News In Brief

By , Vic Roberts, and John Hoyle

The US

"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.

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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.

Southeast Asian governments appealed for aid to fight forest fires in Indonesia. Meeting in Malaysia, environment ministers from the nine-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said the help was necessary to prevent a recurrence of last year's smog that choked much of the region. They said the US, Germany, France, and Canada had already pledged millions of dollars in aid, but more was needed. About 1,000 fires are burning in Indonesia's East Kalimantan province. Meanwhile, two environmental groups said haze from the fires had caused more than $1.3 billion in damage to the region.

The final three UN hostages held in Georgia were freed as talks began between Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and a representative of the kidnappers. Three of the hostage-takers reportedly surrendered, although their leader escaped. The gunmen, supporters of the late ex-President Zviad Gamsakhurdia, seized four military observers last week, demanding the release of comrades jailed for an assassination attempt against Shevardnadze.

A Nigerian-led intervention force captured Sierra Leone's second-largest city. The force has been fighting to control outlying areas more than a week after it took control of the capital, Freetown, and ousted Major Johnny Paul Koroma's military junta from power. Koroma's removal clears the way for the return of the country's elected president, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, who had been in exile in neighboring Guinea since being ousted in a May coup.

President Fidel Castro pledg-ed that Cuba will never switch from socialism to capitalism - even after his passing. The world's second-longest-serving leader (after King Hussein of Jordan) spoke after being reelected to another five-year term. Castro was the only candidate. His brother, Raul Castro, is the designated successor.

A man seized a Turkish airliner for five hours before being overpowered by passengers. Claiming to have a bomb hidden inside a teddy bear, Mehmet Dal had demanded to be flown to Iran after the plane took off from the Turkish city of Adana for Ankara. Police said Dal was unarmed and mentally ill.

Laos named new leaders to govern the isolated country, diplomatic sources in Vientiane said. In a closed session, the National Assembly selected Gen. Khamtay Siphandone as president and Gen. Sisavat Keobounphanh as prime minister. Although the changes do nothing to relax one-party communist rule in Laos, Gen. Khamtay has a reputation for being open to compromise at a time when the country is slowly opening up to foreign investment.

Etceteras

"Today is a proud day: A democratic transition of power is taking place

on this soil for the first time."

- Kim Dae Jung, who became the first opposition candidate to be sworn in as president in South Korea's history

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan - already feeling pretty good about the arms-inspection agreement he'd just negotiated with Iraq - must have been brimming over with pleasure as he acknowledged a rousing ovation by a throng of young people outside his hotel in Paris. Annan beamed and waved before being chauffeured away to a dinner with French President Jacques Chirac. It was far from clear that the crowd had gathered for him, however. Moments later, the pop star, Madonna, arrived with her entourage.

Rod Waddell of New Zealand defeated more than 1,600 other contestants from 19 countries - some of them participants in the 1996 Summer Olympics - in winning the 17th annual men's 2,000-meter open rowing championship last weekend. Waddell's winning time was 5 minutes, 39 seconds, yet his oars stayed completely dry. The event was held at a sports center in Boston, using machines that simulate outdoor competition.

The Day's List

State Welfare Reforms Earn Few High Marks

Only 14 states have interpreted the 1996 federal welfare overhaul law in ways that are likely to help recipients rise above poverty, a new report says. Tufts University in Medford, Mass., graded states in 34 areas, such as providing child care, job-training, improving eligibility for benefits, and requiring recipients to work. The highest possible score was plus-22; the lowest, minus-38. The top 14 and their scores:

Vermont +12.0

Oregon +7.5

Rhode Island +6.5

Pennsylvania +4.5

(tie) Maine +4.5

(tie) New Hampshire +4.5

(tie) California +4.5

Washington +4.0

(tie) Connecticut +4.0

Utah +2.5

(tie) Illinois +2.5

Minnesota +2.0

(tie) Massachusetts +2.0

Tennessee +1.5

- Associated Press

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