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Calling suggestions that he or his staff relished their investigation of President Clinton "wrong," independent counsel Kenneth Staff presented his case for impeachment to a House Judiciary Committee hearing. He quickly took issue with Democratic complaints that anti-Clinton accusations were only about a private sexual matter, saying the president had failed his oaths to testify truthfully and to faithfully execute the law.

Nine thousand Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits in the week ending Nov. 14 - the highest total since mid-July, the Labor Department said. The increase pushed the widely watched four-week average of claims to 317,000. That is the highest since the average hit 337,000 July 25.

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Eight Americans in 10 have had medical checkups in the past year, but individual health habits otherwise tend to be un-disciplined, a new survey reported. The Gallup Organization said its data showed almost half of Americans 12 and older are overweight under National Institutes of Health guidelines. It also found 25 percent of respondents still smoke tobacco and only 1 in 3 people of retirement age exercise to even a moderate degree.

Four more states joined - or scheduled news conferences to announce they'd likely agree to - the proposed settlement of a lawsuit against major US tobacco companies. Attorneys general in Ohio, Idaho, and Hawaii said they'd sign the $206 billion deal aimed at closing all remaining state cases, which seek to recover costs of treating smoking-related illnesses. Rhode Island's announcement would bring to 18 the number of states included in the settlement. Meanwhile, in Washington, the National Cancer Institute said it planned to spend $142 million over the next five years to study what programs work best in discouraging teen smoking.

Three New Jersey brokerage-firm executives pleaded guilty to bilking more than $100 million from investors and spending the money on houses, sports cars, designer clothes, and other luxuries. Richard Goettlich, Anthony Gianninoto, and Eileen Lane of Interregional Equity Corp. are to be sentenced in March in federal district court in Newark. Defrauded investors filed almost 7,200 claims with the court, covering the period 1988-1997.

Little known novelist Alice McDermott was the surprise winner of the fiction prize in the 49th US National Book Awards ceremonies in New York. McDermott's "Charming Billy" is the story of a tightly knit Irish family's experiences in that city. "Slaves in the Family," the first book by Edward Ball, won the nonfiction prize. Gerald Stern's "This Time: New and Selected Poems," won the poetry prize.

CORRECTION: An item in this space yesterday referred to US Rep. Dick Gephardt (D) of Missouri as House majority leader. He is the minority leader.

The World

The Middle East peace process entered a new phase as Israel's Cabinet approved the first withdrawal of troops from West Bank land in nearly two years. In the West Bank town of Jenin, some 5,000 Palestinians paraded the streets in celebration. Israel has committed to cede 13 percent of land in three phased pullbacks over 12 weeks. In return, the Palestinians have agreed to crack down on anti-Israel militants and other political movements. Israel also said it would free 750 Palestinian prisoners.

President Clinton urged the Japanese public for patience in their recovering economy and an openness to American goods. "Don't be discouraged, but do be determined," he told a nationally televised meeting. He endorsed Japan's effort to shore up its ailing banking system. In his meetings with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, they were expected to discuss the military threat posed by North Korea's test-firing of a ballistic missile. Clinton is scheduled to leave for South Korea today.

The first segment of the first international space station is to be launched today from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. The 41-foot Russian-built Zarya (Sunrise) will provide propulsion and fuel storage for the station. The US will follow on Dec. 3 with the launch of Unity Node, which will connect with Zarya. About 100 elements are expected to be launched on at least 45 missions, before its scheduled completion in 2004. Ultimately, the station will weigh 500 tons. The 16-nation project has a price tag of $40 billion, with the US contribution at $21 billion.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov launched his own political party in an apparent bid for the presidency of Russia in 2000. He said his movement, Fatherland, would seek a balance between free-market principles and a strong state economy.

No solutions were in sight for the Turkish government's twin crises. In a diplomatic row, Italy has refused to extradite Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, pledging to stick to Italian law which prohibits extradition to a country with the death penalty. Meanwhile, parliament was to vote on whether to move toward a no-confidence motion over Prime Minister Yilmaz's handling of the $600 million privatization of the state-owned Turkbank. Analysts say his government's prospects for survival were slim.

Thousands of Indonesian students protested peacefully in the capital, Jakarta, demanding that former President Suharto be tried for corruption and human rights abuses. Suharto's successor, B.J. Habibie, said the week-long protests could threaten national unity and warned that the security forces would come down heavily on "unlawful" demonstrations. He also announced that elections will be held in June 1998, instead of an earlier promise to hold them in May.

For the first time in nearly 50 years, South Korean tourists arrived in rival North Korea. A cruise ship with 780 southerners aboard docked in the port of Changjon at the start of a four-day visit. Their itinerary, however, was to be limited, and contacts with regular North Koreans were forbidden.

Business and Finance

Bargain-hunting US investors have spent more than $10 billion so far this year in buying up nonperforming loan portfolios and real estate that has been foreclosed upon in Japan, South Korea, and Thailand, according to a new report by E. and Y. Kenneth Leventhal Real Estate Group in Los Angeles. Analysts called the purchases a way for some American businesses to break into Asian markets that have been closed to them for decades.

Pro football fans in three states were awaiting confirmation of a report that the New England Patriots of the NFL would relocate from southeastern Massachusetts to Hartford, Conn., in time for the 2001 season. As part of a downtown revitalization project, the team would agree to stay in Hartford for 30 years in exchange for a publicly financed $350 million, 65,000-seat, open-air stadium. Massachusetts lawmakers have refused to offer more than $57 million for a new stadium. Last year, team owners also explored the possibility of a move to Providence, R.I.

Cheap mortgage rates and a still-robust stock market were cited as the chief causes of the strongest growth in new-housing starts in more than a year. The Commerce Department said. It put such starts at 7.3 percent in October - following declines of 4.9 percent in August and 2.6 percent in September. Housing starts last topped 7.3 percent in September 1997, when they rose 8.5 percent.

Etceteras

He could choose truth or he could choose deception. On all six occasions, the president chose deception." - Independent counsel Kenneth Starr, in his opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee.

THE EDUCATION PRESIDENT

It has been ages since school teachers bought the old dog-ate-my-homework story. But that didn't stop Desiree Wilson from offering a similar excuse for failing to return her signed report card. The Tahlequah, Okla., pupil told educators she couldn't produce the card because President Clinton took it. Desiree met Clinton at the dedication ceremony for nearby Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Nov. 6. She had her card with her and asked if he'd autograph it. He agreed, and a Secret Service agent accepted it from her. But the president then moved on to greet someone else and his party - card and all - soon left. School's out on when she'll get it back.

MIXED MESSAGE

Speaking of politicians signing things, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (R) is offering an apology for the letter of greeting sent by his office to some civic-minded folks in the town of DuBois. Nice gesture; unfortunate slip-up. The letter arrived addressed to "Dubious Volunteer Fire Department." A computer spell-checker passed right over the error because, of course, dubious is a word.

The Day's List

Washington lobby groups ranked on political clout

In Fortune magazine's annual assessment of the influence of prominent political lobbies, the American Association of Retired Persons placed first for the second year in a row. The top 10 and how they ranked last year (in parentheses):

1. American Association of Retired Persons (1)

2. American Israel Public Affairs Committee (2)

3. National Federation of Independent Business (4)

4. National Rifle Association of America (6)

5. AFL-CIO (3)

6. Association of Trial Lawyers of America (5)

7. Christian Coalition (7)

8. Credit Union National Association (70)

9. National Right to Life Committee (10)

10. American Medical Association (8)

- PR Newswire

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