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The US

The White House and congressional leaders were close to a budget-balancing deal, but were reportedly concerned that it might be a tough sell to Democratic liberals and GOP conservatives. Differences reportedly remained over a five-year tax-cut package and over some $20 billion in domestic discretionary spending. The agreement would balance the federal budget by 2002.

Personal incomes rose 0.6 percent and consumer spending increased 0.5 percent in March, the Commerce Department announced. It also said construction spending slipped 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted $600.1 billion annual rate. Manufacturing slowed in March while the prices paid for raw materials fell for the first time in five months, a widely followed industry survey reported. The National Association of Purchasing Management's index of April business activity decreased to 54.2 percent in April from 55.0 percent in March.

Recommended: Default

The Senate confirmed Alexis Herman as secretary of labor on an 85-to-13 vote. Republicans removed a hold on the nomination after President Clinton agreed to drop plans to issue an executive order telling US agencies to consider awarding construction contracts to unionized companies. Instead, he will make the same plea in a memo, an aide said.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would provide more than $5 billion for victims of floods, hurricanes, and other disasters in 22 states on a 15-to-13 party-line vote. The measure included an amendment that Republicans say is meant to prevent another government shutdown. Some Democrats saw it as a back-door way of cutting spending and said it could force the president to veto the entire flood-relief measure.

Attorney General Janet Reno firmly defended her decision not to seek an independent counsel to investigate campaign-finance allegations against criticisms by Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The GOP critics said she was misreading the law and ignoring conflicts of interest that cry out for an independent inquiry. Reno also implored the Senate to supply "desperately needed" aid to US courts by filling 100 vacant judgeships.

The US space agency approved a mission for the shuttle Atlantis to pick up one US astronaut and drop off another at the Russian Mir space station. The shuttle is to launch May 15 and dock two days later with the orbiting space station, where US astronaut Jerry Linenger has worked since January. His place aboard Mir will be taken by British-born astronaut Michael Foale. A fire and problems with the station's life-support systems prompted agency officials to scrutinize safety aboard the orbiting outpost before authorizing Foale's four-month stay.

Jane Garvey, acting head of the Federal Highway Administration, is Clinton's choice to lead the Federal Aviation Administration, officials said. A former administrator of Boston's Logan Airport, Garvey has been deputy administrator of the Highway Administration since 1993.

The percentage of teen-age girls having sex dropped in 1995 for the first time since a federal survey program began 25 years ago. Fifty percent of girls between 15 and 19 have had intercourse at least once, according to the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth. That's down from 55 percent in 1990. The survey is conducted every five years.

Optimism faded that a standoff between Texas separatists and police would end soon. The leader of the Republic of Texas group broke off talks, police cut off power to its headquarters, and bloodhounds were brought in. The standoff began April 27.

A broad coalition of antinuclear and environmental groups was expected to file a lawsuit, charging that the Energy Department failed to make required environmental-impact reviews in developing its nuclear-stockpile management plan. The suit, scheduled to be filed in Washington, could reportedly delay the nuclear-stockpile program for years.

The World

Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko failed to appear for a scheduled flight to Gabon that would take him to face-to-face peace talks with rebel leader Laurent Kabila. Conflicting reports indicated that the long-awaited discussions could take place as soon as today or as late as Sunday. South African President Nelson Mandela and special UN envoy Mohamed Sahnoun were expected to serve as mediators.

First results are expected early today from Britain's general elections, with most indications pointing to a majority in Parliament for the Labour Party. Final opinion surveys published in the hours before voting began gave Labour a lead of 13 to 20 points over the ruling Conservatives. Security units swept polling places for hidden explosives, but nothing suspicious was reported despite Irish Republican Army efforts to disrupt British life in the days prior to the election.

