News In Brief

The US

Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski is expected to begin mental competency tests today to determine whether he is fit to act as his own defense counsel. His long-delayed trial will resume on or after Jan. 22, Judge Garland Burrell said. Burrell said the tests would be conducted for five days in Kaczynski's cell at the Sacramento County Jail in California.

A $15 billion settlement is expected to be announced soon in the Texas tobacco lawsuit. The tobacco industry has agreed to pay the state more than $14.5 billion over the next 25 years to cover Medicaid and other health-related expenses incurred for treating ill smokers. The state also demanded the companies fund antismoking programs that could cost several hundred million dollars more, lawyers said. The case was set for trial in Texarkana, Texas, today, but the judge delayed jury selection until Wednesday to give the two sides additional time to work out a deal.

Wall Street braced for another potentially busy day after the Dow Jones industrial average fell Friday 222 points to 7580. Three days of steep declines in southeast Asia caused the worst one-day point drop in the index since it plunged 554 points Oct. 27, and its fourth biggest decline in history. It was the fourth-busiest day on the New York Stock Exchange. The damage was heaviest among technology stocks. The Nasdaq suffered its second-worst point drop.

The National Guard helped utility crews clear trees to restore power to an estimated half-million people in New York and northern New England, where ice storms downed power lines. President Clinton declared a federal state of emergency for a five-county area in northern New York. Flooding from storms in the South caused seven deaths in Tennessee and two in North Carolina.

Clinton unveiled a $70 million plan to expand federal work-study programs for college students during a speech in Mission, Texas. Under the program, colleges receive federal money to provide jobs for students. The president also raised more than $1 million for Democrats there and at an earlier stop in New York.

Microsoft faces federal contempt charges in Washington tomorrow for allegedly violating a judge's order requiring that it sell computermakers its Windows 95 software without including its Web-browsing program. The Justice Department asked US District Judge Thomas Jackson to fine the Redmond, Wash., company $1 million a day for violating his Dec. 11 preliminary injunction. The fine is necessary to force Microsoft to adhere to a 1995 consent decree designed to increase competition in the software industry, the department said.

Clinton blasted scientist Richard Seed's plan to clone humans, calling it "unsafe" and "morally unacceptable." He insisted Congress move quickly to stop the plan, which he said was "profoundly troubling." Clinton proposed a ban on human cloning, which was recommended by his bioethics commission and sent to Congress June 9. The recommendation wasn't acted on before Congress adjourned last fall.

University of Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson announced he'll skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft. Woodson made football history last season when he became the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy. He was key to the Wolverines' victory over Washington State in the Rose Bowl, capping Michigan's unbeaten season and giving the university its first national title in 50 years.

The World

Officials of the International Monetary Fund are scheduled to meet with Indonesian President Suharto today in an effort to push through tough economic reforms that would help the country meet its obligations under a $40 billion bailout. Indonesia's rupiah plunged in value last week amid concern that Suharto's reluctance to abide by strict austerity terms could threaten the bailout.

An estimated 8,000 Thais marched through their capital, Bangkok, in support of a campaign to donate money to ease the country's financial crisis. No official figures were available, but many of those participating traded in US dollars for Thailand's currency, the baht. It has lost more than half its value in the past six months.

Another blow to the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland was dealt by unknown gunmen who killed a relative of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. Terry Enwright, the husband of Adams's niece, was shot outside a Belfast nightclub where he worked. Suspicion fell on a Protestant paramilitary group. In a BBC interview, British Prime Minister Blair called recent violence in Northern Ireland "frustrating" but opposed extending the May deadline for ending current peace talks.

Iraq registered a bitter complaint about the composition of the latest UN weapons-inspection team to arrive in Baghdad. A government spokesman said it was composed of nine Americans, five Britons, and only two experts from other countries. The spokesman called the team "unbalanced" and said it proved that the US and Britain would control its activities.

More than 2 million Canadians awaited the restoration of electrical service after a massive ice storm cut power to an area from Ottawa to the Maritime provinces. The Hydro-Quebec utility said it could take two weeks to reconnect some areas.

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda was formally charged with plotting a coup to topple his successor, who warned the country's neighbors to stay out of the matter. Frederick Chiluba's government acted under international pressure either to indict Kaunda or release him. Kaunda was arrested Christmas Day for his alleged role in a failed Oct. 28 coup and is confined to house arrest. South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania all have protested his treatment.

The widow of slain Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, ended years of tightly guarded privacy to campaign for her husband's political party. Sonia Gandhi addressed more than 10,000 Congress Party supporters in Sriperumbudur, where he was assassinated in 1991. She agreed to campaign after it appeared that the archrival Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party was likely to do well in next month's national election.

Shiite Muslim leaders in Pakistan warned of "repercussions" after gunmen killed 24 people and wounded more than 30 others at a memorial service in a Lahore cemetery. Several of the wounded were small children. The incident appeared to be the latest in a wave of sectarian violence in the city between Shiites and rival Sunni Muslims.

China rushed tents, food, winter clothing, and medical supplies to villagers injured or left homeless by a powerful earthquake near the Great Wall. The quake was measured at 6.2 and hit in sub-zero weather. It killed at least 50 people, hurt more than 11,000 others, and toppled tens of thousands of buildings. Hardest-hit was the Zhangbei area, 150 miles northwest of Beijing. Tremors also were felt in the capital.

Etceteras

"Personally, I believe that human cloning raises deep concerns given our cherished concepts of faith and humanity.... Scientific advancement does not occur in a moral vacuum."

- President Clinton, insisting that Congress move with haste to stop scientist Richard Seed from a plan to clone humans.

Let's say you're the publisher of a newspaper and your pages are widely described as dry, dull, and turgid. How do you lighten up? If you're the Chinese Communist Party, you try adding a "Society Weekly" section to your official mouthpiece, the People's Daily. But all things are relative, it's said, and if the first edition is any clue the new feature won't be carrying gossip columns, coverage of charity balls, or engagement notices. Prominent in it was a story on ... the high prices of electrical appliances in the province of Anhui..

The Day's List

Top 10 Jury Awards for Civil-Suit Plaintiffs in '97

Despite efforts at tort reform, massive amounts of money continue to be awarded to plaintiffs in civil trials, according to the current issue of Lawyer's Weekly USA, a Boston-based publication. Its list of the 10 most generous awards by juries last year:

$262.5 million to Charleston, S. C., parents whose son was killed because of a faulty Dodge Caravan door latch.

$83 million to the family of a woman who died from negligent care at a Borger, Texas, nursing home.

$75 million to the daughter of a single mother who died when an auto dealer's loaner car ran a red light and broadsided her in Tallahassee, Fla.

$60.5 million to three El Paso, Texas, children whose parents' car was hit at a grade crossing by a Burlington Northern train that failed to sound its whistle.

$56.1 million to a San Diego real estate developer from his former partner in a fraud case.

$50 million to survivors of a Miami man killed in a train crash because of negligent track inspections.

$44.9 million to a Syracuse, N.Y., student injured when his friend's car collided with a snow plow.

$42.3 million to an inspector injured in a Nueces County, Texas, oil well explosion.

$37.1 million to a mentally disabled New York City man mistakenly shot by police because he wore a toy gun.

$36.9 million to a St. Louis woman paralyzed in the rollover of a Suzuki sport-utility vehicle.

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