News In Brief

The US

More prominent Democrats joined the call for an independent counsel to investigate political fund-raising. US Sen. Russell Feingold of Wisconsin and former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey said on the NBC program "Meet the Press" that such a move appeared to be the only way to "clear the air" over controversial practices linked to the Clinton White House. Democratic national chairman Roy Romer also said he would not oppose the appointment of a special counsel.

A key House Republican accused the Clinton White House of seeking a "heads up" from the Justice Department on possible funneling of Chinese government funds to the Democratic National Committee. The Washington Post reported that Government Reform and Oversight Committee chairman Dan Burton of Indiana wrote to Attorney General Janet Reno expressing "grave concern" that the White House had asked for and received information that could involve top administration officials. China denies making such contributions, which would violate US law.

US Rep. John Kasich (R) of Ohio recommended postponing action on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Kasich, who chairs the House Budget Committee, told the CBS program "Face the Nation" that more public support for the measure is needed. The amendment is opposed by the Clinton administration and by most Democrats in Congress.

The US Supreme Court declined to hear a dispute over term limits for members of Congress. Instead, the justices let stand an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling on the issue. It invalidated a ballot initiative urging a constitutional amendment that would set the length of time members of Congress could serve. The High Court also declined to rule on whether journalists may record police searches of private dwellings. But they did agree to hear an Illinois case on penalizing companies that fail to meet a set deadline for reporting their use of hazardous chemicals.

Some of the women Army recruits who complained of sexual harassment were involved in social relationships with the male superiors they later accused, The Baltimore Sun reported. Basing its account on interviews the Army conducted with 56 of the recruits at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, the newspaper said much of the activity involved in the complaints was consensual. Twenty male serg-eants or instructors at Aberdeen have been relieved of duty, and 12 of them face courts-martial.

American Electric Power, a holding company for seven US utilities, was expected to bid $2 billion for publicly owned Yorkshire Electricity of Britain, the Wall Street Journal reported. Neither company would comment on the report. The newspaper said American Electric was likely to be joined in the offer by an unidentified partner.

The State Department urged caution by all sides as Cuban-Americans planned to commemorate the downing of two civilian planes a year ago by President Fidel Castro's forces. Cuban exiles in south Florida said they would fly dozens of planes over the site where the Feb. 24 incidents occurred and drop flowers into the water.

Security procedures at the Empire State Building in New York were being reviewed after a shooting incident that left two people dead and six others hurt. The incident took place on the observation deck, one of the city's most popular attractions. The gunman, who took his own life, carried documents identifying himself as a resident of the Gaza Strip.

Except in Western states, gasoline prices across the US have dropped by more than one cent a gallon this month, industry analysts said. The Lundberg Survey of 10,000 service stations said the average price of all grades was just under $1.30 a gallon.

Flooding in Illinois forced hundreds of residents from their homes, and officials said many more might need to be evacuated. The Rock River at Erie was more than eight feet above flood stage. The Illinois River was expected to crest nine feet above flood stage at Peoria Thursday.

The World

US Secretary of State Madeline Albright met with Chinese officials, including President Jiang Zemin, on her nine-country whirlwind tour. Albright called China a key to world stability but chided it on human rights and trade issues. But she said, "we understand this is a long process." Albright cut her visit to China short by a day, out of respect for today's memorial service for Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

Scottish scientists cloned a sheep - the first-ever cloning of an adult mammal. Scientists at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh used DNA from a ewe to create an exact genetic replica. Scientists heralded the feat as a breakthrough with huge potential for animal and health research. But others find the development disturbing, saying it raises the unsettling possibility of cloning humans.

