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News In Brief

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Faced with plunging prices, Arab oil ministers proposed to cut production beginning in March, and to ask members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to follow their lead. The ministers from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council met in Abu Dhabi two weeks after OPEC's annual meeting failed to reach an agreement on ways to halt the price slide. The proposals were expected to be endorsed by leaders of the Gulf countries, which together sit on half the world's proven oil reserves.

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Four Westerners were discovered murdered in the Russian breakaway province of Chechnya. The victims - three Britons and a New Zealander - had been kidnapped in October by unknown gunmen in the capital Grozny. Russian police gave no details of the killings. Since Russian troops withdrew from the province in 1996, Chechnya has been buffeted by violence and kidnappings as renegade warlords fight for the establishment of a stricter Islamic state.

Business and Finance

Telecommunications giant AT&T plans to grow larger, announcing a deal to buy IBM's Global Network for $5 billion. The move is designed to fill a gap in AT&T's ability to supply high-speed data services and Internet access. The IBM group has tens of thousands of customers who use it to link computers that are far apart. The service has been generating $2.5 billion a year in revenues.

The record growth in the money spent on advertising by US businesses this year isn't likely to be duplicated in 1999, an industry forecast said. McCann-Erickson Worldwide said 1998 spending grew 7.1 percent, to $200.8 billion, helped by a more-resilient-than-expected economy, the Olympic Winter Games, and the midterm election. It projected a 5.5 percent increase next year.

A troubled $1.9 billion natural gas pipeline project that plans to link Pakistan with the ex-Soviet republic of Turkmenistan lost its majority partner when the US oil and gas company Unocal announced it was pulling out. Unocal held a 54 percent stake in the 1,165-mile project but said it needed to cut spending next year because of low oil prices. Lenders have been slow to back the project because of political turmoil in Afghanistan, through which the pipeline would pass.


'I really don't need any more money.' - Billionaire George Soros, telling a BBC interviewer he can afford to spend more on philanthropy than he earns because of the wealth he has accumulated, much of it through controversial speculation.


Want a nice, fresh Christmas tree without having to pay for it? If you'll be in Pullman, Wash., you could try cutting down one of the young evergreens on the sprawling 2,600-acre Washington State University complex. On second thought, maybe you're better off buying from a vendor. Workers have sprayed many - but not all - of the trees with a colorless mixture of rancid liquids whose properties do no environmental harm and won't be obvious until released into warm indoor air. "You're gambling," said a WSU official. "You won't really know until you get it inside."


What does it cost these days to blow your own horn? In Houston: at least $5,165. That's what the city paid for 2,000 copies of a 14-page, full-color booklet touting Mayor Lee Brown's youth programs, among them education initiatives. But there's at least one spelling error on almost every page. The booklets are to be reprinted - at additional expense.

The Day's List

'Psycho' remake enjoys good box office in weekend debut

A color remake of Alfred Hitchcock's black-and-white terror classic, "Psycho," took in enough money to place second among last weekend's most lucrative movies. (Disney's computer-animated "A Bug's Life" was No. 1 for the second straight week.) The "Psycho" remake, starring Anne Heche in the Janet Leigh role and Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates, wasn't screened for critics, but producers said that was only because Hitchcock didn't screen the original. Estimated grosses for top films at North American theaters Dec. 4-6 (in millions):

1. "A Bug's Life" $17.2

2. "Psycho" 10.0

3. "Enemy of the State" 9.7

4. "The Rugrats Movie" 7.6

5. "The Waterboy" 6.5

6. "Babe: Pig in the City" 2.4

7. "Meet Joe Black" 2.3

8. "Elizabeth" 2.0

9. "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer" 1.7

10. "Home Fries" 1.7

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP