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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert KilbornVic Roberts, and John Hoyle / February 26, 1998



The US

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"Ongoing discussions" to avoid a showdown over the invoking of executive privilege are taking place with prosecutors investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair, the White House said. The New York Times reported that President Clinton has decided to assert a claim of executive privilege to shield senior aides from giving unrestricted testimony to a grand jury in the case. It said a hearing in federal district court in Washington could be held as early as this week on the issue.

The continued presence of US forces in the Gulf region will be the guarantor of Iraqi compliance with the terms of the latest agreement on weapons inspections, American Ambas- sador to the UN Bill Richardson said. At the same time, the Pentagon said the buildup of forces near Iraq already has cost "well over $600 million" and will continue to escalate as more troops arrive in Kuwait. Meanwhile, the White House said Clinton may meet next week with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for clarification of some details of the agreement.

Saying, "Leaving office is the toughest decision I've ever faced," US Rep. Bill Paxon (R) of New York announced plans to retire from Congress. Paxon resigned from the Republican leadership last year over his role in an abortive attempt to oust Newt Gingrich from the speakership of the House of Representatives. Earlier, he had considered challenging Rep. Dick Armey of Texas for the post of majority leader.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan returned to Capitol Hill to provide more detail for the Senate Banking Committee on his agency's views of current economic conditions. Appearing before a banking subcommittee in the House Tuesday, Greenspan expressed concern about potentially damaging effects from the Asian financial crisis and that the economy may not slow enough in 1998 to keep inflation under control. The Fed's latest outlook projects an economic-growth rate of 2 percent to 2.75 percent this year.

"Fairly heavy attacks" on the Defense Department's computer networks have been made over the past two weeks by unauthorized hackers, a senior official said. John Hamre said the successful electronic break-ins were "organized and systematic" and appeared to be aimed at unclassified personnel or payroll records rather than the US military buildup against Iraq. Classified networks were not penetrated, he said.

Closing arguments were scheduled in Amarillo, Texas, for the six-week trial pitting TV talk-show host Oprah Winfrey against cattlemen who claim she cost their industry more than $10 million in revenues in 1996. Jurors must decide whether she maliciously misled viewers to think that US-produced beef was unsafe for human consumption. Analysts said the plaintiffs' case was weakened last week when the judge ruled it could not be tried under a state law forbidding false disparagement of agricultural products.

Last year was one of the safest in US commercial aviation history, the National Transportation Safety Board reported. It said three people died in accidents involving major American carriers, compared to 342 in 1996. The drop came despite an increase in the number of accidents - up by 10 from 1996.

Continental Airline pilots reached a tentative labor agreement with the airline, a spokesmen for the Independent Association of Continental Pilots said. The pilots were prepared to strike if an agreement was not reached this week. No details on terms of the deal were available. The contract talks have been going on since last April.

Comedian Henny Youngman, who died in New York, liked to say his career unfolded by accident, since his father had plan-ned for him to be a professional violinist. The so-called "king of the one-liners" continued to worked as many as 200 shows a year through the late 1970s and remained active in show business until 1992.

The World

New South Korean President Kim Dae Jung promised to end corruption, restore the country's ailing economy, and make amends with rival North Korea. He spoke before 45,000 people at his inauguration ceremony in the capital, Seoul. Afterward, Kim's choice for prime minister, former intelligence chief Kim Jung Pil, failed to gain the approval of the National Assembly, as the majority Grand National Party boycotted the session.

Despite US concerns about his newly signed agreement with Iraq, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan turned his attention to appointing a team of diplomats to join inspections of the most sensitive suspected weapons sites. Annan has given no hint about who will be on the team or who will lead it - two key questions Washington wants answered before giving full backing to the accord.