News In Brief

The US

President Clinton seemed to rise above recent allegations against him - at least temporarily. A survey conducted Sunday and Monday by Gallup for CNN and USA Today found his approval rating hovering at 59 percent. An ABC poll after Tuesday's State of the Union address, pegged the rating at 60 percent, where it was Jan. 19 prior to the allegations. Meanwhile, the president received warm receptions at public appearances in Champaign, Ill., and La Crosse, Wis. - and an NBC survey found 77 percent of respondents supporting policies he outlined in his speech.

Asia's economic crisis will give the US economy some breathing space from inflationary pressures, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said in his first report to Congress this year. Tight labor markets still pose the risk of overheating the economy, he said, but "peripheral winds" of the Asian crisis were likely to break "the recent brisk pace" of the US economy. He also urged lawmakers not to debate how to spend projected budget surpluses before they materialize.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt told a House committee that his decision to reject a proposed Wisconsin Indian casino was not influenced by political donations or improper political pressure. He testified before the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. The panel is investigating whether campaign contributions were a factor in the Interior Department's rejection of the Hudson, Wis., casino project proposed by three groups of impoverished Chippewa Indians.

A grand jury investigating fund-raising allegations in the Clinton reelection campaign returned in Washington its first indictment. Details were not released, but The Wall Street Journal reported that the indictment charges former Democratic fund-raiser Charlie Trie with obstruction of justice, mail fraud, and election-law violations.

A US appeals court upheld a ruling that bars California from reducing welfare benefits to needy families new to the state. The circuit court of appeals in San Francisco agreed with a Sacramento trial judge who ruled in June that the proposed cuts would violate constitutional guarantees of equal protection. The preliminary injunction blocked a plan drawn up by state lawmakers to limit benefits to recipients who have not lived in the state for 12 consecutive months to aid levels they received in states they left.

An bomb ripped through an Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic, killing an off-duty police officer and injuring a nurse. The exact nature of the device that blasted the New Women's Health Clinic on the city's south side was not immediately clear. An FBI spokesman said he was not aware of any threats to the clinic.

Clinton made a new gesture toward the people and government of Iran in a holiday message to Muslims around the world. The message, broadcast on the Voice of America and Worldnet TV, said the president looked forward to early reconciliation with Iran after almost two decades of mistrust. His message came on a Muslim feast day, following the fasting month of Ramadan.

Clinton will propose an increase of $101 million for food safety in his 1999 budget, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said. Speaking at the University of Washington, he said much of the money would be dedicated to research and additional food inspectors. Last year, the US spent $750 million on food-safety programs.

Virginia Gov. James Gilmore declared a state of emergency after a severe storm dumped up to two feet of snow in the state's southwestern mountains and left tens of thousands of people without power. National Guard troops in all-terrain vehicles were dispatched in Virginia and North Carolina to rescue travelers stuck on impassable mountain roads.

The World

Preparing for a meeting today with Secretary of State Albright, Russia's foreign minister said he was "optimistic" that the standoff over weapons inspections in Iraq could be resolved diplomatically - without a military strike. Yvgeny Primakov said such an attack would have "very negative" consequences. Albright, who is to see Primakov in Madrid, has warned that, if necessary, the US would attack Iraq without international backing to ensure an end to the latter's nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs.

Negotiators for South Korea won an important reprieve in the country's deep financial crisis - agreeing to postpone payments on one-quarter of the country's debt. In talks with a consortium of international bankers in New York, the two sides decided to exchange $24 billion in short-term debt for longer-term loans at a higher interest rate. The bankers agreed to allow the debts to be repaid before they mature if South Korea were able.

British Prime Minister Blair was to announce a new investigation of - but not apologize for - the shooting deaths of 13 Catholic civil-rights protesters in Northern Ireland 26 years ago today, an incident known as Bloody Sunday. The move is seen as an effort to build Catholic trust in the negotiations on the future of the province. Catholics say the first inquiry, shortly after the shootings, only served to exonerate the British troops who fired on the protesters.

Only about 25 percent of eligible voters turned out for local elections in northern Sri Lanka that the government hoped would help to marginalize the region's Tamil rebel movement. At stake: seats on 17 town councils that would have wide autonomy under a proposed new Constitution. The rebels are blamed for a suicide-bomb attack earlier this week that killed 16 people at Sri Lanka's holiest Buddhist temple.

Kenya's president told Western diplomats, international aid donors, and church leaders he would put an immediate stop to tribal violence that has taken almost 90 lives over the past two weeks. But Daniel arap Moi blamed the fighting in the Rift valley between Kikuyus and his own Kalenjin tribe on opposition groups unwilling to accept his recent reelection. Roman Catholic bishops say the violence also has destroyed property, left thousands of people homeless, and closed schools.

The first black-controlled mining conglomerate in South Africa was to be sold in pieces after its chairman resigned rather than accept dismissal. The demise of the giant JCI group was blamed on investors with divergent objectives. Its formation less than a year ago was hailed as a breakthrough for black empowerment in postapartheid South Africa.

Former first lady Imelda Marcos may have come one step closer to imprisonment as the Philippines Supreme Court upheld her conviction on graft charges. She was found guilty in 1993 of unlawfully leasing state property to a medical foundation she led. Marcos was given 15 days to file for reconsideration of the ruling. Her last option for avoiding a nine-to-12-year prison term would be a presidential pardon.

Two thousand of the world's most influential people gathered in the Swiss resort of Davos for the World Economic Forum, an annual event expected to focus on Asia's financial woes and on next year's introduction of a single European currency. Among those attending: House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, Hillary Rodham Clinton, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.


"We are civilized people .... And we have a dialogue in which we can convince

the other side - if the other side will listen."

- Retired farmer Ibrahim Hussein al-Falahi, pleading for Western allies not to bomb Iraq.

NYPD had reason to be blue as details leaked out about two men who tricked a precinct in the Borough of Queens out of one of its patrol cars. They were charged with grand larceny and other no-nos after phoning the station house with word that "Lieutenant Bradshaw" needed a cruiser and two portable radios right away for an investigation. A real cop delivered the car to the address given and handed over the keys. The suspects were caught because they had a history of impersonating police officers.

In Northbridge, Mass., another man is in police custody for his alleged role in the armed - but not well-executed - robbery of a doughnut shop. The suspects wore masks, but the one who was caught is an ex-employee of the shop who (a) made no effort to disguise his voice, (b) allowed himself to be called by his distinctive nickname, and (c) left a trail of coins from the cash register back to his apartment - just two doors up the street.

The Day's List

What's Being Read by Those Shopping the Web, the leading online bookseller, offers a catalog of 2.5 million titles and easy-to-use search and browse features. The company's list of last year's top-10 sellers and their authors:

1. "Into Thin Air: a Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster"Jon Krakauer

2. "Cold Mountain" Charles Frazier

3. "The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea" Sebastian Junger

4. "Angela's Ashes: A Memoir" Frank McCourt

5. "Creating Killer Web Sites: The Art of Third-Generation Site Design" David S. Siegel

6. "Songs in Ordinary Time" Mary McGarry Morris

7. "Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative" Edward R. Tufte

8. "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" Edward R. Tufte

9."Stones from the River" Ursula Hegi

10. "The God of Small Things" Arundhati Roy

- PRNewswire

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