News In Brief

The US

Having found Timothy McVeigh guilty, jurors in the Oklahoma City bombing case must now decide, in a hearing slated to begin today, whether he should be executed for the April 19, 1995, attack that killed 168 people. Still to face trial is Terry Nichols, McVeigh's alleged accomplice.

President Clinton was to meet with congressional leaders to discuss health issues in their balanced-budget accord. The House is to vote this week on a GOP Medicare plan that includes tax-free medical savings accounts that White House officials say would undermine medical insurance for the elderly. The blueprint for balancing the budget by 2002 is expected to win final congressional approval this week. Details will have to be fleshed out in legislation.

The Senate was to continue debating a GOP comp-time bill that would give private-sector workers a choice between time off and overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week. Republicans say it offers workers a chance to get more time off without losing money. Democrats and organized labor say it will not protect workers from exploitation and will undermine the 40-hour work week.

A key gauge of economic activity posted its first drop in more than a year during April, the Conference Board said. The index of leading indicators, which is supposed to forecast economic trends six to nine months ahead, fell by 0.1 percent in April. This was its first decline since a 0.7 percent fall in January 1996. It posted a revised 0.2 percent rise in March. Six of the 10 indicators weakened in April, a sign of potentially slower growth in coming months.

The Justice Department's antitrust division is investigating the fine-art auction industry for "possible anticompetitive practices," a spokeswoman confirmed. The possibility that dealers illegally were agreeing not to engage in bidding wars has long been rumored in the art world. The New York Times reported that telephone bills, invoices, and other records of two dozen art dealers and the auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's have been subpoenaed.

The number of international tourists visiting the US hit an all-time high in 1996, the Commerce Department said. About 46.3 million visited last year - up 7 percent from 1995. Last year's surge followed three years of decline, a tourism office said. It attributed the increase in part to improving economies in Canada and Mexico. More than 15 million Canadians and nearly 9 million Mexicans visited the US in 1996.

Rep. Dan Burton (R) of Indiana apparently is seeking special access to income tax records of Democratic Party officials and donors. Burton heads the House campaign-finance inquiry. A GOP draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, would allow him to seek "any tax-return information" for the years 1990 to 1997 on "individuals and entities" under investigation by his committee. Rep. Henry Waxman (D) of Calif. said this would constitute "an egregious infringement on civil liberties."

Women's Army Corps veterans lashed out at a decision to shut down the WAC Museum, a collection of artifacts and archives on exhibit at Fort McClellan, Ala., since 1955. The Army says it intends to reassemble the museum at another base. But veterans said they doubt the Army will take the trouble and invest sufficient money to duplicate the quality of the present exhibits. The Army is abandoning Fort McClellan.

Another court-martial opened at Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Ground. Staff Sgt .Wayne Gamble was expected to plead guilty to some of 32 misconduct charges involving 14 female trainees. He is the fourth soldier to be tried since the Aberdeen scandal began. Also, the Army said the commander of the base, Gen. John Longhouser, would retire effective June 30. The New York Times, citing unidentified Pentagon officials, reported that the decision was driven by an affair Longhouser allegedly had with a civilian while separated from his wife in the early 1990s.

The World

Citing "extreme tension" in the capital, Algeria's military-backed government closed schools until after tomorrow's national election. Algiers residents also were urged to report suspicious vehicles and packages in the wake of four more terrorist bombings that killed or injured 144 people since last week. Thousands of troops were expected to guard polling stations against violence by Muslim fundamentalists.

Canada's Liberal Party eked out a victory in national elections that Prime Minister Chrtien chose to call 1-1/2 years early. The Liberals' majority in Parliament, however, fell from 174 seats to 155, and Chrtien barely won reelection from his own district in Quebec. Analysts said Chrtien "ought to have won decisively" and suggested that pressure is building for him to step down and turn power over to Finance Minister Paul Martin.

