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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / December 24, 1998

The US

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Three Cuban diplomats were ordered to leave the country for activities "incompatible" with their diplomatic mission at the UN, a White House spokesman said. The Washington Post had reported earlier that the State Department had given Cuba's UN delegation 24 hours to argue against expelling the diplomats. The action was reportedly connected to the arrest in Miami in September of 10 people accused of collecting information on military installations and of attempting to infiltrate an anti-Castro group.

The Pentagon said it was withdrawing many of its most sophisticated bombers and the aircraft carrier Enterprise from the Persian Gulf. Defense Secretary William Cohen emphasized that enough troops and equipment would remain there to renew attacks on Iraq if necessary. Meanwhile, the US said it would consider expanding the program that allows Iraq to export oil to buy food if a UN humanitarian mission concludes Iraqi civilians are in need.

Hispanics and women over 40 hardly exist on the current crop of TV shows, a study for the Screen Actors Guild found. The report by Temple University telecommunications expert George Gerbner shows Asian Americans, native Americans, the disabled, and seniors are also under-represented. For instance, although 10.7 percent of the US population is Hispanic, only 2.6 percent of the characters on prime-time TV - and only 3.7 percent on daytime TV - are Hispanic, the report says.

An R.J. Reynolds tobacco affiliate agreed to pay $15 million for helping to smuggle cigarettes made in Canada back into that country for sale on the black market. Northern Brands International pleaded guilty in US district court in Binghamton, N.Y. It was the first time an affiliate of a major tobacco company had pleaded guilty to a federal crime, according to US Attorney Thomas Maroney. He said the firm, which is now defunct, was set up by R.J. Reynolds specifically for smuggling.

President Clinton was expected to propose boosting federal aid to the homeless by 15 percent next year - to $1.12 billion in fiscal 2000 from $975 million in fiscal 1999. The president was also to announce plans for $850 million in grants this fiscal year to help homeless people obtain housing and social services..

Former Senate majority leader George Mitchell was named to head a US Olympic Committee inquiry into bribery allegations concerning Salt Lake City's successful bid for the 2002 Winter Games. Mitchell, who helped to broker the peace accord in Northern Ireland, will head a five-member panel that expects to report to the committee by late February - and give any evidence of criminal wrongdoing to prosecutors.

General Motors said it had hired Yale University Prof. Henry Turner to study the activities of the world's largest automaker and its German subsidiary immediately before and during World War II. Turner and some assistants will have unrestricted access to GM files, the firm said - and any findings will be made public, even if they contradict the firm's categorical denial that it aided the Nazis.

The World

As many as 60 rockets fired from Lebanon hit villages in northern Israel, wounding 13 people and damaging property. The shelling came in retaliation for an attack by Israeli jets on suspected Hizbullah guerrilla positions that killed a woman and six children.

The UN sought clarification of an order to cancel civilian flights into Iraqi airspace, including one bringing observers to monitor conditions at the border with Kuwait. The order was issued without explanation four days after the cessation of US and British attacks on Iraq and one day after the Baghdad government claimed that jets from the two countries had fired "stray missiles" near the southern city of Basra.

In a bid to end the three-week-old political crisis in Turkey, an ethnic Kurdish Cabinet minister was invited to form a new government. Yalim Erez, currently minister of trade and industry, is known as a dealmaker who has both union and business-group support. Earlier this week, ex-Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit returned his mandate to put together a new government after failing to form a coalition of secular parties.