News In Brief

THE US

Wrangling resumed in Washington as Republicans pushed for a vote to repeal the gas tax hike. Democrats offered to go along with the vote, but only if it was tied to a vote on raising the minimum wage. The Democrats turned down a GOP counterproposal: To allow management and labor to discuss safety and other workplace issues outside the collective-bargaining framework. Senator Dole proposed to offset the $2.9 billion cost of the repeal with an $800 million cut in the Energy Department's administrative budget - including Secretary Hazel O'Leary's travel budget - and with proceeds from unused portions of the broadcast spectrum.

GOP leaders expect to unveil a balanced-budget plan today. They were considering a $155 billion tax cut over the next six years. President Clinton is proposing a $38 billion cut over the same period. Separately, the National Governors' Association said cumulative state spending is expected to grow by 1.8 percent in fiscal 1997, the second-lowest increase in two decades.

The House unanimously passed a crime bill requiring states to inform the public when dangerous sex offenders are released from prison and move to their neighborhoods. Other bills passed would allow federal prosecutors to seek life sentences on the second offense in serious sex crimes; expand the reach of federal antistalking provisions; and implement tougher laws for jury and witness tampering.

The Clinton administration is sending a trade official to Beijing to deliver a final warning on copyright piracy. If negotiations between the countries don't progress, the US said it will publish a list May 15 of more than $2 billion in Chinese products that could be subjected to punitive tariffs of more than 100 percent.

The White House threatened to renew economic sanctions if Serb rebels stop refugees from returning to their ancestral homes in Bosnia. Stiff sanctions against Serbia were lifted as part of the Dayton accords.

The sale of the Prodigy online service reportedly is imminent. A management team is close to a deal with parent firms International Business Machines Corp. and Sears, Roebuck & Co. Sale price could be as low as $100 million, analysts say.

The FBI rented portable air packs and recruited a firefighter to search a tunnel complex near Unabomber suspect Theodore Kaczynski's Montana cabin, the Helena Independent Record reported. The report didn't say if anything was recovered.

Clinton's taped testimony for the defense was expected to be played at the Whitewater trial once James McDougal left the stand. McDougal denied he schemed to defraud federal lenders and lied to regulators, and insisted he never met with then-Gov. Clinton in the 1980s about one of the transactions. Also, Senate Whitewater investigators ruled out all but six people, including the Clintons, as possible candidates for handling Hillary Rodham Clinton's long-sought law firm billing records.

The same day he appeared in court on assisted suicide charges, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was present with several doctors at the assisted suicide of a Canadian diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the Right to Die Society of Canada said. The death took place in Michigan, where Kevorkian is on trial. Canadian laws prohibit assisted suicide.

Firefighters hope to have a New Mexico blaze contained by the weekend. Residents of Red River returned to their homes after firefighters said the slow-moving, 7,200-acre fire wasn't an immediate threat.

General Motors Corp. plans to recall 44,000 Buick Regals and Chevrolet Luminas with potential brake defects. Also, the government is questioning Ford Motor Company about ignition-switch fires in vehicles that were not included in Ford's recent recall of 8.6 million vehicles.

Former President Bush and his wife, Barbara, attended ceremonies at Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania to receive the Bob Hope Five-Star Award.

THE WORLD

South Africa has a new Constitution. After two years of crafting, the government voted 420 to 1 to ratify the document, which guarantees equal rights for all. The Constitution completes the country's official transformation from apartheid to democracy and will gradually go into effect over the next three years.

Leaders from nine West African nations opened an emergency summit on Liberia in Accra, Ghana, as fighting broke out again in Monrovia. The leaders hope to salvage the peace accord they helped broker last year. Militia leader Charles Taylor refused to attend the summit, dimming hopes of a significant outcome. Also, the Nigerian freighter "Bulk Challenge" began to sink under the weight of its 6,000 Liberian refugees, but arrived safely in San Pedro, Ivory Coast. Women and children were allowed into the port, but men were forced to remain on the boat without food or water, aid officials said.

