News In Brief

By , Cynthia Hanson, and Peter Nordahl

THE US

The White House announced that the Federal Aviation Administration will act immediately to improve air safety. FAA administrator Dean Hinson was to discuss the steps, including accelerated hiring of 100 additional safety inspectors, in congressional testimony. The move was triggered by the crash of a 27-year-old ValuJet DC-9 in Florida's Everglades. USA Today reported the average US commercial jet was 14 years old in 1995. Also, government investigators are looking into charges that safety officials were pressured to certify ValuJet and other low-fare airlines. And a flight data recorder found in the murky waters was sent to Washington for analysis while searchers continued to look for the cockpit voice recorder and remains of passengers.

President Clinton proposed tougher penalties for youth violence and vowed to put gang members "out of business." He called for more leeway to prosecute juveniles as adults for drug conspiracy, violent crimes, and crimes involving guns. He also proposed longer detention of juveniles and expanded use of juvenile records to provide more information to victims and law-enforcement officials. While the overall crime rate is falling, youth crime has been on the rise since 1985, according to Attorney General Janet Reno.

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Secretary of State Warren Christopher was to convene a meeting between leaders of Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation in Washington. They are expected to discuss returning refugees, reconstruction, and human rights.

A crackdown on Medicare and Medicaid fraud recovered $42.3 million in funds over the last year, the Department of Heath and Human Services said. That's a return of $10 for every $1 of government spending on the pilot project, which was conducted in five states. Clinton's 1997 budget proposal seeks funds for a nationwide program.

Energy prices took their largest leap in more than five years in April, resulting in a 0.4 percent rise in consumer prices. A surge in gasoline and other energy prices accounted for three-fifths of the total advance last month. Excluding volatile energy and food sectors, the so-called core inflation rate climbed a modest 0.1 percent, analysts said. Retail sales dropped 0.3 percent, reflecting the biggest monthly drop in new-car purchases in 4-1/2 years.

Clinton was to hold a meeting to assess the impact of federal programs on Washington. The city is struggling under a $378 million budget deficit. And supporters welcomed Mayor Marion Barry, who wasn't invited to the meeting, back to Washington. He left town abruptly April 27 to recover from "spiritual relapse and physical exhaustion." At a press conference, Barry denied rumors that he'd relapsed into drug use.

Former CIA Director William Colby was buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. Investigators ruled out foul play in his death.

A General Accounting Office report issued on the eve of House debate on a $267-billion defense bill is questioning the need for billions in Pentagon spending on ground attack weapons. The GOP bill adds $13 billion to Clinton's request. Clinton said he would veto the bill because it makes unnecessary additions to military spending.

Clinton still opposes same-sex marriages, the White House said. He might sign a bill outlawing them that Senator Dole backed last week.

The US will import about 20 tons of nuclear waste from research reactors in 41 nations to prevent it from being used for bombs, the Energy Department said. It will take 13 years to import all the waste.

The FBI alerted Oklahoma City officials to "an upcoming terrorist attack" five days before the deadly bombing of a federal building in that city, a lawyer for accused bomber Timothy McVeigh said. Attorney Stephen Jones made the comment in a written argument filed in US District Court in Denver, where McVeigh and codefendant Terry Nichols are awaiting trial.

THE WORLD

The US will slap Chinese textiles and electronics with punitive tariffs today, a senior US official said. The move comes after talks between the two countries on copyright piracy failed. China says it will retaliate "tooth for tooth." And in Geneva, China indicated new flexibility on its position on a worldwide ban on nuclear explosions, giving new hope to flagging negotiations. China had been holding out for a later deadline for the agreement.

The voyage is finally over for about 4,000 Liberian refugees fleeing violence in their homeland. After 10 days spent on a rusty freighter under what the UN called "appalling" conditions, the refugees were allowed to disembark in Takoradi, Ghana. It is not clear how long they will be able to stay. Meanwhile, heavy fighting broke out in Liberia after several days of calm.

