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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / May 15, 1997

The US

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The White House and GOP congressional leaders were close to fleshing out details of a budget-balancing deal announced nearly two weeks ago, participants in the talks said. Senate Budget Committee chairman Pete Domenici said their differences could be resolved today.

House GOP leader Dick Armey said his party would eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts this year, calling it an "elitist" organization. Armey's statement raised eyebrows in part because White House budget negotiators had thought arts funding was part of the balanced-budget deal. But Armey and others apparently were not committed to supporting Clinton ad- ministration tax cuts or domestic programs as part of the agreement. Some Republicans admitted they might not have the votes to prevent new arts funding.

Producer prices posted their biggest descent in nearly four years in April, tumbling 0.6 percent as food and energy costs declined, the Labor Department said. It was the fourth straight month of lower producer prices. Analysts said the dip could temper concerns on Wall Street that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next week.

General Motors said it had reached a tentative agreement to end a strike by 8,200 workers at its Warren, Ohio, wiring-harness plants, one day after the walkout began. Details of the accord were not available. Most GM vehicles built in the US, Canada, and Mexico use components made at the Warren plants.

Republicans gained a congressional seat in New Mexico that Democrats had never before lost. Bill Redmond, a Los Alamos clergyman, pulled off an upset in winning the seat vacated by Democrat Bill Richardson, who resigned to become US ambassador to the UN. Unofficial returns showed Redmond with 43 percent of the vote, Democrat Eric Serna with 40 percent, and Green Party candidate Carol Miller with 17 percent.

The Senate took up an overhaul of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, one day after the House passed the measure 420-to-3. The revision would give schools more power to remove disabled students who threaten harm to others, would limit fees for parents' attorneys, and encourage mediation to settle disputes. It has the support of the Clinton administration.

The US and Canada should relax border checks and improve highways to meet growing trade demands, transportation officials said. The Eastern Border Transportation Coalition, mostly US state and Canadian provincial officials, said increased traffic could turn existing deficiencies into an economic crisis. It called for completely opening the world's largest nondefended border. The coalition said trade between the two countries is expected to reach $454 billion by 2015, almost double the $272 billion reported in 1995.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service said it had deported a record number of illegal immigrants during the first three months of 1997, mostly to Mexico and Central America. According to preliminary figures, the agency said it had returned 22,595 foreigners to their home countries between Jan. 1 and March 31, a 28 percent increase over the same period last year.

Testing of a rifle thought to have killed civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was to begin in Rhode Island. A Tennessee judge sanctioned tests to determine whether the rifle was used in King's 1968 assassination. Although James Earl Ray's fingerprints were on the rifle, past tests failed to prove it was the murder weapon. Ray confessed to the crime and averted a death sentence, but later recanted. He's serving a 99-year sentence and wants a new trial.

Two aviation officials said anti-competitive practices have driven up air fares and reduced services for some smaller airports since the ValuJet crash a year ago. Charles Hunnicutt, assistant secretary for aviation in the Transportation Department, and Paul Stephen Dempsey, a Frontier Airlines official, testified at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that major carriers apparently are using the ValuJet incident as an opportunity to try to squeeze out smaller airlines.

The World

A last-minute mixup delayed the start of talks between Zairean President Mobutu and rebel leader Laurent Kabila, when the latter did not arrive on time. The discussions took on added urgency as Kabila's forces closed in on the capital, Kinshasa. In Bern, the Swiss government said it had been asked by Zairean prosecutors to search for Mobutu's assets - once estimated at about $4 billion.

NATO and the Russian government wound up all-night negotiations in Moscow by announcing agreement on terms for a peaceful relationship once the alliance expands into eastern Europe. No details were released immediately, but Secretary-General Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Yvgeny Primakov called the pact "suitable" and a "great victory for wisdom." In Washington, the Clinton administration said it was "very encouraged" at the announcement. A signing ceremony is expected in Paris May 27.