News In Brief

The World

British Prime Minister Major's cabinet formally approved proposals aimed at bringing peace to Northern Ireland. The proposals, drafted in conjunction with Irish ministers, set out the framework for all-party talks on the political future of the British-ruled province. Protestant politicians, crucial to the success of peace talks, accused Major of ignoring the wishes of the province's Protestant majority, who wants to maintain its ties with Britain. (Story, Page 6.)

Heavy fighting resumed in Chechnya after a four-day cease-fire expired. Russian forces attacked Chechen positions near Grozny, and warplanes struck targets south of the capital. Rus-sian military leaders said they planned to root out the rebel resistance. A document prepared for Russian Human Rights Commissioner Kovalyov said 24,350 Grozny civilians have been killed. (Puppet government, Page 1.)

The US and Mexico agreed on terms for a $20 billion rescue package. The deal is part of a $50 billion global effort to help Mexico's economy. The accord met US demands that Mexico pledge to reform its economy. The Bank of Mexico said it will increase interest rates. The announcement caused interest rates to soar in secondary markets.

The UN tried to negotiate its way into northwest Bosnia, where it says people are starving. A spokeswoman said rebel Muslims surrounding the Bihac pocket had imposed new, "unbelievably complicated rules" on the aid agencies. Bracing for a new surge in warfare, Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia announced the formation of a joint military council.

The US was set to offer Russia a new security framework designed to calm Moscow's nerves over plans for NATO expansion to Central Europe. The idea will be contained in a letter to Russian President Yeltsin

PLO and Israeli negotiators met in Cairo for two days of peace talks on bringing international observers to the West Bank and Gaza to monitor Palestinian elections. A main sticking point: Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

About 1,400 Karen rebels abandoned their last major stronghold after intensive shelling and gassing by Burmese troops. The Karen are among about a dozen ethnic minorities that began fighting for sovereignty after Burma gained independence from Britain in 1948.

Peruvian armed forces accused the Ecuadoran military of carrying out "hostile operations" in a disputed border zone where a cease-fire is supposed to be in effect. Ecuador earlier accused Peru of launching fresh attacks.

French Premier Balladur said a wiretapping scandal has been overblown. An opinion poll, however, showed that Balladur had lost his lead in the presidential election, set for April. The wiretap was used in an investigation of suspected illegal funding of Balladur's party.

Haiti's electoral council said the first round of legislative and local elections would be held June 4. In a move to prune Haiti's armed forces, the defense minister announced the discharge of the army chief and 42 other high-ranking military officers. (Judicial reform, Page 7. The US

On Day 50 of House Republicans' 100-day push to enact their Contract With America, the most complicated and divisive issues are yet to come. Many of the bills passed are a long way from becoming law. The balanced-budget amendment is still in the Senate, where it is one or two votes away from the two-thirds majority needed to pass. The crime bill faces stiff opposition in the Senate and a possible presidential veto. Senate prospects for the national security bill are also uncertain. Still to come: regulatory reform, limits on punitive-damage awards in civil cases, term limits, welfare reform,and a series of revenue measures. (Stories, Pages 1 and 3.)

The Supreme Court agreed to consider whether states may ban discrimination against homosexuals. The high court will consider reinstating a Colorado constitutional amendment that would prevent state and local governments from enacting gay-rights laws. The court refused to reinstate Apple Computer's copyright suit against Microsoft and Hewlett Packard. It said companies that withdraw from employee pension funds they owe money to do not owe interest on the pension debt until the year after withdrawal. And it let stand a ruling that police may use squeeze holds to arrest uncooperative anti-abortion demonstrators.

Vice President Gore told an AFL-CIO meeting that the White House will ban federal agencies from signing contracts with companies that hire replacement workers. He also promised that President Clinton would veto three GOP bills unions oppose: two repealing prevailing-wage laws on federal projects, and one that would make it easier for companies to form in-house employee associations. Meanwhile, the shrinking International Ladies Garment Workers' Union and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers' Union said they are planning to merge.

Some advisers on Clinton's health plan were paid up to $49 an hour, earning fees as high as $100,000, the Associated Press said. The White House authorized the payments despite a warning from its lawyers that it should use full-time government employees, not consultants. About 1,000 people worked on the plan; most of the high-profile experts worked for free.

Lawmakers in both parties say the administration wants to trim too much from flood-control and shore-protection projects. The $925 million cut in funds from the Army Corps of Engineers would leave the job to states and localities unless the project is of national benefit.

Fleet Financial Group Inc. announced the purchase of Shawmut National Corp. If approved by regulators, the $3.7 billion deal would join New England's largest and third-largest banks into an institution with assets of $80 billion - the nation's ninth-largest.

Travel agents are hopping mad over airline caps on agents' ticket commissions. Their association is planning legal action, legislative efforts, and an ad campaign to overturn the cap. Airlines announced last week that they would limit commissions to $25 for one-way domestic trips and $50 for round trips instead of a 10 percent commission on each ticket. Travel agents will rally in Washington Feb. 23.

Two tobacco companies asked the Florida Supreme Court to block a $1.43 billion lawsuit. The state wants Philip Morris and R. J. Reynolds to pay the health-care costs of welfare recipients diagnosed with smoking-related illnesses.

The Department of Health and Human Services said it held back $703 million from deadbeat parents' 1993 tax refunds. The agency said the record collections, up 14 percent from 1992, helped almost 1 million families.

New York Mayor Giuliani wants the city to dump its 4 percent clothing tax on items under $100. He said the levy drives $3 billion in retail sales to neighboring counties and New Jersey.

Lawyers handling Colin Ferguson's appeal said he will let them raise the issue of his competency to stand trial. Ferguson, who defended himself, was convicted last week in the 1993 murders of six commuter-train passengers on Long Island. Etcetera

Scientists say burning ice could meet much of the US's natural gas needs for decades. The flammable undersea ice traps methane in a frozen compound. But no one has figured out how to mine it without causing an environmental disaster.

Fijian cars will soon be running on coconut oil. An Australian research project aims to give islanders a cheap alternative to imported gasoline. The oil is said to smell a lot better than diesel fuel.

Team New Zealand beat oneAustralia Feb. 20 and continues to lead the America's Cup challenger series. The damaged France2 capsized; all 13 crew were saved. Top 10 Jazz Albums In US, Week of Feb. 17 1. "MTV Unplugged," Tony Bennett (Columbia) 2. "Gershwin for Lovers," Marcus Roberts (Columbia) 3. "All My Tomorrows," Grover Washington Jr. (Columbia) 4. "Gettin' to It," Christian McBride (Verve) 5. "Mood Swing," Joshua Redman Quartet (Warner Bros.) 6. "All Blues," GRP All-Star Big Band (GRP) 7. "25," Harry Connick Jr. (Columbia) (Platinum) 8. "Swing Kids' Soundtrack," (Hollywood) 9. "Steppin' Out," Tony Bennett (Columbia) 10. "Jacky Terrasson," Jacky Terrasson (Blue Note) (Platinum signifies more than 1 million copies sold)

- Billboard-Soundscan Inc., Copyright 1995

``We don't need division in this party, we need multiplication."

- Senator Dole, on the abortion debate in the Republican Party

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