News In Brief

House prosecutors and White House lawyers are to make closing arguments today in the impeachment trial of President Clinton, as senators prepare for final deliberations on perjury and obstruction-of-justice charges. There was no indication that Saturday's video testimony had shaken prospects for an expected acquittal by the end of the week.

Clinton was to fly to Jordan to attend the funeral of the late King Hussein. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first lady, was in the Netherlands, but was expected to fly to Jordan. Ex-Presidents George Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford were also expected to attend the funeral. Clinton has pledged to speed up delivery of aid to Jordan to bolster the transition there.

Clinton moved to close a gap in the law requiring background checks on gun buyers. Calling gun shows a "significant loophole," he said he had accepted recommendations from a joint Treasury/Justice Department study that would require background checks for all sales of guns at the shows. The review of 314 investigations, involving more than 54,000 firearms, revealed a wide variety of violations at gun shows - and showed that substantial numbers of firearms associated with gun shows were used in crimes or passed illegally to juveniles.

An alarm scrubbed the launch of the US space agency's Stardust spacecraft Saturday less than two minutes before it was to blast off on a seven-year odyssey to snatch dust from a distant comet. The countdown halted when an alarm showed there was a dip in current to a beacon used to track the craft. Another attempt was expected soon.

Clinton created a new White House office to deal with race and discrimination issues - and named Robert "Ben" Johnson its director. The White House Office on the President's Initiative for One America will continue the work of an advisory committee on race that completed in September a 15-month probe of race relations.

The American Bar Association's policymaking group is expected to oppose reauthorization of the law permitting independent-counsel probes of US officials when it meets today in Los Angeles. The legal provision for independent counsels expires in June. The ABA had been a supporter of the Independent Counsel Act - and even played a role in its creation two decades ago.

The Justice Department confirmed it is probing tactics used by Hollywood studios to gain screen time for movies. Studio sources said the agency's antitrust division is inquiring into "clearance" and "blocking" practices used to distribute films. The former gives exclusivity to theater owners for showing a certain film in a specific region; the latter gives owners the right to show a blockbuster if they also show a box-office flop.

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