News In Brief

The US

President Bill Clinton will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Jan. 20 and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on Jan. 22 in a bid to get the Middle East peace process moving, the White House announced. The Washington meetings had already been scheduled, but dates had not been set. There are no plans for a three-way discussion, officials said.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist said "quality of justice" may be threatened by the Senate's delay in acting on scores of judicial nominations from the White House. In an unusually stern rebuke to fellow conservatives, the nation's top-ranking judge noted in his year-end report that 82 federal judgeships - almost 10 percent of the total - remain vacant.

President Clinton said he will ask Congress to raise the number of overseas Peace Corps volunteers by about 50 percent by the year 2000. Meanwhile, The Washington Post said Clinton wants to offer Medicare benefits to younger retirees and restore food stamps to immigrants whose aid was recently cut off. The president is planning to propose that Americans aged 62 to 64 be allowed to pay monthly fees to receive the same services as Medicare patients, the Post said. An administration official said Clinton also plans to ask Congress to overhaul the Social Security pension system by the end of 1999.

Geraldine Ferraro has told friends she will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge GOP Sen. Alfonse D'Amato this year, The New York Times reported. In 1992, she finished a close second after a bitter four-way primary battle to determine which Democratic candidate would challenge D'Amato's bid for a third term.

Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles announced plans to seek a second four-year term. He achieved a rare Democratic victory in 1994, a year of GOP dominance, winning the governor's race by just over 500 votes. At least three declared Republican candidates are seeking to unseat the governor.

Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan warned of dangers if the economy enters a period of falling prices, reinforcing beliefs he is not inclined to raise interest rates at this time. In his most detailed discussion to date of deflation, Greenspan said debate on the issue lacks clarity. Observers were struck by the chairman's attention to deflation after decades in which the Fed has made the fight against higher prices its overriding concern.

The manufacturing growth rate slowed in December as the rise in new orders and production at US factories cooled off, the National Association of Purchasing Management said. Its index of business activity, compiled from interviews with corporate purchasing executives, fell to 52.5 percent from 54.4 percent in November. While the rate declined, the report still marked 19 straight months of manufacturing growth.

Arab and Muslim groups erected a new Islamic star and crescent near the White House to replace a display that was torn down and spray-painted with a swastika a week earlier. The Islamic symbols, representing peace and tolerance, were displayed this year for the first time together with a Christmas tree and a Hanukkah menorah on the Ellipse behind the White House. Clinton condemned the attack as "the embodiment of intolerance."

Steve Fossett's attempt to be the first to fly a balloon nonstop around the world was proceeding "normally," mission controllers said. Since taking off Wednesday evening from St. Louis, the millionaire broker and his "Solo Spirit" balloon had crossed the Atlantic and much of Europe. Fosset received last-minute permission to fly over Libya, but officials had reportedly redrawn his flight plan to prevent an entry into Libyan air space.

Michael Kennedy, who was killed New Year's Eve in a skiing accident in Aspen, Colo., was head of the Massachusetts-based Citizens Energy Corp., a nonprofit company providing home-heating fuel to the needy. He was the sixth of 11 children born to the late Sen. Robert Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy.

The World

Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy announced his resignation, deepening the political turmoil that threatens to bring down the government. Levy's resignation will take effect tomorrow, unless he retracts it. Without Levy's backing, Netanyahu's coalition falls to a minimal 61 members of the 120-member Knesset.

Daniel arap Moi is to be sworn in today for a fifth five-year term as Kenya's president. With only a handful of ballots uncounted, Kenya's Electoral Commission said Moi won 40.1 percent of the vote and met the requirements needed to win last week's elections. His ruling Kenya African National Union is also expected to capture a slim majority in the country's National Assembly. Independent monitors upheld the vote, calling it disorganized but an accurate reflection of the will of Kenya's people.

Unidentified attackers killed 412 people in Algeria - the worst massacre since a Muslim-led insurgency began there six years ago, local newspapers said. The killings, in four villages in west Algeria, came on the first day of Ramadan. The Muslim holy month has seen an upsurge of violence every year since the rebels launched their struggle to bring down the military-backed government.

