News In Brief

The US

Geraldine Ferraro announced her candidacy for the US Senate seat held by New York Republican Alfonse D'Amato. The former Democratic vice-presidential candidate made the announcement after quitting her job as political commentator for Cable News Network.

Rep. John Kasich (R) of Ohio said he was considering a run for the presidency. Kasich, who made a name for himself as a key player in negotiations with the White House to balance the federal budget, said on NBC TV that he was traveling around the country to gauge his public support.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich called for a national commission on retirement to explore ways to create the world's "best and safest retirement system." Gingrich, speaking in his home district in Georgia, also called for a cap of 25 percent of income on total taxation by US, state, and local governments.

Theodore Kaczynski halted his Unabomber trial before it got under way in Sacramento, Calif., asking to make a statement to the judge. The US district court judge immediately adjourned into a private meeting with Kaczynski and his lawyers. Jurors were expected to hear details of what the government contends was a murderous antitechnology campaign waged by the math- professor-turned-hermit.

The two largest US automakers were intensifying their race to build low-pollution vehicles. Ford Motor Co. said all sport utility vehicles it makes in the 1999 model year will have emissions as clean as most cars now on the road. General Motors Corp. said it may be ready to produce a hybrid-electric vehicle by 2001 and a fuel-cell electric vehicle by 2004. Toyota Motor Co. announced last fall that it would become the first automaker to offer consumers a hybrid gasoline-electric car. It will reportedly be available, at least initially, only in Japan.

The US space agency began a countdown for its first moon mission in 25 years. An unmanned rocket was scheduled to blast off last night carrying the Lunar Prospector, a probe that will orbit the moon, examine its surface for evidence of frozen water, and analyze minerals and gases. The agency had only a four-minute window to launch the Athena 2 rocket.

Long-term interest rates seemed headed for a record low, as the rate for 30-year US Treasury bonds fell at mid-day, to 5.75 percent. That marks the lowest level since the bonds were first issued in 1977. The bond is a barometer for rates on many consumer loans, especially home mortgages. It has never closed lower than a 1993 level of 5.79 percent.

The Clinton administration defended its role in multibillion-dollar bailouts of Asia's embattled economies. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that he would press Congress to approve legislation boosting International Monetary Fund resources, drained by loans in Asia. Pending legislation would make an extra $3.5 billion available to the IMF, as well as some $15 billion to cover the US share of a quota increase to replenish IMF funds.

A British-made plane used to train Air Force pilots may be too dangerous to fly, Time magazine reported. Three fledgling pilots and three instructors have been killed in three crashes of the T-3 Firefly since it was put in use in 1995, Time said. Evidence obtained through interviews and documents suggests that switching from the T-41 to the T-3 was a mistake because the plane is "too perilous for veteran pilots, much less beginners," the Time article concludes.

Four GOP senators are planning to release a 10-song CD as the "Singing Senators," Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft said. Their nonprofit recording venture, which probably will not be released before February, is expected to raise money for politics and for charity, Ashcroft said.

The World

Israeli lawmakers passed Prime Minister Netanyahu's 1998 budget. The 58 to 52 vote gave Netanyahu's weakened coalition its first victory since Foreign Minister David Levy resigned Sunday. Levy had expressed dissatisfaction with the government's handling of social issues and the peace process. The defection left Netanyahu in command of only 61 lawmakers in the 120-seat Knesset, which plans to hold a vote of confidence in his government next week.

Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi was sworn in for a fifth five-year term, pledging to tackle corruption, repair crumbling infrastructure, and fight poverty. Hundreds of dignitaries and some 5,000 Kenyans attended the inauguration ceremony held in Nairobi's Uhuru Park. Kenya's opposition boycotted the event, charging that last week's election was rigged.

Lithuanian-American Valdas Adamkus narrowly won Lithuania's presidential election run-off. He received 49.9 percent of the vote to 49.3 percent for former prosecutor-general Arturas Paulauskas. Adamkus, who returned to Lithuania from the US less than a year ago, pledged to keep the former Soviet republic on track to join the European Union and NATO. Lithuania's presidential office deals mostly with foreign-policy matters and has relatively little power.

Thailand's currency closed at an all-time low of 50 baht to the dollar. The baht has lost half of its value against the dollar in the last six months. Meanwhile, Thailand's finance minister plans to meet with International Monetary Fund officials later this month to renegotiate terms of the 17.2-billion-dollar economic-rescue package. Thai officials say the country was unlikely to meet an IMF condition requiring Thailand to produce a budget surplus equal to 1 percent of gross domestic product this fiscal year.

Government troops swept across parts of Algeria following the weekend massacre of more than 400 villagers in the town of Relizane, Algerian newspapers said. The forces reportedly were hunting for members of the Armed Islamic Group, the most radical faction among Muslim extremist groups attempting to overthrow the military-led government. Meanwhile, France criticized Algeria for the first time in roughly two years, calling on its former colony to end the violence and to move towards democracy.

The Hong Kong government raised its compensation offer to poultry workers affected by the slaughter of all of the territory's 1.3 million chickens. But poultry industry officials said it wasn't enough. The program would pay farmers $4.62 per chicken killed, and it would offer grants and low-interest loans to affected truckers, wholesalers, and retailers. Tens of thousands of people have been thrown out of work as a result of the government's effort to stamp out the bird flu.

Nigeria's military ruler announced plans to privatize several government-owned companies. Sani Abacha said Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd, the only provider of phone service in Nigeria, would be sold to private investors this year. State-run power and oil companies would be sold in the coming years. Abacha said the move would result in better service.

American balloonist Steve Fossett abandoned his fourth attempt to become the first person to circle the globe nonstop in a balloon. Fossett landed his "Solo Spirit" safely in southern Russia 30 miles north of Slav-yansk-na-Kubani, a Moscow air-traffic controller said. His craft had developed a number of mechanical problems, including a malfunctioning heater that dropped temperatures inside the capsule to 24 degrees. Fossett had been flying for more than four days after taking off from St. Louis.

Etceteras

"My next government will be more sensitive to the needs and aspirations of the people... It will be devoid of hate, fear, and confrontation."

- Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi, in his inauguration address after winning the presidency for another term.

Many of Estonia's former Soviet elite apparently lost little time changing their political colors after the collapse of communism. A survey, reported recently in the Estonian newspaper Paevaleht, indicates a third of the members of the Baltic state's last Communist Party Central Committee simply ditched their copies of Das Kapital and went into business.

Robert Logan Brantley, born New Year's Eve, was seen by family members in towns across the US on New Year's Day, thanks to a new Internet-announcement service at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tenn. Members of the hospital staff are taking a few digital photos of each baby, then handing them to parents on computer disks. Parents can take the disks home, or use a computer in the maternity ward to write and send their e-mail messages.

The word police at Lake Superior State University in Michigan have released a new list of words and clichs they never want to hear again. One is the fadish "yadda, yadda, yadda." Another is the prefix "re." One wag suggests we "redouble our efforts to rethink" this usage.

The Day's List

US Census Ranking of Fastest-Growing States

The population of Nevada is growing about five times faster than the total US population, a new Census Bureau survey indicates. From July 1996 to July 1977, Nevada's population reportedly grew at an annual rate of 4.7 percent, compared with a national growth rate of 0.9 percent. The 10 most-rapidly growing states and their individual growth rates over the 12-month period:

1. Nevada 4.7%

2. Arizona 2.7

3. Georgia 2.1

4. Utah 2.1

5. Colorado 2.0

6. Idaho 1.9

7. Texas 1.8

8. Washington 1.6

9. Florida 1.6

10. North Carolina 1.6

- Associated Press

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