News In Brief

The US

The US House and Senate planned to vote on a disaster-relief bill. If passed, President Clinton is likely to veto the $8.6 billion measure because Republi- cans attached several riders to it. One prevents the Census Bureau from using statistical sampling in the 2000 population count. Another would prevent a government shutdown this fall.

The House Ways and Means health subcommittee approved a plan to trim spending and add choices in the Medicare health program for the elderly. It was the first vote needed to implement the balanced-budget agreement. Republicans also proposed to roll back cuts affecting some immigrants in the Supplemental Security Income program. And they moved to exempt welfare recipients on work assignments from the minimum wage.

Defense Secretary Cohen expressed support for Gen. Joseph Ralston to become Clinton's top military advisor, despite an admitted extramarital affair the officer had 13 years ago while separated from his wife. Cohen said Ralston's stellar military record outweighed the transgression, The New York Times reported. Earlier, Maj. Gen. John Longhouser announced retirement as commander of the Army's troubled Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland after admitting to an affair while separated from his wife.

The husband of a victim who was pregnant and a 10-year-old orphan were to take the stand in the Denver trial of Timothy McVeigh. Earlier, jurors and even the judge wept as prosecutors presented emotional testimony in an attempt to sentence him to the death penalty. The defense is expected to present testimony from relatives about McVeigh's troubled past.

CIA agent Harold Nicholson was sentenced to 23 years and seven months in prison for spying. Nicholson pleaded guilty in March to selling national security secrets to Russia. He is the highest-ranking CIA officer convicted of spying.

Senate Democrats blocked GOP efforts to vote on an overtime bill. The Democrats and Clinton say it wouldn't prevent employers from discriminating against workers who prefer overtime pay to comp-time off.

Police in Memphis, Tenn., questioned five men after recovering grenades and ammunition believed stolen from an FBI truck. The weapons were found at two houses located near where the burned-out vehicle was found. Two grenade launchers and an M-16 assault weapon remained missing.

The Clinton administration planned to sign an agreement with several Indian tribal leaders that hands over the responsibility to protect fish and wildlife on their lands. The special order provides tribes with technical and scientific support to develop habitat-protection plans.

US soldiers are being ordered to fight a new kind of war - to protect the environment. Members of SouthCom - the US Southern Command - will be posted in at least 32 Latin American and Caribbean nations to guard rain forests and endangered species, Timothy Wirth, undersecretary of state for global affairs, announced at the Western Hemisphere Defense Environmental Conference in Miami.

Texas executed its 20th inmate this year, tieing its 1935 record. The executions of a man convicted of killing a convenience-store clerk and another condemned for raping and killing a teenage girl brought to four the number of inmates executed this week. At least seven more executions are set for this month. The pace in the nation's most active capital-punishment state is quickening as new laws designed to speed the appeals process take effect.

A former Ku Klux Klansman is scheduled for execution today in Alabama for killing a black man. If executed, it would be the first time since 1913 that a white convicted of killing a black received capital punishment in the state.

Astronomers found an icy miniplanet beyond Pluto. It is about 300 miles across, a surface area comparable to Texas, according to the journal Nature.

The World

Nigeria said more countries were ready to join its attempt to oust the leaders of a coup in Sierra Leone after the Organization for African Unity decided to support military intervention. The countries were not identified. Meanwhile, coup leader Johnny Paul Koroma's troops were seen setting up guns in Freetown, the capital, to prepare for new fighting.

Turnout was reported steady in Algeria's first parliamentary election since the canceled 1992 vote that triggered a violent Islamic fundamentalist campaign to destabilize the country. An estimated 300,000 police and soldiers guarded polling stations across the nation to protect voters against possible attack. Analysts said a low voter turnout would undercut President Lia-mine Zeroual's aim of conferring new legitimacy on his military-backed government.

