News In Brief

The US

Sen. Arlen Specter called on Republicans to drop the impeachment plans in favor of criminal prosecution of President Clinton after he leaves office. The Pennsylvania Republican said he and others were "searching for a way out" of a process "going nowhere." But GOP members of the House Judiciary Committee said such talk was premature and they would push ahead with hearings next week. Their chairman, Henry Hyde (R) of Illinois, said he expects a panel vote on articles of impeachment in early December and a House vote on them by Christmas.

A ballot measure to increase California cigarette taxes by 50 cents a pack has been approved, officials on both sides of the issue agreed. In a count of late ballots, the initiative had steadily improved its slim election-night lead to 57,070 votes with 850,000 still uncounted. The tax increase, championed by actor-director Rob Reiner, is to take effect Jan. 1. Proceeds will support state services for families with children under age five.

Gov. George Voinovich (R) of Ohio denied charges of campaign-finance irregularities. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Nov. 3 that Voinovich had allegedly approved diversion of $60,000 from his campaign fund to reimburse his brother and a lobbyist for money they spent on his 1994 re-election campaign. The paper quoted a complaint filed in October with the Ohio Elections Commission by Secretary of State Robert Taft (R), who was elected to succeed Voinovich as governor. Last week Voinovich won the Senate seat being vacated by astronaut John Glenn (D). A hearing on the matter is set for Dec. 10.

The US is donating 20,000 metric tons of wheat and wheat products to Honduras and Nicaragua to help them recover from hurricane Mitch, Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said. The food is in addition to $10 million the US had already promised to Central American nations hit by the storm.

Secret Service chief Lewis Merletti is retiring to head security for the Cleveland Browns football team, an official close to Merletti said. Merletti, who fought unsuccessfully this year to keep Secret Service agents from testifying in the investigation by independent counsel Kenneth Star, will become vice president of security for the new franchise, the official said.

A coalition of ecology groups sent an open letter to Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, asking him to halt planned development of a massive salt plant for an area inhabited by grey whales. The letter, signed by 26 environmental and animal-welfare groups, said the proposed plant near the San Ignacio Lagoon on the Baja California Peninsula would ruin the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve, the largest wildlife refuge in Latin America. The proposed development is a joint venture between Mexico and Japan's Mitsubishi Corp.

Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona has begun contacting political operatives in Iowa to lay groundwork for a possible presidential bid, an Iowa party official said. State GOP chairman Steve Grubbs said he spoke with McCain's staff last weekend. Iowa's party-precinct caucuses are 15 months away.

The US planned to sign an accord to fight global warming as a means of jump-starting talks in Buenos Aires to implement the agreement and its plan to reduce industrial emissions, administration sources said. Most industrialized nations had already signed the protocol, reached last year in Kyoto, Japan. Signing the accord would be largely symbolic for the US; it must still be ratified by the Senate, where it faces opposition.

Italy and the US signed a preliminary agreement to increase the number of flights between the two countries and free prices from government regulations, US officials said. The accord is to be finalize once the US approves a request by Italy's flag carrier, Alitalia, to forge an alliance with an American carrier.

The World

Neighboring Arab countries ignored Iraq's call to "confront the new, aggressive challenge" and issued a statement holding Baghdad responsible for the consequences of refusing to cooperate with UN weapons inspectors. It was signed by Egypt, Syria, and six Persian Gulf states as additional US forces moved into position for possible air strikes against Iraqi targets. In Israel, meanwhile, civilians reported to distribution centers to be fitted for new gas masks in case of Iraqi retaliation for such attacks.

Israel ratified the land-for-security accord with the Palestinians, but also announced plans for construction of a large Jewish neighborhood in a sector of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians as a future capital. Palestinian officials denounced the housing proposal, as well as an Israeli Cabinet decision to attach a series of conditions to the Oct. 23 accord.

The outlines of a $147 billion effort to stimulate Japan's sluggish economy were announced by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The package of public-works spending and tax cuts was being called the largest in Japanese history. It was released as Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi prepared to meet President Clinton and other heads of government at an annual economic forum this weekend in Malaysia. Parliament is expected to OK the plan later this month.

Cambodian opposition leader Norodom Ranariddh gave in to pressure and said he'd join a coalition government with his bitter rival, Premier Hun Sen. Hun Sen ousted Ranariddh from a share of the premiership in 1997, then defeated his party in a disputed election last July - but by too few votes to govern alone. International aid donors and Ranariddh's father, King Sihanouk, were applying intense pressure for a coalition.

At least one demonstrator was reported hit as Indonesian troops fired on an antigovernment rally by thousands of students in Jakarta. The incident was the most violent in a week of mounting protests against the composition of parliament. Student leaders say too many members of the powerful People's Consultative Assembly owe allegiance to former President Suharto, who resigned under pressure in May.

The first delicate contacts have been made between the government of Spain and allies of the Basque separatist group, ETA, a Madrid newspaper reported. El Mundo said preliminary talks were a response to Prime Minister Jos Maria Aznar's decision to find out whether ETA was serious about renouncing violence. The latter announced a unilateral cease-fire Sept. 18 after a violent 30-year campaign to win independence for the Basque region.

A lawsuit against cigarette companies that has been threatened for more than a year was finally expected to be filed by the government of British Columbia. Officials there have been studying the tactics used by US attorneys general to recover public funds used to treat ill smokers. The province already is involved in negotiations with the Liggett Group, which has broken ranks with other cigarette producers to admit that nicotine is addictive.

Saying, "there were errors and we have to come clean about it," a spokesman for Burundi's government admitted that Army troops had killed "around 30" innocent civilians in a clash with Hutu rebels Nov. 3-4. But he disputed reports that 178 civilians had died at Mutambu, 22 miles southeast of the capital, Bujumbura. More than 100,000 people have died in Burundi's five-year civil war, but this was only the second time the Tutsi-led government has accepted responsibility for killing civilians.


"The Iraqi government will be solely responsible for all repercussions resulting from its decision to block [the UN] from carrying out its inspections ..." - From a statement by eight Arab states, urging Iraq to avoid military strikes by yielding again to weapons searches.

Ask any artist what's most critical in committing a painting to canvas and the answer may well be ... light. Thus, Look Khob chose not to stand in the shade with other elephants at a preserve in northern Thailand to execute the above brush strokes. His as-yet-untitled composition is to be exhibited internationally as a way of calling attention to the plight of Asian elephants, whose numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate.

There will be no rush to get in that final chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" on New Year's Eve 1999 in British pubs - if the Labour government has its way. It's proposing to relax the usual midnight closing time for the occasion, letting revelers pull an all-nighter, if they wish, to welcome in the new millenium.

The Day's List

Springsteen, Others to Join Rock Hall of Fame

Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen head a list of those chosen to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland next year. An artist is eligible 25 years after the release of his or her first record, which accounts for the inclusion of McCartney, who has been in the hall as a member of the Beatles since 1988. Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, a 1930s group, and rhythm and blues singer Charles Brown will be inducted in the "early influence" category. British record producer George Martin will be inducted as a "nonperformer." Artists to be inducted March 15 in New York:

Billy Joel

Curtis Mayfield

Paul McCartney

Del Shannon

Dusty Springfield

Bruce Springsteen

Staples Singers

- Reuters

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