News In Brief


The White House was scheduled to release details of a seven-page plan to counter state drug laws. Under the plan, doctors who prescribe illegal drugs would be prosecuted or removed from the federal registry that allows them to write prescriptions, the president's drug policy chief, Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, said during an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation." Voters in California and Arizona approved measures in November that relax restriction on the medical use of some illegal drugs, such as marijuana, for medical purposes.

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators released by the Conference Board increased 0.1 percent in November, the 10th straight month without a drop and the latest sign that moderate economic growth was continuing. Meanwhile, sales of existing homes rose 1.8 percent in November, the first increase seen in six months. All regions except the Northeast experienced the gain.

House majority whip Tom DeLay (R) of Texas came to the defense of Newt Gingrich on NBC's "Meet the Press," and said the House Speaker has no intentions of stepping down. Meanwhile, Rep. Michael Forbes of New York became the first Republican to state that he would not support Gingrich, calling him a speaker who would be "weighed down."

Residents of Washington and Oregon braced for a slushy mess as temperatures rose and a weekend snowstorm turned to rain. Flood warnings were posted for six southwestern Washington rivers, and several state highways closed after mudslides. Some 200,000 homes lost power after high winds and heavy rains left behind a coating of ice. Two snowstorms within the last week have left two feet of snow in some areas of those states.

FBI agent Earl Edwin Pitts pleaded innocent in an Alexandria, Va., courtroom to charges of spying and selling secrets to Russia for more than $224,000. Prosecutors say there are more than 5,700 separate instances of Pitts being taped or observed during FBI surveillance.

Federal investigators are trying to build a racketeering case against Death Row Records by probing alleged ties to a street gang, drug traffickers, and organized crime, the Los Angeles Times reported. The rap label has been scrutinized for months in a probe the Justice Department refuses to confirm or deny, the report said. Death Row owner Marion (Suge) Knight, speaking from jail while serving a probation violation, denied criminal ties and called the probe racially motivated.

After cutting about 7,700 jobs this year, AT&T Corp. is ending 1996 with about the same number of employees, according to The Wall Street Journal. Hiring in its wireless, Internet, customer-care, and local phone operations offset the losses. AT&T still plans to cut 17,000 jobs over the next three years, a company representative said.

College enrollment is on the rise for the first time in four years in most states, according to preliminary data released by Washington's American Council on Education. The increase is modest and probably indicates enrollment is stabilizing, according to complete data from 11 states that is supplemented by surveys of education officials in 22 states. Enrollment increases were more likely in the South, Southwest, and West.

The most popular single stamp of 1996? Those displaying the face of movie star James Dean. Some 31 million were collected in 1996, according to the US Postal Service. Stamps honoring the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta actually recorded 38.1 million collected, but that was a set of 20 different stamps.


Marxist rebels holding 83 hostages in Lima, Peru, displayed conciliatory messages. Signs placed on the window of the Japanese ambassador's residence sought improved conditions for jailed comrades and recognition of their movement. Earlier signs had demanded the release of all their prisoners and major changes to the country's economic system. Red Cross officials called the new messages a good sign.

Thousands of Guatemalans celebrated the signing of a peace accord between the government and the rebels with dance and music. The signing ends 36 years of civil war. The accord seeks to protect human rights, establishes a truth commission to investigate war crimes, resettles refugees, recognizes Indian rights, demobilizes rebels, reduces the powerful Army, and reforms the economy and election laws. It's a challenging task to implement, analysts say.

North Korea said it will accept a joint US-South Korea briefing on a peace proposal, a measure it has consistently rejected. The announcement came a day after North Korea tendered an official apology for a submarine incursion into South Korea. Meanwhile, South Korea returned the ashes of 24 North Koreans who were shot after their submarine ran aground in the South. Sources acknowledged the North made additional concessions in exchange for US food aid.

Allies of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic joined an international call and urged him to reinstate opposition election victories. The plea from a party in Milosevic's ruling coalition follows an earlier appeal by international investigators, who say the opposition won elections in 14 communities, including Belgrade. Anti-government protests in Belgrade showed no signs of abating.

A major strike shut down Israel for the second day. Protesting tax increases, budget cuts, and privatization plans, labor leaders shut down the stock market, utility companies, postal services, radio broadcasts, and banks. It was the largest demonstration yet against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators hinted that the much-delayed deal on the West Bank city of Hebron will be concluded and that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could meet today to sign the pact.

A powerful bomb exploded in a train packed with passengers in northeastern India. Early reports said there were heavy casualties but gave no official figure. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, but the area is one of the main hotbeds of insurgents seeking independence.

China launched a manhunt and offered a financial reward for the arrest of those responsible for the largest bomb blast in Lhasa, Tibet's capital. No casualties were reported in last week's bombing. Meanwhile, Tibet's government-in-exile in India expressed concerns that China would retaliate with increased repression of anti-Chinese activists in their homeland.

The first genocide trials in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, were adjourned until an unnamed date to allow prosecutors more time to compile evidence. Two former Hutu government officials are standing trial for their alleged role in the 1994 slaughter of half-a-million people. More than 85,000 jailed suspects are awaiting possible prosecution.

An Indonesian court ordered labor leader Muchtar Pakpahan to stand trial on subversion charges. Prosecutors say Pakpahan incited unrest by publishing a book on the income gap between Indonesia's rich and poor and made statements that President Suharto should be charged with abuse of power. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death.


''In these days that we've had the problem with the hostages,

I think that people in Peru have prayed more than they ever did during the year."

-- The Rev. Clemente Sobrado during a service at a Lima, Peru, church.

The countdown queen at tonight's noisy Times Square celebration? A shy octogenarian honored by President Clinton for donating her $150,000 life savings to the University of Mississippi. Oseola McCarty of Hattiesburg, Miss., earned the money by taking in laundry for 70 years. She says she's never stayed awake to welcome in the new year before.

Carly Snyder and Jordan Wompierski were looking for something to do on rainy day. So they devised an electronic system that sets off a radio signal in the home when the local school bus is half a mile away. The second-graders from Cinnaminson, N.J., were awarded $500 savings bonds in a national contest for the idea.

Editors in the US might vote for the presidential elections or peace between former enemies as 1996's No. 1 story. News executives of China's major Communist Party newspapers chose ... the war on bourgeois decadence as the top story.


Fastest Growing States States with 1996 population growth rates of at least 1 percent, as reported this week by the US Census Bureau:

1. Nevada 4.5%

2. Arizona 2.9

3. Utah 2.2

4. Colorado 2.0

4. Georgia 2.0

4. Idaho 2.0

7. North Carolina 1.7

7. Oregon 1.7

7. Texas 1.7

10. Washington 1.6

11. Florida 1.5

12. New Mexico 1.4

12. Tennessee 1.4

14. New Hampshire 1.2

15. Delaware 1.1

16. Arkansas 1.0

16. California 1.0

16. Montana 1.0

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