News In Brief

The US

Firefighters hoped to extinguish a fire in flood-ravaged Grand Forks, N.D. that they said covers about a block. Efforts were hampered by rising floodwaters after dikes holding back the Red River gave way. The rising river is expected to crest at 54 feet and broke the 1887 record of 50 feet. The city's 50,000 residents may not be able to return home for two weeks while the city's water plant is repaired. National Guardsmen in North Dakota are using equipment to remove animal carcasses before they foul drinking water. Nearly 90,000 cattle have died in the recent flooding and blizzards.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed Friday with its biggest weekly gain ever. The Dow gained 311 points, ending at 6,703. The gain beat the 206-point surge in the week of Aug. 2 last year.

Some 300 victims of the Oklahoma City bombing filed suit, charging the federal government failed to protect the public. The suit claims government agents had prior warning of the attack. The two-year statute of limitations against such suits expires today, two days after the second anniversary of the bombing. Also, lawyers in the Oklahoma bombing trial plan to pick 12 jurors and six alternates in Denver this week from a jury pool described as mostly white, well-educated people with ties to the military, but who mistrust big government and the news media.

Budget talks were scheduled to resume today, despite the threats of Republican leaders to end talks last week if no agreement was reached. The House budget chairman said negotiations will continue for two more weeks, but Congress will offer its own spending plan if a compromise isn't reached by then, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The US government plans to begin seizing an estimated $1.5 billion in Colombian drug profits today from banks around the country, The Dallas Morning News said. Arrests are unlikely because most of the account holders and managers live outside the US, an investigator said.

A strike of nearly 13,000 Goodyear employees in seven states has brought the company plants to a halt after negotiations with the United Steelworkers Union failed. Another 8,000 Goodyear employees at eight other locations are working under different contracts.

President Clinton and Vice President Gore reassured Hong Kong democracy leader Martin Lee during a White House meeting that there would be consequences if freedom erodes in the colony once China assumes control. The three discussed the 1984 pact between China and Britain that returns control of Hong Kong to Beijing July 1.

Sixty percent of Americans support the idea of volunteering, but only 46 percent say they actually donate time to charitable causes, according to a Newsweek/NBC poll. Of those who volunteer, the most popular choice is working with young people. The poll was released a week before Clinton and former presidents Bush, Carter, and Ford plan to attend a volunteering summit in Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court blocked the execution of Gary Heidnik until it can hear arguments on his mental competence. Heidnik was convicted in 1988 of kidnapping and torturing six women, and killing two of them. Also, a poll of death row inmates by The Dallas Morning News found few take the death penalty seriously, most begin their criminals careers as juveniles, and almost all had troubled childhoods. Some 700 of the 3,000 prisoners on death row responded to the survey.

Toy maker Hasbro Inc. was fined $120,000 and ordered to retract claims that its new antibacterial toys will protect children from germs. The company doesn't plan to appeal the decision by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The NFL draft was completed in New York. The St. Louis Rams chose Orlando Pace with the No. 1 pick. He was the first offensive lineman taken as No. 1 in 29 years since Minnesota chose Ron Yary in 1968. Pace was the first player to win two consecutive Lombardi Awards as college football's outstanding lineman.

The World

Government prosecutors in Israel decided not to bring charges against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his role in an influence-peddling scandal, despite police recommendations to the contrary. Israel Radio said the prosecutors recommended charging only a key Netanyahu political ally in the case. A spokesman said the prime minister would make a televised response to the prosecutors' decision.

The opposition Union of Democratic Forces was headed for victory in Bulgaria's national elections, with 52 percent of the vote and at least 136 seats in the 240-member National Assembly. The outcome was a rejection of the formerly communist Socialist Party, which had controlled the country since 1989.

The most senior North Korean defector to seek asylum in rival South Korea arrived in Seoul under tight security. South Korean jets escorted Hwang Jang Yop's flight from Manila because of concerns that the North might try to intercept it. In an emotional appearance before reporters, Hwang said he fled North Korea to try to prevent another war on the peninsula.

French President Jacques Chirac would neither confirm nor deny published reports that he planned an announcement today of a new national election. The Paris newspaper Le Monde reported that Chirac would call for a two-stage vote beginning either May 25 or June 1. Results of a survey in the weekly Journal du Dimanche indicate that 56 percent of voters disapprove of Chirac's government and 59 percent would welcome an election.

New United Front coalition leader Inder Kumar Gujral was scheduled to be sworn in today as India's new prime minister. Gujral succeeds H.D. Deve Gowda, who lost a vote of confidence in parliament earlier this month. The influential Congress Party, which toppled Deve Gowda, offered support to the United Front but refused to say whether it would accept seats in Gujral's Cabinet.

An advance guard of Chinese troops is due to arrive in Hong Kong today to help prepare for the July 1 takeover of the British colony. Their arrival was preceded by another mass protest by democracy activists against China's plans to roll back civil liberties once it assumes control.

Thousands of Australians rallied in Melbourne in support of a campaign to grant asylum to refugees from East Timor. A federal court has been hearing the cases of 1,360 Timorese who fled Indonesian control of their homeland. But Australia is one of the few countries that recognizes Indonesia's annexation of the former Portuguese colony, and the government wants the refugees to seek asylum in Portugal.

Saudi security forces set up checkpoints on all routes outside the holy city of Mecca to ensure that Muslim pilgrims from other countries did not overstay their visas. The move followed last week's fires in two tent camps that killed at least 343 pilgrims and injured 1,500 others. Officials say more than 14,000 pilgrims were deported last year after overstaying to seek employment, in violation of Saudi immigration law.

Rebels of the Popular Revolutionary Army occupied the Mexican town of San Pedro Yolux and said they would consider laying down their weapons and negotiating peace with the national government if leftists won the country's elections in July. Since surfacing last June, the rebels have killed more than two dozen people in various clashes with security forces.

Etceteras

"A country which boasts it has built a heaven on earth has turned into a nation begging for a living."

- Hwang Jang Yop, the most senior North Korean defector to rival South Korea, on conditions in his troubled homeland.

"Sorry, wrong number" didn't work for a suspected drug dealer in Bayreuth, Germany, when he called the worst possible party in an attempt to restock his inventory of narcotics. He inadvertently reached a mobile phone used by police, who arrested him when he show-ed up to complete the transaction.

Tiger Woods is not what you'd call an acquaintance of President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines. But the pro golf star nonetheless made Ramos late for a speaking engagement and - to the latter's embarrassment - only hours after he had declared April 12-18 as National Punctuality Week. It seems Ramos was watching a live telecast of Woods winning the Masters Tournament in faraway Augusta, Ga. The president then overslept and had to be awakened by aides while his audience wondered where he was.

Unlike other cities, it's perfectly OK to overstay at a parking meter in New Haven, Conn. In an experiment aimed at increasing business traffic downtown, the city has decided to give motorists a grace period instead of tickets when their vehicles remain at the curb beyond the time they've paid for. But there is a limit to this civic generosity: 30 minutes, to be precise.

The Day's List

Top 10 Snacks For When Hunger Pangs Strike

One of the products affected by Procter & Gamble's controversial decision to end the use of redeemable store coupons is the company's Pringles snack chips. The following are the most popular types of snack foods, based on percentage of sales to supermarkets and other stores:

1. chocolate bars 45.5

2. potato chips, pretzels 22.0

3. cookies 9.4

4. nonchocolate bars 8.7

5. chewing gum 3.4

6. filled crackers 2.8

7. nuts 2.5

8. mints 2.3

9. granola bars 1.5

10. crackers 1.4

- Russell Ash, "The Top 10 of Everything, 1997"

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