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NEWS CAPSULES

Around the world

N-TESTS: Australia will pay Aborigines $10 million for damage to their land by British nuclear testing, the government said. The agreement reached today capped a decade of negotiations over compensation for above-ground atomic test blasts on the vast Maralinga lands in the 1950s and '60s, under the direction of British scientists. The testing was kept secret until the early 1980s.FLOODING: The worst floods in three decades in Vietnam's main rice growing area have killed 407 people, mostly children, a newspaper reported today. The floods in Vietnam's Mekong River region also have destroyed $208 million worth of crops and property since June, the Tuoi Tre newspaper said.

IRELAND: The IRA has signaled that the future of its hidden weapons caches will be subject to negotiation with the British. But the movement's political allies said today that British security forces' arms would also be up for discussion. "We're prepared, perfectly prepared, to discuss the issue of the amount of weapons that are in circulation in Ireland, both legal and illegal," Mitchel McLaughlin, a spokesman for Sinn Fein, said.

Across the nation

THEFTS: A locksmith stopped at more than 100 hotels along interstate highways, made master keys and then swiped property from her fellow guests, police in Orlando, Fla., say. Robin Podniestrzanski has been arrested at least twice recently, but posted bail both times and disappeared. She is suspected in thefts in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

WOLVES: Alaska suspended its wolf-control program after a TV station showed a snared wolf being shot five times before it died and another that chewed off part of its leg in a futile attempt to escape. Nearly 700 snare traps will be removed from a 1,000-square-mile area in the Alaska Range south of Fairbanks, state Fish and Game Commissioner Carl Rosier said.

SENTENCING: David Paul, convicted of looting the savings and loan he headed before its $1.7 billion collapse, took it in stride as a judge sentenced him to 11 years in prison. The erstwhile millionaire was nonchalant as the judge issued the sentence in Miami for 97 counts of racketeering, fraud and other crimes involving CenTrust Bank, once the biggest S&L in the Southeast with $10 billion in assets.

PHOTOS: A New York judge found journalistic grounds for publishing topless photographs of the woman who accused President Clinton of sexual harassment, allowing Penthouse magazine to resume distributing its January issue. Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Peter K. Leisure ordered the magazine not to distribute or promote the article while he considered a $30 million lawsuit filed by Paula Jones, the subject of the photos. Jones said the photographs were taken in 1987 by a former boyfriend, Mike Turner, and were intended for his eyes only.

RECALL: The death of a toddler who unzipped a beanbag chair and suffocated inside it has led to the recall of 2.5 million chairs. Baseline Design said Thursday that the recall affects foam-filled chairs sold nationwide in the last four years. Baseline is a division of Crain Industries of Fort Smith, Ark.

In Washington

KOREA: North Korea so far is living up to its promise to freeze its nuclear program, a senior Clinton administration official says. Robert Gallucci, the chief U.S. negotiator in nuclear talks with North Korea, was responding to Senate critics of an agreement that allows the communist Pyongyang government to bar inspections of some of its nuclear waste sites, and concerns that it might amount to "nuclear blackmail."

In other news

AN ARIANE rocket carrying an American telecommunications satellite crashed into the sea shortly after takeoff from French Guiana in South America Thursday. . . . BULGARIAN police have seized 16 tons of narcotic substances produced in the country and intended for processing in foreign laboratories. . . . BEIJING authorities arrested 51 people on charges they killed 16 endangered Asian elephants over the past year and a half to obtain ivory tusks for export.