News In Brief

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The US

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.

Recommended: Gold medal quotes from the London Olympics

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.

European Union foreign ministers agreed to resume ministerial contacts with Iran. An EU statement said that since President Mohammad Khatami took power last August, Iran had shown interest in "more constructive exchanges" with Europe. The EU suspended high-level links with Iran last year after a German court ruled that Iranian authorities were directly involved in the assassination of four Kurdish dissidents living in Germany.

A few hours after Northern Ireland's peace talks resumed, a car bomb exploded in the pro-British town of Portadown. There were no reports of casualties as several anonymous warnings allowed police to evacuate the area. The blast follows last week's announcement of a 17-day suspension of Sinn Fein from the talks. Authorities suspect the party's militant ally, the Irish Republican Army, was involved in two murders in Belfast earlier this month.

A land mine exploded under a bus in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, killing seven soldiers and injuring 37 others that had been providing security for the country's staggered elections. Police suspect Maoist guerrillas, who have called for a boycott of the vote, were responsible. Since voting began Feb. 16, dozens of people have died in related violence.

Former South African President P. W. Botha pleaded innocent to contempt charges for refusing to testify publicly about his role in a plan to crack down on black groups in the 1980s. Botha has ignored three subpoenas to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is investigating apartheid-era human-rights abuses. His attorney argued that commission chairman Desmond Tutu had agreed in 1996 that Botha could avoid a court appearance by supplying written answers.

Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze agreed to hold talks with a representative of the gunmen holding three UN military observers since last Thursday. The kidnappers said they were skeptical of the offer.

Special Albanian forces stormed into Shkodr, reclaiming the town after it had been taken over by armed gangs, the Interior Ministry said. At least 10 people were arrested. The gangs had burned public buildings and looted banks in the town after a protest by Albania's main opposition party turned into a riot. The violent outbreak was the most serious incident since Albania plunged into anarchy a year ago after the collapse of fraudulent pyramid investment schemes.

An item in this space Monday, Feb. 23, on a massive power failure in New Zealand's largest city erred on two counts. It correctly placed the outage in Auckland, but called that city the capital. New Zealand's capital is Wellington. The accompanying map also failed to include Auckland.

Etceteras

"It was diplomacy - wise, balanced, United Nations diplomacy -

that enabled us to reach this agreement. Not saber rattling."

- Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, on the proposed weapons-inspection deal reached in Baghdad.

If you're from the North, be advised that Henry Ingram has reconsidered and will let you have his 1,688-acre estate after all - if you've got enough money. The deed to Delta Plantation in Hardeeville, S.C., originally forbade a sale to anyone from the other side of the Mason-Dixon Line or whose name is Sherman, since it once was occupied by Civil War troops commanded by Union Gen. William T. Sherman. Now, you may make Ingram an offer. But you'll first have to sign an oath to be "loyal to the South."

A commercial fishing trip turned out to be a bomb - literally - for a boat based on the Texas gulf coast. Its net pulled in a torpedo whose fins had rusted off. The device was turned over to a Coast Guard unit for disposal.

The Days List

US Women Outperformed Men at Winter Olympics

Carrying on the strong showing by American female athletes at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, the US women's team members outperformed their male counterparts at the just-concluded winter Games in Nagano, Japan. Take away their eight medals and the US would have had its third-worst finish in winter Games history. US medal winners at Nagano:

WOMEN

Ice Hockey (Gold)

Alpine skiing (Super-G) Picabo Street (Gold)

Aerials Nikki Stone (Gold)

Figure skating Tara Lipinski (Gold) Michelle Kwan (Silver)

Speed skating (1,000 meters) Christine Witty (Silver)

Speed skating (1,500 meters) Christine Witty (Bronze)

Snowboarding(half pipe) Shannon Dunn (Bronze)

MEN

Freestyle skiing (moguls) Jonny Moseley (Gold)

Aerials Eric Bergoust (Gold)

Luge (doubles) Chris Thorpe/Gordy Sheer (Silver) Mark Grimmette/Brian Martin (Bronze)

Snowboarding (half pipe) Ross Powers (Bronze)

- Reuters

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