News In Brief

The US

The grand jury investigating the Monica Lewinsky case was waiting to hear testimony from President Clinton's public relations adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, alleged to have spread damaging and misleading information about independent counsel Kenneth Starr and his staff. Blumenthal's attorney, Jo Marsh, declined to tell reporters whether a claim of executive privilege would be invoked to prevent questioning of his client by prosecutors.

The CIA has drafted plans to topple Saddam Hussein by enlisting Shiite Muslim and Kurdish agents to sabotage key economic and political targets in Iraq, The New York Times reported. But it said senior advisers to Clinton are skeptical of the plan, which would require the president's approval.

Colombia has made enough gains in the fight against illegal drugs that Clinton will waive sanctions cutting off most forms of US financial aid, the administration said. Colombia remains the world's leading producer-distributor of cocaine, so it will not be certified as fully cooperating, officials said. They also said Mexico would be recertified as cooperating in the antidrug effort, over the objections of congressional critics.

Every "medical marijuana" club in California could soon be shut down because of a state Supreme Court ruling that countermands the 1996 voter initiative allowing ill people to use the drug on the recommendation of physicians. The court unanimously decided not to review an earlier ruling that such clubs may not sell marijuana or act as "primary caregivers" authorized to furnish it to patients. The state attorney general's office said it would seek immediate closure of a San Francisco club founded by the author of the 1996 initiative.

Attorneys for the Liggett Group, the nation's fifth-largest cigarette producer, and Justice Department officials were expected to discuss whether tobacco companies hid data on health risks associated with smoking from the Food and Drug Administration. Sources familiar with the situation said Liggett is seeking a plea bargain in the Justice Department's investigation of tobacco companies.

Scientologists in the US enlisted religious scholars and clergy from other faiths to protest against a delegation of German lawmakers who were meeting with members of Congress in Washington. State governments in Germany consider Scientology a moneymaking organization with ties to crime syndicates rather than as a religion, and the national government has placed it under a year's observation because of concerns that it may pose a threat to democracy.

Genetic engineering - which works in cows, sheep, rabbits, and mice - has been extended to frogs, a team of scientists at the University of California-San Diego said. But a team member said it was too soon to tell whether fluorescent protein cells introduced into laboratory frogs had more than a temporary application. Scientists consider frogs cheaper and easier to work with than mice.

Led by electronic equipment, orders for big-ticket manufactured goods rose 0.7 percent in January, the Commerce Department reported. Analysts said the increase was about half of what had been expected and could be an early indication that the Asian economic crisis is affecting US factories. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department also said new claims for unemployment benefits rose by a larger-than-expected 10,000 last week - to 320,000.

A $7.7 billion stock swap that would form the world's largest oil-drilling services company was announced by rivals Halliburton and Dresser Industries. If approved by stockholders and regulators, the new concern would carry the Halliburton name and be based in Dallas. It would have almost 100,000 employees.

The World

Russian President Yeltsin promised to fire three Cabinet ministers at the opening of a meeting to review the country's economic progress. But soon after, Yeltsin abruptly left the Kremlin without firing anyone. Russian news agencies said he went to tape his weekly radio address and to prepare for a meeting with Ukraine's president Leonid Kuchma. Yeltsin will reportedly announce the dismissals next week.

Iraq would face the "severest consequences" if it violated the accord negotiated with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, according to a British-US draft resolution obtained by the Associated Press. The draft did not spell out the use of military force. It's intended to back the deal, which is supposed to open all suspected weapons sites in Iraq to UN inspectors. Earlier, Annan named the UN's top disarmament official, Jay-antha Dhanapala, to lead a team of diplomats being specially created to accompany inspectors into eight Iraqi presidential palaces.

Annan submitted a plan to the Security Council calling for a UN peacekeeping force for the Central African Republic. He said the 1,400-member force was needed since the country is "likely to deteriorate rapidly" once French troop leave in April. France announced the withdrawal last year, citing defense cuts. Central African Republic soldiers have staged several rebellions since President Ange-Felix Patasse was elected in 1993, ending more than a decade of military rule.

A suspected Israeli spy was in custody and four others are wanted in connection with the alleged tapping of phones at a private residence near the Swiss capital, Bern. Swiss officials said they had enough evidence to prove that Israel's Mossad intelligence service was involved, calling the event "unacceptable." Israel confirmed the arrest and was reportedly negotiating with Switzerland on how to obtain a swift trial and expulsion of the agent.

Indonesian President Suharto sent mixed signals to the International Monetary Fund on his commitment to economic reform. According to a senior IMF adviser, Suharto said he was committed to reform but refused to reject a controversial plan to peg Indonesia's currency to the dollar. IMF officials are in the capital, Jakarta, reviewing progress in implementing the reforms before releasing the second installment of a $38 billion bailout package.

South Korean opposition parties agreed to meet with President Kim Dae Jung today to discuss his choice for prime minister. But the main opposition group, which controls parliament, reiterated it would not support Kim Jong Pil, a former government intelligence chief and now the president's coalition partner. The setback has thrown into question President Kim's ability to enact reforms he promised to lift the country out of its deep financial crisis.

The Hindu nationalist government in India's largest state won a confidence vote, five days after it was dismissed by the state governor. The vote ended political turmoil in Uttar Pradesh, where two groups claimed to hold a majority in the legislature. The vote came amid a staggered national election in which the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party was expected to win the most seats in parliament.

American migr Valdas Adamkus was inaugurated as president of Lithuania. At a ceremony in the capital, Vilnius, Adamkus expressed hope the former Soviet Republic would becom a member of both the European Union and NATO during his five-year term. Lithuania's president has the power to help form a Cabinet and shape foreign policy.

Etceteras

"This is an unacceptable event. We expect Israel to apologize."

- Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Yasmine Chatila, reacting to alleged phone tapping in Switzerland by the Israeli secret service, Mossad.

Add San Francisco cop Bob Geary to the list of people who think the Internal Revenue Service is heavy-handed. He has a date in court Monday because he wrote off $11,465 from his taxes - wrongly, the IRS says - as a business expense. That's what he paid to sponsor a referendum seeking voter approval to keep using a ventriloquist's dummy on his beat. Geary says it helps to break down barriers. It seems his superiors first appealed for creative suggestions to better serve the public, then decided that the puppet was - well - a dumb idea.

Assuming rain doesn't interfere and there's no need for a playoff, the winner of this weekend's Nissan Open golf tournament in Los Angeles should be apparent by late Sunday afternoon. But it's already clear he won't be Davis Love III, one of the sport's top pros. Not because he didn't make his flight or hotel reservations in time. And not because he didn't schedule any practice time on the host course, Valencia Country Club. No, he did all those things. But he neglected to register for the tournament, whose champion will collect $378,000.

The Day's List

New Workplace Slang, Thanks to Computer Age

Wired magazine's monthly "Jargon Watch" column compiles examples of commonly used workplace slang inspired by employees' use of computers and exposure to modern corporate culture. Some of the terms:

"cube farm" - rows of cubicles instead of private offices

"bandwidth" - having the time and aptitude to take on a client's project

"404" - a co-worker with nothing to offer or contribute

"Dilberted" - being exploited by a boss or supervisor

"ohnosecond" - the moment of realization that you've made a major mistake

"RTM" - read the manual

"salmon day" - fighting uphill; swimming against the current

"blamestorming" - discussing a project failure with co-workers

- Associated Press

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