News In Brief

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The US

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.

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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.

Palestinian and Israeli representatives prepared to meet with special US envoy Dennis Ross to "discuss" and "clarify" issues currently blocking the Middle East peace process. But Palestinians said they would not agree to resume negotiations until Israel ceased construction on Jewish settlements. For its part, Israel said its position on the construction issue would not change.

Former Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Shimon Peres was dealt what political observers called a stinging slight when his own party reject-ed a proposal to make him its president. Peres's term as Labor Party chairman expires in June. He led Labor to defeat at the hands of Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud coalition in May 1996. Peres vowed to remain active in politics.

Croatia bowed to international pressure and said it would "annul" a law that permits ethnic Croats to take over houses that once belonged to Serbs. The government said the two-year-old measure, heavily criticized by foreign governments and human rights groups, would be superseded by a new program that allows Croats and Serbs to reclaim dwellings they abandoned in the country's 1991 war. The New York Times reported that Croatia was offering some of the houses to Croat refugees who had resettled in Germany.

Turkey sent tanks, artillery, and thousands of troops into neighboring Iraq in what officials called a "wide and comprehensive operation" against Kurdish rebels. There were reports of fighting, but no casualty figures were released. Iraq condemned the incursion as a violation of its sovereignty and said "great damage" had been inflicted on the border city of Zakho.

In two moves apparently aimed at pressuring Turkey's Muslim-led government, senior military leaders moved up the date of a key planning meeting and said joint naval exercises with Israel would go forward despite official opposition. Published reports said the country's top commanders wanted to force Prime Minister Erbakan to sign orders dismissing troops who had been involved in Islamic activity. Erbakan has been resisting military orders to reduce the influence of Islam on daily life.

In a 15-minute speech to Parliament, Queen Elizabeth II announced the first Labour government legislative agenda in Britain since 1979. Amid the customary pomp and ceremony, she enumerated such pieces of legislation as a proposal to ban handguns and tobacco advertising. Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that Sinn Fein, the political ally of the Irish Republican Army, cannot open an office in Parliament unless its two newly elected members swear allegiance to the queen.

The largest and most sensitive drug-trafficking trial in modern Vietnam ended with the sentencing of eight defendants to die by firing squad. Six of them were senior police officers or border guards.

Etceteras

"Without any doubt, we will open a new age in the history of NATO relations with Russia

and the stability of our countries."

- NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, on agreeing to terms of the alliance's relationship with its former enemy.

A four-legged beast will be dogging Ned Rozell's footsteps all summer. The science writer wanted to observe the 20th anniversary of the Alaska pipeline. So he and his pet Labrador retriever, Jane, set out to walk all 800 miles of it. Since temperatures are still cold enough for snow in much of the state, they're starting from the southern end and hope to complete the trek in September - bears, moose, and caribou notwithstanding.

Officials of a youth soccer league in West Orange, N.J., are going through the rule book with a fine-tooth comb to settle a dispute. It came to a head when one player was disqualified by a referee for wearing a turban. The boy is a Sikh whose religious beliefs require that he keep his hair covered. His team argued that the disciplinary move was unfair since Jewish players have been allowed to wear yarmulkes. How a lid will be put on the controversy isn't yet clear.

Lou and Janet Christiansen of tiny Sparks, Neb., believe in community property. They want to retire and have put their campground, general store, and canoe-rental business on the market for $260,000. Meet their price and you can have the whole town; they own that, too.

The Day's List

Where It's Costliest (And Cheapest) to Drive a Car

Runzheimer International, a Wisconsin consulting firm, measur-ed annual operating expenses in 80 US cities. Costs include gasoline, oil, tires, maintenance, license, registration, depreciation, and insurance. The following amounts are based on a 1997 six-cylinder Ford Taurus with automatic transmission and air conditioning:

Most Expensive

Los Angeles $8,762

Philadelphia 7,959

Boston 7,888

Providence, R.I. 7,733

New York 7,677

Least Expensive

Sioux Falls, S.D. $5,710

Eau Claire, Wisc. 5,721

Dayton, Ohio 5,838

Burlington, Vermont 5,841

Grand Forks, N.D. 5,858

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