News In Brief

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The US

The US Supreme Court agreed to decide if independent counsel Kenneth Starr may obtain notes from a meeting between White House aide Vincent Foster and his lawyer prior to Foster's 1993 death. The court said it would hear an appeal by Foster's lawyer, James Hamilton, arguing that the attorney-client privilege applies even after a client dies. Hamilton took three pages of notes July 11, 1993, in a meeting with Foster about firings in the White House travel office. Nine days later, Foster was found dead of what officials say was a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The high court rejected the appeal of a US soldier facing a bad-conduct discharge for refusing to wear a UN shoulder patch and UN blue beret for a peacekeeping mission in Macedonia. The justices turned away Michael New's argument that the order he disobeyed would have required him to become a "UN soldier."

Recommended: Default

Sales of new homes rose to a record high in February, the Commerce Department said. Single-family home sales jumped 4.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 893,000 units after a revised gain of 5.2 percent in January. February's annual rate was the highest on record, surpassing the previous high of 880,000 in March 1986. Low long-term interest rates and warm weather apparently spurred sales.

US Rep. John Kasich (R) of Ohio called on President Clinton to veto a highway-spending bill if it passes the House in its current form. The GOP chairman of the Budget Committee said the $217 billion measure contains too many "pork barrel" projects. The bill, calling for a 43 percent increase in spending over six years, is scheduled for a vote this week.

A plan to have a select group of House lawmakers review any impeachment data from Kenneth Starr ahead of the House Judiciary Committee drew opposition from Rep. Charles Canady (R) of Florida, chairman of the panel's Constitution Subcommittee. Canady said on NBC it would be a mistake to break with precedent. It was the Judiciary Committee that approved articles of impeachment proceedings against President Nixon in 1974. Rep. Henry Hyde (R) of Illinois, who heads the judiciary panel, is reportedly concerned about possible leaks to the media, if impeachable information is uncovered by Starr.

Senate negotiators agreed on tobacco legislation that would raise cigarette prices $1.10 a pack over five years, but did not settle the issue of legal protections for tobacco companies. Participants in the marathon talks warned the whole deal could still collapse. Former Food and Drug administrator David Kessler called the proposed $1.10-a-pack increase insufficient.

Political lobbyists in Hong Kong reportedly asked the US Congress to look into recent threats to the rule of law, freedom of the press, and electoral policy in the territory. The State Department is to submit a report on Hong Kong to Congress this week, providing evidence for an annual review of Hong Kong-US relations. A faultfinding review might cast a shadow over President Clinton's June summit with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

Tornadoes leveled homes across southern Minnesota, killing at least one person and injuring more than two dozen others. Hardest hit were two towns - St. Peter, in south-central Minnesota, and Comfrey, in the southwestern part of the state - where tornadoes wreaked havoc.

The World

UN envoy Dennis Ross was to hold a final meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu before returning to Washington. But in public comments, Ross sounded pessimistic about hopes for a breakthrough in Middle East peacemaking. He was trying to promote a US proposal to trade tougher Palestinian security measures for an expanded Israeli troop pullback from the West Bank. But Netanyahu denied Israel was even discussing specifics for a withdrawal or that he was considering a freeze on Jewish settlement construction.

Despite concerns about his personal safety, Prince Norodom Ranariddh arrived in Cambodia's capital after almost nine months in exile. He said he was apprehensive but willing to meet with his rival, Premier Hun Sen, who ended their power-sharing arrangement with a violent coup last summer. Ranariddh said the July 26 election he was returning to compete in against Hun Sen "has to be fair and credible."

A week after his dismissal as prime minister, Viktor Cherno-myrdin won his former boss's endorsement for president of Russia in 2000. But Boris Yeltsin was only tepid in his comments on Chernomyrdin, who announced over the weekend that he definitely would seek the office. Meanwhile, the Communist-dominated parliament said it wanted to vote tomorrow on urging Yeltsin to withdraw youthful Sergei Kiriyenko as Chernomyrdin's successor.

