News In Brief

The US

Cross-examination resumed in a Denver courtroom of the prosecution's star witness in the Oklahoma City bombing trial. Defense attorney Stephen Jones suggested that Michael Fortier slanted his testimony to receive a more lenient sentence for lesser charges associated with the bombing. Earlier, the former Army buddy of defendant Timothy McVeigh testified that McVeigh plotted the bombing and had cased the Murrah Federal Building months before the blast.

Congressional committees plan to begin considering a budget accord today negotiated between President Clinton and Republican leaders a few weeks ago. The plan leaves key issues unresolved, such as the size of education tax breaks and the income ceiling for Medicaid.

The White House announced Clinton "could support" a Democratic alternative to a bill he vetoed last year to ban some late-term abortions. The Senate planned to begin debate on new Republican legislation to ban the procedure. The administration said it's seriously considering an alternative proposed by Senate minority leader Tom Daschle (D) of South Dakota, which would ban all late-term abortions except when the mother's life is at risk or when "grievious injury" would result from continuing the pregnancy.

Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov is to meet with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright today after talks with US officials at the Pentagon. The talks are expected to range from increased defense ties to nuclear arms cuts and security in Europe and the Pacific. A meeting between Rodinov and Defense Secretary Cohen came a day after The Washington Times cited a confidential CIA report that said some Russian strategic nuclear missiles accidentally went on alert status because of deteriorating technical equipment.

Retail sales fell 0.3 percent in April, the biggest decline since a 0.5 percent drop last June, the Commerce Department reported. Analysts attributed the drop to the largest decline in auto sales since November and cold and rainy weather dampening department store sales.

A surprise tornado touched down in Miami, cutting a two-mile path as people scrambled for cover. The twister smashed windows and damaged roofs and cars, but no one was killed and only five people were injured.

Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch appears to be negotiating purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to reports. Team owner Peter O'Malley ask-ed Major League Baseball for permission to enter into talks with Fox Group, an affiliate of Murdoch's News Corp. The price: a record $350 million to $400 million, the Associated Press said. The team comes with a 300-acre site where Dodger Stadium is located.

Vice President Gore unveiled a $43.2 million program to improve the nation's food safety. The plan includes: improved inspections and expanded preventive safety measures; a $4 million national education campaign to improve food handling in homes, restaurants, and stores; $13.7 million to build a national early-warning system to detect and respond to outbreaks.

South Carolina and Missouri joined 26 other states in suing the nation's biggest tobacco companies. South Carolina's attorney general said the state, which is the third-largest tobacco-producer in the nation, decided to sue because only states with lawsuits pending can engage in closed-door negotiations with the tobacco companies.

The US contributed $100,000 to the Red Cross to assist victims of an earthquake in northeastern Iran. The contribution was made despite US accusations that Iran sponsors terrorism. The Clinton administra- tion also has been attempting to organize an international economic boycott of the oil-rich country.

Some 8,500 workers went on strike at a key auto industry supplier in Warren, Ohio. Delphi Packard Electric Systems, a subsidiary of General Motors, makes wiring for 20 automakers worldwide. Union members have complained about retirement incentives for older workers and wages and benefits.

The World

An 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew was imposed on Zaire's capital by the Mobutu government - the first since rebels began their offensive last fall. Meanwhile, Mobutu opponents openly distributed leaflets in Kinshasa calling on the public to cooperate with the advancing rebels. Mobu-tu was expected to meet with rebel chief Laurent Kabila today in what the latter called a "last chance" for a peaceful solution to the country's crisis.

A second, less-powerful earthquake struck eastern Iran as emergency crews widened their search of rubble from the first. Meanwhile, Iran's Interior Ministry revised downward the numbers of people killed and injured from the weekend tremor to 1,560 and 2,810, respectively. Earlier official reports put the counts at 2,400 and 6,000. In Geneva, the Red Cross said more than half of the $12 million it sought in aid pledges for Iran already had been received.

