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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / April 6, 1998

The US

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President Clinton thinks dismissal of Paula Jones's lawsuit was in the best interest of the country, but he would have preferred to have his day in court if he had not been in office, Time magazine said. In remarks reportedly made on his flight back from Africa, Clinton also said: "If I were just a private citizen . . . I would have mixed feelings about not getting a chance to disprove these allegations."

As Congress began a two-week break, Clinton took exception to GOP congressional budget plans, saying they fail to meet "urgent national priorities" and telling lawmakers changes would be needed before he would sign them into law. His remarks came after the Senate passed a $1.73 trillion 1999 budget, containing modest tax reductions and few elements of the education, child-care, and health programs he champions.

US payrolls shrank for the first time in more than two years last month, nudging the unemployment rate higher, the Labor Department said. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the number of jobs dropped by 36,000 in March, the first such decline since severe blizzards shut down most businesses across the Northeast in January 1996.

Friends and admirers of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. held a commemoration in Memphis, Tenn., where the civil-rights leader was fatally shot April 4, 1968. Some 4,000 marchers traced much the same protest route King was scheduled to take before he was assassinated. Earlier, King's widow, Coretta Scott King, asked Clinton to name a panel similar to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that could grant amnesty to those who would come forward with information about her husband's death.

The annual evaluation of foreign countries' efforts to combat the flow of narcotics was criticized by Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the US drug-control chief. McCaffrey said the practice builds resentment in Mexico and impairs cooperation with the US in the fight against illegal drugs. A Senate effort to overturn US certification of Mexico was defeated by a vote of 54 to 45 last week. Decertification could have led to economic penalties against Mexico.

A disgruntled former CIA employee was charged with passing highly sensitive data to two unspecified foreign governments. Douglas Fred Groat could face the death penalty if convicted of espionage and extortion. In 1996, months before he was fired by the agency, Groat reportedly threatened to tell foreigners what the CIA knew about their cryptographic systems unless he was given a half-million dollars. Groat is the third current or former CIA employee to be arrested on espionage charges in the past four years.

The US Supreme Court was expected to decide today if 39,000 tobacco-industry papers should be made public as part of a $1.7 billion smoking-liability lawsuit in Minnesota. Justice Antonin Scalia referred the matter for full court review after receiving a second request from tobacco firms fighting lower-court orders to release the documents. Justice Clarence Thomas denied an initial stay request last week.

A Teamsters leader from Charleston, W.Va., was expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency of the union. A spokesman for Ken Hall, president of Local 175, said Hall would announce his intention to run against James Hoffa Jr. Hall was co-chairman of the Teamsters negotiating committee during last summer's successful strike against United Parcel Service. He has close ties to Ron Carey, who was forced out of the presidency because of illegal contributions made to his election campaign in 1996.

Negotiators for producers and actors extended their current round of contract talks to Friday, hoping to avoid the first actors' strike in Hollywood in 18 years. The current three-year contract expires June 30.

Shipping traffic on the Mississippi River kept flowing despite a tugboat pilots' strike for higher pay. Leaders of Pilots Agree, a loosely organized pilot group formed last year, said they were hopeful the strike would gain momentum this week.

The World

Israel said new suicide-bomb attacks by Islamic militants would make it "impossible" for peacemaking efforts with Palestinians to continue. Such attacks have been vowed by the militant Hamas movement in retaliation for the death early last week of its chief bombmaker, Muhyideen al-Sharif, whose remains were found next to a car that had exploded in the West Bank. Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel had no hand in Sharif's death.

If the lower house of Russia's parliament rejects Sergei Kiriyenko, President Yeltsin's choice to be prime minister, he will be renominated immediately, a Kremlin spokesman was quoted as saying. But the unidentified Yeltsin aide said the president believes enough lawmakers will vote to confirm Kiriyenko that a new nomination will not be necessary. The vote is scheduled later this week. By law, if parliament turns down three presidential nominees, new national elections must be held.