News In Brief

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The US

Attorney General Janet Reno will meet with Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., about the latter's request for a federal commission to investigate the King assassination, a Justice Department spokesman said. The White House had announced earlier that President Clinton asked Reno to arrange such a meeting. Mrs. King said last week she believed the government has known since at least 1969 that James Earl Ray, who is serving a 99-year term after confessing to the slaying, did not act alone.

House majority leader Dick Armey called Clinton "shameless" for not resigning over the sexual-misconduct allegations against him. Armey's remarks to about 50 high-school students in Coppell, Texas, were some of the harshest by a top Republican since a federal judge dismissed Paula Corbin Jones's sexual-harassment lawsuit against the president. Meanwhile, Clinton flew to Kansas City, Mo., where he was to discuss Social Security reform at a public forum on the subject.

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New guidelines designed to protect low-cost, start-up airlines were proposed by Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater. They would forbid large airlines from slashing fares or suffering operating losses solely to drive new entrants from the market. The action follows complaints by start-up carriers, communities, and consumers about the behavior of major airlines at airports where they dominate the market.

Deputy Energy Secretary Elizabeth Moler emerged as the leading candidate to replace her boss, Federico Pea, who announced he would resign June 30 to spend more time with his family and enter the private sector. Industry and congressional sources said no other names had as yet surfaced.

A Labor Department plan to inspect the most hazardous US work sites received court approval. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration could inspect up to 6,000 workplaces with the highest illness and injury rates. The US Chamber of Commerce had challenged the targeting of these firms, saying the threat of such inspections - as opposed to random inspections - was being used to coerce firms into complying with safety standards that had not gone through the normal adoption process.

The Justice Department's top antitrust official will meet with Microsoft Corp. representatives Friday to discuss a possible new legal action against the software giant, a source familiar with the case said. Some in the Justice Department believe there is now enough evidence to bring a new antitrust suit against Microsoft, according to the source. Officials who favor bringing the case would reportedly like to do so before the pending release of Windows 98, an update to the popular Windows 95 software.

North Carolina appealed a US court ruling that its 12th Congressional District was racially gerrymandered. State Attorney General Mike Easley asked a three-judge panel to reconsider a decision handed down late last week that declared the meandering district unconstitutional, and he appealed to Chief Justice of the US William Rehnquist to allow the state's May 5 party primaries to proceed as scheduled.

Wholesale inventories rebounded in February as grocery, machinery, and drug sales advanced, the Commerce Department said. Inventories shot up 1.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted $274.31 billion after falling 0.5 percent in January. Sales edged up 0.5 percent after staying flat in January. Economists had expected inventories to rise by only 0.3 percent in February.

Tammy Wynette, who died in Nashville, Tenn., catapulted out of a beauty-parlor job to become the so-called "first lady of country music." She recorded more than 50 albums and sold more than 30 million records - scoring 39 top 10 hits from 1967 to 1988. Wynette was perhaps best known for the song "Stand by Your Man."

The World

Northern Ireland's largest Protestant party quickly rejected the outline of a peace plan for the province offered by US mediator George Mitchell. Mitchell presented the 65-page document in the hope that rival Protestant and Catholic negotiators would agree to it by his self-imposed deadline tomorrow. Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, the political ally of the Irish Republican Army, said the outline was like a stew: "You have to cook it properly."

Angering new Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, Albanian separatist leaders boycotted peace talks in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo province. They said they would talk only with the national government of Yugoslavia in the presence of an outside mediator. Serbia's parliament is due to vote April 23 on ratifying a referendum that rejects such mediation. Milutinovic was prepared to discuss autonomy for Kosovo, but within the confines of Serbia.

Indian defense officials said they weren't surprised by the test-firing of a long-range missile by rival Pakistan earlier this week and "will take resolute steps" to meet any threat to national security. The Pakistani missile can hit targets deep inside India and is believed capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The US appealed to both countries to show restraint and said it was examining whether China had any role in Pakistan's missile project. In Beijing, Chinese officials called such a probe "unreasonable."

More senior military commanders in South Africa were expected to fall after the resignation of defense chief Georg Meiring because of a falsely reported coup plot. Meiring, who is white, presented the report to President Nelson Mandela Feb. 5, apparently without determining that it had come from a discredited source. The report accused some of the most trusted members of Mandela's ruling African National Congress of conspiring to overthrow him.

Buddhist leaders from 15 countries met in Japan to try to resolve concerns that have deflated the popularity of the ancient religion. Delegates approved the restoration of holy sites and discussed increased missionary efforts, political suppression of worship by China and other governments, and criticism of the opulent lifestyle of some priests and monks.

Early national elections in Australia appeared almost certain as the upper house of Parliament prepared to reject a government-proposed bill that seeks to limit Aboriginal rights. The Senate is expected to take its final vote today on the bill, which it first defeated in December. Aides to Prime Minister John Howard said he would not accept compromise wording to enhance prospects for passage of the measure.

Sounding a familiar theme, US drug-enforcement chief Barry McCaffrey said Mexico is making progress in the campaign against cocaine cartels. But on a visit to Mexico City, he told reporters the country continues to labor under the weight of massive narcotics-related corruption. Over congressional opposition, the US recertified Mexico in February as an ally in the antidrug effort.

UN field workers cleared an obstacle that has held up implementation of a peace plan for the disputed Western Sahara, by identifying those eligible to participate in a referendum on independence. Reporting from Layoune, the territory's main city, the UN team put the number of voters at 101,772 for the Dec. 7 ballot. Morocco claims sovereignty over the phosphate-rich region, but agreed to a cease-fire with the separatist Polisario Front in 1991 after a 15-year war. The referendum was to follow, but has yet to be held because of disagreements on who is eligible to vote.

Etceteras

"No matter how they cut it, this policy puts government bureaucrats in the business of setting fares and determining the level of service ..."

- Air Transport Association president Carol Hallett, on new federal guidelines designed to protect start-up airlines.

Not giving a second thought to they way he was dressed, British baritone Quentin Hayes saw an opportunity to slip outside during rehearsals in London and make a phone call. Bad idea. Hayes was in "skinhead" costume for his role in Leos Janacek's opera, "The Adventures of Vixen Sharp Ears." Suddenly, two black passersby forced him against a wall, angry at what appeared as a white racist in their path. Hayes's explanations were getting nowhere when it occurred to him to prove he's a singer with an impromptu aria from another opera, "The Barber of Seville." Just as abruptly, the confrontation ended.

There is what you might call an air of expectation at the courthouse in Norwalk, Conn. And not because a jury is about to reach its verdict in some high-profile trial. It's because, for the fourth year in a row, a female mallard duck has chosen the place to hatch her brood. Daphne, as she's affectionately known - no word on whether her mate is called Daffy - produced four offspring last year. Concerned courthouse employees have set her up with a child's wading pool and are collecting money to buy food.

The Day's List

'Lost in Space' Overtakes 'Titanic' at Box Office

After dominating the weekly box-office sweepstakes for a record-setting 15 consecutive weeks, "Titanic" finally has been passed - by "Lost in Space," a film version of the campy 1960s TV series featuring computer-generated images. Grosses for the top 10 movies at theaters across North America April 3-5 (in millions):

1. "Lost in Space" $20.2

2. "Titanic" 11.5

3. "Mercury Rising" 10.1

4. "Grease" 5.5

5. "Primary Colors" 4.7

6. "Wild Things" 3.6

7. "The Man in the Iron Mask" 3.5

8. "As Good As It Gets" 3.3

9. "Good Will Hunting" 3.2

10. "The Newton Boys" 2.3

Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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