News In Brief

The US

President Clinton now faces the task of choosing a new candidate for CIA director after Anthony Lake withdrew his nomination. The former National Security Council head called the Senate Intelligence Committee hearings "mired in partisan politics" in a letter to Clinton. The committee questioned Lake's integrity, management skills, and fitness to head the agency.

The White House and CIA began looking into attempts by Democratic Party chairman Donald Fowler to help a fugitive businessman and party donor obtain high-level meetings with Clinton administration officials. Fowler apparently tried to enlist the National Security Council to arrange the meetings with oil financier Roger Tamraz, who is wanted in Lebanon on decades-old embezzlement charges. News of the contacts influenced Lake's decision to withdraw his nomination to head the CIA.

NATO expansion will proceed despite Russian objections, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said. And no European democracies will be excluded from future consideration, she added. She was responding to concerns expressed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin before his summit with Clinton on NATO expansion and other issues.

"Productive" is how American Airlines summed up federally mediated negotiations last weekend with its pilots union. The airlines said it expects a tentative settlement by the end of the week as talks between the two sides resume in Washington. Mediator Robert Harris is expected to file a report requested by Clinton by today on the labor dispute.

House minority leader Dick Gephardt returned $22,000 in campaign contributions, most of them linked to Indonesia's Lippo Group conglomerate. Two of the contributions tied to Democratic fund-raiser John Huang were returned because of concerns that they may have come illegally from overseas.

Reversing his position, House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested delaying a major tax cut in an effort to seal a balanced-budget deal with Clinton. Calling the move a tactical retreat that would deprive liberals of their strongest objection in the debate, he said the GOP can always push for lower taxes later.

Housing starts soared 12.2 percent in February to the highest level in nearly three years, the Commerce Department reported. Starts were higher in every region except the Northeast, where they dropped 26.9 percent - the biggest downturn in more than six years.

The Clinton administration is consulting with Congress on a package of benefits for Colombia. The deal would include $30 million for training of Colombian military personnel and for spare parts for equipment used to combat narcotics traffickers. The US decertified Colombia Feb. 28 but left open the possibility of cooperation in combating narcotics and in other areas. The package also would allow Colombia to participate in a US government program to guarantee private investment in the country.

Former Senate majority leader Bob Dole plans to announce today that he will lead a $100 million fund-raising effort for a World War II memorial to be built on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The dedication target date is Veterans Day in 2000.

An all-night "rave" party in central Florida that attracted 5,000 teenagers ended with five people hospitalized and 16 arrested. "I've never seen so much narcotic use in my life," said Sheriff's Lt. Chris Whitis. "Raves" combine loud music, laser light shows, and "designer" drugs. Promoter Donald Johnson said he had hired security guards and paramedics and wasn't responsible for what occurred outside the premises. Florida's legislature is considering outlawing the paid-admissions parties.

Florida law-enforcement officials protested the release of 200 state prisoners before their sentences were up. The release comes less than a week after 300 inmates were freed because of a US Supreme Court ruling that the state could not revoke automatic "gain time" granted to relieve prison overcrowding in the 1980s. The ruling also shortened the sentence of 2,200 prisoners.

The World

The long-awaited groundbreaking began in East Jerusalem for new Jewish housing, as troops sealed off the construction site and scuffled briefly with Palestinian protesters. There were no immediate reports of violence or injury. But in Amman, Jordan, the Hamas resistance movement criticized the peaceful means of protest and called for a "continuous intifadah," or violent uprising, to oppose the project.

More than 10,000 Albanians already have fled their chaotic country - most of them to Italy, the UN said. The Red Cross appealed for $11 million in international aid to feed those who risk possible long-term cutoff from the outside world by staying behind. Meanwhile, an EU mission was due to travel to the port of Durres, where desperate Albanians have tried to board anything that floats in their haste to leave.

The capital of Zaire was rife with rumors that the country's generals were debating whether to stage a coup as the political situation deteriorated. The elite - and others who could - boarded flights out of the country or crossed into neighboring Congo by boat. Against that backdrop, a regional conference was due to open in Kenya on the Zairean conflict. Meanwhile, rebel leader Laurent Kabila declared a temporary cease-fire around Kisangani, Zaire's No. 3 city, to allow in humanitarian aid.

