News In Brief

The US

Investigators began searching the wreckage of a plane carrying US Commerce Secretary Ron Brown that crashed in stormy weather in the Adriatic Sea a few miles from Dubrovnik, Croatia, during a flight over the Balkans. Brown and 12 US executives, some of whom may have been with him, were on a visit to the region. The plane was a T43, the military version of a Boeing 737.

President Clinton benefited from an illegal $300,000 loan made out to Susan McDougal in 1986, after saying, "my name can't show up on this," Whitewater prosecution witness David Hale testified. It was the first time it had been alleged under oath that Clinton profited from illegal loans. Clinton's lawyer said the president stands by his "unequivocal denial" of wrongdoing.

Two New York laws banning doctor-assisted suicide were overturned by the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals. The court said the bans failed to treat people equally because those on life-support systems could be disconnected at their request.

The class-action suit against tobacco companies should be broken into individual lawsuits, Kenneth Starr, attorney for the tobacco companies says. The plaintiffs' lawyers say that, without class-action status, it could take years to determine if companies hid knowledge about the nature of nicotine. The Fifth Circuit of Appeals in Louisiana will rule on the case's status.

Fifteen retired high-ranking military brass want a worldwide ban on land mines. The former officers, including retired General Schwarzkopf, called for a ban in a full-page ad in The New York Times. Clinton has signed a one-year US moratorium on mines, and the Pentagon is reviewing its position in favor of the devices, which are said to kill or maim 26,000 people annually.

There is no evidence of Persian Gulf War Syndrome, a new study by the Pentagon suggests. Almost 19,000 veterans were covered in the study - the largest of its kind undertaken by the Defense Department.

The FBI is investigating the beatings of two suspected illegal immigrants by two Riverside County, Calif., deputies. The beatings were videotaped by television news crews. Riverside County and Los Angeles County have also opened investigations. The Mexican government and the ACLU condemned the beatings. (Story, Page 3.)

Families of the militant freemen group have asked lawyer Gerry Spence to mediate. Spence, who won an acquittal for white separatist Randy Weaver in the shooting of a federal agent at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, says he won't help unless asked by the FBI.

Six in 10 Americans think doctors should talk about spiritual faith, although 9 out of 10 say their doctors never have, according to a poll by ICR Survey Research Group. The survey found that 79 percent believe spiritual faith aids in healing, and 56 percent said their faith had helped them recover.

Teenage pregnancy and abortion rates shot up during the 1980s, a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The pregnancy rate among girls ages 15 to 19 rose from 88.8 per thousand in 1980 to 95.9 in 1990. Although there is no definitive data, it appears the teenage birth rate dropped 2 percent in both 1992 and 1993.

Iowa Beef Packers Inc. has been ordered to pay back about $7 million in back wages to 23,500 employees at 11 plants, the Labor Department said. A Kansas City district judge found the company failed to pay employees for more than two years for time worked putting on, removing, and cleaning protective gear. IBP was also ordered to pay interest on the back wages.

Female UN employees fear they will be the first to go when the UN slashes its staff by 10 percent, says Rosario Green, the UN coordinator for women's affairs. Green says women will suffer disproportionately if seniority is the only factor in determining layoffs. The UN recruited many women only recently in an effort to have more women on staff.

Consumer spending surged 1.1 percent in February - the sharpest gain in two years - as personal incomes rebounded 0.8 percent on a wave of job creation, the Commerce Department said.

The World

Britain agreed to destroy millions of older cattle after the EU pledged to reimburse farmers for most of the losses. Earlier, EU farm ministers meeting in Luxumbourg decided on the slaughter to eradicate "mad cow" disease and avert the collapse of Europe's beef industry. Britain says it will need to kill some 15,000 cattle each week for five or six years to comply with the decision. Separately, Britain's House of Commons approved antiterrorism powers that would allow police to stop and frisk pedestrians on the street. The bill also allows searches of businesses and freight at ports, but not homes. (Story, Page 6.)

