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News Briefs II

Moderate Volcano Hazards Alert Declared in California

Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Geological Survey Thursday declared a moderate level Volcano Hazards Alert in the Mammoth Lakes area of eastern California after a swarm of more than 100 earthquakes during the day.

Research geophysicist Malcolm Johnson of the Survey, said the alert is "fairly uncommon." It reflects "a moderate level of increased activity and unrest in the vicinity of the Mammoth Mountain volcano," he said.

However, he emphasized, this does not mean that scientists believe an eruption near the Eastern Sierra community is imminent. There has not been such an eruption for at least 200 years.

Johnson said the "Level D" alert is the second of five volcanic warning stages under a system revised in 1990.

According to the warning system, a Level A alert would indicate that an eruption was likely within hours to days. A Level B would indicate intense unrest, with the volcano deforming rapidly and many earthquakes. A Level C would reflect strong unrest, a Level D moderate unrest and a Level E weak unrest or possible instrument problems.

Alerts have been called before in the geologically active Mammoth Lakes area, the last about a year ago, Johnson said. No volcanic activity occurred at that time.

Bangladesh Voter Turnout Low

The Washington Post
DHAKA, Bangladesh

A boycott by major opposition parties and fears of violence kept voter turnout low Thursday as Bangladesh held parliamentary elections. At least 13 people were reported killed, most of them away from the capital, which was calm under a heavy military presence.

There were no official announcements of results or turnout, but spot checks of polling places found few voters and a spokesman for the ruling Bangladesh National Party called participation in some areas disappointing. Diplomatic sources had predicted a turnout of 10 percent, compared to 55 percent in 1991.

The government of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia is assured of being returned to power because it faced only token opposition.

In Dhaka, streets were nearly clear of vehicles and pedestrians. Soldiers patrolled and manned machine guns behind bunkers at key intersections. The capital's atmosphere combined the easygoing feel of a holiday, which the government declared, and the ominousness of a general strike, which the opposition called.

Sheik Hasina, leader of the Awami League, the largest opposition party, called on Zia to resign and for President Abdur Rahman Biswas to schedule another election under a caretaker government.

Aide Testifies of First Lady's Opposition to Prosecutor

Los Angeles Times

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's opposition to having an independent counsel appointed to investigate the Whitewater controversy was so strong that even the president failed to change her mind before calling for just such an appointment, a former top White House aide testified Thursday.

Hillary Clinton's antagonism was based on her belief that there had been "no credible allegation of wrongdoing," a factor that normally triggers creation of such a counsel or special prosecutor, former presidential aide Mark D. Gearan told the Senate Whitewater Committee.

Reviewing expletive-laced notes he made during daily White House strategy meetings in early January 1994, Gearan wrote that then-White House Counsel Bernard Nussbaum shared Hillary Clinton's concern, saying at one of the meetings that an outside prosecutor is "subject to no control."

According to Gearan's notes, Nussbaum also said: "You'll have a 3- to 4-year investigation. Lives will be under a microscope."

Although Hillary Clinton's opposition was publicly known at the time, Gearan's notes and testimony marked the first disclosure that the president and some White House staff members had tried but failed to change her mind. Clinton, despite his wife's views, called for appointment of an independent counsel several days later on Jan. 12, 1994.

Eight days beyond that - on Jan. 20 - Attorney General Janet Reno named New York lawyer Robert B. Fiske Jr. as the first Whitewater independent counsel. A federal appeals court replaced him as counsel later that year with former U.S. Appellate Judge Kenneth W. Starr, who is now conducting the inquiry.

Police Explode Terrorist Bomb

The Baltimore Sun

For those accustomed to a terrorist bombing campaign, it was all depressingly familiar: Coded telephone warnings. Police clearing the streets. The busy heart of London shut down.

Thursday, police exploded a suspected bomb in the West End theater district hours after an unidentified Irish Republican Army spokesperson indicated the group may continue its bid to blast the politicians to the bargaining table.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said the incident "bore all the hallmarks" of an IRA action, coming six days after the paramilitary group lifted its 17-month cease fire by detonating a half-ton truck bomb in the Docklands district in east London. The incident occurred only hours after the British Army sent 500 soldiers to Northern Ireland, boosting its military presence there to 17,000 troops.

No group or individual claimed credit for planting the device, which was found in a sports' equipment bag inside a phone booth along Charing Cross Road near Leicester Square. The bomb, described by police as "small," was believed to be made of Semtex explosive.

When police received the first of two telephone coded warnings at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Londoners and tourists were herded off the streets, shops were closed and office workers were told to stay away from windows as a square-mile area was closed.