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News briefs, part 2

California Drought Proclaimed Over -- Finally

Los Angeles Times

After six years of one of the most severe dry spells in California history, Gov. Pete Wilson declared an end to the drought Wednesday, officially closing the book on a natural disaster that may forever change the way Californians think about water.

"Thanks to God for ending the drought," Wilson said, "and thanks to the people of California for enduring it."

The announcement in Sacramento ended a month-long dance by state water officials, who had insisted it was too early to pronounce the drought dead despite a string of positive rainfall and snowpack reports and official projections of an abundant runoff this spring.

Several cities weeks ago proclaimed the dry spell had been broken, but Wilson's pronouncement -- coming during a respite in a succession of tenacious winter storms that have pelted the state -- provided the state's official acknowledgment of what has become obvious to soggy residents from San Diego to Eureka.

"It may not come as a surprise to most people," acknowledged an official in the state Drought Information Center.

The turning point for hesistant state water officials came last weekend, when big storms in the Sierra Nevada raised snowfall totals to their highest levels in a decade. Automated sensors recorded the water content of the Sierra snowpack, a key indicator of coming water supplies, at 175 percent of the historical average for February.

Reservoir levels also topped 80 percent of what is considered normal for this time of the year, a remarkable improvement considering that many of them had been drained dry over the past several years.

North Korea Could Pose Major Nuclear Threat, CIA Chief Says

Los Angeles Times


The U. S. intelligence community now believes that North Korea may have already manufactured enough material to make at least one nuclear weapon and has become the greatest single problem for nations trying to curb the spread of dangerous weapons, CIA Director R. James Woolsey said Wednesday.

Testifying before Congress on worldwide problems of arms proliferation, the CIA director said North Korea ranks "almost in a class by itself." It is worse than other nations, he explained, not only because of its nuclear weapons program, but also because of its efforts to produce longer-range missiles and its willingness to export missiles to "any nation that is willing to pay."

It was the first time any senior U.S. official has testified publicly that North Korea may already have enough material to make a nuclear weapon.

Clapton's 6 Grammys Highlighted by `Tears In Heaven'

Los Angeles Times


Eric Clapton -- whose grief over his son's death led to the critically acclaimed ballad, "Tears In Heaven" -- garnered six Grammy awards Wednesday night at the Shrine Auditorium in a tender tribute to the rock legend's long career.

Tying for the second-biggest sweep in a Grammy ceremony, Clapton, 47, tried to keep things light as he stepped to the podium early in the three-hour program to accept the best song award for the tribute to his child.

"I think the other song ... the Vanessa Williams one ("Save the Best for Last") should have gotten (the award) because it kept us out of the No. 1 slot for about two months," the tuxedoed British singer-guitarist said, smiling. "But still, we're happy."

By the time he returned to the podium for the final time, however, Clapton was in a more emotional mood as he accepted the record of the year award for "Tears in Heaven."

The song -- co-written by Will Jennings -- is a touching expression of the loss of a loved one, all the more affecting in Clapton's case because the record followed the tragic accidental death in 1991 of Clapton's 4-year-old son, Conor. The child was killed when he fell through an open window in Clapton's 53rd-floor Manhattan apartment.

As the audience stood in ovation, Clapton said, "I'm very moved and very shaky and very emotional. I want to thank a lot of people, but the one person who I want to thank is my son for the love he gave me and the song he gave me."

By winning six awards, including best album for the acoustic "Unplugged" and best rock song for the 22-year-old "Layla," Clapton tied the mark set by Quincy Jones in 1990 and the late Roger Miller in 1965.

The only pop artist to have enjoyed a bigger, single night sweep was Michael Jackson, who won eight awards in 1983, the year of his "Thriller" album.

Continuing his recent high-profile media blitz, Jackson was on hand Wednesday to received the recording academy's Legends Award -- for outstanding artistic contributions -- and his appearance added to the evening's tender edge.

After Clapton, the big winner Wednesday, as the Grammy ceremony returned here after two years in New York, was the "Beauty and the Beast" sound track album and related projects. The material was involved in five awards, including best children's album.

In addition, winning two awards each were the Georgia rap group Arrested Development, whose socially conscious "Tennessee" was one of the most acclaimed singles of 1992; Vince Gill, the country singer-songwriter, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, the late Texas blues-rock guitarist who was killed in a 1990 plane crash, and the Irish traditional folk group the Chieftains. Arrested Development was named best new artist and best rap group.

Vaughan's two posthumous victories pushed his Grammy total to six.