News In Brief

THE US

The chairman of a House panel probing Democratic fund-raising faced conflict-of-interest charges of his own. Last month Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana was the only congressman invited to play in the AT&T-sponsored Pebble Beach National Pro-Am Golf Tournament. He played with the chairman of AT&T and accepted a $2,000 campaign donation from the company. Burton's committee is overseeing the award of a $10 billion telecommunications contract currently held by AT&T.

The FBI alerted six members of Congress last year that they had been targeted by China to receive campaign contributions funneled through Asian corporations, The Washington Post reported. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) of California acknowledged that she was one of six briefed by the FBI. Identities of the others could not be confirmed. Last week, Feinstein returned a $12,000 contribution from the Indonesia-based Lippo Group.

Vice President Al Gore made stops in four Ohio River Valley states to survey flood damage in the region. Moderate-to-heavy rain was forecast once again, but experts said it was unlikely to cause additional flooding in most areas.

US agencies have 30 days to come up with plans to hire people off welfare, President Clinton said in his weekly radio address. The president, who last year supported a measure to cut back welfare programs, has pledged to soften the effect of the legislation on those losing benefits.

The unemployment rate dipped to 5.3 percent in February as job growth soared, the Labor Department said. The decline, from 5.4 percent in January, wasn't big. But the month's seasonally adjusted 339,000 job increase was larger than expected.

Norfolk Southern and CSX Corp. agreed to buy Conrail Inc. and split the railroad that has dominated the Northeast for more than 20 years. The $10.5 billion deal may transform the freight-rail system in the conges-ted region. Regulatory approval reportedly could take two years.

Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina vowed to block a proposed treaty to ban chemical weapons worldwide unless supporters make changes he is demanding. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman told a Conservative Political Action Conference the treaty would give Americans a false sense of security. He said he had given the White House a long list of his demands. Meanwhile, the Federation of American Scientists urged ratification of the treaty in a letter to Senate majority leader Trent Lott.

The Church of Scientology received a US tax exemption in 1993 after an extraordinary campaign apparently designed to intimidate the IRS, The New York Times reported. Among other things, the Times said investigators were hired to dig into the private lives of IRS officials.

Microsoft Corp. issued a software patch on its World Wide Web site to fix three security flaws in its Internet Explorer browser. It is available for free downloading. The flaws could allow a Web site operator to get inside someone else's computer. They were found in Internet Explorer versions 3.0 and 3.01 for the Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 systems - and in Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 1 or 2, if not specially protected.

A memorial to three famous women suffragists should not be displayed in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington unless the image of black female suffragist Sojourner Truth is also chiseled into the 13-ton slab, the National Political Congress of Black Wom-en said. The statue honors Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The National Woman's Party commissioned the piece in 1920 and presented it to Congress in 1921, but lawmakers soon removed it to a far less-visible site. Women's groups have tried for 32 years to get it back onto the Rotunda.

The Directors Guild of America named Anthony Minghella best feature-film director of 1996 for his work on "The English Patient." Only four times since 1949 has the DGA winner failed to also win the Academy Award for best director. This year's Academy Awards ceremony will be held March 24.

THE WORLD

Albanian President Sali Berisha proposed a host of measures to quell the country's ongoing crisis over failed pyramid investment schemes. He told a national TV audience that he wanted a new coalition government, elections by the end of May, and an amnesty for insurgents who control much of southern Albania. Another city, Gjirokaster, fell to the insurgents over the weekend, despite a 48-hour cease-fire that had not yet expired

Demonstrators in Belgrade staged the first major street protest since Serbian President Milosevic reinstated opposition election victories last month. An estimated 50,000 people deman-ded more democratic reforms and new freedom for the country's news media. Police made no attempt to interfere.

Residents of Zaire's third-largest city were fleeing a rebel advance by any means possible, observers said. Kisangani was expected to come under rebel attack despite being mined by government troops backed by European mercenaries. Rebels under the leadership of Laurent Kabila have been fighting since last October to end 31 years of rule by Zairean President Mobutu.

