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UNITED STATES Space station Freedom - touted as a key step toward missions to the Moon and Mars - could cost $118 billion, nearly four times NASA's estimate, Comptroller General Charles Bowsher said. He rejected the National Aeronautics and Space Administration estimate of $30 billion.... Astronauts aboard the shuttle Discovery released clouds of rocket fuels and gases in space Thursday for further observation studies in the fourth day of their S tar Wars research mission. The research is aimed at developing sensors that can detect enemy missiles as they arc through the earth's atmosphere.... Detectives investigating the alleged rape of a 29-year-old woman in Palm Beach, Fla., by William Kennedy Smith will conclude the probe this week and present their evidence to the state attorney next week.... Congressional Democrats accused Vice President Dan Quayle of weakening proposed enforcement rul es for the Clean Air Act so that polluters could raise emissions on only seven days notice to authorities -- and with no notice to the public. They said Quayle's intervention represented a secret, backdoor effort by the Bush Administration to help industry sabotage the new act.


All Kuwaiti citizens will be allowed to return to their liberated homeland starting May 11, in waves of 15,000 a day. It has not yet been determined when the country's huge minority population of Palestinians, Egyptians, Syrians, Filipinos and others will be permitted back.... An international relief force was ready Thursday to begin securing still another area, near Al Amadiyah, in Iraq for Kurdish refugees trying to return home.


A UN conference in Geneva on Vietnamese boat people has ended without resolving the controversial issue of whether those Vietnamese refugees who do not face political persecution should be forced to go home.... Red Cross workers and supporters will light candles and lamps around the world next Wednesday, creating a global ``chain of light'' to draw attention to the fate of war victims, organizers in Geneva said.


The number of people killed by Bangladesh's worst typhoon in 20 years may top 100,000 or more once relief workers assess damage in the flooded coastal districts, officials now say.... Political prisoners in South Africa have begun nationwide hunger strikes after the government let pass an April 30 deadline for their release, the group Lawyers For Human Rights said.


Sunday: Democratic Leadership Council opens, in Cleveland. Monday: Shuttle Discovery scheduled to land in California; President Mauno Koivisto of Finland arrives in Washington on official three-day visit to US. Thursday: Ford Motor Company's annual meeting, in Dearborn, Michigan.

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