News In Brief

The US

The US Supreme Court heard opening arguments on whether states should be allowed to make English their official language. The court agreed last March to review a 1988 amendment to the Arizona Constitution.

A state judge in Hawaii ruled homosexual couples should be allowed to marry. The state asked for a stay of an injunction, pending appeal. Hawaii's Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court after ruling in 1993 that forbidding gay marriages is discriminatory.

The crew of Columbia retrieved an ultraviolet telescope that flew free of the space shuttle for two weeks. But the astronauts faced fresh technical problems when one of three navigational units shut down. To avoid bad weather on Friday, Columbia was expected to return to Earth this morning.

The Mars Pathfinder rocketed into space on a 310-million-mile trip to the Red Planet. It is carrying a 23-pound rover, named Sojourner, designed to examine rocks near the spot on Mars where Pathfinder comes to rest July 4, 1997.

Madeleine Albright has emerged as the clear favorite to succeed Warren Christopher as secretary of state, White House officials said. Albright is US ambassador to the UN.

It is impossible to calculate how much the consumer price index overstates inflation, the Labor Department's chief statistician said. The statement was seen as a preemptive strike prior to release later in the day of a report to the Senate Finance Committee from a bipartisan commission. That report was expected to recommend a 1.1 percent trim in the index.

The Justice Department barred 16 Japanese men from ever entering the US because they allegedly conducted inhumane medical experiments and ran forced-sex centers for the Imperial Army during World War II. They are the first Japanese added to the so-called "watch list" since its creation in 1979 to keep out those who committed acts of persecution on behalf of the Nazis and their allies.

Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana will be sworn in as a US senator next month while allegations of fraud in her election are investigated. Landrieu defeated Republican Woody Jenkins by fewer than 6,000 votes Nov. 5, but Jenkins says at least 10,000 were fraudulently cast.

Only 14 percent of women believe government regulation of the environment has gone too far, compared to 23 percent of men, a Roper Starch poll indicated. Conversely, 51 percent of women and only 38 percent of men say environmental regulation has not gone far enough. The poll was commissioned by the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation in Washington.

Florida will set up an oversight board for Miami, but will not bail out the city, Gov. Lawton Chiles said. Miami is shouldering at least $68 million in debt after years of mismanagement, corruption, and deficit spending.

Continental and Delta Air Lines were discussing a merger that could create the world's largest airline, a source close to the negotiations said. Continental reportedly initiated the talks.

Attorneys for Manuel Noriega were seeking a new trial for the former Panamanian dictator. They were expected to tell a federal appellate court in Atlanta that his 1992 conviction on drug-trafficking and racketeering charges was tainted by a $1.25 million payment to a witness.

A judge in Cleveland ruled that a lawsuit against the former Browns team of the National Football League could proceed as a class action on behalf of all season-ticket holders for the team's final season there. A lawyer for the two plaintiffs said the ruling could pave the way for damages being paid to as many as 15,000 former season-ticket holders.

The US Naval Academy hired a Georgetown University philosophy professor to coordinate an ethics program. The Annapolis, Md., academy has recently suffered a series of embarrassments, including cheating, drug use, and sexual harassment.

The World

Investigators in Paris were searching for clues to the explosion aboard a subway train that killed two passengers and injured dozens of others. Hundreds of police and soldiers were assigned to guard the city's train stations, airports, and other public places, as a leading newspaper said Islamic extremists were believed to be behind the attack. France's Foreign Ministry declined to affix blame.

Burma's military government reimposed house arrest on Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi following demonstrations by students from a Rangoon university. The leader of the country's democracy movement called the action illegal and denied any link to the student protests. She was freed from six years of house arrest in July 1995.

The US urged European governments to join an economic boycott against the regime of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic after he shut down the country's last independent news service. Meanwhile, 90 Serbian judges demanded a reexamination of last week's annulment of local elections that Milosevic's opponents had won. In Belgrade, students marched for the 11th day, warning of possible street fighting to force him from power.

In London, delegates from 43 nations opened a conference aimed at persuading Bosnia's rival ethnic factions to unify and rebuild their country in peace. Sources said international aid would be used to pressure Bosnian leaders to take responsibility for their own future.

The chief justice of Belarus's highest court, his deputy, and two other judges quit, accusing President Alexander Lukashenko of trampling the rule of law. After winning a Nov. 24 referendum that gave him broader powers, Lukashenko rewrote the nation's Constitution and warned judges that they could keep their jobs only by giving up their "political bias."

South Africa's new Constitution won final approval from the country's highest court, which sent it to President Nelson Mandela for his signature. The Constitutional Court had rejected an earlier version of the charter, one of the most liberal in the world. The 150-page document outlaws capital punishment and specifically protects homosexual rights.

An American sailor was sentenced to 13 years in prison by a court in Japan for attacking and robbing a woman of $120. Seaman Terrence Swanson pleaded guilty in September after the US formally apologized for the incident and made a $25,000 condolence payment to the victim. The attack came on the heels of the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl on Okinawa by three US servicemen.

Authorities in south India evacuated 300,000 people from the path of an approaching cyclone. The storm, with 125 m.p.h. winds and a 10-foot tidal surge, was expected to come ashore in the state of Hyderabad. A Nov. 6 cyclone in the same area caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to private property and crops.

Passenger service through the channel tunnel between Britain and France resumed, 16 days after a fire heavily damaged part of the structure. But the only passengers aboard the first train through the "chunnel" were crew members, journalists, and two American tourists.

China warned that it wanted "no new obstacles" in talks with Britain on assuming control of Hong Kong next July. Representatives from the two sides opened three days of talks in the colony. Previous meetings have bogged down in political and economic disputes. Hong Kong and the Chinese government are far apart in their views on the legal definition of subversion.


"Nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous, hugely expensive, militarily inefficient, and morally indefensible."

- Air Force Gen. George Lee Butler (Ret.), former commander of the US nuclear arsenal, on American nuclear policy.

What could possibly turn Orange blue? Well, how about a debate on whether to paint a green fire truck red? Orange, Mass., is not among the state's more affluent towns, and spending $1,500 to make the fire department's newest vehicle the same color as the rest of its fleet seemed a major expense. But, by a 40-to-28 vote at town meeting, Orange decided to change colors.

Believe it or not, in New York you can be fined for putting trash into a sidewalk waste bin. Retired engraver George Chakmakjian tossed two old envelopes into a city receptacle and went on his way. But they showed his mailing address, and sanitation workers retrieved them. He was penalized $50 under an ordinance that aims to keep curbside containers from being stuffed with household garbage.

You'd think most of the furniture in an old library would be dusty shelves, right? Not in Richmond, Va. The state library holds almost 100 Art Deco chairs and tables that are highly prized by collectors. The state plans to sell them and use the proceeds to buy rare books for its new Library of Virginia, opening this month.

The Day's List

Giving Stocks to Kids Can Pay Extra Dividends

Youngsters' eyes may not light up at the gift of stock certificates, but owning shares in a publicly traded company can help teach them to save and invest. Among the companies that offer stocks or mutual funds with child-appeal:

Stein Roe & Farnham offers Young Investor Fund, a diversified-growth program that invests in McDonald's, Mattel and other companies familiar to children.

William Wrigley Jr. Co. gives 20 packs of chewing gum to each shareholder during the holiday season.

Walt Disney Co. offers discounts to its Magic Kingdom Club and certain Disney hotels.

Tandy Corp. offers a 10 percent merchandise discount.

McDonald's sends a mock stock certificate in December suitable for framing.

- Associated Press

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