News In Brief

The US

On a day marked by frayed tempers in Congress and at the White House, Attorney General Janet Reno was to testify before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. The ire of GOP lawmakers over her decision not to appoint an independent counsel to pursue campaign fund-raising allegations was heightened by her refusal over the weekend to hand over a confidential memo from FBI Director Louis Freeh, who was also scheduled to testify.

Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana blasted the White House for a new belated discovery of subpoenaed documents, accusing the administration of keeping "vital information from the Congress and the American people." Burton, chairman of the panel calling Reno to testify, made the comment after receiving 200 pages of notes by Clinton aide Janis Kearney that, among other things, reportedly refer to White House "money coffees."

Administration officials threatened to ignore GOP opposition and install Bill Lann Lee in the nation's top civil rights job. After White House spokesman Mike McCurry refused to rule out the prospect of the president appointing Lee while Congress is in recess, The New York Times quoted a "senior administration official" as saying the White House was "prepared to go ahead" if Congress balked on approving Lee. Republicans have objected to Lee's support of affirmative action

The widow of former Ambassador Larry Lawrence said she would have his body removed from Arlington National Cemetery. But her decision failed to quell partisan controversy over a waiver allowing him to be buried there. Rep. Terry Everett (R) of Alabama said his House Veterans Affairs subcommittee wants to know how Lawrence, a major donor to the Democratic Party, received the waiver. Lawrence was ambassador to Switzerland at the time of his death in 1996. Questions have arisen about his claims of serving in the Merchant Marine and being wounded in action.

Next month's shuttle flight to Mir has been delayed, and US astronaut David Wolf will spend at least five extra days on the Russian outpost, the US space agency said. Endeavour was supposed to blast off Jan. 15, but will now launch on or after Jan. 20.

A federal judge refused to block the opening of the $35 million film "Amistad," despite an author's charge that director Steven Spielberg plagiarized her book to make the epic. In Los Angeles, US District Judge Audrey Collins denied author Barbara Chase-Riboud's request, saying the issues she raised should be dealt with at a copyright-infringement trial to be heard early next year.

A group of leading technology companies unveiled a voluntary code to protect privacy of people visiting Web sites. The Information Technology Industry Council guidelines recommend notifying consumers of any personal data being collected and allowing them a degree of choice over how the data are used. Among council members are major computer and chip manufacturers. Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission opened a Web site for consumers - www.consumer.gov - that offers advice on food, health, transportation, children, product safety, money, and other subjects.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a female death-row inmate in Texas, clearing the way for the second US execution of a woman since capital punishment resumed in 1976. Karla Faye Tucker, one of seven women on death row in Texas, was convicted of killing a Houston man in 1983.

A US physicist has admitted passing classified defense secrets to China in 1985, the Justice Department said. Peter Lee, a laser-energy expert from Manhattan Beach, Calif., admitted giving Chinese scientists information about his work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Prosecutors said Lee's primary motivation was "empathy for the situation of the Chinese scientific community."

The World

The 150-nation global warming conference was "close to a solution" on cutting so-called greenhouse gas emissions, coordinator Raul Estrada of Argentina said. Organizers said the momentum was provided by a US offer to accept stricter limits than those originally put forward as its position by President Clinton. Negotiators were working late into the night to wrap up a treaty, with the conference ending today.

With a symbolic joining of hands, formal negotiations opened in Geneva on ending 44 years of tense separation between the two Koreas. North Korea's delegation was led by a deputy foreign minister. Heading South Korea's negotiators was its ambassador to France. The US and China also are partners in the talks. Analysts expected the negotiations would take months, and perhaps years, to reach an accord.

Starkly different themes were sounded by Iran's top two leaders at the opening of the world Islamic summit in Tehran. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds near-absolute power, called the US a "designer of arrogance" and said Western civilization aspires to "money, gluttony, and carnal desires." President Mohammad Khatami, a relative liberal, called for dialogue with the West, whose "positive accomplishments" should be taken advantage of "judiciously." In separate remarks, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah urged fellow delegates to reject Islamic militancy.

In blistering terms, China said Clinton was "totally wrong" in meeting with freed political dissident Wei Jingsheng earlier this week at the White House. Wei said he warned Clinton in their half-hour discussion not to trust China's leaders to keep their promises. A Foreign Ministry statement expressed "strong resentment" at the meeting and described Wei's remarks as "not worth rebuttal."

Burundi's Tutsi-led government reversed itself and lifted the suspension of all political activity by the main Hutu opposition party, FRODEBU. The ban was to last six months unless the party reconsidered the reelection of exiled antigovernment activist Jean Minani as its leader. But a new government statement called the suspension a "judicial misinterpretation" by the Interior Ministry.

The latest try at a round-the-world balloon flight by British tycoon Richard Branson ended before it began. Wind gusts reportedly tore his 1.1 million cubic-foot bag from its moorings as it was being filled with helium at a military base in Morocco. The balloon vanished.

Egypt's largest militant Islamic group, Gamaa, denied issuing a decree that it would no longer target foreign tourists in its campaign to topple the secular government of President Hosni Mubarak. The denial followed by one day a statement distributed to news agencies in Cairo indicating that such attacks were over. Analysts said the denial confirmed reports of a deep split in Gamaa ranks.

Eight-five percent of Quebeckers responding to a new survey are "tired" of hearing about independence from the rest of Canada, and 61 percent don't want another vote on the issue, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported. Analysts said the survey underscored the challenge confronting Premier Lucien Bouchard, who has promised a new referendum on independence if he's returned to office in elections that must be held by late 1999.

Choking tear gas and club-swinging police broke up a march through the center of Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, by labor unionists protesting high taxes. President Robert Mugabe ordered special levies on motor fuel, electricity, and consumer goods last month to fund pensions for veterans of Zimbabwe's "bush war" for independence in the 1970s.

"The ship ... has now set sail. So long as we work in close cooperation, we'll be able

to reach our destination."

- Tang Jiaxuan, China's lead delegate to four-party negotiations in Geneva on reunifying North and South Korea.

Etceteras

A Connecticut criminal suspect wasn't playing Monopoly as he tried to elude police. But he did go directly to jail without passing "Go." It seems his car, matching the description of one used in a nearby robbery, was chased into the parking lot of MacDougall Correctional Institution in Suffield. Apparently without noticing where he was, the man slid from behind the wheel and raced into the lobby. He was trapped - and arrested - when the doors automatically locked behind him.

Residents of Malaysia's capital are learning what it means to fight city hall. It ordered 1,500 older buildings in Kuala Lumpur repainted pink and green as part of a beautification project before next year's Commonwealth Games. What's more, the work is to be done within one month and at each property owner's expense, with punishment reserved for those who do not comply. Isn't any of this negotiable? Well, yes. "We can talk it over if they want to use other colors," a spokesman for the mayor's office said.

The Day's List

'Flubber' Remains No. Film at the Box Office

Making the most of one of the slowest periods of the year for movie-going, "Flubber" was a hot ticket for the second week in a row, despite unenthusiastic reviews. There wasn't much competition, however, with distributors holding new releases for the prime Christmas season to avoid going head to head with holiday shopping. The top 10 films for the Dec. 5-7 weekend and their grosses (in millions):

1. "Flubber" $11.8

2. "Alien Resurrection" 6.3

3. "John Grisham's The Rainmaker" 5.7

4. "Anastasia" 4.6

5. "The Jackal" 4.0

6. "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" 3.0

7. "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation" 2.5

8. "I Know What You Did Last Summer" 1.4

9. "Bean" 1.29

10. "Starship Troopers" 1.25

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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