DEFENSE GIANTS TO MERGE The boards of directors of Martin Marietta Corporation and Grumman Corporation have agreed to merge the two giant defense contractors in a deal valued at $1.9 billion, the companies announced yesterday. The boards unanimously approved a $55-per-share cash offer by Martin Marietta for Grumman's outstanding shares. The merger puts the new company ``on the leading edge of the industry consolidation that is so essential to preserving our nation's defense capabilities and the jobs that go with them,'' Norman Augustine, Martin Marietta chairman, said in a statement. ``This combination will create a company with over $13 billion in sales that will have the critical mass, breadth of programs, and depth of technology to be solidly positioned in the aerospace-electronics industry,'' he said. The merger is subject to federal antitrust review. US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court yesterday left intact the rape conviction of former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. The court, without comment, refused to act on Mr. Tyson's argument that he had been denied a fair trial. He is currently serving a six-year sentence for raping a beauty pageant contestant in Indianapolis. In a second decision, the court granted greater protection to parodies of copyrighted material, meaning copyright owners cannot ban the parodies from being produced. In a unanimous decision that reversed a federal ruling, the court said the rap group 2 Live Crew's bawdy parody version of the 1964 rock-and-roll classic ``Oh, Pretty Woman'' did not constitute an illegal copyright violation. Boat people reprieve

Some 250 Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong won at least a temporary reprieve from return to their homeland under an order by a US appeals court. The unusual Sunday action by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia temporarily ensures that the US will resume screening Vietnamese nationals in Hong Kong. Previous US policy effectively allowed the Hong Kong government to attempt to send the Vietnamese home and force them to apply for emigration to the US from Vietnam. Heseltine says no

Michael Heseltine, the Conservative Cabinet minister who led the palace coup against Margaret Thatcher, said Sunday he had no interest in challenging current British Prime Minister John Major. After a week of frenzied speculation by the media and other Parliament members that he was limbering up for one last bid for the leadership, Mr. Heseltine went on BBC radio to pledge allegiance to his embattled prime minister. The denial, however, was expected to be greeted skeptically by most Parliament-watchers. New Orleans mayor

A bitter mayoral race tainted by racist and anti-Semitic slurs ended with a victory for Marc Morial, whose father was the city's first black mayor. Morial, a one-term state senator, defeated white lawyer Donald Mintz in a runoff Saturday. The campaign was marred by scurrilous fliers filled with racist and anti-Semitic slurs. The day before a Feb. 5 primary, an unpaid campaign adviser to Mr. Mintz was indicted on charges of illegally distributing anonymous fliers.

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