News In Brief

The US

Republicans appeared to be at odds over how to respond to the Monica Lewinsky case. Senate majority leader Trent Lott suggested that independent counsel Kenneth Starr wind up his inquiry and that evidence against the president might support nothing more than a congressional censure. But House Speaker Newt Gingrich disagreed, saying Starr should move no faster than "justice dictates - not the pace that public relations dictates."

NASA scientists were assessing the significance of the discovery of water on the moon. Preliminary data indicated the moon could supply enough water to sustain a human colony for generations - or sufficient hydrogen to fuel explorations further into space. Late last week, an orbiting robot craft discovered evidence of frozen underground pools in deep craters at the lunar poles.

President Clinton delivered the first of a series of speeches urging Congress to pass antitobacco legislation. In a weekend radio address, Clinton urged quick passage of comprehensive bipartisan bills. Today he is to address a conference of the American Medical Association; on Thursday he is scheduled to speak at a gathering of state attorneys general.

A Minnesota judge ordered tobacco firms to turn over thousands of secret documents in the state's $1.77-billion lawsuit to recover funds spent treating smoking-related illnesses. Ramsey County District Judge Kenneth Fitzpatrick ruled that the industry had falsely claimed attorney-client privilege to keep the documents private. They reportedly contain information on industry studies of ways to lure young people into smoking.

The US unemployment rate fell back to its lowest level in almost a quarter-century in February, the Labor Department said. The jobless rate fell to 4.6 percent last month from 4.7 percent in January, matching November's 24-year low. The report provided no clear sign that tight labor conditions have fanned inflation, prompting economists to speculate that the Federal Reserve is unlikely to change interest rates.

The Senate killed an attempt to eliminate "set-asides" for minorities and women in federal highway and transit contracts. Senators voted 58-37 to reject an amendment offered by Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky. The "set-asides" would award 10 percent of Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act contracts to businesses owned by minorities and women.

Democratic fund-raiser Johnny Chung was expected to plea guilty today to charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, and conspiracy to violate US election campaign laws. Chung was charged late last week with conspiring to exceed US limits on donations to the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign and the re-election campaign of US Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts. Chung, a California businessman, has reportedly reached a plea agreement with prosecutors.

James Cameron won the Directors Guild of America best-director award for "Titanic." Cameron defeated the makers of four other films: "L.A. Confidential," "Amistad," "Good Will Hunting," and "As Good As It Gets." "Titanic" is nominated for 14 Academy Awards, tying the record high.

Three US soldiers were honored for risking their lives to save civilians from fellow Americans during the Vietnam War. The prestigious Soldier's Medal - the highest US award for bravery not involving conflict with an enemy - was presented to Hugh Thompson and Lawrence Colburn - and posthumously to Glenn Andreotta, who was killed in battle after the March 16, 1968, My Lai incident. It left some 500 Vietnamese civilians dead and led to the court-martial of Lt. William Calley and five other US soldiers.

The World

Foreign ministers from the US, Britain, France, Germany, and Italy were to meet in emergency session in London on the growing violence in Kosovo. They were expected to send a stern warning to Yugoslav President Milosevic that he should not attempt a crackdown against ethnic Albanians in the volatile province. In Kosovo itself, Serb police kept three Albanian villages sealed off in the fourth day of a security sweep that is believed to have caused dozens of deaths and sent hundreds of people fleeing (among them the children).

Tensions rose higher in Indonesia as President Suharto questioned the economic reforms attached to a multibillion-dollar bailout of his country by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Suharto was quoted over the weekend as saying the required reforms would weaken the "family principles" on which the Indonesian economy is supposed to be based. The IMF announced last Friday it was holding up the next payment under the bailout, causing anxiety in regional currency markets.

American inspector Scott Ritter and his UN team headed for more suspected Iraqi weapons sites Sunday after visiting six others earlier in the weekend. A UN spokesman said Iraq had cooperated fully with the inspections after blocking Ritter and his team in January and causing the latest standoff with the UN.

Palestinians dismissed as "not serious" a package of proposals that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plan-ned to present in London as he wound up a four-stop European tour. Aides acknowledged the plan contained no new individual details but said it was being offered to British Prime Minister Blair in hope of generating movement in the stalled Middle East peace process.

The ranks of China's unemployed - already 11.5 million strong - are likely to grow by at least another 3.5 million this year, senior officials said. They said state-owned enterprises "could operate even better" if half of their tens of millions of workers were laid off. The assessment was the frankest yet of future employment trends. Late last week, the government announced a parallel plan to cut half the jobs in the civil-service sector.

As far as possible, laws barring communications exchanges with Communist North Korea will be scrapped, South Korea's unification minister said. He said South Koreans would be allowed to receive broadcasts from the North as soon as differences in their respective technologies could be resolved. Four-way talks on peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula are due to resume in Geneva next Monday.

An estimated 200,000 Army troops stood guard as voters in Colombia went to the polls to elect new members of Congress. The government banned sales of alcoholic beverages and called on everyone eligible to vote despite stepped-up leftist-guerrilla violence resulting in scores of deaths, the kidnapping of local mayors and three congressional candidates, and an explosion that knocked out electricity to one state capital. Analysts said the election wasn't likely to change the composition of Congress, and they predicted the ruling Liberal Party would retain the most seats.

Violence and political turmoil erupted in the West African nation of Senegal. A sneak attack by Army troops reportedly kil-led at least 50 people near Ziguinchor in the province of Casamance, where separatists have been waging a 15-year war for independence. The rebels accuse the government in Dakar of ignoring the province, which is cut off from most of the country by the small nation of Gambia. Meanwhile, the main opposition party authorized its leaders to pull out of the coalition government after the ruling Socialists voted unilaterally to increase the size of parliament by 20 seats.



"I think we're on the brink of a situation that could get quite nasty."

- Hong Kong business analyst Chris Tinker, on the International Monetary Fund's growing annoyance at Indonesian President Suharto for resisting his side of the bargain in a multibillion-dollar economic bailout.

In Nipomo, Calif., a retired US Navy man got an earful when his telephone rang at an extremely early hour recently. The caller, angry about the torrential rains that have drenched the state since early February, laced her tirade with salty language. It was at least the sixth such call the retiree has answered. "It's always something like, 'Why are you doing this?' he says. "And I say, Well, I [had] nothing else to do; I thought maybe it would be fun." His name: Al Nino.

Remember the dramatic scene in "Titanic" when "La Coeur de la Mer," the fictitious necklace worn by actress Kate Winslet's character, is tossed into the sea? So do a team of British jewelers, and you might say they've gone overboard in an effort to preserve the bauble for posterity. Asprey & Co. of London's Bond Street crafted a real version of the stage necklace out of $1.5 million worth of sapphires and diamonds. Winslet, who's up for an Academy Award for her role, may wear it on Oscar night, March 23, and it's expected to be sold at auction - with the proceeds going to charity.

The Day's List

States That Take Biggest Per-Capita Tax Bite

Growth in personal income outpaced the growth in taxes imposed by the 50 states and the District of Colmbia by about 1 percent nationally, according to a new study, "State Tax Rates and 1996 Collections," by economist Scott Moody of the Washington-based Tax Foundation. That compared with a decade-long trend in which state tax growth climbed slightly faster than personal income growth. The10 largest per-capita tax collections of 1996 (New Hampshire was smallest, at $720):

1. District of Columbia $4,567

2. Hawaii 2,592

3. Alaska 2,506

4. Connecticut 2,392

5. Delaware 2,329

6. Minnesota 2,159

7. Massachusetts 2,044

8. Michigan 1,994

9. Washington 1,913

10. New York 1,878

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