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News Briefs I

U.S. Jet Fires Missiles At Iraqi Air-Defense Site

The Washington Post

For the second time in three days, a U.S. F-16 jet fighter fired a missile at an Iraqi air defense site Monday after the site's radar appeared to be targeting the jet, the Pentagon said.

Reacting cautiously, Defense Secretary William J. Perry expressed some uncertainty about whether the jet really was threatened, acknowledging the possibility its detection equipment may have given a false reading. The Pentagon has been unable to substantiate a Saturday report by another F-16 pilot that radar from an Iraqi anti-aircraft battery had tracked his plane, prompting him to shoot a missile as well.

The Iraqi government has insisted its gunners have not been aiming at U.S. aircraft, which are enforcing a five-year-old ban on Iraqi military flights over southern Iraq. Baghdad's Foreign Ministry issued a statement yesterday labeling the U.S. reports of threatening action "baseless" and accusing the U.S. government of fabricating the accounts as "a means of election propaganda, American style."

Perry said he had no word yet on the damage, if any, caused by the U.S. missiles fired Saturday and Monday, adding that both episodes remain under investigation.

California Judge Lets Fraud Suit Against Tobacco Firms Go Forward

Los Angeles Times

A Superior Court judge in California has permitted a massive fraud suit against the major tobacco companies and the Council for Tobacco Research to go forward.

Judge Robert E. May late last week rejected arguments from the defendants that the case should be thrown out of court. However, the case is not expected to go to trial until early 1998.

"This was a big win," said Patrick J. Coughlin, attorney for the plaintiff. "This case could be huge; all we have to do is prove they said one thing and did something else."

The suit alleges that the tobacco industry deceived the public starting as early as 1954 when it announced the creation of an independent research council to investigate the alleged dangers of smoking. The industry also vowed to disclose the council's findings.

The council's creation, made in the wake of media coverage of scientific studies that cigarette tar condensate caused fatal tumors in mice, was announced in advertisements in more than 400 newspapers around the country.

Rumor Mill Spins Out Scenarios Of Yeltsin Heart Surgery

Los Angeles Times

The conspiracy lovers' version holds that Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin's heart surgery has been delayed since September because what he really needs is a transplant and the search is on for a donor.

The pragmatists' assumption is that the bypass operation will be Thursday, the start of a three-day holiday during which Russian financial markets will be closed and invulnerable to the nail-biting that will follow the operation.

The cynics' expectation is that Yeltsin will go under the knife Tuesday, so that even this most closely watched heart operation in history would be overshadowed by the U.S. presidential election.

And the truly paranoid believe the surgery will never happen because the Kremlin leader died weeks ago or because he would be susceptible to sabotage by underpaid health workers.

In the absence of reliable information about when and how the leader of this nuclear-armed country will be operated on, wild stories and speculation about his date with destiny are rife throughout Russia.

Knee-jerk secrecy has taken over in the Kremlin as final preparations for the operation are under way. Despite a decade having passed since former Kremlin leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev inaugurated "glasnost," a policy of more openness with the people, no one in the know will discuss the president's operation.