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News Briefs

Surprise Blizzard Wreaks Havoc on East Coast

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

An unexpected blizzard stunned the eastern United States on Tuesday, snarling traffic and shutting down schools and businesses from South Carolina to Maine. Most federal agencies in the nation’s capital were closed.

Packing winds up to 40 miles per hour, the fast-moving storm disrupted air travel and closed many major airports, including New York’s La Guardia and Washington’s Ronald Reagan National Airport. Flights were canceled up and down the Eastern seaboard and air traffic was snarled over much of the nation.

Amtrak canceled operations south of Washington, including auto-train service to Florida, because of the storm, spokesman Cliff Black said. He said that rail travelers faced delays along the Washington-to-Boston corridor.

At least four people were killed in weather-related traffic accidents in the Carolinas, and a 5-year-old girl was missing and feared dead in Massachusetts after falling into a river while walking to school in heavy snow.

The only political battle at the White House was a snowball fight outside the West Wing between press secretary Joe Lockhart and his aides. Senate testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, usually a much-anticipated event, was canceled.

“We knew it was coming. It just decided to hit us a day earlier (than expected),” said U.S. Weather Service meteorologist Tim Morrin in New York. “It’s an intense winter storm and it’s hitting us with its full potential.”

Pakistan Cannot Be Linked to Hijacking, Clinton Says

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

President Clinton said Tuesday that his administration has no evidence implicating the Pakistani government in last month’s hijacking of an Indian Airlines jet despite the role apparently played by a notorious Kashmiri guerrilla group that has received backing from Islamabad.

“We do not have evidence that the Pakistani government was in any way involved in that hijacking,” Clinton told a White House news conference.

Nevertheless, the administration has called on Pakistan to break its ties to Harkat Moujahedeen, which appears to be linked to the hijacking, officials said. The group’s objective is to drive India out of the disputed region of Kashmir.

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said a U.S. delegation that visited Islamabad last week expressed Washington’s concern about Pakistan’s “general support” for several Kashmiri groups, including Harkat Moujahedeen.

Nevertheless, Rubin and White House spokesman Joe Lockhart read identical statements saying the administration has “no evidence that the government of Pakistan had foreknowledge of, supported or helped carry out the hijacking.”

By exonerating Pakistan of responsibility for the hijacking, the administration ruled out any sort of punishment for the Islamabad regime, at least not unless additional damaging information comes to light. One passenger was killed during the weeklong drama that began Dec. 24.

British See Takeover of Venerable EMI as Another U.S. Inroad

THE WASHINGTON POST -- LONDON

The first Beatles record was probably the most important signing in the long history of EMI Group, the biggest and oldest British record company. The corporate history of EMI -- for Electric and Musical Industries Ltd. -- dates to the cylindrical gramophone records of the 1890s.

Now the last British record label will become one more title on the long roster of companies clustering around America Online Inc., the Internet giant in the Washington suburb of Dulles, Va. In yet another AOL coup, EMI agreed over the weekend to merge its music business with Warner Music Group, the big American record company whose parent, Time Warner Inc., was just acquired by AOL.

The transfer of yet another British corporation to U.S. hands -- just days after Citigroup bought the London investment bank Schroders -- prompted concern here. “U.S. takes over Britain’s last major record label” read the front-page headline in Monday’s Independent newspaper.

There was evidence to support that point of view. The new venture will be called “Warner EMI Music.” Its headquarters will be in New York. The American partner is guaranteed a majority of seats on the board, and Warner Music Group Chairman Roger Ames will run the show.