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News Briefs I

Russian Economy Weakens as Does Yeltsin's Grip on Presidency

THe Los Angeles Times


President Boris N. Yeltsin, increasingly isolated and under pressure to resign, remained secluded Thursday at his rural estate as the Russian stock market plunged to a record low and government negotiators hammered out a power-sharing agreement designed to reduce his authority.

Longtime Yeltsin supporters said the president is now so politically weakened that he may be unable to survive the collapse of the ruble, the fall of the stock market and the economic chaos that grips the country.

"Yeltsin was never such a weak player as he is these days," said Vyacheslav Nikonov, a former presidential adviser. "Yeltsin is not in public view. It raises the question of who is in charge."

Nikonov and others said part of the proposed power-sharing pact with parliament is an agreement to grant Yeltsin immunity from future legal action against him and to ensure the financial security of his family - measures designed to protect him if he resigns.

The Kremlin denied reports that Yeltsin, tenacious but ailing, would quit. But that did nothing to halt speculation that the 67-year-old president is likely to resign before year's end, prompting new presidential elections early next year.

"It is clear that his physical and mental performance is deteriorating every day," said analyst Andrei Piontkovsky. "My perception is that he is politically finished."

Pakistanis Studying Fallen U.S. Missile for Weapons Secrets

The Washington Post
KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistani scientists and weapons experts are studying components salvaged from an American cruise missile that fell to earth last week in southern Pakistan, security sources said Thursday, expressing optimism that they can unlock technological secrets that will advance Pakistan's missile program.

Officials said experts associated with Pakistan's civilian and military missile programs were inspecting the guidance system, onboard computer and propulsion system of the Tomahawk missile, which was fired Aug. 20 in the U.S. attack on terrorist camps in Afghanistan but fell short of its target.

Some sources indicated that information from the missile might be shared with China, Pakistan's ally, but officials refused to comment on the possibility.

A Pakistani official speaking on condition of anonymity said the find was "a jackpot" that included the satellite's global positioning system and other technological improvements made to Tomahawks since the 1991 Persian Gulf War. "We have missile experts who would most certainly demonstrate a remarkable job of reverse engineering" and develop technological know-how that the Pakistanis currently lack, the official said.

Pakistan reported earlier this week that it had recovered the missile Saturday near Kharan, about 370 miles south of the targeted camps. Pentagon officials have declined to confirm that a missile had landed in Pakistan or to comment on the implications to Pakistan's and China's desire to acquire cruise missiles.

Judge Orders Iran to Pay $65 Million to Hostages, Families

The Washington Post

A federal judge Thursday ordered the government of Iran to pay $65 million in civil damages for its role in kidnapping three Americans who were held hostage in Lebanon by Islamic extremists during the late 1980s.

The ruling by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson was the latest action in a series of civil cases filed in Washington against Iran on behalf of Americans who say they were victims of terrorism. It remains to be seen, however, if Iran will pay the awards. The Iranian government did not take part in the court proceedings.

The former hostages - Joseph J. Cicippio, Frank H. Reed and David P. Jacobsen - were among 18 Americans held in Lebanon between 1982 and 1991. Cicippio was held the longest of the three, shackled for much of 5 1/2 years. Reed was held for three years and eight months. Jacobsen was held 17 months.

The judge awarded $20 million to Cicippio, $16 million to Reed, and $9 million to Jacobsen. He awarded $10 million apiece to Cicippio's wife, Elham Cicippio and Reed's spouse, Fifi Delati-Reed, for anguish during their husbands' captivity.

Nobel Prize Winning Physicist Frederick Reines, 80, Dead

Los Angeles Times

Frederick Reines, a University of California, Irvine professor whose discovery of the subatomic neutrino particle earned him the 1995 Nobel Prize in physics, has died after a long fight against Parkinson's disease.

Reines, 80, died late Wednesday at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif.

"He started a whole new field of physics one of the most exciting fields of physics," said UC Irvine physics professor Hank Sobel.

Martin Perl, who shared the Nobel Prize with Reines, called his colleague "an energetic man with a fresh view of looking at things."

Reines was born in Paterson, N.J. He received bachelor's and master's degrees at Steven Institute of Technology in New Jersey and a doctorate from New York University.

Reines said that the first time he remembered being interested in science "occurred during a moment of boredom at religious school, when, looking out of the window at twilight through a hand curled to simulate a telescope, I noticed something peculiar about the light; it was the phenomenon of diffraction. That began a fascination with light."

He is survived by his wife, Sylvia; a son, Robert G. Reines ; a daughter, Alisa K. Cowden; and six grandchildren.