News In Brief

THE US

The Senate planned a final vote on a bipartisan health insurance reform bill. The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Nancy Kassebaum and Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, would prohibit insurers from denying coverage to new workers because of past or "preexisting" medical conditions. Also on the Senate's docket: a test vote on term limits to determine whether to end debate on the proposed Constitutional amendment.

Voters flocked to the polls in Pennsylvania for presidential primaries. They will choose 73 Republican and 195 Democratic delegates.

The Supreme Court planned to hear arguments in a case some consumer advocates say could affect product-liability lawsuits. The case involves a woman who says she nearly died when her pacemaker failed. The court also issued a temporary decision to allow Kansas to confine "sexually violent predators" after their prison sentences end. Kansas Supreme Court had ruled such confinement unconstitutional.

Medicare's Hospital Trust Fund, which pays bills for the elderly and disabled, lost $4.2 billion in the first half of the current fiscal year and the losses are growing, according to The New York Times. The fund lost $35.7 million last year, its first loss since 1972. The Clinton administration blamed some of the loss on unanticipated increases in the number of admissions of Medicare patients to hospitals.

The US trade deficit shrank by 17.1 percent in February as US exports of services climbed to an all-time high, the Commerce Department reported. The deficit in goods and services decreased to $8.2 billion in February, compared with a revised January deficit of $9.9 billion.

A 1974 R.J. Reynolds research memo stated that cigarette ads influence teenagers who start smoking, CBS reported. And Philip Morris denied claims by three former employees that it manipulated nicotine content in its cigarettes. Also, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that states where tobacco is grown and cigarettes are manufactured would lose jobs if Americans stop smoking, but the nation as a whole would gain thousands of new jobs. The study contradicts tobacco company claims the US would have a net loss of jobs.

The US would consider joining other countries in allowing the sale of International Monetary Fund gold, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin said. Britain and Canada also signed the proposal. Proceeds would go toward relieving debt of the world's poorest countries.

Hundreds of people from at least 18 states have gone to "freemen" antigovernment militant headquarters in Montana to learn how to produce fake financial records using home computers, according to a new Anti-Defamation League report. It also cites a freemen "Christian Identity" manifesto that preaches anti-Semitism and racism.

The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund announced plans to file a lawsuit against the US Navy on behalf of several environmental groups. The groups say the Navy violated clean water laws by dumping toxic materials such as PCB and mercury into Washington's Anacostia River. Meanwhile, the Sierra Club voted to change its timber policy to support an end to all commercial logging in national forests.

Intel Corp. of the US and Japan's Sharp Corp. announced new memory chip technology they say will open the way for smaller cellular phones, digital cameras, and portable computers. The companies said memory chips used in these products would be reduced in size by 44 percent with the new technology.

A $275 million class-action settlement will allow some 800,000 homeowners in North America to replace Louisiana-Pacific Corp. Inner-Seal siding. It turns soggy in wet weather.

Oddsmaker and former sports commentator Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder died in Las Vegas.

THE WORLD

Israel and Hizbullah guerrillas continued bombing each other, as efforts to end the two-week conflict continued for a fourth day. Israeli warplanes destroyed a water tank that supplies 20 villages. Earlier, Israel bombed a Palestinian camp near Beirut. Also, Hizbullah fired 24 rockets at northern Israel overnight. Meanwhile, Syrian President Assad declined to meet with US Secretary of State Christopher, when he returned to Damascus after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Peres. Separately, Palestinian President Arafat asked the Palestinian National Congress to amend clauses in its charter calling for Israel's destruction.

South Africa's Parliament presented a proposed constitution, which is expected to be adopted May 8. The document was written over two years by all major political parties except the Zulu nationalist party, Inkatha, which boycotted the process.

Chechen rebel leader Dzhokhar Dudayev was killed after a rocket strike, Itar-Tass news agency said. Dudayev's personal secretary denied the report, which came from a rebel spokesman.

