News In Brief

THE US

White House Chief of Staff Panetta said accusations of government wrongdoing in the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidians are jeopardizing efforts to give police more power to crack down on terrorists. Critics accuse government agents of overstepping their authority at Waco and in other cases. The attorney for Timothy McVeigh, one of the suspects in the Oklahoma City bombing case, may try to delay the final destruction of the federal building, Newsweek magazine said. Federal agents were investigating whether an explosion at the home of a business associate of McVeigh was a trial run for the April 19 blast.

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Senator Dodd, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, suggested that both administration and GOP tax-cut proposals be abandoned to make it easier to balance the budget. House Budget Committee chairman Kasich snubbed the offer, saying Democrats have become irrelevant to the debate. White House Chief of Staff Panetta told NBC that Republicans aren't speaking with one voice on taxes. He noted that the House plan calls for a $350 billion tax cut over seven years, while the Senate version includes no tax cut. The House and Senate are to begin debate in the next two weeks on proposals to bring the budget into balance by 2002.

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A Progressive Foundation report said US farm policy is ''anachronistic, inefficient, intrusive, and unfair.'' It called for ending federal crop subsidies, acreage idling, export subsidies, and import quotas in favor of a revenue safety net for farmers. Agriculture Secretary Glickman told graduates at Illinois State University, however, that farm programs keep the food supply safe, affordable, and abundant. Because of these programs, people in the US pay less per capita for food than in any other country, he said.

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Senator Gramm renewed his threat to filibuster a vote on the nomination of Dr. Henry Foster for surgeon general, but Senator Packwood predicted the delaying tactic would fail. Foster appears to be close to the 51 votes needed for confirmation, but getting 60 votes to end a filibuster would be a more-difficult hurdle.

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Congress is set to consider legislation that would force doctors to test all newborns for AIDS and tell mothers the results. The administration and AIDS activists say the mandatory tests would come too late to prevent babies from being infected. The federal government has tested all newborns for HIV since 1988 but has never told the mothers the results since 80 percent of babies born to HIV-infected mothers never develop AIDS.

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Immigration officials were holding 23 Cubans seized on a boat in the Florida Straits. A Coast Guard spokesman said two Cuban-Americans were also taken from the boat and were being investigated for possible smuggling. A poll in the Miami Herald showed that a majority of the Cuban community in the Miami area still favor the old US policy -- blanket admission of Cubans as legal residents. But at least 30 percent agree with the new policy of repatriating rafters.

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The Supreme Court made it easier for prosecutors to fight off accusations that they excluded potential jurors from criminal trials because of race. The justices reinstated a Missouri man's robbery conviction by reversing a ruling that said two potential jurors were wrongly excluded from his trial. The high court also ruled that cities can't use zoning laws aimed at creating single-family neighborhoods to exclude group homes for the disabled.

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Myrlie Evers-Williams was sworn in as new executive director of the NAACP. NAACP members said they hope Evers-Williams will usher in a new spirit for an organization troubled by financial problems and internal divisions. Evers-Williams succeeds Benjamin Chavis, who was fired for using organization money to settle an employee's threatened sexual-harassment suit against him.

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Former breast-implant manufacturer Dow Corning Corporation filed for bankruptcy protection. The company said it was filing because of mounting costs from implant lawsuits.

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The Oregon Public Employees Union ended a seven-day strike after the state indicated a willingness to compromise on contract negotiations, union leaders said.

THE WORLD

Capping an eight-week probe, police moved yesterday to obtain arrest warrants on murder charges for Shoko Asahara and 20 members of his Aum Shinri Kyo sect suspected in the nerve-gas attack on Tokyo's subway March 20. Police have tightened security because of fears that sect members may retaliate.

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Buoyed by success of his economic program, Argentine President Menem won a new four-year term yesterday. With two-thirds of ballots counted, Menem won 49 percent versus 31 percent for Jose Bordon of the center-left Frepaso coalition. The centrist Radical Civic Union was third.

