News In Brief

The US

US economic growth exploded at an annual rate of 5.6 percent in the first quarter - the strongest in a decade - as consumers nearly doubled their rate of spending, the Commerce Department said. Its report on the nation's gross domestic product, the sum of all goods and services produced, showed extremely strong economic growth and new evidence of inflationary pressures.

The federal government plans to pay off part of the national debt this quarter for only the second time in 16 years, Treasury officials said. The announcement is reportedly the result of brisk economic growth that has produced millions of new jobs over the past six months and windfall tax payments. It was good news for administration and congressional negotiators who continued to seek an accord on how to balance the budget by 2002.

Seven men allegedly trying to join 13 separatists holed up near Fort Davis, Texas, were taken into police custody. Authorities said weapons were found in one of two vehicles the men were driving. The action came on Day 4 of a standoff between police and members of the Republic of Texas group. State officials said they were still optimistic the situation could be resolved peacefully.

Clinton filled the last three of nine seats on a US commission to study the impact of legalized gambling. Nevada Gaming Control Board chairman Bill Bible, New Jersey Treasurer Richard Leone, and Robert Loescher, a member of the Tlingit Tribe of Alaska, joined six others named by Congress. The group is to file a report within two years.

Democrats threatened for the second day in a row to block Senate action until a vote is scheduled on Alexis Herman's nomination to be labor secretary. Both sides said the standoff was not about Herman's qualifications but about a presidential order that Republicans say would virtually bar nonunion construction firms from bidding for US contracts. Talks were being held between White House officials and Sen. Don Nickles (R) of Oklahoma, who placed the hold on Herman's nomination.

Employers may have to take extra steps to help mentally ill employees under new guidelines issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The new Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines say employers don't have to lower performance standards for people with mental problems, but may need to allow extra time off, alter work schedules, and make physical changes in the workplace to accommodate them.

Flood victims in Grand Forks, N.D., and nearby East Grand Forks, Minn., got an anonymous aid promise. Officials said a woman pledged to give $2,000 to each flooded household in those communities. It is to be distributed through a foundation whose president said the mystery donor had already transferred more than $2 million into a special account. He said up to $15 million is expected to be paid out to flood victims.

Congress sent Clinton a bill to award singer Frank Sinatra a congressional gold medal, its most prestigious civilian honor. Sinatra has produced, direct-ed, or appear-ed in more than 50 movies and has won many awards, among them seven Grammys, a Peabody, an Emmy, and an Oscar.

Lawmakers reacted swiftly after Defense Secretary William Cohen said he might propose closing more US military bases as part of a sweeping review of the nation's defenses. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) of Texas, a member of the Senate appropriations defense subcommittee; Rep. Joel Hefley (R) of Colorado, chairman of the House national security subcommittee on military installations; and Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) of Hawaii, ranking Democrat on the Senate appropriations defense subcommittee, were among those saying it would be difficult to gain support for additional base closings.

A former drill instructor was convicted of raping six women trainees in the most serious case yet to come out of a scandal that has rocked the US Army. Sgt. Delmar Simpson could get life in prison for his conviction on 18 of 19 rape counts. Prosecutor said the crimes took place in 1995 and1996 at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. The scandal has renewed debate about how to integrate women into the military

The World

Facing likely defeat in today's British elections, Prime Minister Major nonetheless issued a last-minute appeal to voters to return his Conservative Party to power "warts and all." A victory by the opposition Labour Party, which holds a wide lead in public opinion polls, would end 18 years of Conservative rule. Some 44 million Britons are eligible to vote.

More than 200 Rwandan Hutu children were flown home from Zaire by UN crews. Their departure from Kisangani followed the delivery by Zairean rebels of 1,000 Rwandans who had fled their refugee camps in the area - and the promise of still more. The refugee airlift is being called the largest ever attempted in Africa. Meanwhile, visiting US envoy Bill Richardson criticized the rebels' human rights record and called for an investigation of the alleged massacre of Rwandans at a refugee camp south of Kisangani last week.

