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News Briefs, part 1

Progress Made in Baseball Strike

The Baltimore Sun

Major League Baseball Players Association director Donald Fehr briefed the players Thursday on the progress of the negotiations and discussed all the scenarios under which the union would call off the six-month-old strike.

He said definitively - apparently for the first time - that the players would go back to work if the National Labor Relations Board forced the owners to restore the terms of the previous labor agreement.

The players also have said they would agree to binding arbitration, either immediately or after a presidential fact-finding commission examines the game for a year, and would call off the strike if Congress lifts baseball's antitrust exemption.

Of course, the owners almost certainly would lock out the players if they called off the strike before there is a negotiated settlement.

"We want to go back and play," Los Angeles Dodger center fielder Brett Butler said. "We'll go back under the '94 rules. We'll take binding arbitration. We'll try our luck with the NLRB or in court. We'll do just about anything to get back on the field, but they (the owners) don't want to do any of that."

The owners have made it just as clear they were not interested in continuing with the old system and would have no interest in an arbitrated settlement.

Panel Limits Witnesses in Hearings For Surgeon General's Post

Los Angeles Times

The head of the Senate committee that will hold hearings on the nomination of Henry W. Foster Jr. for surgeon general has decided to exclude outsiders from testifying, a step that should enable Foster to explain his career in a relatively dispassionate setting.

The decision to limit witnesses, made by Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, R-Kan., head of the Labor and Human Resources Committee, is in keeping with the panel's history of allowing testimony only from a nominee and perhaps a few senators. No decision has been made on whether any senators will testify.

Kassebaum's move will allow administration officials to avoid the embarrassment of having to respond to harsh, bipartisan criticism that it bungled the nomination process largely by failing to provide a prompt, full account of Foster's record on abortion.

At the same time, barring any outside witnesses reduces the prospect that the hearings, expected to begin about a month from now, will be dominated by a highly charged debate over abortion. The White House and Foster are confident they can win such a debate, which would be expected to divide pro-choice and anti-abortion elements of the Republican party.

Justice Department Plans To Appeal Microsoft Case

The Washington Post

Moving fast, the Justice Department announced Thursday that it will appeal a federal judge's rejection Tuesday of an antitrust settlement that the department had worked out with the world's largest software company, Microsoft Corp. The company later said it also would appeal.

The department called the decision "squarely wrong." It argued that the settlement was in the public interest and that allowing the rejection to stand would undermine the department's ability to negotiate with other companies.

Attorney General Janet Reno told reporters that U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Sporkin overstepped his role in the case. A judge, she said, should evaluate whether a settlement fits the case the government said it would bring - not whether the government should have brought a different case.

Sporkin's decision suggests to companies, she said, that "you may have a decree, but it's an invitation for a judge to investigate anything about a company."