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News Briefs I

Congressional Tobacco Ally Subpoenas Documents

The Washington Post

One of the tobacco industry's longtime supporters in Congress Thursday issued subpoenas to force balky cigarette makers to release a cache of sensitive internal company documents.

"I'm going to make sure these documents see the light of day," Rep. Thomas J. Bliley, R-Va., said in a statement. "Congress must have these documents to do its job." He gave the industry until noon Friday to comply with the request for the documents.

The confrontation between Bliley and the companies dramatically underscores the rising tensions between the beleaguered industry and lawmakers, who will consider national tobacco legislation in the spring that could impose strong new regulations on the industry while protecting it against many lawsuits.

Bliley's seeming turnaround mystifies many observers on Capitol Hill and leaves others skeptical. Philip Morris is a potent force in Bliley's district, and the company's Richmond plant employs about 5,000 of his constituents. According to the campaign finance lobbying group Common Cause, Bliley has received more tobacco campaign contributions than any other House member - more than $133,000 since 1987.

Winnie Mandela Apologizes But Maintains Innocence

Los Angeles TImes

In a grudging yet stunning 11th-hour admission, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told a hushed auditorium here Thursday that "things went horribly wrong" on her watch in the anti-apartheid struggle of the late 1980s, but she denied involvement in any criminal activities.

"I am saying it is true, things went horribly wrong. I fully agree with that," Madikizela-Mandela said in the final session of a nine-day hearing into the "Mandela United Football Club," a group of troubled men and boys based in her Soweto home. "And for that part of those painful years, when things went horribly wrong - and we were aware of the fact that there were factors that led to that - for that, I am deeply sorry."

Departing from a carefully scripted day of testimony, Mandela also issued apologies to the families of Stompie Seipei and Dr. Abu-Baker Asvat, a teen-age activist and a Soweto physician murdered in 1989.

Madikizela-Mandela was convicted in 1991 in the kidnapping of Seipei and was implicated in both killings by witnesses appearing the past two weeks before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a government panel delving into apartheid-era crimes.

The surprise overtures by Madikizela-Mandela came after a grueling - and sometimes testy - day of questioning, in which the former wife of President Nelson Mandela methodically denied allegations of murder, torture and other crimes. The commission called the hearings, opened to the public upon her insistence, to look into 18 alleged human rights violations involving the notorious soccer club.

Thurmond Plans to Step Down As Armed Services Chairman

The Washington Post

Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., announced Thursday on the eve of his 95th birthday - that he will step down as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee at the end of next year.

But Thurmond, already the oldest and longest-serving senator in history, said he intends to remain in the Senate for the rest of his term, which lasts until January 2003, and to continue as a member of the committee, where he has served for nearly 40 years.

As the Senate's senior Republican, he also will keep the post of its president pro tempore, which puts him third in line for succession to the presidency behind the vice president and House speaker.

Thurmond, who was first elected to the Senate in 1954, has said he will not seek another term.

While the decision on the chairmanship was not made "easily or lightly," Thurmond said in a statement, "I think the time has come for me to turn the reins of the committee over to the next generation of leadership, and I have decided that this next year is the natural time for me to relinquish the chairmanship."