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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / May 2, 1997

The US

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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.

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.