News In Brief

The US

The White House said Hillary Rodham Clinton's top aide had received a $50,000 check from California businessman Johnny Chung inside the White House. But there was debate over whether Margaret Williams had broken federal law. The check was passed to the Democratic National Committee and recently returned. Presidential aides said Williams did not violate a law prohibiting US employees from receiving political contributions, because regulations do not cover handling, disbursing, or accounting functions. But Senate majority leader Trent Lott said the "law is pretty clear" that one shouldn't receive donations in federal buildings.

The Senate confirmed Charlene Barshefsky as US trade representative on a 99-to-1 vote. It also exempted her from a 1995 law prohibiting anyone who has represented a foreign country from taking a trade post. Presidential nominations normally need only Senate approval, but Barshefsky's also faces a House vote because of the exemption.

The Senate Energy Committee approved Federico Pea to be the next energy secretary, sending his name to the full Senate for confirmation. The panel voted 19-to-0, with Minnesota Republican Rod Grams, who is pushing to abolish the Energy Department, voting present.

President Clinton flew to Michigan to address its legislature in the second of a series of appearances before state lawmakers to promote education and welfare proposals. The first was to Maryland last month.

An Alabama judge, fighting to keep a wood carving of the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, received the backing of the US House. On a 295-to-125 vote, the House backed a resolution saying the Ten Commandments should not be removed because they are "a declaration of fundamental principles" for society. Judge Roy Moore is involved in a two-year dispute over displaying the carving in his courtroom and opening court sessions with prayer. Opponents contend these practices violate separation of church and state.

Rain continued to fall over much of the Ohio River Valley, but river waters reached their crest in Cincinnati and Louisville. Towering flood walls protected Louisville - where the river was 14 feet above flood stage - but most other towns along the river were inundated.

Chevron USA will pay a record $1.16 million to settle a federal lawsuit charging it with oil-safety violations, the government said. The lawsuit says the company allowed an offshore-oil platform in the Santa Barbara Channel northwest of Los Angeles to operate with faulty blowout-prevention valves. Chevron did not contest the lawsuit, and a spokesperson said no oil had leaked into the channel.

The US recalled thousands of surge protectors because of potential fire, shock, and electrocution hazards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said the recall includes about 6,000 surge protectors sold by Price Master Corp. in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts from July 1995 through August 1996 and 7,500 others sold nationwide by Supreme Premium Products from August 1995 to October 1996.

One-quarter of Medicare's home health-care bills may seek payment for care that was not needed, authorized, or delivered, the Clinton administration told Congress. Home health care, which delivers services to homebound patients, cost Medicare $18 billion in 1996, up more than 500 percent since 1990.

New orders received by US factories bounced back strongly in January, the Commerce Department said. Orders were up for virtually all types of goods, rising 2.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted $323.2 billion in January, following a revised decline of 1.5 percent in December and a 0.5 percent fall in November.

The Clinton administration formed an Advisory Committee on Assistance to Families in Aviation Disasters. The task force was ordered to report to Congress by October on how to make sure families of disaster victims are treated with courtesy and respect. Five family members of crash victims were named to the panel.

The World

Russian President Boris Yelt-sin received polite applause from parliament for his long-awaited state-of-the-nation address. He promised a crackdown on crime, criticized his own government for failing to pay wages and pensions on time, and again attacked NATO's expansion plans in eastern Europe. Yeltsin's opponents said the speech repeated old themes.

Kenya said it would sponsor a summit of African leaders March 19 to discuss solutions to the conflict in eastern Zaire. Rebel leader Laurent Kabila was not invited because he is not a head of state. Kabila's forces rejected a call by the Zairean government for immediate implementation of a UN peace plan.

The US and South Korea cancelled their controversial joint war games within hours of a get-acquainted meeting in New York with North Korean representatives. The move was seen as a goodwill gesture aimed at nudging the North toward reconciliation talks with South Korea. The war games are bitterly opposed by North Korea

Albania's President Berisha and opposition leaders agreed to a formula that was seen as the first step toward compromise in the pyramid investment-scheme crisis. A statement said the military would suspend all actions against insurgents in southern Albania for 48 hours, beginning today. In return, the militants would hand over their weapons, and a panel of experts would investigate the schemes.

