EXXON VALDEZ TRIAL BEGINS TODAY Five years after crude oil from the Exxon Valdez blackened Alaskan waters, 10,000 fishermen, property owners, and Alaska natives are taking giant Exxon Corporation to court, seeking to prove the pollution damaged their culture and livelihood. At stake in the civil trial opening today in Anchorage federal court is an estimated $1.5 billion in compensatory damages and, the plaintiffs' attorneys assert, more than 10 times that in punitive damages. Houston-based Exxon, the world's largest corporation, has refused comment. The plaintiffs' lead attorney, Brian O'Neill, said the proceedings will captivate people with no monetary interest because it is a cautionary tale of environmental disaster.

Japanese economy

Japan's new Prime Minister, Tsutomu Hata, held an emergency cabinet meeting Saturday to discuss ways to halt the yen's rise and resolve trade tensions with Washington. On Friday, the dollar threatened to fall below 100 Japanese yen for the first time, but its slide was halted by US central bank intervention. The dollar fell due to the growing US trade deficit and a belief among traders that Tokyo-Washington trade tensions are unlikely to be resolved as expected by June. Fraud case in Spain

Spain's government yesterday appeared to be undergoing its worst crisis in 12 years as embarrassment grew over authorities' failure to track down a former police official accused of fraud. The official, Luis Roldan, is under investigation for allegedly pocketing public funds and fraudulent commissions during his 1986-93 term as Civil Guard chief. Already, officials have begun submitting letters of resignation. Spain's press has indicated more resignations are forthcoming. Russia, Latvia pact

President Clinton Saturday hailed an agreement between Russia and Latvia on the withdrawal of Moscow's forces from the Baltic state. Russian troops will leave Latvia by Aug. 31. The agreement ends what Latvians see as decades of occupation by Moscow's armies. VMI settlement

A US federal judge approved on Friday a plan that will keep women out of Virginia Military Institute but establish a similar, military-style program for them at the all-female Mary Baldwin College. The proposed Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership must be operational by the fall of 1995. The US Justice Department sued VMI in 1990, claiming the exclusion of women at the 155-year-old state-supported school is discriminatory. Chinese policy on college

Students at China's 37 top universities will have to pay tuition and will be responsible for finding their own jobs after graduation under a new reform, the China Daily said Saturday. The change, to take effect with this autumn's new students, is another step in the unraveling of the old socialist system which provided everything for citizens throughout their lives. Previously China paid for all but students' food and clothing.

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