News In Brief

The US

After a one-vote Senate defeat of the balanced-budget amendment, Republicans vowed to fight on in the House. Senate GOP leaders held out the possibility that another version of the constitutional amendment would eventually gain congressional approval. The Senate vote on the proposed amendment was 66-to-34, one short of the two-thirds majority needed in both houses.

President Clinton directed that foreigners wanting to buy guns must present photo IDs and proof that they have been in the US three months. Last month, a Palestinian who entered the US on a tourist visa shot seven people at New York's Empire State Building.

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat met with US Jewish leaders in New York. He also was expected to meet with UN General Assembly President Razali Ismail and Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as well as the 15 Security Council ambassadors. Then he was to fly to Georgia for talks with former President Jim-my Carter and to Houston to deliver a speech at Rice University and hold talks with former President George Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker..

Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan acknowledged he was unsure where the stock market was headed. But he did not back away from recent remarks suggesting that share prices may be too high. Speaking to the National Association of Business Economists, he defended his cautionary comments and again denied that he was trying to talk the stock market down.

An administrative foul-up was the reason that thousands of immigrants with criminal backgrounds became citizens last year, Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Doris Meissner told a House Appropriations subcommittee. Rep. Har-old Rogers (R) of Kentucky, chairman of the subcommittee, insisted the goal was to rush people into citizenship so they could vote in November elections, presumably for Democrats. The Justice Department has said the INS failed to conduct full background checks on as many as 180,000 of the newly naturalized citizens.

The founder of a spiritual movement that has reached nearly 100,000 Indian villages with a message that God is great-er than class or religious divisions won the $1.21 million 1997 Templeton Prize for Prog-ress in Religion. Pandurang Shastri Athavale was honored for leadership of a self-knowledge movement based on the Bhaga-vad Gita, one of Hinduism's holiest texts. The movement's basic message is that God is present in all people.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to approve the nomination of former US Rep. Douglas (Pete) Peterson (D) of Florida as the first US ambassador to postwar Vietnam. The vote sent the nomination of the former prisoner of war to the full Senate, but it was not clear when it would act. Sen. Robert Smith (R) of N.H. has vowed to block action, pending an investigation into alleged links between Clinton's 1995 normalization of relations with Vietnam and possible illegal foreign donations to the Democratic Party.

Violent extremist groups have grown in number and vehemence since the Oklahoma City bombing two years ago, a group that monitors hate-crime activity warned. The Klanwatch Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., said at least 858 such groups were active in the US last year, including 380 armed militias. The figures represent a 6 percent rise in the number of groups identified by Klanwatch in 1994 and 1995.

The Army said it was lowering recruiting standards and raising bonuses to increase enlistments. A brisk civilian job market and bad publicity from numerous sexual-harassment cases at bases in the US and overseas have caused a shortage of recruits, Army officials said.

Investigators in Los Angeles confiscated nearly $10 million in allegedly pirated Microsoft computer software and cash. Authorities said they had arrested two Chinese nationals in the case. Some $6.2 million in software and $3.6 million in cash were seized.

The World

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mubarak disagreed publicly over plans for new Jewish housing in East Jerusalem. Both men appeared angry at a news conference following their talks in Cairo. Further complicating the meeting was Netanyahu's order to close four Palestinian Authority offices in Jerusalem. A spokesman for the authority denied it had any connection to the offices and accused Netanyahu of trying to "ruin" the coming final status negotiations on Jerusalem's future.

Albania's Foreign Ministry denied that Air Force jets had been ordered to bomb protesters who control much of the southern part of the country. But witnesses - among them an Associated Press photographer - saw a bomb fall on a village near the city of Sarand as well as smoke from other aerial attacks. Meanwhile, President Berisha rejected calls to form a coalition government with his opponents to address the country's ongoing crisis. He also replaced the Army chief of staff with his own military adviser.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin insisted that the country's armed forces must obey the decisions of the ruling Communist Party. He told Army leaders attending the National People's Congress that "absolute" loyalty was necessary because of what he called "new trials on the road of progress." Analysts saw Jiang's move as a critical test of his authority, since he never served in the military.

