News In Brief

The US

The Federal Reserve is expected to hold interest rates steady after a two-day meeting that ends today. The index of leading economic indicators' 0.1 percent rise in December, reported by the Conference Board, is likely to confirm the decision.

"Developments in Russia could take an ominous turn," with extremists demanding a return to armed confrontation with the West if rapid expansion of NATO into eastern Europe occurs, Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin told The Washington Post. He plans to meet with Vice President Al Gore on this and other subjects tomorrow. He is scheduled to join Clinton and Gore in a final session Friday.

The alleged mastermind in a spate of bombings in Vallejo, Calif., turned himself in to authorities. Police suspect that Kevin Lee Robinson ordered the bombing of a courthouse to stop a possible life-sentence for drug dealing. Five other men were arrested on conspiracy charges.

The US, Britain, and France agreed to stop distributing $68 million worth of gold bars looted by the Nazis from European banks in World War II, The New York Times reported. Citing new evidence that some of that money came from Jews during the Holocaust, the Clinton administration proposed it be used to start a Holocaust fund. The bars are stored in the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan and the Bank of England.

Home sales in 1996 recorded their strongest gain in 18 years, despite a small decline in December, the Commerce Department said. Sales for all of 1996 were up 13.3 percent to 756,000. But they fell 1 percent in December after a revised 17.7 percent jump in November.

A retired female sergeant major accused the Army's top enlisted man of sexual assault and harassment. In a sworn statement to The New York Times, Sgt. Maj. Brenda Hoster said Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney had made sexual overtures in her hotel room last April while his wife was a few doors away. Her superiors suppressed the complaint and ignored requests for transfer, leaving her no option but to retire early, she said. Pending resolution of the issue, McKinney asked to be excused from a panel formed by Army Secretary Togo West to review the Army's sexual harassment problems.

A White House commission said that antimissile defense systems should be installed on some commercial planes because of concerns of terrorist attacks, The Wall Street Journal reported. The commission was formed after the explosion of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in New York. Airline lobbyists argue the plan would cost too much to implement. Investigators still haven't determined weather a missile, bomb, or mechanical malfunction caused the TWA explosion.

Several conditions must be met before the chemical wea-pons treaty will be put to a vote by the full Senate, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee said. The Senate shouldn't ratify the treaty until Russia guarantees it will destroy its chemical weapons, Sen. Jesse Helms said. Another prerequisite: Clinton must assure Congress that nations such as Libya, Syria, Iraq, and North Korea will comply.

The Clinton administration urged Congress to reinstate an expired airline ticket tax. The government has experienced a $1.2 billion shortfall since it expired Dec. 31, acting assistant Treasury Secretary Donald Lubick told the Senate Finance Committee. A fund that finances airport modernization will disappear in March if the tax isn't reinstated, he said.

A forensic specialists plans to release findings from DNA tests that indicate a new suspect in the 1954 bludgeoning death of Marilyn Sheppard, wife of Dr. Sam Sheppard, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. The case received wide news coverage and inspired the movie and TV series "The Fugitive." Sheppard spent 10 years in jail for the killing, but was acquitted of the crime in 1966. He died four years later. If Sheppard is declared innocent, his son, Sam Reese Sheppard, could sue the state of Ohio for wrongful imprisonment.

The World

Saying "great damage" had been done to Serbia, domestically and internationally, President Milosevic ordered reinstatement of 14 local election victories by his opponents, the official Tanjug news agency reported. His earlier refusal to accept the outcome caused 77 days of street protests. The move came on the day Belgrade's new city councillors were to be sworn in. Opposition leaders reacted cautiously, calling the announcement a "first step."

Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was denounced publicly by two former members of her political movement after their expulsion for urging her to cooperate with Burma's military rulers. Than Tun and Thein Kyi said she was confrontational and "far behind Burma's politics." Analysts said their comments appeared to be aimed at weakening morale in Suu Kyi's National Lea-gue for Democracy.