The US, Japan, and South Korea offered North Korea massive economic aid if the country agrees to peace talks. However, the US and Japan say they do not plan to provide the impoverished communist country with any additional emergency food. Meanwhile, the food shortage is becoming so desperate, some North Koreans are eating grass and roots, the UN-affiliated World Food Program reported.

Israel hammered suspected Hizbullah guerrilla posts in an apparently preemptive attack to thwart guerrilla activity, security sources said. Also, the main opposition party turned up the heat on Prime Minister Peres after Palestinians killed an Israeli student, who was also a US citizen, in the West Bank. And police arrested a man they said confessed to being a suicide bomber from Syria's Islamic Jihad.

A 1993 tightening of Germany's asylum laws doesn't conflict with the Constitution, Germany's highest court ruled. The court added safeguards to protect foreigners' rights.The controversial changes were put in place to stem an annual tide of 438,000 economic refugees. Refugees coming from "safe countries of origin," or via stopovers in such countries, are automatically denied asylum.

Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA's political wing Sinn Fein, dismissed reports that the guerrillas may soon call a truce. Top Clinton aide Nancy Soderberg told BBC radio there was "no justification for a continued bombing campaign," as the US continued to urge the IRA to call a cease-fire before June 10 talks on peace in Northern Ireland. If the violence continues, Sinn Fein will not be allowed to attend.

Quebec's separatist leaders backed away from calling an early election. But they took steps to show their anger at the federal government for challenging their right to secede. Their ire was aroused when Ottawa said it would intervene in a court case challenging the province's right to secede unilaterally.

Russia and Belarus are prepared to form a military union if NATO continues with plans to expand eastward, Russia's defense minister said. Separately, Chechen rebels are planning an attack to disrupt President Yeltsin's campaign visit to the republic, military officials said. UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said he won't bring up the war in Chechnya during his state visit to Russia.

A devastating tornado ripped through northern Bangladesh. At least 400 people were killed and more than 33,000 injured.

Dominican President Joaquin Balaguer made surprise changes at the top levels of the armed forces and National Police, two days before tomorrow's presidential election. Balaguer, who has dominated politics for three decades, is constitutionally barred from seeking reelection.

More than 375 people, nearly all Hutus, were massacred May 3 in Burundi, aid agency sources said. Earlier reports estimated 200 people were killed.

ETCETERAS

''We mean to put [gangs] out of business ... to stop you from terrorizing our neighborhoods and our children, to put you away for a very long time." -- President Clinton, proposing tougher penalties for criminal gangs.

A mysterious stone wall deep in an uninhabited New Zealand forest was not built by an ancient civilization, scientists now agree. It's not man-made at all. It's an old lava-flow outcropping.

Ostrich will soon be served for lunch by British Airways. The airline said it would introduce ostrich in first class on flights between London and the US in July.

Hannes Sarkuni, at 14, is about to become the youngest graduate of New Jersey's Rutgers University. He skipped high school. His degree is in computer science and math.

THE DAY'S LIST

Kid Computer Programs

Here's a list of new titles approved by Parents' Choice, a nonprofit consumer guide. Names are followed by manufacturer, suggested age group, price, and phone number. Titles are PC and Mac compatible.

Lamb Chop Loves Music; Philips; 3-7; $19.99; (310) 444-6600

The Berenstain Bears Get in a Fight; Random House/ Broderbund, Living Books; 3-8; $39.95; (800) 521-6263

Sheila Rae; The Brave; Random House/Broderbund, Living Books; 3-8; $39.95

Trudy's Time and Place House; Edmark; 3-6; $39.99; (800) 691-2985

Big Job: The Discovery Channel Kids; 4-8; $39.95; (800) 762-2189

Reader Rabbit's Reading Development Library; The Learning Company; 5-7; $45; (800) 852-2255

Read, Write & Type!; The Learning Company; 6-8; $60

Strategy Games of the World; Edmark; 8-14; $39.99

Operation Neptune; The Learning Company; 9-14; $45

Operation: Weather Disaster; The Discovery Channel Family Entertainment; 10-up; $39.95

-- Parents' Choice, Waban, Mass.

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