News In Brief

The US

The US Supreme Court made it harder for federal officials to reject proposed changes in state or local governments' election systems because of their impact on minority voters. The 7-to -2 ruling in a Louisiana case clarified the standards the Justice Department should apply in deciding whether changes in district boundaries or other voting procedures should comply with the 1965 Federal Voting Rights Act.

The White House asked the high court to block a subpoena for notes of conversations between Hillary Rodham Clinton and her lawyers relating to the Whitewater investigation.

Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana said he's preparing contempt citations if the White House counsel Charles Ruff doesn't provide requested documents on Democratic fund-raising. The White House is withholding the information based on attorney-client privilege. Earlier, Burton said he would seek documents from Republican groups as well in his investigation.

The FBI began investigating whether political donor Ted Sioeng is actually a Chinese agent, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Indonesian businessman is a friend of John Huang, a key figure in the Democratic National Committee fund-raising scandal. Sioeng, who owns a pro-Beijing Chinese-language newspaper, sat beside President Clinton at a Democratic fund-raiser last July. His daughter donated $250,000 to the Democratic National Committee through a family company last year.

Clinton planned to honor police officers who died in the line of duty at the National Peace Officers Memorial during an observance of National Police Week. Some 116 officers were killed while on duty last year - the lowest number since 1959. Clinton also was expected to discuss the juvenile crime bill passed by the House last week, which dropped his recommendations for a ban on gun sales to 18-year-olds with a juvenile criminal history, beefed-up funds for gang prosecutions, and requirements that gun dealers include child safety locks on weapons sold.

Garry Kasparov conceded defeat in his sixth and final game with IBM's "Deep Blue" after the computer's 19th move. Despite his loss, the world chess champion will take home a purse of $400,000.

The federal inspector in charge of checking repairs on the ValuJet Airlines fleet falsified his experience, according to a 120-page Federal Aviation Administration report cited by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The report also said nine colleagues of inspector David Harper felt he lacked sufficient civilian aircraft experience, didn't understand terminology, and was "in over his head."

The countdown began for space shuttle Atlantis's planned launch Thursday to the Russian space station Mir. Above, Cmdr. Charlie Precourt (r.) attends a news conference at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., with Mission Specialist Michael Foale of Cambridge, England. Precourt invited Russian Elena Kondakova, who broke a world space endurance record for women in 1995, on the international mission. Foale is replacing American Jerry Linenger, who has been living on Mir for four months.

A search was called off for four missing marines after pieces of their helicopter wash-ed up on a beach near Camp Pendleton, Calif. Officials investigating the cause of the crash are trying to determine whether the pilots of the CH-46 Sea Knight were wearing night goggles. The goggles are believed to be a possible contributing factor to dozens of accidents since the 1970s. It was the the fourth crash in less than a year involving a Sea Knight.

The Agriculture Department announced positive estimates for corn and wheat crops, despite severe freezes and flooding that damaged crops last month. Both are expected to have greater yields than in 1996.

The International Center for Journalists in Washington named David Anable, the Monitor's former managing editor, as its new president. Anable also was chairman of the Boston University School of Journalism.

The World

Preparations were under way for another meeting between Zairean President Mobutu and rebel chief Laurent Kabila, perhaps by the end of this week, officials in Kinshasa said. But as the arrangements were being made, Kabila said said his forces were only 30 miles from the capital. Meanwhile, the US withdrew another dozen people from its embassy because of the deteriorating situation.

US envoy Dennis Ross intensified efforts to set up a new meeting between Israeli and Palestinian representatives in which "any issue could be put on the table." Palestinians said they would attend but doubted it would lead to new negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, meanwhile, said he was proud of his decision to begin construction of a Jewish housing complex in Jerusalem, which caused peace talks to be broken off two months ago.

Iranian President Rafsanjani broke off a foreign tour to visit the area of his country flattened by a powerful earthquake. His government said it would pay $167 to every person who lost a relative in the quake. As rescue teams were making what they said would be a final search for survivors, a new tremor hit the region but without reports of damage.

