News In Brief

The US

It is not likely that an independent counsel will be appointed to investigate alleged fund-raising abuses involving the 1996 Clinton-Gore reelection campaign, Justice Department officials said. Attorney General Reno has until tomorrow to announce her decision on allegations concerning Vice President Gore and until Dec. 7 to decide whether a new probe of President Clinton should be launched. She must announce her decision in a third case, involving ex-White House aide Harold Ickes Jr. by next Monday.

Clinton would have to appear before Congress to read "some sort of statement" if he's censured in lieu of impeachment, the new chairman of the House Democratic Caucus told Fox TV. US Rep. Martin Frost of Texas described an "emerging bipartisan consensus" for a punishment short of impeachment but didn't say what that should involve.

The US crime rate last year was the lowest in almost a quarter-century, but on average a robbery is committed every minute and a murder every half-hour, the FBI reported. In its final summary of 1997 statistics, the bureau said overall crime per every 100,000 US residents fell 3 percent from the year before to a level not seen since 1974. It offered no explanation for the trend, but experts cited such factors as an aging population, the passing of the crack cocaine wave, better policing policies, and stricter gun-control measures.

Every hotel in the Columbus, Ga., area was booked to capacity as opponents of the Army's School of the Americas gathered for their annual protest at Fort Benning. Organizers said they expected more than 5,000 demonstrators for the event, which - since 1990 - has brought demands that the school be closed. Opponents claim it teaches torture methods to soldiers from Latin American armies.

A complete set of secret spying records from communist former East Germany was obtained by the US in one of history's most important espionage coups, The Washington Post reported. It said the files contain information about Americans, Britons, and West Germans who worked for the Stasi, the foreign operations wing of East Germany's state security organization. Two Americans were convicted earlier this month in Virginia because of data from the files, according to court records. The Post quoted a CIA source as saying details about the records remain secret because disclosure could endanger the lives of those who helped in delivering them to the US.

A high-profile conference on US-African relations will be re-scheduled for next year because of complaints from countries that were not invited and because Clinton changed his plans to attend, the Associated Press reported. Only 17 of the continent's 48 governments were asked to the Dec. 9-11 gathering in Washington. Clinton, who was to meet the delegates, decided to go to the Middle East instead. The meeting was aimed at addressing concerns that the US doesn't regard Africa seriously as an economic partner.

City officials in Dallas expected only a handful of tourists for the 35th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy. That was in contrast to the 25th and 30th anniversaries, which were marked by special ceremonies.

The World

Palestinian prisoners began a hunger strike in Israeli jails,

insisting they should be freed as part of last month's Mideast peace deal. The protest was staged by members of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction. Under the accord, the Israeli government freed 250 Palestinian prisoners, but included common criminals among them - which Arafat said violated the spirit of the agreement. Israel's public security minister said his government refused to free "people who had murdered our children."

Iraq branded as "provocative" a demand by UN weapons-inspection chief Richard Butler for government documents showing the country's chemical, biological, and missile capacities. Declaring that Iraq "could not provide documents that do not exist," Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz accused Butler of trying to create a conflict to justify a US military attack against the country. Meanwhile, US national security adviser Sandy Berger signaled the country was still ready to take military action if Iraq failed to cooperate with weapons inspectors.

European railway workers were preparing to stage a two-day strike to protest attempts to open the industry to competition. The workers - from Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece - were due to stop work between Sunday night and tomorrow morning. The European Union's transport chief, Neil Kinnock, defended the reform proposals made by the EU's executive commission, saying it would make railways more efficient and wouldn't threaten jobs.

Russia's deep economic crisis was expected to overshadow talks between President Boris Yeltsin and visiting Chinese President Jiang Zemin, described as the first informal Russo-Chinese summit. The leaders were planning to discuss trade and the need to counter a perceived US domination of the post Cold-War world.

Speaking at an air base near Seoul, President Clinton urged US soldiers in South Korea to stay vigilant amid "signs of danger" from North Korea. Winding up a tour, Clinton warned the communist North not to underestimate US commitment to South Korea. He urged the Pyongyang government to abandon efforts to develop ballistic missiles and chemical and biological weapons.

Turkey promised retaliation against Italy for refusing to extradite Kurdish guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan. Among other moves, the government said it would bar Italian companies from bidding on defense contracts and reevaluate economic relations. An Italian court last week refused to send Ocalan back to Turkey - where he's wanted for treason and involvement in more than 29,000 deaths - saying it could not allow an extradition to a country that has the death penalty.

Deep-seated tensions erupted in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, where Muslims reportedly attacked four Christian churches. At least six people were reported killed. The violence was believed to have been triggered by rumors that Christians had attacked a mosque.

CORRECTION: An item in this space Friday, Nov. 20, said Indonesian President B.J. Habibie had announced elections would be held in June 1998. It should have said June 1999.

Business and Finance

The takeover of the eighth-largest bank holding company in the US, Bankers Trust, by Deutsche Bank of Germany could be announced as soon as this week, The New York Times reported. Quoting sources close to the negotiations, the newspaper said the deal likely would be in the $7.5 billion to $8 billion range. Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank previously failed in a bid to buy J.P. Morgan & Co.

For what would be the highest price yet for a US professional sports franchise, Cablevision Systems Corp. has agreed to pay about $600 million for the World Series champion New York Yankees, NBC News reported. The deal would take effect Jan. 1. Cablevision already holds a 12-year contract to broadcast Yankees games. It also owns the New York Knicks basketball team, the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League, and Madison Square Garden. The only larger pro sports transaction is the pending $1 billion purchase of England's Manchester United soccer team by media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.


"'These decreases ... go beyond a statistical blip. But we have not won the war on crime. We cannot let up.' - Attorney General Janet Reno, on FBI findings that the 1997 crime rate was the lowest in the US in 23 years.


Here's an incident you're not likely to see on any of those "great police chases" TV shows. In Kingwood, W. Va., officer Dale Davis finally caught up with a reckless-driving suspect after a five-mile pursuit in which neither car could go faster than 70 m.p.h. The transmission on Davis's 1991 cruiser was slipping - he had the use only of second gear - and smoke was coming from under the hood. As for the chasee, the starter fell off his vehicle as he swerved onto a dirt road, causing him to screech to a halt and take off on foot.


Supper time was at hand, and chicken fingers were cooking on the stove when the emergency call came in to Station 20 in Las Vegas. Pros that they are, the five firefighters on duty immediately piled into their trucks and raced to the scene. It will be a while 'til that happens again. When they returned, the firehouse was - well - a house afire. The chicken fingers had burned to a crisp, filling the place with smoke. Our crew is temporarily assigned to another station until the damage can be repaired.

The Day's List

San Francisco hangs on as costliest US housing market

San Francisco once again has the highest median resale price for previously owned single family houses, and it's still climbing, according to the latest survey of 132 metropolitan areas by the National Association of Realtors. But whereas a buyer there would have paid $304,600 back in February, the price in the July-September quarter was almost 14 percent higher: $330,700. Nationally, the current median is $132,700. The median prices in the top 10 markets:

1. San Francisco, $330,700

2. Honolulu, 296,500

3. Orange County, Calif., 273,300

4. Boston, 220,900

5. San Diego, 215,400

6. Bergen, N.J., 214,300

7. Newark, N.J., 209,600

8. Seattle, 200,600

9. Los Angeles, 197,400

10. New York, 194,400

- Associated Press

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