News In Brief

By , Lance Carden and Caryn Coatney

The US

No progress was reported in talks between General Motors and the United Auto Workers in a effort to end strikes by 9,200 union members at the Delphi Flint East parts plant and the Flint Metal Center in Flint, Mich. The two strikes have reportedly idled more than 50,000 GM workers at facilities in the US, Mexico, and Canada - or 45 percent of GM's North American production capacity. The union is contesting GM efforts to move work to other factories - inside and outside the US - where costs are lower.

President Clinton extended a moratorium on offshore leasing to oil companies by a decade and signed a permanent ban on drilling in marine sanctuaries. The directive extends until 2012 a moratorium on offshore-oil and -gas drilling that was initially imposed by President Bush in 1990.

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A $34 million payment by Mitsubishi Motors to settle a sexual harassment case should prompt corporate leaders to review their policies on the issue, legal experts said. Mitsubishi settled allegations that managers on the assembly line at its Illinois factory allowed women to be harassed. The accord requires the biggest sexual-harassment payout obtained by the US government. It will be shared by 350 women who have worked at the plant since 1987.

At least 600 Latin Americans of Japanese ancestry held in US internment camps during World War II will each get $5,000 under a settlement announced by the Justice Department. The accord resolved a 1996 lawsuit by five Latin Americans who were among more than 2,000 - mostly deported from Peru - who were forcibly interned in the US. The lawsuit was filed in Washington after Japanese-American WWII internees were given $20,000 each under a 1988 law. Some of the affected Latin Americans said they would appeal because the US internees received four times as much as their Latin American counterparts.

The Federal Communications Commission voted to maintain a subsidy for connecting schools and libraries to the Internet, instead of ending the program as some lawmakers had demanded. However, the FCC decided to collect only $1.3 billion in 1998 - mostly from long-distance telephone firms. That is considerably less than the $2 billion requested this year by more than 30,000 schools and libraries seeking Internet access. But it should allow long-distance carriers to reduce surcharges they plan to pass on to consumers.

The New Republic said 27 of 41 articles written by one of the magazine's reporters contained at least partly made-up material. Six of the pieces by Stephen Glass "could be considered entirely or nearly entirely made up," the journal reported. Glass was fired last month as an associate editor after confessing he had "embellished" a story about computer hackers.

Some 48 conservative groups pledged to fight a proposed UN international criminal court, denouncing it as dangerous to national security. US Sen. John Ashcroft (R) of Missouri said the court could nullify protections in the Bill of Rights and investigate US military operations overseas. A conference to discuss the proposal opens next week in Rome.

The Justice Department announced an easing of visa restrictions on Asian students. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright requested the move to lighten the financial burden on Asian students hit by the region's economic collapse. The new guidelines will allow eligible Asian students to work longer hours and take fewer courses.

A bill requiring couples to take premarital classes or wait three days to get married after receiving a license was signed into law by Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles (D). Backers say the Marriage Preparation and Preservation Act, which takes effect Jan. 1, 1999, is the first of its kind in the US. It also requires couples filing for divorce to take classes to prepare themselves and their children for the separation.

The World

The roar of warplanes is expected over Albania and Macedonia today as NATO planned a show of force to try to stop the ethnic crackdown in neighboring Kosovo. Alliance members oppose independence for the mostly Albanian province, but want to keep the conflict from becoming a wider war in the Balkans. More than 300 people have died since the Kosovo crisis erupted earlier this year. But as the NATO jets assembled at a base in Italy, the Yugoslav Air Force countered with a televised air show of its own.

Heads of state from the 15 members of the European Union gathered in Cardiff, Wales, for a two-day summit aimed at resolving such issues as reforming costly subsidy programs, the ability of one government to veto decisions that the rest may favor, and ways to repair relations with Turkey. Ties with Turkey have been strained since it was left off a list of candidates for future EU membership at the last leadership conference in December.

Reports that new military President Abdulsalam Abubakar had met with one of the wives of a leading dissident soon after assuming office was seen as a sign that tensions in Nigeria may be easing. Doyin Abiola's husband, Mashood Abiola, claimed victory in the 1993 presidential election, which was quickly overturned by the Army. He has been in prison on treason charges ever since, and his release is the rallying cry for the political opposition.

Fighting in Guinea-Bissau narrowed to key military targets in a suburb of the capital, as rebel troops denied they had been routed by forces loyal to the government. A spokesman said the rebels were ready to permit emergency food aid into the capital's airport, which they control. Meanwhile, President Clinton put US forces on stand-by to evacuate more Americans from the West African country.

Eritrea is ready to end its undeclared border war with Ethiopia, President Isayas Afe-werki said. He said he wanted to negotiate directly with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, whose forces claim to have killed or captured almost 11,000 "enemy soldiers" and to have captured thousands of weapons. Ethiopia has rejected previous calls for direct talks, saying Eritrea must first withdraw all troops from the border.

Following up Clinton's decision last month to waive sanctions against foreign energy companies investing in Iran, the latter invited American firms to bid on 20 new oil-exploration projects. Reserves in the Gulf and the Caspian Sea are to be auctioned July 1-3 in London. US companies currently are prohibited from trading with Iran, and the Iranian invitation said such companies should "first coordinate with the [Clinton] administration."

Citing competing demands for food aid, UN officials said famine-stricken North Korea needs increased help as soon as possible because current stocks are likely to be exhausted by August. Donor countries, the UN said, have been diverting assistance to Indonesia, which has been hard-hit by the Asian financial crisis - a development it called "new."

Across the political spectrum, Australians were forced to acknowledge the impressive electoral debut of the 15-month-old One Nation Party of populist leader Pauline Hanson. One Nation won one-quarter of the vote in state elections in Queensland while campaigning against Asian immigration, multiculturalism, and Aboriginal land rights. The vote was a forerunner to national elections that Prime Minister John Howard may call later this year. In Brisbane, the Queensland capital, one defeated Asian candidate predicted the result would damage Australia's image overseas.

Etceteras

" Many nations are worried that in the process of globalization, they lose their identity ... their culture ... their linguistic identity."

- Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, warning that the new world economy breeds conflict over 'Americanization.'

Some commuters are literally being taken for a ride when they patronize local businesses in northern New Jersey. That's because they have signed up for a new concierge service offered by the state transit authority. For a fee, passengers on trains to New York City can have, say, dry cleaning (or prints from a camera shop or a pass to the municipal swimming pool) picked up during the day and handed to them as they leave the train on the trip home. The concierges wear vests and ties. The commuters wear appreciative smiles.

Could you pass a news quiz? No? Well, you can at least take comfort in knowing you're not alone. A local newspaper tested 100 students at Kuwait University, asking - among other questions - the identities of Secretary of State Albright and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Almost half called Albright an actress. Sixty percent believed Annan is a professional soccer star.

Magazine Rates Nation's 'Best Places to Live'

Money magazine changed its format for the 12th annual ranking of the 300 largest US metropolitan areas. Those chosen - based on how they scored in 37 "livability factors" - also were ranked according to size: "large" areas of 1 million or more, "medium" areas of 250,000 to 1 million, and "small" areas of 100,000 to 250,000. The magazine's "best places to live" in each category and in each of four regions:

Midwest

Minneapolis (large)

Madison, Wis. (medium)

Rochester, Minn. (small)

Northeast

Washington (large)

Trenton, N.J. (medium)

Manchester, N.H. (small)

South

Norfolk, Va. (large)

Richmond, Va. (medium)

Charlottesville, Va. (small)

West

Seattle (large)

Boulder, Colo. (medium)

Fort Collins, Colo. (small)

- Associated Press

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