News In Brief

The World

Chechen rebels debated withdrawal from Grozny as Russian forces tightened the noose around the capital. The Russian defense ministry said about 900 Russian soldiers had died in Chechnya, but soldiers handling the return of dead comrades said 5,000 had been killed. Reports of atrocities continued to come from both sides. (Story, Page 1.) The Moscow Times claimed a Clinton-Yeltsin summit planned for May has been put on hold.

The US will permit duty-free imports from areas under Palestinian rule, the two sides said. The announcement came during a two-day meeting of Egyptian, Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian trade officials with US Commerce Secretary Brown. Meanwhile, a Palestinian crackdown on antipeace activists continued, with 90 arrests and closure of an Islamic Jihad press office.

China staked out a tough line on upcoming trade talks with the US. A spokesman urged US negotiators to drop their "irrational demands" for China to end intellectual-property piracy. A tariff war is set to begin Feb. 26 if the dispute is not resolved. Not all trade is affected; US agriculture officials said the US will sell China another 1 million metric tons of wheat through June 30.

A Sinn Fein spokesman said a bomb defused by the British Army near the Irish border was not planted by the Irish Republican Army. The bomb, the second defused since the IRA cease-fire began five months ago, contained Semtex, a plastic explosive only the IRA is known to use in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein is the IRA's political wing.

Latin American and US diplomats increased pressure on Ecuador to sign a cease-fire with Peru. Lima has agreed to the plan, but wants a five-mile-wide demilitarized zone along the border. Ecuador wants a half-mile-wide strip. Peru said it lost another helicopter in the fighting.

Polish President Walesa endorsed Jozef Oleksy, a moderate former Communist, as prime minister. The move followed the resignation of Prime Minister Pawlak, who quit to avoid a constitutional crisis. Walesa and the opposition had accused the leftist Pawlak of undermining economic reforms. The opposition labeled the change "cosmetic."

US and Italian soldiers landed in Mogadishu to prepare for the UN evacuation from Somalia. About 2,500 marines are expected to participate.

The US, Australia, and Canada said they had evidence contradicting Indonesian government accounts of the killing of six East Timorese in January. Indonesia had claimed the six were killed in a clash between government troops and anti-Indonesian guerrillas. Western nations and human-rights groups have complained about brutal repression in East Timor since Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975.

Indian Prime Minister Rao faced a new challenge from rival Arjun Singh after a survey predicted the Congress Party would be trounced in a key state election. Rao expelled Singh, a vocal critic of the premier, from the party last week. (Story, Page 6.)

South Africa's retiring police commissioner said that if former leaders refused to accept responsibility for political crimes, implicated policemen would name names. A parliamentary committee is holding hearings on a proposal to amnesty those involved in apartheid crimes. The government wants an open inquiry into the crimes; the white-led Nationalist Party is opposed.

Romeo LeBlanc, a Liberal Party politician, was sworn in as Canada's 25th governor general. Nominated by Canada's premier, the governor general represents Queen Elizabeth II in Ottawa.

The US

The House moved forward on the Republicans' six-part crime package. Lawmakers passed a measure requiring criminals to pay full restitution to their victims. They then took up a more controversial bill that would make it easier for federal courts to consider unlawfully seized evidence. (Stories, Page 4.)

Clinton urged Congress to approve a new immigration proposal. He wants an additional $1 billion for beefed-up border control and help for states with large illegal-alien populations. A General Accounting Office report, meanwhile, shows that 6 percent of legal immigrants receive welfare, compared with 3.4 percent of US citizens. House Republicans are drafting legislation to end welfare for most legal immigrants.

Small-state members of Congress are lining up against a proposed constitutional amendment to limit lawmakers' terms. If the terms of senators and House members were limited to 12 years, small states with small delegations would not be able to use seniority to build up a power center, Senator Shelby of Alabama said. Opposition to the idea crosses both party and ideological lines. House leaders have promised a vote by mid-April.

A basketball game between Rutgers University and the University of Massachusetts was suspended when 150 Rutgers students staged a sit-in on the court. The students were protesting University President Francis Lawrence's comments last fall that minority students don't have the genetic background to do well on college entrance exams. Lawrence apologized last week.

Prosecutors subpoenaed more documents in preparation for a new round of hearings on the Whitewater affair. Senate Banking Committee chairman D'Amato said he wants to begin the hearings within 90 days. The White House is assembling a new legal team to help defend the administration's conduct in the case, the Washington Post reported.

With little progress in the baseball strike, Clinton said he would send special legislation to Congress. He wants lawmakers to end the six-month dispute through binding arbitration. But Senate majority leader Dole and Speaker Gingrich said Congress is "ill suited" to settle the strike.

Clinton's 1996 proposed federal budget reflects his support for the arts, but arts agencies say their biggest battle is with Congress. The $1.6 trillion budget includes modest increases for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. It proposes a 6 percent cut for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which Republicans have threatened to eliminate. GOP congressional leaders are determined to multiply the cuts in Clinton's budget and are targeting arts agencies.

December wholesale sales were up 2.2 percent to $181.16 billion. Wholesale sales increased 6.8 percent for the full year, the strongest annual gain in six years, the Commerce Department said. Sales of cars and automotive parts rose in December by 1.2 percent after a 4.7 percent November gain. Sales of furniture and home furnishings jumped 5.6 percent after falling 2.3 percent in November.

To prove that the Endangered Species Act is not an enemy of private property owners, the Clinton administration announced that it was easing rules on protecting the northern spotted owl. The rule change would relax logging restrictions on private lands in Washington and Oregon, where the threatened bird lives. Etcetera

Solar systems might go undetected because they lack big planets like Jupiter, scientists say. Research conducted at UCLA shows that big planets outside this solar system may be rarities, making it harder to spot the systems themselves.

Britain's Princess Diana won a privacy battle over unauthorized photos of her. exercising in a gym. The settlement was reached out of court. The princess is currently on a visit to Japan.

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, fresh from costarring as a pitchman for Frito-Lay with ex-Texas Gov. Ann Richards, has settled on a new job: He has become a partner in a law firm.

It's official: The Boston Pops has a new conductor, just the third in its 65-year history. Keith Lockhart, who took the baton from composer John Williams, served previously with orchestras in Cincinnati. Williams succeeded the legendary Arthur Fiedler.

Forgotten recordings made in London by Glenn Miller and his band for propaganda broadcast during World War II go on sale Monday. The recordings were completed in 1944 shortly before the band leader disappeared on a flight to Paris. Best-Selling Hardcover Fiction 1. "The Celestine Prophecy," James Redfield (Warner) 2. "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories," James Finn Garner (Macmillan) 3. "Kiss the Girls," James Patterson (Little, Brown) 4. "Eyes of a Child," Richard North Patterson (Knopf) 5. "Self-Defense," Jonathan Kellerman (Bantam) 6. "Original Sin," P. D. James (Knopf) 7. "Acceptable Risk," Robin Cook (Putnam) 8. "The Murderers," W. E. B. Griffin (Putnam) 9. "Debt of Honor," Tom Clancy (Putnam) 10. "The Bridges of Madison County," Robert James Waller (Warner) - Publishers Weekly

``I'm so sad about it.... I just hope they get it settled and let's go. If they carry on much longer, people are going to forget about buying tickets." - Ted Williams on the baseball strike.

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