News In Brief

The US

Vice President Gore pledged more US flexibility in reaching a global warming treaty, rejuvenating negotiations at the 150-nation UN climate conference in Kyoto, Japan. The reaction was cautious, however, as Gore offered no specifics on what tack the US will now take in the talks, scheduled to conclude tomorrow. Nonetheless, his speech raised hopes among delegates that an accord curbing carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse" emissions can be reached.

Republicans used TV talk shows to lob threats at Attorney General Reno. Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana, chairman of the House panel looking into allegations of illegal Democratic fund-raising, said on Fox his panel may recommend a contempt of Congress charge if she refuses to comply with a subpoena seeking FBI Director Louis Freeh's memo endorsing an independent counsel. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah said on CBS he is asking Freeh to bypass Reno, his boss, and investigate allegations of impropriety.

Actress Lauren Bacall, singer Bob Dylan, actor Charlton Heston, soprano Jessye Norman, and dancer Edward Villella were feted at the Kennedy Center Opera House. President Clinton, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich were among those celebrating with the five winners of 1997 Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime achievement in the performing arts.

Clinton used the pulpit of a predominantly black church to tell Washington residents he wants to turn the financially troubled capital into a "shining city on the hill." He told the congregation he wants the government to be a "better neighbor" to them and that he favors returning more self-governance to the city. Congress stripped much of the power of the district's elected officials earlier this year in return for a multibillion-dollar bailout package.

The White House advisory panel on AIDS criticized the Clinton administration, saying the fight against the disease had stalled in recent months in the absence of bold leadership. Specifically, it criticized a failure to find ways to expand Medicaid and to remove a congressionally mandated ban on funding for needle-exchange programs.

The top US safety investigator urged airplane builders to eliminate flammable vapor in fuel tanks as a way of preventing explosions like the one that downed TWA Flight 800 almost 17 months ago. National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Jim Hall opened a week-long hearing into the accident, saying the industry's effort to eliminate all ignition sources in the tanks was difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

A judge in Los Angeles was to consider blocking the release of the movie "Amistad," which has been heavily publicized and is due to be released later this week. Analysts did not expect US District Judge Audrey Collins would keep the film from being seen, but she must decide the strength of a copyright-infringement complaint brought by author Barbara Chase-Riboud. The latter says "Amistad" plagiarizes her novel, "Echo of Lions." Dreamworks, the company that made the movie, insists it is an original blend of history and the book "Black Mutiny," first published 36 years before "Echo of Lions."

The leading US envoy trying to recover Holocaust-era assets urged state and local officials to refrain from imposing sanctions against Switzerland. Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat said in remarks prepared for a meeting in New York of more than 200 public finance officials that he believed local sanctions "are not only unwarranted, but would be counterproductive."

An Ohio university seeking to shield student disciplinary records from public scrutiny lost its Supreme Court appeal. The justices let stand a ruling by Ohio's highest court that forces Miami University to release the records - with names deleted - to a student newspaper, The Miami Student, which wants to use the data to track student crime trends.

The World

A new financial group with combined assets of $912 billion - making it the world's largest - was announced in Zurich. The United Bank of Switzerland is to be formed from a merger of Swiss Bank Corp. and Union Bank of Switzerland. The joint company is expected to lay off more than one-quarter of its 56,000 employees by 2000.

Only two of 58 insolvent real-estate lenders survived the largest overhaul of Thailand's troubled financial system. The liquidation by the government was necessary under terms of the $17 billion bailout of the economy supervised by the International Monetary Fund.

Foreign tourists no longer will be the targets of Egypt's Gamaa Islamic militants, the group said in a statement distributed to news agencies in Cairo. Gamaa claimed responsibility for the massacre of 58 tourists in an attack at Luxor last month. But it blamed the incident on undisciplined new members acting on their own. Ninety-two foreigners have died in political violence in Egypt since Muslim fundamentalists took up arms in 1992.

Israel's powerful Histadrut labor federation and the government reached a compromise on pension terms, ending a five-day strike by 700,000 public-sector workers. The walkout snarled transportation; interrupted telephone, electricity, and water service; and closed banks, post offices, and other facilities. The government agreed to drop its plan for tightening the terms of retirement-savings plans.

