News In Brief

THE US

Federal officials launched an intense, month-long safety review of ValuJet Airlines Inc. after one of its planes crashed in Florida's Everglades. ValuJet planes are maintained by workers from a temporary employment agency, but the practice doesn't jeopardize the airline's safety, a former executive said in a report published in the Atlanta Constitution newspaper. Meanwhile, Navy salvage specialists were brought in to search for the plane's black boxes. Searchers probing the murky water with poles found the submerged engines, and reportedly located what may be a segment of the plane's fuselage, measuring some 20 to 30 feet wide and 60 to 70 feet long.

The Supreme Court issued decisions on several cases: It rejected a ban on liquor ads, broadened the power of labor unions, refused a hearing for the Unabomber suspect, and decided to reject Florida's bid for compensation for the costs of illegal immigrants.

Jury selection was to begin in the New York City trial of Ramzi Yousef, accused with two others of plotting to blow up 11 West Coast-bound airlines in a single day in 1995. Yousef is also the suspected mastermind behind the bombing of the World Trade Center - a trial expected to take place later this year.

The on-line computer service Prodigy Services Company has a new owner. International Business Machines and Sears sold the troubled company to International Wireless Inc., a global communications company, and a group of Prodigy executives., including president and chief executive officer Ed Bennett. Last year, Prodigy was the first major on-line service to give subscribers an easy way to connect to the World Wide Web. It now needs to invest heavily in new systems to keep up with competitors.

Montana State Rep. Karl Ohs hoped to meet with the "freemen" antigovernment group, which is still holed up on a farm in Jordan, Mont. Ohs met with the freemen last Thursday for two hours, and says he still sees a peaceful solution. The standoff entered it 50th day yesterday.

The GOP plans to propose a budget blueprint by the end of the week that could cut taxes across the board while spurring strong economic growth, Senate Budget Committee chairman Pete Domenici said.

Apple Computer Inc. chief executive officer Gilbert Amelio said the troubled company will slash costs by cutting the number of computer models by 50 percent over the next 12 months. Squeezed by competition and a series of mistakes, Apple's market share and stock price have plummeted.

UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali intervened in the crucial oil-for-food talks with Iraq. He is trying to break a deadlock that could bring Iraqi crude oil back into international markets for the first time in nearly six years. Meanwhile, Iraq has renewed attempts to smuggle diesel fuel exports in Gulf waters, but a US-led multinational patrol enforcing UN sanctions intercepted most of the vessels, Gulf shipping sources said.

American climber Seaborne Weathers of Dallas, missing near the peak of Mt. Everest, descended to a 20,000-foot pass and was airlifted to safety. It was the highest helicopter rescue ever executed. Eight climbers are still missing in extreme conditions on the world's highest mountain.

A fire that broke out at a University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, fraternity house on commencement day killed five people. The blaze followed a night of festivities as the fraternity hosted a graduation party.

An international conference gathered in Washington to discuss rights denied Muslim women. Only a handful of the 200 scholars attending were male. The meeting was called to pursue goals of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in China last year.

THE WORLD

The US and China were to resume trade meetings today to try to avert a trade war over copyright piracy in China. Washington says it will slap Beijing with punitive tariffs on $2 billion worth of Chinese imports if it doesn't crack down on intellectual property theft. China has threatened to retaliate in kind.

The US and Britain pressed the IRA to call for a new cease-fire and meet the June 10 deadline for Northern Ireland peace talks. Peter King, a top adviser to Bill Clinton, said the president is willing to act as an "honest broker" if the IRA declared a truce. Dublin indicates the guerrillas may be ready to take such a step.

The Nigerian freighter "Bulk Challenge," overloaded with about 4,000 Liberian refugees, limped back to Ghana after generator trouble. The leaky boat was journeying to Lagos, Nigeria, after being denied refuge by both Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Ghana allowed it to restock desperately needed food and medical supplies, but no one was allowed off the boat.

Japan, the US, and South Korea met to discuss a strategy to entice North Korea to peace talks. Pyongyang says it is considering the Washington and Seoul proposal for four-party peace talks with China.

Russia expelled US businessman Richard Dann Oppfelt from Kamchatka for spying, Russia's security agency said. He denies any wrongdoing and calls the charges "mystifying." The Seattle businessman had been detained in April after allegedly paying a sailor $300 for information about the Russian Pacific Fleet. This is the first such expulsion in more than two years.

Iran opened a major railroad operation aimed at revitalizing trade along the fabled Silk Road that linked East and West for centuries. Dignitaries from 50 countries attended the opening of the 103-mile line between Mashhad in Iran and Sarakhs, on the Turkmenistan border.

US troops blundered when they handed over seven men, presumed to be Muslims, to Bosnian Serb authorities, NATO officials said. Sources in the Bosnian government say the men may be refugees from Srebenica and are concerned the Serbs may torture them. The men reportedly surrendered voluntarily and were handed over because they were on Serb territory. UN police say Serbs have rebuffed their efforts to see the men.

Israel and Palestine agreed to delay the Israeli troop pullout from the West Bank city of Hebron until after elections May 29. Also, Palestinian guerrillas opened fire on Israeli vehicles in the occupied West Bank, wounding four. Likud candidate Benjamin Netanyahu said if he is elected prime minister, he will put the withdrawal on hold for several years.

Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto won agreement from coalition partners to go ahead with a defense review aimed at breaking taboos on military action not directly involving Japan's defense, such as rescuing Japanese nationals overseas. Had the coalition not agreed, the review could have brought down Hashimoto's government. Also, Japan's current-account surplus fell 24 percent in the last fiscal year, the Finance Ministry said.

Sudanese President Omar Bashir says he asked Muslim extremists to leave the country immediately. The move comes days after the UN imposed sanctions on Sudan and appears to be an attempt to ease strained relations with its neighbors.

Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso was to announce a National Human Rights Program. The program, a Latin American first, includes payments to families of murdered political enemies and makes kidnapping and torture federal crimes.

ETCETERAS

''He almost became a jet setter for Muslim extremists." -- A law enforcement official on Ramzi Yousef, who is accused of the World Trade Center bombing. He led authorities on a two-year chase through several countries before he was captured last year in Islamabad, Pakistan.

"Twister," a thriller about scientists who drive into a tornado, whirled its way to No. 1 at the box office this weekend with an estimated gross of $37.5 million. It was the biggest opening ever for a nonholiday weekend in May. But it was far below the $52.8 million record held by "Batman Forever." The film is the latest special-effects-filled adventure from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.

The 100-year-old apartment house in Atlanta where Margaret Mitchell began writing "Gone With the Wind" was heavily damaged by fire. It was the second time in two years that it has burned. The three-story vacant brick building had been set to reopen to the public June 30 after a $4.5 million renovation. Arson is suspected.

THE DAY'S LIST

Film's crme de la crme

The verdict's still out on this year's 22 contenders for the Cannes Film Festival's prestigious Palme D'Or prize. Here's a look at 10 previous winners, the year they won, and their country of origin.

1995 - "Underground," Yugoslavia

1994 - "Pulp FIction," US

1993 - "Farewell My Concubine," China; and "The Piano," Australia (tie)

1992 - "Best Intentions," Sweden

1991 - "Barton Fink," US

1990 - "Wild at Heart," US

1989 - "sex, lies, and videotape," US

1988 - "Pelle the Conqueror," Denmark

1987 - "Under the Sun of Satan," France

1986 - "The Mission," US

- "The Top 10 of Everything 1996," by Russell Ash, published by Dorling Kindersley

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