News In Brief

The US

The US should have access to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's palaces and other sites for UN inspectors looking for hidden weapons of mass destruction, Defense Secretary William Cohen said on NBC's "Meet the Press." He was referring to 63 sites Hussein has ruled off-limits. Nizar Hamdoon, Iraq's representative to the UN, replied on the program that restrictions should be allowed for sites "directly relating to the president" as a matter of sovereignty, national security, and dignity.

Iraqi scientists and defense officials are using Western-made computers to transfer data from papers to small disks to conceal deadly arms from UN inspectors, the Los Angeles Times reported. Quoting US and UN diplomats, it said such information is difficult to track because disks can be easily dispersed. Computers are also being used for research and development in categories forbidden under the UN resolution ending the war, the Times said, adding that most of the equipment was probably purchased through third parties.

A Justice Department task force plans to recommend today that Attorney General Janet Reno not seek an independent counsel to investigate fund-raising calls by President Clinton and Vice President Gore, senior department officials said. Republican National Committee chairman Jim Nicholson said Reno should resign if she follows the advice.

Chinese political activist Wei Jingsheng expressed awe while touring New York City after being released from a Detroit hospital. "I've waited decades for this chance to exercise my rights to free speech. But the Chinese people have been waiting for centuries," he told a news conference. He told Reuters news agency it's improbable he'll return to China in the near future.

The crew of space shuttle Columbia hopes to rescue a 3,000-pound satellite today in a daring spacewalk. Under NASA's plan, two astronauts will attempt to grab the $10 million cube with their hands. The crew was unable to retrieve Spartan with a robot arm after it spun out of control Friday.

En route to a international economic summit in Vancouver, Clinton denounced a rash of skinhead violence in Denver during a stopover there. The White House also announced a Justice Department probe into the possibility of organized skinhead violence around the city that would violate domestic antiterrorism laws. The actions follow two separate killings by skinheads, one of a black Mauritanian and the other of a Denver police officer. A woman who tried to protect one of the victims was also injured.

Army Secretary Togo West released a list of 69 burial waivers granted since 1993 in Arlington National Cemetery. Four were granted by Clinton and most of the others by himself. At a White House news conference, he said people buried under the waivers, similar to those granted by former presidents and secretaries of the Army, were either veterans, members of their families, or civilians who had never been in the military but deserved the honor through special service to the US. He was responding to an article in the conservative magazine Insight, which alleges that plots were bought by "fat-cat donors to Clinton's reelection committee and the DNC [Democratic National Committee] who aren't even veterans."

The Democratic Party ended a voluntary $100,000 limit on donations of unregulated "soft money." White House spokesman Mike McCurry said the restrictions were lifted after the Republicans failed to follow the Democratic lead in limiting the contributions.

More than $1 billion of 1995 welfare payments and food stamps went to illegal immigrant families because some of their children are US citizens, congressional auditors said in a General Accounting Office report. The Republican-control-led Congress requested the study as part of last year's welfare overhaul, which restricted direct access to public benefits by illegal immigrants but didn't deny benefits to their children.

The World

Materials moved during the standoff over UN weapons inspections have been returned to their previous locations, Iraq said. The announcement came as 75 UN monitors, including Americans, resumed work under an accord brokered by Russia. But the special UN commission that oversees monitoring rejected a Russian proposal calling for an early end to the inspections.

More Jewish settlements will be built in eastern Jerusalem in response to the murder late last week of a religious student by suspected Palestinian militants, Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed.

The theme of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum was expected to be: Don't panic. Leaders of the 18-member group - among them President Clinton - gathered in Vancouver, Canada, for the two-day conference to reassure worried investors that the current financial crisis in key Asian countries does not threaten long-term economic growth.

The first of two International Monetary Fund teams arrived in South Korea to begin the work of establishing terms for a $20 billion bailout of the country's troubled economy. Finance Minister Lim Chang Yuel said the need for IMF help was "shameful" but that the government would use it to restructure the economy. The crisis was caused by the financial failures of major corporations.

Britain's Labour government confirmed a second meeting will be held between Prime Minister Tony Blair and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. No date was announced, but it was believed the meeting would held before Christmas at Blair's 10 Downing Street residence. Britain allowed Sinn Fein, the political ally of the Irish Republican Army, into peace negotiations on Northern Ireland. But Blair said Adams would be ejected if IRA violence resumes.

India's government was on the verge of collapse as Prime Minister Gujral planned to reject a demand that he dismiss one of his coalition partners. Gujral would notify the powerful Congress Party that he did not intend to oust the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), a key aide said. Congress wants the Tamil-based DMK out because the latter was linked to the 1991 assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in an official report. Congress has vowed to withdraw its support of Gujral in Parliament if he does not drop the DMK.

Thirty-four witnesses were prepared to testify against Winnie Madikizela-Mandela before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, beginning today. The former wife of President Nelson Mandela is accused of murder, assault, and conspiracy in the country's struggle against white rule. She already has been questioned behind closed doors in the 1989 and 1990 deaths of other black antiapartheid activists.

International monitors said they were pleased with the turn-out for Bosnia's Serb sub-state elections. Voters were choosing members of parliament in a struggle for supremacy between backers of President Biljana Plavsic and her predecessor, indicted war-crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic. If neither side emerged as the winner, analysts said a coalition might have to be formed.

Despite heavy snow, the early voter turnout was strong in Slovenia for the country's second presidential election since it gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Incumbent Milan Kucan, an ex-Communist, was expected to win a second five-year term over a field of seven other candidates for the largely ceremonial post.

"You have to face up to the problems as soon as possible ... bite the bullet immediately.

You cannot fool around - even for a few weeks."

- Mexican President Zedillo at the APEC summit in Vancouver, telling Asian leaders how to deal with their financial crises.

Etceteras

In Bennington, Vt., a graffiti artist has been targeting stop signs all over town with cans of spray paint. Among the examples:

* "STOP telling me what to do."

* "STOP and smell the roses."

Police don't condone the pranks because defacing public property is a crime. But they're happy that at least the culprit hasn't been using profanity.

It was absolutely no contest when Carolyn Trout showed up for the "Hands-on Marathon" in Campbell, Mo. The competition was sponsored by the police department for teenagers with valid drivers' licenses. The prize, a used Chevy Blazer donated by a local auto dealer, would go to the person who kept his or hands on it longest. Carolyn paid the $20 entry fee and came prepared to stay 'til the bitter end - with snacks, blankets, and pillows. But it took her no time at all to win. No one else had registered by the deadline.

If you're keeping score at home, the cost of a partridge in a pear tree for the coming Christmas season will be 64 percent higher than a year ago, according to the 13th annual study by the asset-management group PNC of Philadelphia. Its research found the price of partridges held steady at $15. But pear trees now cost $30 at retail - up from $13.50 in 1996.

The Day's List

Ranking the US's Largest Privately Held Companies

With 79,000 employees and estimated revenues of $56 billion, Minneapolis-based agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. repeats as the largest privately owned company in the US, according to the Dec. 1 issue of Forbes magazine. Forbes's six largest companies and their annual revenues (in billions):

1. Cargill $56.0

2. Koch Industries 30.0

3. United Parcel Service 22.4

4. Goldman-Sachs Group 17.3

5. Continental Grain 16.0

6. M&M Mars Inc. 14.5

- Associated Press

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