News In Brief

The US

Armed separatists at a compound in Fort Davis, Texas, said they don't intend to surrender despite authorities' claims that negotiations with the group are making progress. At least 75 state and federal law-enforcement agents are involved in the standoff with the estimated 10 members of the Republic of Texas. Earlier, six members were charged with organized criminal activity and aggravated kidnapping. The group wants to make Texas an independent nation.

The Treasury Department announced it will pay off $65 billion of the federal debt in the current fiscal quarter. That's the biggest reduction in the debt and only the second since 1981, The Wall Street Journal reported. An unexpected surge in tax receipts from boosted incomes and profits made the payoff possible.

President Clinton is scheduled to meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen today. China categorically denied allegations that top Chinese officials tried to buy influence with US officials after Qian met earlier with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The two agreed on procedures for US warships to make port calls in Hong Kong after the British colony reverts to Chinese control July 1.

The rear axle of the rental truck that carried the explosives used in the Oklahoma City bombing was expected to go on display at the Denver trial. Investigators used the vehicle identification number on the axle to trace the truck to a Kansas body shop, where workers helped produce the sketch that led authorities to suspect Timothy McVeigh. A courtroom drawing shows Oklahoma trooper Charles Hanger displaying the T-shirt McVeigh was wearing when he stopped him for a traffic violation and then arrested him for carrying a concealed weapon.

A US astronaut and Russian cosmonaut took the first joint US-Russian spacewalk. Jerry Linenger and Vasily Tsibliyev gathered cosmic dust samples and attached a radiation meter during the five-hour session outside the Mir space station. It was the first spacewalk for Linenger, and the first time an American astronaut has used a Russian-made spacesuit on a mission.

The stock market rallied after the Labor Department reported wages and benefits rose a modest 0.6 percent in the first quarter. The Commerce Department also reported factory orders for big-ticket durable goods dropped 3 percent in March, the biggest decline in seven months. And first-quarter sales of new homes were the fastest in two decades, it said. Also, consumer confidence dropped for the second straight month in April, the Conference Board reported.

The Justice Department inspector general opened investigations into alleged mismanagement and illegality in the Immigration and Naturalization Service's citizenship program. Republicans in Congress have accused the agency of rushing to naturalize as many aliens as possible before the 1996 elections. The INS admits it failed to wait for some FBI background checks to be completed, allowing nearly 11,000 foreigners with felony records to become citizens. Although that's not a bar to citizenship, an audit discovered 168 cases of improper naturalization.

A judge in Santa Monica, Calif., rejected O.J. Simpson's request for a new trial and refused to lower the $33.5 million penalty he was sentenced to pay for the deaths of his former wife and her friend. Simpson claimed he couldn't pay the judgment because he has insufficient funds.

Buckle your seatbelts, sit farther away from the steering wheel, and put children in the backseats: That's the advice the National Traffic Safety Administration gave lawmakers at a House hearing on air bags. Most of the 25 adults and 38 children and infants killed by the devices, which can deploy at 200 m.p.h., weren't wearing seatbelts, the agency said. A decision is expected soon on whether to allow cutoff switches for air bags on vehicles already on the road .

The World

Zairean President Mobutu and rebel leader Laurent Kabila will meet "shortly" aboard a South African Navy ship to discuss peace terms, according to reports from Cape Town. Meanwhile, US envoy Bill Richardson met with Mobutu in what The Washington Post said was an attempt to arrange for his "dignified" departure from power. Rich-ardson was due to hold discus- sions with Kabila and then go to Angola, where reports say the peace-talks ship will anchor.

New security alerts snarled highway traffic around London and caused partial evacuation of two of the city's airports. Suspicion fell on the Irish Republican Army, which has claimed responsibility for earlier bomb threats or explosions that have disrupted life in Britain as the May 1 elections approach. Meanwhile, the influential Financial Times joined the top-selling News of the World and Sun newspapers in endorsing the opposition Labour Party in the election.

The international treaty banning chemical weapons went into effect, after the US became the 87th country to ratify it. Among those that haven't ratified: Iraq, North Korea, and Russia. Russia's parliament postponed action on the treaty late last week on grounds that $5 billion was too high a price to pay for eliminating such weapons.