France's new Socialist prime minister assumed the powers of office. But Lionel Jospin quickly ran into logistical complications as Communist Party leaders sought key concessions in exchange for backing his government's agenda in parliament and trade unions pressed for an increase in the national minimum wage, plus a pledge to end the selloff of government-owned industries to the private sector.

Less than $3.5 million in assets of former Zairean President Mobutu, his relatives, or associates were found in Swiss banks, officials in Geneva said. A search for the assets was ordered by the Swiss government at the request of prosecutors in Zaire, now known as Congo. They alleged Mobutu had $7.7 billion in Swiss holdings. Regulators said returning Mobutu assets to his country's new government "could take years" under Swiss law.

Negotiations on the future of Northern Ireland resumed after a six-week lull - still minus Sinn Fein, the political ally of the Irish Republican Army. Britain's new Labour government ruled out a seat at the talks for Sinn Fein until the IRA declares a "meaningful, unequivocal cease-fire."

Hundreds of Aung San Suu Kyi's followers were freed by Burma's military junta - two weeks after being detained to keep them from attending a convention of her National League for Democracy. The Nobel Peace Prize-winner was accused of "intending to incite unrest and upheaval" in calling the meeting at almost the same time Burma was being considered for membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Bosnian Serb leader Biljana Plavsic rejected any handover of wartime president Radovan Karadzic to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. She said the constitution of the self-styled Serb ministate bans extradition and that the arrests of Karadzic and military commander Ratko Mladic - both indicted by the tribunal - could "destroy all the hard work on realization of the Dayton peace accord." Secretary of State Albright pressed for Karadzic's extradition last weekend during a tour of the Balkans.

Israel's opposition Labor Party was expected to choose ex-military chief Ehud Barak as its new leader to succeed former Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Barak's chief rival was party veteran Yossi Beilin. The winner will lead Labor against Prime Minister Netanyahu in the 2000 elections - sooner if Netanyahu's tenuous coalition unravels.

Civilians in Sierra Leone's capital sought new shelter after fighting between rebel troops and forces from Nigeria drove them from the hotel where they had awaited evacuation. A brief halt in the battle for Freetown was arranged by the Red Cross so the civilians could leave safely. The airlift resumed, and it was unclear how much longer the Nigerians would continue their offensive.


"I believe the opportunity exists for substantial and substantive progress . . . . That's why I've come back."

- Former US Sen. George Mitchell, as talks on the future of Northern Ireland (which he chairs) resumed in Belfast.

Oregon State University students had mixed emotions over their failed bid to make the Guinness Book of World Records. Kiss Off '97 was supposed to draw 1,500 couples who would engage in simultaneous lip-lock. That would have broken the existing mark of 1,420. But it rained, and only 160 couples showed up. Said one participant: Any excuse to kiss in public was fine with him. Another lamented: "It's not like I'm going to get into the book by climbing mountains or something."

As an ex-marine with a reputation for brusqueness, Georgia Gov. Zell Miller normally isn't one to back down from a challenge. But he allowed himself to be talked out of a plan to telephone high school dropouts and urge them to resume their education. Advisers said "I shouldn't do it," he admitted. "They think it would be all right - for a nicer governor."

In its relentless - uh - drive to advance on the research front, Ohio State University plans to unveil a fully automated fleet of cars this summer. Three modified Honda Accords will be part of a demonstration in southern California. Each will be steered by computers and radar, although a human will be aboard, too - just in case.

The Day's List

US Rated World's Most Competitive Economy

The International Institute for Management Development, a business school in Switzerland, bases its competitiveness ratings on a wide range of government and financial statistics, as well as questionnaires returned by numerous executives. The institute's latest ranking of the top dozen economies:

1. US

2. Singapore

3. Hong Kong

4. Finland

5. Norway

6. Netherlands

7. Switzerland

8. Denmark

9. Japan

10. Canada

11. Britain

12. Luxembourg

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