Thailand's foreign minister said that Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot had fled Cambodia. Surin Pitsuwan based the claim on an intelligence report, but said he didn't know where the guerrilla leader was now. Meanwhile, China denied earlier reports that it was harboring Pol Pot. The UN is examining ways to bring him to justice for the killings of as many as 2 million Cambodians during the mid-1970s.

Mexico's embattled interior minister resigned amid the growing turmoil in Chiapas State. President Ernesto Zedillo announced that Emilio Chauyffet would be replaced by Agriculture Minister Francisco Labastida. The Cabinet shuffle follows last month's massacre of 45 Indian refugees in the southern state, where Zapatista rebels took up arms four years ago to press for Indian rights.

Burma celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence from Britain amid opposition calls for democracy. The government marked its "Golden Jubilee Independence Day" with flag-raising ceremonies, and the nation's top general called for vigilance against disruptive elements within the country. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said, despite the occasion, Burma still lacked basic human rights and suffered from a deteriorating economy. The country has been under military rule since gaining independence in 1948.

An overcrowded bus collided with an oil tanker on Pakistan's Islamabad-Lahore highway. Rescue officials said more than 50 people died in the crash about 70 miles east of the capital, Islamabad. Fatal accidents are common on Pakistan's poorly lit, congested rural highways.

About 700 poultry workers demonstrated in downtown Hong Kong to protest the government's killing of more than 1.2 million chickens. Last week's slaughter, designed to stamp out the bird flu, left many workers without jobs. The government has promised to reimburse poultry vendors and farmers $3.85 per bird killed.

Lithuanians voted for the second time in two weeks to choose a new president. Polls gave Lithuanian-American Valdas Adamkus a slight lead over former deputy prosecutor Arturas Pauluaskas in the runoff. Analysts say the two benefited from the Lithuanian electorate's desire to have a fresh face fill the largely ceremonial post.

"I'm through with this partnership ... I've had it. Period."

- Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, after resigning from the Cabinet of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Etceteras

In Winchester, Va., people are saying the last shot of the Civil War may have been fired last week. After receiving a metal detector as a Christmas present, Michael Zimmerman, age 14, and Andrew Zimmerman, 10, were with their father and an uncle when they discovered a shell near a soccer field. The projectile, apparently abandoned by Confederate troops, left a 4-by-5-foot crater when police exploded it in the yard of the boys' grandfather.

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The Day's List

Final College Football Polls Differ on No. 1

Is Michigan best? Or Nebraska? Sports writers and coaches disagree. Here's how major polls rated the top teams (with first-place votes and win-loss tallies):

AP Writers Poll

1. Michigan (51) 12-0

2. Nebraska (18) 13-0

3. Florida State 11-1

4. Florida 10-2

5. UCLA 10-2

6. North Carolina 11-1

7. Tennessee 11-2

8. Kansas State 11-1

9. Washington State 10-2

10. Georgia 10-2

11. Auburn 10-3

12. Ohio State 10-3

13. LSU 9-3

14. Arizona State 9-3

15. Purdue 9-3

16. Penn State 9-3

17. Colorado State 11-2

18. Washington 8-4

19. Southern Miss. 9-3

20. Texas A&M 9-4

USA Today/ESPN

Coaches Poll

1. Nebraska (32) 13-0

2. Michigan (30) 12-0

3. Florida State 11-1

4. North Carolina 11-1

5. UCLA 10-2

6. Florida 10-2

7. Kansas State 11-1

8. Tennessee 11-2

9. Washington State 10-2

10. Georgia 10-2

11. Auburn 10-3

12. Ohio State 10-3

13. LSU 9-3

14. Arizona State 9-3

15. Purdue 9-3

16. Colorado State 11-2

17. Penn State 9-3

18. Washington 8-4

19. Southern Miss. 9-3

20. Syracuse 9-4

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