News In Brief

The US

The nation's school districts can't be held responsible when a teacher sexually harasses or abuses students if administrators didn't know about the conduct, the US Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4. And for the first time in history, the court struck down federal seizure of funds being taken out of the US. Also ruling 5 to 4, it said that simply taking all the money a person tries to carry out of the US without filing proper reports is unconstitutional. However, the decision keeps in place tough potential punishment for such violations.

The Supreme Court also rejected a challenge to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act's exemptions for religious organizations, letting stand a ruling that said the law doesn't violate the constitutionally required separation of church and state. It decided in favor of America Online Inc., letting stand a ruling that computer service providers may not be held liable for defamatory materials posted on their systems. And it refused to block the tobacco industry's federal challenge to Connecticut's Medicaid lawsuit against cigarette makers for smoking-related illnesses.

President Clinton was expected to announce government plans to conduct annual surveys to chart which cigarette brands are favored by underaged smokers. The move follows the defeat of tobacco legislation last week by the Senate designed to reduce underage smoking. Clinton strongly supported the bill. He also planned to join Vice President Gore in Nashville, Tenn., for an annual conference on family issues.

Clinton said he would push Chinese leaders on the issue of human rights during his trip to that nation later this week. In a Newsweek interview, he defended his policy of engagement with Beijing, which has provoked criticism from Republicans and human-rights activists. Critics have raised questions about whether Clinton should have agreed to a reception ceremony in Beijing's Tiananmen Square marking the anniversary when the Chinese Army crushed student-led protests in 1989.

A US diplomatic mission will tell Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic this week that he must meet all the demands of the Contact Group on Kosovo, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in an interview with the NBC's "Meet the Press." US ambassador to Macedonia Christopher Hill and Ambassador-designate to the UN Richard Holbrooke will inform Milosevic that he must withdraw his security forces from the restive province, she said.

While more negotiations were planned in Flint, Mich., to try to resolve the General Motors strike, United Auto Workers Union leaders gathered for a convention in Las Vegas. About 15 percent of the union's members are idled by the GM walkouts. Though obstensibly over local contract issues and grievances, the strike has allowed UAW leaders to focus attention on GM's expansion of jobs outside the US.

Emergency crews worked to keep several Florida forest fires from reigniting, with temperatures expected to again reach 100 degrees F. in many parts of the state. Nearly 76,000 acres of Florida forests have been scorched in a string of wildfires that began May 25. Federal officials have declared all 67 Florida counties as disaster areas.

Two British climbers stranded atop Alaska's Mount McKinley were rescued by helicopter after spending more than three days without food or a radio and enduring temperatures that hovered around minus-100 degrees F., with the wind chill. Martin Spooner and Carl Bougard, were stranded after Spooner was injured in a fall and Bougard decided to stay behind to care for him. Clearing skies also allowed rescuers to reach four other injured or ill climbers on the mountain, including American Bill Finley.

The World

Amnesty International and other advocacy groups joined the chorus of appeals for President Clinton to urge the release of all political prisoners when he visits China. The former called on him to "refuse complicity" in "hostage politics" and in using high-profile prisoners as "bargaining chips." Human Rights in China said quiet diplomacy has brought few improvements in the government's treatment of dissidents. The World Association of Newspapers urged Clinton to seek unconditional release of at least 16 journalists known to be in Chinese jails.

Amid signs that the Yugoslav Army is playing an increasing role, heavy fighting for control of the two main highways was reported in Kosovo. Four Albanian separatists and a Serb villager were killed. A visiting Russian envoy met with Serb officials and separatist leader Ibrahim Rugova and called for peace talks - agreed to last week by Yugoslav President Milosevic - to begin "as soon as possible." But the UN's mission chief in nearby Bosnia, Elisabeth Renn, said talks wouldn't solve the Kosovo crisis and urged NATO to commit troops to the restive province.

Colombia's newly elected conservative leader pledged he would become "president of the poor," reducing hunger, improving the country's "disastrous" finances, and restoring its "lost dignity." With 98 percent of the vote counted from the weekend elections, former Bogot mayor Andres Pastrana won 50.4 percent against the incumbent Liberal Party candidate Horacio Serpa.

Earth's ozone layer will shrink to its thinnest ever within three years, the World Meteorological Organization predicted. Ozone depletion will be "stronger than anything we have observed up to now," an expert from the UN agency said. But he said measures to remedy the problem should take effect by the middle of the next century, reducing depletion to 1960s levels.

An International Monetary Fund team was scheduled to arrive in Moscow to discuss a new multibillion-dollar aid package. Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko stressed the country needed extra aid to stabilize the ruble and rebuff "speculative attacks." The government's "anti-crisis" program, due to be unveiled today, would include "tough and often unpopular measures," such as public spending cuts, he conceded. But he promised a "safety net" to shield the poorest Russians.

Shaken by allegations that his top aides had collaborated with the feared former communist secret police, Romanian Prime Minister Radu Vasile gave Cabinet heads three days to declare whether they were true. Last week, Vasile's health minister resigned after admitting he'd been an agent of the Securitate under the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. One in four adult Romanians is believed to have helped the secret police.

More than 4,000 black peasants in Zimbabwe agreed to vacate the white-owned farms they occupied illegally and return to their communal homes, news reports said.

Virtually locked out of their quarters by the Belarus government, ambassadors from the US, Japan, and five European Union countries prepared for a protest exodus out of the country. Bureaucrats in Minsk had shut off water and gas to the embassy compounds and denied access to their staffs, citing needed repair work. But some diplomats suggested the move was ordered because President Alexander Luka-shenko wanted the neighborhood for his personal use.

Etceteras

It should be a snap, the folks at the city traffic department in Charlotte, N.C., decided, to get a better idea of how many motorists run red lights by setting up cameras at certain intersections. It would be Step 1 in a new program to - um - expose and issue citations to violators. By August, if all went according to plan, the first $50 tickets would be in the mail. That's turning out to be a fairly big "if," however. The city expected to catch perhaps 30 violators a day at each location. But each of the first two cameras ran out of film in less than an hour.

Then there was what happened to police who responded to a reported carjacking attempt in Eugene, Ore. The intended victim just happened to have a gun, although no one was hit when he used it to defend himself. The arriving cops took off in hot pursuit of the would-be thief and caught him hiding along a nearby river. But something about the driver of the car nagged at them, so they returned to question him. As it turned out, he matched the description of a suspect in an armed robbery at local store. Result: an economy of scale - two arrests for the price of one.

The Days List

New Choices Named to All-American Cities List

Ten small to medium-size metropolitan areas have won All-American City designations for their efforts in finding grass-roots solutions to civic problems. The annual awards, sponsored by the National Civil League and Allstate Insurance Co., and presented at ceremonies in Mobile, Ala., particularly recognize partnerships among community leaders, businesses, and local government. The 1998 honor-ees, in alphabetical order:

Chelsea, Mass.

DeKalb County (Decatur), Ga.

Fort Wayne, Ind.

New Haven, Conn.

Riverside, Calif.

Rochester, N.Y.

Santa Maria, Calif.

Saranac Lake, N.Y.

Tacoma, Wash.

Toledo, Ohio

- Associated Press

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