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News Briefs

Packwood and Accusers Prepare for Public Hearings

Los Angeles Times
SEATTLE

Now that the Oregon Republican Senator Bob Packwood has agreed to seek public hearings on allegations of sexual harassment and other misconduct, 17 women who have filed complaints face the difficult prospect of a head-to-head confrontation with the man they have accused - and a likely attempt to discredit their recollections in front of a national television audience.

In interviews over the past two days, several women who have accused Packwood of grabbing, fondling and kissing them during the course of Capitol business over 21 years said it is likely that all will come forward voluntarily to testify, despite fears that they, and not Packwood, could become the next victims.

The women said they are mindful of the public ordeal Oklahoma law professor Anita Faye Hill underwent in 1991 when she testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about alleged sexual harassment by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

"I don't think anyone's going to be frightened away from the hearings by [Packwood]," said Julie Williamson, who has said that Packwood grabbed her, kissed her, pulled her head and tried to pull her girdle off when she worked for him as a 30-year-old staffer in 1969. "I think we have gone on record with the Ethics Committee, as far as I know, we have all agreed to participate in open hearings, because we know we're telling the truth, and we believe there will be enough evidence that people will be appalled if they have a chance to know what it is."

Long Island Blaze under Control

Newsday
WESTHAMPTON, N.Y.

Firefighters gained the upper hand in the battle against the huge Westhampton wildfire on Long Island Saturday, permitting evacuees to return to their homes, some fire companies to return to their stations, most roads in the area to reopen and train service to resume.

Although puffs of smoke lingered and some blazes still flared up in the 5,500 acres charred by the Sunrise Fire - named for the highway it shut down Thursday - local and federal firefighters talked about "mopping up" operations over the next several days. At least eight homes and a lumberyard were destroyed by the blaze.

"The fire has not as yet been officially declared contained, but it is contained sufficiently that it is safe enough to have the people who were evacuated to return to their homes," Suffolk County Executive Robert Gaffney said shortly after noon Saturday.

At 5 p.m., Warren DuBois, the U.S. Forest Service official in charge, said the fire was "90 percent contained." He said the fire would have been considered contained Saturday "had it not been for high winds late (in the) afternoon." He predicted that the fire would be considered contained by 6 p.m. Sunday.

Gaffney said that although the approximately 400 people displaced by the fire could return to their homes, a state of emergency would remain in effect for several days until the fire was completely out. He also said that an arson investigation into the cause of the blaze was ongoing.

Colombia President Vows to Stay On

The Washington Post
BOGOTA, Colombia

President Ernesto Samper says allegations that he knowingly accepted money from drug traffickers during his 1994 campaign are part of a conspiracy by his political enemies and the Cali cartel, and he maintains that he will not resign from office under any conditions.

"More than a plot, what I see is a convergence of hatreds toward me, involving a few journalists, my political adversaries and drug cartels," Samper said, in a 90-minute interview Friday evening, his first since the allegations exploded into a political crisis earlier this month. "Who is most interested in seeing the government weak, or the justice system stop working, or seeing the nation's institutions fighting each other, in seeing a slackening of the government's efforts to fight drug trafficking? The cartels. When one talks of a conspiracy, one has to see who benefits from it, and there is no doubt in my mind that the most interested are the cartels."

Samper has been under fire since he was elected president last May. At that time, Andres Pastrana, the losing candidate, released audio cassettes that appeared to show senior officials in Samper's campaign soliciting money from the Cali drug syndicate. The controversy subsided, particularly when Colombian police soon captured the Cali cartel's top leaders. But early this month Samper's campaign treasurer, Santiago Medina, was arrested. He said the Cali cartel had contributed about $6 million to Samper's campaign with the candidate's knowledge.