By , Peter Nordahl, and Yvonne Zipp

THE US

The House passed a bill combating illegal immigration to the US while removing most of the provisions for legal immigration reform. The bill would double the size of the US border patrol to 10,000 and construct a "triple fence" along the US-Mexico border. An amendment to create a guest-worker program was rejected. The bill moves next to the Senate. Separately, the Immigration Service fined Colin Cares Inc., a White Plains, N.Y.-based cleaning company a record $1.5 million for more than 150 instances of knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and those whose work authorizations had expired.

President Clinton signed a stopgap spending bill keeping the government open through this weekend, but the White House says it's tired of the patchwork approach to government. White House chief of staff Panetta hinted the 11th spending measure may be the last Clinton will sign, saying that "Congress ought not to look to any additional short-term" measures. Clinton is urging Congress to fund the rest of the year before March 29, the beginning of a two-week spring recess.

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US officials say the 1990 murder in Guatemala of US citizen Michael Devine was covered up by two Guatemalan presidents, their defense ministers, and top military officials, reports The New York Times. The death and cover-up caused the US to cut off millions in military aid, but the CIA continued to secretly funnel millions more until last year. Also, US officials are examining new evidence implicating Guatemalan leaders in the 1992 death of guerrilla Efrain Bamaca.

China rejected a US demand to cease nuclear-related shipments to Pakistan, making it more likely the White House will impose sanctions for past shipments. Also, Defense Secretary Perry cancelled a meeting with the Chinese defense minister because of tensions over Chinese war games in the Taiwan Strait.

Despite a House vote to repeal the assault-weapons ban, a similar Senate attempt seems unlikely. The House vote also fell short of the two-thirds needed to override Clinton's promised veto.

Much of the South Pacific is about to become a nuclear-free zone. The US, Britain, and France will likely sign a treaty this week barring nuclear testing across much of the Pacific. The manufacture, acquisition, and stationing of nuclear weapons in the area will be banned.

Astronaut Shannon Lucid has moved into her new home aboard the Russian space station Mir. Lucid, a biochemist, will live aboard Mir until August, when Atlantis will pick her up and drop off another astronaut for an extended stay. Six more shuttle-Mir dockings are planned over the next two years.

Whitewater counsel Kenneth Starr will determine whether former White House aide David Watkins lied to investigators about Hillary Rodham Clinton's role in the 1993 firings of White House travel employees. A special court ordered Starr to expand his investigation.

A new US $100 dollar bill goes into circulation today. The bill has an off-center picture of Ben Franklin and other features to thwart counterfeiters.

Eight mining companies are being accused by the Justice Department of dumping 70 millions tons of waste into the Coeur d'Alene River Basin in Boise, Idaho. Several of the companies say the lawsuit is part of a "war on the West."

Six General Motors plants were set to resume operations today, after the end of an 18-day brake-plant strike in Dayton, Ohio, that idled most of GM's production. The strikers returned to work after 99 percent approved a settlement with GM centering around the company's outsourcing practices.

Five hundred University of Texas students rallied Friday to protest the Fifth Circuit of Appeals ruling against an affirmative-action admissions program.

Religious Groups Petition Massachusetts Supreme Court

A wide variety of religious organizations filed a brief asking the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to dismiss a case involving a dispute over the government of The First Church of Christ, Scientist. Thirteen of the organizations had filed a previous friend of the court brief in support of the church in a suit against several former and present officers brought by Elizabeth Weaver of Glen Arbor, Mich., and Roy Varner of Houston. The latest brief was signed by five additional church groups including the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the Baptist Joint Committee, and the American Jewish Congress. The religious organizations argued that, "to allow this case to proceed to trial threatens immediate and irreparable harm" to the Christian Science Church "and it threatens similar harm in the future to all of the Commonwealth's religious denominations."

THE WORLD

Beijing and Taipei sent peace overtures to each other after President Lee Teng-hui won Taiwan's first direct presidential poll with a landslide 54 percent of the vote. Lee's running mate, Lien Chan, said Taipei is "seriously" considering peace negotiations with China. Meanwhile, Beijing also called for a summit between their respective leaders. Also, China claimed success for the military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, saying they dampened separatist sentiment in Taiwan.

Threatened by economic sanctions, the Muslim-led Bosnian government released 109 Bosnian Serb prisoners just before a deadline imposed by the EU and other nations. But the release fell short of an earlier agreement; NATO officials insisted that 26 other prisoners being held in Tuzla must also be released. And US soldier Private Floyd Bright was killed in a road accident in Bosnia.

The closure of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will continue until all wanted leaders of the Islamic militant Hamas group are arrested by the Palestinian police, Israeli Prime Minister Peres said. Earlier, in a gradual easing of the closure, Israel allowed Palestinians with proper permits to return to work in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Belarus and Russia agreed to link their governments and economies in a new union set for April 2. But both countries will remain sovereign states, Moscow said. Ever since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Belarus has been pushing to move back into Moscow's orbit.

Japan's ruling coalition was set to win a key parliamentary by-election. The win could give it wider support in parliament where the national budget has stalled over a government plan to spend $6.5 billion in public funds to bail out failed housing lenders.

McDonald's stopped serving hamburgers at its 660 British outlets after London announced the the death of 10 Britons was attributed to a cattle disease called "mad cow." At least 20 countries have banned British beef, including France and Italy.

Chung Hak-ro, a former aide to South Korean President Kim Young Sam, was arrested on bribery charges. He is accused of taking $180,000 from three businessmen to help them get cheap bank loans. The charges against Chang could damage Kim's image ahead of the April 11 parliamentary polls, analysts said.

The Irish Republican Army supporters may take part in a British-proposed election to choose negotiators for peace talks in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said. The May 30 vote seeks to elect an assembly that will appoint delegates for June 10 peace talks.

Germans were voting in three regional elections likely to provide a midterm judgment on Chancellor Helmut Kohl's center-right government at a time of slowing economic growth and record unemployment.

Tamil separatist rebels ambushed a Sri Lankan Army patrol killing 40 soldiers and wounding 13 near the town of Batticaloa. Tamil rebels have recently intensified attacks on military targets in northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka.

ETCETERAS

This is the most precious moment in history. The big door of democracy is entirely opened in Taiwan."

Lee Teng-hui, the first directly elected president of Taiwan, after his landslide victory.

The National Book Critics Circle announced its awards. In Fiction: the late Stanley Elkin for "Mrs. Ted Bliss." In Nonfiction: Jonathan Hart for "A Civil Action." In Biography: Robert Polito for "Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson." In Poetry: William Matthews for "Time & Money." In Criticism: Robert Darnton for "The Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France."

Army Sgt. Heather Johnsen, a Californian, became the first woman to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Presidents' Presents

Ever wonder what Ronald Reagan did with all those jelly beans people gave him? "Tokens and Treasures: Gifts to 12 Presidents" at the National Archives offers a peek at the hundreds of gifts given to US presidents.

Piano-shaped silver box, saved by a Jewish family during World War II, sent to Harry Truman.

Urn of soil from the battlefield at Bastogne, Belgium.

Lantern made from scrap metal sent to Franklin Roosevelt during the Depression.

Operation Desert Storm chess set made for George Bush.

Four-foot peanut weather vane given to Jimmy Carter.

Saxophone-shaped chair given to Bill Clinton.

War medals sent to Gerald Ford to protest his decision to grant Vietnam deserters clemency.

Shovel sent in protest to Lyndon Johnson to bury US soldiers killed in the Vietnam War.

- Associated Press

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