News In Brief

The US

Jury selection begins today in the Denver trial of Timothy McVeigh, who is accused of carrying out the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. Security is tight: Concrete barriers have been erected around the courthouse where the trial is to be held, and TV cameras installed on nearby buildings.

Wall Street opens today with concerns over a 140-point drop in the the Dow Jones industrial average Thursday - the eighth-worst point loss on record. The stock market was closed Friday. Analysts say investors are concerned about runaway growth. The US economy grew at a strong 3.8 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of 1996, according to the Commerce Department.

US businesses that contributed more than $2.3 million to Democratic Party committees were given coveted seats on US trade missions, according to The Boston Globe. And some 27 companies that sent executives on trade trips with the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown received nearly $5.5 billion in federal aid from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to support foreign operations, the report said. All but three donated to the Democratic Party.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and daughter, Chelsea, returned home from a two-week tour of Africa to join President Clinton for Easter. Meanwhile, Vice President Al Gore returned home from Asia to a chorus of criticisms. While Gore said he made "tremendous progress" in improving US-Sino relations, critics say he dealt too gingerly with the Chinese regarding allegations that the communist country tried to buy US influence with illicit 1996 campaign contributions. It was the highest-level visit by a US official since 1989.

Arkansas lawmakers said they "sent a message" to Clinton by approving a bill outlawing a form of late-term abortion. Gov. Mike Huckabee vowed to sign the bill banning "partial birth" abortion. Clinton's home state joined Georgia, Michigan, Utah, and Ohio in outlawing the procedure. Clinton has threatened to repeat his veto of last year if Congress passes a similar bill this year.

A dozen tornadoes ripped through Tennessee, snapping utility poles designed to withstand 160 m.p.h. winds and injuring nearly a dozen people. Property damage was reported in 12 counties. Kentucky experienced a half-dozen tornadoes earlier from the same weather system, which injured 26 people and killed two others.

The Justice Department found no misconduct or political motivation but "very poor judgment" by FBI General Counsel Howard Shapiro in contacting the White House about a congressional investigation of the FBI background-files case. GOP lawmakers requested he be fired after learning that Shapiro tipped off the White House that a confidential FBI personnel file on its security aide, Craig Livingstone, was being turned over to congressional investigators. Critics questioned whether his actions interfered with an investigation by Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr.

A government ban on assault weapons may be a factor in a nationwide drop in violent crime, a federally funded study by the Urban Institute found. Since the law was passed in 1994, homicide rates in states that had no prior prohibition have dropped by 10.3 percent, while they have declined by only 0.1 percent in states that had previously banned assault weapons, it said. But not enough time has passed since the law went into effect to conclusively judge its impact on street violence, the study concluded.

Environmentalists protested Utah's granting of a permit to Conoco to begin drilling for oil in the newly designated Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Conoco plans to drill 14,500 feet below the surface to test a theory that oil is trapped in ancient geologic formations. It has agreed to restore the site if no oil is found.

The World

Easter celebrations in Jerusa-lem were clouded by another day of clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel threatened to send tanks to keep order in Palestinian-controlled Nablus, while in Bethlehem, Hebron, and other cities, marchers held the annual Land Day protest against Israeli confiscation of property.

Suspicion fell on Protestant paramilitary groups for planting a car bomb outside a Belfast office of Sinn Fein, the political ally of the IRA. Security forces defused the bomb before it could explode. The incident followed a sniper attack on a policeman near Northern Ireland's border with the Republic of Ireland and the discovery of another bomb near a British Army base outside Belfast.

An estimated 40,000 protesters gathered in Strasbourg, France, for a march to oppose the rise of political leader Jean-Marie Le Pen's anti-immigrant, right-wing National Front. Le Pen, whose party was holding a strategy session in the city, dismissed the demonstration as meaningless and called for closer coordination among Europe's nationalist political movements.

