News In Brief

THE US

Nynex Corp. and Bell Atlantic Corp. announced a merger that will result in the second-largest US telecommunications company. The new company Bell Atlantic will connect 38 million phone lines from Maine to Virginia and serve 3.6 million customers. The market value of Bell Atlantic is estimated to be in excess of $52 billion, making it second only to AT&T Corp.

President Clinton planned to unveil a series of environmental measures in Great Falls, Md., including a program to preserve and restore the national parks system. Clinton is in Great Falls to help clean up part of the C&O Canal, which was damaged in storms last winter.

The Supreme Court allowed for possible punitive-damages awards for more than 2,000 people claiming they were hurt by the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident. The court also agreed to hear the appeal of an Oklahoma county ordered to pay a woman and her lawyer $872,800 for excessive force used by a reserve deputy sheriff when he arrested her.

Crime costs US citizens at least $450 billion a year, according to a Justice Department survey. It is the first survey to include estimates on the cost of child abuse, domestic violence, and the reduced quality of life for crime victims. The survey excludes the cost of running the nation's prisons, jails, and paroles and probation system, which would add $40 billion, according to Justice Department statistics.

The Senate planned to continue debate on a proposed constitutional amendment to limit the terms of members of Congress. There could be a vote on the measure this week. Under the amendment, Senators would be limited to two six-year terms, House members to six two-year terms.

Mitsubishi shut down a Normal, Ill., assembly line to permitt some 3,000 workers to attend a company-sanctioned protest against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The company is fighting an EEOC lawsuit that says management ignored "gross and shocking sexual discrimination." Union officials claim the company is pressuring employees to demonstrate.

Senator Dole told CBS's "Face the Nation" he expects Congress to approve a minimum wage hike. He criticized some moderate House Republicans for breaking ranks to support an even higher minimum wage hike than what is being proposed by Democrats.

The Group of Seven is feeling bullish about the world economy. The leaders, who are meeting in Washington, did not unveil any new policy formulas for the pick-up in growth, saying current policies will lead to stronger activity as the year progresses. Meanwhile, the Group of 24 developing nations issued a statement saying wealthier countries use human rights issues to impose sanctions that protect their own trading interests.

The White House is offering Vietnamese boat people a carrot to return home: Possible resettlement in the US if genuine asylum-seekers return to Vietnam to apply for an exit visa and meet other criteria. Human rights lawyers in Hong Kong call the offer "a purely political ploy" to speed up repatriation.

The Pentagon should consider scrapping the Navy's $81 billion budget for the FA-18 Super Hornet fighter plane, according to a draft report from Congress's investigative agency. Instead, the General Accounting Office recommends upgrading the Hornet, the current version of the fighter plane.

Arkansas declared parts of six counties disaster areas and called out the National Guard after a tornado ripped through downtown Fort Smith, Ark., killing two children and injuring at least 50 people.

THE WORLD

US Secretary of State Christopher presented Syria with a plan to halt the 13-day conflict between Israel and Hizbullah guerrillas in Lebanon that blends Israeli and Syrian ideas. The plan did not include an Israeli withdrawal from the security zone in Lebanon. Christopher was to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Peres again, who has said he only wants the US to mediate a cease-fire. Also, Lebanon paused for two minutes of silence mourning the 155 people killed in the Israeli blitz.

Italy's center-left Olive Tree Alliance won control of both houses of parliament, as Italians voted in their third elections in four years. The former Communists, aided by centrists and hardliners, won a slim three-seat majority in the lower house, but swept the Senate, winning 167 seats to the right's 117.

Japan's Aum Shinri Kyo Group leader Shoko Asahara goes on trial tomorrow. He is accused of ordering followers to poison thousands of rush-hour subway passengers with sarin nerve gas in the March 1995 attacks that killed 11 and injured 5,500. Asahara is also charged with the 1994 strangling of a disciple. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. Separately, Tokyo stocks Monday cleared the key 22,000 mark for the first time in more than four years.

A two-week UN conference to tighten restrictions on land mines opened in Geneva. The world-wide ban called for by UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali is considered unlikely. Twenty-nine countries have signed up for such a ban, but a vast majority are opposed. Also, the International Labor Organization said there are 220,000 work-related deaths annually.

Four Saudi Arabian men were arrested in connection with the November Riyadh bombing that killed seven people, including five US citizens. State television aired confessions from the four, who could face the death penalty.

Nigeria's military government banished Ibrahim Dasuki, the leader of the country's 50 million Muslims. The ousted leader was accused of corruption and mishandling negotiations with Saudi Arabia, resulting in Nigerians being banned from this year's Haj pilgrimage.

Sri Lankan forces entered the towns of Kodikaman and Kachchai, virtually cutting off the Jaffna peninsula and trapping Tamil Tiger rebels in the largest offensive since last December. About 50,000 people have been killed in the ethnic war since 1983, the government says.

Central African Republic soldiers who mutinied for back pay returned to their barracks after being paid and granted amnesty by the government. Ten people were killed and 60 more wounded in the uprising.

More than 100 people have been killed in heavy flooding across Afghanistan, relief workers said. The floods, brought on by spring thaws and heavy rains, have affected seven provinces.

Bolivian school teachers, who opposed the privatization of the State Petroleum Company, returned to class after a strike that shut down public schools and hospitals for a month. The government will raise teachers' salaries by 13 percent, and the sale will go through.

Iran's conservative Combatant Clergy Association claimed victory in parliamentary elections. The CCA announced it had a clear majority in several newspapers, but no numbers were given. Diplomats said, despite claims, it seemed to have failed to retain its 140-seat majority.

Eurotunnel's losses more than doubled to $1.44 billion last year in the Channel tunnel's first full year of business.

ETCETERAS

The estimate of $450 billion for crime is an amazing number, which tells us just how heavy a burden that crime and the fear of crime place on our society."

- New York Rep. Charles Schumer on a Justice Department report that crime costs the US $450 billion a year.

A Chinese monkey the size of a mouse (7 ounces) and long thought to be extinct was discovered in Fujian Province, the Xinhua news agency said. They were once kept as pets and slept in brush pots or drawers. A philosopher trained them to prepare ink and turn pages.

Christopher Robin Milne, model for Winnie-the-Pooh's friend in his father A.A. Milne's books, died. His fondness for a bear named Winnie at a zoo sparked the idea for the stories, which he grew to resent.

Top 10 US mergers

Bell Atlantic and Nynex agreed to the largest merger in telecommunications history. These are the top US corporate mergers.

1. RJR Nabisco Inc. with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. in 1989, $25 billion.

2. Bell Atlantic with Nynex Corp. announced yesterday for stock valued at $22.7 billion.

3. Walt Disney Co. buys Capital Cities/ABC in 1996, $19 billion (cash and stock).

4. SBC Communications Inc. agrees to buy Pacific Telesis Group, announced 1996, for $16.7 billion (stock).

5. Wells Fargo buys First Interstate in 1996, $14.2 billion.

6. Warner Communications Inc. with Time Inc. in 1990, $14.1 billion.

7. Kraft Inc. with Philip Morris Inc. in 1988, $13.4 billion.

8. Gulf Corp. with Standard Oil Co. of California in 1984, $13.4 billion.

9. Chase Manhattan with Chemical Banking in1996, $13 billion.

10. Squibb Corp. with Bristol-Myers Co.in 1989, $12 billion.

- Associated Press

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