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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / March 4, 1998



The US

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Vernon Jordan, a lawyer and confidant of President Clinton, arrived at the US courthouse in Washington to testify before the grand jury investigating ties between Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Jordan, who has acknowledged finding Lewinsky a lawyer and helping her get a job, was accompanied by his lawyer, William Hundley.

A group of senior senators agreed to boost highway funding by $26 billion over six years by using more of the US gasoline tax for roads. Under the plan, funding would increase to $173 billion over six years. The new accord was a victory for Texas Sen. Phil Gramm (R) and West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd (D), who fought to have the gasoline tax used for its intended purpose.

Clinton was to join a campaign to trim highway funds for states that fail to lower their blood-alcohol limit to 0.08 in an effort to discourage drunk driving, road-safety advocates said. Only 15 states use the 0.08 standard; others use a 0.10 threshold. A proposal before the Senate would trim 5 percent of a state's funding under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act if it failed to enforce the lower standard by Oct. 1, 2001. The penalty would increase to 10 percent in subsequent years.

Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates rejected charges that his company holds a monopoly on computer operating systems and said the software giant has no intention of turning the Internet into a private "toll road." He made the comment in testimony prepared for delivery to a packed Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

A New Jersey appeals court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America discriminated against an assistant scoutmaster when it ousted him for homosexuality. The panel rejected arguments by the Boy Scouts that it was protected by a constitutional right of free association and exempt from antidiscrimination laws. It was the first use of a change to a state antidiscrimination statute that added a sexual-orientation prohibition. The Boy Scouts said it would appeal.

Jury selection began in a civil suit brought on behalf of US abortion clinics, charging that antiabortion groups engaged in an extortion conspiracy in staging protests. The suit was originally filed in 1986 by the National Organization for Women on behalf of more than 1,000 clinics. After two lower courts threw out the suit, the US Supreme Court overturned those rulings and allowed the case to go forward. The trial in US district court in Chicago is expected to last about a month.

Local legislators, such as city council members, can never be sued for actions that are part of "legitimate legislative activity," the US Supreme Court ruled. In a unanimous decision in a case involving Fall River, Mass., the high court gave local legislators the same "absolute immunity" from civil-rights lawsuits enjoyed by their federal, state, and regional counterparts.

Wisconsin became the first state to officially end a decades-old welfare program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Under Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), the state has been a leader in moving people off welfare. However, state subsidies for jobs, child-care, and other programs for former welfare recipients has temporarily increased state expenditures by hundreds of millions of dollars.

The index of leading economic indicators was unchanged in January for the second straight month, the Conference Board said. A Reuters survey of Wall Street economists had forecast the index, a measure of upcoming trends in the economy, to rise 0.1 percent.

Henry Steele Commager, who died in Amherst, Mass., was a prolific writer of American history. His best-known book was probably "The Growth of the American Republic," which became a standard college text.

The World

Iraq pledged to abide by terms of the latest weapons-inspection deal with the UN. But as Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was saying, "We are committed to the terms of the pact," a Cabinet colleague scorned a Security Council resolution vowing "severest consequences" if it didn't. Foreign Minister Mohamed Saeed al-Sahaf called the resolution a face-saving measure for the US.

Nigerian security forces quickly dispersed a protest march in Lagos against military President Sani Abacha while allowing hundreds of thousands of people to gather for a rally in the capital, Abuja, to urge him to run for the office as a civilian. The turnout in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial center, drew only a few dozen demonstrators, who fled when police fired tear gas.

Japan will assume a more prominent role in helping to stabilize Asia's crisis-ridden economies, a senior finance ministry official said. Eisuke Sakakibara did not divulge details of Japan's plans, but blamed the crisis, in part, on excessive dependence on the US dollar. Japan has been under international pressure to stimulate its own economy as a means of reviving those of neighboring nations.