News In Brief

By , and Lance Carden

The US

Signaling preparation for a possible showdown with Iraq, Defense Secretary William Cohen and Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, canceled trips to Asia. The UN Security Council was considering a US call for tighter sanctions against Iraq. A US U-2 surveillance plane flew over Iraq unopposed Monday, despite an Iraqi threat to attack such flights. Baghdad's decision two weeks ago to bar US weapons inspectors has halted work of UN teams trying to ensure that Iraq is not developing weapons of mass destruction.

President Clinton suffered a major defeat in his struggle to win expanded trade negotiating power, but promised to "regroup" and refile the measure. Democratic leaders in the House, who refused to support his "fast track" trade bill, urged the president to rewrite it to give added protection to workers and the environment. The defeat put in doubt plans to expand free trade between North and South America, which Clinton had promoted in Latin America.

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Congressional leaders renewed efforts to resolve contentious spending issues so lawmakers could adjourn for the year. Republicans told Clinton to restrict family-planning aid overseas or face cuts in requests for other forms of foreign aid. To keep the government going, Congress passed an emergency bill that provides funding through Friday.

A judge's decision to reduce a jury verdict against au pair Louise Woodward will be appealed, prosecutors and defense attorneys said in Cambridge, Mass. In a dramatic reversal, Woodward, who awoke in prison Monday morning facing at least 15 years behind bars for second-degree murder, was set free in the afternoon by Judge Hiller Zobel.

Defense Secretary Cohen announced a plan to cut 28,000 civilian jobs from the military and make business reforms to save $3.2 billion a year for arms modernization. He called on Congress to approve two new rounds of domestic base closings in 2001 and 2005 to save another $2.8 billion a year. Congress rejected a request for more base closings earlier this year.

Clinton called for tougher federal laws against hate crimes. He said he would support legislation to add violence against homosexuals, gender-motivated attacks, and attacks on the disabled to those laws. The new measure, introduced by Democratic Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Ron Wyden of Oregon and GOP Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, also targets adults who recruit juveniles to commit hate crimes.

In the largest US corporate takeover so far, MCI Communications agreed to be acquired by WorldCom Inc. for $37 billion. The deal would combine the second- and fourth-largest long-distance service providers, giving the new firm one-fourth of the US market and creating a global telecommunication giant.

Mir Aimal Kasi of Pakistan was convicted of capital murder and on all other charges stemming from the killing of two CIA workers and the wounding of three other people outside CIA headquarters Jan. 25, 1993. Kasi, captured in June in Pakistan by the FBI after a four-year manhunt, could face the death penalty.

White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger has agreed to pay more than $23,000 to settle a conflict-of-interest inquiry, the Justice Department said. The civil settlement stems from allegations that, as deputy national security adviser, Berger took actions that may have benefited the Amoco oil company. At the time, his wife and children had trusts that held Amoco stock.

Problems with a solar panel on the tiny Mars surveyor now orbiting the planet will force a one-year delay in its mapping mission, US space officials said. Scientists had hoped to begin the charting in March.

The World

Iraq turned back a UN weapons-inspection team for the eighth time in nine days and predicted "international condemnation" if the US were to take unilateral military action. Reports from Baghdad said an unknown number of Iraqi families had volunteered to serve as human shields at sensitive government sites in case of an American attack.

Hong Kong's stock market reversed five days of heavy losses, with the key Hang Seng index closing up 11.29 points. Much of the gain came as investors snapped up utility stocks. The Hang Seng had lost more than 1,000 points in recent trading. But despite the assurances of government officials that Hong Kong's banking system was sound, depositors lined up to withdraw their savings from the International Bank of Asia for the second straight day.

Asian and Pacific nations - home of two-thirds of the world's poor - won't meet a 2010 target for eliminating absolute poverty, a UN conference in Manila was told. Officials of 27 countries said their development efforts are threatened by the regionwide currency crisis and by a shortage of resources. They also said the goals of increasing life expectancy and reducing infant mortality likely would not be met.

Separate education for Muslim and Croat schoolchildren in Bosnia is to be abolished, the ruling federation announced. It said international experts will be asked to help design a joint curriculum to replace the old system, which has been a source of ethnic hatred and misunderstanding. The move will not affect the Serb sub-state that makes up 49 percent of the republic.

Former Prime Minister Nec-mettin Erbakan testified before Turkey's Supreme Court in an effort to prevent his Islamic Welfare Party from being outlawed. In written arguments, prosecutors allege that while he was in office the party sought to convert Turkey to an Islamic republic in violation of the secular Constitution. Erbakan quit in June under military pressure. He could be banned from politics for up to five years.

Mary McAleese, Ireland's second consecutive woman president and the first from British-ruled Northern Ireland, was inaugurated in Dublin. Among the guests at ceremonies in Dublin were Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, the political ally of the Irish Republican Army, and Britain's Secretary for Northern Ireland, Mo Mow-lam. But almost all pro-British Protestant leaders turned down McAleese's invitation to attend.

Saying, "I'm not worried about popularity, but about Brazil," President Fernando Henrique Cardoso announced 51 measures to reassure investors that Latin America's biggest economy remains stable. They would hike income taxes, cut federal spending, and furlough 33,000 public-sector workers - with a projected saving of $18 billion next year. Brazil has been especially hard-hit by the effects of the financial crisis in Asia.

Thousands of Dominicans stayed home from work but off the streets on Day 1 of a general strike called to protest low wages, deteriorating social services, high fuel prices, and 18-hour-a-day electricity outages. Soldiers and police were out in force to guard gas stations, buses, and outdoor markets. President Leonel Fernandez accused strike organizers of trying to provoke violence.

"Rumor mongers serve their own selfish purposes."

- Hong Kong Financial Secretary Donald Tsang, trying to calm financial markets amid reports that some of the territory's banks are in trouble.

Etceteras

On a $7,500 Manhattan shopping spree last week, two Russians loaded up on personal computers, sporting goods items endorsed by pro basketball star Michael Jordan, an exercise machine, a telephone, and a Barbie doll . . . and then politely were informed that their money was no good. But Anatoly Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov weren't in the least embarrassed. The spree was all prearranged for the orbiting Mir cosmonauts with Visa and online retailers, who wrote off the expense as a special sales promotion.

Ah, kangaroos. Can't live with 'em; can't live without 'em - at least in Canberra. They may be dear to non-Australians, but the city's residents are weary of 'roos intruding on their lifestyles: bounding into rush-hour traffic and eating up backyard gardens. Light, sound, and scent repellents haven't stopped them. Fertility-control methods are impractical except in captivity, and shooting is deemed cruel and inhumane. So the capital now has a Kangaroo Advisory Committee, which is calling for a community-wide education campaign on coexistence.

The Day's List

Governments Rated on Environmental Progress

In the first global survey of attitudes toward the environment since the 1992 UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, citizens in 17 of 24 countries rated the handling of ecological problems by their own governments as either "poor" or "very poor." In alphabetical order, the following nations received the five highest and five lowest ratings in the poll, directed by Toronto-based Environics International:

Highest Ratings

Chile

Netherlands

Nigeria

Switzerland

United States

Lowest Ratings

Italy

Japan

Russia

South Korea

Ukraine

- Associated Press

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