Japanese lawyers defending Aum Shinri Kyo sect leader Shoko Asahara submitted their resignations, Reuters reported. Asahara is being tried for plotting the Tokyo subway nerve-gas attack that killed 12 people and made 5,500 others ill. The lawyers complained that the trial had become a "ceremony" because of wide supposition that Asahara will be found guilty.

Tamil rebels attacked Army and Air Force bases simultaneously in the heaviest fighting in Sri Lanka in months. The attacks, under cover of darkness, left at least 213 people dead, military officials reported.

India and Pakistan will resu-me high-level peace talks March 28 in New Delhi, the Asian Age newspaper reported. Neither side would immediately confirm the report. Negotiations between the rivals broke off in acrimony in 1994 over control of the Hima-layan region of Kashmir.

Local elections in Bosnia - postponed from last September to mid-July - were rescheduled again. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, sponsor of the vote, said it would be pushed back to Sept. 13-14. The first postponement was because of concerns that the voting would not be free and fair.

All of Egypt's Muslim preachers and mosques will be brought under government control by 2002, the Islamic affairs ministry announced. A spokesman said the move was being made to "put an end to all forms of extremism which use mosques as a base." Militants have been waging a violent campaign to make Egypt an Islamist state.

Angolan leaders and the UNITA rebel movement will form a government of national unity March 20, the UN said. The move has been postponed repea-tedly so that a meaningful role could be found for UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi, whose forces still control much of the country.

Sierra Leone's Army was ordered to round up rebels accu-sed of attacking and killing civilians and shooting at vehicles from ambush. Government officials said the rebels were trying to wreck the peace deal agreed to by both sides last November. Almost 40 people have died in the violence since late February.

Guyana began six days of national mourning for President Cheddi Jagan, who died in a Washington hospital after a brief illness. The onetime Marxist had been Guyana's dominant political figure since 1953.

Etceteras

I don't know the circumstances, but it would appear that a mistake was made there, and perhaps a violation of the law."

Senate majority leader Trent Lott, on an aide to Mrs. Clinton receiving a campaign contribution in the White House.

It is sometmes said that life imitates art. True - at least in the case of James Cromwell. If you don't recognize the name, he's the actor who played Farmer Hoggett in the film "Babe." And, just as Hoggett spared the little pig from becoming Christmas dinner, Cromwell has done the same with a 240-pound boar in Florida. He bought the animal at auction and paid for its food and lifetime shelter at a sanctuary near Ocala. Otherwise the pig's next stop probably would have been the slaughterhouse.

Heard about Mercedes-Benz's latest sale in Italy? It's a model S500 black conver-tible equipped with white leather upholstery and two telephones and will do 125 m.p.h. with the pedal to the metal. Manufacturer's suggested retail price for the car (not counting all the custom features): $88,000. And who is the proud new owner? A millionaire industrialist? A top soccer pro? Luciano Pavarotti? No: Pope John Paul II.

The Days List

Interior Secretary Adds 14 Historic Landmarks

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt has designated 14 properties across the US as new historic landmarks. They are:

Grand Canyon Village, Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz.

Philip Johnson's Glass House, New Canaan, Conn.

Haymarket Martyrs' Monument, Forest Park, Ill.

Owen Lovejoy House, Princeton, Ill.

Eleutherian College classroom and chapel, Lancaster, Ind.

Spring Hill Ranch, Chase County, Kan.

Greenbelt Historic District, Greenbelt, Md.

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Mont.

Huff archeological site, Morgan County, N.D.

John P. Parker House, Ripley, Ohio

John Rankin House, Ripley, Ohio

Vanderbilt archaeological site, Campbell County, S.D.

Mt. Rainier National Park, Mt. Rainier, Wash.

Matewan Historic District, Matewan, W.V.

- Associated Press

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