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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert Kilborn and Lance Carden / April 9, 1998

The US

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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.

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.