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News Briefs, part 1

Heads of American, Union Support Arbitration

The Washington Post

American Airlines President Robert L. Crandall and the head of the American pilots' union Tuesday jointly endorsed the use of binding arbitration in their upcoming labor contract talks.

The approach represents a sharp turnaround for American. It was suggested by Crandall, according to a joint release from Crandall and Richard T. LaVoy, head of the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American's pilots. The plan must be approved by the pilots' union board and membership.

If adopted, it would mark another step away from the confrontations that have been part of labor-management relations in the airline industry. United Airlines recently negotiated major contract concessions from its unions in return for a majority employee stake in the airline.

In the recent strike by American's flight attendants, Crandall explicitly rejected arbitration until President Clinton suggested it in a telephone call that brought the walkout to a quick end just before Thanksgiving.

"We wanted to speed up the process of amending a contract," said Robert W. Baker, executive vice president of AMR Corp., American's parent, of the new initiative.

Psychiatrists Clash On Lorena Bobbitt's Emotions

Newsday

MANASSAS, Va.

Psychiatrists dueled in court Tuesday over whether Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband's penis under an "irresistible impulse" or simply "an impulse that she did not resist."

Dr. Susan Fiester, a $210-an-hour defense expert in Bobbitt's trial in the malicious wounding of John Wayne Bobbitt, testified that a "brief reactive psychosis" triggered by a marital rape left the 24-year-old manicurist unable to resist mutilating her allegedly abusive husband.

In rebuttal, Dr. Miller Ryans of Virginia's Central State Hospital, a state employee, said the defendant could control her impulses despite "severe, major depression" and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after what he agreed were four years of rapes, beatings and put-downs.

To avoid conviction and up to 20 years' imprisonment for severing the body part, which police found and surgeons reattached, Lorena Bobbitt is pleading self-defense and a form of temporary insanity known as "irresistible impulse."

John Bobbitt was acquitted of marital sexual assault Nov. 10. He may retake the witness stand Wednesday to rebut his wife's tearful testimony last week.

Iran-Contra Report Likely To Affect North's Senate Race

The Washington Post

Virginia Senate candidate Oliver L. North is portrayed as someone who repeatedly lied, broke the law and misused money in the final report on the Iran-Contra affair, released only days before he plans to formally open his campaign.

Special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh's report, which came out Tuesday, will create significant political fallout for the first-time Republican candidate, according to analysts. It refocuses attention on North's role in the scandal and questions his integrity. Both contrast sharply with North's repeated descriptions of himself as a White House subordinate who loyally followed orders.

North and his aides dismissed the report as politically meaningless Tuesday, saying it recycled old allegations that courts already have rejected. North was found guilty of several charges, including obstructing Congress and accepting an illegal gratuity, but the conviction was overturned on the grounds that North's testimony before Congress might have been used against him.

Political analysts, Democrats and a North opponent strongly disagreed. Although many voters may be numbed by details of the affair, they said, the report spotlights concerns about North's character. Its conclusions are likely to be invoked repeatedly if North wins the GOP Senate nomination.

U.S. May Lift Trade, Investment Embargo on Vietnam, Bentsen Says

The Washington Post

BANGKOK, Thailand

Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen said Tuesday that the U.S. government has moved nearer a decision to lift its trade and investment embargo on Vietnam.

Bentsen, speaking at a meeting of Thai business leaders here, praised the Vietnamese government for assisting in the effort to determine the fate of more than 2,200 American servicemen still unaccounted for after the Vietnam War.

"The progress is there, and I'm optimistic we'll get that finally behind us," he said at news conference later in the day. "Some of us older fellows think you ought to move these things and get it done. We've seen a lot of cooperation coming out of Vietnam."

Bentsen declined to speculate on a timetable for lifting the ban, but in Jakarta Monday he suggested this might be imminent. "That decision has not been made," he said, "but I think you'll see something forthcoming quite soon."

Bentsen, who is on a three-nation Asian tour to demonstrate the Clinton administration's commitment to building stronger relations in the region, is the latest of several U.S. officials and Congress members to urge lifting trade restrictions on Vietnam. Clinton's chief foreign-policy advisers have agreed to recommend he do so, according to senior officials.

Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on asian affairs, declared at the close of a visit to Vietnam last week that the embargo no longer served a meaningful purpose and was only hurting American firms denied business opportunities in the region.

U.S. Policy on Eastern Europe Remains Unclear

The Washington Post

GENEVA

The Clinton administration's diplomatic offensive in Eastern Europe last week left behind unanswered questions about whether U.S. policy toward the region will move beyond rhetorical sympathy for its economic and security concerns.

After some early complaining, the American proposal of a Partnership for Peace offering limited military cooperation with NATO was embraced by the leaders of the eight East European and Balkan nations visited by President Clinton or his envoy, Madeleine K. Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

But this was mostly because the U.S. plan, together with Clinton's presence in Prague and Albright's 11-day tour of the region, offered these desperately insecure nations the first signs of attention from Washington.

Their leaders were delighted to hear Clinton and Albright repeatedly say that their security, so uncertain in these times of great change on the continent, was of "direct and material interest" to the United States.

Yet, no one in the Albright delegation was ready to explain exactly what that phrase means. It was carefully crafted as a substitute for the words "security guarantees" -- which NATO and the United States want to avoid as they develop a new relationship with these countries.