News In Brief

The US

Despite widely reported incidents of violence, juvenile crime in the US has been declining, a Justice Policy Institute study said. Released several days ahead of schedule because of a shooting at a school in Jonesboro, Ark., it found that juvenile homicides decreased 30 percent from 1994 to 1996 - and that the juvenile-crime rate fell 12 percent during the same period.

The Justice Department launched the strongest challenge yet to medical-marijuana clubs, asking a judge in California to shut them down for violating US drug laws. In a bid to quash the nation's first large-scale experiment with medical-marijuana use, federal lawyers told a US district court that the state's 1996 law allowing ill people to use marijuana must yield to US laws forbidding cultivation and distribution of the drug.

House-Senate negotiators decided to restore food stamps to some legal immigrants. The accord would provide $642 million in funding for about 900,000 people cut off by a 1996 welfare law. President Clinton had sought at least $2 billion to aid up to 730,000 of the immigrants. It was not clear how many would be covered by the new agreement.

The Senate opened debate on a compromise bill to give the International Monetary Fund $18 billion if the Group of Seven major industrial nations agreed to support trade and lending reforms at the IMF. The seven countries are the US, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, and Italy. The House Appropriations Committee approved $18 billion for the IMF and $505 million for the UN on a voice vote.

The House Oversight Committee was to consider a request for $1.3 million to boost staffing of the Judiciary Committee, which would conduct impeachment proceedings against President Clinton if necessary. Judiciary chairman Henry Hyde (R) of Illinois had said the new positions were needed to boost oversight of the Justice Department. Rep. John Conyers (D) of Michigan, said Republicans were secretly preparing for impeachment.

The House Appropriations Committee also approved a $2.9 billion package of cuts in domestic programs to pay for military operations in Bosnia and Iraq. The Republican package specifies reductions in bilingual education, Clinton's national-service initiative, and housing programs.

A proposal to break up monopolies in the $230 billion-a-year electric-power market was unveiled by the Clinton administration. Most analysts said there appeared to be little likelihood that Congress would tackle the complex and contentious issue this year. The plan calls for states to let customers start choosing their electricity providers by 2003, but gives states the right to opt out of the restructuring plan.

A Vermont man who admitted sending packages that contained gunpowder to two US senators early this week was questioned by Secret Service agents. They did not arrest him or release his identity. The gunpowder temporarily numbed the hands of three persons in the office of Sen. John Glenn (D), when they opened a package that arrived at his Columbus, Ohio, office.

Orders for durable goods fell in February for the third time in five months, pulled down by a slump in demand for aircraft, the Commerce Department said. Orders for big-ticket items - from appliances to airplanes - decreased 1.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted $184 billion. Analysts said the numbers reflected domestic fallout from Asia's economic crisis.

Microsoft Corp. suffered a setback in its skirmish with Sun Microsystems Inc. over Microsoft's use of Java, a programming language Sun developed as a way to create soft- ware that runs on any computer. A federal judge in San Jose, Calif., ruled that Microsoft cannot use the Sun logo for Java - a cup with steam rising from it - on any software packages or Web sites because Microsoft's version of Java differs slightly from the original.

The World

With UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan already on hand and special American envoy Dennis Ross due in Jerusalem today, Israel confirmed reports that it will propose a compromise plan for reducing its West Bank troop strength as a means of breaking the deadlock in Middle East peace talks. One report said the plan would call for an 11 percent pullback - 2.1 percent smaller than a new US proposal is believed to seek. Israel has previously ruled out more than a 9 percent withdrawal.

Returning from a quick side trip to Rwanda, President Clinton joined a regional meeting of leaders in the Ugandan lakeside city of Entebbe on the third day of his Africa tour. The session was called to discuss peace and prosperity on the continent. In Rwanda, the president paid tribute to victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide and said the rest of the world had not reacted quickly enough to contain it.

