News In Brief

The US

A key lawmaker said President Clinton's choice for CIA director could face a "real problem" in winning Senate confirmation. Outgoing Intelligence Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania said National Security adviser Anthony Lake would face tough questions about his role in the decision to arm Bosnian Muslims. Also, John Deutch, whom Lake would replace at the CIA, said he would step down soon, rather than wait for a successor. A spokesman said Deutch would hand his duties over to George Tenet, his top deputy, "in the next week or two."

House majority leader Dick Armey is weighing a race for the White House in 2000, some Republican officials said anonymously. A spokesman for Armey said there was "no active consideration being made of anything related to a presidential campaign."

Beijing tentatively approved continued visits to Hong Kong by US warships after the colony is turned over to China next year. Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian made the announcement in talks with US Defense Secretary William Perry at the Pentagon. Haotian also met with Clinton.

Clinton declared a major disaster in six New York counties that suffered flooding in mid-November, making them eligible for federal aid.

The US Supreme Court began hearing arguments on whether states can decide to confine "sexually violent predators" after they have served their full prison sentences.

A federally appointed election officer began tallying mail-in ballots to determine who leads the 1.4-million-member Teamsters Union. A race between incumbent Ron Carey and attorney James Hoffa, son of the Teamsters leader who disappeared in 1975, has split the union.

The US trade deficit set a record in the third quarter, the Commerce Department said. The current-account gap increased by 19 percent, to $47.96 billion. The previous high was $43.2 billion.

Federal poll watchers monitored voting in Texas amid claims of election fraud in one of three congressional districts holding special run-off elections. The Justice Department said it sent 24 observers to Galveston and Jefferson counties, after uncovering evidence that minority voters were harassed last week. The monitors were sought by supporters of Democrat Nick Lampson, engaged in a runoff with incumbent Republican Steve Stockman. A GOP special elections sweep would give the party control of Texas' congressional delegation for the first time.

Two former Ku Klux Klan members pleaded guilty to conspiring to burn a black church and a migrant labor camp last year. They were charged with providing flammable liquids that others used to burn down the Macedonia Baptist Church in Bloomville, S.C., and a camp 80 miles north of Charleston.

The FBI posted a $500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of persons responsible for the July bombing at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

For the eighth straight year, Los Angeles was cited as the nation's most-gridlocked city. The Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University listed Washington, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago as the other top-five traffic-jam cities.

O.J. Simpson attorney Robert Baker began presenting the case for the defense in the wrongful-death civil trial brought against the former football star. Plaintiffs' attorneys ended their case after six weeks and 66 witnesses.

Home use of the Internet's World Wide Web has more than doubled over the past year, a PC-Meter study showed. According to an October survey, about 11 percent of US households (some 11 million homes) now use the Web. That is up from 4.4 percent a year ago. PC-Meter is a subsidiary of NPD Group Inc. in Port Washington, N.Y.

MCA Inc. is violating a commitment not to distribute profane or violent music, former Education Secretary William Bennett charged. Interscope Records, a label behind some of the most controversial rappers, is part of MCA.

The World

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein opened a pipeline to carry oil to shipping ports on the Mediterranean for the first time in six years. But the flow - under his oil-for-food deal with the UN - did not immediately begin because of an electrical fault in the pipeline. In Geneva, UN officials said victims who have not yet been compensated for Iraq's 1991 invasion of Kuwait could begin receiving payments as soon as next month.

Opposition lawmakers boycotted the opening session of parliament in Serbia, as protests against the government of President Slobodan Milosevic entered their fourth week. Outside, thousands of anti-Milosevic protesters booed and jeered the session - the first since the annulment of local elections Nov. 17 that the opposition had won. Meanwhile, the US cancelled a senior-level meeting with Milosevic and warned that he would be isolated diplomatically unless the annulment was reversed.

