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The US

President Clinton said US troops will remain in Bosnia beyond his earlier deadline of June 1998. The president set no deadline for their return. He is scheduled to fly to Bosnia Sunday night to share holiday cheer with US troops in the NATO-led peacekeeping force.

Federal Election Commission auditors have recommended Republicans return some $3.7 million that helped fund last year's GOP convention. An agency spokesman said no decision to demand repayment had been made. Auditors ruled that $2.2 million from the city of San Diego - as well as $1.4 million the GOP paid for increasing TV coverage - violated federal regulations. San Diego and the Republican National Committee dispute the finding.

The Republican Party seemed headed for a new showdown over abortion. Activists have presented a resolution to the Republican National Committee that would cut off party funding for candidates who do not support a ban on late-term abortions, party sources said. The proposal is to be discussed during a committee meeting in Palm Springs, Calif., beginning Jan. 15.

The national caseload of families on welfare fell to 3.9 million in fiscal year 1997 from 5 million in 1994, a report of the House Ways and Means Committee said. The caseload decline reportedly allows states to spend more on child care, job training, and back-to-work programs. Meanwhile, the Social Security Administration said it would review 60,000 cases of children denied disability benefits under stricter standards imposed by last year's reform of welfare. Up to 80,000 other families will be allowed to appeal the loss of disability aid, officials said.

A batch of sensitive tobacco- industry documents was released on the Internet by US Rep. Thomas Bliley (R) of Virginia. The House Commerce Committee chairman, who had obtained more than 800 documents, made them available at www.house.gov/commerce/welcome.html. Bliley subpoenaed the papers after a court-appointed official in Minnesota reviewed them and concluded they may contain evidence of crime or fraud.

The Justice Department urged a federal judge to hold Microsoft Corp. in contempt of an earlier order in an antitrust lawsuit involving Windows computer software. The filing in Washington, D.C., was the latest volley in an antitrust lawsuit accusing the Redmond, Wash.-based software company of using its dominance in Windows software to control the Internet browser market.

The largest US computer data companies agreed to block public access to certain types of personal information, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, and a mother's maiden name. The accord was signed by 14 leading companies, including Lexis-Nexis and the three main US credit bureaus. The Federal Trade Commission praised the agreement but said it failed to give individuals sufficient access to other data so they can check for mistakes and correct them.

Eastman Kodak said it would cut another 6,600 jobs on top of the 10,000 cuts it announced last month as part of a broad restructuring aimed at boosting profits and lifting the company's stock price. A $1.5 billion restructuring and revaluation charge will be included in fourth-quarter results, due Jan. 15, officials said.

Citicorp said it was buying AT&T's Universal credit-card business for $3.5 billion in cash, extending its lead as the nation's biggest issuer of such cards. Citicorp said it plans no immediate changes to the Universal card or its operations.

Clinton declared Guam a major disaster area, making the US territory and its residents eligible for federal aid in the wake of typhoon Paka.

Vincent Gigante was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $1.25 million for murder, conspiracy, and racketeering. He's been called the last of the old-time New York Mafia dons.

The WorldNATO peace-keepers prevented angry Croats from gathering outside the houses of two war-crimes suspects who were seized in the Bosnian town of Ahmici. Anto Furundzija and Vlatko Kupreskic were en route to the UN tribunal in The Hague after being arrested by a special unit of Dutch paratroops and marines. Kupreskic was wounded when he resisted. Bosnian radio broadcast a NATO appeal for Croats to remain calm, and Secretary-General Javier Solana urged Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to help prevent any retaliation.

Secretary of State Albright and Palestinian Authority President Arafat met in London following her inconclusive earlier discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. She failed to get a hoped-for specific plan for Israeli troop pullbacks from the West Bank, although reports said Netanyahu was given a "reprieve" until mid-January to work on another priority - passage of his 1998 budget by parliament.

The UN Security Council appeared no more prepared to authorize military action against Iraq than at earlier junctures as it considered the latest impasse over weapons inspections. The council heard a report by chief inspector Richard Butler after his talks with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad, in which they repeated refusals to allow UN teams into sites considered as possible arms storehouses. Iraq complained that Butler's report did not reflect its "willingness to work on the issues."

Based on half-complete returns, veteran opposition leader Kim Dae Jung clung to a narrow lead in South Korea's presidential election, television reports said. Kim had 40 percent of the vote, compared to 38.7 percent for ruling party candidate Lee Hoi Chang. Turnout at the polls was estimated at about 80 percent - higher than political observers had predicted.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin planned to return to his Kremlin office today and to make a scheduled visit to India next month, it was announced. He was hospitalized in Moscow Dec. 10 for the third time in slightly over a year, raising new questions about his health.

Further complicating Pakistan's leadership feud, the national Election Commission rejected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's nominee for the presidency. The commission said it turned down retired judge Mohammad Rafiq Tarar because of alleged derogatory remarks about the country's constitutional crisis. Tarar was to succeed Farooq Leghari, who resigned the presidency Dec. 2 amid a bitter dispute with Sharif. Pakistan's electoral college was scheduled to vote on the nomination Dec. 31.

Ballot counting was suspended in Guyana's presidential election because of alleged vote-rigging. The opposition People's National Congress said the preliminary numbers announced by election commissioners did not match those on the tally sheets from polling stations. Progressive Party candidate Janet Jagan, widow of longtime president Cheddi Jagan, held a 25,000-vote lead over the National Congress's Desmond Hoyte, another former head of state, with counting 77 percent complete.

Too few Australians have bought ticket packages for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney to finance construction of the main stadium, so overseas buyers will be sought, organizers said. They said $142 million worth of "gold membership" plans - offering exclusive seating and other privileges lasting 30 years - were largely ignored by Australian investors. Overseas sales were to begin in January.

Etceteras

"I honestly believed that in 18 months we could get this done. I wasn't right, so I don't want to make that error again."

- President Clinton, announcing he is extending the US military presence in Bosnia but not setting a new exit deadline.

If you consider Buddy, the new White House pet Labrador retriever, as a Christmas present, it turns out that President Clinton was merely ahead of the wave this year. The BellSouth telephone company designated its Web site for visitors to tell what they most hoped to find under the tree on Christmas morning. The site has registered more than 65,000 hits since it opened during Thanksgiving week. And the most-requested gift is . . . a puppy.

Speaking of finding things under the tree, imagine Jim Johnson's surprise when he dropped to his knees to check out the noise coming from the one he and his wife had just carried home from a store in Fayetteville, Ark. Looking back at him was a three-foot-long rat snake. The tree was shipped from Oregon, which doesn't have the type of snake in question. Johnson, a professional biologist, theorizes the critter must have slithered into the shipment somewhere en route, intending to hibernate for the winter.

The Day's List

Rating the Clout of Key People in US Sports

A list of the 100 "most powerful people in sports"- only 11 of whom are active athletes - has been published by The Sporting News. The periodical's top 10 for 1997:

1. Michael Jordan, guard, Chicago Bulls

2. Rupert Murdoch, chief executive officer, NewsCorp

3. David Stern, commissioner, National Basketball Association

4. Dick Ebersol, president, NBC Sports

5. Ted Turner, vice chairman, Time Warner, and owner of two major league franchises

6. Michael Eisner, chairman, Walt Disney Co.

7. Phil Knight, chairman, Nike sporting goods

8. Steve Bornstein, president, ESPN and ABC Sports

9. Philip Guarascio and Ron Zarella, advertising/marketing executives, General Motors

10. Paul Tagliabue, commissioner, National Football League

- PRNewswire

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