Onetime Prime Minister Na-waz Sharif returned to power in Pakistan, despite a 30- to 40-percent voter turnout in national elections. Sharif's Muslim Lea-gue won at least 113 of the 217 seats in the lower house of parliament, to 12 for rival Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. Sharif called on Bhutto - who kept her own National Assembly seat despite being dismissed from office for corruption - to accept the outcome "gracefully."

A potentially dramatic shift in North Korean policy was signaled by Trade Minister Kim Jon U. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he said his reclusive and impoverished Communist country is seeking "close links with the capitalist economy." Kim told the International Herald-Tribune that North Korea must lure foreign investment "since the socialist market has collapsed."

Government troops in Sri Lanka began a new offensive against Tamil separatists, despite a vow by President Kumaratunga to find a peaceful solution to 14 years of civil war. In a speech, she said the island had enough resources to offer equal opportunity to all its ethnic groups. But only a few hundred schoolchildren were allowed at National Day ceremonies in the capital.

Lawmakers in Australia approved a constitutional convention to consider severing the continent's colonial ties to Britain. A spokesman for Prime Minister John Howard said it would convene in November or December, with half its delegates elected by the voters and the rest appointed by the government. Polls show 54 percent support for becoming a republic.

Turkey's main leftist party announced it would ask parliament to censure the Islamist-led government of Prime Minister Erbakan. Erbakan angered secular-minded politicians and the Army by vowing to build mosques and institute fundamentalist policies. As the controversy flared, Army tanks rolled through a town that has been a center of fundamentalist activity.

Rebel forces in Zaire captured the key port of Kalemie on Lake Tanganyika, the defense ministry acknowledged. The port is the terminus of a strategic rail line to the vital copper-mining region around Lubumbashi, which the government normally would use to transport reinforcements.

Ruling party candidate Rene Blattman quit the race for president of Bolivia - apparently opening the way for the return to power of a former dictator. Blatt-man resigned despite his endor-sement by the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement. The leader in public opinion polls now is Gen. Hugo Banzer Suarez of the Nationalist Democratic Action Party, who overthrew the government in 1971 but was ousted in 1978.


Resign! Resign! Resign!"

- Opposition demonstrators in Belgrade, reacting to President Slobodan Milosevic's acceptance of their election victories after 77 days of street protests.

If you think you put in long hours at the office, consider the plight of Sheriff Larry Costello of Clay Coun-ty in Minnesota. Because of this winter's snowstorms, he has logged more than 120 hours of overtime since Jan. 1 - all unpaid. His staff has been in the same - uh - rut, and he says they'd all appreciate some 50-degree days.

Rick Feldman figures he might as well cash in on the American fascination with Australian speech. Feldman, who's from Melbourne but currently lives in Cleveland, advertises that for a fee he'll record any radio or TV commercials in an authentic Down Under accent. Studio announcers, he says, overdo the "G'day, mate" thing.

Next time you have corn with dinner, think of it as more than just a side dish. Government researchers have found a way to convert the venerable grain into chemicals that now are made more expensively from oil. So, as early as next year the paint on your wall and the plastic coating on your car bumpers could all be corn-based.

The Day's List

Black History Month's Best Picks for Children

Recommendations from Parent's Choice of Waban, Mass., a consumer guide to children's toys, videos, computer programs, reading, and electronic media.


"Nappy Hair," by Carolivia Herron, Knopf, $17, all ages.

"Jamaica Louise James," by Amy Hest, Candlewick, $16, ages 4-8.

"Allie's Basketball Dream," by Barbara E. Barber, Lee & Low, $15, ages 4-8.

"Satchmo's Blues," by Alan Schroeder, Doubleday, $16, ages 6-10.

"Black Artists in Photography, 1840-1940," by George Sullivan, Cobblehill, $17, ages 10-up.


"Ebony Expressions," Playtime Prod, 30 min., $13, ages 18 mos.-up, 888-963-2669.

"Web of Tales," NCP, all ages, 301-369-7991.

"Jackie Torrence: Stories From Her Family Album," Curriculum Assoc., app. 55 min., $60, all ages, 800-225-0248.

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