The UN sent 100 trucks to Tanzania in anticipation of a new wave of Hutu refugees returning home to Rwanda. But other officials said 23,000 Hutus had fled their Tanzanian camps rather than face repatriation. Tanzania has ordered more than a half-million Rwandans to go home by Dec. 31. An estimated 640,000 Hutus returned to Rwanda last month from camps in Zaire, and UN refugee officials say they have encountered few problems from the country's Tutsi government.

Dozens of suspected Muslim militants were rounded up at dawn in Paris, a week after a subway bomb killed four people and injured 94 others. French officials said the police raids also were aimed at collecting possible evidence for the investigation of the attack. A wave of similar bombings last year ended after a roundup of suspects.

Algeria denounced extremism and terrorism as violations "of the authentic spirit of Islam" but did not seek help from other Muslim nations in fighting its 4-1/2-year war against fundamentalist guerrillas. The war has taken at least 50,000 lives. Algeria's remarks came at the Organization of the Islamic Conference meetings in Indonesia. Meanwhile, fundamentalist insurgents were blamed for eight more deaths in an attack on civilians south of Algiers, the capital.

South Korea will boost defense spending by almost 13 percent a year beginning in 1998, the government announced. Military officials said their appropriations plan had to be rewritten following the failure to detect a North Korean submarine that penetrated coastal defenses in September.

In a blistering official commentary, Vietnam protested plans for broadcasts in its national language over the US-backed Radio Free Asia. The criticism, in an official newspaper, accused the US of interfering in Vietnam's internal affairs, of a continuing ambition to defeat communism, and of seeking to undermine Asian stability. The commentary warned that the Vietnamese broadcasts would affect bilateral relations, which were normalized last year.

Pressure mounted on Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis to halt a nationwide strike. Simitis met with his cabinet to discuss strategy as a two-week blockade by angry farmers kept the country's highways and rail network at a virtual standstill and trapped hundreds of freight shipments. The farmers want subsidies and cheaper fuel. Simitis has said there is no money in his 1997 budget to satisfy their demands.

Demolition began in Panama of one of the world's most notorious prisons. The 71-year-old Modelo in Panama City - a regular target of human-rights groups - was ordered closed after television footage showed guards clubbing naked prisoners. At its worst, critics said, the prison housed up to 6,000 inmates in cells meant for only 250. At least 50 prisoners died there over the past five years.


"We can stay here until March....We don't have the money to move the tractors anyway."

- Striking farmer Dimitris Kelesides, on the nationwide blockade that has hobbled Greek commerce for two weeks.

It's hard to walk in Miami Beach's trendy Art Deco district without dodging people on Rollerblades. Most businesses there, though, keep customers in line by requiring that they remove their skates before entering the premises. But a new Citibank branch in the neighborhood is offering what it says is a first: a skate-up window for depositors on the go.

The management of the Seoul Hilton hotel decided the place should have a little Christmas ambience. So it ordered a 25-foot Douglas fir for the lobby - from Maryland. Grower Marshall Stacy shipped a cut tree after explaining that the live specimen the hotel originally wanted would come with a 10-ton ball of earth attached. Why Maryland? Because evergreens in Korea only grow to about 5 feet high, a hotel spokesman said.

Baltimore enjoys bicentennials so much, it's about to celebrate for the second time in 67 years, beginning with fireworks on New Year's Eve. City officials insist there's nothing wrong with their math; this time honors the 200th anniversary of Baltimore's incorporation in 1796. The earlier bicentennial, back in 1929, commemorated its founding as a town.

The Day's List

Where the Graduates Are

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris surveyed high-school (or equivalent) graduation rates among people aged 25-64 for the world's wealthiest nations. The average graduation rate among those surveyed in1994 was 59 percent. The top 15:

1. US 85%

2. Germany 84

3. Switzerland 82

4. Norway 81

5. United Kingdom 74

(tie) Canada 74

7. Czech Republic 73

9. Sweden 72

10. Austria 68

11. France 67

12. Finland 64

13. Denmark 60

(tie) Netherlands 60

15. New Zealand 57

- Associated Press

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