US, Japanese, and South Korean officials met in New York to discuss new approaches to communist North Korea. The meeting followed the highest-level talks in more than a year between American and North Korean representatives. Those talks resulted in agreement to work together on curbing missile proliferation, recover the remains of missing US servicemen from the Korean war, and establish diplomatic liaison offices.

Germany will fail to meet the conditions for joining Europe's single-currency system by its scheduled Jan. 1, 1999, startup, the government's senior economic adviser said. He said the country likely would exceed the EU's limit for government debt, currently set at 60 percent of gross domestic product. Experts say that without German participation, the single currency would have little weight. A finance ministry spokesman rejected the prediction as premature.

China blamed "criminal elements" for an explosion that reportedly killed two people and injured 30 others aboard a Beijing city bus late last week. Responsibility for the incident was claimed by exiled Uighur separatists, who vowed to step up attacks until they had gained "complete freedom" for the western province of Xinjiang.

Mexican President Zedillo pledged to build public confidence in his country's justice system. He told a bankers' group that Mexico does not have a "full state of law" that is required for development. Zedillo is under pressure to achieve reforms after Mexico's recertification by US President Clinton as a worthy ally in the fight against illegal drugs. Clinton administration officials have said the certification was a "very difficult" decision.

One of Europe's largest conglomerates was expected to result from the merger of two Italian industrial groups. Grupo Industriale Marzotto - whose formation was announced by Pietro Marzotto (r.) and Maurizio Romiti (l.), representing the Agnelli family - will have 21,000 employees and revenues of just under $5 billion a year. Among its properties will be Fila sportswear; the automaker Fiat; Italy's largest newspaper, Corriere della Sera; and three leading banks.

A general strike idled key sections of the volatile Kashmir region of India because of the deaths of four guerrilla leaders. A Muslim group, Hizbul Mujahi-deen, claimed the men had died in police custody. Police said they were killed in a raid on their hideout. More than 20,000 people have died in a seven-year separatist rebellion in the region, whose jurisdiction is in dispute between Indian and Pakistan.

ETCETERAS

"If they had television in the Stone Age, it would look like Serbian TV. Our aim is to take

this dangerous toy away."

- Opposition leader Vesna Pesic, at a protest in Belgrade for greater democratic reforms, especially press freedom.

The bicycle - that energy-saving, environmentally friendly mode of transportation - is officially out of favor in the country where it's probably in the widest use. A government adviser wrote in China's Economic Daily that bicycles are involved in 60 percent of traffic accidents and "absolutely cannot take cities into the modern age." He called for more use of another transportation alternative: the car.

And there could be a car in store for you if you're Japanese and bring a new child into the world. Daihat-su Motors says it will give any couple free use of a new sedan for adding a fourth infant to the family, or a fifth, or - well, you get the idea. The offer is good until 2001. Many Japanese couples stop at one child because housing is cramped and costly, so the birth rate is declining.

Don't tell Arthur Wilk that he used antique methods to solve a robbery at his Buffa-lo, N.Y., store. Wilk followed a tip that some of his $130,000 in stolen relics had turned up 400 miles away in a Manhattan shop. He and detectives went for a look and caught two of the suspects - one of them on the sidewalk as they headed for a coffee break.

THE DAY'S LIST

Aid Pledged for Victims of Iranian Earthquake

Many governments and international agencies have responded to a rare appeal for aid from Iran after a Feb. 28 earthquake killed almost 1,000 people and left almost 40,000 others homeless. The State Department said disagreements with the Iranian government are separate from US willingness to help people in need. Here is a list of early aid pledges:

UN agencies $525,000

Japan $300,000

OPEC $300,000

Germany/German Red Cross $235,000

Britain $200,000

Norway $90,000

Denmark $35,000

International Red Cross, Red Crescent Societies $33,800

US $25,000

- UN Resident Coordinator's Office in Iran/Associated Press

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