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In Northeast, Winter Takes a Holiday

It was a day for the beach, biking, and bare legs. Wait, isn’t it January, the time of year when most New Englanders are chafing at the cold and wondering whether the sun will ever shine again?

Not this week.

A sudden contrast to the Siberian cold of late, Tuesday was like a free vacation for the winter-weary; a 78-year-old weather record was smashed in Boston. The temperature reached 67 degrees, shattering the previous record of 64 set in 1930. It was warmer in Boston Tuesday than it was in Phoenix and San Diego.

Lunch crowds on downtown Boston streets dined outside, shorts-clad runners jogged along the Esplanade, and sunglasses took precedence over winter coats. Like giddy, newly freed prisoners, throngs emerged from January hibernation and flocked to neighborhood parks and outdoor cafes to feel the sun on their faces and breathe fresh air.

Congressional Hearing Pits Teammate Versus Teammate

Roger Clemens’ plan to testify before a congressional committee next week portends a scene made for the rolling television cameras: a longtime friend and former teammate, Andy Pettitte, being asked questions regarding Clemens’ possible use of steroids with Clemens sitting beside him.

The 41-member House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has called hearings for Jan. 15 and 16 regarding baseball’s involvement with performance-enhancing drugs and the report on players’ drug use released last month by George J. Mitchell.

The first day will feature testimony from Commissioner Bud Selig, the union president Don Fehr and Mitchell. The second will focus on five others: three former Yankees players and teammates (Clemens, Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch), and two men identified in Mitchell’s report as steroid suppliers to players (Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski).

Mideast Leaders Agree to Core Talks

The Israeli and Palestinian leaders authorized the start of negotiations on the delicate core issues of the conflict between them at a meeting here Tuesday, officials for both said.

They acted a day before President Bush was scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem, with Israel and the Palestinians keen to show progress after the U.S.-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Md., in November.

Earlier Tuesday, two Katyusha rockets were fired from Lebanon into northern Israel, causing slight damage to property but no casualties, Israeli army and police officials said. Israeli politicians described the attack as an attempt by militants to raise tensions at the border before the Bush visit. It was second time that Katyusha rockets had been fired from Lebanon since the war between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia in the summer of 2006.

No group claimed responsibility for the rockets, and a Lebanese army spokesman denied that any had been fired, Agence France-Presse reported.

The prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, met for two hours, first with their top negotiators and aides present, then alone.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Olmert, said, “Both leaders agreed to authorize their negotiating teams,” led by the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, and the former Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, “to conduct direct and ongoing negotiations on all the core issues” for a final status agreement.