A team of 20 international diplomats is in place and ready to join inspections of suspected Iraqi weapons sites, probably by the middle of next week, senior UN officials in Baghdad said. A plan calling for diplomats to accompany the inspections was agreed to last month by Iraq and UN Secretary-General Annan. Arms-inspection chief Richard Butler said Iraq was displaying a new mood of cooperation and that "baseline" checks of disputed sites should take about two weeks.

The first 11 countries scheduled to launch Europe's single currency are financially fit for the task, a long-awaited report said. The European Monetary Institute, forerunner of what will be the central bank of the European Union, OK'd Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. But it said Germany and France must reduce their debt and Italy and Belgium need to sustain budget surpluses if a single currency is to have long-term stability.

Pressure mounted in Turkey for the government to crack down on Islamic radicalism. The five largest trade unions joined the military in demanding "programs to combat fundamentalism, which is the enemy of democracy." In a joint statement, the unions called for new national elections if the crackdown was not under way within three months. Massive union demonstrations last year helped to topple Turkey's previous government.

Costa Rica will "receive with open arms" four baseball players who fled Cuba last week, its foreign ministry said. The players and a coach applied for political asylum there from a detention camp in the Bahamas. Costa Rica served as a conduit earlier this year for another Cuban player who is now in the US pursuing a professional career. Meanwhile, other Cubans at the Bahamas camp began a hunger strike to protest the favoritism shown to the athletes.

Rescue teams raced to cope with the aftermath of powerful cyclones that killed at least 145 people, injured more than 3,000 others, and left an estimated 10,000 homeless in India's states of Orissa and West Bengal.

The year's most powerful earthquake to date rocked the Pacific coast of Antarctica near New Zealand's Balleny Islands. Seismologists said the quake, with a magnitude of 8.1, would have caused massive damage to life and property if it had struck near populated areas. Tidal-wave warnings were posted for New Zealand, New Caledonia, the Cook Islands, American Samoa, Fiji, Western Samoa, and French Polynesia - all of which are 1,200 or more miles away.


"Raw politics. Raw, partisan politics."

- House Judiciary Committee chairman Henry Hyde (R) of Illinois, responding to Democratic claims that he planned a 'surreptitious' impeachment investigation of President Clinton.

Next time you hear someone say, "It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it," think of Bruce Chilcoat. At no small personal sacrifice, he agreed to serve as a judge for a fund-raiser to benefit the public library in Rehoboth Beach, Del. Chilcoat gave up an entire Saturday morning, sampled 163 entries in four categories, and went home with only a certificate of appreciation. Oh, you want to know what it was that he had to judge? Brownies, cakes, pies, cookies, and candy - in a chocolate festival.

So there was Charles Chealey, waiting to testify in a trial in Rochester, N.Y., when attorney Robert Smith summoned him into the courtroom to sit at the defense table. As the judge instructed the jurors on how to weigh their verdict, it suddenly dawned on Smith that the man sitting next to him wasn't his client. It turns out that Chealey is a look-alike for the defendant in an assault case, who hadn't yet returned from a recess. A mistrial was declared, Chealey was excused, and the accused was scheduled for a new hearing later.

The Day's List

'Titanic' Ticket Take Sets North American Record

"Titanic" has not only tied a record for Academy Awards with 11, it also has broken a box-office record by staying in the No. 1 spot for a 14th straight week. The film's stint at the top is the longest since studios began publishing weekly tallies in the early 1980s. James Cameron's $200 million movie has earned nearly $500 million in North America, also a record. Estimated grosses for the March 20-22 weekend (in millions):

1. "Titanic" $17.1

2. "Primary Colors" 12.0

3. "The Man in the Iron Mask" 11.1

4. "Wild Things" 9.6

5. "U.S. Marshals" 7.2

6. "Mr. Nice Guy" 5.4

7. "Good Will Hunting" 4.0

8. "As Good as It Gets" 3.2

9. "The Wedding Singer" 3.2

10. "The Big Lebowski" 1.8

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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