News In Brief

The US

Conservative House Democrats were expected to release a budget-balancing package in which they propose to save $103 billion over five years by reducing the increase in the Consumer Price Index by 0.8 percent. Also, President Clinton urged Robert Torricelli (D) of New Jersey, the only US senator believed still undecided on the issue, to vote against the balanced-budget amendment. He voted in its favor while serving in the House.

Caution is "especially warranted" for the stock market in 1997, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan told a Senate panel in a report on the economy. He also said he could not rule out a preemptive increase in interest rates. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 100 points shortly after his remarks, but recovered some of its lost ground moments later.

Senate majority leader Trent Lott renewed his call for an independent counsel to investigate whether the White House was used illegally for Democratic fund-raising. "The Lincoln Bedroom was never sold," Clinton said after it was revealed that he was involved in initial planning to invite financial backers for overnight stays. Several spent the night in the Lincoln Bedroom.

The US Supreme Court began hearing arguments on a Nevada dispute that could affect land-use planners and landowners nationwide. The justices are expected to reach a decision by July on what steps property owners can be required to take before claiming in court that they were improperly prevented from building on their land.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright planned to meet today with high-ranking Saudi officials to discuss last year's bombing at a US military base in Dhahran, which killed 19 Americans. The Saudis promised greater cooperation in the investigation during an earlier meeting with Clinton.

Congress opened a tap to allow funds for overseas family planning to flow again after a half-year freeze. The White House hailed the Senate vote to begin releasing $385 million provided for in the 1997 budget.

Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward homosexuals in the military is a failure, according to a report to be released by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The report shows a 42 percent rise in the number of homosexuals discharged from the military since the policy was enforced in 1994.

A prominent supporter of abortion rights admitted he lied during a 1995 ABC "Nightline" interview when he said "partial birth" abortions are performed rarely and only to save a mo-ther's life. Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers in Alexandria, Va., said the procedure is common for healthy mothers who are five months pregnant with healthy fetuses, The New York Times said. Congress tried to ban the procedure, but Clinton vetoed the measure.

FBI Director Louis Freeh ordered an investigation into whether the bureau covered up possible inaccurate testimony during the ouster of US District Judge Alcee Hastings in 1989. Freeh said an internal memo alleging evidence was falsified in the bribery case was withheld from Congress and now congressman Hastings (D) of Flo-rida.

Some 41 federal indictments were handed down in Roanoke, Va., in a drug operation. The operation used 20 high-tech boats that evaded radar by riding mostly submerged. Each boat used by Colombia's Cal cartel carried two people and a ton of cocaine. Most of those indicted will escape prosecution because they live in Colombia, which has no extradition agreement with the US, prosecutors said.

Chemical heir John du Pont was convicted of the third-degree murder of Olympic wrest-ling star Dave Schulz. A jury in Media, Pa., found him guilty but mentally ill. He could be released on parole in as little as five years.

Americans charged more than $1 trillion on their credit cards in 1996, the Consumer Federation of America reported. It said one-third of the charges were being paid in installments. The 60 million households with credit cards carried an average balance of $6,000.

The World

Extra troops were deployed in Jerusalem and the West Bank as Israel's government approved plans for new Jewish housing on disputed land, over international objections. Prime Minister Netan-yahu warned he might postpone the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank if there were riots over the costruction of 6,500 apartments at Har Homa in East Jerusalem. Palestinian official Faisal al-Husseini made a last-minute appeal to Israel's parliament, the Knesset, to defeat the plan.

Zairean government officials were reported en route to South Africa to join efforts aimed at ending their country's civil war. Face-to-face talks with rebel leader Laurent Kabila were said to be unlikely, but discussions through South African and US intermediaries were expected. Kabila went to South Africa earlier in the week.

Only hours after memorial services for China's senior leader, Deng Xiaoping, attackers blew up three buses in the far-western city of Urumqi. Reports said at least four people died and 60 others were hurt. Urumqi is the regional capital of Xinjiang Province, where ethnic Uighurs were blamed for violent anti-Chinese riots three weeks ago.

