News In Brief


As budget talks continued at the White House, President Clinton moved to exploit a split between Speaker Gingrich and Senator Dole. The House's defeat of a Senate plan to reopen the government shows GOP disagreement over whether to demand a balanced-budget plan before ending the shutdown. Some GOP moderates now say they will consider ending the shutdown if Clinton presents a balanced budget to be scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. House Republicans, meanwhile, say Clinton's vetoes of three agency budget bills, which they have failed to override, are to blame for the shutdown.

Secretary of State Christopher joined Israel-Syria peace talks in Maryland to gauge progress and, according to Israel, give them "an additional push." He begins a Jerusalem-Damascus shuttle diplomacy trip - his 15th to the Mideast - next week. The negotiating atmosphere continues to be positive, but the sides have "many, many difficult discussions" ahead.

Energy Secretary O'Leary kept sloppy records of trade-promotion trips, congressional investigators said. They could not account for $255,000 of $1,393,521 spent on trips to South Africa and India. One curious item: an unspecified sum spent for lodging in Vienna and Stockholm, although there were no stopovers in those cities on either trip. The Energy Department says it now has the missing records and that the trips yielded many lucrative business deals.

"The first lady was concerned and desired action," says a White House memo that suggests Hillary Rodham Clinton was the unseen hand behind White House Travel Office firings. The memo, by then-White House administration director David Watkins, contradicts previous statements that Mrs. Clinton was not involved. The memo's release comes eight months after a House panel began its probe.

General Motors Corp. will begin selling electric cars in the mass retail market as early as this year, becoming the first of the Big Three US automakers to do so. Separately, the first electric-car charging station in the US was unveiled in Industry, Calif., by Southern California Edison. The utility plans to have 18 "volt stations" at retail outlets and train stations by August.

Dan Dorfman lost his job at Money magazine after refusing to identify confidential sources for his columns. But he got a vote of confidence from another employer, TV cable channel CNBC, which continues to carry his daily reports.

North Korea said it will attend Atlanta's 1996 Olympics. For the first time since World War II, all invited nations have accepted.

Alabama Republicans celebrated as 10 Democratic judges announced they were switching parties. More than 100 GOP loyalists stood in freezing weather outside the courthouse in Birmingham as Gov. Fob James, himself a former Democrat, welcomed the Jefferson County judges to the party.

"Alabama to unite against the ATF conspiracy," read a note found near the New Year's Day bomb in Birmingham that injured Rev. Michael Schnatterly. Federal investigators believe it may have been intended for a former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent.

The "Stars and Bars" Confederate flag can continue to fly over the Alabama statehouse, a US district judge ruled. It doesn't cause discrimination or harm to blacks, the judge said, and there is no consensus on whether it glorifies white supremacy or merely honors Southern heritage.

Call the IRS for tax help and you're likely to get a right answer 91 percent of the time. That's up from 63 percent in 1989. But getting through could be tough: 92 percent of callers last year got busy signals or were put on hold for more than seven minutes, a congressional report says. The agency says its answer rate will improve this year and points out that it handles 39 million calls per each tax season. The tax-help number is 800-829-8815.


Bosnian Serbs, under intense international pressure, released 16 civilians detained last month when they ventured into a Serb-held suburb of Sarajevo. The detentions dented NATO's optimism about compliance by all parties with the peace accord, a provision of which was to guarantee freedom of movement. And, in Vienna, Bosnian Muslims, Serbs, and Croats made progress as they discussed confidence-building measures, such as withdrawing troops, that they must agree on by Jan. 26 under the Dayton deal.

Israeli politicians said a PLO official's demand for reparations is like comparing Israelis to Nazis. Freih Abu Middein, who is responsible for justice in the Palestinian Authority, said that just as Germany compensated Israel for Nazi war crimes, so must Israel pay reparations to Palestinians. He said Palestinians have suffered under 28 years of Israeli occupation. On Wednesday, Israel decided against blanket compensation but said a special panel will be set up to deal with "exceptional cases."

