News In Brief

THE US

US mayors, gathered in Miami for the US Conference of Mayors' annual meeting, criticized President Clinton's budget plan, saying it jeopardizes vital community-development money and threatens other federal funding. Congressman Gephardt offered only a lukewarm defense of Clinton's decision to announce his own budget and said House Democrats would continue to focus on opposing the GOP's "extreme agenda." Clinton himself again defended his plan, saying it would avoid "unacceptable pain." In the GOP response, Senator Abraham said the Congressional Budget Office found the plan overly optimistic and would not balance the budget.

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The telecommunications-reform spotlight shifted to the House after the Senate passed a massive bill that would deregulate the cable-TV and telephone industries and further curb smut on TV and the Internet. The House may vote in July on its version of the bill.

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A massive defense bill passed the House. It includes more money for the B-2 bomber and for a nationwide antimissile plan, programs the Pentagon now plays down.

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A group of supporters met in Washington to plot a strategy for boosting a presidential candidacy by retired Gen. Colin Powell.Governor Wilson of California said he will announce his presidential candidacy Thursday on the Larry King Live show. Presidential hopeful Lamar Alexander is to launch 60-second TV spot ads in Iowa and New Hampshire today. Ross Perot said he is not ruling out running again in 1996.

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House Republicans who oppose abortion began what they promise will be a summer-long war on abortion rights. Abortions would be banned in overseas US military hospitals under a provision included in the defense bill passed by the House. A House Judiciary subcommittee began debate on a bill that would ban "partial birth" abortions, performed in the second and third trimester.

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Senior Pentagon officials want to resume underground testing of small-scale nuclear bombs, the Los Angeles Times said, following a report in this paper. Officials argue the tests are needed to assess the reliability of current arsenals. The proposal has shocked arms-control experts and angered some top-level administration members. President Clinton recently decided to maintain a moratorium on nuclear-weapons testing.

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House Speaker Gingrich dismissed as a "political gimmick" Clinton's proposal for a bipartisan commission on campaign and lobbying reform. He said he wants the US to designate English as its official primary language. And he said the odds he will run for president have gone from 1 in 10 to 1 in 20.

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Militias across the US have grown since the Oklahoma City bombing, despite the apparent link between bombing suspects and such groups, a report by the Anti-Defamation League said. The report said there are 15,000 militia members in at least 40 states. It identified 35 new militia units in California alone. There are no militia groups in Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Vermont, the report said.

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When the American Medical Association convenes today in Chicago, it will inaugurate the first black president in its 148-year history, Dr. Lonnie Bristow of California.

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Microsoft Corp., beset by battles with government regulators, won a legal victory Friday. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled a lower court judge should not have rejected an antitrust settlement between the Justice Department and Microsoft, the world's largest personal-computer software company. The court also disqualified US District Judge Stanley Sporkin, saying he exceeded his authority.

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About 6 in 10 Americans say they believe they will have to work during retirement to live the way they want, according to a survey conducted by Kemper Financial and Roper-Starch Worldwide.

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Richard Rubin, a former glove company executive testifying in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, said a pair of bloody gloves Simpson labored to put on in front the jury the day before may have shrunk 15 percent and should have fit Simpson when they were purchased.

The WORLD

Chechen rebels holding more than 1,000 hostages in southern Russia began releasing their captives yesterday after the Russian government agreed to halt combat operations in Chechnya. The first 100 hostages left a hospital where they were being held and were taken to nearby clinics. Russian officials said another group of women and children was to be freed later in the day. Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and rebel commander Shamil Basayev worked out the deal by telephone yesterday.

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A Bosnian Serb leader said the last 26 UN peacekeepers held by Bosnian Serbs were set free yesterday. A deputy to Serb leader Karadzic said the peacekeepers were released after four Serbs detained by the UN in Sarajevo were handed over to the rebels. The UN did not immediately confirm the release of the four Serbs. Nine civilians were killed and at least 14 wounded yesterday when a shell slammed into a group of people getting water at a school in a Sarajevo suburb, the Bosnian government army said.

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The leaders at the Group of Seven summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which ended Saturday, condemned both sides in Russia's war in Chechnya. They lauded Russian President Yeltsin for pursuing political and economic reforms, and they renewed calls for a cease-fire in Bosnia. They said all countries were urged "to avoid any collaboration with Iran which might contribute to the acquisition of a nuclear-weapons capability." They also supported speedy approval of a nuclear test ban. French President Chirac, however, said he won't reverse his decision to resume nuclear tests in the South Pacific. Spurred by the Tokyo subway attack and the Oklahoma City bombing, the leaders vowed to intensify the battle against "all forms of terrorism" and crime.

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The French began choosing mayors and city counselors yesterday in municipal runoff votes that could give the extreme-right National Front its first town halls. Both the governing right and the left have called on voters to block the far right from winning control of up to a half-dozen town halls where it scored well in the June 11 first round.

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British Prime Minister Major returned from the G-7 summit to find his fractious Conservative Party more openly rebellious than ever, heightening speculation about whether he can cling to power. The party's "Eurosceptic" faction is unhappy about Major's policies on the EU and plans for a single European currency. A Cabinet minister joined the ranks of those who would replace him. To save the party and himself, the Sunday Times advised Major to hold the party's annual leadership election next month rather than in November.

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The last of the most-wanted leaders imprisoned for their roles in China's 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising completed his six-year sentence yesterday. Liu Gang has become known internationally for his smuggled reports of beatings, forced labor, and solitary confinement of political prisoners. The US, meanwhile, proposed sending a senior envoy to Beijing for fence-mending talks with China. China, which says relations withe the US are in a "danger zone," has not replied to the offer.

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The two rival Koreas reached tentative agreement yesterday on the South sending 150,000 tons of free rice to the North. South Korea may begin shipments as early as this week. Meetings in Beijing between the two came days after North Korea signed an accord with the US to stop the North's nuclear program.

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Nicaraguan President Chamorro ended a four-month battle with lawmakers, agreeing to a constitution that would curb her powers and strengthen the National Assembly.

ETCETERA

The US side can never shed its historical responsibility for leading astray the Sino-US relationship."

- A front-page editorial in the People's Daily, China's most influential paper

An idea ridiculed for three decades by much of the German establishment came true over the weekend when conceptual artist Christo began the laborious process of wrapping the Reichstag in silver reflective fabric. The process will take a week. The finished "artwork" - The Wrapped Reichstag - will remain 10 more days.

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What were once Vietnamese prison islands may soon become a tourist resort. A South Korean company reportedly signed an agreement with Vietnam's Baria-vung Tau province to build a $290 million complex in the Con Dao Islands.

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The Man of Steel is mightier than the Caped Crusader - at least on the auction block. A June 1938 comic book featuring the first appearance of Superman sold for $75,100 at Sotheby's in New York. The first Batman comic, from May 1939, sold for $68,500.

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Make room for one more radio talk host. Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo will go on the air next week on about 20 stations across the US.

Top 10 Video Rentals

1. "The Shawshank Redemption," (Columbia TriStar)

2. "Forrest Gump," (Paramount)

3. "The Professional," (Columbia TriStar)

4. "Legends of the Fall," (Columbia TriStar)

5. "Quiz Show," (Hollywood)

6. "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," (Columbia TriStar)

7. "Richie Rich," (Warner)

8. "Speechless," (MGM-UA)

9. "The Jungle Book," (Disney)

10. "Bullets Over Broadway," (Miramax)

- Billboard Publications Inc.

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