News In Brief

The impeachment trial was to resume in the Senate amid bitter debate over a GOP plan to detail President Clinton's offenses before voting on whether to remove him from office. With Democrats almost unanimously opposed, as well as some Republicans, it was uncertain whether such a "finding of fact" could muster even the bare majority it would require for passage. But first, senators had to decide whether to call any or all of the three prosecution witnesses to testify in person - and whether to release their videotaped depositions.

A court-martial began for a Marine pilot whose jet clipped an Italian gondola cable, killing 20 people. Capt. Richard Ashby's trial on 20 counts of involuntary manslaughter began one day after the first anniversary of the tragedy that occurred on Mount Cermis near the town of Cavalese. A court-martial of the jet's navigator, Capt. Joseph Schweitzer, is to take place after this one is concluded.

The US space agency planned to launch tomorrow its first attempt to bring back pieces of a comet - in this case a comet that until the 1970s rarely ventured close to the sun and should contain original, frozen components of the solar system. By studying samples of Wild 2, scientists hope to better understand how icy, rocky comets may have provided the water and organics necessary for life to form on Earth - and possibly elsewhere.

Current systems for observing the planet's climate change are inadequate and raise questions about the accuracy of some findings, the National Research Council reported. It noted that two groups of scientists - one at the US space agency and the other at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - recently agreed that last year was the hottest on record. But they came up with different numbers. Space agency researchers reported an average 1998 worldwide temperature of about 58.5 degrees F., topping 1995 as the record year. But NOAA put the 1998 global average at 58.1 degrees F., topping 1997, which it considers the previous record year.

Colorado became the third state to try to cancel the sale of driver's license photos to a firm that wants to use them to allow store clerks to verify the identity of credit-card users. Calling the sale an invasion of privacy, Gov. Bill Owens (R) asked the legislature to pass a law to cancel a $128,000 contract with Image Data of Nashua, N.H. South Carolina has filed a lawsuit seeking to have its contract with Image Data declared null and void. On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), facing a storm of protest from consumers, canceled a state accord with Image Data.

Recent, almost daily US and British airstrikes against Iraqi targets have done more damage to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's defenses than December's four-day bombing campaign, Pentagon officials said. In response, Saddam has in recent days removed some antiaircraft batteries from "no fly" zones.

A bill that would give African countries pursuing economic and political reforms broader duty-free access to US markets won unanimous approval by the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee. It easily passed the House last year, but faltered in the Senate under opposition from the textile industry.

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