Faced with losing more territory to rebel forces, Zaire called for immediate implementation of a UN cease-fire plan. The plan would bring international monitors to the country to oversee the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries. Zaire accuses neighboring Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda of helping the reb-els, who were closing in on Kinsangani, the country's third-largest city. A rebel spokesman had no immediate comment on the government's move.

Mexico will not accept a reported US offer to build and train a force modeled after the Drug Enforcement Agency, Attorney General Jorge Madrazo said. He said it "would not be possible" to combine Mexico's various antidrug units into an agency similar to the DEA. The report appeared in Time magazine.

Switzerland should establish a fund worth billions of dollars to aid "victims of poverty, catastrophes, genocide, and other serious human rights abuses" - particularly from the Holocaust - President Arnold Koller propo-sed. He said the fund would draw on official gold reserves, to be disbursed annually within and outside Switzerland. The move was seen as his government's strongest response so far to accusations that Switzerland profited from its noncombatant status in World War II.

Iran collected pledges of international aid for victims of its latest earthquake, following the first official plea for such help in 10 years. Officials in Tehran said the early donors included Norway, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Japan, Switzerland, the UN, and nongovernmental organizations. An estimated 60,000 people and 100 villages were affected by the quake.

Two former East German border guards were convicted of manslaughter for the 1962 kill-ing of a teenager who tried to escape to West Berlin. Erich Schreiber and Rolf Friedrich told the court they were sorry for their role in the death of Peter Fechter. They were sentenced to 20 and 21 months probation, respectively.

Thousands of German police battled to open a path for the final leg of a shipment of nuclear waste. The waste had been blocked by antinuclear protesters at a railroad station in Dannenberg before it finally arrived at its storage site in nearby Gorleben. Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested. The security operation was being called the largest and costliest in postwar German history.

Etceteras

I see it as a tribute to the conviction that existence of God is central to life and true religion is the guiding principle of life."

- Pandurang Shastri Athavale, on receiving the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.

Texans are famous for liking things big - even fibs. But the Texas Capitol Giftshop in Austin isn't willing to lie about the sources of its merchandise. For instance, copies of the Lone Star flag: They're made in Taiwan. Its T-shirts come from Mexico. It also sells ceramic bells made in Japan. Is anything in the store made in Texas? Yep, if it's available from suppliers at "competitive" prices.

Major companies will go to great lengths to protect their images. Case in point: Federal Express. The Memphis-based shipping giant threatened to sue a small coffee bar in Syracuse, N.Y., because the place calls itself Federal Espresso. The threat worked. The owner says she can't afford to contest the is-sue in court, so she'll ask her customers to suggest replacement names.

Speaking of suing, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein wants to make a Paris magazine pay for what he says is defamation of character. Last September, Le Nouvel Observateur labeled him a "monster" and a "cretin" - and those were two of the nicer references. The case currently is hung up on whether he can sue as a head of state or as a common citizen, since France cut diplomatic ties with Iraq in 1991.

The Day's List

Top 10 Box Office Films

Best-selling movies, their studios, and estimated grosses (in millions of dollars) for the weekend of Feb. 28-March 2:

1. "The Empire Strikes Back," 20th Century Fox $13.1

2. "Donnie Brasco," Sony $11.7

3. "Star Wars," 20th Century Fox $6.9

4. "Booty Call," Sony $6.4

5. "Absolute Power," Sony $5.7

6. "Dante's Peak," Universal $5.3

7. "Vegas Vacation," Warner Bros. $4.6

8. "Fools Rush In," Sony $3.6

9. "Marvin's Room," Miramax $3.3

10. "Rosewood," Warner Bros. $2.9

- Exhibitor Relations/AP

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