News In Brief

The US

President Clinton said a US attack on a missile battery that had fired on American planes over Iraq was appropriate. The US would continue to enforce the "no-fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq, he said. The Pentagon said it appeared the Iraqis had fired three surface-to-air missiles at US F-16s in a no-fly zone in northern Iraq - and that US planes had reached their bases safely after returning the Iraqi fire.

Talks about the logistics of an impeachment trial are expected to intensify this week as the 106th Congress prepares to convene Jan. 6. Senators Rick Santorum (R) of Pennsylvania and John Breaux (D) of Louisiana suggested the trial begin by the next day. Several senators said they want the matter concluded in the first two months of the year. One Republican senator, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said censure should not be discussed until after the Senate votes on the two impeachment articles approved by the House. Leading Republicans and Democrats said Clinton was sure to face an impeachment trial but was unlikely to be removed from office.

The National Basketball Association moved closer to scrapping its entire season after the players' union turned down what commissioner David Stern called his final offer. During a secret meeting at a hotel outside Denver, the opposing sides were still unable to agree on several key issues. The league's Board of Governors will meet Jan. 7, and the commissioner has said he will recommend canceling the remainder of the season if no accord is reached by that date.

The National Football League announced matchups for the first round of playoffs as the regular season came to a close. In the American Football Conference, Buffalo plays at Miami Saturday - and New England plays at Jacksonville Sunday. In the National Football Conference, Arizona plays at Dallas Saturday - and Green Bay plays at San Francisco Sunday. The New York Jets, Denver, Atlanta, and Minnesota earned first-round byes.

Officials in southern California reported the latest in a series of five bogus anthrax threats in the region. A Los Angeles County hazardous-materials team and an FBI domestic-terrorism group went to the Glass House dance club after a man called police, saying "a significant quantity" of anthrax would be released, police Lt. Gary Graham said. Some 800 people were quarantined for several hours inside the club while officials checked the air-conditioning system and all vents and filters. Authorities have not determined whether the threats are related.

The Social Security administration has resolved its year-2000 computer problems, and retirement checks will be on time when the new millennium arrives, Commissioner Kenneth Apfel told NBC. He also said he had offered aid to other agencies facing the same problem.

Virginia Power officials said they hoped to finish restoring power to thousands of Virginia homes and businesses by tomorrow. Teams of linemen were working 16-hour shifts to repair damage left by a Christmas Eve ice storm that pummeled many Southern states. The storm reportedly hit hardest around the Richmond, Williamsburg, Petersburg, and Gloucester areas.

The World

Four Iraqi soldiers were killed and seven others injured after "hostile" Western planes fired missiles at an air defense site, the government in Baghdad said. A statement said Iraqi air defenses had "bravely intercepted" the planes - which were "violating Iraqi airspace" - and had forced them to retreat to their bases in Turkey. The casualties were the first reported by Iraq since this month's bombing campaign by the US and Britain. On Sunday, Baghdad vowed to shoot down US or British planes patrolling no-fly zones over Iraq. In London, a government spokesman said British aircraft weren't involved in the recent bout of fighting.

Iraq quickly moved to deny reports it would stop the country's "oil-for-food" program and ask 400 UN workers monitoring it to leave. Announcing he'd been misquoted, Iraq's Trade Minister Mahdi Mohamed Saleh said the government had "not made a decision on whether to cancel or maintain" the program, which will end in May unless it's extended. Under the program, Baghdad is allowed to sell some $5 billion of oil every six months to buy food, medicine, and other supplies to ease the impact of UN sanctions on Iraqis.

In what some are calling the country's biggest experiment in democracy, Iran began registering candidates to compete in city, town, and village elections. Such balloting is stipulated in the Islamic country's 1979 Constitution, but has never been held. Political factionalism has threatened to disrupt the elections, scheduled for February 26, even though they are a centerpiece of President Mohamad Khatami's reform program.

A temporary truce brought a peaceful respite to northern Kosovo after four days of fighting between Serb forces and secessionist ethnic Albanians. A team of international peace monitors said they had resecured a truce - first achieved in October - after holding talks between the two sides. The chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe - which is leading the peace mission - questioned the team's effectiveness and said the group might seek "a broader involvement of the international community."

Cash-strapped Russia slashed its armed forces to 1.2 million troops - down from 1.5 million a year ago. Nonetheless, President Boris Yeltsin admitted the pace of military reform was too slow. His defense minister said earlier that 400,000 jobs would be cut to reach the 1.2 million target. Critics called for deeper cuts, saying conditions were so poor that soldiers were forced to beg for food.

Australian sea rescuers hoped to resume at daybreak their search for four sailors, stranded after a storm disrupted the country's annual boat race between Sydney and Hobart. Two Australian sailors were killed - and a British man presumed dead - after the storm struck the fleet near Gabo Island, 280 miles east of Melbourne. Rescuers plucked 56 sailors from the sea. Forty-six boats from the 115-strong fleet were reportedly still in the race.

Business and Finance

Japanese workers are finally starting to spend more, the government reported. The average Japanese wage earner spent about $2,900 in November, 2 percent more than in the same month last year, the Management and Coordination Agency said. That's the first increase in five months - and a rare piece of good news for an economy stuck in its worst recession since World War II.

China made trading in the euro official. Officials authorized the European common currency's use in trade and financial dealings starting Jan. 1. The announcement from the central People's Bank of China and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange also authorized the opening of euro accounts. The move came as a top state bank sharply cut interest rates for deposits of British pounds and Hong Kong dollars and unified rates for four European currencies linked to the new euro.


'The United States will continue to enforce the no-fly

zones and take appropriate actions to protect our pilots.' - National Security Council spokesman David Leavy, after four Iraqis were reportedly killed by US F-16s in a no-fly zone.

Filming 'Siam' ...

Thailand's monarchy is no longer absolute, but its Constitution still prescribes long jail terms for acts that would put the monarchy in an unfavorable light. So perhaps it was predictable that the National Film Board would not welcome back 20th Century Fox - which had planned to film in the kingdom a remake of "The King and I." The new film - "Anna and the King of Siam" - is, according to one board member, too concerned with entertaining rather than upholding the image of the monarchy. So the film - starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat - is now to be shot in neighboring Malaysia.


Meanwhile, a special welcome is planned for five Thai elephants stranded since October 1997 in Indonesia, where they were helping round up some of their wild jungle cousins. After its economy soured, Indonesia couldn't quickly come up with funds to pay for their return. But Christmas Day, the pachyderms finally boarded a boat headed for a Thai port, where a ceremony is to take place on or about New Year's Day.

The Day's List

Group promoting fatherhood releases top-10 movie list

"To Kill a Mockingbird," starring Gregory Peck, heads a list of 10 movies that the nonpartisan, nonsectarian National Fatherhood Initiative is recommending as the all-time best at inspiring men to be better fathers - and at bringing fathers and their children closer together. As the organization released the list in Washington last week, it suggested that parents consider renting one or more of the films over the holidays as a "relaxing, stress-free way to bolster family relationships." The Fatherhood Initiative's top 10:

1. "To Kill a Mockingbird"

2. "The Little Princess"

3. "Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog"

4. "It's a Wonderful Life"

5. "Father of the Bride"

6. "The Lion King"

7. "Field of Dreams"

8. "Bye Bye Love"

9. "Mrs. Doubtfire"

10. "Three Men and a Baby"

PR Newswire

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