News In Brief

The US

New talks between Swiss banks and the World Jewish Congress open today in Washington on such Holocaust-era issues as unpaid insurance policies, confiscated real estate, and compensation for slave labor. All sides, including State Department mediators, reportedly expect the talks to be lengthy. One source said they might last weeks, even a month.

Whitewater prosecutors questioned Hillary Rodham Clinton for five hours about her work as a private lawyer for the failed savings and loan at the center of the inquiry. The session, videotaped at the White House residence in lieu of a grand jury appearance, marked the sixth time Mrs. Clinton had been questioned by prosecutors in the Whitewater probe.

Proposals for marketing partnerships among some major US airlines prompted regulators and lawmakers to promise a careful review of their plans. American Airlines and US Airways said earlier they would merge their frequent-flier programs as a possible prelude to joint marketing of their flights. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines said their talks about a similar deal had broken down. Northwest and Continental started the trend, announcing in January a deal that is already under review.

US Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana was expected to transfer part of his campaign-finance inquiry to a committee with a GOP majority big enough to grant immunity to witnesses, committee sources said. At a stormy meeting of Burton's Government Reform and Oversight Committee, Democrats refused further cooperation with the probe and opposed immunity for four potential witnesses. This came after Burton had used coarse language to describe President Clinton and said "that's why I'm after him" in a newspaper interview. By giving the House Oversight Committee the right to grant immunity, Republicans could circumvent the Democratic protest.

In an election-year showdown over education, the Senate passed - along party lines - a measure that would allow $2,000-a-year, tax-free savings accounts for school expenses; ban national reading and math testing; and turn $10 billion worth of US education programs into community block grants. After a similar bill passed the House last year, Clinton promised to veto it.

The administration criticized the House for taking $18 billion for the International Monetary Fund out of an emergency spending bill. The Senate had already approved the measure.

Two-thirds of the Senate called for a vote on a proposal to restore food-stamp benefits to legal immigrant families. The bill, which also reauthorizes agricultural-research programs, would overturn a provision of the 1996 welfare-reform law. The White House said it would veto the legislation if it did not include the food-stamp provision.

Astronauts on the space shuttle Columbia successfully restarted a critical air purifier that threatened to cut short their two-week scientific mission. Meanwhile, an independent advisory board said technical complexities and Russia's failure to meet its pledges could delay the International Space Station project by up to three years and boost the US share of its costs to $24.7 billion. The board, appointed by the US space agency, said the project cannot be achieved within the $17.4 billion cap established by the president in 1993.

Millionaire balloonist Steve Fossett said he will make a fourth attempt in August to fly nonstop around the world. He plans to fly northeast from Mendoza, Argentina, over Paraguay and Brazil, across the Atlantic Ocean, to the tip of South Africa. From there, he plans to fly east, crossing Australia before returning over the Pacific to South America.

The World

New Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko was rushing to meet tomorrow's deadline for putting together his Cabinet after winning confirmation in parliament last Friday. President Yeltsin also told him to cut the number of Cabinet-level departments by half and to focus on economic growth. Analysts said Kiriyenko's confirmation left the Communist Party in disarray because its leader had insisted he would be rejected, which would have forced a new national election.

"Israel and Israel alone must determine its security," Prime Minister Netanyahu declared as he prepared to meet with US special envoy Dennis Ross, who is making a new effort to restore momentum to the Middle East peace process. Ross was sent to the region to prepare the ground for Secretary of State Albright's separate talks with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat May 4 in London.

No casualties were reported after a firefight between Yugoslav troops and ethnic Albanian separatists on the Kosovo-Albania border. But a Serb policeman was wounded in an attack at a checkpoint near the capital, Pristina, and Yugoslav Army reinforcements were arriving on the scene. In Washington, the US said it would propose a freeze on Yugoslav assets overseas Wednesday.

"I am pleading with you to remain at home and contribute to rebuilding," Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano told the nation's young people in a speech. More than 500,000 Albanians - almost 20 percent of the population - are believed to have emigrated so far this decade in search of a better life elsewhere. Unemployment currently is about 30 percent.

Brazil's worst drought in 15 years threatens more than 9 million people with famine, a government report said. It said emergency food distribution must begin by next month. The drought in the impoverished northeastern region of the country is blamed on the El Nio weather phenomenon. A government-run food distribution agency promised to empty its warehouses to prevent looting. The Landless Rural Workers Movement threatened to send its followers on raids of local markets if the promise isn't kept.

Despite some of the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan's civil war, the Taliban religious movement and its rivals opened peace talks in neighboring Pakistan. It was their first face-to-face meeting since peace efforts broke down early last year. Meanwhile, refugees streamed into the capital, Kabul, fleeing the combat 18 miles to the north, with reports of casualties on both sides.

Opposition calls for a boycott of Nigeria's parliamentary elections apparently were successful. Voter-turnout figures were not expected from the government, but officials said private-ly the number of people going to the polls may have been the lowest for any election since Nigeria gained independence in 1960. Analysts had said the turnout would be a key test of support for military ruler Sani Abacha's plan to govern as a civilian. Emboldened by the low turnout, Abacha opponents scheduled a national day of protest May 1 to demand his ouster.

Emergency crews diverted the flow of toxic waste in southern Spain, preventing what scientists said could have been an environmental disaster. The pollution threatened Donana National Park, one of Europe's most prized nature reserves. The spill was caused by a ruptured holding pond at a Swedish-owned iron pyrite mine, which sent millions of gallons of water contaminated with heavy-metal residues and chemicals into a nearby river.

Etceteras

"We know ... there are forces which benefit from instability in society,

but we will not yield to them."

- New Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko, on failed Communist efforts to deny him confirmation by parliament.

Remember the two Georgia students suspended last month for wearing Pepsi shirts on "Coke in Education Day?" Then you may also recall they were punished because the deed could have cost their school a cash prize. Now comes word that Greenbrier High won the money anyway, finishing in a first-place tie for the most imaginative idea for marketing Coke. The company said the decision had nothing to do with "the shirt thing." As reported later, the suspensions were eventually expunged.

Jeffrey Cabaniss, the New Jersey ice-cream vendor cited in this space back in March, won his battle to cruise the streets playing "Turkey in the Straw" endlessly from his truck to attract business. Said his town council: This has to stop. But a federal appeals court disagreed, ruling, in effect: If you're tired of the music, don't buy from him anymore and he'll go away.

The Day's list

Summer Smorgasbord of American Jazz Festivals

If you love jazz and have yet to make plans for a summer getaway, the following are major live-performance festivals you might want to consider:

New Orleans: Jazz and Heritage Festival, through May 3 (504) 522-4786

New York: Texaco Jazz Festival, June 1-14 (212) 219-3006

Los Angeles: Playboy Jazz Festival, June 13-14 (310) 449-4070

San Francisco: Jazz Festival, Oct. 29-Nov. 8 (415) 398-5655 (ext. 3)

Newport, R.I.: JVC Jazz Festival, Aug.14-16 (401) 847-3700

Big Sur, Calif.: Big Sur Jazzfest, April 17-19 (408) 667-2654

Atlanta: Atlanta Jazz Festival, May 18-25 (404) 817-6815

Washington: Jazz Arts '98, June 7-Aug. 2 (202) 966-6310

New York: JVC Jazz Festival, June 15-27 (212) 501-1390

Aspen, Colo.: Janus Jazz Aspen at Snowmass, June 18-21 (970) 920-4996

Asbury Park, N.J.: Asbury Park Jazz Fest, June 27-28 (732) 502-5728

Chicago: Jazz Festival, Sept. 3-6 (312) 744-3315

- The Wall Street Journal

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