News In Brief

The US

Senators of both parties reacted warmly to President Clinton's selection of George Tenet, a former Senate aide, to head the CIA. But Republicans said they would demand access to Tenet's FBI file, a request that put the Senate and White House at odds in the failed nomination of Anthony Lake. Tenet has been acting CIA director for the past four months.

The chief investigator of campaign fund-raising abuses in the House acknowledged asking a lobbyist to solicit donations for his 1996 reelection, but denied other allegations of Mark Siegel, a Democratic activist and former lobbyist for Pakistan. Siegel has accused Rep. Dan Burton of threatening to cut off Siegel's access to GOP lawmakers if he did not raise $5,000 or contribute that amount to the Indiana Republican's reelection campaign.

Political party fund-raising for the 1996 election reached a record $900 million, the Federal Election Commission said. One reason: an increase in "soft money," the unlimited donations from corporations, unions, and wealthy patrons now at the center of fund-raising probes. The Republican Party raised $554.7 million; the Democrats, $345.5 million. Together they collected $262.1 million in soft money - three times the 1992 total.

The Senate asked Attorney General Janet Reno to petition a US court for independent counsel to probe possible fund-raising illegalities in the 1996 presidential campaign. The non-binding resolution was opposed by Democrats, who called it political. House and Senate committees had already petitioned Reno to seek independent counsel.

Urban sprawl is engulfing farmland so fast the US may be forced by 2050 to import more food than it exports, the American Farmland Trust said.

Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan expressed satisfaction with the economy, but told Congress once again that higher interest rates may be necessary. The central bank's rate-setting panel meets Tuesday, and many economists say they expect it to raise interest rates.

The US trade deficit soared to $12.7 billion in January, the worst showing on record, the Commerce Department said. The deficit was up 21.1 percent from $10.5 billion in December.

American Airlines and its pilots reached an agreement in principle to end a long contract dispute. A union official said he hoped to have a proposal ready for the union's board today. An airline official confirmed an agreement "in principle." Neither would discuss details, but union sources said some points were still unresolved.

The Senate passed a bill giving victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and other US crimes the right to attend a criminal trial and testify at subsequent sentencing hearings. The bill, which would overturn a judge's ruling in the Oklahoma City case, was passed on a voice vote a day after the House passed it on a 418-to-9 vote. Clinton is expected to sign the measure.

The House was scheduled to vote on a late-term abortion bill identical to a measure Clinton rejected last year. Republicans were hopeful the president would agree to a ban on so-called "partial birth" abortions now that a key advocate has conceded that they are performed mostly during the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy and are often elective. Last year the Senate fell eight short of the votes needed to override a Clinton veto.

Liggett, the smallest major US tobacco manufacturer, has agreed to publicly state that cigarettes are addictive and dangerous as part of a settlement with 21 of 22 states suing the tobacco industry, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office said. Under the agreement, Liggett Group Inc. will reportedly turn over thousands of documents and assist states in their lawsuits. Liggett also agreed to pay $25 million up front, plus 25 percent of pre-tax profits over the next 25 years, state officials said.

Dutch-born artist Willem de Kooning died in his studio in East Hampton, N.Y. De Kooning helped define abstract expressionism, and his long and varied career made him one of the century's most significant painters.

The World

Saying "we have difficult and serious talks ahead of us," Rus-sian President Boris Yeltsin arrived in Helsinki for his summit with US counterpart Bill Clinton. They were to begin with a dinner given by host President Martti Ahtisaari, then discuss NATO expansion into eastern Europe, further cuts in nuclear arms stockpiles, and US assistance for Russia's economic-reform effort.

Palestinians scorned Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's offer to conclude final-status peace negotiations within six months, calling it a "publicity stunt" to shift world attention away from controversial housing construction in East Jerusalem. The widely criticized project led to a violent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli troops in nearby Bethlehem.

