News In Brief

The US

The Clinton administration is working on a $30 billion aid package to help Brazil and other Latin American countries ward off economic crisis, The New York Times reported. The package would include direct aid and loan guarantees from individual nations and world organizations, US and foreign officials were quoted as saying. Congress has been informed that the administration would likely act on the package during its recess.

President Clinton planned to attend fund-raisers for Sen. Barbara Boxer and the California Democratic Party in San Francisco that were postponed last week because of his involvement in the Middle East peace talks. His California appearances are expected to raise more than $1 million.

Abortion-rights activists asked law-enforcement officials to increase protection of abortion providers and clinics after a New York physician was killed in his Amherst home by a sniper. Clinton said he was "outraged" by Dr. Barnett Slepian's slaying. The Justice Department is working with local authorities to find the killer. It was the fifth sniper attack on upstate New York or Canadian abortion providers in the last four years. No one was killed in the previous attacks.

Countdown was expected to begin today for the launch of shuttle Discovery, the rocket scheduled to take US Sen. John Glenn (D) of Ohio and seven others into space Thursday. Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth in 1962, will become the oldest human ever to fly in space. Also, the experimental NASA probe Deep Space 1 successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The "flying laboratory" is expected to visit an asteroid and may also make close-up inspections of two comets.

Vice President Gore was to turn the first spade of dirt in groundbreaking ceremonies for a memorial to the victims and survivors of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Among other features, the $24.1 million project includes plans for a symbolic outdoor memorial and the Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism and Violence. Some 125 shovels will be available for anyone who wants to help commemorate those killed and injured in the April 19, 1995, bombing.

Emergency crews contained the largest of four wildfires in California that have burned more than 17,000 acres. There were no serious injuries and no homes were lost in the 12,000-acre fire in the hills of Ventura County. The blaze is believed to have started by accident from a welder's torch. The Forest Service said it expected to contain the other fires in the state, several of which burned in national forests.

A Maryland grand jury investigating Linda Tripp subpoenaed one of her lawyers and demanded that he produce any tape recordings his client made of her telephone conversations with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Joe Murtha said he would fight the subpoena. The Howard County, Md., inquiry is being conducted by prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli, who is examining whether Tripp broke the state wiretapping law. Investigators suspect that nine of the tapes are copies, raising questions about their authenticity. Tripp has denied under oath any knowledge of copies.

Two former campus radicals were convicted of conspiring to commit espionage, attempting espionage, and illegally obtaining national defense documents. Theresa Squillacote and Kurt Stand, who was hired as a Defense Department lawyer in 1991, are scheduled to be sentenced in January. The couple were recruited while they were students at the University of Wisconsin during the early 1970s, and worked for East Germany throughout the 1970s and '80s, prosecutors said.

The World

Carrying banners that read "Bibi, the Palestinians made a fool of you," hundreds of Jewish settlers protested the Israeli prime minister's OK to a peace deal last week in the US. The demonstrators blocked West Bank roads and vowed to help force early elections by March. Arriving home to a red-carpet welcome in Jerusalem, Netan-yahu called the deal the "best" that could be achieved. With results of a new poll showing 74 percent of respondents favorable to its terms, it is expected to pass in parliament this week.

Reaction to the deal among West Bank Palestinians also revealed deep splits in their ranks. Two people were hurt when someone fired at rock-throwing protesters in Ramallah as terms of the pact were being explained to a crowd outside Palestinian Authority headquarters. The violence was blamed on a provision in the deal that opponents say places too much emphasis on Israeli security at Palestinian expense.

Suspected Serb gunmen fired over the heads of mourners at the funeral of an Albanian youth in Kosovo who was killed last week while helping his father cut firewood. Albanians asked members of the international observer mission to attend the memorial, but they declined, arguing that their presence would offer no assurance that it could be held in safety.

Despite new concerns about his health, Russian President Yeltsin is expected to attend a key meeting tomorrow in Vienna with European Union heads of government. They planned to tell him that future loans to his financially battered country depend on implementing tough market reforms. Against that backdrop, Prime Minister Primakov scheduled more meetings today with his top Cabinet ministers to try to iron out still-incomplete details of the rescue plan that was promised by early last week.

Hard-line conservatives did not get the huge voter turnout they sought in elections to fill 86 seats on Iran's powerful Assembly of Experts. But they easily kept control of the panel that holds authority over even the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. The conservatives or their supporters won all but 23 seats in the assembly, which often blocks attempts at political reform by relatively moderate President Mohamad Khatami. Official figures indicated 46 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.

Crews were cleaning up Malaysia's capital after the most violent antigovernment demonstration in five weeks. At least 14 police and protesters were hurt, 241 people were arrested, and broken glass littered the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Witnesses said the clashes were in retaliation for police use of tear gas and water cannon against people participating in a peaceful rally earlier against the Nov. 2 trial of former Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

US journalists still can't be trusted and will continue to be denied permanent bureaus in Cuba, President Fidel Castro said. He met with a 32-member delegation from the American Society of Newspaper Editors as they wrapped up a four-day tour he'd invited them to take of the Communist-ruled island. Castro also vowed "no surrender" to US pressure for political change in Cuba.

A car-bomb explosion killed the director of Chechnya's police antikidnapping unit and hurt two bodyguards in the capital, Grozny. Shahid Bargishev died as his department was to open a shoot-first-if-necessary campaign to free more than 100 hostages being held for ransom by criminal gangs. Kidnap and assassination attempts against government officials remain common in the region despite the end of its two-year war for independence from Russia in 1996.

Etceteras

"We're turning over the old and starting something new." - Dan McKinney, whose wife died in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, on groundbreaking ceremonies for a $24 million memorial and terrorism-prevention institute on the site where the Murrah Federal Building stood.

File this one under Random Acts of Kindness. Newly married and not exactly rolling in wealth, Norma Hayduk was passing a park bench in Santa Fe, N.M., when she noticed an envelope sticking out between its slats. She might have continued walking if it hadn't had the words "For You" on the front. Curious, she picked up the envelope and found $100 in cash and a note inside. It said, in part: "Yes, this is for you.... Money comes [easily] in my life, and I am grateful for it. This is my way to express my gratitude. We live in an infinitely abundant universe. There is more than enough for all of us. Enjoy." The Hayduks say they'll put the $100 to good use and hope whoever left the envelope knows how much the gesture is appreciated.

It was, as they say, dj vu all over again when Earl Shaffer trudged out of the woods in northern Maine last week. The York Springs, Pa., resident, you see, is considered the first person to hike the entire 2,150-mile Appalachian Trail - covering it in 99 days in 1948. His 50th anniversary trip took 173 days. Will he try for a third? "Ab-so-lute-ly not!"

The Day's List

Ranking Nations in Terms Of Christian Persecution

Saudi Arabia was the nation least tolerant toward Christians last year, a French group said last week. Paris-based Portes Ouvertes International (Open Doors International) is dedicated to protecting persecuted religious minorities. It rates countries annually on tolerance, using such criteria as attitudes of authorities toward Christians, the church's freedom to play a role in society, and relative level of discrimination. The 10 ranked least tolerant in 1997:

1. Saudi Arabia

2. Sudan

3. Somalia

4. Yemen

5. North Korea

6. Iran

7. Laos

8. Morocco

9. Vietnam

10. China

- Reuters

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