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The US

Whitewater prosecutors asked a judge in Little Rock, Ark., to extend by six months the term of their grand jury, citing "extensive evidence" of possible obstruction of justice and new information from the Clintons' former business partner, James McDougal. Independent counsel Kenneth Starr asked that the special grand jury's term be extended to Nov. 7. It was scheduled to expire May 7.

Nearly 2 out of 3 Americans believe House Speaker Newt Gingrich should be allowed to use a $300,000 loan from Bob Dole to pay an ethics-committee assessment, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll indicated. It found 63 percent approving the idea, although only 24 percent of those surveyed had favorable opinions of Gingrich. Among other findings: President Clinton's approval rating slipped to 54 percent, from 62 percent in January. Some 51 percent believed Clinton took part in a coverup of fund-raising activities, but only 28 percent said fund-raising allegations are of great importance.

Clinton was scheduled to fly to North Dakota for a first-hand look at flood damage in the Grand Forks area. The president promised a "very creative" federal approach to helping people affected by flooding rebuild their homes and lives. The crest of the swollen Red River continued to roll north, threatening towns on both sides of the US-Canadian border.

A 30 percent expansion of the number of industrial firms required to disclose levels of toxic chemicals released into the air was announced by Clinton. He took the action as Earth Day observances were held throughout the nation.

Limitations on future US investments in Burma were expected to be announced by the State Department in response to persistent human-rights abuses by that country's military government, an administration official said. A law enacted last year authorized sanctions against Burma under certain conditions.

US Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided a San Francisco club that supplies marijuana to ill people, seizing 331 plants and some equipment, officials said. The raid reignited controversy over Proposition 215, a measure passed by California voters last year. It allows sick people and their primary care givers to grow and possess marijuana for medical use when recommended by a doctor. The measure puts California at odds with US statutes that make marijuana an illegal drug.

Strong economic growth is helping keep the US budget deficit 13 percent below last year's level, the Treasury Department said. A March deficit of $21.3 billion brought the overall deficit from October through March - the first half of fiscal 1997 - to $111.3 billion. The deficit for the first half of fiscal 1996 was $127.7 billion.

Effects of an 11-day-old strike by 1,800 employees at a Chrysler engine plant in Detroit were rippling through company operations in Indiana, Michigan, and Mexico. Some 21,000 additional workers already had been laid off, and more layoffs were expected. Talks continued by telephone between Chrysler and the United Auto Workers.

Wind-driven snow kept an Air Force recovery team from examining the suspected Colorado crash site of a missing warplane. The Air Force believes debris at the site is a $9 million A-10 Thunderbolt that vanished April 2 while on a training flight.

Senate minority leader Tom Daschle urged Republicans to allow a vote on the nomination of Alexis Herman to be Secretary of Labor. Herman was approved by the Senate Labor Committee April 10, but majority leader Trent Lott said last week the full Senate would not vote on her nomination until Clinton clarified an administration policy requiring that federal construction contracts be performed by union labor.

Jane Garvey will become the first woman to head the Federal Aviation Administration, USA Today reported. The paper said Clinton is expected to announce the nomination this month. Garvey is currently the acting head of the Federal Highway Administration.

The World

Iraqi helicopters flew without incident to the border with Saudi Arabia to pick up returning Muslim pilgrims. The US, which enforces the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, had said it would not shoot down the helicopters but would respond "appropriately" to the move. In a later statement, President Clinton said only that Iraq should not use religion to avoid complying with the ban on flights.

Russia rolled out the red carpet for Chinese President Jiang Zemin, whose arrival statement in Moscow heralded "a new type of bilateral relationship." The two countries were expected to sign a treaty on reducing armed forces along their common border.

On the eve of the world championship tournament in Helsinki, the president of Russia's ice hockey federation was assassinated - gangland-style - near Moscow. Published reports linked Valentin Sych to controversial business dealings that might have made enemies, but he also had been an outspoken critic of organized crime's growing influence in Russian sports.

