News In Brief


"The differences that exist between the two sides are very deep, very fundamental," presidential press secretary McCurry said as White House and congressional negotiators worked to resolve the budget impasse. President Clinton, Speaker Gingrich, and majority leader Dole will join the talks tomorrow. Also, the Treasury Department said the extraordinary moves it has taken to avoid bumping against the $4.9 trillion debt ceiling are preferable to giving in to Congress's demands for a balanced budget. And 760,000 federal workers received word their coming paychecks will be small: They won't include pay for Dec. 16 to Dec. 23.

The once-in-a-lifetime Johannes Vermeer exhibit at the National Gallery of Art reopened despite the federal shutdown. The museum found private funds to keep the show of the Dutch master's 35 paintings open until Jan. 3. An average of 4,100 people per day have seen the show. It is slated to close Feb. 11, when it moves to its only other location - The Hague. The Smithsonian's Museum of American History also found private funds to reopen.

The doors opened at 4 a.m. Everything was half price. Shoppers at Stats, a year-round Christmas store in Pasadena, Calif., stocked up on holiday cards, wrapping paper, and even a few gifts. The scene was replicated nationwide as merchants tried to make up for a lackluster season, and economists watched for hopeful consumer-spending signs.

Milton Mulholland, a white Pittsburgh police officer charged in the killing of black motorist Johnny Gammage, had a "look of fear" in his eyes when Gammage pointed an unknown object at him. This according to Sgt. Keith Henderson, who was also at the scene in October. Henderson testified in a preliminary hearing that Gammage continued to reach around in the car, searching for something, despite Mulholland's order to put his hands up. The prosecutor says the object was a cellular phone. Mulholland faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted. The hearing ends today.

A Ku Klux Klan cross on Cincinnati's Fountain Square was allowed to remain there until its 10-day city permit expired yesterday. A federal appeals court defended the permit, saying the cross was an expression of free speech. The local city council argued unsuccessfully that the display constituted "fighting words" and was akin to yelling "fire" in a crowded theater.

Ross Perot's Reform Party got on North Dakota's ballot with 7,000 signatures. It is also on California's ballot but was denied in Ohio last week. The party hopes to gain approval in Maine, Arkansas, South Carolina, and Utah by Jan 15. The party platform calls for a balanced budget, campaign-finance reform, and congressional term limits.

States will have to dramatically cut cigarette sales to minors or risk loss of federal drug-prevention program funds. This according to a new regulation due to be released next week by the Health and Human Services Department, The Wall Street Journal reports. States will have to reduce the percentage of children who successfully buy cigarettes to 20 percent of those who try. Many studies show the current rate is about 70 percent. About $1.3 billion in federal funding is at stake.

The PLO and Yassir Arafat could be held liable for the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking, a federal district judge ruled. He gave Arafat until Jan. 12 to give a deposition in a lawsuit filed by a travel agency that booked reservations on the cruise ship. The agency blames the PLO for the hijacking. The PLO denies responsibility. But the judge will hold a hearing to set damages if Arafat does not appear, which the PLO says he has no plans to do.

Sales of previously owned homes dropped 1.7 percent to 4.04 million in November, the second straight decline. Analysts say the government shutdown has likely affected buyers. But the market is healthy, running 9.5 percent higher than in 1994.

Despite the dearth of salmon in the Northwest, Alaska's salmon fishers are finding the fish in record numbers.


Bosnian Muslim and Serb forces made good progress toward their first deadline in the Bosnian peace agreement, moving soldiers from the Sarajevo area, NATO officials said. And Russian troops praised one of their commanders for meeting with Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military leader accused of war crimes. The meeting increases doubts about Moscow's neutrality in the Balkans. Above

Amid heightened optimism and a news blackout, the Israel-Syria land-for-peace talks began near Washington. And Walid al-Mualem, Syria's chief negotiator, said he has instructions from the Syrian leadership to be flexible during talks. Also, two no-confidence motions in Israel's parliament - against returning the Golan Heights to Syria - were defeated 56 to 48. Separately, under a hail of stones, Israeli troops pulled out of Ramallah, the seventh West Bank town returned to Palestinians since May 1994.

