News In Brief

The US

The nation's trade deficit climbed to a monthly record of $12.1 billion in February as sales to Japan plummeted, the Commerce Department reported. The deficit in goods and services was 4.2 percent higher than a revised $11.6 billion imbalance in January, as merchandise exports fell to their lowest level in a year.

Paula Jones set the stage for a lengthy extension of her legal battle with President Clinton, saying she will ask an appeals court to reinstate her lawsuit and force the president to stand trial for sexual harassment. Attorneys not connected with the case said Jones faces long odds in trying to persuade an appeals court to overturn an April 1 district-court ruling that her suit does not merit a trial.

A federal court refused to block the trial of Whitewater witness David Hale. The decision came after special prosecutor Kenneth Starr said he was cancelling an agreement to become a dean at Pepperdine University in California. Hale is alleged to have received financial aid from a donor to Pepperdine while cooperating with Starr. An appeals court in Little Rock, Ark., rejected arguments by Hale that his plea accord with Star precludes him from being tried in an insurance-fraud case set for this week. Hale, who is charged with lying to state regulators in 1992 -- and who pleaded guilty in 1994 to fraud and conspiracy -- has said Clinton pressured him to make an illegal loan. The president has denied the allegation.

Heavy weekend rains hampered cleanup of tornado damage in Tennessee. A flash-flood watch was posted for 80 of the state's 95 counties. Tornadoes killed six people in Tennessee and damaged or destroyed more than 1,600 homes and businesses there last week. Twisters associated with the same storm system reportedly killed three people in Kentucky and two in Arkansas.

The NAACP said some black towns hit by tornadoes in the South were overlooked by relief agencies, including the Red Cross. The oldest US civil rights group said all relief efforts -- US, state, local, and private -- were slow to identify and bring services to black communities. The NAACP has had its own officials working in Alabama since April 10.

Mayors of five cities urged the use of US funds for needle-exchange programs. The mayors of San Francisco, Detroit, Seattle, New Haven, Conn., and Baltimore made the request to Donna Shalala, secretary for health and human services.

TV violence is on the rise, and children are at high risk for learning aggressive behaviors, a three-year research project found. The National Television Violence Study, conducted at four universities, found that the average American preschooler is exposed to more than 500 portrayals of violence a year. Violent incidents -- considered particularly problematic for children under 7 -- were found most often on cartoons, researchers said, noting that they have difficulty distinguishing TV fantasy from reality.

The US has the highest rate of deaths from firearms of 36 nations around the world, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The US firearm death rate was 14.24 per 100,000 people -- a figure that includes accidents, suicides, and homicides -- the highest of any nation in the study. Japan had the lowest rate, with 0.05 deaths per 100,000 people. Brazil had the second-highest firearm death rate, with 12.95 deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Mexico and Estonia.

Former North Carolina Gov. Terry Sanford (D), who died in Durham, was a champion of education reform in the 1960s and a presidential candidate in 1972 and 1976. He served as governor from 1961 to 1965, was president of Duke University from 1969 to 1985, and was elected to the US Senate in 1986. He lost his bid for a second Senate term to Republican Lauch Faircloth.

The World

The Clinton administration welcomed the long-expected release of leading political dissident Wang Dan from a Chinese prison. Wang, who reportedly is ill, was serving an 11-year sentence for plotting the overthrow of the government. He arrived in Detroit, where he is expected to seek medical treatment. The move was seen as a goodwill gesture prior to President Clinton's state visit to China in June.

Still unresolved after a high-profile summit meeting between the leaders of Russia and Japan was the territorial dispute over the strategic Kurile islands. Reports said President Boris Yeltsin (above, l.) and Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashi-moto (r., helping his guest remove a sweater at their joint news conference) deepened the warmth of their personal relationship, but left concerns that Russia might never hand back the four islands it seized at the end of World War Two -- and that Japanese investment in Russia would fail to meet expectations.

