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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Cynthia Hanson / November 17, 1997

The US

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Violent crimes against Americans dropped 10 percent in 1996 from the previous year, the lowest level since a survey of victims began in 1973, the Justice Department said. The most significant drop was 17.6 percent in rapes and sexual assaults. Property crimes also declined by 8.3 percent. But the largest was a 20.1 percent drop in vehicle theft. Crime specialists credited the decline to expanded policing, increased incarcerations, a changing drug market, and youth crime-prevention programs.

The Transportation Department is expected to announce new air-bag rules tomorrow. The rules would outline how consumers can apply to have on-off switches fitted to the safety devices, auto industry and safety groups said. People expected to be allowed to deactivate air bags are drivers whose height forces them to sit close to the wheel, those forced by a car's design or special circumstances to carry infants and children in the front seat, and people with certain medical conditions.

An irate Attorney General Janet Reno asked inspector general Michael Bromwich to probe why the FBI failed to pass along intelligence information on alleged Chinese efforts to influence the 1996 elections. The FBI admitted it was late in providing the information to Senate campaign fund-raising investigators after searching its files for two months. Also, Johnny Chung took the Fifth Amendment before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, but then answered questions in an off-the-record session behind closed doors. Chung brought Chinese businessmen to the White House a day after he delivered a $50,000 check made out to the Democratic Party.

President Clinton praised a wetlands restoration project in California's Central Valley while visiting the 3,700-acre Yolo Basin Wildlife Area outside Sacramento. He called the project a model for bringing government and private groups together for future environmental efforts. Clinton was on a four-day fund-raising swing through the west and midwest. Earlier, he signed a $13.8 billion spending bill for the Interior Department that was strongly opposed by environmental groups concerned that it would harm national forests.

The US Supreme Court agreed to clarify when an employee harassed by a supervisor can collect damages not only from the offender, but also from their employer. It will study the 1992 lawsuit of former Florida lifeguard Beth Ann Faragher, who alleged a supervisor sexually harassed her. She won $1 million in nominal damages from the city of Boca Raton after claiming it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans on-the-job sexual bias. She appealed the size of the award, and the city cross-appealed. A decision is expected in July.

A federal judge in Los Angeles struck down a controversial California law that denies all benefits except emergency medical care to illegal immigrants. Judge Mariana Pfaelzer said Proposition 187 was super-ceded by new federal welfare laws. The state is expected to appeal the decision.

A jury in Virginia recommend-ed the death penalty for Mir Aimal Kasi of Pakistan, convicted of killing two CIA officers in 1993 outside the agency's McLean, Va., headquarters. The jury had been sequestered to shield them from news that four US petroleum company workers were murdered in Karachi, Pakistan, less than 48 hours after they convicted Kasi Nov. 10.

Say goodbye to the Westinghouse blender. The electric corporation announced it will sell its nonnuclear-power generation business to German competitor Siemens for $1.53 billion. Westinghouse plans to become CBS Corp., purely a media company, by the middle of next year.

The World

The US sent the aircraft carrier George Washington and a convoy of escort ships through the Suez Canal en route to the Gulf and beefed up its fleet of fighter jets in Turkey as tensions grew in the confrontation with Iraq. But Turkey said it would not permit its Incirlik air base to be used for attacks against Iraqi targets. Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was due in Egypt today for the start of a tour to explain his country's position to Arab leaders. Meanwhile, Israel warned that this time it would retaliate militarily if rocketed by Iraq as it was in the Gulf War.

The economic conference aimed at promoting trade and development in the Middle East and North Africa quickly turned into a forum for attacking Israel. Only six Arab states did not boycott the session in Qatar, but even the host, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, said Israeli policies were exposing the region to "danger of unpredictable dimensions."