Former North Korean government adviser Hwang Jang-yop flew by chartered plane to the Philippines after five weeks' sanctuary in Beijing. It was not clear when he would be permitted to travel on to South Korea, where he seeks political asylum. Before releasing Hwang, China reportedly demanded agreement that South Korea would not use him for "political purposes."

The first large British newspaper to endorse a candidate for prime minister threw its support to Labour Party leader Tony Blair. The Sun of London had endorsed Conservative Prime Minister John Major in 1992. Earlier this week, Major set May 1 as the date for Britain's elections.

Germany's military command reacted with anger to reports that soldiers in combat gear beat or threatened two Turks and an Italian in the city of Detmold. The soldiers, all recent recruits, shouted anti-foreign slogans. Police arrested six suspects and were searching for four others.

A lull in terrorist bombings in Algeria ended with six explosions that killed at least 18 people and hurt dozens of others, officials reported. They were the first since more than 300 people died in a rash of bombings that ended in early February.

Under pressure from the armed forces, Turkey's Islamic-led government closed the first of many schools that teach unauthorized courses on the Koran. The military sees itself as guard-ian of the country's secular system and has issued several directives aimed at suppressing rigid Islamic tendencies favored by the government.

Shouting anticommunist slogans, more than 1,000 Ukranians rallied in Kiev, demanding back wages, economic reforms, and an end to corruption. The protest was timed to precede a communist rally on similar themes. Production in Ukraine has dropped 7 percent in just over a year, especially in the agricultural sector.

A commercial flight en route to a popular shopping city in Turkey crashed after takeoff from Stavropol in southern Russia. Officials said it appeared there had been an explosion aboard the craft. All 50 passengers and crew members were believed killed.

With words, "Hello from CNN's new Havana bureau at long last," a US news service began using a permanent base in communist Cuba for the first time in 28 years. Its initial report discussed the Castro government's reaction to the controversial Helms-Burton law, which allows naturalized Americans of Cuban birth to sue foreign companies doing business on property they once owned.


If we go on at this pace, people are going to be fed up to the back teeth

with the whole thing."

- Liberal Democratic Party leader Paddy Ashdown, decrying the early news coverage of Britain's May 1 elections.

Considering its place in American cultural history and the legend it represents, not a single TV show or movie has been set in Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tenn. That's about to change. Presley's widow, Priscilla, is executive produ-cer of "The Road to Graceland," the story of a drifter who thinks he's Elvis. What better place to go on location, she decided, than the King's own home.

It was 18 degrees F., and snow was on the ground, but 100 shivering Ohioans celebrated their annual rite of spring last weekend none-theless. That's because - right on schedule - the first buzzard appeared from the south and headed for the rocky ledges of Hinckley, a Cleveland suburb. Legend holds that this has happened every March 15 since 1819.

Give Masahiro Kobayashi credit: He saw a business opportunity and exploited it. Kobayashi rents dogs and cats to Tokyo apartment-dwellers who have what you might call a yen for four-legged companionship but whose leases don't permit it. For $25, a customer may walk a cat or small dog for up to four hours. Larger dogs go for $40. No word on whether it's possible to rent-to-own.

The Day's List

More Box Office Success For "Star Wars" Trilogy

"Return of the Jedi," the final installment in the trilogy, followed the two earlier releases by capturing the No. 1 slot at the box office in its first weekend in re-release. All three trilogy films are in this week's top 10. The best-selling movies and their estimated grosses for the weekend of March 14-16 (in millions of dollars):

1. "Return of the Jedi" $16.3

2. "Jungle 2 Jungle" $11.3

3. "Private Parts" $9

4. "The Empire Strikes Back" $5.5

4. "Donnie Brasco" $5.5

6. "love jones" $4

7. "Sling Blade" $3

8. "Absolute Power" $2.5

9. "Star Wars" $2.26

10. "Booty Call" $2.2

- Associated Press

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