News In Brief

The US

President Clinton may visit Beijing in late June or early July, rather than November, an administration official said. Meanwhile, House and Senate committees on foreign relations passed resolutions urging the administration to condemn "serious" human-rights abuses inside China at a meeting next week of the UN Human Rights Commission.

A rift over abortion threatened $19 billion in US support for the International Monetary Fund and the UN. Rep. Bob Livingston (R) of Louisiana, the House Appropriations Committee chairman, said the IMF and UN package would include a ban on funding groups that lobby to change foreign laws prohibiting abortion. The White House said this would invite a Clinton veto.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force have rejected a proposal to put men and women into separate quarters during basic training, officials said. Asking not to be identified, they said the services had prepared draft reports for Defense Secretary Cohen that oppose the recommendation by a panel headed by former US Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker (R) of Kansas. The recommendation says separate barracks would improve training and reduce harassment of women. There was no indication what action might be taken by Cohen, who called for the study last year.

Clinton asked the Senate to ratify an 18-year-old UN treaty barring violence and discrimination against women. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979. It requires that women have equal rights to work, pay, benefits, and safe working conditions; prohibits discrimination against women in political activities; and requires nations to establish a minimum age for marriage. So far, 161 nations have ratified the treaty. It was signed by President Carter in 1980, but opponents of the treaty never let it reach a ratification vote on the Senate floor.

An appeals court restored Joe Carollo as mayor of Miami, throwing out 5,000 absentee ballots because of fraud in the election that ousted him in November. Last week a judge ordered a new election because of widespread absentee-ballot fraud in the victory of Xavier Suarez. Carollo appealed that ruling, saying he should be declared the winner outright. The appeals court agreed with him. Suarez promised to appeal the new ruling.

Astronomers said they were tracking a mile-wide asteroid on a course that will take it dangerously close to Earth in 2028. The probability of a collision is small, but "not entirely out of the question," the International Astronomical Union said. Asteroid 1997 XF11 was discovered Dec. 6 by the University of Arizona Spacewatch program and added to a list of 108 asteroids considered "potentially hazardous." An Astronomical Union official said an asteroid of this size had never been predicted to pass so close to Earth.

The US trade deficit jumped to $166.4 billion last year, the second-worst showing on record, as the deficit for the final three months of 1997 climbed to its highest level on record, the Commerce Department said. The 1997 deficit - including trade in merchandise, services, and investments - rose 12.3 percent from a 1996 imbalance of $148.2 billion. Meanwhile, retail sales rose 0.5 percent in February, as consumers flocked to department stores, officials said. Sales rose to a seasonally adjusted $218.05 billion last month.

Workers at a General Motors Saturn plant in Tennessee voted by more than a 2-to-1 margin to continue a decade-old cooperative labor experiment, rejecting a proposal to return to the national GM-UAW contract. The vote marks the second time Saturn workers have voted to keep a Japanese-style contract that allows them more input into decisions than would a traditional pact, but ties more of their compensation to performance targets.

The World

After an invitation issued only via television, a Serb delegation went to Kosovo to make itself available for talks with Albanian leaders on any question except independence for the troubled province. Albanian spokesmen rejected the offer, saying it was aimed only at silencing foreign criticism of last week's crackdown on suspected separatists by Serb police.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams left a meeting at No. 10 Downing Street, saying he wants the political ally of the Irish Republican Army to return to peace talks but can't make that decision alone. He discussed with British Prime Minister Tony Blair why Sinn Fein did not rejoin negotiations on the future of Northern Ireland this week when it was eligible. Sinn Fein was suspended from the talks last month after it was concluded the IRA had murdered two pro-British Protestants in violation of its self-declared truce. Adams said that has damaged his credibility with militant Catholics.

Japan's widening financial scandal took two new turns, as the central bank chief offered his resignation and a senior government regulator committed suicide. Bank of Japan Gov. Yasuo Matsushita was not implicated in the accepting of bribes by lower-ranking officials for inside information on the bank's market operations. But it is common in Japan for heads of institutions to quit as a gesture of apology. The suicide victim worked in the banking bureau of the finance ministry, where two other officials earlier were arrested. The finance minister and a top deputy also have resigned.

Contradicting earlier reports, Hindu nationalist leader Atal Bihari Vaypayee said his Bhara-tiya Janata Party (BJP) has not yet been invited to form India's next government after all. Vayjpayee must first show he can command enough votes in parliament to survive a no- confidence motion. But talks with a traditional ally have stalled on the issue of a favor the BJP is reluctant to grant.

Opinion-poll predictions to the contrary, Denmark's prime minister and his party narrowly won reelection. Late returns put Poul Nyrup Rasmussen's Social Democrats and their allies in parliament ahead to stay over the rival Liberal-Conservative coalition.The outcome also increased the likelihood that Danes will vote "yes" in a May 28 referendum on enlarging the European Union, analysts said.

"We're ready to talk with the UN about restarting education for women," Afghanistan's Taliban Islamic movement said. But a spokesman said repairing segregated schools for females was "impossible" because of limited resources. The Taliban closed all-girls' schools since assuming control of two-thirds of the country, drawing strong international criticism. The UN has offered to help with education programs, but so far has found little room for compromise with the rigidly fundamentalist group.

Much of the roughly $10 billion China has earmarked to compensate people displaced by the massive Three Gorges dam project already has gone into the pockets of corrupt local officials instead, a new study found. The US-based International River Network and Human Rights in China said the Yangtze River project also was flawed by inadequate plans to find suitable new farmland or factory jobs for those being resettled. At least 1.2 million people will be forced to relocate by the time the project is finished in 2009 - reportedly the largest peacetime migration in history.

An item in this space Thursday, March 12, erred in referring to the burning in effigy of Indonesia's president by some student protesters. The effigy was of President Suharto, not of Suharto's predecessor, the late Sukarno.

Etceteras

"It was a farce ... a feeble attempt to tell the world that it is only

the Albanian side that refuses to negotiate."

- Kosovo leader Adem Demaci, rejecting a Serb offer to discuss any issue but independence for the troubled province.

In the new film "Wag the Dog," a fictional president tries to deflect public attention from a sex scandal with a make-believe military assault on Albania, which is not only one of the world's poorest countries but also has 90 times fewer people than the US. So, Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano was asked, is that cause for taking offense? No, he said, because Albanians know "it will never happen." Nano hasn't seen the movie. No word on whether he plans to, either.

Susan Lucci's experience with the Emmy Awards has been something of a soap opera - perhaps not surprising when you consider she has the lead role on ABC's "All My Children." Despite 17 nominations, Lucci has never had to make an acceptance speech when the trophies were handed out. This week, she was nominated again. Award night is May 15.

Speaking of awards, the Cipputi Prize, which Italy's huge CGIL trade union gives out each year to cultural initiatives that treat the theme of unemployment in interesting and unusual ways, is going to "The Full Monty." The British film is about jobless men who find work . . . as strippers.

The Day's List

Cities Where Rents Are Going Through the Roof

The average US apartment rented for about $760 in the fourth quarter of 1997, according to a survey by M/PF Research Inc. of Dallas, Texas. It indicates the South is by far the nation's most-affordable region, with monthly rents averaging $683. The West recorded the highest average - $843. The 10 metropolitan areas with the highest reported monthly apartment rates:

1. San Francisco $1,524

2. San Jose, Calif. 1,414

3. Oakland, Calif. 1,084

4. Orange County, Calif. 975

5. Philadelphia 930

6. Washington 922

7. Minneapolis 917

8. Chicago 875

9. Miami 874

10. West Palm Beach, Fla. 835

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