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Some of the most vicious fighting in more than three years gripped northern Bosnia yesterday around a Serb supply corridor. UN officials warned that food was getting scarce in Sarajevo. Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal prosecutors were expected to ask to begin a genocide case against Bosnian Serb leaders.

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Seven Israeli soldiers were wounded yesterday in a roadside bomb attack by Muslim guerrillas in south Lebanon. Syria's foreign minister was in Washington for meetings; US officials hope the sessions will spark further peace talks between Israel and Syria. Palestinian negotiators arrived in Cairo for talks with Israel.

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On the nuclear front, North Korea accepted a US proposal to hold high-level talks in Kuala Lumpur starting Friday. The talks were called to break the deadlock over North Korea's refusal to accept South Korean-made reactors, promised under a deal aimed at dismantling Pyongyang's suspect nuclear program. China conducted an underground nuclear test yesterday, days after more than 170 nations agreed to extend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Japan warned that bilateral ties could be harmed by China's action. The Clinton administration will continue pressing China and Russia to withhold nuclear technology from Iran.

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Fighting between Tamil rebels and government troops in northeastern Sri Lanka has killed at least 39 people. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are fighting for a homeland in the north and east to escape what they call discrimination by the Sinhalese. More than 34,000 people have been killed since 1983.

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Protesters torched 43 buildings in the Kashmir Valley and hurled rocks at police yesterday, as Indian officials began easing a curfew after last week's destruction of a Muslim mosque. Indian opposition parties pilloried Prime Minister Rao and threatened a no-confidence vote over the government's Kashmir policy. Rao will seek a constitutional amendment to extend direct rule over Kashmir if election plans fail.

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Deaths of at least 60 people have been attributed to the Ebola virus in southwestern Zaire. The Sudanese government ordered border officials to put travelers from Zaire under quarantine to ensure that the virus does not enter Sudan.

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The centrist Free Democrats, for decades the kingmaker in German politics, were voted out of parliament in two state elections, making the environmentalist Greens an increasingly potent force.

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Ministers from 27 European nations met yesterday to beef up Europe's capacity to handle security crises. With the Soviet threat gone, the nations are looking to upgrade the Western European Union alliance so they can tackle dangers without US help through NATO.

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Third-world birth-control programs should be expanded to teach men as well as women the risk of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, according to a new report from Population Action International.

ETCETERA

No government in the world has ever done as much to get a country moving as we did. We already have pulverized hyperinflation, and now we will pulverize unemployment.''

Argentine President Menem as he claimed victory in his election bid for a second term

The Himalaya region of Tibet is the world's most unpolluted region, according to Chinese scientists. The ecology in Tibet is in a virtually primitive state, they say. Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, enjoys the world's freshest air, the scientists say. Tibet is one of the poorest regions of China, with most of its people living off farming.

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Israel's first census in 12 years could wind up as more of an educated guess if hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews follow sages' advice and refuse to be counted. Moshe Gafni, a lawmaker from the religious Torah Jewry party, says Jewish tradition forbids the explicit counting of Jews. The census is scheduled for November. The penalty for refusing a census-taker is up to a year in prison.

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French businessman and politician Bernard Tapie, his high-flying career already in ruins, was sentenced to a year in prison for trying to rig a match involving his former soccer team, Olympique Marseille. Lawyers for Tapie, one of France's best-known men, have until May 26 to appeal.

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US travel agents say Florida's Disney World is the spot most Americans want to travel to for a summer vacation. Next comes Las Vegas, followed by New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. That's quite a turnaround for California over last year, when wildfires, storms, and an earthquake kept tourists away.

Weekly Top Video Rentals

1. ''Forrest Gump,'' (Paramount)

2. ''The Shawshank Redemption,'' (Columbia TriStar)

3. ''Quiz Show,'' (Hollywood)

4. ''The Specialist,'' (Warner)

5. ''Stargate,'' (Live)

6. ''The River Wild,'' (MCA-Universal)

7. ''Terminal Velocity,'' (Hollywood)

8. ''Only You,'' (Columbia TriStar)

9. ''Hoop Dreams,'' (New Line)

10. ''Ed Wood,'' (Touchstone)

Billboard Publications Inc.

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