News In Brief

The US

Republicans on the House Judiciary panel were expected to subpoena secret FBI and Justice Department memos urging Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint an independent counsel to investigate alleged fund-raising irregularities in President Clinton's 1996 campaign. If issued, the subpoenas - also compelling testimony from FBI Director Louis Freeh and federal prosecutor Charles LaBella - would open a new avenue of investigation for the impeachment panel. Reno has refused to let other congressional committees see the entire Freeh and LaBella memos, in part because they contain secret grand-jury information.

Reno put off a decision on whether Harold Ickes Jr., a former top aide to Clinton, should be the target of an independent counsel. Reno asked for two more months, in addition to the three months she already has taken, to study allegations that the former deputy White House chief of staff lied to a Senate committee investigating Democratic fund-raising abuses. A special division of the US Court of Appeals approved the request and gave Reno until Jan. 29 to reach her decision.

A US-led donors' meeting secured pledges of more than $3 billion to help Palestinians build their faltering economy and bolster the Mideast peace process. US and Arab officials say rising unemployment and poverty have frustrated the Palestinian people and undermined hope for peace.

Senate Republicans and Democrats were to select new leaders. Both majority leader Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi and minority leader Tom Daschle (D) of South Dakota were unopposed. The only anticipated contest was for leadership of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, pitting Don Nickles of Oklahoma against incumbent Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. In the only two changes on the Democratic side, an unopposed Harry Reid of Nevada was expected to replace the retiring Wendell Ford of Kentucky as minority whip - and Daschle was expected to appoint Robert Torricelli of New Jersey to lead the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Vanderbilt University has been promised at least $340 million worth of stock in a California company, Ingram Micro Inc, school officials said. The stocks will come from a fund created by Martha and E. Bronson Ingram with the requirement that at least 40 percent of 20 million Ingram Micro shares be given to the university, located in Nashville, Tenn. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the only larger gift to a school was made in 1994 to New York University by Sir Harold Acton. That donation was valued at up to $500 million.

The manufacturing sector slowed for the sixth straight month during November, but there were signs of possible improvement in the economy by mid-1999. The National Association of Purchasing Management said its index of economic activity registered 46.8 percent in November, down 1.5 percent from October. Any reading under 50 percent is a sign of contraction in the industrial sector. However, the Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators rose 0.1 percent in October, to 105.6. The gain followed two months of flat results.

The World

So tepid was the voter support for separatist-minded Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard that a new move to take the province out of the Canadian union is unlikely anytime soon, political analysts said. Bouchard led his Part Quebecois to victory in yesterday's election, winning a new five-year term with 75 of the 125 seats in the provincial parliament. But the rival anti-separatist Liberal Party took a greater percentage of the popular vote: 44 to 43. Bouchard campaigned on a pledge to call another referendum on secession when conditions appeared favorable for passage.

In one of their harshest moves against political dissidents in months, Chinese police arrested five campaigners for democracy, seizing videotapes, a computer, fax machine, address books, and hundreds of documents. The crackdown was aimed at the fledgling Democracy Party and brings to 10 the number of its members now in custody. At least one of those arrested was charged with plotting the overthrow of the state, a crime that carries a penalty of life in prison.

Foreign ministers from 54 countries are to meet in Oslo beginning tomorrow to try to shore up the shaky truce in Kosovo. The member governments of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe say they're worried about the 2,000 "verifiers" charged with overseeing the accord, the alliance's largest mission yet. The verifiers will have no power if Yugoslav President Milosevic fails to cooperate with it, critics say.

Milosevic's refusal to pull heavily armed Serb police from their makeshift base in an abandoned Kosovo town appears to breach the cease-fire he agreed to in October, diplomats said. They said it also keeps hundreds of ethnic Albanian refugees from returning home. Milosevic has argued that the police are needed to keep the town from being retaken by the Kosovo Liberation Army.

"From this year onwards, each 25th of December should be considered a holiday," Cuba's ruling Communist Party said in a statement proposing the end of a ban on observing Christmas. The Council of State is expected to OK the decision. Cubans were given a day off last Christmas as a gesture to Pope John Paul II, whose visit was days away. The Roman Catholic Church had called for another break this year. The holiday was abolished in 1969 in an effort to produce a record sugar harvest.

The Clinton administration will be asked to extend a ban on deporting thousands of Central Americans illegally in the US - for at least 18 months, El Salvador President Armando Calderon Sol said. Deportations were halted in early November at the request of Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala because of the effects of hurricane Mitch. The ban expires Monday. Advocates say deportation would jeopardize the finances of relatives trying to recover from the storm.

Complaining that the $300,000 spent on a massive military parade to mark Romania's National Day was more than the impoverished country could afford, opposition leaders boycotted the festivities in Bucharest, the capital. An estimated 20,000 people watched the parade in sub-zero weather.

Business and Finance

Exxon Corp. agreed to the much-anticipated $77.2 billion purchase of Mobil Corp. The union of the nation's two biggest oil and gas companies, if consummated, would create the world's largest energy company and the largest US firm of any kind. It's to be called Exxon Mobil Corp.

Good but not great Thanksgiving weekend sales got the holiday shopping season off to a promising start, analysts said. Discount stores and specialty retailers - notably music, home-decorating, and electronics outlets - reported brisk sales. Forecasters predict a 4 to 4.5 percent overall increase in holiday sales for stores that have been open more than a year, with 1 to 1.5 percent growth in department-store business.

Investors in mutual-fund stocks appeared in no rush to buy on the first day those were available at banks and insurance companies in Japan. Until Phase 2 of the nationwide financial-reform program began Tuesday, mutual funds could be purchased only from brokers.

Etceteras

'This is an impeachment in search of a crime.'

- Jim Jordan, spokesman for House Judiciary Committee Democrats, on GOP efforts to expand the inquiry into alleged campaign fundraising abuses.

NOT READY FOR DRIVE TIME

In Troy, Mich., late last month, nine people who'd just appear-ed before a judge for driving with suspended licenses were rearrested before they could leave the courthouse premises. Why? Because, despite the offenses that brought them there, each promptly got behind the wheel of a car for the trip home - right in front of waiting police officers.

PICTURE THIS

Rebekah Bock might well have wondered why it was so important that she and boyfriend Roland Canamar get to an Orange, Calif., movie theater in time for the previews. But since he's a filmmaker, she dutifully went along. As the house lights dimmed, the short subjects began rolling, and there was Roland - on the screen - looking at the camera and saying: "Rebekah, I love you. Will you marry me?" Then the lights came back on, and the Roland sitting beside her offered a ring while the rest of the audience cheered. Her answer: yes.

The Day's List

Leading capitalists of the century - Time magazine

Este Lauder is the only woman on a list of the 20th century's 20 most influential business people. Time's choices and the business or type of industry most associated with each:

Stephen Bechtel, builder

Leo Burnett, advertising

Willis Carrier, air conditioners

Walt Disney, entertainment

Henry Ford, automobiles

Bill Gates, Microsoft

A.P. Giannini, banking

Ray Kroc, McDonald's

Este Lauder, cosmetics

William Levitt, city planning

Charles "Lucky" Luciano, organized crime

Louis B. Mayer, movies

Charles Merrill, stockbroker

Akio Morita, Sony Corp.

Walter Reuther, labor unions

Pete Rozelle, pro football

David Sarnoff, broadcasting

Juan Trippe, Pan Am Airlines

Sam Walton, Wal-Mart

Thomas Watson Jr., IBM

- Associated Press

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