A military court in Germany acquitted a US Army instructor on six rape charges. But Sgt. 1 Julius Davis of Fayetteville, N.C., was found guilty on multiple counts of indecent assault, was sentenced to two years in prison, and was dishonorably discharged. He is the first of three sergeants from the Army's Darmstadt training center to be tried in the sex scandal that first surfaced last November at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

In their final preelection arguments, the leading candidates for prime minister of Ireland took opposing positions on supporting the independence movement in Northern Ireland. Incumbent John Bruton said the Dublin government needed to be evenhanded on the issue. Challenger Bertie Ahern of the opposition Fianna Fail Party pledged his administration would support Catholic nationalists who "want somebody who can stand up for them." Results of today's voting are expected by late Saturday.

South Korea convened an emergency Cabinet meeting after one of its naval vessels exchanged shots with a gunboat from rival North Korea. The incident happened in South Korean waters as the North's boat escorted a fishing fleet. The confrontation, which lasted an hour, ended when the North Koreans returned to their own territory.

Despite its severe food shortages, North Korea backed out of a deal to obtain US wheat that had taken months to negotiate. Agribusiness giant Cargill Inc. said it was notified that the Pyongyang government would not trade 4,400 tons of zinc for 20,000 tons of the grain after all. Federal permission to ship the wheat was granted in December.

A powerful explosion in Norway signalled a possible new round in the Scandinavian "biker war." It killed a passerby and injured four others at the Bandidos motorcycle gang base in Drammen. The building collapsed, and a resulting fire spread to neighborhood businesses. More than 70 people have died or been hurt in the feud between the Bandidos and rival Hells Angels in the four Scandinavian countries.

The president of Brazil may legally seek reelection next year under a constitutional amendment approved by the Senate. It passed 62-to-14 after five months of intensive debate. Incumbent Fernando Henrique Cardoso had made passage of the amendment a top priority, arguing it was crucial to the country's economic stability.

Right-wing "death squads" in El Salvador have been reactivated and are targeting street criminals and youth gangs, the Roman Catholic Church claimed. A spokesman in San Salvador said paramilitary groups blamed for the deaths of many leftist activists during the country's 12-year civil war are again "violating human rights." At least 40 vigilante-type murders this year have been attributed to such groups. Three policemen have been arrested in connection with some of the cases.

Etceteras

"If we're going to disqualify people with outstanding records of service for one mistake, then we're going to have difficulty keeping good people in the military."

- Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, supporting Army Gen. Joseph Ralston to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

ABC-TV is making unconventional use of the airwaves to help hike its ratings. The network, which fell to third place in viewer surveys last year, has a new deal with American Airlines. It awards free frequent-flyer miles for watching ABC programs. Members of the carrier's AAdvantage Club - and there are 30 million of them - must complete questionnaires to prove they tuned in.

Utah Jazz star Karl Malone takes pride in his nickname, The Mailman. But even he would tip his cap to Robert Wiley, who retired after 34 years as a letter carrier in rural Lula, Ga. Wiley figures he traveled at least 500,000 miles - or 20 times around the world. And in the last eight years he missed not one day of work.

Remember glasnost, the policy of openness begun in 1985 by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev? His successor, Boris Yeltsin, is carrying it forward, big time. Yelt-sin now has his own Web page, covering even what property he owns, how much he's paid, and how his security staff protects him. The address: www.gov.ru.

The Day's List

Jobs That Pay Well (No College Degree Needed)

High-school students often are told that a college degree opens doors to higher-paying jobs. But a University of Michigan study found 23 occupations in the MIdwest that don't require a four-year degree and yet offer annual earnings of at least $33,000 (10 percent above the region's median income). Among those jobs:

Railroad and ship worker $41,415

Production-work supervisor $39,600

Purchasing agent $39,506

Police $38,301

Electrical equipment repair person $37,223

Mail carrier $35,369

Tool and die maker $34,587

Plumber $34,531

Electrician $34,080

Auto sales representative $33,560

Firefighter $33,125

Engineering technician $33,000

- Associated Press

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