alert.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, due in China next week, stopped in Moscow for talks with senior Russian officials over their opposition to NATO expansion. That opposition was underscored by President Yelt-sin's spokesman, who said Russia would remain implacably opposed to NATO membership for the countries of the former Soviet bloc "whatever the outcome" of negotiations between the Kremlin and the alliance. Secretary Albright is scheduled to meet Yeltsin today.

There were conflicting positions on whether peace talks between the government of Zaire and rebel leader Laurent Kabila had begun in South Africa. In Cape Town, the South African Foreign Ministry confirmed that talks would be held there, but gave no details. Zaire's prime minister, however, said he knew nothing about such a meeting.

Israel will try to defuse Palestinian anger over plans for new Jewish settlements by offering to build 1,000 apartments for Arabs, a Jerusalem newspaper reported. Yediot Ahronot said the apartments would be located adjacent to the proposed Har Homa settlement in Arab East Jerusa-lem. Palestinian Authority President Arafat accused Israel of trying to "push the peace process into the corner."

Burma's Karen rebels called for a negotiated peace and "demanded" an end to assaults on their territory by government troops. The move came after the Army of neighboring Thailand said it intended to push armed Karen guerrillas back across the border and to establish centralized camps for Karen civilian refugees.

A vote for Sinn Fein was a vote for terrorism, the leader of Northern Ireland's largest Ro-man Catholic political organization said. John Hume of the Social Democratic and Labor Party wrote in the Irish News that IRA-affiliated Sinn Fein had helped to lead its supporters down a "blind alley of violence" and challenged his rival party to call on the IRA for an immediate truce. Sinn Fein rejected the challenge but said it was trying to "create conditions" for a cease-fire.

Parliament in heavily Roman Catholic Portugal debated proposals to ease restrictions on abortion. Over strong church objection, lawmakers were considering a Communist Party propo-sal to allow pregnancies to be terminated as late as 22 weeks in cases deemed medically serious.

Ukraine, facing the loss of the troubled Chernobyl reactor, vowed to find the money to build two new nuclear power plants without Western help. A major European development bank reported last week that Ukraine could meet its needs by making more efficient use of existing energy sources. Construction of the new reactors would cost upward of $600 million, and Ukraine is strapped for funds.

Etceteras

Even though life in China is hard, under Deng things improved. It feels as

if something is missing."

- A Beijing retiree, on learning of the passing of China's senior leader, Deng Xiaoping.

Eminent physicist Leon Lederman won a Nobel Prize in 1988 and is director emeritus of the Fermi Nation-al Laboratory in Chicago. But all of that counted for naught when a Seattle policewoman caught him jaywalking. The offense will cost him $38. He noticed that she seemed to write the ticket with extra enthusiasm when he said he's a physicist. It seems physics was her worst subject in high school.

Don't bother looking for the X Inside site on the Internet; it's not there anymore. The Denver software developer changed its name to Xi Graphics after one too many hits from surfers looking for - well - X-rated material.

Heard the old groaner about the contest whose first prize is an all-expense-paid week in Philadelphia, with two weeks as second prize? Well, no offense to the City of Brotherly Love, but a Florida waitress just preferred not to go there, even for free. Michelle Wallengren of Fort Lauderdale turned in $1,400 in cash and a gold credit card that a customer from the Pennsylvania city accidentally had dropped in her restaurant. The much-relieved patron offered the trip and $100 as a reward. She respectfully declined both.

The Day's List

Business Highs and Lows

1996 was "the Year of the Web," according to "The Business Changes Report" compiled by American Business Information, Inc., of Omaha, Neb. It determined these companies (with percent changes) as the year's "movers" and "losers":

Growth businesses

Internet service 9,477.0

Computers/Networking 44.8

Pager Services 31.3

Bagel shops 30.5

Cellular telephone services 30.1

Tattoo parlors 19.2

Declining businesses

Health and fitness program consultants - 19.7

Retail typewriter sales and services - 11.2

Comic book stores - 8.8

Baseball sports cards and memorabilia stores - 8.7

Coffee and tea shops - 7.2

Antenna systems - 6.9

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