News In Brief

The US

The Senate planned to vote on a proposal to boost cigarette taxes to expand health coverage for uninsured children. The measure would further cut the budget deficit. Earlier, the House approved the budget deal between President Clinton and congressional Republicans 333 to 99. The two sides joined forces to defeat an amendment to increase spending on highway projects by $12 billion. They hope to complete a final version of the package by the end of the week. House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, who is making a bid for the presidency in 2000, said the deal favors the wealthy.

The Senate also voted to ban partial-birth abortion 64 to 36 - three votes shy of the total needed to avert a veto. The bill would ban the controversial procedure, except when a woman risks death by continuing a pregnancy.

Homeownners are breathing a sigh of relief after the Federal Reserve Board decided to leave short-term interest rates unchanged. The decision spurred a rally on Wall Street. The committee meets again in July to consider a rate hike.

An all-time high in US exports narrowed the trade deficit in March to $8.5 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Analysts attributed the sharp change to a large jump in sales of commercial aircraft to China.

Clinton planned to meet with 80 mayors at the White House to discuss the war on drugs. The mayors' arsenal is said to include more treatment facilities and more jobs and recreational opportunities for teens. Earlier, the mayors met with Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin about an administrative crackdown on money-laundering.

Rubin also planned to unveil a White House blueprint to modernize the financial services system by removing limitations on how banks, brokerage firms, and insurance companies do business. It's likely to include a controversial proposal to allow banks to own commercials companies whose activities could range from manufacturing to real-estate development.

The defense was to begin calling witnesses today in the Oklahoma City bombing trial. After 18 days of testimony and 134 witnesses, the prosecution planned to rest its case against Timothy McVeigh after calling at least one more blast survivor for an emotional finale.

The White House and a House panel that subpoenaed the Clinton administration for documents pertaining to Democratic campaign finances negotiated a compromise. The White House will produce some documents for the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee while withholding others for reasons of privacy and privilege interests. The Clinton administration also dropped its insistence that investigators go to the executive mansion to examine some records.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration released pictures of Mars taken in March when the planet was at its closest point to earth. The photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope show Earth's neighbor as colder, cloudier, and more unpredictable than astronomers once believed. NASA scientists are preparing for a July 4 landing of a US probe on Mars.

A New York federal appeals court ruled that jurors can't ignore the law or evidence in a case if they believe the charges conflict with their beliefs about race,ethnicity, or anything else. "Jury nullification" is a legal theory claiming jurors can vote to acquit a defendant on social grounds even if they believe the person is guilty. The ruling was made in an Albany, N.Y., case where a judge dismissed a juror who believed a defendant had a right to deal drugs because he was disadvantaged.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright appointed a former aide to the UN and specialist on international law as her ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues. David Scheffer's nomination was disclosed as Albright finalized plans for a high-profile visit to Bosnia at the end of May to urge Serbs and Croats to comply with the Dayton peace accords.

Continental Airlines tentatively agreed to buy 40 twin-engine jets from Boeing Company valued at $4 billion and will likely declare itself an exclusive customer of the aircraft maker, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The World

Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, and the British government were to restart negotiations as residents of Northern Ireland voted in local elections. The meeting in East Belfast would be the first time the two sides have met since the IRA broke a cease-fire last February. Britain is seeking a new cease-fire; Sinn Fein wants immediate admission to negotiations on Northern Ireland's future.

Burma's military government began arresting supporters of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week. The arrests are an effort break up an attempted congress of her National League for Democracy, one of her aides said. The London-based Amnesty International claimed that at least 50 of Suu Kyi's supporters were arrested and called for their "immediate and unconditional release." The roundup, which began Monday, came to light on the day US sanctions went into effect against Burma because of the junta's stepped-up repression of the movement.

Forming a new government won't proceed as quickly as conquering Zaire, an aide to new Congo ruler Laurent-Desir Kabila said. Kabila had originally promised to form a transitional government by Monday, but one has yet to be announced. Also, South African President Nelson Mandela chastised the West for "lecturing" Kabila on democracy after supporting a dictator for decades. Mandela said Kabila promised him he would establish a constituent assembly within 60 days to prepare for elections.

Relief operations began to help the more than 1.5 million people left homeless after a cyclone hit Bangladesh. About 200 people died, and 1,500 fishermen were still missing, the UN said.

Bulgaria's parliament appointed a new prime minister. Union of Democratic Forces head Ivan Kostov was elected in a 179-to-54 vote.

Turkey's ruling Islamist party threatens secularism and should be outlawed, the country's top prosecutor said. Vural Savas said he filed a case with the constitutional court to outlaw the Welfare Party on the grounds that it endangered the basic tenets of the secularist Turkish state. The threat to the party came one day after it survived a parliamentary challenge to its rule.

About 70 South Korean government officials are being investigated for alleged corruption, a presidential official told Reuters. Local media reported that the probe included several Cabinet ministers, vice ministers and heads of local governments, and that proof of wrongdoing by some had been found.

An Argentine human rights group is accusing one of the Roman Catholic Church's most prominent cardinals of atrocities during the country's "dirty war." Mothers of Plaza de Mayo say Pio Laghi led an anticommunist inquisition while he was papal envoy to Argentina between 1974 and 1980.

Poland and Ukraine signed a declaration aimed at ending centuries of hostility between their people. The Declaration on Concord and Unity signed by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma is designed to close centuries of mistrust, and anger stemming from ethnic atrocities committed by both sides during World War II.

Albania's opposition said they would participate in June elections if the international community monitored the vote. The Socialist opposition, which had threatened to boycott, agreed after President Sali Berisha ceded power to appoint the central election commission to the caretaker government of Bashkim Fino, also a Socialist.

Etceteras

"We need to focus on growing the economic pie - and assuring

that working families get their share."

- Sen. Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa, saying that leaving interest rates unchanged isn't enough - they should be lowered.

Seventy years after Charles Lindbergh made the first solo nonstop trans-Atlantic flight, a Texas businessman retraced his journey in a Cessna airplane. Bill Signs touched down in France's Le Bourget Airport 22 hours after leaving New York's Long Island. Lindbergh's time: 33-1/2 hours. Signs is the first to duplicate the historic feat, down to the menu: five ham sandwiches, the same as Lindy.

A deer in central Illinois is displaying a fondness for statuary. It likes to nestle up to a ceramic doe and fawn in the yard of Ron McCartney of Tuscola. The animal is not a bit camera shy, either. Ron has made a video of the deer enjoying the company of his two lawn ornaments.

Colucci and Curtis Brown of Ashtabula, Ohio, have won this year's Lunch Box Derby in Washington. Their recipe for success: a cucumber, with beets for wheels. It competed with veggie-mobiles of winners from five states and Great Britain. The cars rolled down an eight-foot slide onto a wooden floor. The winning feat: a 49-foot, 2-inch run, good for $200 in savings bonds, $1,000 for the boys' school, and a big trophy.

The Day's List

Commercial Airlines That Flyers Say They Like Best

For the second year in a row, respondents to a J.D. Power and Associates/Frequent Flyer magazine survey rated Continental Airlines as their favorite carrier on flights of at least 500 miles. America West led in consumer satisfaction for trips of fewer than 500 miles. Among the criteria for both categories: schedules, airport check-in, gate location, seating comfort, and food service. The rankings:

Long Flights

1. Continental

2. TWA

3. United

4. American (tie)

4. Southwest

Short Flights

1. America West

2. Continental

3. US Airways

4. Delta (tie)

4. Southwest

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