Israel is considering plans for hundreds more units of Jewish housing in a disputed area of Jerusalem, the Haaretz newspaper reported. Other reports said Prime Minister Netanyahyu's government also wants to build additional roads in the West Bank that would require the expropriation of Palestinian land. Netanyahu, on CNN, would neither confirm nor deny the reports. A senior Palestinian leader said the plans provided additional evidence that Netanyahu was not committed to peace.

Jordan agreed to accept controversial Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzuk, who faces deportation by the US for violating immigration laws. He was jailed on reentering the US in 1995 after his name was added to a list of suspected terrorists. Israel filed, but later withdrew, a request for his extradition, apparently out of concern that the move would increase Middle East tensions.

Angola's former UNITA rebel movement was scheduled to begin handing back control of territory it captured in the country's 20-year civil war. Ceremonies marking the occasion were to be held in the provincial capital of M'Banza Congo, but UNITA said it opposes the reappointment of a former security police official as the province's governor. A government of national unity assumed power in Angola earlier this month.

Hundreds of protesters clashed with police outside the stock exchange in Rio de Janeiro hours before the world's largest iron-export company was to be sold at auction to private investors. Dozens of injuries were reported. The Brazilian government then suspended the sale, which it had hoped would net at least $2.8 billion. Opponents of the sale say the state-owned Companhia Vale do Rio Dolce is a symbol of national pride.

An explosion of unknown origin tore through an underground munitions depot in central Albania, and police warned that further blasts could result as fire spread to adjoining storage tunnels. At least 22 people died in the accident at Burrel, 20 miles northeast of the capital, Tirana, authorities said.

Dikes at Ste. Agathe and the capital, Winnipeg, were breached as the swollen Red River bore down on the Canadian province of Manitoba. Only an emergency crew was believed to be in Ste. Agathe, which was flooded within an hour. In Winnipeg, 80 houses were evacuated as a precaution while Army troops rushed to patch the leaking dike.

President Emomali Rakhmon-ov of Tajikistan escaped with minor injuries when attackers threw a hand grenade into a gathering he had just joined in Khodzhent, 125 miles north of the capital, Dushanbe. Two people died and at least 20 others were hurt, authorities said. Rakhmonov was to have delivered a speech in the city, a center of antigovernment protests. Two suspects were arrested.


"Each day we start with a plan to help the refugees, and by the end of the day it is in tatters."

- Spokeswoman Pam O'Toole, on how rebel troops impose obstacles to the UN's refugee-relief work in eastern Zaire.

Vail, Colo., is familiar with the lifestyles of the rich and famous, due to its renowned skiing and resort ambience. Still, the talk of the town is a "mystery woman" who travels in a stretch limousine, dispensing random acts of kindness. She has doled out cash to people on the street, brought lunch to workers at a construction site, and treated the local newspaper staff to bagels and cream cheese. To date, however, she has kept her identity - well - veiled.

If anybody could see the merits of getting people out of cars and onto bicycles, you'd think it would be the folks at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. PennDOT bought five bikes so staffers could travel more efficiently between its two offices, which are just a mile apart in Harrisburg. But the only pedals most of the bureaucrats have shown any interest in so far are the accelerator and brake on the floor of their vehicles.

For those who simply must go by car, however, Mercedes Benz is rolling out a new model that offers driver and passengers full Internet access.

The Day's List

Where Retailers Pay the Most for Their Leases

New York's Fifth Avenue ranks No. 1 in a survey of the world's most expensive retail spaces, according to the Hirschfeld Group, a retail brokerage firm. Gucci, Tiffany, Trump Tower, and other tenants there pay an average of $575 per square foot per year. The top 15:

1. Fifth Avenue, New York

2. East 57th Street, New York

3. The Ginza, Tokyo

4. Madison Avenue. (57th-69th streets), New York

5. Rodeo Drive, Los Angeles

6. Nathan Road, Hong Kong

7. Bond Street, London

8. Rue du Faubourg St.Honor, Paris

9. Post Street/Stockton Street, San Francisco

10. Lexington Avenue, New York

11. Orchard Road, Singapore

12. Place Vendme, Paris

13. Rue du Rhne, Geneva

14. Via Condotti, Rome

15. Champs Elyse, Paris

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