Russian President Yeltsin was to arrive in China. Russia, China, Kyrgyztan, Kazakstan, and Taj-ikistan are to sign a treaty pledging peace along their borders, and Russia and China are to sign treaties on police cooperation, Xinhua news agency reported. Meanwhile, China said it still wants "peaceful" nuclear tests in response to the Group of Seven and Russia's call for a worldwide ban on nuclear explosions.

Sri Lankan forces intensified attacks against Tamil Tiger rebels. Five Tamil political parties called for a cease-fire in the wake of the largest offensive since December. More than 100 rebels have been killed since Friday. Also, rebels overran a police station, killing seven policeman.

A US delegation arrived in Liberia to bolster peace efforts, as Monrovians began to clean up after more than two weeks of urban warfare.

A Polish military prosecutor won't bring charges against former Prime Minister Oleksy, who was accused of spying for Moscow. The charges, brought by an aide of former President Walesa, forced Oleksy to resign in January.

There is no cause for the detention of four Bosnian Muslim refugees being held in Serbia, and they should be freed as soon as possible, the UN war crimes tribunal found. Also, NATO accused rival Bosnian leaders of manipulating refugees for political ends and warned civilians could be hurt if orchestrated rallies continue. And Croatian President Tudjman said he will go ahead with plans to rebury Croatian Nazis with their victims as a sign of "reconciliation," despite international criticism.

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating resigned from parliament, ending a 27-year political career. Keating will pursue a private career as a statesman.

The US, Latin America, and Paraguay's Navy, Air Force, and police declared support for Paraguayan President Wasmosy as Gen. Lino Oviedo remained holed up in a military barracks with his troops. Oviedo, who was fired for insubordination, refused to resign and called for Wasmosy's resignation.

Burundi's Army admitted its soldiers committed human rights abuses on civilians. The UN estimates 300 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the last three weeks.

A presidential aide to South Korean President Kim Young Sam admitted in court that he received $897,000 in bribes.

Fire erupted in at least five villages around Chernobyl during residents' annual visit home. Smoke and dust sent radiation readings soaring in the contaminated zone. The cause of the fire was not yet known. Also, the US will send $15.4 million worth of medical supplies to victims of the 1986 nuclear plant explosion.

ETCETERAS

Erma Bombeck taught those of us who write columns that the funniest things are the things that our readers know the best - houses, cars, kitchens, and, of course, kids."

- Humor columnist Dave Barry on Erma Bombeck, who died Monday.

About 14,000 people attended the opening of San Francisco's new $137 million Main Library. Actor Robin Williams enthralled attendees by reading from "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Stupid Tales," a collection of stories that parodies children's stories.

The Kremlin ordered 6,000 pieces of hand-crafted sterling silver, including caviar bowls, from the famed German silversmiths Robbe and Berking. The worth of the order was not disclosed. In 1994, the Aga Khan ordered 12,000 engraved pieces from the famed silversmiths for his daughter's coming-of-age party.

Some 38 Turkmenistan craftsmen are working to complete a 2,800-sq. ft. rug for the former Soviet republic's fifth independence anniversary in October. The country's largest rug will be named after President Saparmurat Niyazov.

Picks for Environmentally Concerned Consumers

Green Seal, a national environmental labeling organization, gave these companies the Green Seal stamp of approval.

Air-conditioning systems: Carrier Corp. - uses no CFCs.

Automotive: Safety-Kleen - products made with at least 40 % re-refined engine oil.

Fleet vehicles: Clean Air Cab Company - Washington-based pollution-reducing taxi fleet.

Lighting: General Electric and Lights of America - energy efficient bulbs, fast starts.

Paints/Coatings: Con-Lux Coatings and Krylon Products Group - No toxic chemicals.

Paper: A.V. Olsson Trading Company - no-chlorine manufacturing; Atlantic Newsprint - minimum 60% post-consumer materials; Mohawk Paper Mills - minimum 25% post-consumer materials.

Bath fixtures: Clivus Multrum - no-water composting toilet; Sanitation Equipment - reduced-water toilets; Teledyne Water Pik - reduced-water showerheads.

Windows and Doors: Andersen Corp. - energy efficient windows, high insulation values, low in air and water infiltration.

- Green Seal

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