News In Brief

The US

White House officials already have invoked executive privilege to avoid answering questions by Whitewater prosecutors probing President Clinton's ties to Monica Lewinsky, The New York Times reported. Sidney Blumenthal, a senior White House press adviser, told the Times he cited executive privilege at least twice last week. The paper also indicated that deputy White House counsel Bruce Lindsey had invoked executive privilege in responding to questions during a grand jury appearance Feb. 19.

The chief UN weapons inspector lashed out at a suggestion that Iraq could go over his head as part of the UN-brokered deal that staved off possible US air strikes last week. Richard Butler said he was troubled by the comment of Iraq's UN envoy, Nizar Hamdoon, that Baghdad expected diplomats appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan - not Butler's experts - to take charge of inspections at eight disputed "presidential" sites.

Clinton was expected to air his views on GOP proposals to reform the US tax code. Aides said the president planned to use a speech to the Mortgage Bankers Association to argue that - with the economy booming and the budget finally in balance - this is not the time to tamper with the code.

The Defense Department was aware of potential health problems from exposure to depleted uranium before the Gulf war, but failed to alert as many as 400,000 US troops who may have been exposed, a National Gulf War Resource Center study charged. The report, released by a coalition of veterans groups, says the Pentagon also failed after the war to conduct immediate testing of those potentially exposed. Depleted uranium is used in artillery shells and bombs designed to penetrate the armor of tanks - and as a protective shell on armored vehicles.

A study by the Pentagon's nuclear command says an "irrational and vindictive" demeanor against adversaries such as Iraq may help deter conflict. "Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence," written by the Strategic Command, the headquarters in charge of the US nuclear arsenal, was obtained by an arms-control advocacy group and published in a report on US strategies for deterring chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks. It cited the Strategic Command study as an example of the Pentagon's effort to defend the relevance of its nuclear arsenal.

Americans' personal income increased a strong 0.6 percent in January, the Commerce Department said. Incomes were reportedly bolstered by cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients and pay raises for US employees. Incomes had increased 0.4 percent in December and 0.7 percent in November. Consumer spending rose a moderate 0.4 percent in January, the same as in December and November.

The US Supreme Court refused to hear a case involving a New York City woman who says her ex-husband saddled her with a $650,000 bill for back taxes. The court did not comment on Elizabeth Cockrell's arguments that she is an "innocent spouse" entitled to tax relief. She had previously asked Congress for help, and legislation is being considered to offer greater protection for spouses left liable in tax disputes caused by their mates. The justices also rejected Missouri's attempt to end its $100 million-a-year obligation in the racial desegregation of St. Louis public schools. The justices let stand rulings requiring the state to provide desegregation funds for the 1997-98 school year.

Texas Utilities Co. bid $7.10 billion for Britain's Energy Group PLC, topping rival PacifiCorp in a battle of takeover offers. If the bid succeeds, Texas Utilities said, the company will sell one Energy Group subsidiary - the biggest US coal producer, Peabody Holding Co. - to Lehman Brothers for $2.3 billion.

The World

The UN Security Council prepared to consider a watered-down resolution on weapons inspections in Iraq. The council was to vote on language warning of "very severe" consequences if Iraq doesn't abide by terms of a new agreement opening suspected arms caches to investigative teams accompanied by diplomats. Earlier drafts had threatened "severest" consequences. Iraq's UN ambassador said his country would abide by the deal but that inspections should be completed as soon as possible.

Cheered on by local Serbs, police used clubs, water cannon, and tear gas to break up a march by tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The march followed a weekend of violence in which at least 16 Albanians were killed in retaliation for the deaths of four policemen. The violence was the worst in the politically volatile province since 1996.

As Indonesia's electoral college met to formalize its choice of President Suharto for a seventh five-year term, US envoy Walter Mondale arrived in the capital. Mondale's mission apparently was to reinforce warnings that Suharto must abide by an internationally imposed economic reform package he doesn't like. Suharto complained over the weekend that the terms of a massive International Monetary Fund bailout aren't working fast enough.

Iran's relatively moderate President Mohamad Khatami entertained Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, but refused to grant a meeting with the UN's human rights chief. Diplomats said Mary Robinson was snubbed because of critical remarks about the Iranian government's record on rights. Khatami told Dini, the first Western politician to meet him in Tehran, that Iran "does not support terrorism in any way."

South Korea voiced skepticism, while the UN said it was "trying to understand the implications" of a claim by North Korea that its stocks of grain would run out in two weeks. The warning was the reclusive country's grimmest yet after years of disastrous droughts and flooding that have brought its 24 million people to the brink of famine. South Korea said the claim "lacks specifics and therefore lacks credibility."

As expected, Gov. Gerhard Schroeder easily won reelection in the German state of Lower Saxony and was to accept his Social Democratic Party's nomination to challenge Chancellor Helmut Kohl in September's national election. Leaders of Kohl's Christian Democratic Union rejected suggestions that it was time for him to step aside in favor of a candidate who could better compete against Schroeder.

Three veteran bureaucrats were named by Russian President Yeltsin to replace the ministers of transportation, education, and relations with other former Soviet republics. The promotions were seen as completing the shakeup Yeltsin promised when he said he intended to identify those responsible for the country's deep economic problems and fire them.

Slovakia teetered on the edge of constitutional crisis as its president prepared to step down with no replacement in sight. Parliament failed early last month to choose a successor to Michal Kovac. A second vote is due Thursday, but analysts said a deadlock appears inevitable since no viable candidate has been named. Powerful factions in parliament have thwarted efforts to put the issue to a national referendum.

"Nigerians and Cameroonians are brothers," but the latter are trying by provocation to win control of an oil-rich area on their common border that almost caused a shooting war in 1981, the World Court was told. The court heard Nigeria's arguments in the long-running dispute over the Bakassi peninsula Monday; Cameroon's turn comes Thursday. Skirmishes were fought there in 1996.


"It's great; finally, everybody under one roof!"

- Proud father Kenny McCaughey, as the last two of the McCaughey septuplets left a hospital at 3-1/2 months to join their siblings and 60 volunteers in Carlisle, Iowa, who will help to care for them.

If you're in high-school or know someone who is, a recent incident in upstate New York may be worth your attention. Officials at Eastridge and Irondequoit high schools outside Rochester are now requiring background checks before admitting out-of-town guests to proms and other dances they sponsor. That decision stemmed from a shooting at Eastridge by a guest at the school's Winter Ball. No one was injured, but it turned out the youth had an arrest record and had been suspended by his own school. The policy has generated immediate controversy. The New York Civil Liberties Union calls it "not acceptable."

Ever wonder who provides the market for those cheap imitations you're constantly urged by TV commercials to avoid being fooled by? In the case of Barbie dolls, at least, the answer is . . . Russian fishermen. The Interfax news agency reports that Chinese-made Barbies are being snapped up in ports along the northern Pacific coast because their golden hair makes excellent bait. The fishermen shun original US-produced Barbie dolls, on the other hand, because they're too expensive.

The Days' List

Avis, Hertz, National Top US Car-Rental Survey

National Car Rental has joined Hertz and Avis as a leader in customer satisfaction, according to the third annual J.D. Power & Associates Rental Car Customer Satisfaction Study. For the past two years, either Avis (1996) or Hertz (1997) had received the top rating. The poll was based on responses of more than 6,000 persons renting cars from seven companies at or near US airports. Ratings for two other major firms, Alamo and Dollar, which didn't receive an industry-average value of 100 or above, were not released. The ratings of the five companies considered average or above:

1. Avis 104

2. Hertz 104

3. National 104

4. Budget 101

5. Thrifty 100

- PRNewswire

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