Amid new reports that food shortages were worsening rapidly, North Korea's Red Cross and its South Korean counterpart agreed to meetings in Beijing to discuss faster relief shipments. A representative of the Caritas organization - recently returned to the Chinese capital from her 10th visit to North Korea - warn-ed of an exodus of refugees if massive food aid does not arrive there by June or July.

Japan offered - and Peru accepted - an $11.5 million "goodwill gesture" in appreciation for last week's hostage-rescue mission in Lima. The money was designated for improving health care and repairing rural power plants. Meanwhile, President Alberto Fujimori denied that medical personnel or mediators had smuggled listening devices into the Japanese ambassador's residence during the hostage crisis. The devices were central to planning the successful raid on the building.

Describing the cloning of humans as "degrading," French President Jacques Chirac vowed to seek a ban on it at the G-7 summit conference in June. He also said he would ask the parent council of the European Union to adopt a declaration banning the activity and that he wanted France's parliament to consider outlawing it. He did not, however, call for scientific research into cloning to be outlawed.

EU foreign ministers ignored appeals by rights groups and the US and decided not to sever political and economic relations with Iran. The move came despite a German court's recent finding that top Iranian leaders had ordered the 1992 murders of political dissidents in Berlin. Last weekend, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote to EU member states, asking them to get tough with Iran.

Riot police and Army troops kept thousands of minority party members from staging a parade in Jakarta, as Indonesia's election campaign entered its third day. No arrests were reported as followers of the Muslim-based United Development Party tried to drive cars and motorcycles in an illegal procession through the city's streets. It is one of only three parties permitted to compete in the country's May 29 voting for members of parliament.

Public schools and colleges reopened in Albania, two months after a state of emergency went into effect while chaos spread across the country. But officials said many children did not report for classes out of concern for their safety. Parents said they worried that some students might be armed with weapons looted from military arsenals.

Poor farmers and villagers were preparing to dismantle the makeshift dwellings they built in front of Thailand's government buildings in Bangkok. Spokesmen said the Assembly of the Poor was ending its three-month protest because the government had agreed to compensate for land confiscated in state-owned dam projects.


"They needed help. If I needed help, I'd like somebody to trust me enough to take me in."

- Cleova Sorensen of Hatton, N.D., on why she opened her home

to complete strangers stranded by Red River flooding.

File this one under stories with a happy ending. An inner-city girls choir from Milwaukee made it to the stage of Carnegie Hall after their director borrowed $38,680 to help make it possible. Nancy Ehlinger used credit cards and dipped into her own retirement account for the cash when fund-raisers didn't yield enough for the trip to New York. But as word of her sacrifice spread, donations rolled in. The girls fulfilled a dream, sang "as well as suburban kids," and much of the money now has been repaid.

A suburban New Orleans couple must find another way to take out their ire at a local pizza shop. The two parties have almost identical phone numbers, and the couple grew tired of late-night calls from hungry customers wanting to place orders. So they left a message on their answering machine representing themselves as pizza makers and referring callers to the shop's competitors because of "problems with the health department." That, a judge ruled, showed a bit too much crust.

The H.J. Heinz Company wanted a more contemporary look for the staid old labels on its ketchup bottles, so it went right to the product's No. 1 consumer group - children - for ideas. It got 60,000 of them, from which winners will be chosen in three age categories. The prize for each: $5,000, which ought to be enough to buy a lifetime supply of the stuff.

The Day's List

Top 10 Movies for the Weekend of April 25-27

Best-selling movies and their estimated grosses at the box office (in million of dollars):

1. "Volcano" $14.6

2. "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" $7.4

3. "Anaconda" $7.3

4. "Liar, Liar" $7.2

5. "The Saint" $5.0

6. "Murder at 1600" $4.8

7. "Grosse Pointe Blank" $3.1

8. "Scream" $1.4

9. "The Devil's Own" $1.2

10. "Chasing Amy" $1.1

- Exhibitor Relations Inc., Los Angeles/AP

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