News In Brief

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The US

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.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

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.

Ousted Cambodian co-Premier Norodom Ranariddh is expected to be found guilty of arms smuggling and acting in collusion with the outlawed Khmer Rouge guerrilla movement in a trial-in-absentia that opens today in Phnom Penh. But analysts say the outcome is part of a complex plan under which Ranariddh would then be pardoned by his father, King Sihanouk, and would return from exile to participate in the country's July 26 election.

For the first time in 48 years, a South Korean commercial jet crossed the airspace of rival North Korea. The reclusive North agreed to such flights late last year, allowing foreign carriers to fly shorter routes and save millions of dollars in fuel costs. A South Korean transportation officials said the test lasted 22 minutes and "went very well." North Korean airspace officially opens to international flights April 23.

No clear winner was expected to emerge in India's general election as ballot-counting entered its second day. The Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies won 236 seats in the powerful lower house of Parliament, but appeared likely to fall short of the 272 needed for a majority. The centrist Congress Party was second, with 166 seats.

Proposals that would weaken Australia's tough new gun-control law were expected to pass in at least one state legislature, opening the way for others to follow. Analysts said Victoria's Parliament was likely to soften restrictions in the law by the end of the month, under pressure from gun lobbyists. Passage of the measure followed a 1996 shooting rampage in Tasmania that killed 35 people and wounded 19 others.

The Mexico City judge who touched off an international uproar by freeing the suspected killers of a US businessman was suspended by higher-ranking colleagues. Maria Claudia Campuzano was cited for procedural mistakes by the same tribunal that earlier had backed her decision.

One day after assuming most presidential powers, Slovakia's prime minister canceled a national referendum on seeking membership in NATO. Vladimir Meciar also ruled out a popular election to fill the post vacated by Michal Kovac. His moves leave the selection of a new president to parliament, which votes again tomorrow after failing to fill the post last month. But they also drew protests from demonstrators who called Meciar a dictator.

Etceteras

"The welfare check is history in Wisconsin."

- Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), presiding over the state's last payment to a recipient under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program.

A homeowner in Conroe, Texas, has the neighbors down on his neck because of - shall we say - an extracurricular activity he has been conducting in his garage. They worry about potential traffic problems caused by visitors to Ken Walsh's residence. So what exactly goes on in that garage: a startup software business? Perhaps a distributorship for home-care products? Neither. Walsh is an Anglican priest and uses the garage as a chapel for prayer services.

A Canton, Ohio, couple don't want to appear ungrateful, but they're something less than thrilled with the grand prize they won in a national sweepstakes sponsored by Discover Card. It's a Volkswagen microbus. That might have been OK, but the thing is a 1959 model and is painted in a psychedelic design of purple, yellow, red, green, and raspberry - inspired by the late Grateful Dead guitarist, Jerry Garcia. The prize also includes a trip for two to San Francisco, but Bill and Cindi Clark don't plan to go in the VW.

The Day's List

'Titanic' Seen Eclipsing 'Star Wars' at Box Office

"Star Wars'" days as filmdom's all-time North America box-office champ are about up. By this time next week, the record $461 million take of "Star Wars" will be floating in the wake of steadily accumulating "Titanic" earnings, industry experts say. Attendance for "Titanic" reportedly dropped only 7 percent over the past week, even with four new films in wide release. US and Canadian receipts for the movie already exceed $427 million, and analysts say that figure could eventually reach $600 million. Theater grosses Feb. 27-March 1 (in millions of dollars):

1. "Titanic" $19.6

2. "The Wedding Singer" 8.7

3. "Good Will Hunting" 6.6

4. "Dark City" 5.6

5. "As Good As It Gets" 4.1

6. "Sphere" 3.8

7. "Krippendorf's Tribe" 3.3

8. "The Borrowers" 2.8

9. "Senseless" 2.7

10. "Caught Up" 2.4

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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