Peru's government began a fourth round of talks with Marxist rebels aimed at ending the more than two-month-old hostage crisis in Lima. President Fujimori said yesterday that police new the rebels were bringing weapons to the capital and failed to do anything about it. Members of the Tpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement have held 72 people hostage at the Japanese ambassador's home since Dec. 17 - the longest such siege in Latin American history.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have been manipulated by the justice minister in an influence-peddling scandal that threatens to bring down his government, his lawyer said. Netanyahu may face criminal charges for allegedly appointing a crony attorney general in exchange for key votes on Israeli troop withdrawal from the West Bank town of Hebron. Netayahu's lawyer said he only agreed to appoint Roni Bar-On after Justice Minister Tsahi Hanegbi led him to believe the appointment had the blessing of the Supreme Court chief justice. Hanegbi refused to comment.

Zaire won't negotiate with rebels, despite the rebels continued military successes in the five-month-old rebellion, a presidential spokesman said. The rebellion erupted in October, when ethnic Tutsis were ordered to leave Zaire. The mainly Tutsi rebels, with the apparent backing of neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, have carved a more than 900-mile-long swath out of eastern Zaire.

Turkey's Islamist-led government faces, and will likely overcome its fifth challenge in as many months today. Prime Minister Erbakan faces a censure motion, but the opposition doesn't appear to have the 276 votes needed. Also, Turkey is trying to force about 200,000 ethnic Turks back to Bulgaria - a move that has outraged the main opposition party and human rights groups. The move asks authorities to deny immigrants residence permits or new visas.

One of Albania's collapsed pyramid schemes gave the ruling Democratic Party $50,000, a state controller's report said. The government has denied taking money from schemes that have cost tens of thousands of Albanians their life savings. People took to the streets in the southern town of Vlore for the 20th day to protest the failed schemes.

Russia can't keep up with the schedule for the international space station, space chief Yuri Koptev said. Moscow is more than a year behind in budget payments, forcing the agency to delay the launch of a cargo module until June 1998. Koptev said the 12 other countries involved - including the US - are "inclined" to accept the new timetable.

Nairobi University closed Kenya's largest campus after hundreds of students rioted to protest the apparent murder of a student leader who accused police of kidnapping and torturing him.

China's one-child policy is not grounds for refugee status, Australia's highest court of appeals ruled in a move that could affect hundreds of Chinese seeking asylum in Australia.


I'm not worried what Albert is making. He was a top-notch free agent

and deserved every penny."

- Chicago White Sox star Frank Thomas, on new teammate Albert Belle's $55 million contract, the richest in baseball.

Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson might well be saying, "I rest my case," after his less than flattering remark about the capital of neighboring Io-wa. After Carlson called Des Moines "absolutely dead," one Iowa lawmaker urged a boycott of the world-famous Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis until an apology was offered. Instead, hundreds of Iowans drove the 240 miles to the mall to take advantage of its advertised discounts to shoppers from the Hawkeye state.

But Iowa wins first prize in another category. A panel of experts deliberated long and hard before judging that Dubuque has the nation's best-tasting tap water. The criteria: appearance, odor, flavor, aftertaste, and somethning called "mouth feel."

Who says professional athletes are all self-centered? Golfer David Frost (not to be confused with the TV personality of the same name) asked fellow touring pros to donate shoes to underprivi- ledged players and caddies in his native South Africa. The response was unanimous: 600 pairs - five of them from Jack Nicklaus alone.

Another Smash Weekend for "Star Wars" Trilogy

"The Empire Strikes Back" supplanted "Star Wars" in first place last weekend as the re-released trilogy of the same name continued to rack up box-office profits. The weekend's top 10 grossing films, according to Exhibitor Relations Inc., with their studios, and revenues (in millions of dollars):

1. "The Empire Strikes Back," 20th Century Fox $22.4

2. "Star Wars," 20th Century Fox $11.0

3. "Absolute Power," Sony $9.0

4. "Dante's Peak," Universal Pictures $7.0

5. "Vegas Vacation," Warner Bros. $6.6

6. "Fools Rush In," Sony $5.6

7. "That Darn Cat," Disney $3.6

8. "Rosewood," Warner Bros. $3.2

9. "Jerry Maguire," Sony $3.1

10. "The English Patient," Miramax $2.8

- Associated Press

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