The US and Mexico reached an agreement to minimize the mistreatment of illegal aliens in police custody. Undocumented aliens will be advised of their rights when arrested, including the right to contact consular representatives. Ten other agreements on such issues as the environment and transportation were signed at the two days of high-level talks.

The US and Israel criticized a UN report that suggests last month's attack on a UN base in southern Lebanon may not have been an accident. Israel accused the UN of harboring Hizbullah guerrillas on the base. Meanwhile, Hizbullah leaders are calling for a boycott of US products.

About 65,000 people have fled ethnic violence in eastern Zaire in the past few weeks, and thousands of them are still on the move in the rugged countryside, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The violence is between Zaireans and immigrant Rwandans.

France may have overtaken the US as the world's second-largest donor of nonmilitary aid to developing countries, after Japan, a spokesman for the US Agency for International Development said in Paris.

Russia and Britain worked to reach a compromise on a spy dispute that could hurt good relations. There were signs that Moscow may back down from its threat to expel nine diplomats. Meanwhile, Russia expelled an Estonian diplomat in retaliation for the expulsion of a Russian Embassy official from Tallnin, Foreign Ministry officials said.

India began tallying votes after six days of voting in parliamentary elections. While the outcome won't be clear until the weekend, exit polls indicate there will be a hung parliament, with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party finishing first with about 192 seats.

The European Commission approved a plan to relax the ban on British beef, allowing the sale of tallow, gelatin, and bull semen exports. EU veterinary experts still need to approve the decision. Also, about 4,700 cases of fraud against the EU's budget, representing about $1.4 billion were discovered last year, the European Commission said.

A bomb exploded on a bus in Pakistan, killing at least six people and injuring 38. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast, the second in two weeks.

Spain charged three former police generals with involvement in a 1980s "dirty war" against Basque separatists. The death squads killed 27 people.

The Turkish Army crossed into northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish rebels, killing at least 15.

German riot police guarded a truck carrying a French nuclear waste container to a storage facility in Gorleben. About 3,000 protesters blocked the truck's progress before riot police broke up the dem-onstration, injuring 30 people.

ETCETERAS

'' Our pledge is: Never and never again shall the laws of our land rend our people apart or legalize their oppression and repression." -- South African President Nelson Mandela in a speech after the country ratified its new Constitution.

Veteran directors are center stage at the 49th Cannes film festival. Among those jostling for the coveted Golden Palm at the French Riviera's May 9-to-20 jamboree are Bernardo Bertolucci, Robert Altman, the Coen brothers, Stephen Frears, and Chen Kaige.

Sons will outspend daughters in buying that special gift for mom this Mother's Day, says a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers. Sons say they'll spend an average of $52, daughters an average of $42. Also, 9 out of 10 men surveyed plan to buy a gift compared with only three-quarters of the women.

The Olympic flame blew out briefly as it was carried across the wind-swept Tacoma Narrows bridge near Seattle. Rekindling was possible because the so-called mother flame is carried in the caravan that follows the relay bearing the torch to the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

No more postage due? The post office wants to treat underpaid mail the same as mail with no postage, by returning it to the sender.

Combatting Pump Prices

Here are some tips to soften the blow of higher gas prices.

1. Shop around. Gas prices can vary as much as 15 cents a gallon in the same area.

2. Look for bargains. Some stations run "Wacky Wednesdays" or similar promotions discounting prices.

3. Keep your engine tuned and your tires inflated to proper pressure.

4. Use the right grade of gasoline. AAA says only 5 percent of cars need premium.

5. Turn off your engine if you'll be in line for awhile.

6. Drive slower. Increasing speed from 55 to 65 m.p.h. decreases mileage by 20 percent.

7. Turn off air conditioners, which can reduce fuel efficiency by up to two miles per gallon.

8. Avoid car-top carriers, which slow down aerodynamics and increase fuel consumption.

9. Use alternative transportation. Walk, bicycle, or switch to public transportation.

- Associated Press

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