News In Brief

The US

White House lawyers said they wanted to mount a "vigorous defense" of President Clinton before the House Judiciary Committee. And the ranking Democrat on the panel - John Conyers of Michigan - said a review of secret FBI and Justice Department campaign-finance memos had found they were not "in any way relevant" to the inquiry. The panel is preparing for four days of hearings next week, beginning with the White House defense Tuesday and ending with balloting on at least one article of impeachment. If such a proposal passes, a full House vote is expected the following week.

Former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy was acquitted on all 30 corruption charges brought against him in a four-year, $17 million investigation headed by independent counsel Donald Smaltz. Espy, a Democratic congressman from Mississippi when Clinton nominated him to the Cabinet in 1993, stepped down in 1994 after allegations that he accepted illegal gifts and tried to cover it up. He now practices law in Mississippi.

An alarm inside the shuttle Endeavour's cockpit just minutes before a planned liftoff forced the US space agency to delay its first space-station construction flight. The agency said engineers would make sure they understood the drop in hydraulic pressure that set off the alarm before starting a new countdown as early as today.

New White House facilities were proposed by the National Park Service - including underground parking, a recreation room, and a visitor center. Many features in the $300 million renovation plan would be built underground.

Clinton was to unveil regulations designed to increase safeguards for the nation's drinking water. The White House said he'd also announce availability of $93.8 million in federal grants and $775 million in low-interest loans to help states upgrade and protect drinking-water systems.

Steve Grossman stepped down as the Democratic Party's chief fund-raiser after what he described as a "tumultuous" two-year tenure in which the party was enmeshed in investigations and political battles. Grossman cited family reasons for resigning as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The Clinton administration is temporarily releasing some illegal immigrants from jail in an unprecedented effort to help their home countries recover from hurricane Mitch. The decision, effective until Jan. 7, affects about 3,000 noncriminal immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Immigrants from those nations send home from the US about $3 billion a year, the Washington-based National Immigration Forum said.

Holocaust survivors asked the Federal Reserve to delay approval of Deutsche Bank's takeover of Bankers Trust Corp. until a probe of the German bank's World War II activities is complete. The request came in a letter to the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from lawyers for plaintiffs suing Deutsche Bank to recover stolen assets.

The World

Over US objections, Israel's Cabinet unanimously voted to suspend its agreed-to pullback of troops from the West Bank after the ambush by Palestinians of a soldier Wednesday at Ramallah. The government also asked President Clinton not to land at newly opened Gaza International Airport on his visit to the region beginning Dec. 12. Such a landing would boost Palestinian claims to independence, a spokesman said.

Local elections that critics say will make or break interim Nigerian President Abdulsalam Abubakar's credibility are scheduled for tomorrow. Voters are to choose among candidates for 774 councils in Step 1 of Abubakar's announced program to restore democracy. Many Nigerians say they trust the military head of government to leave power, as he has promised, but are less confident that other commanders will be willing to follow.

Two prominent political dissidents may have endangered China's security, and there is "absolutely no contradiction" between their arrest this week and the government's support for an international human rights treaty, the Foreign Ministry said. Xu Wenli, Qin Yongmin, and a third dissident arrested earlier, could face life-in- prison sentences if convicted under a year-old state security law. The ministry rejected a US protest as "interfering in China's internal affairs."

A national election for president that Indonesians hope will end decades of autocratic rule was scheduled for next June 7. But the government also said the People's Consultative Assembly, which can impose its own choice, would convene Aug. 29. The government promised to speed up its probe of graft and human-rights accusations against ex-President Suharto, who resigned in May.

A former Army paratrooper and coup leader whose supporters have adopted his trademark red beret appears the likely winner in Venezuela's presidential election Sunday. Hugo Chavez, known for his leftist rhetoric, held a wide lead over businessman Henrique Salas Romer in late opinion polls. The nation's two traditional parties abandoned their own candidates earlier this week and backed Salas, an independent, to try to prevent a Chavez victory. Chavez was jailed for two years for his 1992 attempt to topple President Carlos Andres Perez.

To the cheers of opposition lawmakers, Brazil's Congress voted to block a key provision of the $24 billion austerity program proposed by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. It would have raised the contributions that civil servants pay into their own social security accounts. A $41.5 billion international bailout of Brazil's economy is hinging on adoption of tough austerity measures.

At least 14 people died and 24 others were hurt when a bomb exploded near an outdoor market in western Algeria. The attack, at Khemis Miliana, was one of the most violent in months and brought to 37 the number of civilians killed since last weekend by suspected Islamic militants. It suggested the militants again may step up their campaign to destabilize Algeria as they have during each Ramadan holy month since 1992. Ramadan begins Dec. 20.

Business and Finance

US productivity rose more than previously reported for the third quarter, a signal that economic growth with low inflation is likely to continue. The Labor Department said business productivity, the hourly output of workers outside the farm sector, increased at a 3 percent annual rate in the three months ended in September, a sharp pickup from the 0.3 percent pace of the second quarter and significantly higher than the 2.3 percent gain reported earlier.

Led by Nokia, US sales of new digital wireless telephones are outpacing for the first time this year sales of traditional analog phones, a market-research firm reported. Dataquest said the Finnish firm's share of the US market soared from 19 percent to 40 percent for the first nine months of 1998. Meanwhile, the market share of Sweden's Ericsson fell from 41 percent to just under 21 percent.

Japan's sliding economy may be hitting bottom, the government said. But it added that the value of goods and services fell 0.7 percent for the July-September quarter - the fourth consecutive decline - and could contract to below even its revised 1.8 percent prediction (issued in October) for the fiscal year, which ends in March.


'Closets, corridors ... overflow with furniture and equipment, as though the staff were having a tag sale. No modern hotel would put up with such chaos.' - From a National Park Service proposal for a $300 million renovation and expansion of White House facilities.


Other business kept Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the opening session of an international conference on quality in Jerusalem. But, as a politician, he wasn't about to let an opportunity pass to have his words heard. So a video was recorded of his greeting to the delegates. Back at the meeting, they settled in to watch. It wasn't long, however, before the hall erupted in laughter. Not because of a joke that Netanyahu was relating. Instead, the tape showed him exhorting voters in northern Israel to cast ballots for certain candidates in a local election. Said a conference spokesman: Maybe some quality control is needed in the prime minister's office - for cassette distribution.


If you've already been caught up in your first holiday search for a spot to leave your car at the mall, you probably can relate to the findings of a new study published in Rome. The report says the average Italian driver spends 30 to 60 minutes a day, almost two weeks a year, and two years of a lifetime looking for parking places.

The Day's List

Cosmetics women can least - and most - do without

A recent poll of more than 30,000 women in 43 countries indicates 57 percent of them spend less than 15 minutes a day applying makeup and skin-care products. In the survey, conducted by Avon Products Inc., 38 percent of the respondents said they wished they could spend 30 minutes a day in this way - and 32 percent said they wished they could take an hour or more. The products respondents indicated they needed the most and least - and the percentage of women saying each of them was indispensable:

Most needed

Lipstick 67%

Facial moisturizer 49%

Facial cleanser 38%

Fragrance 37%

Least needed

Blush 7%

Nail polish 10%

Face powder 15%

- Associated Press

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