News In Brief

The US

The House was expected today to begin debating the impeachment of President Clinton, but it was not clear whether the voting would spill over into Friday. Meanwhile, the White House was said to be searching desperately for a way to stem a pro-impeachment stampede. Vice President Al Gore called on lawmakers to craft a bipartisan solution to spare the country a "damaging ordeal."

Clinton met with top security advisers about Iraqi defiance of UN arms inspections. The State Department called a new UN report by the head of the UN Special Commission on Iraq "a very serious matter" and warned that all US options against Iraq remained open.

The shuttle Endeavour returned in triumph from the first US mission to build an international space station. The crew - five Americans and one Russian - made a rare nighttime landing at Cape Canaveral, Fla. During their mission, they joined a Russian-built control module and a US-made connecting chamber as the first step in building a station that is eventually to stretch the length of a football field.

Industrial production slumped to its lowest rate in more than five years last month, the Federal Reserve said. Citing warm weather and weaker auto production, the Fed said output at mines, factories, and utilities fell 0.3 percent after a 0.2 percent rise in October. November's capacity-use rate, slipping to 80.6 percent, was the lowest since August 1993. Analysts said a manufacturing decline is likely to slow economic growth next year.

Congressional Republicans asked Attorney General Janet Reno to consider naming an independent counsel to investigate the role of Clinton's campaign manager in a Washington building development. The House commerce panel has questioned whether Peter Knight, who ran the president's 1996 campaign, received $1 million from Tennessee developer Franklin Haney to arrange a Federal Communications Commission move to the Portals development.

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber did not copy the melody for his "Phantom of the Opera" theme from a Baltimore songwriter, a New York jury concluded. Ray Repp, who has written dozens of religious songs and has 11 albums to his credit, had accused Lloyd Webber of stealing his 1978 song "Till You."

Connecticut lawmakers cleared the way for a New England Patriots stadium in downtown Hartford. On a 97-to-49 vote, the state House of Representatives authorized $374 million in public spending for the project, which had already been approved by the state Senate. Gov. John Rowland was expected to move quickly to complete a deal with the team.

Burlington Coat Factory, the largest US coat retailer, pulled hundreds of Chinese-made parkas from its stores after announcing it had found they were trimmed with dog hair. The US Humane Society had objected, saying the controversy was part of an extensive international trade in the pelts of domesticated dogs. A spokesman for the New Jersey-based 250-store chain, said it had ordered coyote trim from its supplier and had been unaware of selling coats containing dog fur.

The World

Iraq was bracing again for possible attack by US-led forces after being accused of breaking its promise to cooperate fully with international weapons inspectors. The UN ordered its arms experts and humanitarian-aid staffers out of the country on the heels of a report by weapons-inspections chief Richard Butler, who said Iraq had instead imposed new restrictions on his teams. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz called the report "full of lies" and "aimed to justify American and British military aggression."

President Clinton and British Prime Minister Blair conferred by phone over strategy vis-a-vis Iraq. Both countries have said punitive strikes could come without warning. Western diplomats in the Persian Gulf said the US was not likely to be deterred by the impending Islamic holy month, Ramadan, which begins as early as Sunday in Muslim countries. The Russian government called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting to discuss the crisis.

Hard-liners in Israel's parliament said they had enough votes to pass a motion of no-confidence in Prime Minister Netanyahu Monday, which would force early national elections. They said they no longer trusted him not to make concessions to the Palestinian Authority despite his pledge that Israel wouldn't meet tomorrow's deadline for further troop withdrawals from the West Bank. Netanyahu was expected to say whether he'd head off Monday's vote by calling early elections, as the Monitor went to press.

Lawyers for detained former Chilean dictator Pinochet sought to nullify a British court ruling that he lacks immunity from prosecution although he's a former head of state. They argued that one of the judges who voted against Pinochet has close ties to the human-rights group Amnesty International that he didn't disclose. Pinochet, who's being kept in detention in London, is sought for trial by Spain for alleged crimes against humanity during his 17-year rule.

Angry government officials in Turkey said the freeing of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan by an Italian court would worsen relations between the two countries. Ocalan, whom Turkey wants to put on trial for terrorism, was free to leave Italy, an appeals panel in Rome ruled, because a warrant for his arrest had been withdrawn by Germany, which also had sought him, although with little enthusiasm.

Prime Minister-designate Jacques-Edouard Alexis took a step closer to assuming office in Haiti after the nation's Senate OK'd him to lead the government. Alexis also is considered likely to win confirmation in the Chamber of Deputies. Haiti has been without a prime minister since June 1997, resulting in the passage of no government budgets, the drying up of new foreign investment, and the freezing of millions of dollars in international aid.

Fugitive ex-President Canaan Banana surrendered to Zimbabwe's police at the border with South Africa and was placed under immediate house arrest. Banana went into hiding even before his Nov. 26 conviction on sex-crimes charges, saying he had "dangerous information" to share with leaders of neighboring countries. He's due to be sentenced Wednesday

Business and Finance

The pace of US homebuilding slipped last month from October's booming pace - but single-family home construction was close to a 15-year high, the Commerce Department said. Starts on new homes and apartments fell 2.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.649 million units, compared with an 8 percent jump in October. In November, starts on single-family homes rose 5 percent

to 1.353 million a year, the highest rate since 1.4 million units were begun in February 1984.

Five billion dollars in new, low-interest loans to other struggling Asian economies were pledged by Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. The money is earmarked for infrastructure projects such as airports, highways, and power plants. Contractors must be Japanese. The new loans bring to $44 billion the funds Japan has pledged for regional recovery. Its last previous initiative was a $30 billion aid package, announced in October, to buy government bonds from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea, and Malaysia.


'Just imagine if they hit a packed mosque by mistake ...'

- An Arab government official who wished to be unidentified, arguing against punitive military strikes on Iraq by US-led forces during the Islamic holy month, Ramadan, which begins Sunday.


Toledo, Ohio, finally gets its shot at a major motion picture gig, and what happens? Its weather isn't lousy enough. The script for "A Simple Plan," based on hometown writer Scott Smith's best-selling 1993 thriller, called for snow - lots of it. But filming couldn't begin there because of bare ground. So the producers set up to shoot in Minnesota. Alas, no snow there either; the state was having an abnormally warm winter. Finally, enough wintry scenes were obtained by shuttling between Michigan and Wisconsin. Smith is disappointed, but philosophical about it all. "In my head," he says, "it's still an Ohio movie."


It's more than five days before Christmas, but that didn't stop a Bath, Maine, jeweler from providing $1,500 worth of free gold rings to a local couple whose wedding bands were stolen in a car break-in. The originals weren't bought at Stan Pollack's store. But, he said, the couple's tale "broke our hearts. We thought it would be nice if we could help."

The Day's List

What is a promise worth? 'That depends,' survey says

A new nationwide survey conducted for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. indicates that - to a majority of Americans - promises are an old-fashion-ed, but enduring concept. The strength of a person's word, respondents said, however, depends on who's giving it. The survey of 1,001 people over 18 was conducted Oct. 8-16. Some of its propositions and the percentage of respondents who said they agreed with each:

I deserve an "A" for keeping my promises. 53%

I feel guilt at not keeping my word. 63%

Best promise-keepers are senior citizens. 31%

Women are better at keeping their word than men. 56%

Preteens are better promise-keepers than teenagers. 22%

Politicians can be trusted to keep their promises. 5%

It's vital to make up for breaking a promise. 50%

Marriage vows are the promises most likely to be kept. 46%

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