News In Brief

The US

Key Whitewater figure Susan McDougal was indicted for refusing to cooperate with the inquiry into President Clinton's finances. In one of its final acts, a federal grand jury in Little Rock, Ark., charged McDougal with two counts of criminal contempt and one count of obstruction of justice after she repeatedly refused to answer questions. McDougal, a former business partner of the Clintons, has already served an 18-month sentence for civil contempt.

Clinton sharply attacked Proposition 226, a California initiative that would bar unions from using membership dues for political activity without members' consent. Wrapping up a West Coast visit that was largely devoted to fund-raising, Clinton said the initiative would "alter the balance of power in the political debate." Opinion polls have indicated the measure is popular.

While in California, Clinton also showcased a new government partnership with the housing industry to make more use of energy-saving building materials, household appliances, furnaces, and air conditioners in an effort to cut energy use in half in new homes - and by 30 percent in 15 million existing dwellings - over 10 years.

The president has agreed to nominate a prominent conservative judge to a federal appeals court in exchange for assurances the Senate will confirm some of his judicial nominees, The New York Times reported. Senate Republicans agreed to stop blocking, among others, the nomination of Prof. William Fletcher in a deal that requires the president to nominate Washington State Supreme Court Judge Barbara Durham to the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the paper said, citing unnamed sources.

The poverty rate among US children rose 6.5 percent from 1969 to 1996, the Children's Defense Fund reported. At the end of the period, the West matched the South in its percentage of poor children - 22.9 percent - the first time another region had equaled the South, the group said. In 1996, the Midwest reportedly had the fewest impoverished children - 11.5 percent - followed by the Northeast, with 19.2 percent. Nationwide, 20.5 percent - or 14.5 million children - were living in poverty - up from 14 percent in 1969.

Convicted Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski was given four life sentences, as spelled out in a plea bargain reached in January. He spoke only briefly in US district court in Sacramento, Calif., offering no apologies for his antitechnology terrorist campaign, which killed three men and injured 29 other people.

Citing swelling tax receipts, the Treasury Department said it will pay down the US debt in the April-to-June quarter. The US will not stop selling securities, but will auction a smaller value than the total it redeems or pays off in the quarter, lowering the debt an estimated $110 billion.

Hillary Rodham Clinton said she would travel by bus this summer to historic sites in need of repair to call attention to her effort to restore them. She spoke at the first meeting of a committee formed to raise private money for the purpose. She is expected to make several short trips to such sites, beginning with a mid-July visit to Seneca Falls, N.Y., where the women's suffrage movement began 150 years ago.

Children as young as 10 are taking illegal steroids to do better in sports, according to the first survey to look at use of the bodybuilding drugs as early as fifth grade. It found 2.7 percent of 965 youngsters questioned at four Massachusetts middle schools were using anabolic steroids. University of Massachusetts researcher Avery Faigenbaum's study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

A key measure of future economic activity rose 0.2 percent in March, the Conference Board reported. The index of leading indicators rose to 105.2 in its third consecutive advance - a sign, analysts said, that US economic growth will continue.

The World

Palestinian Authority President Arafat accepted an invitation for another round of peace talks in Washington on Monday, his spokesman said. Israeli Prime Minister Netanya-hu, also invited, said he needed to consult with his Cabinet and said it was possible he would go "if I'm satisfied Israel's security is protected." They held two days of separate meetings with Secretary of State Albright in London.

Armed Albanian separatists were accused of using elderly villagers as human shields to protect themselves in a standoff with police in Kosovo. The report, in a Serb newspaper, could not be confirmed. The state-run Tanjug news agency also reported that the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army had murdered a fellow Albanian loyal to the province's Serb government.

