News In Brief

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The US

California Gov. Pete Wilson asked President Clinton to declare half the counties in the state federal disaster areas from El Nio-driven storms. In Monterey County, the town of Pajaro was evacuated as the Pajaro River crested at 29 feet. In some parts of northern California, precipitation for February is already almost triple the usual amount for the month, a spokesman for the state flood center said. North of San Francisco, 500 residents were evacuated from the shores of fast-rising Clear Lake. South of the US-Mexico border, flash floods in Tijuana killed at least 13 people and forced thousands of others from their homes.

A friend of Monica Lewinsky who works at the White House gave detailed accounts to Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr's investigators of what the White House intern told her about a rumored affair with Clinton, Newsweek magazine reported. Meanwhile, Lewinsky's lawyer, William Ginsburg, said when he was called into the case Jan. 16, investigators told him they wanted to wire her to record phone calls. Ginsburg also told Time that Starr reneged at least three times on granting his client immunity from prosecution.

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Opening statements began in the trial of Sgt. Major of the Army Gene McKinney, who is accused of using his position to prey on women soldiers. Prosecutors alleged in a Fort Belvoir, Va., courtroom that he propositioned and groped six women, pressured one into having sex with him, and threatened another when she complained about his advances.

The number of children on welfare declined 23 percent from January 1993 to January 1997, The Wall Street Journal reported, quoting the President's Council of Economic Advisers. In a report due to be released this week, the panel cites the strong economy and an expansion of tax credits for the improvements in childhood poverty, the Journal said. While cuts in welfare programs raised the childhood poverty rate by 0.5 percent since 1993, increases in the tax credit reduced it by 2.5 percent during the same period, the Journal said.

Federal agents confiscated a pickup truck registered to a man sought as a witness to the bombing of a women's clinic in Birmingham, Ala., where abortions are performed. The blast killed a police officer and injured a nurse. The truck was found in the woods of western North Carolina. Authorities have been searching for the 1989 Nissan registered to Eric Rudolph since Jan. 29, when it was seen near the New Woman All Women Clinic. Rudolph is being sought as a material witness to the bombing.

Voters in Maine go to the polls today to decide whether to repeal a law that forbids discrimination against homosexuals. The measure, enacted last year, bars discrimination based on sexual preference in housing, employment, public accommodations, and credit. Maine is among 11 states with such a law.

A Taiwanese delegation was expected to open crucial talk with US officials in Washington on the island's bid to enter the World Trade Organization. Two weeks of talks are expected to cover plans to reduce tariffs on rice, pork, and chicken, and to open Taiwan's telecommunications market and other service industries.

Cigar manufacturers are the latest target of the Federal Trade Commission. Regulators want the five largest manufacturers to provide the government with detailed reports of annual sales and advertising expenditures, The Wall Street Journal reported. US cigar sales have jumped 53 percent to 5.2 billion since 1993, the Journal said.

Steven Renfro was scheduled for execution last night, which would be the 146th in Texas since 1976 - and the second in as many weeks. He was convicted of killing his girlfriend, aunt, and an acquaintance, and wounding a police officer during a shooting rampage in 1996.

The World

Saying, "The window of opportunity is getting narrower" for a diplomatic solution to the Iraq crisis, Defense Secretary Cohen maintained that the US needs no further UN resolutions approving the use of force. He declined to confirm reports that Saudi Arabia might allow the use of its soil for logistical flights during air strikes against Iraq from elsewhere in the Gulf.

In New York, the UN Security Council was to take up the proposal by Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Iraq be allowed to more than double the amount of oil it sells for food, as part of a diplomatic effort to end the crisis. Annan cancelled a trip to the Gulf to remain involved in the discussions. Diplomatic sources said he did not want to visit Baghdad until it appeared Iraq was ready to accept UN demands on complying with weapons inspections.