Senior leaders in Malaysia and Indonesia sparred verbally over the deaths last week of at least eight people awaiting deportation from a detention camp. The casualties, all Indonesians, were among thousands who streamed into Malaysia illegally after their country's economy collapsed last year. Indonesia's justice minister called the deaths a breach of human rights. Malay-sian Prime Minister Malathir Mohamad denied the accusation and said his government could no longer afford to house the immigrants. Malaysia has vowed to send back 200,000 Indonesians by Aug. 15. Meanwhile, a truckload of Indonesians smashed through the gate of a UN compound in Malaysia, seeking to avoid deportation.

Foreign ministers gathered in Brussels to begin the formal process of expanding the European Union to include 10 former communist states and the divided island of Cyprus. But analysts said the 15-member EU was not likely to take in any of the applicants before 2002 - or until they have had time to reform their economies and civil institutions.

Last month was the warmest February since global record-keeping began in 1856, a UN agency reported. The World Meteorological Organization said the average air temperature was 1.35 degrees F. above normal for the month, calling the current El Nio phenom-enon "unusually strong," especially in the Northern Hemisphere. It said the large pool of abnormally warm Pacific Ocean water associated with the phenomenon is shrinking but that "El Nio will be with us through May."

Signaling that the controversy over unpopular US military bases on Okinawa has yet to subside, the island's governor said those who live elsewhere in Japan "must bear the burden if they seek security." Masahide Ota, who is due to meet next month with Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, said he wants "a clearer explanation" of a plan to build a sea-based heliport for US troops off the Okinawan city of Nago. The city's voters rejected the heliport in a nonbinding referendum last December. But a senior government spokesman in Tokyo suggested flexibility on the heliport plan is unlikely.

Elias Freij, who died while in Jordan for medical treatment, was internationally famous as a voice of moderation in the Middle East. In 25 years as the Christian mayor of Bethlehem, he incurred the wrath of Israeli leaders for his support of the Palestinian cause while drawing death threats from Palestinian radicals for preaching that "there is no other solution" than to make peace with Israel.

Etceteras

"Kings have successors. But we don't. The people choose."

- Russian President Boris Yeltsin, suggesting again that he will not seek reelection in 2000 and offering only tepid support to the candidacy of ex-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

How often do you hear of a modern political office-holder turning down the opportunity to acquire more power? But that's what New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R) did recently. When the legislature asked if she wanted the authority to officiate at weddings, she refused to say "I do." That leaves her about the only public official in the state who can't unite couples in marriage. Mayors of even the tiniest towns can, along with judges, county clerks (or their surrogates), and those who chair township committees. Mayors can even empower their deputies.

A kiss isn't always just a kiss - sometimes it's also a world record. Last week, a Michigan couple won a contest sponsored by a company that makes breath fresheners for the longest kiss - locking lips for 29 hours at the Harley Davidson Caf in New York. Roberta and Mark Griswold of Allen Park outlasted eight other couples to win a trip to Paris, with their closest competition dropping out 22 minutes ahead of them. Under the rules, the couples' lips had to touch constantly, they had to remain standing, and they were not permitted any breaks.

The Days List

Survey Finds Wide Gap In Gas Prices Worldwide

US drivers continue to enjoy some of the world's least-expensive fuel costs. According to the latest quarterly analysis of retail gasoline prices by Runzheimer International, in March the average gallon of gasoline in the US cost about $1.08. The Rochester, Wis.,-based consulting firm studied 50 locations worldwide and discovered that the following cities had the most- and least-costly gasoline prices:

Most Expensive

Hong Kong $5.01

Oslo 4.76

Stockholm 4.23

Amsterdam 4.12

Least Expensive

Caracas, Venezuela .53

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia .61

Jakarta, Indonesia .75

Cairo 1.00

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