News In Brief


Two floors at the UN headquarters in New York were evacuated after four letter bombs were found. The letters were addressed to Al-Hayat, an Arabic-language newspapers known for its relatively unbiased news coverage and moderate editorials. Earlier, another bomb exploded at the paper's London headquarters, injuring two people. Five letter bombs were sent to the paper's Washington offices on Jan. 2.

President Clinton picked Colorado Gov. Roy Romer as the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Romer will remain as governor during the term. He also selected Massachusetts businessman and Democratic activist Steven Grossman as the DNC's national chairman in charge of day-to-day operations, according to two senior officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The choices must be approved by the 431-member DNC.

Clinton plans to ask Congress for $1 billion to pay off a sizeable chunk of the money the US owes to the UN, according to The Washington Post. The money was part of a proposed increase of about $1.2 billion in spending on international affairs, it said. This year's level of spending is $18.1 billion. According to the proposal, Washington would pay $100 million in the coming year, and the remaining $900 million would be appropriated now, but held back until 1999 as a way to press for US-backed reforms.

Consumer prices rose 3.3 percent last year, the biggest jump since 1990, the Labor Department reported. But outside sharp rises in energy and food costs, the underlying inflation rate had its best performance in 31 years. Meanwhile, retail sales saw a modest boost of 0.6 percent in December from Christmas sales, the Commerce Department said.

The US Supreme Court defined a key federal law in a way that's likely to increase the number of lawsuits alleging on-the-job bias against small businesses. It unanimously revived a woman's sex-bias lawsuit against her former employer at a Chicago-based firm by ruling that the business qualified as a company with 15 or more employees. At issue is what Congress meant when it applied Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to companies with 15 or more employees.

Clinton administration officials were to announce a $3.9 billion, five-year plan to help rescue the financially troubled District of Columbia. The package would provide aid to its poorest citizens for medical bills and assume responsibility for the city's courts and prisons. It also includes $4.4 billion as a pension fund liability.

They wanted to capture a bit of history for their grandson. But John and Alice Martin of Fort White, Fla., now face federal charges for taping a Republican strategy session on House Speaker Newt Gingrich's ethics problems from a police scanner. In a news conference, the couple said they didn't know at the time they were doing anything illegal by taping the cellular phone conversation, which they then turned over to Rep. Jim McDermott - the ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee. The controversial tape now resides at the Justice Department.

The president of The Citadel announced severe punishment for anyone involved in hazing or harassment on campus. Clifton Poole said cadets guilty of hazing will be kicked off campus and the case turned over to local authorities. He spoke at a news conference after two women cadets said they would not return to the military college because school officials didn't protect them from hazing and sexual harassment.

A Republic of Georgia diplomat held responsible for an accident in Washington that killed a teenager had at least two other traffic violations in the US, the State Department said. Earlier, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said he was prepared to waive the diplomatic immunity of the envoy, who has been fined at least three times for drunk driving in Georgia.


Discussions between Palestinian Authority President Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu were described as nearing "the finish" on a deal to redeploy troops in Hebron. The two leaders were attempting to resolve issues that lower-level negotiators were unable to agree on. Both governments must approve the final pact, and at least seven of Israel's 18 Cabinet ministers have vowed to vote against any deal on Hebron. Two other Cabinet members are said to be wavering on the issue.

Belgrade's elections commission backed down and declared that opponents of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic had won control of the city in last November's elections. The move came after an estimated half-million demonstrators rallied in the capital on the Orthodox New Year's Eve. But opposition leaders said they believed it was a new attempt by Milosevic to "buy time" in his bid to retain a majority in city government. They vowed the daily protests in the capital would continue.

British Prime Minister John Major cut short a visit to Pakistan and hurried home to London for a key vote in Parliament on his government's new budget. The move was seen as a measure of his weakened political position - he no longer has a majority in Parliament - with national elections due this spring. Major was on a trade-boosting tour.

Letter bombs sent to London, the UN in New York, and Washington may not have been mailed from Egypt after all, President Hosni Mubarak said. He said it is "easy to imitate" Egyptian stamps and that items mailed in his country are inspected carefully. Meanwhile, the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat reportedly also received two letter bombs at its office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They were removed by police before they could explode.

South Africa accused the Clinton administration of "bullying" over the proposed sale of $641 million worth of weapons to Syria. The US had termed the sale "extremely serious." Washington accuses Syria of sponsoring terrorism. A spokesman for South African President Mandela said his country would not be dictated to by the US. Mandela's Cabinet is to vote on approving the sale later this month.

Switzerland's largest bank admitted to throwing away archives that might have shed more light on controversial Jewish accounts during the Nazi era. Destruction of such records was banned by the Swiss government last month. A bank spokesman said an employee apparently thought the documents were unimportant.

Colombian President Ernesto Samper declared a state of emergency that allows him to bypass Congress and impose new budget measures. Colombia faces a projected $4.4 billion deficit. The current high value of the Colombian peso against the US dollar has cut into exports by making the country's products more expensive overseas.

Nicaragua's new President, Arnoldo Alman, and Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega agreed to form a joint commission to study poverty and the redistribution of private property - two issues that threaten the nation's stability. The two men met on Alman's first day in office.

Police made no attempt to interfere as hundreds of angry Hondurans trapped the country's Economics Ministry staff inside its Tegucigalpa headquarters. The protesters demanded that prices on 200 basic products be lowered. The Honduran economy was deeply affected by a US cutback in spending for military bases after the civil war in neighboring Nicaragua in 1990. Seventy percent of the Honduran population lives in poverty.


We don't like grandstanding.... The Americans are not going to guide us. They are not going to tell us what to do."

- South African government spokesman Parks Mankahlana, on US criticism of a proposed weapons sale to Syria.

"Date an astronomer: Who else can promise you the sun, moon, and stars - and deliver?" reads an ad in the Science Connection. The Ottawa, Ont., periodical runs personals for North American scientists adept at making discoveries but who are not so experienced when it comes to dating. Anne Lambert, a Canadian wildlife biologist, dreamed up the idea after noticing that many of her colleagues needed help on the social scene.

Remember the news story last month about a private island in the Bahamas that went on the auction block after the financial failure of its owner? Well, the bids are all in and it appears that the winners are Blockbuster Video founder John Melk and his wife, Janet. They offered $6 million and change for Rudder Cut Cay and its airstrip, 15-acre sheltered harbor, and other amenities. Approval by the Bahamian government is expected.


Favorite Stars and Shows

Winners of the People's Choice Awards, which are determined by a Gallup poll of the public.

Male in a new television series (tie): Bill Cosby and Michael J. Fox

New television comedy series: "Cosby," CBS

Female television performer: Oprah Winfrey

Male television performer: Tim Allen

Female in a new television series: Brooke Shields

Female musical performer: Reba McEntire

Male musical performer: Garth Brooks

Actor in a motion picture: Mel Gibson

Actress in a motion picture: Sandra Bullock

New television dramatic series: "Millennium"

TV dramatic series: "ER," NBC

TV comedy series: "Seinfeld," NBC

Comedy motion picture: "The Nutty Professor"

Dramatic motion picture: "Independence Day"

Daytime dramatic series: "Days of Our Lives," NBC

- Associated Press

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