So far, none of the food Iraq was to buy with revenue from the oil it now sells with UN permission has reached hungry people there, the Associated Press reported. It said UN officials maintain that delays were unavoidable as systems are put in place to ensure that all Iraqis fairly share in the food that oil revenues are meant to pay for. The oil flow began Dec. 11. Iraq has blamed the US for holding up the deliveries.

Mexico's former "drug czar" was ordered to jail until he stands trial on narcotics-related corruption charges. The government of President Zedillo prom-ised "top to bottom" reform of its antidrug effort. But it warned of possible "rupture" in relations with the US if aid to Mexico is reduced because of the drug scandal. President Clinton has until Saturday to certify that Mexico is cooperating fully in combating the flow of illegal drugs. If he does not, aid could be cut back.

The front entrance to Warsaw's only functioning synagogue was heavily damaged and a maintenance worker was slightly hurt in a suspected arson attack. Polish authorities rebuilt the building in 1983 after Nazi troops had used it as a stable and then destroyed it.

South Korean President Kim Young Sam was expected to accept the resignations of the country's prime minister and his entire Cabinet. They all offered to step down one day after Kim apologized publicly for a scandal involving government loans to a bankrupt steel manufacturer.

Sumitomo chairman Tomiichi Akiyama resigned to "put closure" to the scandal that has resulted in $2.6 billion in losses for the Japanese company. But a spokesman said Akiyama accept-ed no blame for the actions of an employee who confessed to fraud in risky copper trading.

Cambodia's monarchy will not last much longer, King Sihanouk said. The monarchy has no political power. Sihanouk is pledged to remain on the throne until 2000 under a UN deal that set up national elections three years ago. Some Cambodians are concerned he might step down to run for legislative office next year.

Without saying why, Vietnam ordered the demolition of all housing near military installations in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. Officials also ordered expanded "defense education" programs for the city's schoolchildren. Vietnam's communist regime in Hanoi has regarded the city, which was the capital of the former US-backed South Vietnam, with suspicion.

Etceteras

It beats the heck out of the Holiday Inn."

- Little Rock, Ark., municipal judge Victor Fleming, one of the more than 900 people invited by the Clintons to stay overnight in the White House.

Are you one of those people who apologizes for your handwriting? If it makes you feel any better, the US Postal Service is at work on a system to cope with problematic penmanship. It has invested $6 million in software designed to teach its computers to read hand-addressed envelopes, no matter how challenging the script. By year's end the system should be sorting almost one-quarter of the nation's handwritten mail - about 2 billion pieces.

Some lawmakers in Idaho thought it was pretty low to be asked for their approval of a bill that would make the Western rattlesnake the official state reptile. They commended a Boise fourth-grade class for proposing the measure as a project on environmental awareness. But one legislator said he was "coiled and ready to strike" down the idea as harmful to Idaho's image. The measure lost.

It takes a village to raise a child, so the saying goes. But what about a dog? For nine years folks around tiny Panama, N.Y., have fed and sheltered a stray named Ralph - none of them apparently realizing that he didn't belong to anyone. That is, until he ended up in the local pound for loitering outside the home of a female whose owners didn't appreciate his attentions. But when Ralph's friends heard of his plight they banded together, bailed him out, and bought him a license. Now they plan to have him neutered.

The Day's List

Hottest-Selling Computer Games of Last Year

The publication P-C Data lists the games for DOS/Windows formats that personal computer users bought most often in 1996. The top 10 titles:

1. "Myst"

2. "Warcraft II"

3. "Microsoft Flight Simulator"

4. "Duke Nukem 3D"

5. "Civilization 2"

6. "Barbie Fashion Designer"

7. "Command and Conquer:

Red Alert"

8. "Return of Arcade"

9. "Command and Conquer"

10. "Madden NFL '97"

- Associated Press

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