Europe is slamming the door on refugees forced from their home countries by war, economic hardship, and other causes, a new UN report said. But the agency's High Commissioner for Refugees said prospects in general for finding safe places to flee are dwindling. Since 1990, the report said, about 10 million refugees have returned to their homes, many of them under duress from the countries to which they had fled. Over the same time span, Western European nations granted refugee status to only 11 percent of the 2.4 million people who sought it.

New Zealand, the first country to give women the right to vote, installed its first female prime minister. Jenny Shipley vowed to implement a "progressive and ambitious" social-policy agenda, but gave no details. Jim Bolger, who resigned from the office after she ousted him as leader of the ruling National Party last month, reportedly will be named ambassador to the US.

One more round of voting appeared necessary to determine the next president of Serbia, as neither Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic nor ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj won a majority in Sunday's election. Socialist Renewal Movement candidate Vuk Draskovic was eliminated from contention in the runoff, scheduled for Dec. 21. Milutinovic is the candidate of Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist Party.

British airline tycoon Richard Branson planned to leave from Morocco on a new attempt at the first successful round-the-world balloon flight. He and two copilots expected the trip to take "at least 20 days." Branson attempted the same flight in January, but aborted it in neighboring Algeria. American Steve Fossett and a team in Switzerland were preparing their own flights to challenge Branson.

The main Hutu opposition party in Burundi was banned from political activity for reelecting an exiled antigovernment activist as its president. The Front for Democracy (FRODEBU), which holds 80 percent of the seats in parliament, was told by the Tutsi-led government of President Pierre Buyoya the suspension will last six months unless it reconsiders its choice of Jean Minani. Last week, FRODEBU pledged to work with Buyoya on an internal reconciliation formula.

"We have only three days standing between success and failure."

- British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, as delegates to the climate summit in Kyoto, Japan, struggled to reach an accord on slowing the pace of global warming.

Etceteras

The environmental cleanup of caves polluted by sludge along Turkey's southwestern coast is being monitored closely by . . . the seals that used to live in them. Workers using high-pressure hoses - and at times even their bare hands - have been removing the goo since an offshore crude-oil spill 18 months ago. In recent weeks, monk seals have been observed repeatedly within view of their efforts, apparently with the intention of moving back into the caves once the cleanup is complete.

The Day's List

Who's Playing Whom in College Football Bowls

Final matchups for the college postseason bowl games:

Las Vegas, Dec. 20: Air Force (10-2) vs. Oregon (6-5)

Aloha, Dec. 25: Washington (7-4) vs. Michigan State (7-4)

Motor City, Dec. 26: Marshall (10-2) vs. Mississippi (7-4)

Heritage, Dec 27: S. Carolina State (9-2) vs. Southern (10-1)

Insight.com, Dec. 27: New Mexico (9-3) vs. Arizona (6-5)

Independence, Dec. 28: LSU (8-3) vs. Notre Dame (7-5)

Humanitarian, Dec. 29: Utah State (6-5) vs. Cincinnati (7-4)

Carquest, Dec. 29: West Virginia (7-4) vs. Ga. Tech (6-5)

Holiday, Dec. 29: Colorado State (10-2) vs. Missouri (7-4)

Alamo, Dec. 30: Purdue (8-3) vs. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Sun, Dec. 31: Arizona State (8-3) vs. Iowa (7-4)

Liberty, Dec. 31: Southern Mississippi (8-3) vs. Pittsburgh (6-5)

Fiesta, Dec. 31: Syracuse (9-3) vs. Kansas State (10-1)

Cotton, Jan. 1: UCLA (9-2) vs. Texas A&M (9-3)

Outback, Jan. 1:Wisconsin (8-3) vs. Georgia (9-2)

Gator, Jan. 1: North Carolina (10-1) vs. Virginia Tech (7-4)

Citrus, Jan. 1: Penn State (9-2) vs. Florida (9-2)

Rose, Jan. 1: Washington State (10-1) vs. Michigan (11-0)

Sugar, Jan. 1: Florida State (10-1) vs. Ohio State (10-2)

Peach, Jan. 2: Clemson (7-4) vs. Auburn (9-2)

Orange, Jan. 2: Nebraska (12-0) vs. Tennessee (10-1)

- Associated Press

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