February 9 1998


February 9 1998



Sonia Gandhi, the Italianborn widow of slain former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, waves to supporters in north India. Her recent emergence to campaign in national elections has galvanized the beleaguered Congress party, which dominated India under her husband, his mother, Indira Gandhi, and his grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru. Although Sonia, 51, has declined to run for a seat, her frequent speeches—in halting Hindi and English with a heavy Italian accent— draw huge turnouts in a nation still dazzled by the Gandhi name. Opponents attack her as a “foreigner” (she is a citizen) but Congress workers call her “one of us.” Rajiv was killed in 1991 by a Sri Lankan Tamil suicide bomber.

Turmoil seething at Japan Inc.

One of the guiding lights of the global economy was in deep disarray last week. Japan’s finance ministry was once feted for engineering the highly successful government-business monolith known as Japan Inc. But since the world’s second-biggest economy sank into stagnation in the 1990s, the powerful ministry’s close connections with business have come under fire, and its strict austerity policies have been blamed for worsening the recession. Last week, Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka was forced to resign to take responsibility for a scandal involving business payoffs to top members of the bureaucracy. But his replacement did little to bolster hopes

that Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto would deal more firmly with the country’s economic woes and with the financial crisis gripping Asia. The appointment of Hikaru Matsunaga, a former trade and education minister who began his career as a prosecutor, seemed aimed at the legal side of the ministry’s cleanup, and the Tokyo stock market fell after he was named.

There was better news for neighboring South Korea. Foreign banks agreed in New York City to refinance $35 billion of the country’s short-term debt. The deal was seen as a turning point in Seoul’s efforts to stave off bankruptcy, and may become a model for deeply troubled Indonesia.

Russia's last czar is ready for final burial

Nine badly charred skeletons exhumed from an unmarked pit in the Ural Mountains in 1991 are the remains of Russia’s last czar, Nicholas II, and his family and entourage, according to a high-level commission. It said DNA and other tests proved that the remains belonged to the czar, his wife, three daughters, a doctor and three servants, who were murdered by Bolshevik revolutionaries on July 17, 1918. The corpses of two other children were burned to ash at the site, scientists said; fabled daughter Anastasia was among those killed. The commission said the remains should be interred alongside other members of the Romanov dynasty in St. Petersburg.


British Prime Minister Tony Blair launched a new inquiry into Northern Ireland’s “Bloody Sunday” massacre of 1972, when British soldiers killed 13 Catholic demonstrators in Londonderry. Blair’s decision was expected to buoy the Northern Ireland peace process, which has been badly undermined by sectarian murders of nine people since Dec. 27. Showing support for peace last week, thousands of Protestants and Catholics rallied in towns across Northern Ireland.


A powerful bomb exploded at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala., killing an off-duty police officer who was moonlighting as a security guard and seriously injuring a clinic worker. Policeman Robert Sanderson was the sixth person killed in U.S. abortion clinic violence since 1993. The unsolved blast occurred a week after the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.


After years of denial, four executives of top U.S. tobacco companies admitted under oath that smoking is harmful and nicotine may be addictive. Their admission came in hearings where they urged Congress to approve a $534-billion settlement that would end class-action suits against the industry. Several congressmen had said they would oppose the deal if the executives failed to tell the truth.


Fifty-four years ago, Valdas Adamkus fled to the United States as his native Lithuania was being absorbed into the Soviet Union. Last week, Adamkus, now a 71-year-old American citizen, was elected president. He had been back less than a year, but many voters hoped he would unite the country.


Tamil separatist rebels were blamed for the bombing of Sri Lanka’s most revered Buddhist shrine, in which 16 people died. The attack in the central town of Kandy damaged a temple housing what the faithful believe is a tooth of Buddha. Kandy was to be the site of the Feb. 4 celebration of 50 years of independence for Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon. But after the bombing, authorities moved it to Colombo.