News In Brief

The US

Republicans accused Attorney General Janet Reno of caving in to political pressure from the White House in deciding not to appoint an independent counsel to look into charges of illegal fund-raising by President Clinton and Vice President Gore. Reno, who also decided against an independent counsel to inquire into illegal fund-raising charges against former Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary, said she was guided by the evidence in the cases, not by politics.

Clinton took his campaign for racial tolerance to a town meeting in Akron, Ohio, where organizers hoped to dispel criticism that the effort is unfocused and ignores opposing views. White House officials said they expected the event at the University of Akron to add momentum to the drive to promote a national discussion of racial issues.

Clinton signed into law a bill giving Amtrak access to $2.3 billion. The measure, which cleared Congress last month, also requires changes in business and labor procedures at the national passenger railroad. Meanwhile, the president used his line-item veto power to remove $5 million earmarked for a research program at Montana State University from a budget bill already signed. He said he rejected the funding, in part, because it circumvented a research-selection process set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Two astronauts toiled in space outside the shuttle Columbia. Winston Scott of the US and Takao Doi of Japan left the shuttle for the second time in nine days to spend more time operating a 17-1/2-foot extendible crane and to try out a free-floating robotic camera. The spacewalk was said to be the last in-orbit dress rehearsal before the US begins construction of an international space station in July next year.

The president of the Teamsters Union appealed a decision barring him from running for reelection. In documents filed in Washington, Ron Carey challenged the ruling of a special US adjudicator. Separately, US District Judge David Edelstein, who will decide Carey's appeal, appointed Michael Cherkasky to oversee a rerun of last year's Teamsters presidential race. A new election is necessary because Carey's narrow win over James Hoffa was thrown out after three Carey aides pleaded guilty to laundering money for use in his campaign.

US metropolitan areas are suddenly losing population, the Census Bureau reported. Declines in the central cities have been common as Americans headed for the suburbs over recent decades. But bureau officials said they could not explain why "metro areas" - cities and surrounding suburbs - lost a quarter-million people to rural environs during the year ending in March 1996.

US agencies spent at least $6.7 billion in the last fiscal year to combat terrorism, the General Accounting Office reported. The Department of Defense heads the list of seven agencies spending money on anti- and counter-terrorism measures, auditors said.

US agriculture exports are projected to reach $58.5 billion in fiscal 1998, up $1.1 billion from 1997, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman reported. If this estimate is realized, it will be the second-highest farm-export total and would leave the US with a favorable agriculture trade balance of $20.5 billion, Glickman said.

New mothers were advised to breast-feed for at least a year - six months longer than previously suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The academy announced new guidelines, issued in an era of shortened hospital stays and more working mothers, to replace a policy of 15 years' standing. The guidelines call for breast-feeding exclusively for the first six months, continuing through the first year - and thereafter "for as long as mutually desired."

The World

The International Monetary Fund will provide $35 billion in loans beginning tomorrow to help South Korea out of its financial crisis, under terms of a deal signed in Seoul. The bailout package also calls for up to $20 billion from US and other donor nations, $10 billion from the World Bank, and $4 billion from the Asian Development Bank.

Secretary of State Albright will meet this weekend with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority in a new attempt to break the deadlock in Middle East peace talks - her second in three weeks. She scheduled talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu tomorrow in Paris and with Yasser Arafat Saturday in Geneva.

In an unexpected move, the rival parties in Northern Ireland's peace talks agreed to a formula for speeding up negotiations, causing British Prime Minister Tony Blair to say "I think we can make" a May deadline for a lasting settlement. The sides decided to form a small working group that will identify the main points of division, rather than continue with unwieldy sessions of 60 negotiators.

Representatives of more than 100 governments opened two days of ceremonies in Ottawa to sign a treaty aimed at ridding the world of land mines. Holdouts such as the US, Russia, and China, sent observers, prompting predictions that they also will eventually agree to the ban. The treaty will take effect after the legislatures of 40 signatories ratify it.

Former South African first lady Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is scheduled to testify today before the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The panel, which can pardon crimes and abuses committed under apartheid, has heard testimony from more than 20 witnesses in her case, many of whom linked her directly to murders, kidnapping, assault, and the torture of others in the antiapartheid movement who had turned against her. She has denied all allegations.

At least 80 brush fires blamed on the El Nino weather pattern were burning out of control across Australia's state of New South Wales. The blazes have blackened more than 750,000 acres, destroyed 12 houses in the suburbs of Sydney, and caused the deaths of two firefighters and evacuation of thousands of residents. Emergency officials said it could be another week before the scenario improves.

Flooding also blamed on El Nino has turned southern Somalia into a disaster zone, UN and Red Cross officials reported. They said at least 1,554 people in the country's breadbasket have died, with more than 1 million others left homeless, cut off from roads, or without adequate food. Emergency assistance will be needed until at least February, the UN said, especially cash donations to use in renting helicopters.

Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk returned home from medical treatment in China, apparently to try nudging his country's bitterly divided political leaders toward reconciliation. He has mostly stayed away since the coup in July that ousted his son, Norodom Ranariddh, from a share of the premiership. Meanwhile, the senior general allied with Ranariddh, Nhek Bunchhay, rejected an amnesty offer from coup leader Hun Sen. Nhek Bunchhay leads a small but so far effective resistance against Hun Sen's stronger Army.

Gunfire in Kingston, Jamaica, wounded at least 12 people on the day candidates registered for the island nation's Dec. 18 general election. Police said the shooting erupted as motorcades from two rival parties traveled through the capital's volatile August Town section. Violence has disrupted every Jamaican election since 1980.

Etceteras

"Given the pressure from the people ... I really don't think any government

can sit out this movement for long."

- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as nations gathered in Ottawa to sign the global treaty banning land mines.

Suspected criminals had to stay at home along with everyone else during last Sunday's curfew while Turkey's national census was being taken. Istanbul and Ankara police, exempt from the order, simply went to the address of each person on their wanted lists and made an arrest - a tally of 550, reports say.

True or false: It's possible to drop a raw egg from a height of 100 feet without breaking when it hits the ground. True. And students at Israel's leading technical college have proved it. First place in a contest that awarded a free trip to New York and NASA's Kennedy Space Center went to Yair Solomon, who packed his egg inside a jar of apricot jelly inside a plastic tube inside a water balloon. Everything else smashed on impact except the egg.

If you haven't checked the leader board lately, the new record-holder in accepting honorary degrees is . . . King Bhumibol Adul-yadej of Thailand. The royal palace says with the doctorates in law and science awarded this year he now has 136 - five more than the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, ex-president of the University of Notre Dame.

The Day's List

The World's Richest Sports Figure: Who Else?

Basketball star Michael Jordan regained his standing as the world's highest-paid athlete from boxer Mike Tyson, according to Forbes magazine's rankings. The 10 highest-paid (in millions of dollars, including endorsement income):

1. Michael Jordan, basketball $78.3

2. Evander Holyfield, boxer 54.3

3. Oscar De La Hoya, boxer 38.0

4. Michael Schumacher, race-car driver 35.0

5. Mike Tyson, boxer 27.0

6. Tiger Woods, golf 26.1

7. Shaquille O'Neal, basketball 25.4

8. Dale Earnhardt, race-car driver 19.1

9. Joe Sakic, hockey 17.9

10. Grant Hill, basketball 17.0

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