Chinese officials refused to comment on whether an explosion not far from the offices of the country's top leaders was a bomb. Security forces quickly blocked pedestrians and traffic from the area. It was not known whether the blast resulted in any injuries. Suspicion fell on Muslim separatists who want independence for China's westernmost region, Xinjiang. A bomb exploded aboard a bus in Beijing March 7, injuring eight people.

China warned that the economy and stability of Hong Kong would be harmed by a delay or nonrenewal of most-favored-nation trade privileges by the US. The Foreign Ministry called MFN a "normal arrangement and not a special favor" and said China would develop closer trade ties with other countries if it was revoked. President Clinton must decide later this year whether to extend China's MFN status for another 12 months.

Israel's ambassador to Jordan quit after only four days on the job. Israel Radio reported that Oded Eran left because he had not been informed of a secret meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jordan's King Hussein. Analysts saw the move as a reflection of ongoing friction between the ministry and Netanyahu's office over who is in charge of foreign policy.

Japan's ambassador to Peru was relieved of his duties because of security lapses that allowed the takeover of his residence by leftist rebels Decem- ber 17. Morihisa Aoki apologized for the incident, in which 72 people were held hostage for 126 days, but his offer to resign was at first seen as purely symbolic.

Taiwan's National Party government barely survived a no-confidence vote in the lower house of parliament, as the public outcry over rising crime rates grew. The motion, brought by opposition lawmakers, was defeated 78-to-76, with one abstention. The measure was nonbinding, but analysts said it was a blow to the prestige of the Nationalists, who have ruled since 1949.

A truce called by Protestant paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland remains in effect, loyalist politicians insisted in a meeting with the British government's new Cabinet minister for the region. They deplored the murder of a Catholic father of five, an apparent retaliation for the killing late last week of a Protestant policeman and the third such incident this year.

Britain's new Labour government was expected to announce its first legislative agenda today, highlighted by bills dealing with education, health care, crime, and a minimum wage. Prime Minister Blair also plans to pursue radical constitutional reform in setting up "miniparliaments" for Scotland and Wales.

Mexican authorities banned aircraft from flying within 10 miles of the Popocatepetl volcano and appealed for calm after it spewed plumes of ash and dust last weekend. Winds carried the abrasive ash as far as the Gulf of Mexico, 140 miles away, but no damage was reported.


"It's the right thing to do - to try to help people out - in an emergency like this."

- State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns, announcing a $100,000 pledge of aid to earthquake-stricken Iran, which the US accuses of sponsoring terrorism.

A Colorado couple undoubtedly will never forget the night they became engaged. He planned to propose in a Boulder restaurant after the waiter brought a box of chocolates to their table. Inside was a diamond ring. But there was a mixup in tables, the ring went to the wrong one, and another woman left with it. All ended well, though. Police traced her via a credit card receipt, the ring was returned, the question was popped, and the answer was "yes."

The words "We're making our final approach into Corpus Christi" took on a whole new meaning for passengers aboard a Continental Airlines flight last weekend. By mistake, the pilot brought the plane down onto a World War II-era landing strip that's been closed since 1958 - instead of the Texas city's international airport. No one was permitted off the plane for three hours until buses arrived for the 4-1/2-mile trip to the right terminal.

Paula Robinson of Pasa-dena, Maryland, had a Mother's Day weekend to remember. Twelve years after bringing triplets into the world, she had - guess what? - another set of triplets: two boys and a girl. Mrs. Robinson runs a daycare center.

The Day's List

Top 10 Movies for the Weekend of May 9-11

"The Fifth Element," a science fiction thriller starring Bruce Willis as a cab driver who tries to save the world of the future, opened the Cannes Film Festival in France last week. It also was the weekend's top-grossing movie in the US. The 10 films that did best at the box office (in millions of dollars):

1. "The Fifth Element" $17

2. "Fathers' Day" $8.8

3. "Breakdown" $7.6

4. "Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery" $7.1

5. "Volcano" $4.5

6. "Liar Liar" $3.6

7. "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion" $2.9

8. "Anaconda" $2.7

9. "The Saint" $1.6

10. "Murder at 1600" $1.3

- Exhibitor Relations Inc., Los Angeles/AP

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