News In Brief

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The US

President Clinton wrapped up his Midwest trip, hoping to muster support for a public school modernization proposal Republicans forced him to abandon last year. Clinton was to visit a public school in Chicago to press for the measure, which would allow local governments to issue up to $22 billion in bonds. It is a key element of his plan for reducing class size in primary and secondary schools.

Sonny Bono's widow won a special election to claim his seat in the US House, beating the actor who played the patriarch on "The Waltons" TV show. With all 290 precincts reporting, Mary Bono, a Republican, had 50,841 votes, or 64 percent of the vote. Ralph Waite, a Democrat, had 22,787 votes, or 29 percent. Sonny Bono died in a skiing accident early this year.

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New guidelines enforcing a Pentagon policy barring pursuit and harassment of homosexuals in the military were ordered by Defense Secretary William Cohen. "Some commanders haven't gotten the message," Cohen said in a National Public Radio interview. He made the comment after the Defense Department released a report showing the number of people discharged for homosexuality had climbed 67 percent since 1994, when the current policy took effect.

The head of the Republican Party attacked a UN report on executions in the US. Chairman Jim Nicholson suggested the Clinton administration withhold payment of US arrears to the UN until the world body apologizes for a study released last week by UN special rapporteur Bacre Waly Ndiaye. The report calls for a halt to executions, saying the death penalty in the US is applied in an arbitrary and discriminatory way. The report came at a time when the UN is trying to collect more than $1 billion owed to it by the US.

The federal budget surplus could be higher than expected - as much as $18 billion - if the second half of fiscal 1998 matches last year's performance, the Congressional Budget Office said. The agency had earlier projected an $8 billion surplus for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. This would be the first time in nearly 30 years that the federal government has not recorded a deficit.

Federal safety officials called for inspections and repairs on three early series of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet, saying investigators trying to determine what caused TWA Flight 800 to explode had found problems with wiring and fuel-monitoring systems. The Federal Aviation Administration immediately said it was already working with Boeing on many of the National Transportation Safety Board suggestions. The cause of the July 1996 explosion that killed 230 people aboard Flight 800 over Long Island has not been determined.

US consumers increased their borrowing in February at the fastest pace in four months, the Federal Reserve said. Consumer debt grew at a 6.9 percent annual rate to a seasonally adjusted $1.24 trillion, following a moderate 4.5 percent rate of increase in January. Economists said the borrowing reflected consumers' optimism as well as some mild weather that encouraged early sales of spring merchandise.

A conservative ratings group blamed Senate GOP leaders for permitting a liberal shift in Congress. A voting scorecard compiled by the American Conservative Union showed a tendency for House Republicans to be less conservative and House Democrats to be less liberal last year, in an apparent search for the political center. In the Senate, on the other hand, the survey showed both parties becoming more liberal.

The first two months of 1998 were the warmest and wettest in more than a century, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report said. In January and February, the average US temperature was 37.5 degrees F. That is 5.4 degrees higher than normal and the highest average since recordkeeping began 104 years ago. Average precipitation in January and February was a record-high 6.01 inches. The norm is 4.05 inches.

The World

Northern Ireland's largest Protestant party came under intense lobbying from the Irish and British prime ministers to reverse course and accept a draft plan to end decades of sectarian violence. Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble is demanding major amendments to the 65-page plan submitted by US mediator George Mitchell, who set a deadline of today for reaching a final agreement.

With the new fiscal year already a week old, Japan's parliament approved Prime Minister Hashimoto's $584 billion budget, paving the way for serious debate on new measures to stimulate the economy. Hashimoto is expected to convene a special panel tomorrow to explore a massive tax cut.

Boris Yeltsin's choice for new prime minister of Russia faces certain defeat tomorrow when the lower house of parliament votes on his confirmation, a Kremlin official acknowledged. Alexander Kotenkov, Yeltsin's liaison to the Communist-dominated Duma, said legislators might yet approve Sergei Kiriyenko for the post, but would take "another week or two" to lobby for changes in government.

After major concessions from both sides, the International Monetary Fund and Indonesia announced a new try at salvaging a $38 billion bailout of the economy - the third in six months. Indonesia agreed to disband key monopolies in return for continued subsidies to some industries in an bid to hold down prices and prevent civil unrest. Worry about Indonesia's commitment to economic reforms led the IMF to hold up a $3 billion loan payment last month.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's 20-day-old coalition government in India was dealt its first setback when a junior member of his Cabinet resigned after being ordered to trial on corruption charges. Analysts and the rival Congress Party said the move was an embarrassment for Vajpayee, who led a clean-government campaign in elections last month.

New credibility was conferred on Cambodia's controversial July 26 election when the UN agreed to serve as coordinator for its monitors and poll-watchers. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the decision in letters to Premier Hun Sen and his ousted rival, Norodom Ranariddh, despite the latter's contention that the vote will not be fair. The election is widely seen as a bid by Hun Sen to gain legitimacy after he engineered last summer's violent coup that sent Ranariddh into exile. Until then, they had shared power under an earlier, UN-sponsored peace plan.

Donor countries haven't done enough to help rebuild the battered economy and infrastructure of Congo, self-appointed President Laurent Kabila complained. Kabila, who seized power last spring, said his government is trying to reverse years of neglect in the former Zaire. But potential donors have made assistance conditional on democratic reforms and a reversal of human-rights abuses, and critics say they see little of either under Kabila.

Suspicion fell on a terrorist movement known as November 17 for a rocket attack that heavily damaged an Athens branch of Citibank. No injuries were reported. The incident fit a pattern of recent attacks on US-owned enterprises in the Greek capital. It wasn't thought to be linked to the merger announced earlier this week between Citibank's parent company and the Travelers Group. A week ago, US Ambassador Nicholas Burns had warned that such attacks were likely to reduce foreign investment in Greece.

Etceteras

"Look beyond the bottom line. Face the reality that too much of what you're putting on the air is making our country more violent and vulgar ..."

- US Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D) of Connecticut, urging broadcasters to exercise judgement in their programming.

His best-known work is the symbol of an entire continent. It was formally open-ed by Queen Elizabeth II. World-class artists consider their careers incomplete if they've never performed there. And yet Joern Utzon, the Danish architect of the Sydney Opera House left town before construction was finished, vowing never to return. Utzon was disgusted at his treatment by local politicians. But that was 32 years ago, and a grateful city now hopes bygones are bygones. Its leaders have invited Utzon back to celebrate his birthday today. And this time they'reoffering the keys to the city.

Just when you thought the "Titanic" phenomenon was petering out, along comes word that a US-Swiss partnership plans an exact replica of the luxury liner - but with 21st century technology. That is, if the holder of the original blueprints gives its OK.

The Day's List

Rating 20th Century's Most Influential Leaders

Time magazine has published the first installment of a series celebrating what its editors call the 100 most influential people of the past 10 decades. The April 13 issue showcases the top 20 "leaders and revolutionaries," including "the Unknown Rebel" who stood alone before a column of advancing tanks near Tiananmen Square in Beijing June 5, 1989. The other 19:

David Ben-Gurion

Winston Churchill

Mohandas Gandhi

Mikhail Gorbachev

Adolf Hitler

Ho Chi Minh

Pope John Paul II

Ayatollah Khomeini

Martin Luther King Jr.

Vladimir Lenin

Nelson Mandela

Mao Zedong

Ronald Reagan

Eleanor Roosevelt

Franklin Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

Margaret Sanger

Margaret Thatcher

Lech Walesa

- Reuters

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