South Korean authorities released details of a secret memo by senior North Korean defector Hwang Jang Yop, warning that his former country "is capable of scorching" attacks with nuclear and chemical weapons. The report said South Korea and Japan would be targeted in such attacks. North Korea has denied having a nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, South Korean diplomats returned home from peace discussions in New York without clear assurances that the North would join in talks.

Five days after passing a law that would force landowners on Okinawa to continue leasing their property for US military use, Japan's parliament formally ask-ed the government to reduce the American presence there. A nonbinding resolution called the US bases an "excessive burden." The issue was expected to be discus-sed when Prime Minister Hashi-moto visits Clinton at the White House Friday.

Rival political parties in France sought early momentum after early elections were called by President Chirac. Chirac end-ed speculation that he might ask voters for a new mandate by announcing two-stage balloting May 25 and June 1 - nine months before elections normally would be due. Recent polls show Chirac's conservative government could lose power to a leftist coalition led by the Socialist Party.

A wealthy supermarket baron testified in Dublin that he secretly contributed more than $3 million to former Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey while the latter was still in office. Haughey, who was ousted under a cloud of scandal in 1992, has denied in writing that he took money from Ben Dunne. But his Fianna Fail Party went out of its way to distance itself from him at its recent convention. An official investigation into the matter began earlier this week.

Residents of at least two towns in Manitoba evacuated their homes as the rising waters of the Red River approached Canada. A state of emergency was declared in the border community of Emerson, and its 750 people were told they may not be permitted to return for three weeks. The northward-flowing river was not expected to crest at Winnipeg, Manitoba's capital, until May 2. Officials there said they were confident the city's dikes would hold.

Honduran Indians are receiving advice and guidance from Mexico's Zapatista guerrillas and may be preparing for a rebel uprising, the national police commander warned. Csar Chavez said former guerrillas from El Salvador and political strategists from Nicaragua also were aiding the Chorti Indians in their demand for land reforms. He said the situation "could come to a head" within months because Honduras is scheduled to hold elections this year.


"We don't want to see religion, in effect, used and distorted in a way to try to avoid international obligations."

- President Clinton, on Iraq's use of civilian helicopters in the no-fly zone to return Muslim pilgrims from Saudi Arabia.

A Florida man bombed like a bad standup comedian in trying to make it easy for visitors to find his house. The Tampa resident placed a fake explosive device on top of his mailbox, complete with a flashing light, a buzzer, and the letters "TNT" on the side. Neighbors summoned police, who assumed it was all a gag until the buzzer went off. Now the jokester is under arrest on felony charges.

When is a hammock not a hammock? Answer: when it's about to be used as a hang glider. A federal jury in upstate New York didn't buy a prison inmate's claim that a contraption he had sewn from nylon was simply for stringing up in his cell to sleep in. Prosecutors argued successfully that he intended to use it to soar to freedom. It was confiscated, and he now faces 2-1/2 more years behind bars.

Borrowers are always returning overdue books to the library. But few keep them as long as Bud Palmer of Montville, Conn., kept a novel about the Old West. He checked it out in 1927 and decided a return was in order when the library announced it would forgive fines during Random Acts of Kindness Week. He can't recall even reading the book.

The Day's List

The Airlines That Check Out Best in 1997 Survey

For the second year in a row, Southwest Airlines was named top US carrier in the annual Airline Quality Rating by business schools at Wichita State University and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Their rankings, based on average age of fleet, number of planes, on-time performance, accidents, denied boardings, mishandled baggage, fares, customer service, and financial stability:

1. Southwest Airlines

2. American Airlines

3. United Airlines

4. Delta Air Lines

5. Continental Airlines

6. Northwest Airlines

7. USAirways (formerly USAir)

8. America West

9. Trans World Airlines (TWA)

- Associated Press

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