News In Brief

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The US

President Clinton's proposed budget for next year will include a $9.5 billion surplus, the first in three decades, aides familiar with the plan said. The document predicts surpluses of $8.5 billion in 2000, $28.2 billion in 2001, $89.7 billion in 2002, and $82.8 billion in 2003, the sources said. The budget - to be sent to Congress today - is expected to put forward $100 billion in new spending and tax breaks over five years, with much of it going to a child-care initiative, education, and biomedical research.

As a response to global warming, Clinton said he would propose a five-year, $6.3 billion package of tax incentives and research funding to spur development of more fuel-efficient autos and other energy-saving technologies. The proposal would give tax credits of $3,000 to $4,000 to buyers of the next generation of fuel-efficient cars as a way to boost their development.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Four Northeastern states said they would carry out their own programs to fight auto pollution. New York, Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont said they would not accept an automakers' plan to offer gasoline-powered cars with 70 percent cleaner emissions nationwide as a way to avoid building unconventional "super clean" cars for smog control in the Northeast. The remaining Northeast states as well as Washington, D.C., said they wanted to join a national plan. Automakers have until Feb. 17 to decide whether to pursue a national low-emissions vehicle program proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Gasoline prices plunged over the weekend. Drivers along the East Coast found prices as low as 84.9 cents a gallon in Florence, S.C. - a drop of 4 cents in one week. In Georgia, a Monitor editor traveling through the area found the lowest price advertised along I-95 was 90.9 cents, although most stations were a few cents higher. Some Virginia stations were selling unleaded regular for 99.9 cents (self-service). Gasoline could be found near I-95 for 98.9 cents in Virginia and 99.9 cents in New Jersey.

After keeping quiet for a week, some top Republicans began attacking the president on moral grounds late last week. US Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri, who is considering a run for presidency in 2000, was the first prominent Republican to break the wall of silence. He was joined by Steve Forbes, who ran for president in 1996, and by former Education Secretary William Bennett. They spoke out at the 25th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Arlington, Va.

A majority (57 percent) of Americans think the inquiry into allegations concerning Clinton and a former White House intern should be stopped, a Time Magazine/CNN poll indicated. It showed the public evenly split - at 43 percent - on whether independent counsel Kenneth Starr has acted responsibly.

Senate Democrats thwarted a GOP effort to rename Washington National Airport after former President Reagan, and Republicans balked at a Demo- cratic proposal to rename the Justice Department headquarters after former Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Republicans were hoping to pass a bill making the airport change on Reagan's birthday, Feb. 6, but Democrats used parliamentary tactics to block further consideration.

A plan to phase out government involvement in running the Internet's naming and address system was released by the Clinton administration. If enacted, the plan would turn management over to the private sector, stimulate competition for registering new addresses, and create five new top-level suffixes, or "domains." The proposal is posted on the Web (www.ntia.doc.gov).

Joseph Alioto, who died late last week in San Francisco, was the city's longtime former mayor and a nationally renowned antitrust lawyer. He is credited with helping to establish - during two mayoral terms (1968 to 1976) - the racial tolerance that continues to characterize San Francisco.

The World

Iraq opened talks with 23 UN officials in Baghdad to plead that it has no weapons of mass destruction left. As they met, the training of hundreds of thousands of civilian "volunteers" began in military defense techniques. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned that the US would use "substantial" force against Iraq if diplomatic efforts failed to resolve the impasse over arms searches.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority will send envoys to Washington next week for more talks with US officials on breaking the Middle East peace stalemate, Albright announced. After a two-hour meeting with the Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat and more than four hours of earlier talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, she complained that both had failed to made "hard decisions" needed for a breakthrough. Albright said only "minimal" progress had been achieved.

China scorned a US government report on political dissent, calling it "irresponsible" and an attempt to interfere in internal affairs. The annual State Department report said despite some progress in tolerating dissent, China still abuses the fundamental freedoms of its people. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-based Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China reported that four poets known for their liberal views were arrested last week, probably for plans to publish a journal promoting a literary renaissance.

As many as half a million Spaniards marched in the city of Seville in yet another protest over the slaying of a local politician by suspected Basque separatists. City Councillor Alberto Jimenez Becerril and his wife, Ascension Garcia Ortiz, were shot Thursday. Becerril's assassination matched the pattern used by separatists in killing three other local officials over the past six months. Seville is hundreds of miles from the Basque region.

Two weeks of debate on whether Australia should become a republic open today in Canberra. The goal: drawing up a proposed new constitution that would end 210 years of affiliation with Britain, to be voted on in a national referendum. But critics doubted that the 152 delegates - half of them appointed by the government - would make much progress because the agenda contained 57 separate items for discussion.

Somalia's main seaport and airport would reopen and the "green line" dividing the capital, Mogadishu, would be dismantled under an accord reached by rival faction leaders. Ali Mahdi Mohamed, Hussein Aideed, and Osman Ali Atto also decided to deploy a joint security force in the capital, which has been without a government since 1991. But Western analysts were skeptical, noting the failure of the factions to keep earlier accords.

Despite already cramped quarters, the crew aboard Mir transferred new scientific apparatus from the Soyuz transport vehicle that docked with it over the weekend. For the next three weeks, US astronaut Andrew Thomas, French Air Force pilot Leopold Eyharts, and four Russian cosmonuats will share the outpost while Eyharts conducts experiments on reptile reproduction in space. Meanwhile, the US shuttle Endeavour returned to Earth, bringing home astronaut David Wolf from a four-month stay on Mir.

Costa Rica, long considered the most democratic country in Central America, held its presidential election amid widespread signs of apathy. A record low turnout was expect-ed, as opposed to the 80 percent of voters who usually cast ballots. Businessman Miguel Angel Rodriguez of the opposition Social Christian Unity Party held a comfortable lead over ruling National Liberation Party candidate Jos Miguel Corrales in late opinion polls.

Etceteras

"The stubbornness in not responding to the demands of the Security Council is

a very dangerous misjudgment ..."

- Jordan's King Hussein, suggesting Iraq had best allow UN inspectors unrestricted access in their search for weapons.

Speaking of wood, if your footwear of choice is traditional Dutch clogs, you'll no doubt be pleased to know they've earned the European Union's seal of approval. Engineers put the clunky shoes through grueling tests that measured their ability to withstand impact, pressure, penetration by sharp objects, and resistance to heat and water. Says an official EU release: "Their arguments in the area of comfort - no sweaty feet, firm support, insulation from cold, and protection - were all confirmed by the test results."

The Day's List

Ranking World's Cities For Their Travel Value Sydney, Australia's No. 1 city and host of the 2000 Olympic Summer Games, is the winner of Travel & Leisure magazine's second annual best-value survey. Readers rated the world's cities as much for their glamour, excitement, and cultural riches as for the cost of food and lodging. The poll's top 10:

1. Sydney, Australia

2. Cape Town, South Africa

3. Christchurch, New Zealand

4. Oaxaca, Mexico

5. Queenstown, New Zealand

6. Perth, Australia

7. Melbourne, Australia

8. Lisbon, Portugal

9. San Jos, Costa Rica

10. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

- PRNewswire

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