India's and Pakistan's prime ministers agreed to two steps they hoped would improve relations between their countries. At a 90-minute meeting in the Maldives, they decided to free all prisoners from each other's jails and to establish a telephone hotline. Before the talks, Pakistani officials said Prime Minister Sharif would raise the issue of jurisdiction over Kashmir, India's only Muslim-dominated state. But his counterpart, Inder Kumar Gujral, told a New Delhi newspaper that "there can be no compromise" on the divided state.

What could be the start of an exodus of "boat people" from North Korea was reported by officials in Seoul. They said 14 members of two families had defected from a port near North Korea's border with China - one of the largest groups to flee the famine-stricken communist nation and the first to come by sea. Meanwhile, South Korea's Red Cross said it would ship 15,000 tons of corn to the North beginning next week.

A peace agreement described as "historic" was signed by presidents Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Aslan Maskhadov of Chechnya at ceremonies in Moscow. But although Yeltsin said the agreement "puts an end to a 400-year-old war," it does not specifically settle the question of whether Chechnya will be allowed full independence.

The ruling African National Congress admitted to a campaign of assassinations and car-bomb and land-mine explosions in its struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The confessions came in a statement submitted to the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which can grant amnesty for politically motivated crimes. Among the incidents cited by the ANC: a 1983 attack on Air Force headquarters in Pretoria that killed 19 people.

Incidents of racism in Britain have almost tripled in less than a decade, the group Human Rights Watch reported. It cited 12,199 such incidents in the year ending in April 1996 and said most perpetrators were white males between the ages of 15 and 25, acting in groups. Between 1988 and 1992, it said, 45 percent of physical attacks - as opposed to threats or acts of vandalism - were aimed at Asians.

New presidential elections will be held June 15 in Croatia, and incumbent Franjo Tudjman will seek another term, the government in Zagreb announced. Despite an authoritarian style, reports of ill health, and strong international criticism of his record in office, Tudjman remains popular with Croats, whom he led to independence from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. His current term ends in August.


"We can't afford the continuation of tensions, military confrontation, and escalating defense budgets.... There is no looking back on the wasted years of the past."

- Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, opening an economic conference of South Asian nations in the Maldives.

Bill Morse can rightly claim to have made a hole-in-one on a golf outing in Farmington, Conn. Unfortunately, he was on the first tee at the time, and his ace came on the finishing hole. His drive hit a rock, changed direction, landed on the 18th green, and rolled into the cup. No word on how many strokes he wrote on his scorecard for either hole.

Want to get rid of some of your credit cards, but in an environmentally responsible way? Greenpeace and a London bank introduced what they say is the world's first biodegradable plastic card - made of wheat, sugar, and other natural resources. No need to cut it up with scissors; it decomposes. It's supposedly safe to carry in your wallet . . . if your wallet contains no micro-organisms.

From Tokyo comes word that commuters and the city's crow population are remarkably alike. Scientists observe that, just like people, many of the birds are tired of overcrowding and have migrated to the suburbs. Just like people, they flock back in each morning. They spend the day foraging for food, then, just like people, return to the suburbs at night.

The Day's List

Women Who Have Flown On Russian Spacecraft

This week Elena Kondakova becomes the 29th woman - and the first from Russia - to fly aboard a US spaceship. Conversely, six women have flown on Russian spacecraft:

1. Valentina Tareshkova: First woman in space, 1963.

2. Svetlana Savitskaya: Second woman in space, 1982. First female spacewalker, 1984.

3. Helen Sharman: First woman to live aboard Mir station and first Briton in space, 1991.

4. Elena Kondakova: First Russian woman to live on Mir, 1994. Sets female record for space endurance:169 days.

5. Shannon Lucid: First US woman to live on Mir (1996). Her 188-day mission sets female endurance record and US record for men and women.

6. Claudie-Andr Deshays: Two weeks on Mir, 1996, makes her first Frenchwoman in space.

- Associated Press

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