News In Brief

THE US

With Senator Dole almost assured the Republican nomination, Congress and the White House are looking beyond today's "rust belt" primaries to the fall presidential election. And President Clinton is set to reveal his $1.64 trillion budget plan for 1997, which Republicans are expected to reject out of hand. The White House is urging Dole to reject extremists in the Republican Party to avoid a second year of legislative gridlock. Also, Congress could present Clinton with a liability reform bill limiting punitive damages on defective-product cases - a bill he promises to veto as unfair to consumers.

The Justice Department has intensified its investigation of the tobacco industry with five separate grand jury inquiries, The New York Times reports. They are looking into accusations of fraud and perjury against industry executives, and investigating how much companies knew about the risks of nicotine. Indictments are expected soon. Meanwhile, Ian Uydess, a former Philip Morris scientist, says the company was aware of nicotine's nature and manipulated nicotine levels in cigarettes, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Pentagon is reconsidering its longtime opposition to banning anti-personnel land mines. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman John Shalikashvili ordered a review of the policy. The UN has urged a world-wide ban of land mines. Clinton signed a one-year ban on the military's use of such mines, except along borders and in demilitarized zones. The temporary ban is to take place within the next three years.

The Supreme Court agreed to review a case that challenges the required 15-foot buffer zone for anti-abortion demonstrations as a violation of demonstrators' free-speech rights. A decision is expected in 1997 and could provide new guidelines for anti- abortion demonstrations nationwide. The court also rejected Arkansas's attempt to deny Medicaid-funded abortions for women impregnated by rape or incest. The court will clarify a key rule determining which of the nation's 500,000 small businesses are covered by a federal law banning on-the-job discrimination.

Twenty-one states are under court supervision for failing to provide decent foster care. Still, Republicans want to turn the $4 billion a year the government gives states for child-protection services into block grants, saying it would provide states with greater flexibility on how to spend the money. Democrats say standards are necessary to ensure that children are protected.

The Social Security Administration says it will examine recipients of disability payments in a $320-million review that could remove 200,000 people from the program. The review will scrutinize medical records to determine whether people on disability are well enough to return to work. Those declared ineligible for benefits could appeal. The review is expected to save about $960 million.

The National Guard burned off the last of the propane from 14 derailed tankers in Weyau-wega, Wis. Officials say the 1,700 residents may be able to return home today after fleeing the town two weeks ago.

The government is phasing out green cards issued before 1979 without fingerprints tomorrow. Immigrants with old cards must apply for new ones.

A measure on California's March 26 ballot would allow open season on cougars. The measure is the result of growing concerns after cougars killed two joggers in 1994. A 1990 initiative banned cougar hunting. Opponents say the measure is pointless because state officials can remove or kill cougars that threaten public safety.

Congress was set to open hearings into Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's recent tour of Iran, Libya, and Iraq. Farrakhan denies being an agent of Libya or any foreign government.

The Peace Corp. topped a list of 100 employers with openings for new college graduates. It plans to recruit 3,300 members of this year's graduating class.

THE WORLD

Arson and looting eased in Grbavica as many Bosnian Serbs left the Sarajevo district ahead of today's deadline to hand over the suburb to the Muslim-Croat Federation. But fires continued to burn in the main market, residential buildings, and a warehouse. And NATO said the Muslim-led Bosnian government must comply with another deadline today: the pull-back of troops from Sarajevo's front lines.

Nuclear powers and major developing countries must work to conclude a total test-ban treaty by June 30, Secretary of State Christopher told disarmament delegates from 38 nations in Geneva. India has refused to sign a test-ban treaty unless the five nuclear powers agree on parallel talks to eliminate nuclear weapons within a set time frame.

China held a new round of war games southwest of Taiwan. Meanwhile, Taiwanese troops reportedly took up positions to fight off any beach assault during the exercises, which are expected to be staged some 11 miles from outlying Taiwanese islets.

Palestinian President Arafat renamed the West Bank as the Northern District and the Gaza Strip as the Gaza District. The new names confer a greater sense of Palestinian control over self-rule areas, his decree said. And Israeli Prime Minister Peres proposed a $100-million fund to create jobs for Palestinians to ease the hardship caused by the closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Subject to parliament's approval, Finance Minister Goran Persson will become Sweden's new prime minister Thursday. The special congress of the ruling Social Democratic Party endorsed his candidacy after Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson retired. The congress also voted to begin phasing out nuclear power in the next two years.

Russian troops battled with Chechen rebels after 12 soldiers were killed in an ambush near the capital, Grozny. Separately, the Russian ban on US chicken imports went into effect as the last import licenses on US poultry expired. Russia, the largest importer of US poultry, complained that it contained too much bacteria.

A court in Johannesburg hearing the Mandela divorce case was told Winnie Mandela's infidelity caused South African President Mandela considerable embarrassment. Mandela began divorce proceeding after separating from his wife. A lawyer for Mrs. Mandela told the court she wanted a delay so a tribal chief could try to save the marriage.

Lawyer Ahmad Tejan Kabbah won Sierra Leone's presidential runoff ballot against John Karefa-Smart. Kabbah said he was confident that military leader Brig. Gen. Julius Maada Bio - who came to power in a January coup - will hand over power. Sierra Leone's once-prosperous mining-based economy has been wrecked by civil war.

Thousands of Sri Lankans thronged the streets of Colombo celebrating their cricket team's win over Australia in the World Cup final played in Lahore, Pakistan. Front-page headlines, which usually highlight the civil strife, downplayed the killing of 16 soldiers in two separate attacks by Tamil rebels.

World business leaders rated the US as the most competitive nation, followed by Singapore and Japan. US leadership in many technologies as well as labor costs are much lower than in Germany and Japan, the International Institute for Management Development survey said.

Youths rioted in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya in a second week of violence after a local man died while serving a sentence in a Jakarta prison.

ETCETERA

We have to survive only one more day. These are the longest hours of my life."

- Dara Markovic, an elderly Serb widow, on staying in her Grbavica home as arsonists roam the neighborhood trying to drive out diehard residents before the Croat-Muslim Federation takes over.

Tree-hugging, eucalyptus-munching koalas are a cherished feature of the Australian landscape. But wildlife officials say some may have to be killed to reduce overcrowding on Kangaroo Island, 100 miles off the southern city of Adelaide. The present population of 5,000 koalas is stripping the island's eucalyptus trees, and the creatures face starvation. Animal rights activists are outraged by the shooting proposal.

Six of 10 Americans say television commercials are often enjoyable and contain useful information, but many still tune them out, a Harris survey found. Of 1,005 people asked, 79 percent said there are too many TV ads, 78 said many commercials underrate the public's intelligence, and 69 percent said they turned down the sound or changed channels when ads came on.

1995 Wilbur Winners

The Religious Public Relations Council gives out Wilburs to honor members of the secular media that demonstrate excellence in expressing religious and moral issues. Below is a sampling of the 1995 winners:

1. Gramercy Pictures for "Dead Man Walking."

2. ABC News and religion correspondent Peggy Wehmeyer for "Faith and Healing."

3. NBC for the "E.R." episode "A Miracle Happens Here and "Serving In Silence," a Columbia TriStar TV movie.

4. Turner Network Television Films for "Abraham," "Jacob," and "Joseph."

5. Life Magazine for the articles "In Search of Angels" and "Acts of Faith."

6. Jonathan Kozol for the book "Amazing Grace."

7. Soundprint Media Center for its "Angels in America" syndicated radio program.

8. Johnny Hart for the Easter "B.C." comic strip.

- The Religious Public Relations Council, Inc.

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