News In Brief

The US

The US Supreme Court was to hear debate on whether employees who suffer no retaliation for rebuffing bosses' sexual advances can still collect damages. A ruling, which is expected by July, could affect the appeal of a US judge's dismissal of Paula Jones's sex-harassment case against President Clinton.

The high court said fathers and mothers can be treated differently in deciding whether their children born out of wedlock and outside the country are US citizens. On a 6-to-3 vote, the justices upheld a law that automatically deems such children citizens when the mother is American but requires more evidence if only the father is. Also, in a dispute over a ship that sank off California's coast 133 years ago, the court gave federal courts the power to resolve competing ownership claims by states and treasure hunters.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas refused to block Whitewater witness David Hale's trial in an Arkansas state court on charges of lying to insurance regulators. Hale had contended that a plea agreement and immunity granted him by Whitewater investigators protected him from prosecution in the case. His trial was to begin yesterday in Little Rock.

Former President George Bush has written a letter arguing that presidents would feel uncomfortable having Secret Service agents nearby if they knew the agents could be called to testify about they saw on the job. The letter was submitted as part of Clinton's legal battle to prevent independent counsel Kenneth Starr from forcing Secret Service agents to testify in the inquiry into Clinton's ties to former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Clinton criticized a $1.6 billion education plan backed by Republicans in Congress, saying it would only help high-income taxpayers. He said the proposal, which would allow people to set up tax-free education savings accounts, would divert federal funds from private schools to public schools.

The US dismissed a reported lawyers' agreement for two Libyan suspects in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet to be tried in a neutral country. The State Department insisted they must be handed over to Britain or the US. Libyan lawyer Ibrahim Legwell said earlier that he had reached an accord with Scottish lawyer Robert Black and Jim Swire, who represents British families of victims. The explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland, caused 270 fatalities.

The Federal Reserve will raise interest rates to prevent the economy from overheating unless Asia's crisis dampens the pace of growth soon, its governor, Roger Ferguson, said. He indicated that domestic demand and the labor market had been so strong over recent months that higher inflation, rather than a slowdown in the rate of growth, now poses the main danger to the nation's buoyant economy.

Bank of New York launched a $23.2 billion hostile bid for Pittsburgh-based Mellon Bank after the two sides failed to negotiate a merger agreement. The combined bank would have $106.4 billion in combined assets - not nearly as large as some institutions that would be created in a spate of deals announced recently.

A young star surrounded by a vast disk of dust about 1,320 trillion miles from Earth may be a developing solar system similar to our own, scientists at the US space agency reported. They said "baby" planets may already have formed around the star, known as HR 4796, in the constellation Centaurus.

Disney officials opened their newest theme park, Animal Kingdom, expressing confidence it would receive a clean bill of health from a US inquiry into animal deaths at the facility. The $800 million park in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., was visited last week by two Department of Agriculture inspectors probing the deaths of a dozen animals - that had died at - or en route to - the new park.

The World

Standing symbolically in front of Lenin's tomb, Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov vowed to call President Yeltsin's bluff and force a major political showdown. That would force the president to call a new national election, which critics say the cash-strapped government cannot afford.

With riot police deployed only yards away, thousands of Muslims rallied outside city hall in Istanbul, Turkey, to protest the sentencing of Mayor Recep Tay-yip Erdogan for inciting religious hatred. "My speech should have been praised," he told the crowd in defending the remarks to a businessmen's group for which secular authorities seek to jail him. Government officials confirmed that the Muslim mayor of Ankara, the capital, is the target of similar investigations.

In a move that could derail Cambodia's July 26 elections, forces opposed to Premier Hun Sun announced a military merger with what's left of the outlawed Khmer Rouge guerrilla movement. Gen. Nhek Bunchhay, who commands the troops loyal to Hun Sen's deposed rival, Norodom Rana-riddh, claimed the new force numbers 8,000. Only hours before, Ranariddh denied any links with the Khmer Rouge and said its leaders "should be sent to an international tribunal." One of the terms of the election is an end to the Ranariddh-Khmer Rouge alliance.

Indonesia has met all of this week's economic-reform deadlines required under its massive bailout agreement with the International Monetary Fund, government officials said. The government has reduced export taxes on minerals, timber, and rattan and lifted a ban on palm-oil exports, replacing it with a 30 to 40 percent export tax - "proving that we're going to implement what we've agreed to," a spokesman said. The IMF is due to meet May 4 to decide whether Indonesia has made enough progress to merit payment of the next installment on its loan.

Under UN auspices, the first formal peace negotiations since Afghanistan's Taliban religious movement seized power 18 months ago were scheduled for Saturday in neighboring Pakistan. A three-party alliance will represent the opposition forces fighting in northern Afghan-istan to keep the Taliban from gaining control of the remaining 20 percent of the country.

Mexico's Army is looking into links between its own leaders and drug traffickers, the Defense Ministry announced. The probe comes after last month's leak of a classified US Drug Enforcement Agency report on growing evidence that Mexican military officials had discussed a deal to allow the notorious Juarez drug cartel and other traffickers to operate unhindered in exchange for bribes.

A rented community center was transformed into a courtroom for Guatemala's first trial of soldiers for the deaths of unarmed peasants. Eleven Indians who had escaped the country's civil war by fleeing to Mexico were shot in October 1995. They'd planned a party on the anniversary of their return and protested that the troops should not bring guns to it. The incident threatened to derail peace talks that led to the end of the war a year later. The soldiers were expected to argue that they felt threatened and fired in self-defense.

The first 33 Rwandans convicted of the genocide of more than 800,000 people in 1994 - mostly minority Tutsis - are to be executed publicly tomorrow, officials said. Rwanda has condemned 116 people to death for their roles in the three-month genocide orchestrated by Hutu extremists.

Etceteras

"I'm not joining them; they are joining me."

- Cambodian opposition leader Nhek Bunchhay, on his troops' newly announced merger with the remnants of the beleaguered and outlawed Khmer Rouge.

It was completed just three years ago, handles 60,000 passengers a day, and is considered an architectural vision of the future. But if you wait too long to fly into Japan's Kansai International Airport you may have to take a float plane. The Osaka facility, built on a man-made island at a cost of $12.3 billion, is already sinking into the sea. Experts say it's settling at the rate of a millimeter per day, or a little over one foot a year. At that rate, waves would cover it by 2013.

There are practical jokes, and then there is what happened to driving instructor Allen Merritt. His employer, A-1 Driving Academy of Abilene, Texas, and a TV series called "Payback" hired a professional stuntwoman to pose as an out-of-control student. First, she nearly smashed into a "construction worker," then came within inches of plowing into a food stand, as he grew increasingly agitated. A phony cop was part of the act, too. Everybody else thought the gag was hilarious. No word on whether Merritt did.

The Day's List

US, Japan Go in Opposite Competitive Directions

While the US economy repeated as the world's most competitive last year in an annual survey, Japan's slid out of the top 10 - in fact, all the way to 18th. World Competitive Yearbook bases its rankings of 46 nations on such factors as government policy, management, infrastructure, and openness to international trade. The top 15, with 1996 ranking in parentheses:

1. United States (1)

2. Singapore (2)

3. Hong Kong (3)

4. Netherlands (6)

5. Finland (4)

6. Norway (5)

7. Switzerland (7)

8. Denmark (8)

9. Luxembourg (12)

10. Canada (10)

11. Ireland (15)

12. Britain (11)

13. New Zealand (13)

14. Germany (14)

15. Australia (18)

- Associated Press

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