India's ruling coalition teeter-ed on the edge of collapse after losing the support of the influential Congress Party. A Congress spokesman said its action was prompted by the coalition's ineffectiveness in addressing law and order and national security. Congress is not part of Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda's 14-party coalition but had guaranteed to support it in order to block the rival Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party from returning to power. In a statement, the Congress Party demanded the right to form its own government.

Against the backdrop of political uncertainty in New Delhi, Indian and Pakistani diplomats prepared to wind up two days of talks on a permanent settlement between their long-hostile countries. But as they met, new violence flared in the state of Jam-mu and Kashmir, which both countries claim. A car bomb kill-ed 16 people and injured 70 others. Nine policemen were hurt when another device went off, and four civilians were injured in a grenade attack on a market in the state's summer capital, Srinagar.

The Italian Navy was blamed for ramming a boatload of Albanian refugees at sea in an incident that reportedly killed four people and left 79 others missing. Italian officials said bad maneuvering by the Albanian craft caused the accident. It came as Albania's parliament voted to approve deployment of an Italian-led security force to protect humanitarian relief operations in the troubled Balkan country.

A peaceful resolution is not near for 72 hostages being held in Peru, the leader of the leftist Tpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement said. Nestor Cerpa Cartolini said his guerrillas and the Peruvian government "are not really drawing close," and that the hostage-takers do not seek asylum in Cuba as a way out of the longest hostage crisis in Latin American history.

An opposition rally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, ended in violence when someone lobbed four grenades into the crowd. At least 12 people died and more than 100 others were hurt. The attack appeared aimed at Sam Rainsy, leader of the opposition Khmer Nation Party, who was not among the casualties. The rally had official authorization.

Hundreds of protesters stag-ed a rare public demonstration in the capital of Kazakstan against the the economic policies of President Nursultan Nazar-bayev. The demonstrators, many of them retirees, were angered by a $1.3 billion backlog of unpaid pensions and wages. They called for Nazarbayev to quit and return the former Soviet republic to the communist system.

Etceteras

"It's an Alice-in-Wonderland situation.... Good economic news is bad for the markets, and bad economic news is good."

- Pittsburgh economist Norman Robertson, on potential effects to the economy from the new rise in federal interest rates.

Administrators are covered in embarrassment because of a newspaper ad touting the quality of the Milwaukee public schools. The ad speaks of "rigourous" requirements for graduation and of exams that test student "proficiencey." The correct spellings are "rigorous" and "proficiency." An ad agency accepted responsibility for the goofs. It's not known whether the designer was educated in the city.

Sheriff John Anderson surveyed the crime scene at the county courthouse in Baltimore and said: "These are the type of people we need to remove from society for a long, long time." What had happened that so aroused his ire: a murder? a terrorist bombing? an act of vandalism? No: Thieves had made off with a pair of 300-pound brass doors that were temporarily off their hinges so the entrance could be made handicapped-accessible.

Last week this space related the tale of teenager Ari Hoffman, whose experiment on irradiating fruit flies was tossed out of a San Francisco science fair on grounds of cruelty to animals. Well, the issue caused such a - uh - buzz that Ari got an apology and was invited to enter the statewide fair in May.

The Day's List

Rating the Nation's Most Family-Friendly Cities

The best places to raise a family are overwhelmingly in the North, according to a survey by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research in Storrs, Conn. It matched parent wish-lists (such factors as close-knit, drug-free communities and solid schools) with measurable data (such as FBI crime rates). The top 12 cities, as published in the April issue of Reader's Digest:

1. Sheboygan, Wis.

2. Kenosha, Wis.

3. Fort Collins-Loveland, Colo.

4. Bremerton, Wash.

5. Pittsburgh

6. Burlington, Vt.

7. Charlottesville, Va.

8. Spokane, Wash.

9. Boston

10. Hickory-Morganton, N.C.

11. St. Cloud, Minn.

12. Provo-Orem, Utah

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