Insurgents in Albania warned that their support of the country's interim prime minister would end if he did not pursue the resignation of President Berisha. Meanwhile, a boatload of 350 Albanians trying to flee to Italy was towed back to the port of Durres. And the airport in Tirana, the capital, reopened to commercial traffic for the first time in a week.

Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko cancelled a news conference in France, but a spokesman said it was because he was preparing to return home today in search of solutions to the country's military and political crisis. Meanwhile, rebel sources said they would agree to a cease-fire urged by African leaders only after face-to-face negotiations with Mobutu on his resignation.

Mexican officials allowed a suspected drug trafficker to place $168 million beyond the reach of US investigators seeking to have the money seized, The Wall Street Journal reported. It said the incident took place less than a month before US President Clinton recertified Mexico as an ally in the fight against illegal drugs. A Justice Department spokesman said the action led to a "face-to-face confrontation" with the Mexican officials.

On her visit to South Africa, Hillary Rodham Clinton praised the country's transition from apartheid to empowering its black majority in less than 10 years. Also on her itinerary: a visit with President Mandela and an appearance at a fund-raiser featuring US comedian Bill Cosby.

In another show of rigidity, Afghanistan's Taliban religious movement cancelled today's New Year holiday and banned all related celebrations as being against Islamic law. Earlier this week, a Taliban decree ordered the windows of all houses in Ka-bul, the capital, screened or rendered opaque so that women inside could not be seen from the street.

Heavily armed police struggled to contain rioters in the capital of Papua New Guinea, in another day of civil unrest aimed at the government of Prime Minister Julius Chan. The trouble began earlier in the week when Chan fired his Army chief in a dispute over the use of mercenaries to quell a rebellion on the island of Bougainville.

Eighteen months short of new general elections, Bermuda's popular prime minister startled the people of his resort island by resigning. David Saul's United Bermuda Party has governed the British colony since 1964.

A Protestant fraternal group said it would not hold its traditional Easter march through a Catholic neighborhood in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Cath-olic leaders welcomed the decision by the Apprentice Boys Order to avoid what it called "another excuse for confrontation." Easter Monday kicks off the Protestant marching season, and last year's Apprentice Boys parade incited rioting.


". . . it should end once and for all the farce of industry denials about their illegal and deceptive practices."

- Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, after the Liggett Group agreed to aid in lawsuits against the tobacco industry.

Call it - well - an honest mistake. Shelly Steen and her husband campaigned for one whole month before Bank of America would admit it goofed in adding an extra 0 to her $3,700 deposit - crediting the Steen account with $33,300 more than it should have. Bank officials first told the Santa Rosa, Calif., couple that the error was impossible because of its size.

Ten thousand witnesses saw Kevin Litle set off an explosion that toppled four silos at an old sugar plant. But the Manteca, Calif., youth is in no danger of being arrested for the stunt. He won a raffle to demolish the facility so housing and a business park can be built on the site.

When last heard from, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was ordering software filters for computer terminals in the public library - after young users were caught downloading X-rated material. Ever the vigilant public servant, Menino has been in the headlines again. He got out of his official car and directed traffic last week while his driver, a city cop, chased a hijacking suspect. And how did the driver evaluate Menino's performance? "Don't," he advised the boss, "quit your day job."

The Day's List

Five Authors Honored By Book Critics Circle

At ceremonies in New York this week, five writers were honored with National Book Critics Circle Awards. The authors, titles of their winning works, award categories, and publishers:

Fiction: Gina Berriault, "Wo-men in Their Beds," a collection of 35 short stories (Counterpoint)

Criticism: William Gass, "Finding a Form," his fifth such collection (Knopf))

Poetry: Robert Hass, "Sun Under Wood," more from the nation's poet laureate (Ecco)

Biography/Autobiography: Frank McCourt, "Angela's Ashes," memoir of his childhood in the slums of Limerick, Ireland (Scribner)

General Nonfiction: Jonathan Raban, "Bad Land: An American Romance," a story of the settling of Montana by homesteaders (Pantheon)

- Associated Press

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