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News Briefs I

Presidential Maybe' Dole Speaks

Los Angeles Times

Elizabeth Hanford Dole brought her question-mark candidacy to New Hampshire Monday night, using her first political outing to offer a critique of the country's climate, but no clue about her personal plans.

In a broadly thematic speech to a Chamber of Commerce audience, the possible presidential hopeful called for lower taxes, better schools, a redoubled effort to fight drugs and a stronger national defense but offered few specifics or much else to differentiate herself from a crowded GOP field.

Her most pointed comments were aimed at President Clinton. "At a time when the presidency has been tarnished, when words have been devalued and institutions have squandered respect, our confidence in our leaders is shaky," Dole said. "But we can rebuild it."

Dole's banquet appearance before a sell-out crowd of 1,200 guests was officially billed as a non-partisan, non-political event. The invitation was extended by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce several months ago, when Dole was still head of the national Red Cross.

In Dole's case, given her exploratory efforts and position near the top of opinion polls, the speculation proved almost more than traffic could bear. Representatives of more than 40 news organizations, including television crews from as far away as Germany and Japan, jammed a concrete exhibition hall for a vaguely worded address aides touted forget what the Chamber said as Dole's "first major political speech."

MCI WorldCom Wins Contract

The Washington Post

MCI WorldCom Inc. Monday won a Department of Defense contract to provide telecommunications services to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) over a seven-year period.

The agreement, which could be worth up to $1.5 billion to the telecommunications company, comes just one month after it won a key contract to provide long-distance and data services to the federal government its largest contract since the company was formed by a merger in September.

AT&T Corp., Qwest Communications International Inc. and Sprint Corp. also bid for the exchange services contract, which is currently held by AT&T. The new contract takes effect March 2 and includes a three-year option.

Under the exchange contract MCI WorldCom will provide a "whole basket of telecommunications services," said Jerry Edgerton, senior vice president of government markets for the company. This includes installing more than 16,000 pay phones at Army and Air Force bases worldwide. The company also will sell its prepaid calling cards in commissaries and exchange stores and provide residential Internet and telephone services to the bases.

Gridlock Faces Berlin's Schroeder

The Washington Post

With his government suddenly stripped of its majority in parliament's upper house, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder faces the prospect that his legislative program may be paralyzed by the same kind of political gridlock that undermined his predecessor, Helmut Kohl.

On Sunday, less than four months after taking office, Schroeder's ruling Social Democrats and their coalition partners, the Greens, suffered a stunning setback when the opposition Christian Democrats scored an upset victory in elections in the state of Hesse. The outcome tilts the balance of power in the upper house, the Bundesrat, in the opposition's favor and gives a blocking majority on major legislation to the opposition.

During his campaign, Schroeder accused Kohl of allowing Germany to stagnate by failing to enact legislation to address the country's most pressing problems. In his defense, Kohl contended he was stymied by the Social Democrats who held majority veto power in the Bundesrat.