A pledge to establish a hemispheric free-trade zone by 2005 was signed by Clinton and the leaders of 33 other nations on the final day of the Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile. They also renewed a 1994 plea for ''universal access'' to at least an elementary-school education by 2010, pledged to lower barriers to home ownership and to starting small businesses, and established an alliance to help coordinate the campaign against illegal drugs throughout the hemisphere.

A month after rejecting international demands for an investigation of human-rights abuses, the government of Algeria arrested 120 policemen on just such charges, news reports said. The reports cited 54 cases in which civilians allegedly were deliberately shot to death in public and seven ''extra-judicial executions'' of suspects inside police stations.

The road to reelection grew steeper for German Chancellor Helmut Kohl as a new opinion poll showed Gerhard Schroeder, the candidate of the opposition Social Democratic Party, now favored by 66 percent of respondents. And, Germany's best-selling Sunday newspaper ran a front-page story speculating on which of four popular Kohl allies could best replace him as the challenger to Schroeder in the Sept. 27 election.

Oil-industry workers in Colombia planned a nationwide strike today to protest the murder of the country's leading human-rights advocate. Gunmen posing as reporters eased past a security guard in Bogota over the weekend, shot attorney Eduardo Umana Mendoza, and slipped away unchallenged. Although Umana was noted for his fiery antigovernment rhetoric, the interior ministry announced a $500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killers.

Angry homosexual activists said they'd sue to stop ''false information'' from being spread about the French government's plan to liberalize marriage laws. Organizers of a toughly worded petition drive claim to have the signatures of 12,000 mayors protesting the plan, which would grant homosexual couples the same benefits and rights as those of married heterosexuals. The measure also would cover heterosexual couples outside marriage.The mayors worry they may be asked to officiate at weddings of homosexual couples.

A low turnout was expected for the election to choose a new president of Austria -- both because the candidates ran lackluster campaigns and because incumbent Thomas Klestil has enjoyed a wide lead in opinion polls. Klestil, who succeeded former UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim in the post in 1992, also benefited from the fact that Austria's three major parties did not put up candidates to challenge him.

Etceteras

"Sending political prisoners to other countries does not mean human rights conditions in China have improved.''

Exiled labor activist Han Dongfang, on China's release of high-profile fellow dissident Wang Dan, now in the US.

''Snail mail'' now has a whole new meaning for Riverside, Calif., resident Hristo Stamenkovic. When a properly addressed and stamped envelope took almost 4-1/2 years to reach him from San Diego, he calculated it had traveled the 90-mile distance at 6.921 inches per hour. Research showed even a snail could have beaten that pace, the Postal Service conceded.

Tiny Medanales, N.M., has a national online executive-search firm, a weaving studio, and a name that few people seem to be able to spell correctly. Mail tends to arrive addressed to Mendanales or Mendales. On the state highway department sign outside town it's Medenales -- or was, until someone tried to fix it by scrawling an ''a'' over the incorrect ''e.'' Even The New Mexican, a newspaper in nearby Santa Fe, the capital, has misspelled the name 12 times since 1994.

With development and promotional costs of $1.5 billion, the name Mach 3, and a ''launch'' scheduled for July, you'd think Gillette Co. had branched out into the aerospace business. But no. It's all for the company's newest product, a razor with three spring-mounted blades -- the first of its type in the US.

The Day's List

Fortune Ranks Nation's 'Most Powerful' Firms

Along with its annual list of 500 largest US companies, Fortune magazine has published a ranking of what it terms the ''100 most powerful,'' based on revenues, profits, assets, and market values. No. 6, Citicorp, and No. 7, Travelers Group, announced merger plans last week. The magazine's top 10:

1. General Electric

2. Exxon

3. General Motors

4. IBM

5. Ford Motors

6. Citicorp

7. Travelers Group

8. American International Group

9. AT&T

10. Philip Morris

Associated Press

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