The Indonesian city of Medan was a riot scene as thousands of students and their supporters protested sharp increases in the prices of fuel, electricity, and transportation. At least 20 police were hurt as the demonstrators hurled rocks, set cars on fire, and attacked the shops and houses of ethnic Chinese, who dominate commerce. At least 100 rioters were arrested. In Jakarta, the capital, parliamentary leaders ruled out a special session to consider impeaching President Suharto, whose ouster students are demanding.

Cambodia's bitter political rivals spoke their first words to each other in almost a year - which analysts called a good sign for the future. Premier Hun Sen telephoned Prince Norodom Ranariddh, whom he ousted in a violent coup last July, to ask his help in ending a boycott of parliament by opposition lawmakers. Ranariddh returned from exile earlier this week to compete in this summer's national election.

Vietnam "will learn from capitalism" but not allow it to replace communism, its new senior leader said. In his first news conference as Communist Party general secretary, Lt. Gen. Le Kha Phieu said the country has largely escaped the deep economic crisis affecting much of the rest of Asia and would seek to develop an attractive environment for foreign investment by making better use of its hard-working labor force and natural resources.

Two more people died and three others were hurt in ongoing political violence in the Dominican Republic, despite a signed pledge by all parties that they would campaign peacefully in the May 16 national election. The vote is crucial for President Leonel Fernandez, whose party controls neither house of Congress. In all, five Dominicans have been killed since campaigning began.

All 1,400 unionized dock workers dismissed by Australia's leading stevedore company are expected back on the job today - a month after their firing brought many of the nation's ports to a standstill. Earlier this week, Australia's High Court upheld a lower-court ruling that Patrick Stevedores Ltd. illegally fired the men April 7, replacing them with nonunion workers. The dismissed longshoremen and their sympathizers then picketed the ports, causing an estimated 10,000 shipping containers and other cargo to pile up.

Coral bleaching caused by rising sea temperatures and fresh-water flooding is affecting 60 percent of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, scientists said. In a statement posted on the Internet, they said the effects appeared to be the worst yet recorded and could cause vast sections of the world's largest marine park to stop supporting sea life. The reef, sections of which are 18 million years old, generates almost $700 million annually in tourism and commercial-fishing revenues.

Etceteras

"The rest of the nation is catching up with the South."

- Children's Defense Fund president Marian Wright Edelman, reporting a dramatic increase in poverty among young Americans.

Whoever said appearances are deceiving must have been thinking of the sheriff's deputy who watches for speeders in rural Amidon, N.D. Day and night - never once taking a break - she sits at the wheel of a patrol car in plain view of traffic, daring drivers to exceed the posted limit. But the "deputy" is a mannequin dressed in an old uniform shirt. Her "cruiser" has an emergency flasher mounted on top and "SHERIFF" painted on the sides, but no engine under the hood. Still, the ruse works - at least for first-time visitors.

Not wishing to get stung by a lawsuit, Japan Airlines canceled a domestic flight last weekend when cabin attendants couldn't catch a huge bee that had invaded the plane. Passengers were switched to another plane, and when the intruder still hadn't buzzed off an hour later, a can of insecticide took care of the problem.

North American Free Trade Agreement or not, don't try to cross the Canadian border this summer with more than one Beanie Baby per trip. The cuddly toys are a controlled item and will be confiscated by customs agents.

'He Got Game' Scores Slam-Dunk at Box Office

Director Spike Lee's "He Got Game" won top honors at the box office in its opening weekend, pushing former champ "The Big Hit" to the No. 3 spot. The new film, starring Denzel Washington and NBA player Ray Allen, is about a convicted felon's relationship with his talented basketball-playing son. Grosses for top movies at North American theaters May 1 to 3 (in millions):

1. "He Got Game" $7.6

2. "City of Angels" 6.6

3. "The Big Hit" 5.8

4. "Les Miserables" 5.0

5. "Black Dog" 4.8

6. "Titanic" 4.0

7. "Object of My Affection" 3.9

8. "Paulie" 3.7

9. "Lost in Space" 2.9

10. "Sliding Doors" 1.6

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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