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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Vic Roberts / February 24, 1998

The US

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President Clinton was withholding comment on the proposed Iraqi weapons-inspection deal pending a full reading of the details and consultations with other world leaders. He was late to a meeting with the nation's governors at the White House because he and Vice President Gore were being briefed on the tentative accord by National Security Adviser Samuel Berger.

A constitutional challenge to "Meghan's Law," the controversial New Jersey measure that requires law-enforcement authorities to publicize the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders, was rejected by the US Supreme Court. In a class-action suit, such offenders argued that the 1995 law - since adopted by 36 other states - illegally punishes them twice for the same crime because of the public reaction that notification produces.

The high court also refused to shield federal agents who participated in the 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, from a civil rights lawsuit. Kevin Harris, who was wounded in the incident, alleges a federal conspiracy violated his constitutional protection against unreasonable seizures. The court also let stand a six-month-old ban on T-shirt sales on the Mall and at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

Emergency crews in central Florida raced to rescue people trapped in the debris caused by powerful tornadoes that struck the region late Sunday night. At least 29 deaths were reported, with injuries numbering in the dozens and rural areas still to be heard from. Property damage estimates were not yet available, but hundreds of private residences and businesses were reported destroyed. Peak winds were put at 250 m.p.h.

Caterpillar Inc. declined to comment on the rejection of its latest proposed contract settlement with striking members of the United Automobile Workers Union. A company spokesman said formal notification of the vote had not yet been received. But union members said the rejection hinged on two clauses: one that would have denied automatic restoration of jobs to some Caterpillar workers whom the UAW says were fired illegally and one that would have required amnesty for all workers who crossed union picket lines. Caterpillar has operated without a UAW contract since late 1991.

A team of American scientists has successfully cloned a calf in essentially the same way Dolly the sheep was produced last year, it was announced in Edinburgh, Scotland. "Mr. Jefferson," a 98-pound Holstein, was delivered Feb. 16 at Maryland's College of Veterinary Medicine in cooperation with PPL Therapeutics of Blacksburg, Va., a subsidiary of the Scottish firm that produced Dolly. The chief potential for cloned cattle is to produce albumin for use in treating human trauma patients, a PPL official said.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was expected to tell the House Banking Committee that while the US economy remains robust, the uncertainties stemming from Asia's financial crisis still could adversely affect it. Analysts said such uncertainties could impel the Fed's Open Market Committee to keep interest rates - currently 5.5 percent - steady for the foreseeable future.

Unless El Nio interferes with vegetable and fruit production, food prices are likely to increase by as little as 2 percent this year, US Agriculture Department forecasters said. That would be the smallest rise in six years, thanks largely to a drop in the retail cost of meat, the department said. Beef, poultry, and fish prices all were predicted to fall by as much as 2 percent, with pork prices declining by perhaps 6 percent.

Abraham Ribicoff, who died in Riverdale, N.Y., ended a 43-year career in politics in 1981, when he retired from the US Senate. A Connecticut Democrat, he served as a state legislator, a judge, congressman, US representative to the United Nations, governor, and as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the Kennedy administration.

The World

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed hope that a deal securing unrestricted arms inspections in Iraq would be approved after he presents it to the Security Council today. Details of the agreement signed by Annan and Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, in Baghdad were not immediately released. But Annan said it contained "no time limits or deadlines."

World reaction to Annan's deal with Iraq was a mixture of relief and optimism. Russia, France, and China signaled their approval of the agreement that could avert a US-led attack against Iraq, while Britain, Germany, Japan, and Australia were guarded in their public comments. Israeli officials worried the deal might not go far enough, but Palestinians warned the crisis had already undermined US credibility in the Arab world.