The US dollar made further gains against the yen in Tokyo trading, despite efforts by Japan's finance ministry to temper the rise. As trading wound down, the dollar stood at 126.38 yen - its highest level in 56 months. Analysts attributed the continued rise to the release of highly positive economic indicators in the US. In parliament, Finance Minister Hiroshi Mitsuzuka hinted that the US might join Japan in propping up the yen.

Japan's ambassador to Peru defended the violent commando raid that freed all but one of the 72 hostages held inside his residence in Lima by leftist guerrillas. Morihisa Aoki said he regretted the deaths of one hostage and all 14 of the guerrillas but added "maybe that's the path they chose for themselves." He said the experience should be "a big lesson" as Japan pursues peaceful diplomacy in the future.

US businessman Donald Ratcliffe was questioned by South Korean intelligence officials after his arrest for spying. The Litton Industries executive is accused of collecting secrets about Seoul's arms-procurement program. South Korea is planning major air-defense technology purchases, and US companies are competing with European and Russian suppliers for contracts.

The two minority parties permitted to compete in Indonesia's elections cancelled campaign rallies after attacks on their offices and some of their supporters. Windows of the Muslim-based United Development Party's offices were smashed in Yogyakarta and three followers were hurt in a clash with supporters of the ruling Golkar Party. Violence in the city of Surabaya also caused the Indonesian Democratic Party to suspend campaigning there.

Despite his wounds, President Emomali Rakhmonov met with law-enforcement officials to discuss tighter security measures in Tajikistan. His arrival for a speaking engagement in the city of Khodzent 24 hours earlier was disrupted by a grenade explosion that killed two people and injured him and 60 others. The country's main opposition group denied involvement in the attack.

Annual May Day celebrations in Moscow brought out tens of thousands of unionized workers and Communist sympathizers to complain about economic hardships and demand the ouster of President Boris Yeltsin for "monstrous" and "inexcusable" crimes against the Russian people. As the protesters marched through Red Square, visiting Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Foreign Minister Primakov on compensation for Russia when NATO expands into Eastern Europe.

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel will serve as honorary chairman of the multimillion-dollar Holocaust-victims fund established in Switzerland, the government announced. But the Nazi concentration-camp survivor will have no special powers, despite demands to the contrary by international Jewish groups. The fund president will be a Swiss Jew, chocolate manufacturer Rolf Bloch.

Etceteras

"There is a new Russia. It's important for Russia to understand that there is

a new NATO, too."

- Secretary of State Albright, on talks with Russian officials about NATO expansion into Eastern Europe.

Lax security was blamed for the kidnapping of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and now his captors are demanding ransom. Well, actually it wasn't the real Boris, but a rubber puppet that's the star of a popular TV show on political satire. Also seized was a puppet of ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Backups are available, but the show producers want the originals back because they're cuter and each cost thousands of dollars to make.

Storks don't talk. But if they did, many of them might be saying, "Forget this!" about the annual migration from Africa to their summer homes in Poland. For the first time in this century, ornithologists say storks have been observed turning around and heading back. Reason: a late-arriving spring in northern Europe.

Mark Virden, not yet finished with his junior year in high school, is already well launched on a career in electoral politics. The people of Oak Hill, Kan., have voted him to one of the five seats on city council. But then the town has a population of 35, and only nine of them are registered to vote.

The Day's list

Losses Mount in NBA Head Coaching Ranks

Three more National Basketball Association head coaches quit or were fired this week, bringing to 12 the number who left their jobs during or since the league's regular season. The list (in alphabetical order by location):

M.L. Carr Boston Celtics

Bernie Bickerstaff Denver Nuggets

Dick Motta Denver Nuggets

Rick Adelman Golden State Warriors

Larry Brown Indiana Pacers

Brian Hill Orlando Magic

Johnny Davis Philadelphia '76ers

Cotton Fitzsimmons Phoenix Suns

Garry St. Jean Sacramento Kings

Bob Hill San Antonio Spurs

Brian Winters Vancouver Grizzlies

Jim Lynam Washington Bullets

- Associated Press

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