News In Brief

The US

Stock prices seemed to be recovering a bit in early trading after a precipitous slide that began last week amid concerns about inflation and rising interest rates. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 157 points Monday after a 140-point slide Thursday.

Manufacturing expanded at the fastest pace in more than two years last month in an another indication that the economy is strengthening, a widely followed industry survey said. The National Association of Purchasing Management report on March activity showed healthy gains in new orders, in backlogged orders, and in employment. But it also suggested that prices paid by factories for raw materials were steady, a sign inflation remains under control.

A widely followed gauge of future economic activity rose slightly more than expected in February, a sign of a robust economy that analysts said could touch off inflation. The index of leading economic indicators, released by the Conference Board, stood at 103.5 - a 0.5 percent increase from January figures. Economic forecasts had called for the leading index to only increase between 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent.

Wintry weather swept across much of the nation, dumping up to two feet of snow in the Northeast. Schools and businesses were closed from upstate New York to Maine. Storm warnings also were posted for parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Farther south, a tree toppled by high winds killed a man in North Carolina. In Utah, winds and heavy snow downed power lines, cutting electricity to some 40,000 people.

Arizona capped a wild run through a 64-team field with a 84-79 overtime win over defending champion Kentucky to capture its first NCAA men's basketball championship. On its way to victory, Arizona became the first team to defeat three No. 1 tournament seeds.

Reform and Conservative movements "are not Judaism at all," but "another religion" because they condone assimilation and intermarriage, the 600-member Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada said. Its statement, reflecting a widening rift among American Jews, was criticized by two rival groups representing the overwhelming majority of North Am-erica's Orthodox Jews.

Pilots at American Eagle, the commuter airline that feeds American Airlines, endorsed the tentative contract between the bigger carrier and its pilots. The pact being considered would benefit American Eagle pilots by putting them in line for higher-paying jobs at American Airlines. It also would provide more job security for American Airlines pilots by allowing a limited number of furloughed pilots to fly American Eagle jets.

President Clinton was expected to ask the Federal Communications Commission to study ramifications of a 1996 decision to end a 50-year voluntary ban on TV and radio hard-liquor ads. White House officials said Reed Hundt, a Democrat appointed by Clinton to head the FCC, has been unable to convince fellow board members to open a broad inquiry, and the president was hoping his appeal would help swing a majority in Hundt's favor..

Holocaust victims and their families sued a group of European insurance companies, alleging the firms withheld, concealed, or converted the cash value and proceeds of policies sold before 1946. The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, seeks class-action certification for people who bought life, property, and casualty insurance or annuities from the defendants between 1920 and 1945. The suit seeks billions of dollars in damages.

The World

Pointing to two suicide bombings in the Gaza Strip by Islamic militants, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu alleged that Palestinian Authority President Arafat had yet to turn a so-called "green light" for terror into a red one. In an interview with the Monitor - to appear in full tomorrow - Netanyahu said Arafat must arrest the leaders of Muslim fundamentalist groups, collect illegal wea-pons, condemn terror, and stop the legitimization of violence in the "Palestinian-controlled press" before peace talks can resume. He said he would continue to reject proposals that a controversial Jewish housing project in East Jerusalem be put on hold as a goodwill gesture to get the peace process back on track.

Speaker Newt Gingrich was scheduled to pay the first official visit to Taiwan by a leader of the House of Representatives since the US cut diplomatic ties to the island in 1979. Gingrich was expected to repeat a pledge he made last week in Beijing: that the US would defend Taiwan from attack by the communist Chinese mainland. China called the remark "indiscreet."

Retreating soldiers of the Zairean Army were disarmed by military police in Lubumbashi to prevent looting, news reports said. The troops had abandoned the rail center of Kamina, despite government claims that its forces still held the strategic town after three days of heavy fighting with rebel units. The rebels say Lubumbashi, Zaire's second-largest city, is their next goal.

Britain's major political parties began formal campaigning for the country's May 1 election. The ruling Conservatives, trailing in public opinion polls by 20 or more points, hoped for early momentum from a blistering attack on the opposition Labour Party by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She called perceptions of Labour's new vitality "an illusion." Labour leader Tony Blair told crowds in the market city of Northampton, "Put your trust in us and we will repay it 1,000 times over."

By unanimous vote, both houses of parliament stripped Pakistan's Constitution of a controversial provision that allowed the president to dismiss governments. That power was transferred to the prime minister, along with the right to appoint the chiefs of all branches of the armed forces. Parliament has been dissolved four times in the past 10 years by presidents who are not directly elected - most recently last November, when former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was fired on grounds of corruption and ineptitude.

A longtime heavy smoker filed what is believed to be Turkey's first health-related lawsuit against a tobacco company. It seeks "symbolic" damages of 1 billion Turkish lira ($8,000) from Philip Morris-Sabanci, maker of Marlboro cigarettes, for a variety of ailments that have left the plaintiff bedridden. Smoking is widespread in Turkey, and lawyers for the plaintiff said he hoped his case would encourage other cigarette users to sue.

The government of Spain sought to assure the public that trains are a safe mode of transportation after separate derailments on the same day killed 21 people and injured 116 others. The accidents took place 10 hours and 175 miles apart. The first accident was blamed on excessive speed; the second was under investigation.

A new assessment of the food shortage in North Korea: It has become so dire that many people are eating tree bark, UN World Food Program administrator Catherine Bertini said. Berti-ni, back from a tour of the reclusive communist nation, also said rations to the 1.1-million-member armed forces have been cut for the first time. She said officials in Pyongyang, the capital, told her the country could run out of food this month.

Etceteras

"Millions of people are going to starve ... this summer if the international community does not get a lot of food to North Korea soon."

- UN World Food Program director Catherine Bertini, after an inspection tour of the struggling communist nation.

Until May 15, British Airways is offering a free round-trip ticket to any US destination if its transatlantic Club World customers aren't satisfied with the ride. More than likely, Stuart Pike will not be taking advantage of the promotion. He turned out to be the only passenger on the second of the carrier's two flights from New York to London last Sunday. Not surprisingly, he chose to sit in first class. And the pilot let him watch the landing from the flight deck. Pike's assessment of the trip: "It was terrific!"

Ryan Ruby accepted his parents' challenge: watch no television for one full year and earn $600. But now that the year is up and the money is safely in the Kitchener, Ont., youngster's bank account, guess what he intends to do with it? Why, buy himself a new TV set, of course.

A couple of muscular thieves in Orange, Calif., rip-ped off an automatic teller machine - literally. They used tools to pull the 400-pound device from its moorings in the wall of a bowling alley, then lugged it outside, loaded in onto a truck, and left. Police wouldn't say how much cash was inside. But they figured after all the effort that went into stealing the ATM, the bad guys would somehow find a way to empty it.

The Day's List

Top Box Office Films for Final Weekend in March

A week after posting the biggest box office opening ever in March, Jim Carrey's comedy "Liar, Liar" held the No. 1 spot again, earning more money than any movie had on an Easter weekend. Best-selling movies and their estimated grosses for March 28-30 (in millions of dollars).

1. "Liar, Liar" $24.2

2. "The Devil's Own" $14.3

3. "Selena" $5.6

4. "Return of the Jedi" $4.5

5. "The Sixth Man" $4.3

6. "Jungle 2 Jungle" $4.1

7. "Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie" $3.5

8. "The English Patient" $3.0

9. "BAPS" $2.8

10. "Private Parts" $2.5

- Exhibitor Relations/AP

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