News In Brief


The House took up campaign-finance reform, but GOP leaders prevented debate on a bipartisan measure that apparently had majority support. Their procedural tactics, which included limiting debate to four GOP bills, prompted furious protests from Democrats and criticism from some Republicans in sometimes angry exchanges. Two relatively uncontroversial bills were approved, banning noncitizens from making political-campaign contributions and clarifying public-disclosure requirements.

The US Supreme Court struck down a federal harbor-use tax imposed on goods exported by ship from US ports. The court ruled unanimously that a harbor tax passed by Congress in 1986 - a source of hundreds of millions of dollars in government revenue - is unconstitu- tional. The court also upheld a ban on the use of lie-detector results in military courts, saying in an 8-to-1 ruling that it did not violate the constitutional rights of defendants.

The White House said the congressional budget process is heading for gridlock. Franklin Raines, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the Senate's budget proposal and a $217 billion transportation bill in the House could leave Congress with too little money to fund priorities of Democrats or Republicans. Congress is in the process of drafting broad budget resolutions; later it will turn to appropriation bills and tax legislation.

The Senate Commerce Committee was to take up a new tobacco settlement crafted by its chairman, John McCain, (R) of Arizona. McCain said the proposal would give the tobacco industry an annual $6.5 billion limit on its legal liability. The White House reacted favorably to the announcement of the new liability figure, but the tobacco industry said it was "fundamentally flawed" and threatened to fight it. The bill would impose a $1.10 increase on the price of a pack of cigarettes by 2003, less than the $1.50 Democrats and others have suggested. (Related story, Page 1.)

The government must pay supervisory costs of the Teamsters Union presidential election rerun, a federal court ruled. In a 2-to-1 decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said if the US wants the election supervised, it must bear the cost. A new election, which is expected to cost about $7.4 million, was ordered last August after the 1996 outcome was nullified because of fund-raising abuses. But a new vote has yet to be scheduled, and Congress has not provided funding for it.

The release of a report discounting any residual threat to the US from Cuba was delayed by Defense Department Secretary William Cohen, who said he would take "several days" to review it. The Washington Post said the classified report concludes, in part, that Cuba's diminished armed forces are geared toward defense.

The House authorized $147 million to help upgrade US defense systems to counter reported ballistic-missile development in Iran and North Korea. The bill is a response to Iran's development of a Shahab-3 missile and recent deployment in North Korea of a No Dong-1 missile.

The Federal Reserve was expected to leave key interest rates untouched after weighing the threat of Asia's economic woes against the risk of the US economy overheating.

Consumer confidence fell in March from a 29-year high the previous month amid rising concerns that the economy will begin to slow. The Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence fell to 134.3 in March from a revised 137.4 in February.

Muhammad Abdul Aziz, who spent 19 years in prison for killing Malcolm X, was introduced as the new head of the same Nation of Islam mosque in New York that the late civil-rights leader once guided. Aziz and two other men were found guilty of the Feb. 21, 1965 slaying of Malcolm X, but Aziz has always proclaimed his innocence. Above, Minister Benjamin Muhammad (r.), formerly known as Ben Chavis and formerly head of the NAACP, introduces Aziz at a press conference.


Israelis "are not suckers" and will not trade additional land in the West Bank for Palestinian failure to combat terrorism, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. He spoke after sending US envoy Dennis Ross home empty-handed from a mission to restore momentum to stalled Middle East peace negotiations. Ross had been seeking a 13 percent Israeli pullback in exchange for tougher antiterrorism measures. In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin said peace efforts were "in dire straits" since Ross was "unable to bridge the gaps on the hard questions."

Bitter Serb students and professors vacated a classroom building at Pristina University in Kosovo (above) so ethnic Albanians could begin their return to the state education system. Albanians left it in 1991, saying they'd been expelled; Serbs claimed the boycott was a political strategy. Under an accord mediated last week by the Roman Catholic Church, Serbs are to use the university's facilities in the morning. Albanians, who want to be taught in their own language, are to use them after noon.

Prices fell on the crude-oil futures market, despite emergency meetings in Vienna by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Analysts said the meeting, called to try to push prices higher, failed to ease concerns that OPEC and independent producers might not deliver on last week's pledge to reduce output by about 2 million barrels a day. OPEC has lost $15 billion in revenues since deciding to raise production last November, just as one of the mildest winters in history was beginning.

Japan's fiscal year ended with what analysts called the worst economic performance in more than two decades. The Nikkei stock average closed at 16,527 - far below the 18,000 mark government planners had set as their target to keep major investors from taking big losses on their holdings. Meanwhile, Yamaichi Securities, once Japan's largest brokerage, officially ceased operations after 100 years in business. Only liquidation proceedings remain incomplete.

Acting President Robert Kocharyan appeared on his way to victory in Armenia's runoff election. His lead over challenger Karen Demirchyan was 62 percent to 37 percent, although the Central Elections Commission said it was investigating the latter's accusations of widespread irregularities.

Two cosmonauts are scheduled to perform six hours of external repairs today on the orbiting space station Mir. While American Andrew Thomas stays aboard, Russian crewmen Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin are expected to reinforce a solar panel damaged in last June's collision with an unmanned cargo ship. Four other spacewalks are scheduled in April to keep Mir operational until a new international station is ready next year.

South African President Nelson Mandela was to be briefed on an alleged plot to overthrow his government. Mandela was informed Feb. 5 of a conspiracy believed to have originated among apartheid-era military officers to destabilize his black-led administration. A judicial commission was ordered to investigate since the report hadn't been checked by the government's intelligence committee.

An estimated 25,000 homes in southern Quebec lost electrical service because of flooding, many of them in the same region hit by January's severe ice storm. Eleven rivers overflowed because of unusually warm weather that melted the winter snows. At least 550 people had to be evacuated from Orms-town and other communities south of Montreal. One death was blamed on the flooding. The region, including parts of upstate New York, was bracing for heavy rains.


Earlier in the week, this space cited the case of two Georgia high-school students who were suspended for wearing Pepsi shirts to school on "Coke in Education Day." For the record, officials now say another type of discipline "may have been more appropriate" although they still consider the prank "disruptive." So, while Mike Cameron and Dan Moxley each served a one-day sentence, at least it won't appear in their permanent files.

Speaking of striking things from the records, Wurzen, in southeastern Germany, has removed a prominent name from its list of honorary citizens. Along with thousands of other communities, it conferred that status on Adolf Hitler during the Third Reich. But that detail was forgotten in the aftermath of World War II, when the region fell under Communist control - until a historian recently found the decree in an old file. Last week, town councillors voted unanimously - and without discussion - to rescind the honor.

New Men's Tennis No. 1 First for South America

Marcelo Rios of Chile is the first South American to be rated the No. 1 men's tennis player in the world. Rios moved ahead of Pete Sampras of the US by defeating Andre Agassi, also of the US, in straight sets to win the Lipton Championship. Rios is the 14th player to head the Association of Tennis Professionals weekly rankings. The honor roll of players who have held the No.1 rank and the date they became No. 1 for the first time:

Marcelo Rios March 30, 1998

Thomas Muster Feb. 12, 1996

Andre Agassi April 10, 1995

Pete Sampras April 12, 1993

Jim Courier Feb. 10, 1992

Boris Becker Jan. 28, 1998

Stefan Edberg Aug. 13, 1990

Mats Wilander Sept. 12, 1988

Ivan Lendl Feb. 28, 1983

John McEnroe March 3, 1980

Bjorn Borg Aug. 23, 1977

Jimmy Connors July 29, 1974

John Newcombe June 3, 1974

Ilie Nastase Aug. 23, 1973

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