The presence of US troops in Haiti may be extended, even if other UN peacekeepers leave, Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff hinted after talks with Rene Preval, Haiti's president-elect. Preval said he is considering asking the UN to prolong its mission that expires in February.

Russian President Yeltsin asked his Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev to remain on the job. But the duration of Kozyrev's tenure remained unclear. Yeltsin is reluctantly retaining Kozyrev, because firing him would be interpreted as bowing to demands from Communists and hard-liners, analysts say. Kozyrev, who won a Parliamentary seat, constitutionally has to choose between the two jobs.

China and Russia will sign an agreement for a major oil and gas pipeline from Siberia to China. The deal will be sealed during Russian President Yeltsin's trip to Beijing in March. South Korea and Japan will aid in construction of the pipeline.

Ichiro Ozawa was elected leader of the New Frontier Party, Japan's main opposition party. Ozawa won twice as many votes as his sole opponent and long-time colleague, Tsutomu Hata. (Story, Page 6.) And a US serviceman, described by his co-defendants as the ringleader in the alleged rape of an Okinawa schoolgirl, disputed their claims that he forced them to abduct the girl.

France plans to conduct its fifth nuclear test in the South Pacific today, a French newspaper said. The Defense Ministry refused to confirm or deny the report. President Chirac has said France will set off six nuclear explosions before permanently ending its testing program in May.

An agreement to repatriate the last 5,000 Vietnamese in a Thai refugee camp was signed by Vietnam, Thailand and the UN. It ended the nearly-20-year saga of boat people in Thailand. Since the end of the Vietnam war in 1975, Thailand, a US ally, gave shelter to 163,000 Vietnamese.

South Korea ruled out resuming rice aid to North Korea despite the return of five captured fisherman. The North - now on the brink of famine - must first change its basic attitude, South Korea said. Seoul shipped 150,000 tons of rice to the North on humanitarian grounds this year, but it halted the aid after repeated requests to release the seamen were rebuffed.

Political and criminal violence in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa's Zulu heartland, killed at least 135 people since last Friday, police said. And floods killed at least 124 people in the vicinity of Pietermaritzburg, in KwaZulu-Natal province. Elsewhere, fierce snowstorms swept across northern Kazakstan.


We are able to open just one exhibition. We are able to open the Vermeer exhibition, which is a very rare event in the annals of art history. It may never happen again in a lifetime."

- Deborah Ziska, of the National Gallery of Art, on private funding to reopen the show during the budget standoff.

Scotland is digging out from its worst snowstorm in 40 years. Snowdrifts are as high as 30 feet. But heavy snows didn't keep some 500 people out of the North Sea at Sunderland in northeast England. Their brisk dip raised $26,000 for charity.

A Manchester, England, family left Christmas dinner on a table in a cool kitchen overnight. They awoke to find their Labrador unable to move. She had toppled the meal to eat 2 lbs. of prawns, a 17-lb. turkey, smoked salmon, pudding, potatoes, parsnips, stuffing, etc. The family ate their "worst Christmas meal" ever - meat pies.

Open Doors in D.C.

Despite the partial government shutdown, these Washington tourist sites are open:

Art Galleries: National Gallery of Art (Vermeer exhibit); Corcoran; National Gallery of Caricature; Phillips Collection

Memorials: Jefferson; Lincoln; Vietnam; Korean War

Museums: American History (one week only); National Building Museum; Museum of Women in the Arts; Capital Children's Museum; Textile Museum; Jewish Military History Museum; Woodrow Wilson House

Science: Imax Theater of the National Air and Space Museum; Einstein Planetarium

Government: Library of Congress; National Archives; the Capitol

Military: Marine Corps; Naval Heritage Center; Navy Art Gallery; Navy Museum

Religion: Washington National Cathedral; Islamic Center

- Associated Press

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