News In Brief

The US

Former Presidents Gerald Ford (R) and Jimmy Carter (D) urged the Senate to censure President Clinton. In a New York Times essay, they said a censure resolution should require that Clinton acknowledge he did not tell the truth under oath, but also stipulate that such an admission could not be used against him in any future criminal prosecution. Censure would allow Clinton to keep his job and would be a first step toward healing a "grievous and deepening" national wound, they wrote. A White House official responded by saying the president would not concede that he lied to the grand jury "because he did not."

Members of both parties said they want swift Senate resolution of the charges against the president. Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah hinted at compromise on NBC TV, saying the first step should be a quick poll of the Senate to determine if there is anywhere near the 67 votes needed to oust Clinton from office. But he and other Republicans said there was no option to at least beginning a trial.

It could take several months to determine whether the goal of degrading Iraq's warmaking capability was achieved in last week's airstrikes, Pentagon officials cautioned. They said pictures of damaged Iraqi military installations may be deceiving and Iraq may have to be attacked again.

A Houston, Texas, woman gave birth to the only known surviving set of octuplets. Five girls and two boys were delivered at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. Another child, a girl, was born Dec. 8. Nkem Chukwu had been taking fertility drugs. She and her husband, Iyke - US citizens originally from Nigeria - have no other children.

Finding a way to save the largest remaining grove of privately owned ancient redwood trees was to be discussed at a meeting in the San Francisco office of US Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The California Democrat, who helped broker two years ago an agreement for the state and the US to buy 7,500 acres of the Headwaters Forest from Pacific Lumber, warned last week that a "major impasse" had developed between the company and state and federal agencies facing a funding deadline for the project. Agency officials want more safeguards for some threatened species in a conservation plan for the 210,000 acres of forest the company would retain.

The US said it would impose 100 percent punitive tariffs on European products ranging from sheep's-milk cheese to cashmere sweaters. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky said the European Union was being penalized for unfairly blocking US firms from selling bananas in Europe and other markets. The new tariffs could take effect as soon as Feb. 2 or as late as March 3.

Liu Nianchun, a prominent Chinese labor leader, arrived in the US with his family - the latest of a number of dissidents freed into exile by the Chinese over the past year. Liu's release was an apparent attempt to deflect attention from the trial yesterday of dissident Xu Wenli, who tried to register an opposition party.

The World

In a move that foreign governments called "deplorable," Chinese courts found two political dissidents guilty of subversion and sentenced them to long prison terms. Xu Wenli's trial in Beijing lasted just 3-1/2 hours. He was ordered to serve 13 years. In Hangzhou, fellow China Democratic Party organizer Wang Youcai was jailed for 11 years. A third activist, Qin Yongmin, was awaiting the verdict after his trial in Wuhan. The Xinhua news agency said Xu and Wang had accepted funds for their activities from "foreign hostile organizations."

Israel appeared headed for new national elections early next year after Prime Minister Netanyahu was unable to restore unity to his tattered coalition government. Members of parliament heckled him as he rose to explain last weekend's decision to suspend peace efforts with the Palestinian Authority, and the session was adjourned to try to restore order. An opposition-sponsored bill calling for elections to be moved up appeared certain to pass. Palestinian leaders angrily rejected a set of five conditions Netanyahu said must be met before cooperation on the October interim peace accord would be resumed.

A team of legal experts failed to leave Libya's capital on a mission to seek "further clarification" about the proposed trial of two intelligence agents for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The Foreign Ministry said the lawyers wanted to meet with UN legal counsel, but they were still in Tripoli with no apparent travel plans. Last week, Libyan officials appeared to agree that the two suspects would be released for trial in the Netherlands. In Lockerbie, Scotland, meanwhile, relatives and friends of the 270 people who died in the bombing gathered for 10th anniversary ceremonies.

Military planes and helicopters equipped with night-vision cameras - and even spy satellites - were being used by German authorities to try to catch whoever is attempting to blackmail the Deutsche Bahn rail system. The company has received four letters in the past week, apparently from the same person or group, demanding $6 million in payments. Since Friday, two of its trains have derailed after colliding with trees or concrete blocks on the tracks. A third narrowly escaped derailment.

Communists appeared likely to emerge as the key partner in Nepal's new interim government after Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala resigned rather than face a vote of no-confidence in parliament. Koirala, however, also proposed to King Birendra that he be given the opportunity to form a new coalition with the communists, who pledged their support on the condition that national elections be held before next May.

An emergency was developing in hot-air balloonist Richard Branson's latest attempt to circumnavigate the globe nonstop, as the Monitor went to press. Winds were carrying the British adventurer's craft toward central China on a course he said there was little time to adjust. China had refused permission for the balloon to cross the bulk of its territory. The craft was forced north last week to avoid US-British attacks on Iraq.

Business and Finance

The Federal Reserve was expected to leave interest rates unchanged when policymakers gather for the year's final meeting today. Most analysts said the Fed would want to continue to assess the effects of recent rate cuts over the next few months before approving yet another change.

A fiscal 1999 budget that aims to stimulate Japan's recession-bound economy - but that analysts say also will drag the nation deeper into debt - was proposed by the Finance Ministry in Tokyo. At $711 billion, the spending plan is the largest yet announced and is 5.4 percent higher than the original budget for the current fiscal year, which ends March 31. But to finance it, the government proposes to float a record $600 billion in bonds, or just under 40 percent of anticipated budget revenues.

Across-the-board, Asia's stock markets showed no signs that they were rattled by the impeachment of President Clinton. The Nikkei index fell 41 points on the Tokyo exchange, but its counterparts in Seoul; Hong Kong; Taipei, Taiwan; and New Zealand all closed sharply higher on news of favorable local developments. Share prices closed mixed or only slightly lower in the Philippines, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.


'We wish them the Lord's blessing and a merry Christmas.' - Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey, parents of septuplets born in Iowa last year, offering their congratulations on the birth of octuplets to Nkem and Iyke Chukwu in Houston.


The work order called for a new roof on the bank in Fredericksburg, Va. So installers climbed atop the building that Omega World Travel shares with First Union Bank and put down new shingles. But why, the folks at Omega asked, was this being done just as First Union was about to move to a new location? The roofers couldn't say, but they'd been assured that "the bank" was paying for the job. One problem: The bank that had ordered the new roof was a rival, BB&T, down the street. The contractor has pledged to correct the mistake.


When is a weed not a weed? Answer: When it's a Christmas tree. In Decatur, Ill., someone with the holiday spirit has been decorating an uncultivated five-foot-tall plant that grows through the concrete median of a four-lane highway with traditional ornaments. Completing the scene are brightly wrapped "presents" - actually bricks - underneath.

The Day's List

Listing world 'hot spots' that bear watching next year

World Vision, a relief and development organization serving 60 million people in nearly 100 countries, released late last week a list of what it considers the 10 most serious areas of conflict and political instability the world will face next year. Dayton Maxwell, a senior policy adviser for the group, said a number of "interstate" conflicts are of increasing concern, including the Ethiopia-Eritrea and India-Pakistan confrontations. In central Africa, he noted, "internal" instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is compounded by the involvement of surrounding nations, such as Angola, Rwanda, and Uganda. World Vision's 10 "global hot spots" for 1999:


The Balkans

Central Africa






North Korea


- Associated Press

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