Expectations for any kind of breakthrough were low as Israeli and Palestinian representatives left home for meetings in Washington with US officials on the stalled Middle East peace negotiations. The two sides agreed to the visits after Secretary of State Albright's talks with their respective leaders last week, but there were no immediate plans for a face-to-face meeting. Discussion is likely to focus on security concerns and Israel's overdue withdrawal from more of the West Bank.

The Protestant-dominated Police Authority of Northern Ireland must be changed to make it "capable of representing the views" of Catholics, the British government's top official for the province said. Mo Mowlam announced a review of the civilian bureaucracy that controls the country's 12,000 police - 93 percent of whom are Protestants. Analysts said her move confronted Catholic negotiators on the future of Northern Ireland with an agenda based on reforming rather than abolishing unpopular institutions.

As expected, the presidential election on Cyprus will be decided by a runoff Sunday. Neither incumbent Glafcos Clerides nor challenger George Iakovou mustered enough of last weekend's vote to win outright. Turkish leaders on the ethnically divided island said the outcome wouldn't matter because neither Clerides nor Iakovou would "change the intentions and policies of the Greek Cypriots."

The first planeload of relief supplies for earthquake-stricken Afghanistan landed 25 miles from the scene of the worst damage. A Pakistani Air Force C-130 carried tents and blankets for villagers whose homes were destroyed in last week's quake and aftershocks. At least two more relief flights were expected, although bad weather and an unpaved airstrip have hindered other attempts to ferry in needed supplies.

One day after the election for mayor of a small city on Okinawa, the winning candidate retreated from his support of a proposed US military base. Tateo Kishimoto had argued that building a Marine heliport over the opposition of Okinawa Gov. Masahide Ota would help the local economy. But news reports quoted Kishimoto as saying after the vote that he would defer to Ota's views. Opposition to the US military presence on Okinawa erupted after the 1995 rape of a preteen girl by three American servicemen.

President Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin of France were to lead memorial ceremonies for their assassinated top official on Corsica. A separatist group claimed it executed Prefect Claude Erignac because he had issued a "declaration of war" by attempting to develop the island's tourist industry. In Paris, the government rejected proposals to delay the island's March 15 election or to turn it into a referendum on whether Corsicans wanted to remain a part of France.

Etceteras

"It's already at 280 percent of normal, and this is only Feb. 9."

- California flood-emergency official Jeff Cohen, on the heavy rainfall that has lashed coastal counties, with still more storms in the forecast.

If ever a piece of legislation was ripe for compromise it was state Rep. Bob Zukowski's bill proposing that Colby cheese be designated Wisconsin's official state food. But other lawmakers quickly sliced up the Zukowski measure, arguing that Colby didn't deserve to wedge out the varieties produced in their districts. In the end, the lower house did pass and send to the Senate a bill honoring cheese - but only generically. It's too soon to say whether another food fight will ensue there.

Been waiting for the window of opportunity to open so you could visit Pitcairn Island? That's about to happen. Some Australians have been authorized to build the first airstrip on the British colony immortalized in the film "Mutiny on the Bounty." But before you book reservations, be advised that the island - one of the remotest places on earth - has no hotels, only six hours of electricity per day, and you'll need a permit to go there.

The Day's List

Rating Top 10 Fashion Statements for 1998

Lucy Lawless, star of the TV series "Xena: Warrior Princess," is People magazine's top trendsetter. For swordplay, she says in the Feb. 16 issue, nothing is better than bangs because "in a good scrape, you don't want hair in your eyes." The magazine's trendsetters and why each was chosen:

1. Actress Lucy Lawless clean-cut bangs

2. Actress Claire Danes short-sleeved sweaters, long skirts

3. Singer Maxwell open shirts and chokers

4. Actress Winona Ryder vintage clothing

5. Actress Cameron Diaz reviving 1950s chic with scarves and tight sweaters

6. "No Doubt" rocker Gwen Stefani striped track pants

7. Singer Brandy the prom dress

8. Singer George Strait tailored, mandarin-collar tuxedo

9. Actress Ta Leoni wide pants and pearls

10. TV host Rosie O'Donnellqueen-sized, tailored pantsuits

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