News In Brief

THE US

Authorities were investigating whether James Nichols sold thousands of dollars in crops to finance the Oklahoma City bombing. Suspect Timothy McVeigh's attorney will seek a 30-day delay in the demolition of the building where the bombing occurred so he may inspect the site. Taxpayers will pay $125 per hour plus expenses for public defenders for McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

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Construction starts on new housing rose 0.4 percent in April after three months of declines as milder weather and lower mortgage rates pumped life into the housing market. But, led by a steep drop in auto production, industrial output fell 0.4 percent to its lowest level in nine months, recording back-to-back declines for the first time in more than three years.

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A production decline is expected to reduce feed-grain supplies by 7 percent this year. While carrying stocks will be higher, feed-grain production is projected to be 14 percent below last year's record. This is because wet weather caused fewer acres to be planted.

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In legislative action, the House voted May 16 to kill a presidentially appointed national commission on education standards. A bill before a Senate subcommittee would cut congressional pensions by one-third or more, bringing them in line with pensions received by other federal workers.

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Millions of Americans pay more for groceries and have fewer choices among fresh and packaged foods because large supermarkets have vacated many inner-city areas, the University of Connecticut and the Washington-based Public Voice for Food and Health Policy reported. The city of Boston was the exception.

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President Clinton's popularity is at its highest level in more than a year, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed. Fifty-six percent surveyed approve of the job he is doing, especially his handling of the Oklahoma bombing. Respondents said they trusted Clinton and congressional Republicans equally to handle the nation's problems. The poll also said a majority oppose proposed budget plans by congressional Republicans and support surgeon-general nominee Dr. Henry Foster.

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Thousands of Georgians were still without electricity May 16 after thunderstorms moved from northwest Georgia to the coast. One person died, and at least seven were injured. Severe thunderstorms swept all the way to the plains states, while tornadoes touched down in Charleston, S.C., in northwest Mississippi, in the Texas panhandle, and across central Colorado and southwest Kansas.

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Four Vietnam veteran brothers are suing former Defense Secretary McNamara. They say his book calling the Vietnam War a mistake has brought emotional distress to millions who served. Rick Bolanos of Texas and his brothers seek $100 million and an injunction that would prohibit McNamara from reaping benefits from his book. Vietnam, meanwhile, gave US officials new reports that may offer more clues on missing US servicemen.

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At the O.J. Simpson trial, DNA expert Dr. Robin Cotton calculated that there was a 1-in-170 million chance anyone other than Simpson could have left the blood found near the bodies of his ex-wife and her friend. In cross-examination May 16, Cotton testified that some data used for comparisons included tests on only two other black people and that her lab had made false genetic matches in the past.

THE WORLD

Thousands of chemical-warfare and regular troops were put on alert throughout Japan May 16 after police arrested Shoko Asahara, leader of the doomsday sect accused in the March 20 Tokyo subway nerve-gas attack. Hours after the arrest, a parcel bomb exploded at Tokyo City Hall, injuring several people. There was no indication that the parcel bomb was related to the cult, however. Police said they would charge the guru with murder and attempted murder.

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Heavy fighting swept Sarajevo May 16 after Muslim-led government forces lobbed four mortar rounds into a Bosnian Serb barracks and attacked Serb-held roads around the besieged city. A 12-year-old girl was killed and her 17-year-old brother was seriously wounded. UN officials reported fierce fighting in at least five areas of Sarajevo. Defense leaders of Macedonia and the US, meanwhile, discussed security of former Yugoslavia and the possibility of increasing UN forces if peacekeeping in Bosnia collapses.

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The US may have to consider using its veto for the first time in five years to block a Security Council resolution calling on Israel to rescind plans to expropriate Arab land in East Jerusalem, council sources said. A council debate on the issue was to resume May 16, but no vote was expected before May 17. Seven Palestinian groups, for and against the peace process, demonstrated in Gaza May 16 against Israel's plans to seize the land.

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The Clinton administration threatened to punish Japan by imposing punitive tariffs on $5.9 billion worth of Japanese luxury auto imports if agreement is not reached on expanding sales for US auto companies. The proposed 100 percent tariffs, which would double the price of the Japanese vehicles, were aimed at 13 Japanese car models, ranging in price from $25,000 to more than $50,000. The final list of products will not take effect until June 28, after a public comment period. Japan will appeal immediately to the World Trade Organization with regard to the sanctions, a senior Japanese trade official said.

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Mexican government envoys and Maya Indian rebels hailed their first agreement to ease tensions in Chiapas with a plan for the Army to pull back from part of the southern state. In a joint communique, the two opponents said they reached a ''minimum agreement'' during peace talks. Government negotiators said the agreement marked the first step toward turning a guerrilla army into civilian opponents.

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Forty-five Chinese intellectuals and activists petitioned the government to release political prisoners and reevaluate its condemnation of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement. It said the government should reevaluate its decision to label the unarmed protests an antigovernment riot and let go those still imprisoned for their roles in the demonstrations. The appeal also called for the release of all those in jail for their opinions, ideology, or beliefs.

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Conservative French President Chirac was to take power May 16. He was expected to appoint pro-European liberal Gaullist Alain Juppe to head a ''tighter, younger, more-feminine'' government. Chirac will make his first foray into foreign diplomacy as president at a meeting May 18 with German Chancellor Kohl. During the election campaign, Chirac stressed his interest in giving a new impetus to French-German relations. Amnesty International, meanwhile, said a pattern of police brutality against foreigners and minorities is emerging in Germany, and procedures for investigating complaints by victims are inadequate.

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An overloaded ferry near Manila caught fire at sea May 16. At least 39 people were reported killed.

ETCETERA

The principle is clear and precise.... Peace and confiscation are parallel lines that never meet.''

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Israel's decision to seize land in East Jerusalem

For centuries, there were two kinds of birth certificates in Haiti -- one for peasants and another for everyone else. On May 15, President Aristide changed that with the stroke of a pen. In an executive order, Aristide banned the word ''peasant'' -- and all references to class origin -- from birth certificates.

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Hold the cheese on that Big Mac. In July, McDonald's will open its first kosher restaurant, in Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv in Israel. The restaurant will adhere to Jewish dietary laws banning the mixing of dairy and meat products. Burger King already has a kosher branch, in Jerusalem.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar capped his hoop career with induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Also enshrined were female stars Cheryl Miller and Anne Donovan, referee Earl Strom, Soviet coach Alexander Gomelsky, and Minneapolis Lakers coach John Kundla and forward Vern Mikkelsen.

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More than 20,000 panda lovers have responded to a call from the Shanghai Zoo to suggest names for its newest addition, a 10-month-old female panda now nicknamed Mao Mao. The giant panda is native to China, where about 1,000 survive in the wild. Only about 10 cubs are born in captivity annually.

Top-Grossing Films In the US, May 12-14

(Preliminary figures)

1. ''Crimson Tide,'' $18.8 million

2. ''French Kiss,'' $6.3 million

3. ''While You Were Sleeping,'' $6.1 million

4. ''Friday,'' $2.7 million

5. ''The Englishman Who Went Up the Hill But Came Down a Mountain,'' $2.6 million

6. ''Bad Boys,'' $2 million

7. ''My Family, Mi Familia,'' $1.6 million

8. ''Gordy'' $1.5 million

9. ''A Goofy Movie,'' $1.2 million

10. ''Rob Roy,'' $1.1 million

Associated Press

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