In Ramallah in the West Bank, Palestinian President Arafat (above) addressed about 2,000 students, who heckled him for his crackdown on Islamic militants and police raid of a West Bank campus. He rushed to the rally after the crowd defied police lines and burst into the first meeting of the Palestinian Legislative Council. In Israel, thousands of troops fanned out into the streets for the Passover holiday in response to threats by Islamic militants to carry out more suicide bombings.

Israel and Qatar agreed to open trade offices in each other's countries and work toward economic cooperation. Prime Minister Peres, meeting with Qatar's leader Sheikh Hamad bin Jasim, is the first Israeli leader to visit the country.

Chechen villagers fled air strikes in Shalazhi as rebel leaders poured scorn on Russian President Yeltsin's peace initiative and vowed to fight to the last man. The peace plan is seen as vital for Yeltsin's chances of reelection in June 16 polls. The commander of Russian forces in Chechnya, Lt. Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, denied ordering the attack. Russia insists its troops have only fired in self-defense since the country declared a cease-fire Sunday. (Story, Page 6.)

Ten right-wing whites involved in deadly bombings meant to disrupt South Africa's first all-race elections in 1994 were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 3 1/2 to 26 years. The bombings killed 21 people and injured dozens.

Bolivia ordered troops into the streets of La Paz after more than 100 striking public transportation workers stormed the railroad station, broke windows at the offices of the Chilean national airline, and disrupted traffic. Workers had staged a 24-hour strike to protest the Chilean management of Bolivia's railroad company and the proposed sale of the state oil company.

Two ministers quit Indian Prime Minister Rao's Cabinet after the governing Congress Party formed an alliance with a regional party widely believed to be corrupt. The resignations could further weaken the party's chances of maintaining parliamentary majority in elections later this month.

The Seychelles passed anti-money-laundering legislation designed to stop abuse of a liberal foreign-investment law that critics say could turn the Indian Ocean islands into a haven for rich criminals. The bill says money laundering is a criminal offense and requires financial institutions to keep records of all transactions.

China issued a major report to show it has improved the lives of its children. But the report admits more needs to be done, especially for the disabled. It was compiled in response to accusations by a human rights group in January that children in some Chinese orphanages are neglected and allowed to die.

Only three survivors have been found from a ferry that sank off Haiti's coast. The ferry was thought to be carrying about 150 passengers. It took days for word to reach the capital. A UN search crew that reached the wreck last Monday found looters had beaten them to the site.

Etceteras

President Clinton (above) threw the first pitch opening the Baltimore Orioles' season a day late because of rain. Meanwhile, San Francisco Giants fans could find themselves at the cutting edge of ballpark cuisine. Some 23 new dishes, from ancho-chipotle chicken to squid, will be on the menu at 3Com Park.

A team of American and Russian scientists confirmed through tests that the remains dug from a mass grave in 1991 were those of Czar Nicholas II, the last Russian emperor. But they said what happened to his daughter Anastasia remains a mystery.

Plans for a giant bronze freedom monument modeled on President Mandela's hand will be the focus of talks in South Africa. The planned monument has drawn fire from critics who say the $12.4 million cost of the privately funded project to "celebrate South Africa" could be better spent.

Top 10 Competitive Economies in the World

Japanese business leaders don't see their nation as the fearsome business competitor the rest of the world sees. In an annual global poll of 2,465 business leaders, Japan ranked third. But Japanese executives put their economy in 27th place. Fourth-place Germany was ranked 17th by German executives. Below is a list of the top 10 world economies:

1. United States

2. Singapore

3. Japan

4. Germany

5. South Korea

6. Switzerland

7. Taiwan

8. Hong Kong

9. Malaysia

10. Britain

- International Institute for Management Development

" We come from the top cream of society and then we are set off in our marble palaces. I don't know what the most profoundly held beliefs of the American people are."

- Justice Scalia, at Bridgewater College in Virginia, on why the Supreme Court shouldn't decide all social problems.

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