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The US

The judge in the Oklahoma bombing trial in Denver said he would decide the sentence for convicted conspirator Terry Nichols. Richard Matsch said the jury told him it was deadlocked on Nichols's intent. Its failure to reach a unanimous decision effectively spared Nichols the death penalty; Matsch doesn't have the power to impose such a sentence.

President Clinton planned to announce a $21 billion package of child-care tax credits and programs at a White House ceremony, administration sources indicated. The proposals include expansions of both the income tax credit parents can take for child-care expenses and federal contributions to state child-care subsidies for low-income parents and welfare recipients entering jobs. The plan also includes a 25 percent tax credit for businesses that establish and run child-care facilities for their workers or that reserve slots in such facilities, White House sources said.

Clinton proposed significant changes to Medicare that would allow Americans 55 and older who lost their jobs and health insurance to buy into the program for $400 per month. Also under the plan, people aged 62 to 64 would be allowed to buy into Medicare by paying a premium of $300 per month. A third proposal would let retirees 55 and older to buy into their former employer's health plans.

Apple Computer Inc. stock soared 20 percent on news of a surprise profit of more than $45 million for the final quarter of 1997. Company officials also said they expect to report $1.58 billion in sales for the first quarter of 1998.

Home sales climbed in November to the highest level in more than 11 years, the Commerce Department said. Sales rose strongly everywhere but in the West. Analysts attributed the strong sales to consumer confidence and low mortgage rates, which continued down this week after the yield on long-term Treasury bonds reached the lowest point in three decades.

Clinton is tentatively scheduled to give sworn testimony Jan. 17 in the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit, the Washington Times reported. Jones also told reporters in Long Beach, Calif., the Treasury Department is investigating whether political pressure prompted the Internal Revenue Service to audit her taxes.

Clinton is expected to renew his call for Congress to ban experiments in human cloning for at least five years, White House press secretary Mike McCurry said. He was speaking in response to a National Public Radio news report that said Richard Seed, a Chicago-area scientist, is planning to set up a clinic that would clone babies for would-be parents.

Republican Party chairman Jim Nicholson announced he's against a resolution that would prevent his party from actively supporting any candidate opposed to a ban on "partial birth" abortion. The resolution, which forbids the Republican National Committee and associated committees from giving money to such candidates, is scheduled to be discussed at a meeting in Palm Springs, Calif., next week.

Lunar Prospector, a robot explorer, successfully blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on a year-long mission to map the moon and search for water and minerals. The $63 million mission is NASA's first to the moon since men last walked on it in 1972.

A federal judge in Washington accepted a settlement between the Justice Department and the National Treasury Employees Union that resolved a challenge of Clinton's line-item veto. US District Judge Thomas Hogan signed the agreement filed last week in which the Clinton administration admitted the president exceeded his authority when he vetoed a congressional measure that would allow federal workers to change pension systems. Under the settlement, Clinton rescinded the veto.

The World

Experts defused a 300-pound car bomb in a mostly Protestant town in Northern Ireland just before a scheduled attempt to keep peace negotiations from collapsing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bomb, which had been left in Bainbridge, 18 miles southwest of Belfast. But suspicion fell on Irish Republican Army dissidents, who have been trying to undermine the peace process. Britain's Secretary for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, was to meet with Protestant leaders who threat-en to pull out of the talks before they resume Monday.

Hundreds of frightened villagers fled their homes in western Algeria in the wake of massacres that have left at least 1,000 people dead in the first week of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. The killings are blamed on Islamic extremists bent on toppling the country's military-backed government. Despite the latest wave of violence, the government angrily rejected mounting pressure for an international investigation.

US leaders are to blame for the rift with Iran, but the people of the two countries should try to find common ground, President Khatami told CNN. In an interview taped for broadcast last night, he addressed ordinary Americans rather than the US government, which Iran's hardline clerics hold in contempt. His call for dialogue is seen as the strongest signal in 19 years that Iran may want to ease hostilities.

Israel will reduce the scope of its planned troop pullback from the West Bank because of threats by hardliners to topple Prime Minister Netanyahu's government, reports from Jerusalem said. Netanyahu was to meet for the second time in two days with US envoy Dennis Ross after apparently failing to say how much of the area Israel would yield to Palestinians. The reports said Netanyahu's original plan for a 10 percent pullback was not likely to win approval in parliament.

Former hardline South African President P. W. Botha will be prosecuted for refusing to appear before the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, its spokesman said. The commission wants Botha, who served from 1984 to 1989, to testify on the activities of the State Security Council in attempting to maintain white rule. Botha has ignored three summons, saying he has nothing to apologize for.

Despite a government pledge to crack down on illegal emigration, local authorities in Turkey freed scores of people arrested for trying to sneak into southern Europe. Most of those let go were Iraqi Kurds detained earlier this week under pressure from the European Union, which is concerned about a flood of illegal migrants. Separate meetings on the issue were to be held by EU and Turkish officials in Brussels and Rome.

As many as 600 civilians were "dragged from their homes and gunned down" by troops of Afghanistan's fundamentalist Taliban movement, an opposition group claimed in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The alleged massacre of unarmed ethnic Uzbeks occurred Jan. 1-2 in northeastern Afghanistan, the letter said. Taliban officials deny the accusation. But UN sources in neighboring Pakistan said they had "security reports" suggesting that some killings and a mass exodus had taken place.

"As a sign of good will," the government of mainly Buddhist Mongolia said it would release 10,000 Bibles confiscated from a shipment last May. The volumes, intended for distribution to children by the Mongolian Bible Society, were seized even though the formerly communist nation guarantees freedom of religion. The move brought a torrent of international protest.

Etceteras

"I couldn't be more excited, more happy, more pleased."

- NASA scientist Joseph Boyce, on the launch of Lunar Prospector, the agency's first mission to the moon in 25 years.

Heard about the latest addition to the real-property rolls in Casper, Wyo.? It's a furnished, three-story structure that retiree Kenneth Hammon built by hand for his wife, Diana. It has a validated deed, even though it's unlivable. You see, it's a doll house - apparently the only one ever registered in Natrona County. No word on how much the Hammons will owe in property taxes.

San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district helped to spawn the antiwar movement in the 1960s. But that was then and this is now. Residents have successfully opposed the city's plans to place a 24-foot-high steel sculpture of the three-pronged peace symbol that grew out of that movement opposite their neighborhood in Golden Gate Park. "It's a clich," one said, and "it's not welcome."

Some Norwegian fishermen were sunk - literally - after their net filled with a huge catch of herring off the northern coast. The fish headed en masse for deeper waters, capsizing the 63-foot boat the men were in. It went to the bottom in 10 minutes, although all hands were rescued without injury by another vessel.

The Day's List

Michael, Sarah Led List Of Baby Names in '97

New parents apparently favor Michael as a name for baby boys and Sarah for baby girls, according to a sampling of Social Security registrations during the first eight months of 1997 by San Francisco-based Baby Center Inc. Sarah replaced Kaitlyn atop the girls' list. Michael retained the No.1 spot on the boys' list. The 10 most-popular names in the two categories:

Boys Girls

1. Michael Sarah

2. Matthew Emily

3. Nicholas Kaitlyn

4. Jacob Brianna

5. Christopher Ashley

6. Austin Jessica

7. Joshua Taylor

8. Zachary Megan

9. Andrew Hannah

10. Brandon Samantha

- Associated Press

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