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News Briefs, part 2

Israeli, Palestinian Leaders To Accelerate Peace Talks

Los Angeles Times
JERUSALEM

Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed Thursday to speed up negotiations on expanding Palestinian self-rule throughout the West Bank, and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Israel will start easing its closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The reported progress s, comes one week after a summit between Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat produced nothing more than mutual recriminations about the deadlock in their negotiations.

After last week's session, Israeli and Palestinian commentators were declaring the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord dead and predicting the collapse of Rabin's government.

"Nothing has died," declared Foreign Minister Shimon Peres after Thursday's session. "There are difficulties, but we can overcome them."

After a two-hour session with Arafat Thursday afternoon, Rabin said that he will allow 10,000 workers from Gaza and 5,000 from the West Bank to enter Israel next week. "All of them are workers whom we know" and who are older than 30, Rabin said.

About three times as many workers were entering Israel legally before Israel imposed the closure Jan. 22 - after two Palestinian suicide bombers killed 21 Israelis at a bus stop.

Gingrich Lashes Out at EPA In Speech to Executives

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., took aim and fired on the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday, calling it "the biggest job-killing agency in inner-city America."

In his first major speech on the environment, delivered to the National Environmental Policy Institute (NEPI), a group of corporate executives and opinion-makers, Gingrich lashed out at the agency's enforcement of every major environmental statute from the 1980 Superfund law, which governs the cleanup of toxic waste dumps, to the 1990 Clean Air Act, designed to reduce air pollution nationwide.

With the speech, Gingrich made clear that he plans to try to leave his mark on U.S. environmental policy. "Let's totally rethink Superfund," he said at one point, calling the program "a national disgrace."

"If you've got to set priorities, there are things we are currently requiring that are irrational in terms of human health," he said at another point.

"The trick is to rethink from the ground up," he concluded, "not to repair the current processes."

Gingrich saved his harshest criticism for the EPA itself, calling it "a highly centralized command bureaucracy artificially trying to impose its judgment with almost no knowledge of local conditions and with a static rather than dynamic view of itself."

Gingrich, a former member of the Sierra Club and a strong supporter of the Atlanta zoo, described himself as pro-environment.

Four U.S. Army Rangers Die During Training Course

Special to the Los Angeles Times
MIAMI

Four U.S. Army rangers in the final days of grueling training died from exposure after emerging from the chilly, chest-high waters of a north Florida swamp where they were engaged in a bridge-building exercise, the Army said Thursday.

The deaths late Wednesday on the grounds of Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle stunned members of the elite ranger corps and prompted an Army inquiry.

"It's a shock. No one likes to see something like this occur," said Al Blanchard, a retired Army colonel serving as a military spokesman at Fort Benning, Ga., where the dead men were based. "We are a tight-knit community, and we will pull together and take care of our own."

The names of the dead have not been released. Four other soldiers suffering from hypothermia were hospitalized.

An Army spokeswoman said the victims were among 102 enlisted men and officers who had volunteered for a demanding eight-week course in combat techniques and all-terrain survival. Women are not admitted to ranger training, the spokeswoman said.

Intel Unveils New P6 Chip; Said To Make Computers Twice as Fast

The Washington Post

Intel Corp., the world's dominant computer chipmaker, Thursday unveiled a new chip it said will make personal computers twice as fast as today's best. Dubbed the P6, it is crucial to the giant company's efforts to stay ahead of competitors that are making clones of its best-selling products.

Intel hopes to have the chip on the market in limited quantities at the end of this year, though schedules of this sort often slip. It would be successor to the Pentium, the company's current top-of-the-line model whose reputation was sullied by the revelation last fall that it can make mistakes in certain mathematical operations.

Officials at the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said the new chip will let consumers run more demanding software, such as video-conferencing and movies.

The P6 is a microprocessor, the chip that handles the basic functions of a computer. It will have about 5.5 million transistors in a space about the size of thumbnail. It is designed to cycle on and off 133 million times per second, compared with about 100 million top speed of the best Pentium chip.

"With each new generation we go through, people wonder if Intel has hit the wall with the ability to improve the chip," said Randy Steck, product manager for the P6 at Intel. "But this new product shows that we are on the front line of pushing computing power to its limits."