News In Brief

The US

President Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House in yet another effort to break a one-year impasse in Mideast peace talks. Netanyahu was expected to propose a relatively modest Israeli pullback on the West Bank that would fall far short of Palestinian demands. Clinton is to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat tomorrow.

The board of the Holocaust Memorial Museum reversed itself and offered Arafat a special tour. Miles Lerman, chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Council, was quoted in The Washington Post as saying he had listened to bad advice in withdrawing an initial invitation. It was not clear whether Arafat had accepted the renewed offer. He canceled an earlier plan to visit the museum after being denied an official welcome.

Vice President Gore pledged a dramatic increase in funds to fight racism. He did so on the US holiday honoring the memory of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. - and from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where King preached his last sermon. Gore - shown above at the service with King's widow, Coretta Scott King - said the proposal would increase funding for agencies and offices that enforce civil rights by $86 million, or about 16 percent.

Gore was scheduled to endorse a US ban on discrimination against workers in hiring or promotion because of their genetic makeup. USA Today said the ban might be paired with legislation to ban genetic discrimination in health insurance, an idea promoted last year by Clinton.

United Parcel Service and the union representing its pilots reached tentative agreement on a new contract designed to keep planes of the package-delivery giant in the air until 2004. Details of the accord, which must still be ratified by more than 2,000 union members, were not immediately available.

The Food and Drug Administration has the authority to regulate human cloning, acting FDA commissioner Michael Friedman told The Washington Post. The FDA ruling, which had been expected, makes it a violation of federal law to try the procedure without the agency's approval. The new FDA ruling follows an announcement earlier this month by Chicago-area physicist Richard Seed, who said he was getting ready to set up a clinic to clone human babies.

The House's top tax writer called on Congress to approve a major tax cut and lock in the reduction with a lid on the federal tax burden for individuals and businesses. In a speech outlining his priorities for the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Bill Archer (R) of Texas proposed reducing the US tax burden to 19 percent and capping it there. Archer proposed paying down the national debt by $200 billion over 10 years. He also called for limiting attorneys' fees in the proposed $368 billion tobacco settlement and using $1 billion of the money for a program called Fatherhood Counts, which involves block grants to states to promote family programs.

Defense Department officials said they were trying to determine whether an American killed in Vietnam and interred at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery might be Air Force Lt. Michael Blassie of St. Louis. Blassie's sister, Pat, said the family would support exhuming the remains inside the tomb for DNA testing, if the military decided to do so. Should Blassie's body be identified, the family want to take it home.

A Washington research group said more than 1 million Americans could lose their jobs as a result of Asia's economic crisis. Jeff Faux, president of the pro-labor Economic Policy Institute, said the jobs could be lost over the next two years as cheaper Asian products flood US markets and US sales to the hard-hit region decline. Congress is about to consider an administration request to give billions of dollars to the International Monetary Fund to help it fight Asia's crisis.

The World

Distractions on the personal front and over economic and diplomatic problems in Asia and Iraq would keep President Clinton from a confrontation with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Jerusalem newspapers predicted. The daily Maariv said Netanyahu already had won a "substantial achievement" by arriving for the meeting without a firm plan for redeploying Israeli troops on the West Bank. In Paris, Palestinian Authority President Arafat said he had "great confidence" in Clinton to move the peace process forward again but accused Netanyahu of perpetually delaying withdrawals. Arafat meets Clinton tomorrow.

Roman Catholic leaders in Cuba stressed the spiritual importance of Pope John Paul II's visit to the island and cautioned against focusing on the political significance of his meeting with communist President Fidel Castro. The government granted paid time off to any Cuban who wants to witness the pontiff's arrival in Havana today.

Visiting European Union envoys met with senior Algerian government officials, opposition leaders, and journalists in what analysts called an opening for further dialogue over the six-year insurgency that has taken more than 60,000 lives. But as the talks took place, suspected Islamic militants killed at least 38 more people in attacks east and south of the capital, Algiers. Algeria has consistently refused all offers of outside help to end the violence.

As expected, President Suharto of Indonesia announced acceptance of his party's nomination for a seventh consecutive five-year term. Despite concerns over his health and the country's troubled economy, his reelection is virtually assured. There is no popular vote, and the 1,000-member assembly that decides the next head of state is dominated by Suharto's Golkar Party and members of his family.

Incumbent President Vaclav Havel seemed assured of reelection in the Czech Republic for what would be his final term. He faced opposition from two other candidates, but needed only a simple majority in both houses of parliament to win. The Czech Constitution bars a head of state from serving three terms.

Senior jurists in Mexico scolded the judge who freed five confessed killers of a US businessman for her failure to write clear opinions. But they ruled Maria Claudia Campuzano had acted "within the law" in releasing the suspects on grounds of insufficient evidence and suspicion that their confessions were coerced by police. The Dec. 15 murder of real estate broker Peter Zarate and the later release of the suspects drew furious protests from the State Department and from Zarate's employer.

Fed up with two days of rioting because of increased food prices, the government of Zimbabwe ordered troops into the streets of the capital to restore order. Thousands of people evacuated the business district of Harare, concerned that violence would spread there. Corn meal prices were hiked 21 percent earlier this week, following a 25 percent increase for other essential foodstuffs shortly after New Year's Day.

"Formal political talks" with no preconditions were offered to Taiwan by China's foreign ministry - and quickly scoffed at. A spokesman in Beijing said "it is a fact" that both sides already agree there must be "one China." But a Taiwan government official said that principle "is itself a precondition." A western diplomat in Beijing called the offer "playing tricks with words" but said it appeared to show that China felt new urgency to open a dialogue with Taiwan.


"I wouldn't use that word. Israel has to make its own decisions about its own security

and its own future.

- President Clinton, on whether he'd pressure Prime Minister Netanyahu to make new concessions to the Palestinians.

Fannie Barnes is not one to be afraid of a steep challenge. No thanks to most of her male co-workers, she's now the first female "gripman" in the history of San Francisco's cable-car system. Despite her six years as a ticket-taker, few of the men would help her learn the responsibilities involved in wrestling an eight-ton car up and down the city's famous hills. But she went ahead anyway. "The guys who were against me," she says, "gave me even more inspiration. No way I was going to let 2000 come and not have a woman [in] this job."

Three patrons at an Urbana, Ill., restaurant didn't exactly start the day off right when they tried to skip out without paying for the breakfast they'd just eaten. Also dining there were members of a police SWAT team. The cops followed them outside and arrested each on misdemeanor theft charges.

The Day's List

Countries That Send The Most Visitors to US

If nothing else, the North American Free Trade Agreement has ensured that more visitors to the US continue to come from Canada and Mexico than from any other country. The Commerce Department's International Trade Administration ranking of the top 10 source countries for such visitors in 1996 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) and the number of visitors from each (in millions):

1. Canada 15.3

2. Mexico 8.5

3. Japan 5.0

4. United Kingdom 3.1

5. Germany 2.0

6. France 1.0

7. Brazil 0.9

8. South Korea 0.8

9. Italy 0.6

10. Australia 0.5

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