The US said it is Burma's duty to extradite Khun Sa - a major opium warlord - to face prosecution in the US, and offered a $2 million reward for information leading to his arrest. Khun Sa is widely believed to have reached a peace deal with the Burmese government, which said it will announce his arrest at an "appropriate time." The Burmese Army reportedly captured his base in the lawless Golden Triangle.

The earth was at its warmest in 1995 - more than any year since record-keeping began in the mid-1800s, The New York Times reported. It cited two studies: NASA's Goddard Institute's average temperature of 59.7 degrees, and the British Meteorological Office's 58.72 degrees. The findings tend to support the view of some scientists that the burning of fossil fuels is warming the climate.

UAE's security concerns have pitted the US and France into serious competition. At stake: 80 long-range strike aircraft worth up to $6 billion, which could be the last huge contract of the 1990s, sources say. President Clinton is reportedly taking a personal interest in reversing France's advantage. The winner gets much-needed funds to finance development of next-generation warplanes and provide employment for thousands.

China warned the US not to grant a visa to Taiwan's Vice President Li Yuanzu or condemn it before the UN Human Rights Commission. State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns confirmed that a visa request was made and is being considered. A new row could freeze a recent thaw in troubled Sino-US ties, diplomats said. And Senegal became the 31st country to recognize Taiwan.

Futures trader Nick Leeson is to blame for the collapse of Barings Bank, Price Waterhouse's 340-page report disclosed. The firm, hired by Singapore to investigate the debacle, said basic internal controls also failed. The bank's troubles began when Leeson bet that the value of a group of Japanese stocks would rise. They fell instead. To cover his losses, Leeson kept doubling his bets until all cash reserves of Barings were wiped out.

Striking transit workers in Marseille, France, defied a court order to leave the city's bus station. A confrontation with police seemed unlikely, however, following an offer by the regional government to meet their demands. City transit workers have been on strike since Dec. 7.

Stock prices soared, bond prices sank, and the dollar vaulted to its highest level in nearly 21 months on Tokyo's first trading day in 1996. Analysts say it is a boost to Japanese financial markets. Separately, Masahide Ota, Okinawa's governor, reiterated his determination to force US bases off his island.


Arafat is controlling everything. Not only the press.

He is limiting the life of the people."

- Bassem Eid, a Arab-Israeli human rights activist, on the PLO Chairman. Eid was detained for one day on no charges.

Heavy snow in the main sanctuaries of the Monarch butterfly in central Mexico has killed at least 30 percent of the up to 60 million distinctive orange and black insects. They migrate up to 3,100 miles south from Canada each year.

"Babe," the hit movie about a talking pig who herds sheep, was named best picture of 1995 by the 46-member National Society of Film Critics.

Forty years after his passing, young actor James Dean will appear on a first-class stamp to be issued in June by the US Post Office.

The Powers That Be In Professional Sports

Rupert Murdoch tops The Sporting News's list of power brokers. His Fox Sports won rights to the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, boxing's World League, and figure skating.

1. Rupert Murdoch, chairman & CEO, News Corp.

2. Dick Ebersol, president NBC Sports

3. Phil Knight, chairman & CEO, Nike

4. John Malone, president & CEO, Tele-Communications Inc.

5. Mark McCormack, chairman & CEO, IMG

6. Michael Eisner, chairman & CEO, Walt Disney Co.

7. Juan Antonio Samaranch, president, International Olympic Committee

8. Ted Turner, president & chairman, TBS

9. David Stern, commissioner, NBA

10. Steve Bornstein, president & CEO, ESPN Inc.

36. Cal Ripken, shortstop, Baltimore Orioles

44. Michael Jordan, guard, Chicago Bulls

50. Shaquille O'Neal, center, Orlando Magic

54. Deion Sanders, cornerback/center fielder, Dallas Cowboys/baseball

76. Jack Nicklaus, pro golfer

- The Sporting News (St. Louis)

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